NFL Week 4 Monday review column
By David McDonnell
Another Sunday in the books and another footballing feast for the eyes with terrific action and close encounters right across the National Football League.
With the exception of the late, late contest between the Chiefs and the Bucs, the other 14 matches all were one-score games during the fourth quarter. There was even a point during the early kick-offs where all nine matches were one-score games in the fourth quarter at the same point in time.
Where in the world would you find this level of competition in professional sport?
The answer is, of course, is nowhere but in the NFL. It is the reason why supporters of gridiron tune in week in, week out as the action continues to deliver the goods.
Let’s start with one of the most anticipated match-ups, when Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson went head-to-head.
Bills @ Ravens
By the beginning of the fourth quarter the game was tied 20-20, as this thoroughly entertaining contest was played out on soft ground and in heavy rain.
Both protagonists were to the fore.
Lamar Jackson helped the Ravens into an early lead when on his first drive, he took advantage of the short field, after an interception by Marlon Humphrey, and shuffle-passed the ball to JK Dobbins for the opening touchdown. He then found Devin Duvernay with a heads-up play for another six-pointer.
At the end of the first half, Josh Allen kicked into action and led a drive which ended when he threw to Isiah McKenzie for a touchdown with 13 seconds left to make it 10-20 at the break.
Allen was immense after half time and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. He finished off the opening drive by taking off on a scramble to the left sideline and stepping inside the oncoming defenders for a touchdown to level the scores.
The game remained 20-20 as Lamar fired to Devin Duvernay, who brought the play up to the one-yard line. Three plays later and the Bills defence stood firm.
Then came a surprising call by Ravens coach, John Harbaugh, who turned down the chance to take a three-point lead with the field goal and went for it on fourth down. Buffalo continued their goal-line stand as Baltimore’s 14-play drive ended with no points. Jackson’s next drive also ended in disappointment when Jordan Poyer got his second interception of the game with four minutes remaining.
Allen once again took centre stage and led his team down the field with superb quarterback play.
By the time the Bills were on the three-yard line, they had worked the clock down to three seconds remaining when Tyler Bass kicked them to victory with a field goal.
This was a terrific contest decided by small margins with great performances across both teams. It will be remembered as the biggest comeback victory of Josh Allen’s career to date as the Bills came from 3-20 down to win 23-20.
It looked at the time to be the best quarterbacking performance of the weekend, but not to be undone, Patrick Mahommes reminded everyone what a superstar he is with a sensational performance in a packed Raymond James Stadium in the late kick off.
In doing so he gained a margin of revenge for the loss in Superbowl 55 as he tore the Bucs defence to pieces.
He started the game with touchdowns on his first three drives. On the night, he was just electric with a performance littered with jaw-dropping plays. Throughout Mahommes displayed his natural ingenuity with ball-in-hand on a level that most players could only dream of.
In my opinion, Mahommes showed a growing maturity and progression with his game management by leaning on all of his receiving core, which made the Chiefs attack unpredictable throughout. Tom Brady did well to keep the score a respectable 41-31.
It also finally put to bed for me that Kansas might struggle without the Cheetah, Tyreek Hill. If they can do this to the Bucs defence, then every other defensive coordinator on their schedule better sit up and take notice.
It’s only Week 4 and already I’m finding it hard to contain myself with the prospect of these three quarterbacks, Allen, Jackson and Mahommes, duking it out for supremacy in the AFC when knockout football returns in January.
Young Guns Part 1
One of the most interesting happenings of Week 4 was the somewhat unexpected introduction to two rookie quarterbacks during two tightly-contested fixtures.
Jets @ Steelers
Pittsburgh trailed 10-6 at home to the New York Jets, after Braxton Barrios found his QB Zach Wilson with a ‘Philly-Special.’
It led Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to make a quarterback change at half time when he benched Mitch Trubisky for his first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett much to the delight of the home crowd. After three runs and a quarterback sneak to pick up the first down the crowd began chanting ‘Kenny!!!, Kenny!!!’
Pickett’s first pass down in the NFL resulted in an interception. However, the home crowd were not going to be deterred and a few plays later safety Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted back to bring the play down near the goal line.
From there Pickett ran it in and the “Kenny, Kenny” chants erupted once again. He followed this up with another rushing TD in the fourth quarter as the Steelers turned the game around with a 10-20 lead.
With less than eight minutes left, Jets QB Zach Wilson, in his first appearance of the year, showed what a young talent he is as he led a comeback effort. He fired to Corey Davies to make it 17-20. After a late drive, he fed another rookie, running-back Breece Hall, for the winning score with only 16 seconds left.
The action wasn’t over. With four points between the teams, Pickett had one last chance for a Hail Mary and as his delivery sailed into the endzone, safety Lamarcus Joyner grabbed an interception to finish the contest.
Young Guns Part 2
Patriots @ Packers
What was expected to be a defensive spectacle ended up being a very entertaining contest, which took on a new dimension in the first quarter after Patriots back-up QB Brian Hoyer got a head injury.
It resulted in an early introduction for the Pats third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe, a fourth-round pick from Western Kentucky, to make a highly unexpected NFL debut.
It was another rookie Christian Watson who ran in his first NFL TD when he took a pop-pass from Aaron Rodgers in motion.
The Pats played physical smash-mouth football which kept Rodgers on the sideline and by the time he retook the field in the last minute of the second quarter, he had only thrown for 38 yards. Two plays later and Rodgers threw a pick-six, his second ever of his career at Lambeau Field. It left the Packers trailing 10-7 at the break.
In the second half, the teams went blow for blow. First Rodgers fired to his tight-end Robert Tonyan for a TD and the following run-heavy drive from New England ended with Zappe finding DeVante Parker on play-action for the first passing touchdown of his career.
The sides swapped scores again in the fourth quarter when a Damien Harris score was replied to when Rodgers found rookie Romeo Doubs for the 500th TD of his career. The game finished tied and in overtime Rodgers led his team down the field for Mason Crosby to kick the winner from 31 yards with four seconds left.
As unlikely as events unfolded to give Zappe his first starts, something more unlikely happened in the New York Giants victory over Chicago. Daniel Jones had to leave the field with an injury and then his replacement Tyrod Taylor also had to exit with an ankle injury.
With no other QB on the playing roster, it left star-of-the-show Saquon Barkley to go under centre as a wildcat QB and he led the Giants down the field in the fourth quarter for the insurance field goal in a 12-20 win over the Bears.
The Minnesota Vikings won an excellent contest in the early kickoff in London against a New Orleans team that showed grit and determination to stay in the contest throughout and then took a lead late in the fourth quarter.
Justin Jefferson was the star of the contest with 147 receiving yards on the day and when he rushed in from three yards, London got to see his ‘Griddy’ touchdown celebration to help the Vikings regain the lead in fourth quarter.
A missed PAT left three points between the teams.
Saints kicker Will Lutz in particular had an afternoon to remember when his 60-yard kick went between the posts to tie the game with two minutes remaining. Fast forward to the last play of the game and Lutz was in a similar position with another long-range attempt to bring the contest to overtime.,
However, this time his effort hit the post and then the crossbar for a ‘double-doink’ that secured victory for the Vikes.
If there is a more improved player in the NFL than Jalen Hurts, I haven’t seen him.
Trailing 0-14 on the road away to Jacksonville, he displayed courage and leadership to lead his team to a deserved win. The Eagles offence that is just rolling at the moment.
A coach that definitely doesn’t get the respect he is due in my opinion is Nick Siriani, who deserves credit for building the offence around Hurts in a similar way to how Baltimore has built around the talent of Lamar Jackson.
Helped by a superb offensive line they run opinion plays and play action to great effect and he schemes Hurts to where he is most dangerous: outside the pocket. It will be interesting if he meets a defence that can contain him, but so far he has hurdled all the obstacles put before him.
The Eagles are the only team to go 4-0 and with running-back Miles Sanders running impressively for 156 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Slightly more impressively, Rashaad Penny ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns in what, so far, is the highest scoring game of the season as the Seahawks beat the Detroit Lions 48-45.
Seattle led for most of the contest but the Detroit Lions would not give up the ghost.
Tight-end TJ Hockenson had eight receptions for 179 yards and two TDs in a game where both quarterbacks Geno Smith and Jared Goff balled out for their respective sides. Jamaal Williams also continued to show that he can walk-the-walk as good as he can talk-the-talk, when he ran in for a 51-yard TD, his second score of the game.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo proved his worth once again as his late effort was the difference in a tightly-fought 20-23 contest with the Cleveland Browns.
Kyler Murray got his second win of the campaign when he took down the Carolina Panthers 26-16. Murray came alive in the second half and was the best player on show. He was run close in that regard by teammate Zach Allen, who on the day batted three Baker Mayfield throws and recorded a sack and his performance drew comparisons with swat-machine JJ Watt.
In the NFC East, Cooper Rush continued to win as quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys as they beat their divisional opponents the Washington Commanders, wearing their new black uniforms for the first time.
Derek Henry looked back near his best as the Titans had a 24-17 road win against the Colts, while Austin Ekeler was to the fore scoring three touchdowns as the LA Chargers took the honours away to the Houston Texans.
Finally, Josh McDaniels got his first win as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in an entertaining 23-32 contest at home to the Denver Broncos. Running-back Josh Jacobs was key to the victory with 175 yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdowns.
Another few hours to catch my breath until the week rounds off with an NFC West match-up as the San Francisco 49ers take on their neighboring rival LA Rams.
Read our MNF preview later today!