Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Week 4: What we learned

Fans in Baltimore booed the Ravens players who knelt before the national anthem, even though the PA announcer said what they were doing — praying for "kindness, unity, equality and justice for all Americans" — and asked fans to join them. The team stood for the anthem. In Denver, Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch arrived at the stadium wearing a black T-shirt that said "EVERYBODY -vs- TRUMP." Team employees stood in front of him as he sat during the anthem. ESPN reported that a total of 52 players did not stand for the anthem in Week 4, compared with about 180 in Week 3.

 

Dalvin Cook reached for his left knee even before he hit the turf, and that is never a good sign for a running back who goes down without being touched. The Vikings rookie out of Florida State (above) suffered a left anterior cruciate ligament injury during the third quarter of the Vikings' 14-7 loss to the visiting Lions. The NFL Network reported that Cook suffered a complete ACL tear. "We're concerned about his ACL, but he's going to get an MRI (this) morning and we'll find out," coach Mike Zimmer said. "If you lose a guy like him, you lose a lot of fire­power." Cook was having a productive afternoon with 66 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, and looked to be on his way to another strong run when he suffered the injury while making a cut. He fumbled on the play, but that was hardly the biggest loss of the afternoon. Cook was drafted to replace Adrian Peterson in the Vikings offense. He did nothing during his first three weeks to suggest that couldn't be the case. He entered the game second in rushing in the league with 288 yards. Now his season is in jeopardy, not to mention his career.

You know how many times Tom Brady has lost at home to a top-ranked defense? One, after a 33-30 last-second loss to the Panthers. Brady had a Brady-like day: 307 passing yards, two touchdowns and a fourth-quarter comeback to tie it at 30 with 3:09 to play. But the Pats defense is officially an issue. It has allowed an NFL-worst 461 yards per game and an average of 31.7 points in four games. Up next? Bucs. Hmm.

After an impressive Monday night win in Arizona, the Cowboys couldn't follow up against the visiting Rams, losing 35-30. It might have been a different outcome had the Cowboys not been called for holding on a two-point conversion that would have tied the score at 32 midway through the fourth. It meant they had to drive for a touchdown in the final two minutes and not just a field goal to force overtime. Don't the Cowboys commit an awful lot of dumb penalties?

The first-place Rams are off to a 3-1 start after a road win at Dallas. A big reason is RB Todd Gurley followed up a three-touchdown game against the 49ers with 121 rushing yards, seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. His 215 total yards was a career high. It included a 53-yard catch and run for a touchdown, Gurley's third touchdown reception of the season.

Yes, we know, you had the Bills sitting atop the AFC East after four games. All it took was 106 yards' worth of field goals by Stephen Hauschka in the final 4:44 for a 23-17 road win against the Falcons. One reason for the hot start: The Bills have not turned the ball over in a team-record 15 quarters.

Cam Newton (above) became the first QB to rush for 50 career touchdowns. That's nice. Beating the Patriots 33-30 on the road is better, especially for Newton, trying to rebound from a tough '16. He had 350 total yards (316 passing), led an offense that didn't punt until the fourth quarter and answered Tom Brady's tying TD drive with one that led to Graham Gano's winning 48-yard FG.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said last week that "the quarterback needed to play better." He was referring to himself. He played pretty good in a 26-9 road win against the Ravens, passing for 216 yards and a touchdown. But what makes any quarterback better is a strong running game, and the Steehe Steelers delivered that with Le'Veon Bell rushing for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

The Saints have won two straight, and they have their defense to thank. After allowing 65 points in their first two games, the Saints have allowed 13 in their past two, including Sunday's 20-0 blanking against the Dolphins in London. They are making tackles, swarming to the ball and not allowing big plays. "Complementary football," QB Drew Brees said of how it helps the offense.

It's doubtful Dolphins fans are waiting silently for their team to return from its opening-season world tour that took it to Los Angeles (win vs. Chargers), New York (loss to Jets) and London (loss to Saints). Another poor day for Jay Cutler (above), another no-show for the offense. A change at QB? "It's not time to panic," coach Adam Gase said. "We've been way worse than this."

If anyone needed a trip to Cleveland, it was the Bengals' Andy Dalton, who passed for four touchdowns in a 31-7 victory, his team's first of the year. Dalton was ranked 30th among QBs entering the game. He finished with 286 yards passing, including 215 in the first half when he missed only one of 18 attempts. As for the Browns, well the Indians are looking darn good these days.

The weekly "how not to play this game" was brought to you by the Jaguars, who got caught napping on an embarrassing 75-yard touchdown run by Jets RB Bilal Powell. Powell took the handoff and hurdled LB Telvin Smith. Powell was either tripped or cleared Smith and didn't stick the landing. No whistle, though, so Powell got up and started running and went … all … the … way. Replays were inconclusive. The play stood as called. Any one of a handful of Jag defenders could have touched Powell while he was down to end the play. They didn't, and they will hear about it during film study.

The 49ers almost won a game on five Robbie Gould field goals, but the Cardinals scored the day's only touchdown in overtime for an 18-15 victory. It was Larry Fitzgerald hauling in a 19-yard pass from Carson Palmer for the walkoff win.

How do you replace RB Darren Sproles? With three backs who combined for 214 yards on 42 carries in the Eagles' 26-24 road win against the Chargers. LeGarrette Blount carried the load with 136 yards. With more Eagles fans in the soccer stadium the Chargers now call home, the Eagles sent their hosts to their ninth straight loss. The Eagles team account tweeted out a Carson, Calif., postcard with the message to their fans, "Wish you were here, but it sounds like most of you were." This Chargers-to-Carson thing might not be working out. Sections of seats in StubHub Center, the tiny-for-NFL standards stadium with 27,000 seats, were covered.

Notable injuries

• Titans QB Marcus Mariota will have an MRI exam on his injured hamstring. He was hurt while scoring on a 2-yard run in the second quarter.

• Falcons WR Julio Jones left in the second quarter with a hip flexor injury.

• Browns DE Myles Garrett, the top pick in the draft, remained inactive (ankle). He hasn't play this season.

• Raiders QB Derek Car left with a back injury.

I recently read where it takes time to become a franchise quarterback, but how about that kid Deshaun Watson (No. 4 above)? The Texans rookie tied an NFL rookie record with a five-touchdown day in Houston's 57-14 thrashing of the visiting Titans. He threw for four scores, ran for another and finished with a perfect quarterback rating. This was a week after he nearly pulled off an upset in New England. Those who follow the Texans are impressed with Watson's ability to throw from the pocket, rebound from a bad pass, find his tight ends on third and 8, and play like someone groomed for the NFL passing game during his career at Clemson, which he was not.

And lastly

• Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette has four touchdowns in four games after catching his first scoring pass of the season against the Jets.

• The Rams' Jared Goff has seven TD passes and one interception this season.

• London native Jay Ajayi had a rough homecoming against the Saints, rushing 12 times for 46 yards in the Dolphins' loss. He also had a sideline spat with coach Adam Gase.

• Not that we're counting but the Dolphins' Jay Cutler has thrown eight end-zone interceptions over the past five seasons. That's tied for fourth most in the NFL, ESPN Stats and Info says.

• The Browns were 6-3 on Nov. 6, 2014, after beating the Bengals. Since then they are 4-38 with one win in their past 20 games.

   
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