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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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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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