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NFL Week 4 observations: The good, bad and ugly

Pat Mahomes kept the Chiefs unbeaten. Andrew Mather, Chiefs team website

Week 4 of the NFL season saw some high scoring games. We also saw nine games decided by one score. Three of those games were decided in overtime and could have ended in ties. What would another week of games be without more controversy and questionable decisions? Let’s take a look through my lenses at Week 4:

The Good

-Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot tallied 240 total yards and a touchdown in a 26-24 win over the Lions. His most impressive play was a 34 yard over the shoulder catch in one on one coverage on their final drive to set up the game winning field goal.

-Bears second year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw six touchdown passes in a blow out win over the Bucs Sunday. Five of the six came in the first half! Trubisky also tied for the team lead with 53 yards rushing. So much for the sophomore jinx. Khalil Mack has competition for team MVP.

-Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes continues his assault on the record books and is drawing comparisons with Hall of Famer Brett Favre with his “gunslinger” mentality and playmaking ability. He led a fourth quarter comeback win over division rival Broncos on Monday Night Football. Some of the unconventional throws he’s able to make remind some of Favre, especially the cross-body pinpoint accurate throws with sauce on them.

The Bad

-The Vikings and Rams had a shootout Thursday night the ended with the Rams winning 38-31. Both teams are considered two of the best in the league. But did we see chinks in their respective armor? Both have great defenses, but gave up a lot of points. Let’s keep an eye on this moving forward.

-The Dolphins fell back down to Earth with a 38-7 loss to the Patriots. They looked fairly average being outgained 449-172. They’re still technically in the lead of the AFC East, but I believe Cinderella has lost her slipper.

-The Falcons are now 1-3 on the season after falling to the Bengals 37-36 Sunday. This team is two seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance, and is now in danger of missing the playoffs. Sure, it’s early in the season, but key injuries on the defensive side of the ball will make this start to their season hard to overcome.

The Ugly

-Seahawks all pro safety Earl Thomas has been embroiled in a contract dispute with the team as he is in the last year of his deal. Last November, he openly campaigned for the Cowboys to trade for him. In Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Thomas fractured his left tibia and will be out for the season. As he was being carted off, Thomas gestured a middle finger towards the Seahawks’ bench. Not a good look, for Thomas or the team.

-Browns running back Carlos Hyde appeared to pick up a crucial first down against the Raiders with under two minutes left and his team up 42-34. The call was reviewed and reversed. The Browns punted, the Raiders scored a touchdown and two point conversion to tie the game and send it into overtime where they would later win. Sure, the Browns shouldn’t have given up a 14 point lead, but the refs didn’t need to help them either.

-The Cardinals couldn’t even overcome the Seahawks after Thomas got hurt and lost 20-17. They’re a team that’s hard enough to watch because they’re so devoid of talent. Enter rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. He had a respectable start, but the talent around him wasn’t enough to overcome the Seahawks. This team shows the early signs of being a top contender for the first overall pick in the draft.

I believe shootouts every week are going to be the norm. So are ridiculous calls by the refs, as well as boneheaded decisions by coaches and players. Every week, we seem to lose another great player due to freak accident injuries. But that’s football. The same wonderful game we love can  cruelly remind us of how violent it can be. However, let’s enjoy the influx of young talent the league has to sustain this beautifully chaotic game.

 

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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