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Heroes & Villains: Gurley goes off, Texans QBs tumble

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Just four weeks into the new campaign and one head coach has already been deep-sixed into oblivion.

Joe Philbin's on the bread line after churning out a rotten 1-3 start in Miami -- and he won't be the last coach to feel the heat. For every promising start, there's loads of bad football being played by half-baked outfits from Detroit to Houston to San Francisco and beyond.

There's no shortage of folly and madness -- or heroes and villains -- as we review the week that was:

Heroes


1. The Man Who Makes The Rams Watchable: It was Around The NFL editor Gregg Rosenthal who boldly declared in June that St. Louis would field one of the NFL's most exciting ground games once Todd Gurley was healthy. Chuckled at by his peers, "The Boss" earned the last laugh on Sunday as Gurley plowed through Arizona's defense for gains of 20, 23, 30 and 52 yards. Don't look now, but Gurley has the chance to repeat what Odell Beckham did one year ago: Miss a month of work, only to return as the undeniable Offensive Rookie of the Year.

2. Kyle Shanahan: He'll be touted as the league's next coaching candidate du jour. Why? Because Kyle Shanahan has turned Atlanta's stale offense into a zone-blocking, clock-chewing wonder that churns out points and pounds people with the run. An O-line comprised mostly of last year's mundane blockers has upped its game to unleash Devonta Freeman, making Matt Ryan and Julio Jones all the more dangerous through the air. One of the game's premier in-flow play-callers will have a team of his own before long.

3. UPDATE on Multitasking PI/OC Frank Cignetti, Jr.: As we reported here last week, Rams first-year play-caller Frank Cignetti has been moonlighting on the side as a no-nonsense private eye on the West Coast. On the hunt for a missing L.A. girl named Regina Jane François, Cignetti became obsessed. Steering his vehicle through Hollywood's back alleyways, canvassing shadowy dives and Q&A'ing Regina Jane's KAs, Frank completely forgot about the Rams -- landing squarely on our villains list after a six-point dud against Pittsburgh in Week 3.

One week later, the girl remains a phantom, but Cignetti cut his California trip short this time, telling Regina's panicked, doting mother: "I'll be back for your daughter, Ms. François. I promise. First, I got a game to coach." With Gurley back in the mix, Ol' Ciggy's on the up and up, but Frank won't rest until he finds that vanished dame.

Villains


1. The Brain Trust Who Delivered Houston's Ultra-Doomed, Two-Headed QB Disaster: No situation under center is more tedious than the back-and-forth charade the Texans are spinning with Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer. Comprehensively unwatchable, the duo looms as a first-class ticket to a top-five pick. There should be more innate hope for the Hard Knocks darlings, but coach Bill O'Brien massively overrated his quarterbacks, a gaffe impossible to correct in October.

2. Dumb-legged Booters: We're in a dark place when kickers emerge as a major plot point at the season's quarter mark. Josh Scobee, Kyle Brindza and the inglorious Zach Hocker are not names we need clogging up our timeline as freaked-out fans bemoan the fact that run-of-the-mill kickers aren't up to the task of nailing a little-bit-longer extra point. We'll say it every week until the end of days: Junk the PAT. Go for two every time. Never look back.

3. The Miami Dolphins Experience: Joe Philbin is not a villain. Joe Philbin is free. That's the beauty of being fired. For all the disappointment: No more schedules, no emails, no press conferences, no tweets from mouth-breathing social-media rubes, no more heat-seeking hot takes about your worth as a human. It's over, leaving Philbin to wander the Florida badlands, sip rum straight from the bottle and catch up on the latest incarnation of the Traveling Pants canon. Blaming Philbin was easy, but now Miami's players and coaches sit on a hot seat of their own. The Dolphins have been a disorganized ghost ship, a dead-on-arrival Game Pass corpse and the league's most underachieving squad. We'll find out fast if Philbin was the only issue.

4. BONUS VILLAIN: The ghastliest non-call of the season, which you can learn about here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. The proud people of Detroit deserve better.

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