First Down, Fourth Down: Officials bite Packers again; Roddy White soars
First Down, Fourth Down takes a weekly look at the good (First Down) and bad (Fourth Down) from NFL Sunday.
The leading receiver in Week 4? Miami's Brian Hartline, who had 202 yards over his first three games and went for 253 yards on 12 catches Sunday. His QB, Ryan Tannehill, also broke Dan Marino's team rookie record for passing yards in a game with 431.
And how about the pacesetters on the ground? Try much-maligned Tennessee running back Chris Johnson (25 carries, 141 yards) and undrafted New England rookie Brandon Bolden (16 for 137). The 2012 NFL season just keeps uncovering surprises everywhere (hello, 4-0 Cardinals!)
Here's our weekly glance at the best and worst from another entertaining Sunday:
First Down: Roddy White.
Carolina's defensive focus appeared to center around limiting Julio Jones. Well, the Panthers did that Sunday in Atlanta, but by neglecting to cover Roddy White.
White made Carolina pay, hauling in eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half. And White's scores were just the appetizer; the main course came in the final minute. With Atlanta down one and pinned back at its own 1, White went up over top of two flailing Panthers defenders to haul in [si_launchNFLPopup video='17b2d608905944a193869e32c7f974d6']a 59-yard bomb[/si_launchNFLPopup] from Matt Ryan. That catch set the Falcons up for a game-winning field goal, which Matt Bryant nailed just a few seconds later.
Fourth Down: Jeff Triplette's officiating crew.
Packers fans hated the replacement officials, thanks to last Monday's controversial end in Seattle. After Sunday, they won't be too fond of the regular guys, either.
The Lambeau Field crowd greeted referee Jeff Triplette and his crew with a warm ovation Sunday -- Triplette responded by doffing his cap. A few hours later, the relationship was a lot frostier. Packers fans were upset early on when Marques Colston appeared to get away with offensive interference on a TD grab. They were downright livid when Darren Sproles was [si_launchNFLPopup video='5bb9f4c5dbda4c4191ed07a3a331a21d']ruled down by contact despite clearly fumbling a kickoff return[/si_launchNFLPopup].
In between, both sides had issues with Triplette's crew. Triplette has his fair share of critics around the league. He likely added a few more in Packers country Sunday.
First Down: Peyton Manning.
After two weeks of constant struggles, the Broncos and Manning broke loose in a big way Sunday, destroying the Raiders, 37-6.
Manning had his best game as a Bronco, completing 30 of 38 passes for 338 yards. He also tossed three TD passes, one each to Eric Decker, Joel Dreessen ([si_launchNFLPopup video='492cda3bf62645639b619b321c832eb9']watch[/si_launchNFLPopup]) and Lance Ball. Granted, the Raiders did not put up much of a fight, but this was the type of performance Denver had in mind when it pieced everything together around Manning this offseason.
Fourth Down: The Jets.
This was about as bad as it gets. Pick your poison from New York's 34-0 home loss to the 49ers:
- San Francisco backup QB Colin Kaepernick rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown out of option formations, while Tim Tebow picked up zero yards on two runs.
- Santonio Holmes catching a pass from Mark Sanchez, [si_launchNFLPopup video='8a5c3faf8737403688ad298dd5eadcff']only to toss the ball into the air as he fell down injured[/si_launchNFLPopup], where it was scooped up by San Francisco's Carlos Rogers and returned for a touchdown.
- Tebow completing a jump-pass -- his one and only pass attempt -- only to have tight end Dedrick Epps hyperextend his knee and fumble after the grab.
First Down: The Vikings' special teams.
The Lions' special teams are as bad as it gets in the NFL, but let's give some credit to Minnesota's return units. They took advantage of Detroit's allergic reaction to tackling, breaking Percy Harvin loose for a 105-yard kick return to open the game, then doing the same for a Marcus Sherels punt return TD later ([si_launchNFLPopup video='543eb30f4bdf4b1a941c75431f6adc96']watch both[/si_launchNFLPopup]).
Christian Ponder said after that it's a good sign for his Vikings team that it did not play well and still won on the road. It's an even better sign that Minnesota now looks like it could be dangerous in all three facets of the game.
Fourth Down: Matt Cassel.
Ricky Stanzi has never thrown a regular season NFL pass. So the fact that Kansas City's crowd, on at least one occasion, broke into a "Stanzi! Stanzi!" chant does not bode well for Cassel (or backup Brady Quinn).
One week after leading the Chiefs to a win in New Orleans, Cassel again face-planted in front of his home fans. He threw three interceptions, including a first-half pick-6, as the Chiefs were blasted by the Chargers in an important divisional matchup.
First Down: Billy Cundiff.
OK, so, as far as kicker's go, a 1-for-4 day on field-goal attempts won't land you praise very often. But if ever a kicker needed a pat on the back for a game-winner, it's Cundiff, [si_launchNFLPopup video='704094a98e7c4104b50375a3f590e7cf']who drilled a 41-yarder with three seconds left[/si_launchNFLPopup] to give Washington a win in Tampa Bay.
Cundiff infamously missed a kick in last year's playoffs to cost Baltimore a shot at the Super Bowl, and he was unsuccessful from 41, 57 and 31 prior to his clutch make. By finally breaking through, Cundiff may have saved his job.
Fourth Down: Buffalo's fourth quarter.
It's tough to circle the wagons once all the wheels fall off.
Buffalo led New England 14-7 at halftime, despite an up-and-down first two quarters, then stretched that edge to 21-7 early in the third. It was a nightmarish ride from there for the homestanding Bills.
Tom Brady & Co. tied things up at 21 heading to the final 15 minutes ... [si_launchNFLPopup video='76812008bada48b08f6e95951d9726c4']then hung 31 on the Bills in the fourth[/si_launchNFLPopup], pulling away for an easy 52-28 win. Buffalo committed six turnovers in the game, four on Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions.
First Down: Cameron Wake.
It came in a losing effort by the Dolphins, sure, but Wake was a one-man wrecking crew up front. He took Arizona rookie tackle Bobby Massie to school Sunday en route to 4.5 sacks of Kevin Kolb. Wake came into Sunday with no sacks on the year and left it more than halfway to his 2011 total of 8.5
Fourth Down: Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Jaguars' offensive line had a tough day all around, failing to open up holes for MJD and allowing six sacks of Blaine Gabbert. Still, given the matchup, it was fair to expect more of Jones-Drew on Sunday.
The Bengals entered Week 4 ranked No. 31 in run defense, allowing 155 yards per game. Jones-Drew, meanwhile, was posting 104.7 yards per outing, despite not opening the regular season with a starting spot. Sunday's tally for Jones-Drew: 13 carries for 38 yards. That's going to make life tough on the Jaguars, no matter the opponent.