Eoin Purcell is here with the main talking points from the week’s NFL action. This is ‘The Good, The Bad & The Crazy’.
Steve Smith Sr.
In the build up to this match Smith Sr. announced that there would be ‘blood and guts everywhere’ when his Baltimore Ravens faced his former employers, the Carolina Panthers in Week Four. Smith is a volatile character at the best of times, but this grudge match brought out the best in the 13-year veteran.
Smith torched his old team to the tune of 7 catches for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns. Never one to mince his words, following the game Smith ripped into his former QB Cam Newton saying that he never liked Cam or his style of play. Smith is never far away from controversy, or the highlight reel.
When you join a group whose only members are Jim Brown, OJ Simpson and Emmet Smith you are doing something right. Murray did just this on Sunday night by becoming only the fourth player in NFL history to start a season with four 100-yard rushing games and a TD in each.
Murray is on pace to beat Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record of 2105 yards. Sunday night Murray ran the ball 24 times for 149 yards and 2 TD’s in Dallas’ win over New Orleans.
Murray is the early frontrunner for MVP and if he stays healthy he could help propel Dallas past the 8-8 record they have achieved in each of the past three seasons. Finally Dallas fans may have a reason for optimism.
Minnesota’s back up players
The Vikings faced a difficult season even before they lost their starting QB to injury and their superstar RB to suspension. When Cassell (QB) and Peterson (RB) went down expectations of Minnesota diminished significantly.
On Sunday night the Vikings faced the Atlanta Falcons in what most people believed would be a routine victory for Atlanta. Nobody told this to Minnesota’s backup players. Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, making his first NFL start, threw 19/30 for 317 yards and ran in a TD. WR Jarius Wright had 8 cathces for 132 yards and the RB tandem of Matt Asiata and Jerrick McKinnon combined for 213 yards and 3 TDs.
These outstanding performances led the way to a shock 41-28 victory over the Falcons. Viking nation are hanging their hopes of success on this young group.
Luck basically started Week Four where he finished Week Three. Luck went 29/41 for 393 yards and 4 TD’s Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a blowout win for the Colts.
The only blemish on an otherwise outstanding performance was one interception. Luck has showed real star quality and leadership in bringing the Colts back to a 2-2 record having started the season with two losses. It would be a brave person to bet against Luck continuing his hot streak at home to the Ravens in week five.
Remember all of those preseason predictions of a Superbowl winner coming from the NFC South? Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina were all considered legitimate contenders this year. Through four weeks of the season it looks very likely that 8-8 could be a good enough record to win this division.
Atlanta (2-2) looks great at home, and awful on the road, as this week’s loss to Minnesota shows. New Orleans (1-3) are getting very poor production from their normally top 5 ranked offence and were totally outplayed in every phase against Dallas this week.
Carolina (2-2) cannot score the ball, and their top tier defence has taken a step back from the level it played at in 2013. Change happens quickly in the NFL, and while nobody is writing off the NFC South just yet, these teams need to steady their respective ships in a hurry.
Washington Redskins’ Quarterbacks
The Redskins have a close competition for the starting Quarterback job. Robert Griffin III started the season as the team’s QB. In week one he lead the team to a paltry six points in a below par performance, before injuring himself on the first play in week two.
Kirk Cousins took the wheel and led the team to victory in week two, when he looked every bit the starting QB. In week three Cousins had another great performance in a close loss to division rivals Philadelphia, in which there is no shame.
In Week Four Cousins handed the initiative back to RGIII by throwing 4 interceptions to his one TD in a blowout loss to their NFC East rival New York Giants.
It is still unclear how long RGIII will be side-lined. If Cousins has many more performances like his Week Four outing than RGIII will be the clear favourite to regain his status as the number one QB in Washington.
Entering this season the general consensus was that Philadelphia would be a top 5 ranked offence. Through three weeks of the season the Eagles had lived up to the expectation. What happened in Week Four against the San Francisco 49ers is truly baffling.
Philadelphia had a total of 217 total yards on offence, and only 73 yards in the first half. Chip Kelly’s offence didn’t manage a single score in Sundays loss, with their 21 points coming from Defence and Special Teams.
The Eagles fans and players are confident that this performance was a one off and they will get back to business in Week Five against the St. Louis Rams.
Atlanta use Tight End as Offensive Lineman?
In the previous weeks of the season we have seen Defensive Ends play as Tight Ends, Quarterbacks play as Wide Receivers and Running Backs play as Quarterbacks. This game of musical chairs continued in week four as Atlanta were forced to use a TE as an O-Lineman due to injury issues.
Following injuries to linemen Joe Hawley, Justin Blalock and Lamar Holmes Atlanta were reduced to four eligible linemen. In an act of desperation Atlanta were forced to use Tight End Levine Toilolo at the right tackle position. Unlike previous weeks when the positional switch has resulted in TD’s for Andy Dalton and JJ Watt, Atlanta’s rearranging was unsuccessful.
The Falcons were limited in their fourth quarter play calling and ended up losing convincingly at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. The Falcons will be forced to make moves to rectify their shortage of offensive linemen before their next outing.
The Geno Smith saga in New York
As soon as the New York Jets picked up QB Michael Vick in the offseason they must have envisioned a scenario similar to the one that played out on Sunday night. The NFL is a win now business. As soon as a team loses a couple of matches the fans will want blood, usually that of the head coach or the QB. For the Jets on Sunday it was the quarterback.
In the second half of the Jets loss to the Detroit Lions the Jets fans booed QB Geno Smith when he returned to the field and quickly filled the stadium with chants of “We want Vick”. As a professional Smith needs to understand the fans’ frustrations and respond in a professional manner to this sort of hostility.
Smith decided the best response was to yell “F*** you” at one lucky fan. Unfortunately for Smith this incident was caught by a television camera of a national station and was broadcast all over the US.
Smith immediately apologised for the incident, but the damage was already done. If the pressure to play the veteran Vick ahead of Smith was not already enough for head coach Rex Ryan, Smiths slip up on Sunday may be the final push.
Game of the Week
In a week full of convincing victories Week Four’s Game of the Week award comes from an unlikely source. The previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled off a late upset victory against the frustratingly inconsistent Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers will feel they let a good opportunity to sit atop of their division slip with this loss, and much of the loss comes down to ill-discipline. Head Coach Mike Tomlin addressed this issue in his post-game press conference stating that the 13 penalties for 125 yards is not acceptable and is something the Steeler’ need to improve.
Take nothing away from Tampa Bay though. The Bucs entered this game without starting QB Josh McCown due to injury. His replacement Mike Glennon proved to be a more than capable substitute. Glennon passed for 302 yards and two scores. Glennon’s first score was to rookie WR Mike Evans.
It was Glennon’s second TD pass that was the real play of the game. The Bucs found themselves trailing by seven points on the Steelers 46 yard line, needing a miracle. They found that miracle in the shape of WR Louis Murphy who Tampa Bay had only signed off the streets in the week prior to the match. Glennon found Murphy for a 41 yard gain which set up the game winning score. With only 7 seconds left on the clock Glennon found WR Vincent Jackson in the left corner of the end zone. Jackson made an athletic diving grab to haul in the pass and hand the Bucs a win which was largely due to the opposition’s mistakes. That doesn’t matter to any of the Buccaneers who are happy to get win number one of the season.
1. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0)
The bye week did nothing to remove the Bengals from their position at the top of the rankings.
2. Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
Although the Cardinals did not play this week, Philadelphia’s loss is enough to see them move up one spot.
3. San Diego Chargers (3-1)
Following a week one loss the Chargers keep on winning in impressive style, and keep on moving up the rankings.
4. Houston Texans (3-1)
Houston keep yo-yoing up and down these rankings. A good win over the Buffalo Bills moves them back into the top five.
5. Dallas Cowboys (3-1)
From bottom five to top five in four weeks, the Cowboys have overcome their week one issues thanks to the play of RB Demarco Murray. The Cowboys dismantling of the Saints is enough to secure them the 5th spot in the rankings.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
The Bucs win on Sunday is enough to move them up four places, but they are still one of the league’s worst teams.
29. Washington Redskins (1-3)
The Kirk Cousins bubble burst in humiliating fashion on Thursday night as normality resumed for the Redskins.
30. Tennessee Titans (1-3)
The Titans were put to the sword by the excellence of Andrew Luck and the Colts. Delanie Walker and Bishop Sankey provided some cause for optimism amongst Titan fans.
31. Oakland Raiders (0-4)
The Raiders travelled all the way to London to get beaten this weekend, and it was a bad loss at the hands of distinctly average Miami Dolphins team. This defeat was enough to see Dennis Allen lose his head coaches job.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) Another week another loss for Jacksonville. In the defence the San Diego Chargers are a very good team.
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena.
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