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What we learned from Sunday's NFL games

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While the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans remained unbeaten, the Minnesota Vikings continued on their surprising start to the 2012 season.

Here's what else we learned Sunday:

Philadelphia Eagles 19, New York Giants 17

» The Eagles have to be thrilled by what they saw from Michael Vick. The quarterback delivered a smart, efficient performance. No turnovers for the first time all season. If Vick can play within himself like this, the Eagles can win a lot of games.

» Now that the replacement referees are history, might I next suggest we get rid of "icing the kicker"? The move backfired yet again when Andy Reid called a timeout seconds before Lawrence Tynes missed his first attempt from 56 yards out. If Tynes made his second try, Reid would be in hiding right now.

» There should never be a scenario where LeSean McCoy has fewer than 25 touches in a game for the Eagles (he had 26 on Sunday night). The man is a home-run threat every time he has the ball. The Giants were visibly frustrated in their attempt to corral the running back in open space.

» Perhaps if Hakeem Nicks is in the lineup, Ramses Barden isn't in position to commit that awful offensive pass interference on Nnamdi Asomugha late in the fourth quarter. Barden's mugging probably cost the Giants the game, but I'm not going to criticize the Giants for taking the shot there. Barden just didn't execute.

-- Dan Hanzus


Atlanta Falcons 30, Carolina Panthers 28

»  Cam Newton bounced back with a strong performance following a week of criticism, but his day was tarnished by an inability to squeeze the football on his fateful third-and-2 draw late in the fourth quarter. If he doesn't put the ball on the carpet, the Panthers win. He's not a closer yet.

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» Following Newton's fumble, Ron Rivera got conservative in punting the ball away on fourth-and-1. You have to like your chance to move the ball three feet in that spot. The Panthers played not to lose down the stretch.

» There are plenty of options at this stage, but my MVP pick at the season's quarter point is Matt Ryan. His game has gone to the next level. Also deserving consideration? Roddy White, who is still Atlanta's top threat.

» It's all swept to the side now, but the Panthers really did deliver a great effort here. The defense harassed Ryan all day and the offense had no trouble moving the ball when they weren't being reined in by the gameplan.

-- Dan Hanzus


New England Patriots 52, Buffalo Bills 28

» Buffalo's defensive line applied very little pressure to Tom Brady and gave up 247 yards rushing. On balance, the unit has been a disappointment.

»  Brandon Bolden, an undrafted free agent, looks like a find for the Patriots. He has amazing energy and tackle-breaking ability. Bolden wound up with 137 yards on only 16 carries. Stevan Ridley rushed for 106 yards and two scores.

»  Ryan Fitzpatrick had four interceptions and a fumble. His lack of arm strength showed up on deep passes. The Patriots dared him to throw deep. Devin McCourty wound up with two interceptions.

»  Brandon Spikes' forced fumble on C.J. Spiller on the goal line to end the first half was a huge moment in the game. Spikes' forced fumble on Fred Jackson in the second half was even bigger. Both backs looked fully healthy.

»  Tom Brady's legs made a huge difference in the game. Seriously. He bought time on Danny Woodhead's touchdown, which felt like the turning point of the game. Brady then ran for a touchdown.

» A positive for Buffalo: First-round pick Stephon Gilmore had his best game covering Brandon Lloyd.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


Minnesota Vikings 20, Detroit Lions 13

» This sure looked like the old Adrian Peterson. He made a lot of defenders miss and ran through tackles on the way to 101 yards.

»  Christian Ponder did not play well. He was wild on his deep passes and couldn't take advantage of eight men in the box.

» This was the best day the Detroit defense had all year. It saw the Percy Harvin plays coming before it happened.

»  Brandon Pettigrew dropped a touchdown. Matthew Stafford went over 300 yards, but was wild on a lot of big plays. Teams are playing two safeties deep to stop the deep ball.

»  Jim Schwartz punted on fourth-and-1 on the Vikings' 40-yard line while down 20-6 in the second half. That says a lot about Schwartz and Detroit's decrepit running game.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


Houston Texans 38, Tennessee Titans 14

» The Titans were hell-bent on shaking Chris Johnson out of his funk, and he responded with his best showing of season, running for 141 yards on 25 carries. Johnson still gets caught in the backfield too often, but this was a clear step forward.

» After Tennessee lost quarterback Jake Locker to a left-shoulder injury, age-old Matt Hasselbeck entered the game and was victimized for a pair of long pick sixes that sunk a knife into the heart of the Titans.

» Houston had thrown the ball fewer than 50 percent of the time entering Sunday, but Matt Schaub does such an impressive job with play-action when it's called upon, and that's a credit to the running game. This offense is set up to go the distance.

» Are the Texans the AFC's best team? At this point in the season, there's little question about that. They made football look easy on Sunday.

-- Marc Sessler


San Diego Chargers 37, Kansas City Chiefs 20

»  Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has issues. He threw three interceptions, fumbled and had the Arrowhead crowd chanting for backup Ricky Stanzi. Cassel just wasn't very accurate.

»  Chiefs running back Jamal Charles is fast. He lost two fumbles, but was untouchable if he turned the corner. Charles finished with 92 rushing yards, including a reverse-field 37-yard touchdown, and 23 receiving yards, including a 13-yard touchdown.


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»  Chiefs safety Eric Berry is not a finished product. He was beaten regularly by tight end Antonio Gates in man-to-man coverage. Berry gave too much room on a square-in, missed a jam and was turned around in close coverage. He needed help Sunday.

» The Chiefs had five first-half turnovers, the most for Kansas City since 1991, including two on the first four offensive snaps. They finished with six. And when Charles scored the first touchdown, the extra-point snap was behind the holder, then was picked off.

» It was hard to get a read on the Chargers. The Chiefs basically handed them the game. The defense looked really good in the first half, but the Chiefs had a lot to do with that.

»  Chargers running back Ryan Mathews will share carries now that he's back from a fractured clavicle. He rushed for 61 yards on 14 carries. Jackie Battle had 16 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown. Mathews, though, didn't fumble after listening to a week's worth of criticism.

-- Kareem Copeland


San Francisco 49ers 34, New York Jets 0

» The Jets lost receiver Santonio Holmes on the first play of the fourth quarter. He caught a four-yard pass, planted his left foot and collapsed. Holmes immediately grabbed his knee and was carted to the locker room. Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole reported Holmes left the locker room by golf cart after the game with a walking boot on his left foot and a set of crutches. No one touched him when he went down. Those injuries are usually the worst.

» The Jets pride themselves on their defense, but it wasn't very good Sunday. The 49ers ran for 245 yards and methodically moved up and down the field. Cornerback Kyle Wilson struggled in an increased role with Darrelle Revis out with an ACL tear. The unit was not an aggressive group that dictated play.

» Quarterback Mark Sanchez did not play well, and that's putting it nicely. Backup Tim Tebow is going to get his chance if Sanchez continues to make poor decisions and miss open receivers. The shutout isn't on Sanchez alone. The Jets had no run game, no playmakers at receiver and the offensive line was subpar. That's not a situation in which many quarterbacks can thrive.

»  Jim Harbaugh can coach. The 49ers haven't lost consecutive games since he took over. They never panic and patiently go about their business. The 49ers led 10-0 at halftime and won 34-0. Oh, and while everyone talked about the Jets' Wildcat, the 49ers were actually successful running it.

»  Colin Kaepernick might be a better Wildcat quarterback than Tebow. Defenses have to respect his speed and his arm.

» The 49ers are still the best team in the NFC.

-- Kareem Copeland


St. Louis Rams 19, Seattle Seahawks 13

» Seattle's defensive line continues to grow into one of the NFL's best. It didn't match Monday night's eight-sack explosion (the Seahawks took down Sam Bradford twice), but Pete Carroll's young defense is fun to watch.

»  Russell Wilson needs to do a better job leading Seattle to points. Now that opponents have game film on the rookie, too many drives fizzle out and Wilson struggles increasingly to establish a passing presence from the pocket.

» The highlight you'll see repeatedly: The Rams dialed up a fake field goal to score their first touchdown in 100 plays (worst in the NFL) when punter Johnny Hekker hit a wide-open Danny Amendola for a 2-yard touchdown in the first half. Hekker was once a high school quarterback.

» Bradford appears increasingly comfortable in the St. Louis offense, but he still holds onto the ball too long at times, which led to a nasty sack against Seattle. The upside: Bradford is showing more downfield chemistry with his targets than at any time last year and we might someday see St. Louis average more than 20 points a game.

-- Marc Sessler


Cincinnati Bengals 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 10

»  A.J. Green vs. Rashean Mathis just isn't fair. The second-year pro put a clown suit on Mathis to the tune of six catches, 117 yards and a score.

» We hate watching this Jaguars offense. They play things ridiculously close to the vest and then they aren't built to play from behind. Blaine Gabbert averaged 5.5 yards against a bad, banged-up Bengals secondary. Maurice Jones-Drew had 38 yards rushing. It was a humbling game for Jacksonville.

» No quarterback completes more passes short of the sticks on third and long than Gabbert.

» A positive for Jacksonville: First-round pick Justin Blackmon had six catches after only getting four in the first three games. Jacksonville only had two throws for more than 15 yards in the entire game though.

» No team beats bad teams as consistently as the Bengals. They are the most predictable team in the league. They beat losing squads and lose to real contenders. It's a start. It's a 3-1 start.

» Vontaze Burfict led the Bengals in tackles, had a sack, a pass defensed, and two tackles for loss. Not bad for a kid that didn't get drafted.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


Green Bay Packers 28, New Orleans Saints 27

» The Saints' passing game had its cleanest day of the season. Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and got mostly good protection. He avoided big mistakes and made some sensational throws, such as an impossible fourth-down conversion to Lance Moore. Brees was great on third downs.

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» The flip side: Green Bay's secondary slid back toward 2011 level in this game. The defense has certainly made strides, but it remains a work in progress.

» Packers receiver Greg Jennings left after only 13 plays after re-injuring his groin. Aaron Rodgers left for one play when he was poked in the eye. James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb all stepped up in Jennings' absence.

» The Saints have absolutely no running game. Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas combined for 25 yards on 14 carries. The team seems to miss Carl Nicks. The offensive line just isn't the same.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


Washington Redskins 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22

»  Redskins kicker Billy Cundiff almost certainly saved his job by connecting on the game-deciding 41-yard field goal with seconds to play. An 0-for-4 showing would've earned him an extended vacation.

»  Josh Freeman struggled badly with his accuracy in the first two quarters, but he found his rhythm in the second half. He even appeared to be developing some chemistry with wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

» Watching Robert Griffin III play, it's hard to believe he has just four games on his NFL resume. On Washington's final drive, he went 4-for-5 for 46 yards and added a 15-yard scramble to move his team into field-goal position. Clutch.

» Nobody finds running back talent in the sixth round like Mike Shanahan. The man who once drafted Terrell Davis appears to have another gem in the hard-running Alfred Morris, who locked up the starting job with a big day.

-- Dan Hanzus


Denver Broncos 37, Oakland Raiders 6

» Peyton Manning had his best game as a Bronco, torching a Raiders defense like the good old days. There will be no talk of suspect arm strength this week.

» A lot of people think Darren McFadden is the best running back in football. Then how come McFadden's rushed for 34 yards or less in three of his first four games? The Raiders need to create some running room for their stud.

» As McFadden struggles, Willis McGahee continues to turn back the clock for the Broncos. If Manning and McGahee are both playing at a high level, the Broncos are almost impossible to stop.

» The Broncos have emerged as the biggest wild card in the AFC. Through four games, we've seen several different versions of John Fox's team. Is Manning about to go off on one of his vintage runs?

-- Dan Hanzus


Arizona Cardinals 24, Miami Dolphins 21 (OT)

» There's hope in Miami after Ryan Tannehill set a team record for single-game passing yardage by a rookie. The Dolphins quarterback was 26-of-41 for 431 yards, eclipsing Dan Marino's 1983 mark. He wasn't even the story of the day, as receiver Brian Hartline shattered a franchise record with 12 catches for 253 yards.

» Should we have seen these Cardiac Cards coming from a mile away? They've won 11 of 13 going back to November. Kevin Kolb is 4-0 after serving as a long-standing joke in August, proving the experts don't know a thing.

» Arizona's running game has issues and sputtered behind a pair of unremarkable right tackles in D'Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie.

» Miami's defensive line is underrated. The Dolphins' behemoths got to Kolb on a string of drive-crushing sacks in the second half, all on third down.

» Safety Kerry Rhodes continues to make big-time plays for the Cardinals. His interception of a Tannehill floater in overtime helped seal this game.

-- Marc Sessler

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