- Plus, Trubisky has a field day, a sketchy review helps the Raiders along, some nutsy fourth-down calls from AFC South coaches, Earl Thomas goes down and gives a one-finger salute to his team, Falcons defense is a mess, Texans finally get it done and much more from Week 4
Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened on Sunday afternoon. Get the full Sunday breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The Monday Morning NFL Podcast. Subscribe to The MMQB Podcasts now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning
Things That Made Me Giddy
Much Better Dak: And the Cowboys were a little more creative—not L.A. Rams creative, but also not the yawn-inducing offense they’ve shown so far this season. Prescott was consistently on-target, including a big-time touch throw to Ezekiel Elliott (split out wide) over tight coverage to set up the game-winning field goal.
Gruden Is On the Board: Gutsy performance by the offense. Shaky but good enough performance by the kicker. Sketchy performance from the review official. But Gruden gets his first win since November 2008, the same month Barack Obama was elected President the first time.
Patriots D Looks Whole Again: The Dolphins tested them early in the flats, and New England looked noticeably faster with Patrick Chung back on the field. After that, the Dolphins couldn’t get anything going. (Well, until Brock Osweiler came in and lit the Patriots up.)
Mariota Was Magnificent: This team is not equipped to come from behind, but Mariota was virtually flawless in coming back from a two-touchdown deficit. He also almost won it in overtime on a perfectly thrown deep shot that Darius Jennings dropped. He came back and won it anyway. It’s still going to be a weekly uphill climb for this offense, but this was as good as Mariota has ever been.
Mike Vrabel’s Cajones: He passed on a chance to kick a field goal and tie it in overtime (and likely for the game), and watched his team convert a fourth-and-2. It paid off with a touchdown and a win instead of a tie in Nashville as Tennessee moves to 3-1 despite having had a ton of obstacles to overcome.
Frank Reich Going for it on Fourth Down in Overtime: I’m fine with it. Yup, a tie became a loss. But the way the offense was going, and the way Houston was struggling to cover anyone, he had to like the chances to convert a fourth-and-4 and go get a win. It was also far from a given that the Texans, with the ball at midfield, 26 seconds left and no timeouts, were going to be able to get points.
Matt Nagy Wizardry Out in Full Force: The Bears had receivers running in wide-open spaces all afternoon against a hapless Tampa defense. This was a slaughter from a coaching standpoint.
Matthew Stafford Late: As good as anyone when his team needs points at the end of the game. The Cowboys did it right by literally not letting Stafford run another play after what looked like another game-winning Stafford drive on Sunday.
Andy Dalton Double Clutch: The game-winning drive included conversions on fourth-and-8 and fourth-and-6.
Demarcus Lawrence Doing Damage: He was often unblockable on Sunday, and is going to be a very wealthy man if he hits the open market next offseason.
Marshawn Lynch Flattening People: It still works!
Bortles Finds Enough of his Groove: He was generally comfortable and accurate after a disastrous outing against the Titans last week, with the receivers feasting on those crossing routes against the Jets.
Taysom Hill Tomfoolery: I could live without the stuff within the offense, but the fake punt stuff is pretty neat. It’s basically a fake-punt possibility on every snap. Neat!
Sony Michel: Some good old-fashioned two-back pounding set the tone against the Dolphins. Michel went for 112 yards on 25 carries, and the Patriots went for 175 on 40 rushes as a team.
Shaq Mason Hassling Kiko Alonso: On James White’s second-quarter touchdown run, Mason had Alonso turned the wrong way twice, then eventually pushed him 12 yards downfield as White sauntered leisurely into the end zone.
Andrew Luck’s Rebounds a Bit: Much better, especially after an ugly first half against the Texans. He was precise, even if the Colts are not testing defenses over the top.
Ezekiel Elliott: Absolutely a difference maker in this game, as a runner and—as evidenced by when he split out wide and made a 34-yard, over-the-shoulder catch to set up the game-winning field goal—as a receiver.
Adam Vinatieri: Surpasses Morten Andersen for most career field goals with 567. Not all of them on Sunday.
Baker Mayfield Is Good: There were lows, but more highs (albeit against a defense that’s truly short on quality players). Still, the Browns look like an honest-to-God grownup offense unlike what they ran out last season and the first two-and-a-half games of this year.
Josh Rosen Was Pretty O.K.: The bar was low after Sam Bradford’s first three games. Rosen had his team in position to win the game, which is pretty much all this franchise can ask for at the moment. J.J. Nelson dropped a deep shot that would have been a rare big play for this offense.
C.J. Beathard: He’s going to get himself killed out there with some of these scrambles, though the yardage is nice. His passing numbers were inflated by an 82-yard catch-and-run for George Kittle. Ultimately, Beathard is probably going to be good enough for the Niners to steal a couple wins. The alternatives probably aren’t any better.
Packers Enjoy a Faux-Bye Week: This is what the Vikings thought they were getting last week!
Shaaaaady Review in Oakland: Carlos Hyde’s third-down carry was ruled a first down on the field, and it looked like if anything the spot was unfavorable for the Browns. I’d be curious to hear an explanation as to how that was overturned and ruled short.
This Falcons Secondary Is a Disaster: Boy, if you’re passing up a chance to bring Eric Reid into your injury-ravaged secondary for virtually nothing, you have to have better answers than what Atlanta is running out there right now. They moved Brian Poole to safety on Sunday, which left rookie Isaiah Oliver out there at corner to blow a coverage on A.J. Green’s game-winning TD.
Deshaun Watson and the Offense Looks Great, but This D…: Even on a day when Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt did a ton of damage, Houston was incredibly shaky on the back end.
Eagles’ Depth at Safety: Rodney McLeod is on injured reserve, and the Eagles don’t have much in the way of answers behind him. If you can't close out this Titans offense, you're going to have trouble collecting wins.
Xavien Howard Gets Humbled: He was wonderful through three games. On Sunday, he was not. Howard struggled against Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett. Get ‘em next game.
Tyler Eifert: Don’t look for the clip of what happened, but this is a tragedy, another major injury for an oft-injured star.
Kickers in Seahawks-Cardinals Games: A tradition like no other. Sebastian Janikowski and Phil Dawson were a combined 3-for-7, even with Seabass’s clutch 52-yarder winning it.
Browns D Closing Out Teams: Maybe we’re viewing this differently if the Raiders aren’t kept alive by an incredibly suspect review, but this Browns defense blew separate leads of 14 and eight points.
Giants D Can’t Get Off the Field: Give them credit for getting stingy in the red zone early, but jeepers creepers, James Bettcher’s unit gave up scoring drives of 74 and 97 yards in the fourth quarter.
Jalen Mills Vs. Double Moves: Corey Davis got him for a 28-yard pickup on a third-and-3 in the first quarter, the 300th time Mills has been beaten by a double move, meaning everyone in attendance gets a free t-shirt or soda or something.
J.J. Nelson on the Hands Team: Should have been a walk-in touchdown on a second-quarter deep shot. He has one catch for four yards through four games, after coming into the year averaging 18.6 yards per catch.
Hue Jackson (Presumably) Tattling on Marshawn: A quick whistle and forward progress ruling spoiled this run, and Lynch (tried to) punt the ball in frustration with the call. He half-missed, and the ball didn’t go anywhere. Still, there was Hue in an official’s ear, seeming arguing for an unsportsmanlike flag like a total goober. You already benefitted from one bad call, take the win, guy!
Blowing the whistle for forward progress on Lynch should be illegal pic.twitter.com/8QwNCxcjZu— NFL Outsiders (@nfloutsiders) September 30, 2018
Jeff Heath’s Long Day: He starred as the Washington Generals on two separate highlights: First, the pratfall on Golden Tate’s first catch-and-run TD down the sideline, then getting steamrolled by Kerryon Johnson in the fourth quarter. He missed the rest of the game with a concussion, and the Cowboys were once again a mess on the back end when Heath was not on the field. This time, the offense bailed them out.
Akiem Hicks, Hassling Officials: Ejected at the end of the first half for contacting an official! Of course, if you’re going to lose your all-world defensive tackle for the game, you would prefer it be when you’re up 32.
It Is a Struggle for Sam Darnold: Giving him a break—especially with Josh McCown more than capable behind him—might not be a bad idea. (Though, on the other hand, there’s no reason to overreact to a game against that Jaguars defense.)
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Earl Thomas Isn’t Going Anywhere: He was carted off in this one, and a major injury would necessarily take him off the trade block. We might have to wait until the offseason and some franchise-tag shenanigans as the Seahawks continue to screw with their historically great safety. He’s right to tell the front office that they’re No. 1.
Is this how the #Seahawks career of Earl Thomas will end?— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 30, 2018
This was pointed to the #Seahawks bench by the way. Since he got hit on the job and they refused to give him a proper contract. pic.twitter.com/XfPVm57BMJ
This Ryan Fitzpatrick Interception Signals the End: This is a third-and-goal from the 24, trailing by 32 points. Why is the ball being thrown to that spot, let alone with a defender bearing down? I don’t know where Fitzpatrick went to college, but surely that school and its alumni should be feeling great shame over this decision.
The Ryan Fitzpatrick story was nice but may just taking advantage of weak defenses.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 30, 2018
He looks bad today. Eddie Jackson with the INTpic.twitter.com/XbpN9ZnUeu
Alshon Jeffery, Contested: This was on a third-and-goal from the 16, one of a couple big catches in his season debut.
The Tom Brady Eephus: Perhaps just assuming that Kiko Alonso would play that ball poorly?
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Order Is Restored in the AFC East: Josh Gordon is contributing, converting three third downs (two with catches, one with a penalty drawn), Julian Edelman coming back Thursday night, and the defense looked a whole lot better with Patrick Chung back on the field and plodding rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley sidelined with an injury. The Patriots look like the class of the AFC again.
Mitchell Trubisky In a Layup Line: Indeed, a struggling quarterback deserves plenty of credit for a six-touchdown game. But, boy, Matt Nagy was toying with Mike Smith’s defense on Sunday. The lack of a pass rush made it even easier, but Tampa’s back end had no idea what to do with all those crossers and wheel routes; Trubisky even left a throw or two on the field. Big-time progress, but it’s rarely this easy.
Jameis Winston Is Back: I guess.
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