Sam Darnold would be getting some reinforcements back this week after missing most of his supporting cast in an utterly embarrassing loss to the Colts last week. Darnold, with some help, would surely outplay his counterpart in this game as the former No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft. The opposing quarterback was the undrafted Brett Rypien, nephew of former Redskin quarterback Mark Rypien. The USC product had a big edge over the Boise State alumnus, at least on paper. In reality, however, Rypien outplayed Darnold by a mile.
Darnold opened this game on a very high note, as he rushed for a 46-yard touchdown on the opening drive. Darnold is not known as a scrambler, yet he somehow avoided linebacker Alexander Johnson on a blitz, and then ran by the entire bewildered defense for a score. Unfortunately for Darnold, it was downhill from there. He was injured on a Johnson sack later in the quarter, thanks to him holding the ball for an eternity in the pocket even though he had an open receiver at his disposal. Darnold later showed some poor accuracy, as he sailed some passes and even had difficulty connecting on 3-yard passes to his teammates in the flat. He made a huge mistake in the fourth quarter when he got rattled by Denver's pass rush and tripped over his own two feet.
Darnold was gifted an opportunity to win the game because of some turnovers that will be discussed later. However, all the Jets could do was settle for a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to Adam Gase's incompetent decision to kick a field goal rather than attempt a fourth-and-inches try while down two points. The Broncos, of course, kicked a field goal on the ensuing possession to go up two again. Darnold had one final chance, yet couldn't even get to midfield. He was nearly picked and then took a sack on fourth down to end the Jets' chances of winning their first game.
Darnold finished 23-of-42 for 230 yards. Those numbers aren't horrible, but they don't properly describe how terrible Darnold was in this contest. His accuracy was woeful at times, and he should've been intercepted on a couple of occasions. Even worse, he's not seeing the field well at all. Adam Gase has coached him very poorly, as Darnold has regressed each year. Gase must be fired soon, but perhaps not right away, as he gives the Jets the best chance of losing games and landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. I have the Jets selecting Trevor Lawrence there in my 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
As for Rypien, the undrafted second-year pro showed off some stunning accuracy for three quarters of his NFL debut. Granted, he was doing this against the pitiful Jets, but Rypien kept the chains moving despite the rainy conditions in the cavernous Meadowlands.
Rypien was lucky to start the game, as his touchdown to Jerry Jeudy was a total fluke. Rypien should've actually thrown an interception, as cornerback Pierre Desir had the ball sail right through his hands and right into Jeudy's. Desir then got his interception on a pass Rypien tried to throw away. It looked incomplete, but replay review showed that Desir inexplicably tapped both feet inbounds. Rypien, however, spent the rest of the evening picking on Desir, and doing so successfully. He was 9-of-11 in the opening half and then engineered a terrific touchdown drive in the second half.
Rypien, however, showed his inexperience when he panicked in the fourth quarter when he saw some rare pressure off the edge. He fired a pass into triple coverage, which was pick-sixed by Desir. Rypien then committed the same blunder on the ensuing drive, as pressure in his face forced another interception. To his credit, however, Rypien rebounded on the next possession to find Tim Patrick for a 31-yard gain to set up the game-winning field goal.
Rypien finished 19-of-31 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. This was an excellent debut for him. He can't be a starting quarterback in the NFL because of his arm limitations, but with his smarts and accuracy, he has shown that he can potentially be a solid No. 2 in this league.
The Broncos ran the ball much better than the Jets did, which should surprise no one. However, the stats were misleading. Melvin Gordon, who dropped a pass, rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, while Frank Gore was limited to only 30 yards on 13 attempts. Gordon, however, got nearly half of his yardage (43) on a late touchdown run when the Jets stopped trying. This gave the Broncos a nine-point lead rather than a two-point lead, spoiling the night for all of the sharps who wagered on the Jets +3.
Denver suffered multiple injuries to its pass-catchers. Already down Courtland Sutton, the Broncos saw Noah Fant and K.J. Hamler leave the game. It was up to Jeudy and Patrick to do the heavy lifting, and they came through. Jeudy caught two passes for 61 yards, while Patrick put together a monster night, snatching six balls for 113 yards.
As for the Jets receivers, Crowder led the way with seven grabs for 104 yards, followed by Jeff Smith (7-81). Tight end Chris Herndon, expected to exploit a great matchup, was a huge disappointment with one single reception for 11 yards. He also dropped a pass.
There was some controversy at the end of the game, as several Jets defensive linemen tried to concuss Rypien with dirty hits to the helmet. This was the least-surprising thing in the world to see from a Gregg Williams-coached defense. It's amazing to me that Gregg "Sweep the Leg" Williams is still allowed to coach in the NFL after what transpired during Bountygate.
Bengals 33, Jaguars 25
The Bengals were close to winning on a couple of occasions in the first three weeks of the season, but couldn't quite get a first victory for Joe Burrow. That all changed in Week 4, as the Bengals defeated the Jaguars to finally get into the win column.
Burrow was excellent in his first win. The stats (25-of-36, 300 yards, one touchdown, one interception) look solid; not great, but Burrow played better the numbers indicate. He did a great job of keeping the chains moving throughout the afternoon. He also should've thrown a second touchdown, as a great pass of his into the end zone was negated by a Trey Hopkins hold, as the beleaguered offensive lineman was easily beaten by edge rusher Josh Allen. Meanwhile, Burrow's interception was not his fault, as Myles Jack ripped the ball away from the intended receiver in the end zone.
The development for Burrow in this game was improved pass protection. Despite what happened to Hopkins on the apparent touchdown, Burrow had a clean pocket for most of the afternoon. This allowed him to pick apart a Jacksonville defense that couldn't stop anything once Jack suffered an injury. This was a huge loss, as Jack has greatly rebounded off his down 2019 campaign.
Jack's absence allowed Joe Mixon to go nuts in the second half as well. How much of a difference did Jack make? Mixon had just 30 rushing yards prior to intermission. With Jack missing the second half, Mixon finished with 151 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. He also scored as a receiver, catching six balls for 30 receiving yards.
While Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins didn't score with Mixon hogging all the touchdowns, they were still productive. Boyd snatched seven of his eight targets for 90 yards, while Higgns hauled in four balls for 77 yards to go along with a dropped pass. A.J. Green, dealing with excellent first-round cornerback C.J. Henderson in the opening half, caught just one of his five targets for three yards. Green missed some time in the second half because of an injury, so he couldn't take advantage of Henderson missing action in the second half with an injury. Henderson, Jack and D.J. Hayden were all sorely missed in the second half with various maladies.
Green may have struggled, but the Jaguars were able to get great production out of their top receiver, D.J. Chark, who snatched eight of his nine targets for 95 yards and two touchdowns. One of his scores was an amazing toe-tap grab. Laviska Shenault (5-86) was next on the receiving list.
Chark and Shenault were expected to do well in a positive matchup, as the Bengals were missing two starting cornerbacks (Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander.) Garnder Minshew was able to benefit as well, going 27-of-40 for 351 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The pick was unlucky, as Bengals safety Jessie Bates broke up the pass, knocking it up into the air.
Upstart running back James Robinson also had a positive matchup, with the Bengals missing two talented defensive tackles. Robinson gained 75 yards on 17 carries, but had a 40-yard run negated by a holding penalty. He also caught four passes for 32 receiving yards.
Browns 49, Cowboys 38
If Yogi Berra were still alive, he may have said it was "deja vu all over again" for the Cowboys. This game echoed what transpired in the Week 2 contest against the Falcons, as some very sloppy Dallas play allowed the opponent to establish a huge lead.
In this case, it didn't appear to be heading that way immediately, as a potential Dak Prescott interception was dropped, and the ball popped into CeeDee Lamb's hands, setting up a touchdown where Prescott threaded the needle to Amari Cooper. However, a tie game quickly swelled to a two-touchdown lead for the Browns, as Prescott was strip-sacked by Myles Garrett to set up a quick score for Cleveland. This was followed by an Ezekiel Elliott fumble that allowed Kareem Hunt to find the end zone, giving the Browns a 28-14 advantage.
Cleveland eventually led 41-14, but that's when the Cowboys mounted their comeback, just as they did against the Falcons. They drew to within 41-38, but it wasn't quite deja vu all over again, but rather deja vu nearly again, because the Browns, unlike the Falcons, were able to stop the Cowboys. They picked off Prescott to set up an insurance score, securing the victory.
Prescott eclipsed the 500-yard barrier, going 41-of-58 for 502 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Any box-score readers will assume that Prescott played extremely well, but was ultimately betrayed by a defense that surrendered 49 points. That, however, couldn't be further from the truth. Prescott, as mentioned, gave the Browns seven free points in the opening half, and that number easily could have been more. I counted at least four dropped interceptions by the Browns, including one that may have gone back for six.
Most of Prescott's production simply came in garbage time, which was more than half of his game. When things mattered most, Prescott came up short. Down 41-38, Prescott had a potential pick-six that was dropped, followed up by an actual interception on the very next play.
Elliott was also responsible for this defeat, thanks to the aforementioned fumble. Given the deficit, Elliott never had a chance to get going, as he was given just 12 carries, which he turned into 54 yards. Making matters more depressing for his fantasy owners, Elliott was vultured by Tony Pollard (3-16) in the fourth quarter. Elliott's PPR owners were at least able to salvage a decent performance, as Elliott caught all eight of his targets for 71 receiving yards.
Elliott finished fourth on the receiving list, falling behind Cooper, Lamb and Dalton Schultz. Cooper led the way with 12 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown, while Lamb found the end zone twice while securing five grabs for 79 yards. Schultz (4-72) also scored. All of these guys obviously were able to benefit from extreme garbage time, which should continue to be a trend as long as the Cowboys continue to miss countless defenders to injury.
The only Cowboy who didn't enjoy some great stats in the second half was Michael Gallup, who was limited to just two catches for 29 yards. He actually saw fewer targets (5) compared to Cedrick Wilson (6), who caught three passes for 34 yards.
Like Cooper and Lamb, Odell Beckham had a monstrous receiving performance for his team. However, Beckham, who dyed his hair gray for this game, didn't do his damage in garbage time. The Cowboys legitimately had no answer for Beckham, who enjoyed his best game as a Cleveland Brown by far.
Beckham caught five of his eight targets for 81 yards and two touchdowns, as one of the scores was on a pass from Jarvis Landry on a trick play. Beckham also ran twice on other trick plays, gaining 73 rushing yards and a third score to blow open the game in the second half.
Holding a huge lead for most of the afternoon, Baker Mayfield didn't have to do much in the second half. He actually threw just seven passes following intermission, going 19-of-30 for 165 yards and tw touchdowns. While Mayfield's stats paled in comparison to Prescott's, Mayfield actually was the better-performing quarterback.
The dark cloud over this victory for the Browns was when Nick Chubb suffered an injury. A Dallas player rolled into his leg, so Chubb (6-43) had to leave the game. Kareem Hunt will now be one of the top options every single week, and he dominated Dallas, rushing for 71 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Backup D'Ernest Johnson (13-95) led the Browns in rushing, but only because the coaching staff gave him opportunities in a blowout.
Saints 35, Lions 29
It's hard to believe that it seemed like the Lions would pull off this upset. They were up 14-0, after all, thanks to a great opening drive and a Drew Brees interception that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Matthew Stafford capitalized by throwing a touchdown to Kenny Golladay to establish a two-touchdown lead.
It was all New Orleans after that, however, as the Detroit defense offered no resistance, while Stafford imploded at an inopportune moment. Brees torched the Lions so easily he could've done it blindfolded, with a key play being a 29-yard teardrop pass to Alvin Kamara to convert a fourth down. This eventually allowed the Saints to tie, and following a horrible interception from Stafford in the end zone that he heaved off his back foot, the Saints quickly took the lead on the next possession. Now up 21-14, the Saints maintained control the rest of the afternoon.
New Orleans ultimately won 35-29, but this final score was misleading. The Saints led 35-14 before taking their foot off the gas. They had so much success against Detroit's putrid defense that they didn't punt until deep into the second half.
Following the early, fluky interception, Brees did whatever he wanted against the hapless Lions. Brees misfired on just six occasions, going 19-of-25 for 246 yards, two touchdowns and the pick. Brees did this despite not having Michael Thomas or Jared Cook at his disposal. The Lions were supposed to be better against the pass with Desmond Trufant returning, but they didn't stand a chance.
The Lions had no answer for either of the New Orleans running backs either. Kamara had a great game, rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries to go along with three catches for 36 receiving yards. Despite this, his fantasy owners had plenty to be frustrated about, as Kamara was so close to scoring on a couple of other occasions. He was vultured twice by Latavius Murray, who ran for 64 yards and two touchdowns on 14 attempts.
There were two Saints players who finished ahead of Kamara on the receiving list. Emmanuel Sanders led the way with six catches for 93 yards, while Tre'Quan Smith reeled in all four of his targets for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
While the Saints' offense couldn't be stopped, the Lions scoring unit did stupid stuff after establishing a 14-0 lead. Stafford had that aforementioned horrible interception, and he was lucky to get away from throwing a couple of other picks. He finished 17-of-31 for 206 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Meanwhile, the coaching staff thought it was a good idea to have Adrian Peterson run for 3-yard gains while attempting a comeback in the fourth quarter. It was inexplicable, as ths ineffective method of moving the chains drained precious time off the clock. Peterson wasted 11 carries, gaining 36 yards in the process. He scored a touchdown, but anyone could have reached the end zone on that play. Peterson also dropped a pass, which left me wondering why he's being targeted in the passing game at all.
It makes no sense why the Lions continue to feed Peterson the ball, let alone late in games when time is a valuable commodity. Rookie D'Andre Swift did nearly as much as Peterson on far fewer attempts, gaining 22 yards on four tries. Swift also caught four passes for 30 yards and a touchdown.
The Lions were expected to move the chains easily against the Saints, as New Orleans' top two cornerbacks were missing against Golladay and Marvin Jones. The latter didn't do much on the box score - one catch, nine yards - but he drew a pair of interference flags. Golladay, meanwhile, caught four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Seahawks 31, Dolphins 23
Russell Wilson has been "cooking" each week, but he prepared some dubious food against the Dolphins for most of the afternoon. The Seahawks had just 17 points through three quarters, as they struggled with uncharacteristic blunders. Some examples include a D.K. Metcalf drop on an early third-and-11; a Tyler Lockett drop on the next drive that would've moved the team close to the red zone; and a Wilson interception when he made a bad decision while throwing into the end zone, firing a pass off his back foot into tight coverage.
It looked like the Seahawks would potentially lose when this was a 17-15 affair, but Wilson finally caught fire in the fourth quarter. He led two touchdown drives to put this game away, as the Seahawks prevailed to improve to 4-0.
Despite the struggles, Wilson still finished with a great stat line, going 24-of-34 for 360 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned pick. Curiously, Wilson didn't do much running, as he rushed for five yards on four scrambles.
Wilson was robbed of a third touchdown, as Metcalf was tackled inches shy of the goal line in the fourth quarter. This was the second week in a row in which Metcalf's fantasy owners saw a potential score wiped off the board. Metcalf, despite the missed score, still led the Seahawks in receiving with four catches for 106 yards.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Lockett was a big disappointment with just two receptions for 39 yards, as he received just one target in the opening half, which he dropped. David Moore (3-95) and Travis Homer caught Wilson's touchdowns.
Chris Carson vultured two touchdowns away from Wilson and his receivers, as he rushed for 80 yards on 16 carries. He was tested for a concussion in the second quarter, but didn't miss much action.
Carson's initial touchdown came right after the first of two Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions. This one was tipped into the air on the opening drive. The second came in desperation time, as Fitzpatrick telegraphed a pass while down nine points with less than five minutes remaining. Fitzpatrick finished with a disappointing stat line when considering all of Seattle's injuries, as he went 29-of-45 for 315 yards and two interceptions. He was at least able to help his fantasy owners with a rushing touchdown, scrambling six times for 47 yards.
Fitzpatrick was lucky not to be picked a third and a fourth time. He fired a dropped interception into double coverage during an early drive that eventually led to a field goal, and then had another interception that was dropped in the red zone when he didn't appear to see Bobby Wagner in coverage. Wagner dropped the ball, allowing the Dolphins to kick another field goal.
Fitzpatrick ended up leading the Dolphins in rushing yards, barely eclipsing Myles Gaskin and his 40 yards on 10 carries. Gaskin also caught three passes for 22 receiving yards. Gaskin is fortunate enough to survive this game, as a pass from Fitzpatrick in the flat got Gaskin blown up with a very violent hit.
Fitzpatrick threw mostly to DeVante Parker and Isaiah Ford, who saw 12 and 10 targets, respectively. No other Dolphin had more than four targets. Parker snatched 10 balls for 100 yards, while Ford's stat line (4-48) wasn't as impressive.
Buccaneers 38, Chargers 31
Justin Herbert was just two years old when Tom Brady made his first start in the NFL. For a while, it looked like the young signal-caller would upset the greatest quarterback in NFL history, as the Chargers led for most of this game.
Herbert was excellent for most of the afternoon, opening things up with a 53-yard touchdown bomb to someone named Tyron Johnson. Following a Brady pick-six, Herbert launched yet another touchdown bomb, with this one being a 72-yard score to Jalen Guyton.
The Chargers led 24-7 right before halftime when things began to unravel for them. Rookie running back Joshua Kelley, playing for an injured Austin Ekeler, fumbled near his own goal line to set up the Buccaneers with a quick touchdown. This gave Tampa much-needed momentum, with Brady catching fire in the second half. Meanwhile, Herbert was now the one making mistakes, heaving an interception on an overthrow to help the Buccaneers secure the victory.
Though Herbert made that horrible mistake, he was highly impressive, going 20-of-25 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and the aforementioned pick. What's remarkable is that Herbert did this despite playing behind an offensive line missing three starters. The Buccaneers were supposed to manhandle the Chargers up front, but that never happened.
Ekeler, as mentioned, suffered an injury. He hurt his knee and was carted off the field. He barely did anything, rushing for 12 yards on just two carries. Kelley took over and struggled. On top of the fumble, he also was limited to just seven yards on nine carries, albeit against the top run defense in the NFL. Herbert actually led the team in rushing with 14 yards on five scrambles.
While Guyton and Johnson were the Chargers who scored touchdowns, they each had just one reception. Keenan Allen once again did most of the heavy lifting, snatching eight of his 12 targets for 62 yards. He couldn't find the end zone.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, saw Brady throw five touchdowns in this victory. He rebounded off his interception, a weak pass toward the sideline taken back for six, and didn't make any mistakes after that. Brady finished 30-of-46 for 369 yards, five touchdowns and the interception, and his numbers could've been even better had his teammates not dropped a whopping five passes.
With Chris Godwin out, Mike Evans had to pick up the slack. That looked like an issue when he injured his ankle early in the game, but he managed to return to the field to lead his team in receiving. Evans collected seven receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown. His lone mistake was an offensive pass interference.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Scotty Miller (5-83), O.J. Howard (3-50), Ke'Shawn Vaughn (2-22) and Cameron Brate (1-3) were the other four players to catch Brady's touchdowns. Unfortunately for Howard, there is speculation that he tore his Achilles, which would mean he's done for the season.
Ronald Jones had a nice stat line, rushing for 111 yards on 20 carries to go along with six catches for 17 receiving yards. Jones, however, drew Brady's ire with three drops. Vaughn, who mustered four yards on three carries, dropped a pass as well.
Ravens 31, Redskins 17
It's often difficult for teams to rebound off a Monday night blowout loss, but a game against the Redskins was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Ravens. They won this game easily, holding a 31-10 lead before pulling Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter.
Jackson made a crucial mistake in this game, firing an inaccurate pass that was intercepted right before halftime, which occurred one drive after nearly tossing another pick on a great break by Troy Apke. Luckily for Jackson, the Redskins just don't have what it takes to capitalize off a mistakes like that. Jackson was otherwise steady as a passer despite seeing more pressure than usual as a result of left tackle Ronnie Stanley being sidelined. Jackson went 14-of-21 for 193 yards, two touchdowns and the pick. Jackson's most explosive play came via a 50-yard touchdown run. He rushed for 53 yards on seven scrambles.
Both of Jackson's touchdowns were thrown to Mark Andrews, who caught three passes for 57 yards. This can't have been a surprise, given that the Redskins can't cover tight ends at all. Andrews trailed only Marquise Brown (4-86) on the stat sheet. Brown had a shot for a deep touchdown early in the second quarter, but Jackson overthrew him.
The Ravens continued to rotate their backs in a frustrating fashion. Mark Ingram found the end zone, but ran just eight times for 34 yards. He was outgained by Gus Edwards (9-38), who continues to impress. J.K. Dobbins, conversely, didn't do much, tallying 16 yards on five attempts. He dropped a pass. All three backs were given multiple touches in the opening quarter, so it's not like one is getting work when the game turns into a blowout.
As for the Redskins, it was yet another underwhelming game from Dwayne Haskins. He didn't commit any turnovers, but that's because he spent the entire afternoon checking down for the most part. Haskins even tossed a checkdown on a fourth-and-goal try while down 28-10. It was an underwhelming sight, to say the least.
To illustrate what I'm talking about, here are all but one of Haskins' passes on third and fourth down throughout the game, as well as the number of air yards his passes traveled. I'm excluding one attempt because it was deflected at the line of scrimmage, so I don't know where it was going to land:
In other words, only three of Haskins' 11 third- and fourth-down passes traveled beyond the first-down marker, and every single one of his third- and fourth-down attempts failed to fly more than five yards. That's ridiculous.
Haskins, despite the checkdowns, finished 32-of-45 for 314 yards. He also scored a touchdown via a sneak. Some of his yardage came in garbage time, so don't read anything into him eclipsing the 300-yard barrier. Haskins stunk, as he overthrew Peyton Barber in the flat and took a 24-yard loss on a sack in the red zone. Yes, you read that correctly: a 24-yard sack in the red zone.
Antonio Gibson had a strong performance in a tough matchup. He was able to run just 13 times because of the constant deficit, but turned those opportunities into 46 yards and a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 82 receiving yards. The other back, J.D. McKissic, was guilty of an early fumble that set up a Baltimore score.
Terry McLaurin was questionable entering Sunday, but managed to play. Despite the injury designation, McLaurin led the Redskins in receiving with 10 catches for 118 yards. A chunk of his yardage came at the very end of the game when Haskins finally showed some courage and lobbed up a 39-yard bomb to McLaurin, setting up a rushing touchdown to push the spread.
Vikings 31, Texans 23
In a battle between two winless squads, the true winner of that matchup is often the loser, as that team will likely end up wih better draft positioning. With that in mind, the true victor in this contest was ... the Dolphins?
The Texans have dropped to 0-4, which means nothing for their draft outlook because the Dolphins have their selection as a result of the Laremy Tunsil trade. Bill O'Brien, however, was able to potentially validate another poor move of his, trading DeAndre Hopkins for David Johnson, on the final possession. Well, not really, but let's run with that narrative for fun. The Texans had a third-and-goal opportunity, and they planned to give Johnson a pitch to score the game-winning touchdown. Johnson, however, dropped the pitch, resulting in a fumble. The Texans recovered, and then their next play, a pass to Will Fuller, appeared to be the decisive score before replay review showed that Fuller dropped the pass.
Johnson failed them, while Deshaun Watson struggled for most of the afternoon. His final numbers say otherwise - 20-of-30, 300 yards, two touchdowns - but all of that came in garbage time, as Watson was just 6-of-15 for 79 yards prior to intermission. The Vikings were up by double digits for most of the second half, so their less-aggressive defense allowed Watson to compile nonsense stats. Harrison Smith's ejection for a hit to the helmet also helped Watson in the second half. When the game mattered when Smith was on the field, Watson struggled to move the chains, as he had to hold the ball in the pocket for a long time because no one could get open.
As for Johnson, he ran 16 times, gaining 63 yards in the process. He also caught two passes for 29 receiving yards. It turns out that trading Hopkins for him was a big mistake.
Despite Fuller's gaffe at the end of the game, he still caught six of his seven targets for 108 yards and a touchdown to go along with a drawn pass interference. His lone misconnection on the seven targets was the drop in the end zone. Fuller was well ahead of all the other Texans on the receiving list, as Jordan Akins (3-46) was next. Brandin Cooks, meanwhile, didn't catch a single pass on his three targets.
As for the Vikings, they were able to keep their season alive with a win, but they were probably better served losing so they could land Trevor Lawrence. Instead, they'll continue to have to endure Kirk Cousins' pedestrian passing.
Cousins had a good performance in this contest because of an easy matchup, going 16-of-22 for 260 yards and a touchdown. It helps that he has a better receiving corps than he did in the first two weeks of the season, as the Vikings played Olabisi Johnson over Justin Jefferson in those games for some reason.
Speaking of Jefferson, the rookie made a terrific catch in this game, snatching a 23-yard pass over a defender. Jefferson finished with four grabs for 103 yards, trailing only Adam Thielen, who had a big game with eight receptions for 114 yards and a score. Jefferson has appeared to energize the Minnesota locker room, as Thielen copied Jefferson's eye-goggles dance from Week 3 after his touchdown. Perhaps Thielen would've celebrated harder had Cousins not overthrown him for a second potential score.
Dalvin Cook easily trampled the Texans, who have the worst rush defense in the NFL. He ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. The only negative for his fantasy owners was that Alexander Mattison (7-17) vultured a score.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I wouldn't read too much into this loss as far as Arizona's defense is concerned. The Cardinals were missing several starters in their secondary, so it's not a surprise that the Panthers moved the chains so easily on them. The offense, on the other hand... I don't know.
After the first two games of the season, the Arizona Cardinals looked like they were a dangerous threat in the NFC, while the Panthers looked like they were in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Now just two weeks later, the Cardinals have Kyler Murray struggling at quarterback and a terrible defense, while Carolina has an efficient Teddy Bridgewater and an improving defense. Both teams now sit at 2-2 in the competitive NFC.
The Panthers scored first, thanks to Bridgewater distributing the ball. He used his feet to convert a fourth-and-2, and a completion to D.J. Moore (4-49) to convert a third-and-10. A run from Mike Davis for about 20 yards set up a first-and-goal, and he then scored to put Carolina up 7-0. The next Carolina possession got moving with a screen to Robby Anderson for about 30 yards. Bridgewater finished the drive with his legs, scoring from 18 yards out to widen the Panthers' lead to 14 points.
On the first few Arizona drives, Murray missed some wide-open receivers deep downfield with poorly thrown passes. The Cardinals finally got going thanks to an overthrow by Bridgewater that floated to Patrick Peterson for an interception at the Panthers' 38-yard line. Murray used DeAndre Hopkins to set up a first-and-goal and threw a scoring strike to Jordan Thomas, which cut the score to 14-7. Carolina came right back with Robby Anderson, who exploded down the field for a chunk reception, and was propelled by Mike Davis simply running over the Arizona defense. The drive conclued when Arizona blew coverage, letting Reggie Bonnafon get wide open for a short touchdown catch. That left the Panthers taking a 21-7 lead into the locker room.
Arizona got a promising drive going in the third quarter, but Carolina's rookie defensive linemen shut it down, with Derrick Brown making two excellent plays in run defense and Yetur Gross-Matos strip-sacking Murray to get Carolina the ball back. From there, Curtis Samuel (3-51) made an outstanding catch to cross midfield, and Robby Anderson added another reception to set up a short touchdown pass to Ian Thomas.
Murray finally made a big play, taking off on a 49-yard run, and he ended the drive with a touchdown pass to Christian Kirk (3-19-1). That cut the Panthers' lead to 28-14 entering the fourth quarter. Carolina responded with a long drive that ate up a ton of clock and produced a field goal that clinched the win. Murray threw a touchdown pass to Chase Edmonds in garbage time.
Bridgewater was 26-of-37 for 276 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Mike Davis was excellent for the Panthers, running for 84 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and snagging five receptions for 27 yards.
Anderson made eight catches for 99 yards.
Murray was 24-of-31 for 133 yards with three touchdowns. He ran for 78 yards on six carries. Murray collected only 54 yards passing in the first half and left some points on the field due to inaccurate passes missing open receivers. That gave control of the game to the Panthers 'offense, which they didn't relent.
Murray was Arizona's leading rusher because Carolina shut down Kenyan Drake (13-35).
EDITOR'S NOTE: Remember when the Colts lost to the Jaguars in Week 1 to ruin everyone's Survivor entry? How did that happen!?
This game was expected to be a defensive battle, and it lived up to the billing, with both teams struggling to sustain drives or produce touchdowns after crossing midfield. Still, the Indianapolis offense was more efficient at producing three-pointers, and the Chicago offense was completely inept until garbage time.
The Colts took advantage of good field position early on, putting together a short drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown strike to tight end Mo Alie-Cox (1-13-1). After trading some punts, Nick Foles got the Bears going, throwing a 33-yard strike to Darnell Mooney. A couple of outlet passes to David Montgomery moved the ball inside the 10, but Chicago settled for a field goal. Later in the first half, Indianapolis moved inside the 10-yard line. Tashaun Gipson tipped a pass in the end zone, and Roquan Smith made a superb diving interception, but was actually out of bounds, gifting three points to the Colts. Indianapolis added another field goal just before the half to take a 13-3 lead into the locker room.
Midway through the third quarter, the Colts got moving with a 27-yard pass to Marcus Johnson, and that set up another field goal for them. A pass interference penalty on the Colts got the Bears to the Indianapolis 40-yard line, but an overthrown pass floated to Julian Blackmon for an interception. Indianapolis added another field goal, and in garbage time, Foles threw a touchdown to Allen Robinson. David Montgomery ran in a two-point conversion, but it was too little too late for Chicago.
Rivers was 16-of-29 for 190 yards with a touchdown.
Jonathan Taylor ran for 68 yards on 17 carries.
Zach Pascal (3-58) led the Colts in receiving.
Foles was 26-of-42 for 249 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Montgomery ran for 27 yards on 10 carries.
Robinson had seven receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Rams 17, Giants 9
This will count as a victory in the win column for the Rams, but this was far from an ideal performance from a team some expect to make a deep trip into the playoffs. In fact, Daniel Jones seemed to be trending toward tying the score late in regulation before committing a turnover in the red zone to end the game.
The Rams made some mistakes in this game, as a Gerald Everett fumble set up a first-half Giants field goal. However, the most concerning thing for the Rams was the play of their offensive line, which had severe problems blocking the Giants. The Rams' blocking had improved entering this contest, but the offensive line looked like last year's dreadful unit in this contest. Jared Goff took just two sacks, but he was never comfortable in the pocket. He had to hurry some throws, and he was even lucky to throw his sole touchdown, which Cooper Kupp broke for a 55-yard gain after catching a short pass.
Goff finished 25-of-32 for 200 yards and a touchdown. The numbers look fine, but if Kupp's 55-yard score is eliminated - it was all Kupp after a near completion - Goff's stat line would have been 24-of-31 for 145 yards, giving him a ghastly YPA of 4.68. He was also lucky to get away with an interception, as a pass of his into heavy traffic appeared to be picked, but was overturned by replay review.
Kupp was the hero the Rams needed, as the Giants would've been able to kick the game-winning field goal at the end had he not scored on the 55-yard catch-and-run. He led the team in receiving with five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. The next-nearest receiver was Robert Woods with six grabs for 35 yards. Woods had a tough matchup against James Bradberry.
The Rams frustratingly rotated their backs again after Darrell Henderson played so well last week. In fact, Malcolm Brown had one more carry (9) compared to Henderson. Brown outgained Henderson, 37-22.
As for the Giants, their quarterback also dealt with heavy pressure, which was far from a surprise, given the state of their horrific offensive line and this overwhelming matchup. Jones had the sort of awful YPA Goff would've maintained had it not been for one play. Jones' YPA was 5.28.
Jones went 23-of-36 for 190 yards and a killer interception that ended the game at the very end when Jones stared down his receiver. It was a shame for Jones because he made a great play earlier on the drive when he spun out of a sure sack to scramble for 13 yards. Jones ended up with 45 rushing yards on six attempts, which is nice, but I'm sure the Giants would rather prefer him to have a better pocket presence. Jones held the ball way too long at times on the rare occasions in which he wasn't pressured heavily. In turn, Jones took some bad sacks, stepping into one on the opening drive. On the next possession, he was strip-sacked, but managed to recover the fumble. There were also two consecutive plays in the second quarter that were both Brady sacks.
Jones' top receiver was Darius Slayton, who caught three passes for 48 yards. Dealing with Jalen Ramsey, Slayton didn't have much of a chance. He managed to draw an illegal contact to negate a sack - which would have been the sixth Jones took on the afternoon - but he also dropped a pass.
Elsewhere in the Giants' receiving corps, Evan Engram saw a whopping 10 targets, but was able to turn them into just six catches for 35 yards. He dropped a pass on the opening drive. Golden Tate (4-20) also disappointed, and he dropped a pass, too.
Devonta Freeman handled most of the workload, but mustered just 33 yards on 11 carries. He also caught four passes for 35 receiving yards. Despite the PPR boost, Freeman looked sluggish. Wayne Gallman (6-45) was the better of the two.
Bills 30, Raiders 23
The Bills led by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before the Raiders notched a garbage-time score. They were comfortably ahead in the final frame, but things were in doubt earlier in the contest. Josh Allen hurt his hand in the second quarter and had to go into the locker room. As this occurred, the Raiders were driving down the field quite easily, as Derek Carr was seeing a shocking lack of pressure.
Allen hadn't been on the field in about an hour's worth of real time, thanks to intermission and some lengthy Raider drives. Vegas drew to within one entering the final quarter, so the pressure was mounting. However, Allen showed no ill effects of the injury, catching fire at the end of the game. Meanwhile, the defense finally came alive to secure some turnovers to help Buffalo improve to 4-0.
Beginning with Allen, he torched the Raider defense mercilessly, as he misfired on just 10 occasions. He went 24-of-34 for 288 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored on a third occasion via a quarterback sneak. Once again, Allen didn't do much on the ground. In fact, he didn't even have positive rushing yardage! Allen doesn't need to run anymore in most matchups because he has evolved so much as a passer.
Of course, it really helps Allen that he has so many talented receivers at his disposal. Stefon Diggs has been as great as advertised, catching six passes for 115 yards in this contest. Diggs' big play set up a fourth-quarter touchdown when he ran a great route to juke a safety, securing a 49-yard bomb in the process.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, John Brown (4-42) was robbed of a touchdown. He caught a pass beyond the goal line, but the officials inexplicably didn't give him the six points even after looking at replay review. Cole Beasley (3-32), meanwhile, was able to reach the end zone.
With Zack Moss out, Devin Singletary handled the entire workload. He rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He also caught five passes for 21 receiving yards.
As mentioned earlier, it was a big surprise that Carr didn't see much pressure. The Raiders were missing two starting offensive linemen and were battling a tough Buffalo front, yet Carr had all the time in the world in the opening half. Things changed after intermission, and especially in the fourth quarter, however. Carr was strip-sacked twice, though only one counted because the officials blew a quick whistle on the first occasion. Meanwhile, Darren Waller was also responsible for a fumble, as Josh Norman forced the turnover in his first game as a Bill, playing in favor of Levi Wallace, who left the game with an injury in the opening half. Matt Milano was also knocked out with an injury.
Carr had a great stat line, going 32-of-44 for 311 yards and two touchdowns. He should've thrown a third score, but a touchdown of his to Nelson Agholor was negated by an illegal formation. Aside from the lost fumbles at the end, Carr played mostly well. He missed some passes, including a potential connection Waller in the red zone, but he did better than expected in this difficult matchup.
Waller committed the two aforementioned blunders, which spoiled what should've been a great afternoon otherwise. Waller led the team with nine catches for 88 yards, finishing ahead of Hunter Renfrow (5-57). Agholor ended up scoring after all, hauling in four balls for 44 yards. Carr's other touchdown went to Jason Witten (2-18).
While the Bills didn't get much pressure in the first three quarters, they clamped down on the run extremely well throughout. Jacobs was limited to just 48 yards on 15 carries. He did nothing outside of a 16-yard scamper.
Eagles 25, 49ers 20
The Eagles have been miserable entering this game. They lost to the Redskins, tied the Bengals and got blown out at home versus the Rams, who just barely beat the Giants. They also have suffered a barrage of injuries, and they've been getting horrible quarterback play from Carson Wentz. Philly talk radio even wanted to ship Wentz out of town in the wake of his abysmal start.
Now, things are a little different. The Eagles had some problems in San Francisco, especially with Fletcher Cox and Lane Johnson being baned up, but they managed to pull the upset, as Wentz looked like the quarterback of 2019 who led his team to the playoffs despite being surrounded by an injury-ravaged supporting cast.
Wentz saw lots of pressure in this game, which was hardly a surprise. His lone turnover, an interception, was the result of this, as he was hit as he released the ball. However, he did enough to keep some plays alive, including a couple of instances on the game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Wentz capped off the possession with a 42-yard touchdown bomb to Travis Fulgham. A Nick Mullens pick-six later, the Eagles suddenly opened up a double-digit lead to secure their first victory of the season.
Wentz finished 18-of-28 for 193 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He also ran seven times for 37 rushing yards and a second score. He willed his team to victory despite missing three starting offensive linemen and three of his top receivers. It was an impressive performance to say the least.
Fulgham ended up leading the Eagles in receiving with two grabs for 57 yards and the go-ahead score. Greg Ward (4-38) saw the most targets with seven.
Miles Sanders didn't have the best stat line - 13 carries, 46 yards; two catches, 30 receiving yards - but he made some nice plays to pick up some key first downs. Given that Sanders was missing three blockers in front of him, he did the best he could under the circumstances.
Someone who did not do the best he could under the circumstances was Nick Mullens, who had a truly abysmal showing after inexplicably torching the Giants the week before. Mullens went 18-of-26 for 200 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, but that stat line doesn't come close to describing how atrocious he was against a Philadelphia defense missing some starters.
Mullens left plenty of points on the field, including a potential 88-yard touchdown to Kyle Juszczyk. The fullback was wide open with no one remotely close to him early in the afternoon. It's likely he would've gone the distance on an extremely well-designed play by Kyle Shanahan, but Mullens completely misfired. Later in the opening half, Mullens launched a miserable interception in the red zone, heaving the ball off his back foot. Mullens' struggles continued after intermission. He overshot Kendrick Bourne for a routine 10-yard pass and then lost a fumble on a strip-sack by a blitzing cornerback. The camel that broke the straw's back - as a Hall of Fame running back once said - was a pick-six that was the result of Mullens failing to see a linebacker in coverage.
Mullens was benched after this, as Shanahan opted to play C.J. Beathard instead. Beathard engineered a touchdown drive against a prevent defense, and he nearly threw a second score on the ensuing possession, as he managed to get his team to the Philadelphia 33-yard line. However, a Hail Mary try fell incomplete to end the game.
Beathard finished 14-of-19 for 138 yards. He almost has to be the starter next week if Jimmy Garoppolo isn't ready to return. It would be impossible to go back to Mullens after how horribly he played against Philadelphia.
George Kittle was a monster in his return to the field. He caught a whopping 15 of his 16 targets for 183 yards and a touchdown. No one was close to him on the receiving chart, as Deebo Samuel (3-35) and Brandon Aiyuk (2-18) paled in comparison. Aiyuk at least scored a rushing touchdown, which featured a great hurdle of an opposing defensive back.
Jerick McKinnon started in place of the injured Raheem Mostert and did well. McKinnon gained 54 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and he was second on the team in receiving with seven catches for 43 receiving yards.
Chiefs 26, Patriots 10
No one gave the Patriots any shot to win this game. New England was without its Covid-stricken quarterback, all while having to travel and play on the same day because of the unprecedented schedule change. The spread, originally seven, swelled to 12 because of the quarterback swap.
No one informed the Patriots that they were supposed to be blown out, however. They hung tight with the Chiefs throughout the entire evening, trailing by three in the fourth quarter. Bill Belichick had some tricks up his sleeve, confusing Patrick Mahomes for most of the contest. Mahomes didn't commit any turnovers officially, but he should've been charged with three give-aways.
Mahomes fired an early pass that was dropped by safety Devin McCourty and later had another potential pick that was dropped when he fired into triple coverage. In between, Mahomes appeared to be strip-sacked late in the opening half by Chase Winovich. In fact, the Patriots ran back the turnover, but the official appeared to call the play dead. That's what Belichick thought, anyway, as he didn't throw the challenge flag. To Belichick's bewilderment, the refs ruled it an incomplete pass, and Kansas City quickly punted.
Mahomes was very fortunate to get away with a turnover-free performance. He had some other issues, as some of Belichick's looks perplexed him. Mahomes, however, engineered two touchdown drives, which was enough to get his team to 4-0. The Chiefs, in doing so, became the first team in NFL history to reach 4-0 in four consecutive seasons.
Mahomes finished 19-of-29 for 236 yards and two touchdowns to go along with eight scrambles for 28 rushing yards. The stat line looks good, especially against a Belichick-coached defense, but Mahomes is very lucky three turnovers weren't tacked on to his numbers.
Mahomes' two touchdowns came on flips to Tyreek Hill (4-64) and Mecole Hardman (4-27). Both trailed Travis Kelce on the receiving list, as the All-Pro tight end hauled in three balls for 70 yards. Kelce is lucky he got as many yards, given how great the Patriots tend to be against tight ends.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Sammy Watkins, unlike Mahomes, came away with a turnover on his stat line. This occurred when Stephon Gilmore, a teammate of Watkins' in Buffalo years ago, punched the ball out to force a fumble.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was limited to 64 yards on 16 carries. He didn't do as much work as a receiver as some may have expected, as he caught three passes for 27 receiving yards. Edwards-Helaire has disappointed since the 2020 opener when he battled the Texans and their worst-ranked run defense.
While the Chiefs were lucky to escape the game without multiple turnovers, the Patriots blew countless opportunities. This game could have gone much differently had Brian Hoyer taken care of the ball, but he gift-wrapped this win for the Chiefs. He started early on an interception on an overthrown pass. He also lost a fumble on a strip-sack to run a lengthy drive in the third quarter. This was one of two blown chances in the red zone, with the other being a sack taken to run out the clock in the opening half. Hoyer was so oblivious to the game conditions that he thought he had a timeout to use following the sack.
Hoyer's strip-sack, which was the result of him holding the ball forever, was the camel that broke the straw's back. Belichick decided that was it for Hoyer, who finished his first-ever start with the Patriots 15-of-24 for 130 yards and the two turnovers. Jarrett Stidham stepped in and engineered a touchdown drive, but more turnovers took place after that. Stidham threw a pick-six on the ensuing offensive possession, though that wasn't his fault because a pass to Julian Edelman popped out of the receiver's hands and into the arms of Tyrann Mathieu, who ran the turnover back into the end zone. Stidham's next give-away, however, was his fault, as he failed to see a safety in coverage on a heave into the end zone.
Stidham finished 5-of-13 for 60 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Newton is unlikely to play in Week 5, so one has to wonder whom Belichick will go with next week against the Broncos.
Edelman had a nightmare evening. His pick-six folly was one of three drops he was guilty of in this contest. He ended up with just three receptions for 35 yards on six targets. I'll need to ask him what happened in this game at the next family reunion.
Elsewhere in the Patriot receiving corps, Damiere Byrd led the way with five catches for 80 yards, while N'Keal Harry (3-21) scored the sole aerial touchdown. He drew an interference flag to set up his own score.
Damien Harris returned from injury to reach the century plateau. He got there exactly, running for 100 yards on 17 carries. James White, also making a comeback for a much different reason, caught seven passes for 38 receiving yards.
Packers 30, Falcons 16
The Falcons were down two safeties entering this game, which was a concern until it was announced that the Packers' top two receivers, including Davante Adams, would be sidelined. What wasn't anticipated was that the Falcons would lose two more safeties, which made it extremely difficult for them to defend Aaron Rodgers and his limited supporting cast.
While Rodgers was set to throw to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and a bunch of no-names, a star may have emerged for the Packers. Tight end Robert Tonyan, who performed well against the Saints, dominated the Falcons. He caught all six of his targets for 98 yards and a whopping three touchdowns. This needs to be taken with a slight grain of salt because Atlanta's injury-ravaged defense is abysmal, but Tonyan might just be the Packers' first potent tight end since Jared Cook.
Tonyan was the recipient of three of Rodgers' four touchdowns. Rodgers ended up going a near-perfect 27-of-33 for 327 yards and the quartet of scores. Falcons defense or not, this was a very impressive showing, considering the state of the receiving corps.
Speaking of the receiving corps, Valdes-Scantling led the position with four catches for 45 yards. Someone named Darrius Shepherd was next with two grabs for 21 yards. Shepherd almost scored, but was tackled inches shy of the goal line on one of his receptions.
Aaron Jones didn't quite dominate this game like some thought he might, but he still found the end zone on one of his five receptions. Jones rushed for 71 yards on 15 carries to go along with 40 receiving yards. Jones lost a scoring opportunity to Jamaal Williams, who was stuffed on a fourth-down try in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Falcons' offense also suffered an injury, with Julio Jones (4-32) going down in the second quarter. This was especially problematic with Calvin Ridley being smothered by Jaire Alexander. The elite Packer cornerback, who was questionable heading into the game, completely erased Ridley, who was kept off the scoreboard completely. He didn't catch a single pass. Not one. He was targeted in the end zone on one occasion, but a Packer player knocked the ball away from him.
Matt Ryan had no answers for the Packer defense outside of a 20-play, 96-yard drive in the opening half that culminated with a field goal. Ryan struggled otherwise until he got the chains moving in garbage time. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, Todd Gurley stole two touchdowns, while Ryan tossed none.
Ryan finished 28-of-39 for 285 yards. While Ryan is still a very good quarterback, he's now in his mid-30s and will continue to decline. The Falcons, now 0-4, will have to consider Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft. That's the plan I have for them in my 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
With Jones injured and Ridley erased, someone named Olamide Zaccheaus dominated the stat sheet. Zaccheaus caught eight of his nine targets for 86 yards. He should be added in fantasy only if Jones is sidelined. Hayden Hurst (4-51) was next on the receiving list.
As mentioned earlier, Gurley scored twice. This saved his fantasy night, as he rushed for a mediocre 57 yards on 16 carries otherwise.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.