NFL’s Week 4 winners, losers
Tom Brady’s triumphant return against the New England Patriots, in the stadium he called home for 20 seasons, dominated Week 4 in the NFL.
And while Brady yet again can claim bragging rights, other teams made statements in their games. None was more significant than the Arizona Cardinals exorcising their struggles under the Kyler Murray-Kliff Kingsbury era against the Los Angeles Rams. In a battle of undefeated NFC West teams, the Cardinals took care of business on the road, and Murray and Kingsbury secured their first-ever victories against the Rams.
The defending AFC champion Chiefs also have something to celebrate, namely their breaking out of a funk in a victory over the Eagles. But Kansas City still has some weaknesses to fix to get back to top form.
Here are the winners and losers of Week 4 in the NFL.
Chiefs get right: It says something that Patrick Mahomes had one fewer touchdowns (five) than he had incompletions in a dominant 42-30 victory on the road against the Eagles and it was a secondary storyline. That’s just the standard that the Chiefs have set in Mahomes and coach Andy Reid’s time together. The Eagles are not the best barometer, but Kansas City broke out of its offensive slump in two specific areas.
The Chiefs had gotten off to slow starts, but Mahomes threw three touchdowns before the first half ended. And Kansas City achieved balance on offense, rushing for 200 yards. It didn’t hurt that the Chiefs also converted 9 of 10 third-down attempts to strengthen their spot as the top team in the NFL in that area (55.2%). But the defense continues to be a liability and can still cost Kansas City if the offense doesn’t show up in a given game.
The Kyler Cardinals: There was no statement victory bigger than Arizona’s 37-20 takedown of the Rams in what was a battle of undefeated NFC West teams. Now, the Cardinals are the only NFC team to remain undefeated at 4-0.
The Cardinals unleashed explosive plays in both the passing and running game and lit up the talented Rams defense for 465 yards. The architect of all that is quarterback Kyler Murray, who looks like an early candidate for the NFL MVP award.
They became the fifth team in NFL history to score at least 30 points and earn 400 yards of total offense in each of their first four games.
Matt Nagy giving up play calling: This may have come later than it should have, but Bears fans should be glad it came at all. After Chicago’s 24-14 victory against the division rival Lions, Bears coach Matt Nagy acknowledged that he gave up offensive play calling, ceding it to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
Even though it was the first public admission, anyone watching the Bears could’ve picked up that something was different. Chicago diversified its offense and relied on play-action, pre-snap motion, a deep passing game, moving the pocket and sporadic designed quarterback rushes. Those are all features that play into the strengths of rookie quarterback Justin Fields.
New York, New York: For the first time in NFL history, both the Jets and the Giants won overtime games held on the same day. It was the first victory of the season for both teams, and the first for rookie head coach Robert Salah of the Jets. The Jets needed a Randy Bullock 49-yard field goal try in overtime to sail left to beat the Titans 27-24. The Giants traveled to New Orleans and got a big day from quarterback Daniel Jones to topple the Saints 27-21.
Bill Belichick: This is perhaps an unfair way to measure Tom Brady’s departure from the New England Patriots, but it’s hard not to put Brady on top – yet again. Brady will hold bragging rights after his Buccaneers pulled out a fascinating 19-17 victory in the first game against the team he spent 20 seasons with.
To be clear, this was an excellent job of coaching and preparing for the greatest quarterback of all time. Perhaps Brady was battling emotions, which may have led to some of his passes being overthrown, or perhaps it was the rainy weather, but Belichick deployed a bunch of two-safety looks on defense that limited Tampa Bay’s passing game from taking the top off the Patriots defense. New England disguised its pressures to force Brady to adjust in the pocket.
On offense, the rushing game was a massive disappointment, but credit Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for setting up a plan that helped rookie passer Mac Jones put New England in a position to nearly win the game.
The no-identity Saints: The seasonopening blowout of the Packers seems so distant right now for the Saints, losers of two of their last three. The latest defeat, 27-21 in overtime, will sting, after New Orleans blew an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead to the previously winless Giants. When New Orleans has won this season, coach Sean Payton has opened up the playbook and let quarterback Jameis Winston take chances down the field.
Against the Giants, Payton went uncharacteristically conservative in the fourth quarter and took the ball out of Winston’s hands as New York battled back.
Davis Mills and the Houston Texans: Asking a rookie quarterback to make his first road start in Buffalo, in rainy weather, was always going to be difficult. But what quarterback Davis Mills and the Texans did in their 40-0 meltdown was ineptitude of historic proportions. It was the worst loss in the history of the Texans franchise.
In the first half, Mills was 1 of 7 passing for 3 yards, with two interceptions. Because he was sacked three times for a combined 26 yards lost, the Texans finished the first half with negative-23 net passing yards.
Ben Roethlisberger on fourth down: If there’s one thing that’s emblematic of how much the Steelers offense has struggled this season, it’s how inept the team has been when it most needs to gain yards.
In its 27-17 loss to the Packers, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger continued an alarming trend of throwing well short of the sticks on fourth-down passing attempts. Pittsburgh is 0-for-5 this year on fourth-down attempts after it could not convert either of its two against Green Bay.