|Charlie Riedel/Associated Press|
|Derrick Johnson and the Chiefs defense looked good enough against Denver to think they could be dangerous.|
Before the season started, we said the competitive balance in this league would be greater than ever. I think that the 13 games played on Sunday validate that statement.
Three teams -- San Diego, Cleveland and Buffalo -- rallied in the fourth quarter to produce come-from-behind road victories. The Chargers scored 25 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Oakland. The Browns scored 17 to beat Cincinnati. The Bills scored 18 to beat St. Louis.
Philadelphia lost to the Bears by a matter inches, when Alex Brown stopped Correll Buckhalter at the goal line to preserve a win for Chicago. With 6:58 to play, Dallas stopped Washington on third-and-2 from 31, seemingly forcing a 48-yard field goal try. But the Cowboys, coming out of a timeout, were flagged for 12 men on the field. The Redskins then held the ball for another 3:22 before kicking a 29-yard field goal that gave them a 9-point lead and left Dallas with less time for a comeback.
It seemed as if every game Sunday had one play that could have changed the outcome. While we were reminded how balanced the NFL can be, here are some other things we learned from Week 4:
Chiefs look better
Kansas City won a regular-season game for the first time since Oct. 21 of last year. And while the focus was on Larry Johnson's big day, the other story was how a Chiefs defense that ranked 25th in the league after three weeks held the Denver offense, which led the NFL in scoring, to 19 points. Kansas City had been allowing 357 yards per game and have been playing two rookies at cornerback.
Last week we wrote that a key matchup would be rookie CB Brandon Flowers against Denver WR Brandon Marshall. It turned out to be the other rookie, Brandon Carr, who got the assignment. Carr had an interception, and Marshall was held to seven catches for 77 yards -- after averaging 12 catches for 160 in the previous two games.
As for Johnson, he claimed he was being phased out of the team's plans. In Week 2, he had 12 carries for 22 yards. This week, he ran for a career-long 65 yards on his second carry of the day, and the crowd loved it. Several plays later, he was stopped for a 1-yard loss, and the crowd booed. For the day, however, they were pleased: Johnson rushed for 198 yards and two TDs. As we said, Chiefs coach Herm Edwards has a knack for creating favorable matchups with his defensive backs. If Damon Huard can manage the game for them at quarterback and Johnson continues to run the ball well, the Chiefs have a chance to be an ascending team.
After Washington's season opener against the Giants, Redskins fans were ready to bench quarterback Jason Campbell and take play-calling duties away from new head coach Jim Zorn. They are probably feeling better about things after a 26-24 win in Dallas.
The Redskins held the ball for 38:09. There's no better way than that to stop the NFL's top-ranked offense (Dallas had been averaging 440 yards per game in total offense, averaging 150 yards and and 2 TDs per game on the ground). Thanks in part to Washington's ability to control the ball, Dallas threw 47 passes and attempted just 11 rushes -- and that pass-run differential of 36 was the highest single-game total in Cowboys history. Zorn was terrific as a play-caller and Campbell played like a 10-year veteran. Campbell hasn't thrown an interception yet this season, and the Redskins haven't turned over the ball. In our matchups to watch, we highlighted Redskins WR Santana Moss vs. Cowboys CB Terence Newman. Moss carried all states and the District of Columbia in this matchup, catching 8 passes for 145 yards.
Titans look tough
For the first time in the history of the Titans/Oilers franchise, the team is off to a 4-0 start. In our look at the key matchups, we wrote that the team whose defensive tackles performed the best would win this game. Well, both teams played solid run defense -- Minnesota was held to 80 rushing yards while Tennessee had just 76. But the Titans DT duo of Albert Haynesworth and Tony Brown added 3 sacks. Kevin Williams and Pat Williams had none for the Vikings. Haynesworth and Brown won the battle; Tennessee won the game.
Another example of how important one play can be: In the first quarter, with Tennessee ahead 3-0 and driving, Titans RB LenDale White fumbled and Minnesota recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Titans coach Jeff Fisher wisely challenged, and White was ruled down at the 1; the Titans scored on the next play.
St. Louis blues
The Bills are 4-0 for first time since 1992, when they finished 11-5 and played in Super Bowl XXVII (losing to Dallas), Chris Long had a first-half sack -- a slick inside move against Bills LT Jason Peters. Overall, however, Peters seemed to have a slight advantage in this matchup.
The Rams won the first half easily -- they were up 14-6 at halftime and led after three quarters. On the second play of the fourth quarter, Jabari Greer picked off an overthrown pass and returned it for a touchdown to put the Bills ahead, 20-14. The Rams played a lot better than expected amid the coaching rumors. Rookie Donnie Avery scored in the first quarter -- it was the first first-quarter TD of the season for St. Louis. Unfortunately for Scott Linehan, it was not enough to save his job. Jim Haslett will do a good job as interim head coach, though he does not have a lot to work with.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees passed for 363 yards and three TDs in a 31-17 win over San Francisco. Lance Moore caught 7 passes for 101 yards and two scores -- I wonder how many people had him on their fantasy team before yesterday? But the story of the game was Deuce McAllister, who is playing with two reconstructed knees. After missing 13 games in 2007 and having yet to contribute this season, McAllister had 20 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown. He looked like an Olympic high jumper on his touchdown run. He looked good, running hard both inside and outside. Saints rookie DB Tracy Porter made a touchdown-saving interception for the Saints, catching the ball in the end zone and running it out to the 20-yard line. Porter will get a pat on the back for the INT â¦ and a stern lecture for running it out, as he nearly got stopped at the 2.
Dallas QB Tony Romo tied Troy Aikman's team record with his 13th career 300-yard passing game. â¦ Terrell Owens, with a TD catch, moved into sole possession of second on the all-time TD reception list with 131. â¦ The Raiders wore white jerseys (instead of black and silver) at home for the first time since moving back from Los Angeles in 1995. â¦ Five quarterbacks passed for 300 or more yards on Sunday, and four of them lost. Five running backs ran for 100 yards or more, and four of them won. â¦ The Browns and Bengals have played 70 times. Each have won 35 times, and 29 points separates the overall scoring. â¦ Jacksonville scored on a fourth-down play when they lined up to punt and instead had a direct snap to Montell Owens, who scored his first career TD on what was his first NFL rush. The play came after the Texans declined a holding penalty that would have kept it third down. â¦ Arizona had three receivers with more than 100 yards -- Anquan Boldin (119), Larry Fitzgerald (122), Steve Breaston (122). â¦ The 1997 NFC Pro Bowl quarterbacks were Kerry Collins, Gus Frerotte and Brett Favre. Eleven years later, all three were Week 4 NFL starters.