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What we learned: Thirty-nine takeaways from Week 4

When the Eagles were running roughshod through their preseason schedule, we wondered why more teams weren't poaching Chip Kelly's coaching staff to install an innovative offense of their own.

At the quarter-pole of the 2015 season, it appears that we have our answer.

Philadelphia has been home to the NFL's most disappointing offense, as Sam Bradford's unit has been held to three points or fewer in three of its four first halves.

Bill Lazor's Dolphins offense -- which borrows heavily from Kelly's scheme -- has been plagued by similar issues, with no sustaining element to consistently move the chains.

Both offenses have struggled to run the ball against defenses stacking the box and daring Bradford and Ryan Tannehill to beat them over the top with spotty pass protection and a dearth of proven field-stretching wideouts.

Alone in the basement of the AFC East, the Dolphins are 1-3 with a head coach on the hot seat and a defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle losing the confidence of his players.

Alone in the basement of the NFC East, the Eagles are 1-3 and trending in the wrong direction with a football czar who hand-picked his own reeling roster.

Here's what else we learned during Week 4 Sunday:

  1. A dull affair between the Saints and Cowboys turned out to be one of the wildest games of the young season. Drew Brees' return from a shoulder injury wasn't pretty, but the gunslinger got the job done with the game-winning hookup to C.J. Spiller for his 400th-career touchdown pass. Brees was clutch, like he has been throughout his career. However, no one could have predicted Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden going toe-to-toe with the future Hall of Famer down the stretch.
  1. Before Brees' heroics, Weeden went 91 yards to tie the game at 20-20 with a little under two minutes left in the fourth quarter. The backup, filling in for Tony Romo, threw a touchdown pass on fourth down to a diving Terrance Williams in the end zone. Weeden and Williams got the best of Saints corner Delvin Breaux, who on the previous play nearly picked off Weeden in the end zone while defending Williams. The NBC broadcast mentioned numerous times that Weeden can't throw to the left side and didn't take enough chances to stretch out the field. Weeden didn't win the game, but he proved he's a serviceable backup on that long drive, which featured long completions to Jason Witten, Cole Beasley and Williams.
  1. With many games affected by kickers this week, it wasn't any different on Sunday night. After Weeden's drive to tie the game, Brees responded with a masterful two-minute drill to set up Saints' kicker Zach Hocker for a potential game-winning 30-yard field goal. Hocker, of course, hit the left side of the field goal post to send the game into OT and stun Who Dat Nation at the Superdome. There were 18 missed field goals and extra points combined in Week 4.

-- Gilberto Manzano

  1. In case you needed a reminder, this Broncos' defense is for real. Not only did they keep Adrian Peterson mostly in check, they consistently made life difficult for Teddy Bridgewater. Denver piled up seven sacks, the biggest coming on T.J. Ward's strip for a turnover on the game's penultimate play.
  1. Ronnie Hillman's second quarter 72-yard touchdown run down the sideline might have served as the exact moment C.J. Anderson lost his grip on a starting job. Hillman went over 100 yards and clearly was the preferred choice of Gary Kubiak down the stretch.
  1. Let's call the hyped matchup of A.P. and Denver's D a draw. Peterson struggled to find running room for much of the day, but his 49-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 changed the complexion of the game with nine minutes to play. Credit goes to the Minnesota line, which opened a huge hole for the star rusher.

-- Dan Hanzus

  1. We've seen the Jekyll-and-Hyde Rams pull off impressive divisional wins in the Jeff Fisher era, but this one had a new feel with Gurley and Tavon Austin emerging as difference-makers. Austin's elusiveness almost single-handedly kept the offense afloat until Gurley's dynamic combination of power and speed put a relentless Cardinals defense on its heels late in the game. The rookie rushed for more yards against Arizona than Mark Ingram, Matt Forte and Carlos Hyde combined in the first three weeks of the season. As obvious as Gurley's talent is, it was just as telling that he had the awareness to burn the clock rather than running out of bounds or trying to gain extra yardage on the game's final drive. He showed all of the traits of a clock-killing finisher.
  1. Outgaining the Rams 447-328, the Cardinals will rue their mistakes and missed opportunities against the first quality defense they have faced this season. The NFL's best red-zone offense failed to capitalize on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line early and was forced into four field goals after moving the chains. Larry Fitzgerald and rookie David Johnson both lost fumbles and Carson Palmer threw a costly interception. For all of that misfortune, Palmer had a chance to win the game only to sail a couple of passes on third and fourth down on the brink of field-goal territory. Make no mistake, Bruce Arians' well-rounded team remains one of the NFL's powerhouses.
  1. For the second week in a row, the Rams played bend-but-don't-break defense against a high-flying offense. Palmer was sacked more times on the opening possession than he had through the first three games combined. He was hit nine times and taken out of his comfort zone throughout the afternoon. The opportunistic St. Louis defense also forced three fumbles, deflected six passes, intercepted Palmer in the end zone and made a mess of Arizona's nearly pristine red-zone conversion rate. With a trip to undefeated Green Bay on the horizon, the loss of playmaking linebacker Alec Ogletree is a letdown. Coach Jeff Fisher revealed after the game that Ogletree will need surgery to repair an ankle injury suffered during the game's second half.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. The Chargers emerged on top in a thrilling back-and-forth contest primarily because Philip Rivers had the ball with the game on the line. On a day in which the depleted Chargers were down to two starting offensive lineman, two healthy wide receivers and two cornerbacks in the fourth quarter, Rivers was nearly flawless, lifting his team to victory. With Malcom Floyd nursing a concussion and Stevie Johnson pulling his hamstring, the Bolts will need to sign a wide receiver or two this week.
  1. Josh McCown played one of the best games of his career, joining Otto Graham (1953), Brian Sipe (1980) and Brian Hoyer (2014) as the only Browns quarterbacks to throw for at least 300 yards in consecutive games. He deserved a better fate after hitting Gary Barnidge for a pair of big throws and tossing a two-point conversion to Taylor Gabriel in a plucky, 10-play touchdown drive to tie the game with two minutes remaining. His defense just couldn't stop Rivers and Danny Woodhead when it mattered.
  1. While San Diego's roster has been devastated by injuries, Cleveland's has turned up a pair of intriguing playmakers on offense. Rookie Duke Johnson generated 116 yards on 17 touches, more than doubling his reception total for the season. Underutilized as an athletic pass-catching tight end with an impressive catch radius, journeyman Barnidge has 12 catches for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns over the past two weeks. If McCown keeps the offense afloat for the next two months -- a huge "if" -- Barnidge could be on his way to an indian-summer breakout season.

--Chris Wesseling

  1. Colin Kaepernick's lack of awareness and San Francisco's terrible pass protection is a rough combination. He was hit on more than half of his dropbacks and sacked six times. On some throws, he had no chance. On others, he held the ball too long and made bad decisions. He also missed open receivers when he did have time. With no running game (Carlos Hyde had 20), the 49ers offense is extremely tough to watch.
  1. The Packers defense deserves plenty of credit here. Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Mike Neal, and Julius Peppers took turns terrorizing Kaepernick. Even Joe Staley is struggling in pass protection for San Francisco. Throw in improving play by rookie cornerback Damarious Randall, and the Green Bay defense is rounding into shape.
  1. Aaron Rodgers was under duress for much of the game, getting sacked three times. Right tackle Don Barclay has been a problem, but Rodgers did an excellent job changing plays to favorable runs and avoiding any big mistakes. His weekly outrageous moment -- an unconscious third-and-7 heave for 38 yards to James Jones -- was the key play of the game. Rodgers beats perfect defenses.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

  1. We hated Jaguars coach Gus Bradley calling for a run on third-and-11 in overtime to set up a long field-goal attempt by Jason Myers. The rookie kicker had just missed two chances to win the game at the end of regulation from 53 yards, and he missed from 48 yards in overtime. Colts coach Chuck Pagano is very lucky his team is 2-2. And very lucky that his attempt to "ice" the kicker on a badly missed try late in regulation didn't come back to haunt him.
  1. Matt Hasselbeck deserves plenty of credit for his 282-yard, one-touchdown performance. The Colts had roughly six-to-seven drops, and untimely penalties short-circuited a game plan built around short passing. But Hasselbeck mostly looked like his younger self, making smart decisions and throwing an occasional improvisational gem. The 40-year-old just bought himself another year or two in the league.
  1. Blake Bortles took 50 attempts to throw for 298 yards and helped the Jaguars gain 431 yards as a team. Jacksonville looked like the better team, but didn't score after halftime. Bortles played well overall, yet couldn't get the Colts to pay for blitzing liberally late in the game. Like many Bortles games, he had five throws that made you say "wow." He's better this season, just not enough better.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

  1. Kirk Cousins was solid down the stretch, but Washington will be in trouble if it has to rely on his arm too much. The quarterback will not scare opposing good defenses with his check-down happy approach. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones didn't produce much for Jay Gruden (72 total yards between the two), which forced Cousins to launch 46 pass attempts. Cousins finished 31 of 46 for 289 yards passing. Although the Redskins' offense will be happy to get deep threat DeSean Jackson back from injury, Pierre Garcon came up big for Washington late in the fourth quarter.
  1. Sam Bradford looked lost during the first half on Sunday, but bounced back quickly after halftime when he led Philadelphia to two consecutive scoring drives. In the fourth quarter, Bradford threw his best pass for a 39-yard touchdown to Miles Austin. Bradford is accurate when he has a clean pocket to throw from, but he's not the prototypical quarterback for Chip Kelly's system.
  1. When Philadelphia signed DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews we expected the Eagles' ground attacked to be one of the best in the league. Philly fans are still waiting on positive returns from both players. Murray had his best run of the season in the first half but was held in check throughout the contest. The former Cowboys running back had 36 yards rushing.

-- Tyler Dragon

  1. Jay Cutler looked good coming back from a hamstring injury. At no point did the Bears quarterback appear hindered in any fashion. He deftly moved in the pocket early and was able to slide around to avoid pressure. Cutler picked apart the Raiders' secondary for 281 yards on 28-of-43 passing and two touchdowns. It's flown under the radar how comfortable he appears in Adam Gase's offense.

Of course -- as we say often in this space -- Cutler gonna Cutler. As is his modus operandi, Cutler forced a pass across his body off balance that was picked off by Charles Woodson. It could have cost Chicago the game. Luckily, Cutler got the ball back and drove the Bears for the game-winning field goal. #Redemption.

  1. The Raiders' offense sputtered at times, but Derek Carr always seems in control. The second-year quarterback displayed deftness reading defenses pre-snap. Even on his worst passes, he always seems to find the right target. Then he drops some absolute dimes, like the beautiful arching toss to Amari Cooper in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Consistency with sprinkles of greatness is exactly what you want in a franchise quarterback.
  1. Oakland cannot cover tight ends. For the fourth consecutive week a tight end destroyed them. Martellus Bennett torched the Radiers' D for 83 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches in which he was inexplicably WIDE OPEN. If I were in the business of giving fantasy advice, I'd suggest streaming every tight end against this defense.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. The Bengals are going to be very hard to beat in November, December and January. The team is built on the best possible foundation: A brutal, in-your-face running game and a veteran defensive line that can handle the run and pass well. Both units shined on Sunday, but it's hard to ignore a front that logs five sacks on Alex Smith.
  1. Despite their record, there are parts of this Chiefs team trending in the right direction. Alex Smith was actually able to find Jeremy Maclin and find him deep. Maclin finished with double-digit catches and more than 140 receiving yards. The next portion of their schedule includes dates with the hapless Bears, the Big Ben-less Steelers and the winless Lions.
  1. Now for the bad part in Kansas City: Bob Sutton's defense has given up more than 30 points in each of the last three games, which is the worst defensive stretch for the franchise since 1987. With simple play designs, the Bengals duped a very good group of defensive players into easy coverage situations. To wit: Tamba Hali should not be manned up against Tyler Eifert.

-- Conor Orr

  1. After frying the Dolphins for 277 yards and three touchdowns in Week 3, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor returned to earth against the Giants. Passing for only 36 yards in the first half, Taylor struggled to build rhythm as Buffalo finished just 3 for 16 on third down and failed to register a completion over 20 yards until late in the second half. Without LeSean McCoy or Sammy Watkins on the field, Taylor also saw a pair of long second-half drives die in the red zone. He remains an intriguing and athletic young passer, but Taylor must get this offense going earlier next week against the Titans.
  1. Eli Manning calmly led the Giants on three touchdown drives as the Bills committed one soul-crushing penalty after the next -- a whopping 17 in total, the second most by any team all year -- to help New York build an early 16-3 lead it wouldn't lose. It was a tale of two halves for Manning, though, as New York's offense mostly struggled over the final two quarters. When they find their flow, Big Blue's attack can hang with anyone, but the G-Men wouldn't have won this game without Buffalo crumbling under a mountain of yellow flags.
  1. If you missed it, the battle between Buffalo's secondary and Giants wideout Odell Beckham deserves another look on Game Pass. Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore was especially sticky in coverage for a unit that held Beckham to just five catches for 38 yards off 12 targets. Last year's Offensive Rookie of the Year, though, nearly pulled off a carbon-copy replica of his famous one-handed grab against the Cowboys last November.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. Why do NFL teams prefer young legs at running back? Second-year dynamo Devonta Freeman has rushed for more scores in the past three weeks than a 31-year-old Steven Jackson managed in 15 starts last season. Aided by huge gaps provided by a vastly improved offensive line, Freeman has displayed impressive burst and a physicality that belies his 5-foot-8, 206-pound frame. His skill set lies somewhere between the early-career versions of Ray Rice and Pierre Thomas.

Staked to a 35-0 lead early in the third quarter, the Falcons understandably placed Freeman and superstar wide receiver Julio Jones in bubble wrap the rest of the way. Over a seven-quarter span beginning last week, Freeman generated 342 yards and six touchdowns on 54 touches. Kyle Shanahan continues to prove that he's one of the NFL's most effective offensive coordinators.

  1. Ryan Mallett left Bill O'Brien no choice but to turn back to Brian Hoyer. Considering Mallett's lack of timing and accuracy, Hoyer must be considered the favorite to start Thursday night versus the Colts -- even if his three touchdown drives versus the Falcons came in extreme garbage time.
  1. Keep Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant in mind when it comes time to vote for the Pro Bowl. One of the NFL's top cover corners, Trufant showed playmaking ability on Sunday, recovering two fumbles (one for a 23-yard touchdown) and breaking up three passes. Entering the game, he had allowed just three completions in his coverage area.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. Josh Norman is speeding toward a big pay day. The Panthers cornerback -- who just took home Defensive Player of the Month honors -- terrorized Jameis Winston with two interceptions, including one returned for a score. The Panthers might live to regret waiting to lock up Norman with a long-term deal. Rich people problems, of course.
  1. When you start a rookie at quarterback, you're signing up for all the mistakes that come with it. Winston made a few plays that reminded you why he's the No. 1 pick, but he threw four interceptions amongst five turnovers. The Bucs have no chance when Winston stumbles like this.
  1. Cam Newton didn't light up the box score, but he continues to put on a one-man show leading an otherwise pedestrian Panthers offense. Newton threw two touchdown passes and also led the team with 51 rushing yards. If there was a quarter-pole MVP vote, Newton would certainly be in the conversation for making chicken salad out of ... you know.

-- Dan Hanzus

  1. The London fans won't see Marshawn Lynch on their soil this season, but they got the next best thing in Chris Ivory. The underrated Jets running back punished the Dolphins for a career-high 166 yards on 29 carries. The Jets are one-dimensional in their running game, but it's quite a dimension when Ivory is right.
  1. And now, your weekly reminder that the Dolphins gave Ndamukong Suh $60 million guaranteed in the offseason. The defensive tackle is stuck on zero sacks and was mostly invisible here. In fact, the entire defensive line -- a group that includes Suh, Cameron Wake, Earl Mitchell and Olivier Vernon -- has yet to register a sack this season. Hard to believe.
  1. Brandon Marshall continues to drive the Jets' offense. On New York's first play from scrimmage, Ryan Fitzpatrick hooked up with Marshall on a 58-yard reception that set the tone for the day. Marshall has gone over 100 yards in three consecutive weeks and might give the Jets something they haven't had since 1986: An All-Pro wide receiver.

-- Dan Hanzus

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