Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 4 Sunday afternoon games…
Things That Made Me Giddy
Tom Brady Settles the Ship, Spreads the Wealth: After a rocky start, and despite the absence of Chris Godwin and mid-game departure of O.J. Howard, Tom Brady made good on his promise to throw a touchdown pass to everyone in the greater Tampa area on Sunday (if he did make such a promise). With their protection issues sorted out, Brady went 15-for-17 for 263 and three touchdowns in the second half as Tampa pulled out a shootout victory. On the day as a whole, he threw five touchdowns to five different receivers, none of them a member of the Gronkowski family.
A Reminder The Odell Beckham Jr. Is a Difference-Maker: Maybe a gadget play TD and another score against an utterly overmatched corner in the red zone are the kind of plays you can get from any quality starting receiver, but this game-sealing touchdown run is a huge loss of yardage for a lot of playmakers, and a modest gain for the good ones. Beckham is still as good as it gets with the ball in his hands.
I Mean, This Throw: It’s probably not going to make the top-10 of his quarter-season highlight reel since he didn’t also suplex a pass-rusher mid-play, but this is incredible ball placement to that spot off his back foot.
Joe Burrow Is on the Board!: Burrow got some help from Joe Mixon on the ground and after the catch, and from a Jaguars defense that isn’t particularly competitive. But watching Burrow spread it around to the likes of Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd was the sign of a new day coming in Cincinnati.
Colts D: Yes, it was Bears and Jets the past two weeks, but in a year when no one is tackling anyone across the NFL Matt Eberflus’s group has given up a combined 29 points over the last three games (and 16 of those points came on meaningless late-game scores-plus-two-pointers).
How Did Justin Herbert Not Win the Starting Job on or Around April 28?: The rookie just smoked a very good Bucs defense on the road, overcoming constant pressure and a complete lack of a run game. He’s 0-3 as a starter, which is as misleading as QB Winz gets.
The Chargers Do Some Opportunistic Blitzing: And it was working a bit in the first half, as the Bucs surely weren’t expecting to see many blitzes from the team that never blitzes. The four-man pass rush was a letdown in the second half though.
Vikings Are on the Board!: Mike Zimmer’s defense made him sweat it out, losing Harrison Smith mid-game, allowing a fourth-and-long touchdown late and a fourth-and-goal near-touchdown overturned on review on the Texans’ final possession. Dalvin Cook ended up with 146 yards on 29 touches—if it’s not a classic Zimmer defense, it was at least the kind of offense he wants (36:31 of possession time, 40 rushing attempts on 65 offensive snaps).
Dwayne Haskins Lives to Start Another Day: There were some highs against a very good Baltimore defense, and some terrifying lows as a decision-maker, like when he threw a fourth-and-goal to a target eight yards short of the goal line with three defenders waiting to make the tackle. But it was nothing like last week’s meltdown against Cleveland, and that’s enough to keep kicking the metaphorical tires on their young QB.
Derek Carr Throws TD No. 151: Overtaking Ken Stabler for the franchise record for the Oak/LA/LV Raiders. A nice milestone for a guy who’s been under fire the last couple seasons.
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Dallas Cowboys Coaching Staff Wears Bad Idea Jeans: Single-blocking Myles Garrett with undrafted rookie Terence Steele, leaving Daryl Worley one-on-one on Odell Beckham Jr… I know Mike McCarthy learned “analytics” during his year off, but can someone show him Wikipedia so he can read up on his opponents?
Cowboys Run Defense: They were making D’Ernest Johnson look like D’Ernest Johnson running against the NFL’s crappiest defense. Cleveland had 307 on the ground on Sunday.
There Was Going to Be a Transition to Mike Nolan in Dallas: And, to be fair, not tackling people was a problem that dates back to last season, and surely Nolan wouldn’t have lobbied to let his No. 1 corner walk. But this unit lacks basic functionality in the same way that, say, the Browns offense lacked basic functionality last year.
The Cowboys Front Office Played Fantasy Football: They paid the running back, the receiver—then drafted another receiver—and the linebacker after drafting another linebacker in the first, while letting their bona fide No. 1 corner walk and failing to address the secondary in any meaningful way. I’d hate to be the architect of this roster when Jerry Jones calls me into his office.
Dallas Offense Is Explosive and Reckless: No one cares about the game-ending interception—they were down 11 with a minute left. But along with a strip-sack and an Ezekiel Elliott fumble after a long run, Dak Prescott repeatedly put the ball into danger for reasons unknown against Cleveland. He’s going to put up big numbers every time the Cowboys spot an opponent 40-something points over the first three quarters—there are a lot of empty calories in those 1,690 passing yards. I’m not usually a “time of possession is key” guy. But maybe, maybe, for the sake of this very bad defense, some sustained offense would help out. The Cowboys defense has been on the field for an average of 34 minutes and 71 plays per game this season.
Bears Quarterbacks: The system is fine, the play-calling is O.K., the quarterbacks are neither. Nick Foles was not nearly as erratic as Mitchell Trubisky has been over the past three seasons, but he was not accurate on Sunday and didn’t seem to have any kind of chemistry with his receivers (though, considering Foles taking over as the starter was inevitable, it was perhaps worth him taking more snaps this summer). The Colts are legit on defense, the run game is a dud, and Matt Nagy didn’t do Foles a lot of favors with mostly conservative early-down play-calling, but if you thought the Bears were as fluky as it gets at 3-0, this game did nothing to change your mind.
Bears Literally Look Bad: Their orange jerseys are the worst in sports. Maybe not in a vacuum, but the downgrade from their usual home blue—the best jersey in the NFL and possibly in all of sports—to the Arena League orange is unfathomably large. They should feel tremendous shame every time they wear them.
Kyler Throws It Short: I’m not sure Murray had multiple air yards over the course of the game in Carolina. Kyler is a talent with some limitations. That offense is uninspired some weeks. On Sunday, it was an embarrassment: 5.5 yards per completion. That is a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust passing game.
Chicago Is the Land of 10,000 Punts: The Bears and Colts combined for 12 (seven for Chicago, five for Indy).
Jason Garrett’s Gotta Have Something Better Than This: There’s nothing left to lose for the Giants. You have a talented young quarterback in Daniel Jones, and there’s even some pass-catching talent. Come up with something surprising schematically and try to win a game.
Houston’s Utterly Erratic Offense: They’ve pieced together a good half of football each of the last two weeks, but their receivers don’t get separation consistently, and Deshaun Watson is mixing some spectacular moments with some snaps on which he holds the ball too long and fails to create out of structure. It’s a worst-case scenario in a post-DeAndre Hopkins world.
That Matt Patricia Defense Folds: After a deflected interception to start the game, the short-handed Saints went off for five consecutive touchdown drives in Detroit. New Orleans went 10-for-14 on third down (and 1-for-1 on fourth down) as, for yet another week, the Lions defense could not get off the field.
Seahawks’ Red Zone Perfection Ends: They stretched it to 10 touchdowns in the season’s first 10 red-zone trips, but Sunday in Miami they turned it over on downs in the second quarter and Russell Wilson threw an interception on a third-and-goal from the 6 in the third quarter. (They did start a new streak with two fourth-quarter red-zone TDs though.)
The Dolphins Only Kick Field Goals: They were right there with the Seahawks all afternoon—this was a one-possession game for the first 55 minutes. But Miami ended up kicking five field goals, including two in the red zone. That isn’t going to get it done.
Someone Tell Noah Igbinoghene About Russell Wilson: The fact that Russell Wilson is quite possibly the best quarterback in NFL history (1) late in the down, and (2) throwing over the top of a defense, is part of the second-grade curriculum in every public school across the country. So when the rookie—with 19 seconds left in the second quarter and the Seahawks at their own 36—abandons his deep third to jump an intermediate route, giving Wilson as easy a throw as he’s had in his life (57 yards to David Moore, setting up a touchdown), it’s the kind of thing that might literally extinguish Brian Flores’s soul.
Harrison Smith Earned His Ejection: Mike Zimmer was hot on the sideline, but these hits are automatic ejections now. (Sorry, @Yfz84.)
If NFL Games Only Lasted 19 Minutes Or So: The Lions would be 4-0.
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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Like Miley, Jalen Ramsey Came in Like a Wrecking Ball:
Josh Allen’s Million-Mile Shovel Pass:
A Wide Receiver Catches a Touchdown From… A Wide Receiver?!: Don’t that beat all.
Aaron Donald Gets Chippy: And I appreciate Darius Slayton—that’s as close as anyone should reasonably get to “holding back” Aaron Donald during a fight.
Jalen Ramsey-Golden Tate Post-Game Brawl:
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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Steve Keim Will Have Some Sleepless Nights: The Cardinals GM went out on a limb when he brought in Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray (you could argue he should not have been afforded the opportunity to make any decision on the franchise’s future). Right now, in Year 2 of the partnership, after adding a world-class receiver, this offense is essentially quick-strike plus QB scrambles, and the sum of it isn’t very impressive. The quarterback is completing 46.1% of his throws beyond 10 yards in the air. They were outclassed in Carolina by a Panthers defense with a fraction of the talent. Twenty games in, the Cardinals have problems; now it’s up to Kliff Kingsbury to solve them.
The Bucs Are the NFC’s Best Team: Sorry, Packers and Seahawks. The defense is there for Tampa, and the offense is trending toward being able to put up points in its sleep. Everyone pack it in, it’s going to be a Chiefs-Bucs Super Bowl in Tampa.
Eric Bieniemy, Brian Daboll, Robert Saleh and Matt Eberflus: Are the NFL’s next four head coaches.
Considering the Current State of the Country: The “America’s Team” moniker has never felt more appropriate for the Cowboys than it does right now.
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