NFL Week 4 Recap: Steelers have kicking woes, Saints/Cowboys a thriller
By Roger Sinclair
Texans 21 Falcons 48
Even the return of Arian Foster could not give Houston any offensive presence in this game as they were obliterated by the Falcons. The Matt Ryan-Julio Jones connection took backseat to the rushing ability of Devonta Freeman and rookie Terron Ward. The duo combined for 140 combined rushing yards and four total touchdowns; three from Freeman, one from Ward. Atlanta also scored two defensive touchdowns, both fumble recoveries taken back to the house. Dan Quinn looks like a Coach of the Year candidate, as he has the Falcons sitting at 4-0 and looking like a completely different team than a year ago. Bill O’Brien is attempting to find some consistency from his quarterbacks, as Ryan Mallett was benched in favor of Brian Hoyer. Hoyer, who was benched himself Week 1, proceeded to make two garbage time touchdown passes. The Texans need to make a decision on their starting quarterback and while both Mallett and Hoyer aren’t the most effective options, bringing stability to the team is a dire need. Arian Foster’s first game back included 35 all-purpose yards and a lost fumble. Houston must figure this all out soon, as they host the Colts on Thursday night. Atlanta has a relatively easy schedule the next three weeks as they play Washington, New Orleans, and Tennessee.
Game Note: Atlanta’s exciting resurgence from the Mike Smith era continues to surprise many. The last time the Falcons were 4-0 was 2012, when the team reached the NFC Championship game, which they lost to the San Francisco 49ers. 2012 was also the last time either the Texans or the Falcons were in the playoffs.
Washington 23 vs. Philadelphia 20
Kirk Cousins led a fourth quarter comeback that demonstrates why Jay Gruden made the right choice in choosing Cousins over Robert Griffin. The 90-yard, game winning drive was very impressive, with Cousins connecting with Pierre Garcon multiple times on the drive. Washington held strong in the first half, shutting out the Eagles and building a 13-0 lead. It’s not surprising that Philly didn’t score, however, as this was already the third time this season they have been shut out in a half of football. Once again, the Eagles were just unable to recover from a poor half of football and fell to 1-3 on the season. A second half resurgence generated hope, with Sam Bradford connecting with Riley Cooper for a 62-yard touchdown and Miles Austin for a 39-yard touchdown. Prized offseason acquisition Demarco Murray was infuriated by his amount of touches and complained about the team’s play calling. This is not a good revelation for the Eagles and unless this situation is fixed soon, the Eagles will become even more disappointing. Washington, on the other hand, recovered from an abysmal loss to the Giants last week and now sits tied for first in the NFC East. It is unlikely that Washington will be able to hold on to a lead in the division later in this season, but with the Eagles underperforming and Dallas riddled with injuries, nothing is out of the realm of possibility.
Game Note: Eagles fans need not panic! The last time the Philadelphia Eagles started a season 1-3 was in 2013, Chip Kelly’s inaugural year. The Eagles would go 9-3 in their final 12 games to win the NFC East. Chip has been in these waters before and there is still hope that the season could turn around, especially with how weak the NFC East looks this season.
Vikings 20 Broncos 23
Poor Teddy. The Vikings quarterback was sacked seven times in Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos. The Vikings went down 13-0 fast in this game as Ronnie Hillman’s 72-yard touchdown and Brandon McManus’s leg put Denver ahead. Bridgewater and company were able to pull within a field goal by halftime with a Mike Wallace touchdown. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Broncos pass rush reminded many of the Pitt Panthers against Virginia Tech. Von Miller’s strip sack of Bridgewater late in the fourth quarter sealed the win for Denver, and they sit 4-0 on the season. Peyton Manning continued to show his age on the field, being ineffective all game and throwing two interceptions that led to points for Minnesota. Denver has established themselves as a defensive team with obvious big play ability, however with Manning deteriorating every game it is unknown what this team’s ceiling is. The Broncos are on the road next week to take on the surprising upstart Oakland Raiders. Minnesota has a bye next week and has extra time to prepare for a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, in what should be a very entertaining matchup.
Game Note: Dating back to 2007, the Vikings have fallen to the Broncos in three straight games. Oddly enough, Denver won every game by 3 points, with Bronco kickers scoring the game winning field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime in each of those games.
Steelers 20 Ravens 23 OT
Bye Bye Josh Scobee. Pittsburgh did everything right in this game but were plagued by their (now former) kicker’s struggles. Michael Vick performed admirably as a backup, not turning the ball over and progressing the offense for most of the game. While he did miss a fourth down pass attempt to Antonio Brown, Vick did not lose the game for Pittsburgh. Le’Veon Bell also carried the load for the majority of this contest with 150 all-purpose yards and a score. Head Coach Mike Tomlin displayed his lack of faith in Josh Scobee, going for multiple fourth down conversion attempts rather than opting for mid-range field goals. This is not unsurprising, however, with Scobee missing two late field goals that likely would have given the Steelers a win. Baltimore should receive some credit, as they marched back from being down 20-7 on the road against their arch-rivals. Justin Forsett was finally able to get some production, finishing with 150 yards rushing. Joe Flacco led two late drives, both off of Scobee’s missed field goals, to tie it at 20-20 and ultimately win in overtime. The Ravens pick up their first win of the season and head home next week to take on lowly Cleveland. The Steelers have a much tougher game, taking on the Chargers on the road. Hopefully the beautiful San Diego weather will allow new kicker Chris Boswell to start off on the right foot.
Game Note: Justin Forsett quietly had a great game against the Steelers’ run defense, putting up 150 yards. Forsett’s total is the most rushing yards the Steelers have allowed in a loss since Priest Holmes ran for 150 yards in 2001. Holmes went on to rush for 1550 yards that season, and Forsett surely hopes he can reach that tally as well.
Cowboys 20 Saints 26 OT
The Cowboys lose their second consecutive game with Brandon Weeden at the helm, and for a second consecutive week it wasn’t his fault. Weeden actually led Dallas on a 91-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Williams to tie the game at 20-20. Weeden was effective all night and had no turnovers, which is stellar for a player of his caliber. New Orleans, happy to have Drew Brees returning to the starting spot, drove down the field quickly and looked to have won this game as they attempted a 30-yard field goal. But as we’ve seen so far this season, kickers have played terribly; Zach Hocker bounced a 30-yard field goal off the upright at the end of regulation to push this game into overtime. Overtime lasted one play, as Drew Brees connected with CJ Spiller for an 80-yard touchdown. The Cowboys’ defense must take responsibility for the last two losses, and unfortunately it only gets uglier. Dallas was stricken by the injury bug once again, with starting linebacker Sean Lee leaving due to a concussion and Lance Dunbar suffering a gruesome knee injury. The Cowboys’ schedule only gets harder from here, and with increased injuries the outlook for this team only gets dimmer. New Orleans got its first win of the season and had defensive starters Keenan Lewis, Jarius Bryd and Dannell Ellerbe return to the lineup. The Saints head to Philly next Sunday to take on the offensively impaired Eagles. Dallas hosts New England in a contest that could get ugly in a hurry.
Game Note: Brandon Weeden lost his 10th consecutive start on Sunday, tying himself with former Jaguar Blaine Gabbert for the active streak of most consecutive losses. The last win for Weeden came in December 2012, while he was the starting QB of the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland won the game 30-7 against the Chiefs.