NFL Week 4: What we learned from Sunday's games

1) The Browns (3-1) told the football world who they were two weeks ago when they rushed for 210 yards on Thursday Night Football. On Sunday, they peppered Football America's inboxes with more messages of their plans for victory than either of the presidential campaigns. Each voicemail and text message shouted the same message: The Browns will run the ball down their opponents' throats, and it will be up to their adversaries to attempt to stop them. Dallas couldn't do it, allowing Cleveland to rush for 307 yards and to perform so efficiently, the Browns were gaining 9 yards per carry at one point in the second half. The most remarkable detail: Cleveland did most of it without Nick Chubb, who carried the ball just six times before exiting with a knee injury. Kareem Hunt picked up the slack, rushing 11 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns and allowing the Browns' offense to blossom with play-action passes. The result was a 41-point outburst that finished at a total of 49, with Odell Beckham icing the game with a 50-yard rushing touchdown. Cleveland's stable is deep and its offensive line is blocking better than almost any other group in the league, helping the Browns to their first 3-1 start since 2001.

2) Sunday delivered the official order to all who are concerned with Beckham's targets: Stand down. Beckham caught five passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns -- his first two-score game as a Brown -- and capped the day with a 50-yard rushing score late in the fourth quarter. It was Beckham's first three-touchdown game since 2015, and emphatically quieted critics of Cleveland's usage of the star receiver. The Browns are a run-first team, but when they get that part of their offense going, it allows Baker Mayfield to find his targets through the air with greater ease. His connection with Beckham is stronger than ever.

3) It's only Week 4, but one must wonder about the job security of Mike Nolan. The Cowboys have allowed 38-plus points in three straight games for just the second time in franchise history and the first time since their inaugural season of 1960, in which they finished 0-11-1 (per NFL Research). Dallas (1-3) is wearing a patch commemorating its 60th anniversary this season with the year 1960 on it, but if the Cowboys want to contend, they'll have to stop performing like the 1960 team defensively, starting with Nolan. His unit allowed Cleveland to break 300 yards on the ground and rack up 49 points, including their most first-half points since the team returned to the NFL in 1999. Defensively, things are not great, Bob.

-- Nick Shook

1) Twenty-plus years separate quarterbacks Tom Brady and Justin Herbert, but it was the 43-year-old who walked away victorious after a shootout. Everything was dandy for Brady after an opening-drive touchdown, but his second pick-six of the season in the following drive aided a 24-point unanswered run by the Chargers. (Remarkably, that makes it five consecutive games with a pick-six in the Bucs-Chargers series.) Brady regrouped and rallied the Bucs (3-1) from a 17-point first-half deficit and orchestrated a long fourth-quarter drive to help keep the Chargers scoreless in the final quarter. Brady finished the day 30-for-46 for 369 yards and five touchdowns, completing passes to 10 receivers. While Herbert's day ended with an INT amid a two-minute drill down seven, the rookie played great, completing 20-of-25 passes for 290 yards and a career-high three TDs. With Herbert still searching for his first career win, Brady enjoyed his 222nd regular-season victory.

2) All four Chargers touchdowns were scored by an unlikely cast of undrafted free agents. Wide receiver Tyron Johnson caught a 53-yard TD in the first quarter, cornerback Michael Davis scored the 78-yard pick-six of Brady, tight end Donald Parham muscled a 50/50 ball to score in the second and WR Jalen Guyton used his speed to score a 75-yard TD as time expired in the third. According to NFL Research, it was the first time four undrafted players scored a TD in a game since the 2018 Saints did it in Week 12. Although Herbert spread the ball around to nine players, his rapport with star WR Keenan Allen is growing. Allen had a game-high eight catches for 62 yards.

3) Chargers running back Austin Ekeler left the game in the first quarter with an apparent hamstring injury and it proved costly. While Joshua Kelley has played well so far this season, the rookie coughed up an untimely fumble as the Chargers looked to run out the first-half clock with a 24-7 lead. Bucs defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh forced the turnover which led to great field position and a TD catch by Mike Evans (seven receptions for 122 yards) with just 22 seconds left to play in the half. In Ekeler's absence, the Chargers couldn't run the ball and became predictable in the second half. Herbert led the Chargers (1-3) in rushing with 14 yards.

-- Michael Baca

1) Each of them rife with potential and aspirations, remember what the Eagles and 49ers rosters looked like prior to the season? They probably don't either. Injury ills started before either of these teams' campaigns kicked off and the two limped into Sunday night absent of key contributors and stars. Perhaps it was fitting that this would be a game that ended in chaos. Trailing by three points late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles scored 14 points in less than 10 seconds. Carson Wentz' 42-yard bomb to Travis Fulgham was the final score in a do-everything-possible evening for the Eagles frontman and Alex Singleton's ensuing INT return for a score was the game-winner. Wentz ran seven times for 37 yards and a score and threw it 28 times for 193 yards and a score. On an injury-riddled team, it's not a good thing for the oft-injured QB to be doing as much as he did. Perhaps it was necessary, though, on a night in which Philly had to dig down deep (including a couple of tries getting Jalen Hurts involved that went nowhere). Wentz threw a late score to Fulgham, who was promoted from the practice squad, and Singleton, a CFL product, scored the aforementioned game-winner. It was a crazy night and a crazy win for the Eagles, who astonishingly got their first victory to vault into first place in the NFC East at 1-2-1.

2) One superstar made his return Sunday and commanded the spotlight as the great ones do. George Kittle can impact a game and that's what he did, evidenced by his 15 catches for 183 yards and a score, but also by how much his presence seemed to lift the Niners (2-2), even with a backup QB(s) and depleted RB corps, and command the Eagles' attention. There's plenty of injured Niners who the team desperately is waiting to return and too many who won't be back this season. But Kittle's comeback is huge for the squad going forward -- even if a win wasn't held on to Sunday.

3) For all the Jimmy Garoppolo naysayers driving the Nick Mullens bandwagon, the return of Garoppolo should be a welcomed one. Mullens made some awful throws and was often terrorized by the Eagles defense. Mullens' last throw of the night was a pick-six (his third turnover of the game) by Singleton that brought in C.J. Beathard to quarterback a 49ers bid at a miraculous comeback. San Fran's offense was often limited in the passing game and was clearly negatively affected by Garoppolo's absence (though the Eagles defense does deserve a tip of the cap for a solid night). And yes, Beathard looked good in his one drive, but don't start. Doubt all you want, but this team will be better when Jimmy G is QB again.

-- Grant Gordon

1) The Baltimore offense rebounded from a rough outing last week, when the Kansas City Chiefs held the Ravens to just 228 yards, their lowest total since drafting Lamar Jackson. It took some creativity (punter Sam Koch moved the chains on a TD drive with a 15-yard completion on a fake punt; he's now 7-for-7 in his career as passer), and the longest rush of Jackson's career on a 50-yard TD, but in the end, the Ravens logged 31 points with a balanced attack. They also pulled it off without OL Ronnie Stanley, which forced Orlando Brown to left tackle and guard D.J. Fluker to right tackle. Jackson also became the fastest to reach 5,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in NFL history, doing so in his 35th career game.

2) How close was Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins to being pulled in favor of Kyle Allen? We might never know, but after reports surfaced that the team was giving thought to a QB change, Haskins' first four drives ended, in order, thusly: Punt, turnover, punt, missed FG. On his fifth possession, with under five minutes left in the first half, Haskins directed a 10-play, 75-yard TD drive to cut a 14-0 lead in half, and Washington coach Ron Rivera stuck with the former first-round pick the rest of the way to fall to 1-3 on the season. Haskins appeared to find some chemistry with WR Terry McLaurin in the second half and finished with 314 passing yards, but too much of Washington's offense came with Baltimore holding a comfortable lead.

3) Ravens cornerbackMarlon Humphrey wasted no time providing some ROI (return on investment) for the $98.75 million contract he signed last week. In the first quarter, Humphrey stripped Washington running back J.D. McKissic for his second forced fumble of the season, and Baltimore (3-1) cashed in two plays later on a 1-yard TD plunge by Mark Ingram for a 7-0 lead that Baltimore never relinquished. The Ravens' lockdown cover man ended up with nine tackles, eight of them solo.

- Chase Goodbread

1) In a league dominated by offenses, the Indianapolis Colts' defense stands out as one of the few legit stingy units in the NFL. A front led by DeForest Buckner deflating the pocket and Justin Houston screeching off the edge meshes with a suffocating secondary and a linebacker crew that sweeps the mines for the Colts (3-1). Sunday, that squad choked the life out of the Bears run game and swarmed Nick Foles into poor pass after poor pass. Buckner continues to be one of the best offseason acquisitions, dominating his blockers on the regular. Even when the mammoth defensive tackle isn't shattering QBs or swatting screen passes, Buckner epitomizes the phrase "disruption is production." Houston manhandled left tackle Charles Leno Jr., repeatedly getting into Foles' face. Xavier Rhodes continues his renaissance. And rookie safety Julian Blackmon was all over the field, compiling three passes defended and an INT. The third-round pick is a name to remember as an ascending ball-hawking safety. Even without star linebacker Shaquille Leonard, who missed the second half with a groin injury, Indy's defense didn't wilt, allowing just three points and 179 yards until the final Bears drive. While we're focusing on defense, I'd be remiss not to mention that Bears linebacker Roquan Smith (13 tackles, 3 for loss) also balled out Sunday.

2) Foles' first start in Chicago (3-1) was a dud. The veteran passer struggled to find his receivers, tossing wayward balls just off the mark most of the day. Foles' chemistry with his receivers isn't built and it was evident on several passes behind his targets throughout the contest. The QB finished 26-of-42 passing for 249 yards, 5.9 yards per attempt, one TD and one INT. Much of his production came on a final garbage-time drive when the Colts went prevent -- 90 yards and his only TD. Outside of that one drive, Foles had 164 passing yards and the Bears had just 11 first downs on 10 possessions. Foles did offer more back-shoulder potential for the Bears offense than Mitchell Trubisky, but his struggling accuracy short-circuited the offense today. Outside of prayers to Allen Robinson, the Bears' passing offense didn't threaten all day. It's the first non-trash defense the Bears have faced this season, so credit Indy with holding the run game to zilch and blanketing Foles' first read -- Trubisky would have fared no better. Chicago hoped Foles would improve the offense, not just be slightly better than Trubisky. He did not this week.

3) Philip Rivers wasn't much better than Foles, but he did have a better ground game, highlighted by Jonathan Taylor -- who should get more touches outside of clock-churning time as the season moves forward. Rivers missed several wide-open passes and didn't connect deep much, hitting on just two passes of 15-plus air yards. The biggest issue for the Colts remains the red zone. After an opening drive TD, Indy settled for four field goals and went one of four in the red zone. Kicking field goals is enough to beat a DOA Bears offense. It won't be enough against the high-power squads in the AFC. Frank Reich and Rivers need to figure out their red area offense before it costs them down the line.

-- Kevin Patra

1) The Bills don't win pretty often, but because of Josh Allen, they're always fun to watch -- it just comes in unorthodox fashion. Take Sunday, when Allen rolled to his left on third and 10 and backhand flipped a pass to Stefon Diggs, who dove forward and nearly converted the first down. Allen injured his shoulder on the play, but returned to produce more highlights, including a beautiful completion to John Brown down to Las Vegas' 1-yard line that set up an Allen rushing score, and a deep pass to Diggs that saw the receiver make a highlight grab. The Allen-Diggs connection is flourishing (26 catches, 403 yards through four games). Diggs was the best receiver in the NFL on post routes last season, per Next Gen Stats, and he did that in Minnesota with Kirk Cousins. Now that he's with Allen, he's making an even greater impact, exemplified by the aforementioned grab on a well-run post route that included a corner fake, helping him create space to make a fantastic catch (which had a 30.3% chance of completion, per Next Gen Stats). Diggs' final line (six catches, 115 yards) serves as an example of the Bills' newfound ability to stretch the field with more than just Brown. It's making them a dangerous matchup for any opponent, and has them at 4-0 after a month of play.

2) Much of the Bills' style of winning is a result of their stifling defense, which caused problems for the Raiders all afternoon. Derek Carr was frequently pressured (13 times), and although he did a good job of completing passes while harassed, Buffalo forced key turnovers to make a one-score game into a comfortable fourth-quarter lead. Recently promoted veteran Josh Norman forced Darren Waller to fumble on the doorstep of Buffalo's red zone, ending a promising drive, and Quinton Jefferson batted the ball out of Carr's hands to force another fumble, ending another possession in Buffalo territory. This is Buffalo's greatest strength, and kept the Raiders from erasing their lead in the final quarter.

3) The last two weeks have been a reality check for the Raiders (2-2), who got off to a hot start, but are now back to .500 after two straight losses. Statistically, it wasn't an ugly game for Las Vegas: The Raiders converted eight of 14 third-down attempts, flirted with 400 yards of total offense and were perfect on field-goal attempts, but the latter point helps explain the difference Sunday. Three of Las Vegas' four trips into Buffalo territory produced field goals instead of touchdowns, and the two second-half fumbles in Buffalo territory made a close game into a doomed, uphill climb in the second half. The formula for success involves avoiding errors of significance, and unfortunately for Las Vegas, the last two weeks have seen them give the ball away five times -- far too many to expect to win.

-- Nick Shook

1) Drew Brees threw a tipped interception on the Saints' first offensive play, leading to a 14-0 deficit less than five minutes into the game. Then New Orleans (2-2) rolled over a limp Lions defense, scoring on five straight possessions, for 35 unanswered points at one point. A combination of a plowing run game led by Alvin Kamara (19/83/1) and Latavius Murray (14/54/2) and pinpoint passes from Brees whitewashed a Detroit defense that had zero answers. It wasn't fluke short-fields that led to the big turnaround either, as four of the Saints' five TD drives went for 75-plus yards. New Orleans generated 29 first downs for a chain-moving offense. When Detroit clawed back in the game, the Saints leaned on Kamara, who broke tackles with ease, knifing through the Lions defense for clock-churning first downs to close the game. We knew heading into the season that depth would be key this year. Sean Payton's crew missing six total starters, including Michael Thomas and Jared Cook on offense and both starting corners on D, proved it has depth in a get-right game against a lifeless opponent. Now it needs the stars back to withstand better opponents.

2) The complaints about Brees' arm can be put to bed for at least a week. The future Hall of Famer dropped dimes all over a Lions secondary that couldn't stick with Tre'Quan Smith on crossers and watched Emmanuel Sanders find soft cushions in zones. After playing in a phonebooth to open the season, the Saints stretched the field with aplomb Sunday. Brees attempted nine passes of 15-plus air yards, completing six, per Next Gen Stats. It helped that Brees had time against a pass-rush deficient defense to take shots. Brees' chemistry with Sanders is improving, evidenced by a nice back-shoulder completion early in the first quarter and several anticipatory throws where the QB trusted the veteran to be in the right spot. Smith made several big catches, including two TDs, and closed out the game with a massive first down that helped ice the clock. If Smith and Sanders can remain productive when Thomas and Cook return, it will make Brees' life easier as the games become tougher.

3) It's getting late already for Matt Patricia. His team has blown double-digit leads for the third time in four weeks this season to fall to 1-3. The former Patriots defensive coordinator leads a D that couldn't stop a grade-school pillow fight. It didn't help the coach that his best player, Matthew Stafford, continues his up-and-down play, missing too many throws, taking bad sacks and throwing a terrible interception. The INT summed up Stafford's day. Falling away in the pocket, Stafford badly underthrew T.J. Hockenson in the end zone for a Patrick Robinson pick. The QB had his TE open if he'd put the ball deeper into the end zone. Stafford completed just 54.8 percent of his passes with the INT and three TDs. Detroit needs the signal-caller to play perfectly to win right now. Sunday, Stafford was off the mark. Heading into the bye week, things aren't looking good for Patricia and Bob Quinn's future. In a playoffs-or-bust year, Detroit keeps crapping out after getting up big early.

-- Kevin Patra

1) The emergence of Seahawks wideout DK Metcalf as one of the league's top receivers this year continued, and it didn't matter which Dolphins defensive back was on him. His size and strength is such that he doesn't need much in the way of technique against bump coverage. On a couple of early receptions, he simply bullied his way off the line of scrimmage and got a nice release with overpowering physicality. On his last catch, he bulled his way to the Miami 1 on a 32-yard reception, setting up the score that put the game away for Seattle (4-0). The second-year pro finished with 106 yards, maintaining a 100-yard average for the season.

2) Explosive passing plays from Russell Wilson were the order of the day for a Seattle offense that is looking unstoppable. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and David Moore had long receptions of 37, 30 and 57 yards, respectively, and in combination, they averaged 26.67 yards per catch (nine for 240). Wilson's long-respected ability to extend plays and buy more time to throw is enough to break down any secondary, and certainly one of the NFL's worst pass defenses in Miami. The Dolphins (1-3) entered ranked 25th in the league in pass defense, and looked it as Wilson piled up 360 yards on just 24 completions.

3) Cornerback Xavien Howard's return from a knee injury has been a welcomed sight for the Dolphins defense. He notched his second interception in as many weeks at a crucial moment Sunday, cutting in front of Metcalf in the Miami end zone to pick off a red-zone throw from Wilson. In the end, the better team pulled away, but Howard's play kept the score at 17-9 in the third quarter and was as big a reason as any that Miami had something to fight for in the fourth.

-- Chase Goodbread

1) As the Bengals fought and crawled their way to 0-2-1, there were a few constants: Cincinnati let Joe Burrow take far too many hits, came painfully close to victory but couldn't quite achieve it, and inexplicably ignored Joe Mixon. The latter changed Sunday, finally. Mixon rushed 25 times for 151 yards and two scores -- all season highs for him -- and brought much-needed balance to Cincinnati's offense. The shift took pressure off Burrow and helped the Bengals reverse their red-zone woes, scoring 23 points in the second half and earning Burrow's first win of his career.

2) If you just watched cut-ups of Burrow's attempts outside of the red zone, you'd think these Bengals had scored 33 in the first half, not the entire game. Burrow finished with a line of 25-of-36 passing for 300 yards, becoming the first rookie quarterback to break 300 yards passing in three consecutive games in NFL history. He was again sharp, spreading the ball among nine targets, with Tyler Boyd (seven catches, 90 yards) and fellow rookie Tee Higgins (four catches, 77 yards) being the most frequent targets. If Cincinnati had better success in the first half in the red zone, we might be raving about another impressive outing from Burrow, but we again learned in Week 4 what we also saw in Weeks 1-3: Burrow is the real deal.

3) Jacksonville (1-3) did a 180 on Thursday Night Football, and while we could've chalked it up to an excellent defensive game plan from Miami's defense mixed with just the right amount of FitzMagic, Sunday provided us with fresh evidence that this might be the rule, not the exception. The Jaguars converted just two of 10 third-down attempts; their defense allowed over 500 yards of total offense and forced just one punt from the Bengals on Sunday. For as rough as Jacksonville's offense looks right now, its defense isn't helping, and they're combining to produce losing football.

-- Nick Shook

1) Kudos to Carolina (2-2) for ensuring that Teddy Bridgewater's best game as a Panther – and the first with limited fans -- didn't go to waste. Bridgewater (276/2/INT; 70.3%) commanded a balanced attack and looked comfortable in the pocket. After going 1-for-6 in the red zone last week, the Panthers scored TDs on four of their five trips. The seventh-year QB even pulled of his best Kyler Murray impression on an 18-yard scamper for his first rush TD since December 2015. Robby Anderson (game-high 8/99) again did his job setting the table while Mike Davis, with a big boost from the O-line, gashed Arizona for 84 yards and a score on 16 carries. Carolina also controlled the clock (37:08 to 22:52) and nearly doubled Arizona in total yards (444 to 262).

2) Save for a Patrick Peterson pick early in the second quarter, this was a forgettable effort from the Cardinals defense. It was evident that the secondary was lost without Pro Bowler Budda Baker, as well as starter Chris Banjo. Arizona (2-2) allowed a season-high 276 passing yards as eight Panthers recorded a reception. Carolina also recorded 17 of its 30 first downs through the air. The defensive line's struggle to get to the QB also put more pressure on them in coverage. After recording 11 combined sacks the previous three weeks, the Cards failed to record one against an O-line missing two starters.

3) The youth and speed of Carolina's D was on full display against Murray, who was held to a season-low 133 pass yards. Second-year edge defender Brian Burns (three QB hits), and rookies Yetur Gross-Matos (three tackles, strip-sack) and Derrick Brown did a great job applying pressure and bottling up the run. The D-line's efforts, aided by a solid coverage on the backend, forced Murray into several check downs which Shaq Thompson and rookie Jeremy Chinn, who combined for 13 combined tackles, contained well. A career-long Murray run for 48 yards was a lowlight, but that's a play you can live with amid a great day.

-- Jelani Scott

1) Mike Zimmer and Bill O'Brien were each coaching their 100th games as a head coach. Such a milestone had to be a complete afterthought Sunday as they entered with identical 0-3 records. Only Zimmer's Vikings arrived at NRG Stadium with the requisite energy, establishing the run early and controlling the clock throughout (36:31-23:29). Dalvin Cook followed up a career-best rushing performance with 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That opened up play-action for Kirk Cousins, who proved again to be more efficient as a manager rather than playmaker (16-of-22, 260 yards, 1 TD). Another loss this early in the year might have buried Minnesota in the deeper NFC.

2) The Texans (0-4) made a valiant comeback attempt, coming five yards from possibly erasing a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter. But their offense continues to be messy, even though O'Brien assumed a larger role in play-calling and game-planning this week. Deshaun Watson wasn't especially sharp despite not facing a strong pass rush. The loss of DeAndre Hopkins seems to be having a compounding effect on this unit, as Houston is averaging nearly a full yard less per carry from 2019. Will Fuller was a bright spot (6-108-1). His incredible effort on the overturned TD in the final minute was his lone uncaught target. The Texans desperately need offseason acquisitions Brandin Cooks (zero catches) and David Johnson (16-63) to at least produce like starters if they're going to turn around their season.

3) There was plenty to question about O'Brien the general manager in an offseason in which he unloaded one of the NFL's top receivers for cents on the dollar. Now that the games have begun, questions abound about O'Brien the coach. The Texans, despite boasting one of the best young QBs in the game, are 0-4. That's a first since 2008. Only one team in NFL history has opened a season with four losses and made the playoffs (1992 Chargers). Reaching the postseason was thought to be the new norm for Houston, which has won two straight AFC South titles and four of the past five. BOB can't be happy with his GM or HC right now.

-- Adam Maya

1) DB Darious Williams showed up in the final minute again for the Rams this week, but this time, in the best possible way. His diving interception to seal a 17-9 Rams win with 0:52 left was a thing of beauty, with Williams laying out fully airborne and parallel to the ground as the ball hit his hands. Call it redemption, as it came just a week after Williams' pass interference flag in the final minute against the Bills opened the door for a bitter loss in Buffalo.

2) The Giants defense played valiantly, but gave up the backbreaker when Jared Goff found a wide-open Cooper Kupp down the middle of the field for a 55-yard touchdown to put L.A. (3-1) ahead 17-9 midway through the fourth quarter. Kupp will make the highlights, but here's what won't: New York held a talented Rams offense to 38% on third down conversions, having entered allowing nearly 60%. The Rams were held to 210 yards under their season average thanks much to sound tackling and seven tackles for loss by the Giants. A loss is a loss, but the Giants defense played winning football.

3) The Giants (0-4), now winless at the quarter pole, lacked any offensive identity. Losing RB Saquon Barkley to injury earlier this season is a big reason why, but New York must find something else fast. They've scored three touchdowns all year and none in the last two games. RB Devonta Freeman doesn't have the same burst he enjoyed in his prime with the Falcons, and while QB Daniel Jones flashes with impressive throws here and there, he has little feel for the pass rush to his blind side.

- Chase Goodbread

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