Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19, New England Patriots 17
- Arizona Cardinals 37, Los Angeles Rams 20
- Seattle Seahawks 28, San Francisco 49ers 21
- Green Bay Packers 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17
- Baltimore Ravens 23, Denver Broncos 7
- Chicago Bears 24, Detroit Lions 14
- Washington Football Team 34, Atlanta Falcons 30
- Buffalo Bills 40, Houston Texans 0
- Kansas City Chiefs 42, Philadelphia Eagles 30
- New York Jets 27, Tennessee Titans 24 (OT)
- Indianapolis Colts 27, Miami Dolphins 17
- Dallas Cowboys 36, Carolina Panthers 28
- New York Giants 27, New Orleans Saints 21 (OT)
- Cleveland Browns 14, Minnesota Vikings 7
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- It wasn't a high-flying, emotionally volatile battle for the ages, but it was something. After the pregame emotions and video montages passed, a wet slog emerged on the artificial surface at Gillette Stadium. The two teams moved the ball, combining to gain 356 yards of offense in the first half, but Tampa Bay's 0-for-2 red zone rate and New England's interception limited the scoring output, as did the weather conditions. Some of the struggles never left either team -- the Patriots finished with -1 rushing yards -- but at least the kickers did their part. Ryan Succop made 4-of-5 field goal attempts, while Nick Folk went 1-for-2. And in the end, it was thrilling -- not because it was a premier showcase of how to play the sport, but because it was a close finish -- and it provided us with a resolution to a showdown we'd spent a full week discussing.
- On a day all about Tom Brady, the quarterback's performance was far from legendary. Brady was not great, finishing with a passing line of 22 of 43 for 269 yards and a 70.8 passer rating. Tampa Bay struggled to establish much of an offensive rhythm outside of its lone touchdown drive capped by an 8-yard Ronald Jones touchdown run, and with Rob Gronkowski and Giovani Bernard unavailable, the Bucs repeatedly failed to finish drives in the red zone or just outside of it, requiring Succop to trot out in an attempt to salvage some points. The explosive offense we'd seen from the Buccaneers simply never materialized, and Brady wasn't the antagonist many expected him to be in Foxborough. In the end, none of that mattered, of course, because the Buccaneers came away victorious. It just wasn't the vengeful air show many foresaw from the legendary Brady and Co.
- Mac Jones certainly did his part to keep pace with the G.O.A.T. At one point following New England's go-ahead touchdown in the fourth, NBC threw up a full-screen graphic showing the statistical comparison between Jones and Brady, and it was easy to see who was having a better outing. Jones rattled off 19 straight completions, equaling Brady's Patriots record -- a mark set in Week 1 of the 2015 season, just five days after Jones' 17th birthday -- and jump-starting New England's offense with a well-called touchdown drive to give New England a 14-13 lead. The rookie finished with a very solid passing line: 31 of 40, 275 yards, two touchdowns, a 101.6 passer rating and one interception that came off a deflection. With no running game to speak of, the onus fell on Jones' shoulders to keep the Patriots in the game, and he certainly delivered -- even if it didn't produce a win. That was Jones' first big moment as an NFL quarterback, and he did not wilt.
- Bill Belichick's game plan worked well, even if it didn't end up securing a win. Knowing exactly who he was facing in the pre-snap read-dependent Brady, Belichick varied coverages pre- and post-snap frequently Sunday night, gumming up Tampa Bay's offense to the point that the Buccaneers hit halftime with just six total points. The Patriots certainly deserve their share of the credit for Brady's tough night, forcing the future Hall of Famer off his spot and out of the pocket entirely on multiple occasions and refusing to allow the Buccaneers to get comfortable with the ball for most of the night. Matt Judon shined again, bringing his season sack total to 4.5 and leading New England in QB pressures and QB hurries (three each). Patriots defenders closed quickly on receivers hauling in short passes to limit gains. As the rain fell, it became clear this would be a battle of attrition -- exactly how Belichick likes it. He just didn't count on his kicker missing a long (and frankly, questionable) attempt with the game on the line.
- Mother Nature proved to be a great equalizer. The rain arrived early and persisted throughout the first half, causing less-than-ideal conditions for those looking to win with speed and quick cuts, and making the going even tougher for anyone handling the football. What could have been a 28-point game for Tampa Bay saw it struggle and ultimately fail to break 20. And the rain returned with force when the game grew close late in the night, creating a wet, unforgiving environment for two kickers tasked with giving their team the lead. Succop followed through after missing an earlier field goal attempt, while Folk's try met the uninviting clang of the left upright. At its most basic level, that was the difference, though many other breaks -- Antonio Brown hanging onto a perfectly placed third-down pass from Brady in the end zone instead of dropping it, for example -- could have changed the complexion of this game. Instead, it came down to kicking in a driving rain. That's never a great situation for a boot unfortunate enough to find himself in such a situation.
Next Gen Stat of the game: New England's decision to attempt a go-ahead field goal from 56 yards out dropped the Patriots' win probability by 10.4% (from 34.7% if they'd gone for it to 24.3% before actually kicking the ball).
NFL Research: Sunday night was Brady's first game without a passing touchdown since Week 9 of the 2020 season. In that game, Brady threw for 209 yards and three interceptions in a blowout loss to New Orleans -- and then went on to lead the Buccaneers on a run to a Super Bowl LV triumph.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Kyler Murray for MVP? Murray's Cardinals have scored 31 or more points in each of their games, and he's been responsible for at least one touchdown in every contest. He's on absolute fire, completing 24 of 32 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns Sunday to become just the third player in the Super Bowl era with a 4-0 record, completion percentage of 75 or better and 1,200-plus passing yards in his team's first four games of a season. The other two? Peyton Manning in his first season in Denver -- a season in which he won MVP and led the Broncos to the Super Bowl -- and Russell Wilson last season. The Cardinals will hope their season turns out more like Manning's than Wilson's, and right now, we're not seeing any signs that Murray will do anything but keep them rolling.
- Matthew Stafford isn't quite the Rams' infallible savior. Stafford was a much-needed breath of fresh air for Los Angeles in the first three weeks and kept providing the locals with plenty of reason to be grateful for his upgrade over Jared Goff. Then, Sunday arrived, and Stafford's growing reliance on the NFL's touchdown receptions leader (through three weeks) started to result in offensive imbalance. Cooper Kupp saw more than twice as many targets (13) from Stafford as any other receiver, yet he caught just five of them for 64 yards. Want to stop the Rams? Take away Kupp -- well, that was the successful game plan for the Cardinals this week. Add in a Stafford interception and an untimely Sony Michel fumble, and you have a Rams offense that struggled for the first time this season. And as we all know, Stafford doesn't play defense.
- These Cardinals are having fun and made a statement with their smile. That's bad news for the rest of the NFC West. Arizona has figured out how to rejuvenate A.J. Green as a complement to DeAndre Hopkins, and both are soaring -- in fact, they each ended with the exact same receiving total at 67 yards. Green bested Hopkins with a touchdown reception, but what makes these Cardinals so dangerous is the amount of options on the field at any time. Chase Edmonds gained 10 yards per carry, finishing with 120, while James Conner bulldozed his way to 50 yards and two scores on 18 totes. Murray connected with seven pass-catchers (including tight end Maxx Williams), picked up 39 yards on six of his own runs and pushed the Cardinals past the 450-yard mark in total offense. It's difficult to name a more consistently explosive team in the NFL right now than these Cardinals, and in a difficult division, they're sitting at the top with no fear of any of their competitors.
Next Gen Stat of the game: After starting with a perfect 3-0 TD-INT ratio on deep passes in his first three weeks, Matthew Stafford completed 1 of 4 passes for 35 yards and an interception on deep pass attempts Sunday.
NFL Research: This is the fourth straight season in which an NFC West team is the last undefeated team in the conference. The owner of this title has been a different team in each of these four instances.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Seahawks' offense flips the script, cruises in second half. It took some time, but Russell Wilson & Co. found the gas pedal. Seattle started the game with five straight three-and-outs, generating negative-seven yards. From there, the Seahawks kicked it in gear, taking advantage of 49ers flubs, scoring 21 straight points to blow the game open. Russ-dini showed up in the second half, dealing against a splintered Niners secondary. Wilson magically spun out of a seemingly sure sack to throw a strike to Freddie Swain for a touchdown. Through three weeks, Seattle couldn't move the ball in the second half. On Sunday, they spun forward at will early in the final two quarters before hitting the brake pedal down the stretch of the blowout. Alex Collins impressed out of the backfield, powering through tackles on the way to 78 total yards and a nifty TD run. Sunday's road win was a massive victory for Seattle to stick in the hunt of the tight NFC West with next week's bout against the L.A. Rams on tap.
- Trey Lance joins the ranks of struggling rookie QBs. Lance took over to start the second half of a 7-7 game after Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a calf injury. The rookie's first pass was at George Kittle's feet. The struggles continued from there. Lance threw a nice deep shot to a wide-open Deebo Samuel for a 76-yard TD on a busted coverage. Outside of that, Lance missed too many throws, hesitated at times and missed several passes high. He finished with 157 yards and two TDs on 9-of-18 passing. He struggled under pressure, going 2 of 6 for 21 yards. Lance has a rocket, but the rest of the mechanics are a work in progress. His athletic gifts are evident when he escapes the pocket, rushing for 41 yards on seven totes and a two-point conversion. Entering at halftime put Lance in a tough spot in his first extended action. We'll see if he remains under center in next week's big bout against undefeated Arizona.
- 49ers special teams implode. The 49ers didn't take advantage of early struggles from the Seattle offense, and the Seahawks defense weathered the early storm to keep it a ballgame. However, the game turned on a series of Niners special teams miscues. With Robbie Gould hurting his groin, punter Mitch Wishnowsky missed a field goal and an extra point. Returner Trenton Cannon muffed a punt in the second half, leading directly to a Seahawks two-score lead. The returner then misplayed another kick, putting the offense in a precarious situation. The Niners also had eight penalties for 78 yards, including several that erased potentially big plays. It was a shaky performance across the board for Kyle Shanahan's club.
Next Gen stat of the game: Russell Wilson went 4 for 5 for 76 yards, TD on passes of 10+ air yards (one pass attempt of 10+ air yards in first half).
NFL Research: Russell Wilson joins Peyton Manning as the only QBs with 100+ wins in their first 10 seasons.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- Balance from the backfield. Despite the absence of one of its top offensive linemen in Elgton Jenkins, the Green Bay running game ground out solid balance for QB Aaron Rodgers. The combination of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon was plenty effective, and their 4.0-per-carry average would've been better had the Steelers not been able to key on late run calls designed to eat clock. And this was against the NFL's 10th-ranked run defense. Dillon had a game-long 25-yard scamper and complements Jones nicely with his north-south style. Rodgers has had better days, but with that kind of help from his backfield, he's too good to lose.
- Drawing board time. The Steelers offense was a dumpster fire. The NFL's worst running game actually sprung Najee Harris for a respectable 15-for-62 day, but Pittsburgh either couldn't or wouldn't sustain that part of its offense, depending on how quickly you think the scoreboard deficit demanded its abandonment. The passing attack, meanwhile, was wholly lacking in explosiveness while the Packers defense zeroed in on the stationary Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben completing two fourth-down passes short of the sticks, only for quick tackles to be made for turnovers on downs, exemplified an exasperating day.
- At last, early points. With his 400th career TD pass on the game's opening drive, Roethlisberger ended a positively brutal drought for Pittsburgh -- the team had previously gone 11 consecutive games without a first-quarter score. Roethlisberger, who lamented the dubious streak earlier in the week, stepped up in the pocket and found Diontae Johnson in single coverage down the right sideline for a 45-yard TD pass, beating one of the NFL's top cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander to do so. Alas, it was one of only a few big plays the Steelers offense generated all day.
Next Gen stat of the game: Rodgers was pressured on just seven of 39 dropbacks (17.9%).
NFL Research: Rodgers' second TD pass to Randall Cobb gave him 420 for his career, tying him for sixth all time with Dan Marino.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- Rebound Brown. Ravens WR Marquise Brown delivered a bounce-back performance after dropping three passes that each could've gone for touchdowns against the Detroit Lions last week. The highlight came when Brown made a beautiful diving grab at full speed in the end zone for a 49-yard scoring strike that put the Ravens ahead, 14-7. His speed is never in question, as he reached 21.33 mph on the play, and got a whopping 7.4 yards of separation from the nearest defender, per Next Gen Stats. Brown's ability to hit explosive plays downfield is vital for the Ravens passing game, and although the Broncos contained him in the second half, he brought that element and then some with four receptions for 91 yards.
- Passing woes, two-fold. Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater was lost at the half to a concussion evaluation, opening the door for Drew Lock's first action since losing the starting job in the preseason. But on what was shaping up to be Bridgewater's worst game of the season, Lock didn't fare any better. The Broncos couldn't muster a second-half point as Lock took three sacks, threw an interception and completed just 12 of 21 passes. Bridgewater completed just 6 of 17, leaving Broncos fans to wonder why a running game that averaged 6.2 yards per carry didn't get more than 17 totes.
- Line glue holds. The Ravens offensive line, already without left tackle Ronnie Stanley the last few weeks, lost Stanley's replacement, Alejandro Villanueva, to an injury. Denver flipped star pass rusher Von Miller to the other side of the line to match him up with Villanueva's replacement, veteran backup Andre Smith. And although Smith looked overmatched at times, the recipe for disaster didn't really manifest, thanks in part to Lamar Jackson's status as the league's most elusive quarterback. The Broncos blitzed on 65% of dropbacks, their most in a single game in the Next Gen Stats era, yet managed to pressure Jackson on just 16% of their blitzes. Denver safety Caden Sterns notched sacks on two of those blitzes, and Jackson had to bail his share of pockets, but Ravens OL coach Joe D'Alessandris' unit held together well under the circumstances.
Next Gen stat of the game: Jackson leads the NFL with an average of 12.1 air yards per attempt.
NFL Research: Bridgewater was 0-for-6 on passes of 10+ air yards in the 1st half.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Justin Fields bounces back in first win. The rookie QB showed what he could do when he isn't swarmed by defenders every snap. Fields unleashed several vertical shots, opening up a previously restricted offense and hitting on four of six passes of 20-plus air yards. His holeshot to Allen Robinson down the sideline was a picture-perfect pass from the big-armed QB. Coach Matt Nagy did a much better job putting his rookie QB in advantageous situations, using motions, adding extra protection and calling easy intermediate routes early. The coach was in dreamland with a big lead, able to lean on the ground game and give Fields shots. Fields finished 12 of 18 for 215 yards, and one deflected INT. The few times he was under pressure, the QB showed his ability to spin out of trouble using his legs. When Fields had time against a weak Lions pass rush, he rifled balls confidently all over the field. It was the type of game we often saw at Ohio State. There were still some areas for the rookie to grow -- a bad sack-fumble late. But Fields is an excellent vertical thrower and it showed against a lousy defense. Finally, the Bears O has a field-stretching element after playing in a box for three weeks.
- Lions bungle red zone opportunities. Detroit moved the ball between the 20s most of the day, generating 347 yards and 23 first downs, but went just one of five in the red zone. In Detroit's first three possessions, they drove to the 8-yard-line, 5-yard-line and 3-yard line. Those series ended with a premature snap fumble, turnover-on-downs and sack-fumble. I'm not sure if you'd term this the most Lionsy Lions loss or the most Goffy Goff loss. The QB vacillated from head-scratching error to impressively dodging rushers to find open targets. Jared Goff threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, but also took four sacks and lost two fumbles. The signal-caller threw a bevy of high balls on the day, including a fourth-down throw late with the Lions driving to make it a one-score game. On the pass, Goff didn't see a wide-open Quintez Cephus over the middle. That's Jared Goff. When things are clean, he can make impressive plays. Under heat, however, he's melted in four starts with the winless Lions.
- Hello, Darnell Mooney! Oh no, David Montgomery. Fields' ability to stretch the field unlocked Mooney, who ate up Lions defenders, generating three plays of 20-plus yards. The Bears need Mooney as a complement to Robinson. The first three weeks of Chicago playing dink-and-dunk negates what Mooney does best. With Fields uncorking bombs, Mooney comes alive. The worst news for the Bears came with Montgomery going down with a second-half knee injury. The back powered the offense, generating 106 rushing yards and two TDs on 23 attempts before the injury. Damien Williams played well after Montgomery went down, but Chicago will miss the starter if the injury is a season-ender.
Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Fields has nine completions of 10+ air yards this season (Andy Dalton has two such completions).
NFL Research: The Lions drove the ball inside the Bears' 10-yard line, but failed to score on each of their first three drives (two fumbles lost, one TO on downs). Detroit is the first team since at least 1993 to do that on each of their first three drives in a game.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- Get Heinicke a Heineken. Taylor Heinicke came into the season as a backup, but he looked every bit a starter in leading Washington to a 2-2 mark. He came through in two clutch moments late, first spinning away from a would-be sack by Dante Fowler to find Terry McLaurin in the end zone to pull within 30-28 in the final minutes. After a badly overthrown incompletion on a two-point attempt to tie, he got a shot to win with one more possession, and delivered with a dump-off to J.D. McKissic that appeared to be the last read of his progression, and McKissic did the rest with a spectacular jaunt down the sideline for a game-winning touchdown. Heinicke also showed off some impressive athleticism, scampering for first downs on the ground with a five-for-43 rushing day.
- More needed from Washington defensive front. It's gotten too late in the season to dismiss Washington's lackluster pass rush as merely a slow start. The quartet of former first-round picks on the defensive line got some pressure Sunday, but once again, too often failed to finish with sacks. Montez Sweat powered through Jake Matthews on a bull rush for Washington's lone sack of the day, just the team's seventh in four games. Washington's offense was good enough against a suspect Atlanta defense to carry the day, but more weeks than not, it might need to be the other way around.
- Patterson does it again. The rebirth of Cordarrelle Patterson's NFL career just keeps gaining steam. Patterson scored three touchdowns from Matt Ryan on Sunday on three different pass routes -- a deep ball for 42 yards, a back-shoulder fade for 12 and a short crossing route for a 14-yard score. He finished the day with 116 total yards (82 receiving, 34 rushing) and continues to be a grade-A bargain on a one-year, $3 million free-agent deal. The former Viking, Raider, Patriot and Bear has found quite a home with his fifth club in his ninth pro season.
Next Gen stat of the game: Matt Ryan had one TD to each level of the field (behind LOS, short, intermediate and deep).
NFL Research: Cordarrelle Patterson joined Calvin Ridley as the only Falcons in the last 15 seasons to catch three TD passes in a single game. Julio Jones never had a three-TD performance in 10 seasons with the Falcons.
Jelani Scott's takeaways:
- Buffalo D stampedes Mills. No one will exit this game thinking the Bills defense is the second coming of the '85 Bears, but, boy, did they look monstrous. Not to take anything away from what Buffalo accomplished -- hint: it was a lot by the way -- but this game was just as much about how terrible the Texans' offense is than Leslie Frazier's scheme. Rookie Davis Mills continued to look lost, lofting balls under pressure that fell into the waiting hands of a Bills defender not once (Micah Hyde), not twice (Tremaine Edmunds), but four times (Jaquan Johnson, Tyler Matakevich). Houston's attempts to offset their passing woes with the run game were quickly snuffed out by the likes of Jerry Hughes, Star Lotulelei and Ed Oliver, all of whom were also in Mills' face as often as the torrential downpour. In all, the Texans amassed 109 net yards, and recorded five drives of negative yardage. Woof.
- Texans roasted on the road. There's no shame in losing to the AFC title game runner-up. But, when you're on the receiving end of the second-biggest blowout in Bills' history, there's definitely some shame (and blame) to be shared. Sure, a Lonnie Johnson pick on Josh Allen's first pass of the game offered a brief moment of intrigue. But then Buffalo started rolling and never looked back. Eight of its next 10 drives following the pick, excluding the game's final series, ended with points. Twelve of those came via Tyler Bass' leg, which could be viewed by some as encouraging considering how the Texans' secondary did offer some resistance in the red zone amid its game-long struggles. Listing any more stats from this one, such as Houston's one-of-nine third down conversion rate and 10 penalties for 100 yards, feels cruel…so let's move on.
- Allen shines on a cloudy day. Let's not mince words here, people: The power outage that threw this broadcast out of whack caused more of a disruption than the Texans defense. Save for his game-opening INT, Allen turned in another solid day, completing 20 of 29 attempts for 249 yards and two TDs. Stefon Diggs racked up yardage (114) but it was Dawson Knox (five receptions, 37 yards, two TDs) who benefitted greatly as the tight end remained Allen's favorite red zone target. Shout out to those that took a chance on him in fantasy. Zack Moss (14/61/TD) and a Mitchell “Victory Cigar” Trubisky contributed the other two TDs. Since losing in Week 1, Buffalo has outscored its opponents, 118-21; two of those, including today, saw the opposition put up goose eggs. Yes, the competition of late has been subpar but the Bills are in a groove, and next week's clash with the Chiefs should be more challenging than anything they've seen in the last three weeks.
Next Gen stat of the game: Stefon Diggs saw three targets of 10+ air yards, on which he had three receptions for 66 yards.
NFL Research: The Bills are the seventh team in the Super Bowl era to shut out two opponents by 35+ points in a season (joining the 1961 49ers as the only team to do so in their first four games). Another notable team to accomplish this feat? The Super Bowl-winning '85 Bears.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Chiefs get back on track with unstoppable offense. K.C. punter Tommy Townsend's leg got the day off. The Chiefs didn't punt a single time on seven drives, gobbling up 471 yards and 31 first downs. Kansas City scored six touchdowns, with the Eagles' only stop coming on a Patrick Mahomes INT. The Chiefs offense punctured a leaky Philly defense every which way, rushing the ball 32 times for 200 yards, and Mahomes tossed for 278 yards and five TDs. It was a shovel kind of day for Mahomes, who buried the defense with two pitch-passes for TDs. Mahomes went 23 of 27 for 274 yards and five TDs when not under pressure (1 of 3, four yards, INT under pressure). Outside of the INT, Mahomes peppered Philly with creative slings and scrambled out of trouble to find receivers, moving the chains. His late TD bomb to Tyreek Hill was the cherry on top of a balanced day for the Chiefs offense. Oh, and the Chiefs piled up the yards on a day in which Travis Kelce generated just four catches for 23 yards.
- Jalen Hurts flushed bad prime-time game. The young QB bounced back from a poor Monday night performance and looked much more in control Sunday versus a porous Chiefs D. It was a better game plan from Nick Sirianni, who helped his QB with a bevy of quick tosses. The Eagles couldn't get much going in the run game (Miles Sanders, seven carries for 13 yards), but the effective quick-screen game acted as runs to keep the defense off-balance. Hurts threw the ball with confidence, was on target and didn't force balls into coverage. He finished with 387 yards and two TDs. The QB also led the Eagles with eight rushes for 47 yards. Behind an offensive line missing four of five starters, the game plan and execution was solid from Philly this week. Hurts went 31 of 38 for 350 yards and two touchdowns on passes of fewer than 20 air yards. With a defense that couldn't get a stop, Hurts wasn't the issue this week.
- You don't beat the Chiefs with field goals. The Eagles went just three of six in the red zone, settling for three field goals that ended up burning them. Sirianni's decision to eschew a fourth-and-3 on the first drive (after a timeout no less) was a harbinger of things to come. The Chiefs kept scoring, and the Eagles kept shooting themselves in the red zone. Philly had three TDs wiped off the board by penalties. That'll get you beat against most teams. It'll get you blown out by Mahomes. The Chiefs D has issues, giving up chunks of yards, but escaped by getting red-zone stops. The defense is something that Kansas City will need to address against better clubs. Getting Frank Clark back will be huge. His presence is sorely missed rushing the passer.
Next Gen stat of the game: Mahomes was pressured on a season-low 12.9% of his dropbacks. He had an 83.8 completion percentage, 130.5 passer rating with no pressure in 2021 (30.0 completion percentage, 60.1 passer rating with pressure).
NFL Research: Andy Reid won his 100th game today as the head coach of the Chiefs (including playoffs). Reid is now the first head coach in NFL history to record 100+ wins with multiple teams (also had 140 win with the Eagles). Mahomes recorded his 40th win today in his 50th career start, tying HOFer Ken Stabler for the most wins (40) in his first 50 career starts since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- Wilson comes through. Jets fans got the ray of hope in QB Zach Wilson's play that they've been waiting for. With still-questionable-but-improved pass protection, he led the Jets' best offensive output of the season with a 297-yard day (21 of 34). Keep in mind, Wilson was short-handed at wide receiver Sunday due to injuries to a receiving corps that's nothing special to begin with. Still, he delivered the two longest completions of his career -- a 53-yard touchdown to Corey Davis and a 54-yarder to Keelan Cole -- and induced a 43-yard DPI flag with another deep ball. His elusiveness helped create downfield separation, and his lone interception wasn't on him -- put it on Davis, who slipped and fell on an in-cut. There's still plenty of room for improvement, but for a team that had just two offensive touchdowns all season entering the game, 27 points on Sunday was like a desert oasis.
- Tannehill battered. The Titans' pass protection was an absolute mess on Sunday, yet its run-blocking for Derrick Henry remained a well-oiled machine. The unit allowed seven sacks of Ryan Tannehill, four in the first half plus a big one in overtime, and the timing for it was awful given that Tannehill was operating with neither Julio Jones nor A.J. Brown in the receiving lineup. Henry did his thing (33-157-1) with some gaping holes to work with. Center Ben Jones and tackle Taylor Lewan were injured, and although Jones returned in the second half, his backup Aaron Brewer launched a first-half shotgun snap too high for Tannehill, resulting in an 11-yard loss that stymied another drive. Between the inconsistent protection, penalties, and lineup shuffling, Tennessee needed much more continuity up front.
- Red-zone buckle-down. The Jets' red zone defense deserves plenty of credit for keeping this game close early, and in a game not decided until overtime, it paid off. The Titans took three possessions inside the Jets' 20 in the first half, and came away with just three points on each of them. Tennessee self-inflicted one of those with a bad shotgun snap, but New York nevertheless combined sound tackling with a lot of pass pressure to make most of its own breaks. If the Jets defense had broken to allow a touchdown on any of those possessions, the team might well have come away 0-4.
Next Gen stat of the game: Wilson completed 3 of 4 deep passes Sunday for 136 yards and a touchdown.
NFL Research: This is the first time the Jets have won their next game after a shutout loss since Week 9, 2010 at the Lions (23-20, also in OT).
Adam Maya's takeaways:
- The Colts are still alive. Are they still good? The biggest season in NFL history (17-game regular season) combined with the recently expanded playoff field (14 teams) is sure to produce some wacky outcomes previously thought to be improbable. But Indianapolis starting out 0-4, even in the dreadful AFC South, would have been perilous. The 2020 playoff team wasn't sharp in South Florida on Sunday -- its pass protection is especially concerning -- but did enough right between pounding the rock with Jonathan Taylor (16-103-1) while Carson Wentz protected the ball. That was enough for the defense, led by a huge effort from Darius Leonard, to lead the Colts to a decisive win. Amazingly, it took nearly 14 quarters for this team to have its first possession with a lead in 2021. Now, thanks to the Jets stunning the Titans, the Colts sit just one game out of first place.
- Were Year 3 expectations too high for Brian Flores? It's only the first weekend of October, but this matchup had loser-leaves-town vibes. Last season has felt like so long ago for these 10-plus win teams. The 1-3 Dolphins, in particular, look unrecognizable. Their passing and rushing offense have regressed, their rushing defense is suddenly leaky and their special teams, normally one of Flores' strongest units, committed a costly fumble in the second half. The QB situation might be the Dolphins' biggest issue, but it's hardly their only one. Their schedule hasn't been favorable, and doesn't get easier with a trip to Tampa Bay next week, but it will ease up a bit thereafter. The best thing going for Miami at the moment is that the AFC East is down and a wild-card berth can still be had by stacking up division wins. Flores, a strong Coach of the Year candidate in 2020, faces his toughest task yet.
- Michael Pittman is who they thought he was. The Colts trading up in the 2020 draft to select Pittman early in the second round signaled their belief he was a No. 1 receiver. Through the first month of his second season, the USC product is making good on that investment. Pittman again led Indianapolis in receiving, albeit with modest numbers (six for 59). But four of his receptions came on third down, two of which went for conversions. (A third netted 14 yards on third-and-15.) Wentz continually looked for and connected with the big-bodied wideout, whose size, reliable hands and ability to break tackles make him an ideal possession receiver. Soon enough his skill set will translate into touchdowns.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Colts RB Jonathan Taylor had +35 rushing yards over expectation (68 expected, 103 rush yards). He placed seventh in that category last year (+180).
NFL Research: Carson Wentz had his first game with at least one pass and rush TD and no giveaways since Week 17, 2019, breaking a streak of 15 starts without such a game. He led the NFL with 19 giveaways in 2020.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- When Zeke gets going, these Cowboys are a tough out. Ezekiel Elliott looks to be back in premier form in 2021, gashing Carolina's energetic defense for 143 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts. Tony Pollard continued to fill the ideal complementary spell back role, racking up 67 yards on 10 carries, while Dak Prescott even got involved with 35 rushing yards on four attempts. The run opened up everything else for the Cowboys, who finished with a total of 433 yards of offense and were able to overcome a third-down conversion rate of 33.3% to put up 33 points. A frantic scoring barrage in the third quarter put the Cowboys over the top in this one, and they have to feel good about where their offense is after putting up 77 points between their last two games. Carolina, meanwhile, is left to lick its wounds after its first poor defensive showing of 2021.
- Dan Quinn's work is starting to show. Dallas is no longer home to a sieve-like defense, and youngsters like Trevon Diggs are capitalizing. Diggs intercepted Sam Darnold twice, pushing his total to five picks in four games and warning the rest of the league to avoid targeting him when throwing to hitch routes. Micah Parsons was again a menace when it came to rushing the passer, recording four QB pressures (and tying with Randy Gregory and Tarell Basham in that category). Dallas was not afraid of blitzing, sending heat at Darnold on 16 dropbacks and recording six pressures, including three sacks. The Cowboys took down Darnold five times in total, and helped swing a once close game in favor of the Cowboys, giving Prescott and Co. breathing room to attack. With Quinn's group playing like this, it's tough to pick against the Cowboys with each week.
- Sam Darnold will need more than rushing scores to make the Panthers a contender. With his two rushing scores Sunday, Darnold became the first QB in NFL history to have five-plus rushing touchdowns in his team's first four games. But Darnold also made a few crucial errors that undercut his team's ability to keep pace with the high-powered Cowboys, throwing two interceptions that Dallas turned into 10 points. Darnold still threw for 301 yards and got the Panthers within a possession of the Cowboys late, but ran out of time to right his wrongs. He and the Panthers will have to be cleaner to win a high-scoring affair like Sunday's game, their first loss of 2021.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Ezekiel Elliott gained 42 rushing yards over expected on his 47-yard scamper in the third quarter, setting up a Dak Prescott touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz on the next play. The +42 rush yards over expectation were the most on an Elliott run since 2018.
NFL Research: The Cowboys scored 36 points and had 245 rushing yards in Sunday's win. Prior to this game, Carolina had only allowed 30 points and 135 rushing yards in their first three games combined.
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Saquon Barkley ruins Saints' homecoming. Scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime, Barkley's resurgence sparked a comeback win which may cool down Joe Judge's seat for the time being. Down 11 points with less than seven minutes to play, Barkley scored on a 54-yard wheel route that suddenly breathed life into a Giants team that was staring 0-4 in the face. The Giants got the ball back with 3:01 left to play and drove downfield far enough for Graham Gano to send the game into overtime. There, Barkley executed a perfect 18-yard screen pass on a key second-and-long to get New York out of a dicey situation and into Saints territory. Barkley nearly cost them on the very next play with a fumble that was recovered by Kyle Rudolph, but the Giants star running back sealed the deal by muscling into the end zone on a 6-yard run for the game's final play. Barkley's 126 yards from scrimmage (74 receiving, 52 rushing; two TDs) were his most since Week 15 of the 2019 season.
- The Saints offense went stagnant at the wrong time. The only two Saints possessions that didn't enter Giants territory for the entire game came in the fourth quarter, which not only left the door wide open but rendered an excited New Orleans crowd into a nervous hum for the Giants' comeback. The Saints ran the ball well all game (170 rushing yards) and the offense had the ability to play keep away with a 10-minute advantage in time of possession, but the offense failed itself and its defense with just one first down amidst the Giants' 17 unanswered points. Alvin Kamara's 120 rushing yards and Jameis Winston's efficient day (17 of 23, 226 yards, TD) were an afterthought in the end, and although Taysom Hill's two rushing TDs will be featured in Tuesday's 'Angry Runs' segment on GMFB, the Saints did everything but close the show.
- Let Daniel Jones cook? The Giants offense sputtered for three quarters thanks to some questionable play-calling, but Jones was simply excellent when put in position to make the throws. The Giants quarterback threw for over 400 yards for the first time in his career, and the only blemish on his stat line was a Hail Mary that was caught by a Saints defender at the end of the first half. Aside from that, Jones had a great day when letting it loose, becoming the first Giants QB since Eli Manning (Week 15, 2017 vs. PHI) to have two TD passes of 50-plus yards or more in a game. Jones also scored a key two-point conversion after throwing the 54-yard pass to Barkley, which was improvised by the third-year QB on a broken play. He went on to pick the Saints defense apart on their final two drives of the comeback and found a rhythm with wideouts Kenny Golladay (6/116) and Kadarius Toney (6/78) in the process. Jones finished the day completing 28 of 40 passes for 402 yards (two TDs, INT), and while Barkley's play sparked the rebound, Jones' play was necessary for the win.
Next Gen stat of the game: Daniel Jones went 2 of 4 for 106 yards and 2 TDs on deep passes. It was his second career game with 2 TDs on deep passes (Week 16, 2019 vs. WAS)
NFL Research: The Saints are now 16-16 at the Superdome in overtime and the loss to the Giants snapped a four-game OT win streak.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Give Joe Woods his flowers. Cleveland's defense was rightfully under fire after its poor showing in the Browns' Week 2 win over Houston, but it has been an 11-man unit of terror in the last two weeks. After sacking Justin Fields nine times last week, the Browns began Sunday by allowing Kirk Cousins to march the Vikings down the field on a 14-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a Justin Jefferson touchdown reception. The Vikings wouldn't score a single point from there. The Browns harassed Cousins all afternoon with a large cast of rushers, registering QB pressures with seven different defenders. Denzel Ward got in the mix with a half-sack and played excellently in coverage after initial struggles, recording multiple highlight-reel pass break-ups. Greedy Williams stepped in for the injured Greg Newsome II and recorded his first career interception. Rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah played a key role again, flying around the field to record six tackles and make multiple clutch plays. In total, the Browns forced six Vikings punts, intercepted Cousins once, forced a turnover on downs, limited Minnesota to five of 16 on third down and held onto the lead through the final whistle. They've allowed 20 points in their last 10 quarters. Woods' group is on fire.
- Baker Mayfield might want to burn this film. Mayfield had arguably his worst outing without a turnover as a professional Sunday, missing open targets all afternoon. The worst misfire came at a terrible time, when Mayfield dropped to throw and simply placed the ball on the wrong shoulder of Odell Beckham, resulting in an incompletion. Had Mayfield thrown the pass accurately, Beckham could have backpedaled into the end zone for a game-sealing touchdown. Instead, the Browns turned to their defense for one last stop, while Mayfield finished the day with an ugly line: 15-of-33 passing for 155 yards and a 59.5 passer rating, a statistic that feels generous when watching the tape. It's painfully clear how much Mayfield misses Jarvis Landry, and on Sunday, even Landry might not have been able to reel in his quarterback's collection of errant throws.
- Close finishes and the Vikings mix like oil and water. All three of Minnesota's losses have come by a single possession, and Sunday's might end up being the most frustrating of all. The Vikings appeared to be perfectly prepared to attack the Browns in their first possession, even converting a fourth-and-1 to extend what ended up being a touchdown drive. They failed from there on out, going three-and-out on five possessions. Minnesota failed to give Cousins adequate time to throw, and when it did make progress, penalties too often wiped out offensive gains. Dalvin Cook was only able to carry the ball nine times (for 34 yards), while Alexander Mattison followed up a 112-yard Week 3 outing by averaging two yards per attempt on 10 carries. Minnesota should thank its defense (and Mayfield's struggles) for keeping it in this game, and spend plenty of time figuring out how to start this offense's engine after it was stuck in neutral for most of Sunday afternoon.
Next Gen Stat of the game: After posting a pressure rate of 32% in their first three weeks, the Browns pressured Kirk Cousins on 22 of his 40 total dropbacks (including two sacks) for a rate of 55%.
NFL Research: The Browns have allowed single-digit scoring outputs from opponents in consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 2-3 of the 1995 season, Bill Belichick's last campaign with the team and the club's final season spent in Cleveland before moving to Baltimore in 1996.