- Plus, Jameis Winston shines, why it’s not quite time to panic about the Patriots D, Antonio Brown vs. the Gatorade bucket, and many more reactions and overreactions from another thrilling Sunday afternoon
Get the full Week 4 breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The MMQB: 10 Things Podcast. Subscribe now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning
Things That Made Me Giddy
Good Ol’ Cam Was Back: The Panthers have been trying to limit the number of hits Cam takes, seemingly transitioning toward a quick-strike offense built around Christian McCaffrey. It’s been a rough transition, to say the least. Sunday in Foxboro, likely anticipating that the Patriots defense would focus heavily on McCaffrey, the Panthers seemed to scrap the new look and just went back to Cam on designed runs and deep throws. It was exciting! It was also a little bit nerve-wracking when he took some hits, but he did get down when in the open field. It might be time for the Panthers to simply accept: This is who Cam is, and this is who we need him to be to win.
By the Way, That’s Cam 2, Brady 0: In case you’re scoring head-to-head quarterback matchups at home. And if you are you probably already knew that. And also, you're weird.
The Jets and the Patriots Are Tied One Month Into the Season: Just as I predicted they would be. Though, to be fair, I did a lot of peyote this summer.
What Deshaun Watson Did to Dick LeBeau’s Defense . . . : Was downright rude. Respect your elders, Deshaun! The Texans have something going. It’s mass confusion for the defense immediately after every snap; at one point Tennessee’s linebackers just started curling up in a fetal position and softly weeping.
Larry Fitzgerald Is a Superhero: And there is no other explanation for the things he does. Phenomenal catch to win it in Arizona.
Sean McDermott Is a Wizard: Yes, no Julio Jones. But this Bills defense, while not overwhelmingly talented, does not make mistakes and is seemingly always in position to take advantage of an opponent’s mistakes. Do they have enough offensive firepower to keep winning? Maybe, there’s 12 games left and all. But right now they’re sitting alone atop the AFC East, which is a nice place to be, and fitting considering their play so far.
Jameis Winston: An exceptional performance, making big throws from various platforms all day. (My favorite play was actually when he extended the play and his Mike Evans on the goal line to set up a Nick Folk chip shot. The Giants defense wasn’t at its best, but it was still good. Winston was better.
The Stage Is Not Too Big for the Rams: I suppose it’s time to accept that they’re for real. Sean McVay is making it work, and Jared Goff is going to be just fine, if not very good. Get on the bandwagon now.
Austin Ekeler Has Never Been Tackled on an NFL Rushing Attempt: I like when guys who are approximately my size (though with significantly more impressive body fat percentages) make big plays. Ekeler, the undrafted free agent with a neat backstory, took a handoff for the first time his NFL career and took it to the house (do people still say “took it to the house”?) for a 35-yard touchdown. Very cool.
Saints Pitch a Shutout!: Their second of the Peyton/Brees era (second since 1995, actually), and first since 2012.
Brandon Marshall, Doing the Bull Dance, Feeling the Flow: I mentioned it last week, but the Giants seemed to have no idea who Marshall was until midway through their Week 3 game, when they finally started putting him in position to use his big frame and make some contested plays. Marshall had a coupld of big third-down grabs on a third-quarter TD drive. Also, I don’t even like Happy Gilmore that much (it’s fine), but for some reason Kevin Nealon really strikes a chord with me here:
Julius Peppers on Tom Brady Violence: It was like 2005 all over again! For all the talk of ageless Tom Brady, Peppers is 37 and, while not playing fulltime, is looking spry.
Devin Funchess TD: His third-quarter touchdown was exceedingly Funchess-y, which is not always how he plays. He got inside of a smaller defensive back (Malcolm Butler, and this is why the Patriots might be hesitant to lock him up) and then it was game over.
Lions Bounce Back: Just like Jim Caldwell's Lions always do. This game won’t be talked about much due to the lack of points and Case Keenum-ness of it all for the Vikings. But these are two quality teams, and for Detroit to get a road win against a division rival is huge.
DeAndre Hopkins, Dominating: Yeah, he lives right on the edge as far as offensive pass interference goes, but whatever. He’s beating people up and then making catch after catch after catch.
Steven Hauschka From Downtown: On Atlanta’s 37 with 3:10 left and protecting a three-point lead, Sean McDermott passed on the punt and called on Hauschka, who drilled it from 54. Huge kick. And also, he was almost a dentist!
Wade Phillips’ Revenge: I guess not really revenge; he seems to be fine with how it went down in Dallas. Still, it’s always nice to see a Son of Bum defense get it done, this time the Rams holding on in Dallas.
The Bengals Are Winners: They scored 31 points while the Cleveland Browns, their opponents, scored only seven. The Bengals now have one win and three losses on the season.
Michael Thomas Is Always Open: Even when he’s not. Just throw it to him.
The Art of Throwing Short of the Sticks: The Saints repeatedly threw short of the sticks on third down and let their playmakers make plays. One a second-half field-goal drive, they converted a third-and-11 on a short screen to Michael Thomas, then a third-and-7 on a dumpoff to Mark Ingram. (The drive, unfortunately, stalled after a botched shotgun snap, as all drives do.) Later, a shovel pass to Alvin Kamara went in on third-and-goal from the 12. It was some neat ball-carrying (with the help of some terrible tackling).
Kyle Juszczyk In OT: Gutsy run on a third-and-four, then another tackle-breaker on a bootleg to set up a third-and-short on San Francisco’s OT field-goal drive. Now that’s offensive weaponry!
Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire Gashing a Good Jaguars D: The Jets O-line did a nice job neutralizing a very good Jaguars D-line, then some poor play by Jacksonville’s linebackers and some nifty running.
Happy Birthday, Wayne Gallman! Have Your First NFL Touchdown, Buddy: The rookie was active for the first time, filling in for the injured Orleans Darkwa, and on his 23rd birthday! Along with his first career touchdown (a catch), he ran hard and certainly has to be considered for a spot atop the depth chart going forward.
The Saints and Ball Security: No turnovers through four games!
Alvin Kamara: Is really good.
Derek Carr Out, EJ Manuel In: Manuel was actually O.K., to everyone’s surprise, after coming in for Carr. O.K. in a journeyman No. 2 QB on in relief kind of way. Carr missing any kind of significant time with that back injury is a nightmare scenario for the Raiders. Honestly, if this photo doesn’t make you sick to your stomach, you have a future in competitive eating . . .
Throwing a Swing Pass Backward Should be a Felony: In New York, Josh McCown’s unintentional lateral, deep in Jaguars territory while the Jets were protecting a 10-point lead, resulted to a scoop-and-score for Myles Jack. Bad route by Bilal Powell on the play (though it looked like he didn’t expect to get the ball), but I suggest you lawyer up, Josh McCown.
Missed Call Cooks Giants: They (1) Might not have made the two-pointer with a chance from the 1-yard line (have you seen their goal-line work?), and (2) still win it with a stop. But Odell Beckham Jr. was pushed out on their two-point play and the Bucs should have been flagged, giving the Giants a second chance to stretch the lead from one to three. (And, of course, that means a field goal would have tied it, not won it for the Bucs, though they might have just gotten a TD anyway the way Winston was playing.)
Somebody Please Block for Carson Palmer: This is bumming me out, guys.
Dolphins’ Ability to Tackle and to Avoid Being Tackled: The offense is a problem in Miami; they can’t get the run going in part because they’re not even trying to push the ball downfield. But this defense can’t get off the field, in part because they seem to be playing flag football.
Julio Jones’ Hip (and, to a Lesser Extent, Mohamed Sanu’s Hamstring): The beauty of the Falcons’ offense (aside from all the points it normally produces) is that it’s well-designed enough, and the routes intertwined enough, that it can work without Julio Jones. However, like with any unit, there comes a time when you run out of "next men up." Without Jones and Sanu for the second half on Sunday, it looked like the Falcons had reached that point.
Odell Beckham Jr.’s Ankle: He tweaked it in the fourth quarter in Tampa and wasn’t right after that. The league is a little worse when he’s not at his best.
Marcus Mariota: He just didn’t play well, then left with a hamstring issue. Days won’t get much worse for the Titans.
A Lot of Injuries, Right?: Sheesh. Stay safe out there, everyone.
But Really, Miami's Offense: They have zero points in the first 59 minutes and 54 seconds of games over the past two weeks. They started 1-4 last year and made the playoffs, and they've yet to play a game in their home stadium this year, but yeesh.
Patriots Pass Protection: Again, not good. That part of it looks like New England's 2-2 start in 2014. Of course, this time around, Tom Brady is making plays anyway. Defense has been the issue thus far.
Marqise Lee in OT: The Jags receiver is a good player, but this was not the best 10 minutes he’s ever had: a crucial third-down drop and misplaying a punt that cost the Jaguars valuable field position, leading to the Jets' short field for the game-winning kick. That’s not exactly earning your time-and-a-half.
No Overturn on Matt Ryan Incomplete Pass?: Weird, right? That seemed like a pretty easy one to overturn. Still, it was good defense by the Bills to make that play, and it’s nice to see good defense rewarded. So I guess I kinda like this too.
Keenum Missing Adam Thielen for Easy TD: I’m not sure how he didn’t see him, because he was reading that side of the field. Quarterbacks miss receivers all the time, but this one, in the third quarter of a defensive slugfest, was devastating. It was a six-point layup.
Julius Thomas: He was the tallest man in all of England on Sunday . But Thomas got pushed around as a blocker as usual, and his “battle” with Ken Crowley (on whom Thomas has five inches and 70 pounds) on that first-and-goal interception on the opening drive was a microcosm of the last two weeks for the Dolphins.
This Gus Bradley D in L.A.: Gosh, there’s a ton of talent on this defense, but it seems like every time they need a stop they can’t get it.
Bortles and Bat Downs: Two bad tastes that taste bad together. I saw at least three bat-downs today, including the tip-and-pick by the Jets’ Kony Ealy. Change your arm angle, guy!
Dak Prescott Taking Some Hits: He’s making a lot of plays too, but Cowboys fans have to hold their collective breath every time he lowers his shoulder and takes a shot to the head, or takes an awkward low hit while throwing on the run. I don’t know if it would be Cooper Rush or Kellen Moore up next, but I know it woudn’t be good.
Everybody Loves Marquette King. But . . . : My goodness, that fake-punt run was among the poorest decisions you’ll ever see a human being make. (And I’m assuming, by the look of the play and by the fact that it was fourth-and-long deep in their own territory, that was King’s option, though I could be wrong.)
”The Ghost of Roberto Aguayo Haunts Raymond James Stadium Kickers”: That’s the full title of the film I’m working on, and I won’t consider changing it so the studio suits better not try to give me any notes. It’s based on a true story, about the man who beat out Aguayo, Nick Folk, missing two field goals (46 and 49) and an extra point and Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas missing from 43 in Tampa today. It’s not a very good screenplay; in the end the ghost disappears when Folk just sneaks the game-winning 34-yarder inside the left upright. Also, Aguayo is alive and well, so none of it makes much sense.
Wembley Stadium Flags!!!!!: So many flags!!!! Millions of flags!!! The first half of this game lasted four days.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Antonio Brown Does Not Crave Electrolytes: In case you missed it, there once was an empty Gatorade bucket, and after Ben Roethlisberger missed him on a play Brown knocked it over, surely spilling any remaining electrolytes. I am trying so, so hard to have a scorching hot take on this, but . . . I just really don’t. It seems like it was a one-off thing. My official position: It’s not good. And to be honest, I think anyone who has the God-given ability to pull off this look does not have any right to be angry about anything.
Steelers Antonio Brown enters M&T Bank Stadium before taking on the Ravens Sunday. pic.twitter.com/yErOquZ4f8— Matt Freed (@mattfreedpghpg) October 1, 2017
Fitz Wins It!: Saves us from the shame of having sat through a field goal-only game. And also won a game in overtime.
Eli Manning Is Running Too!: He saw some Cam/Watson/Mariota highlights and decided he’d try running too! Adorable! In all seriousness, I’m not going to say that Eli Manning was moving fast, but he was moving much faster than I thought he was capable of.
Bogus Holding Call on Travis Frederick: On the two-point conversion that would have tied it in Dallas midway through the fourth quarter. I’m not sure how to describe it other than “block that was not a hold.” Cowboys fans, you have permission to feel aggrieved.
Hunter Henry: Catch of the dang day. So good that light could not penetrate it. I’m not sure what that means, but it was in the shadows is my point. That’s not even relevant. But check out this catch:
Dan Bailey Trying to Tackle Pharoh Cooper: Kickers, they’re just like us!
Booing Moments of Prayer: For goodness sake. If this was you, time to take a step back and think about what you’re doing, what your values are, and how you're living your life. I don't know you, but I know you're better than this, because everyone is better than this.
The Nap We Had a Chance to Take: During the fourth quarter of the Dolphins-Saints London game. It was such a good nap.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Patriots Defense: Time to Maybe Think About Considering Panic: I’ll just say this: New England doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of talent in the front seven, especially on the edges. They’re a bend-don’t-break unit, and maybe they were a lot closer to breaking last year than we thought they were. However, they have run into a couple buzzsaws this year: The Chiefs ran out a lot of new wrinkles for the opener, the Texans did too since they had a chance to fully prepare Deshaun Watson for the first time. On Sunday, the Panthers ran an offense that looked a lot like the one they had moved away from this season, Cam Newton’s health be damned. Now, that’s not to say the Patriots aren’t being out-schemed, but maybe they aren’t as far away from their 2016 form as it seems.
Are the Texans as Good as Anyone in the AFC?: All this talk about Deshaun Watson, it’s easy to forget that they also have arguably the best defense in the AFC.
Is Cam Back?: Are the Panthers going scrap the concept of keeping Cam from taking hits and just go back to the old way of doing things? I’m not sure if it’s good for Newton in the long run, but it’s definitely their best chance to win a lot of games in 2017.
How Is Derek Carr's Back?: I'd suggest refreshing The MMQB homepage non-stop starting . . . now. Even with a slightly softer schedule coming up (home against Baltimore and the Chargers), I'm not sure how long the Raiders can hold on without him.
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