Lombardo: Top 10 NFL Reactions From Wild Week 4

Miles Sanders Eagles


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Miles Sanders #26 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts to a first down.

Nick Sirrani took the next step in his evolution as a head coach, and the Philadelphia Eagles cemented their status as the team to beat in the NFC amid soaking rain and swirling winds inside Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, October 2.

Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts opened Week 4 uncharacteristically erratic — be it due to the onslaught of the downpour or Jacksonville’s swarming front-seven, the last of the NFL’s unbeaten found themselves in a 14-0 early hole.

Buoyed by an Andre Cisco interception return for a touchdown, Jacksonville surged to a 2-touchdown lead as Hurts was held to just 4-of-8 passing for 60 yards and the interception in the first quarter.

That’s when Sirianni course-corrected, committed to the Eagles’ bread-and-butter, and Philadelphia ran roughshod over the AFC South-leading Jaguars.

While it is absolutely true the Eagles’ offense is a big-play waiting to happen in the vertical passing game since wide receiver A.J. Brown’s arrival and Hurts had completed 67.3% of his passes through the first three weeks, Philadelphia is at its best when it runs the football effectively.

From the second quarter onward, the Eagles as a team rushed for 150 yards, 4 touchdowns, and by the game’s end, averaged 4.29 yards per carry en route to 29 unanswered points in a 29-21 victory.

The Eagles’ offensive line is the most dominant in the NFL, and Sirianni adjusted to the miserable conditions and his quarterback’s struggles to let the line road grade for a stable of backs that carried the offense.

Miles Sanders rushed for a career-high 134 yards and 2 touchdowns, Kenneth Gainwell chipped in 19 yards and a touchdown, and Hurts’ mobility continued to pay dividends with 38 yards and a score.

When the Eagles needed seven tough yards to move the chains on 3rd & 7 with 2:22 remaining and nursing an 8-point lead, Sanders delivered, as he did all afternoon.

The Eagles have proven they can beat you through the air. But on Sunday afternoon, Philadelphia pounded the Jaguars into submission on the ground. Meanwhile, Jonathan Gannon’s defense forced five turnovers.

“[Sirianni] did a really nice job today,” an Eagles team source told Heavy, of Sirianni’s in-game performance. “I felt like he really started to turn a corner last year, but this game was a really solid job of adjusting.”

Winning games like Sunday back up the Eagles’ preseason Super Bowl hype.

“They have a complete offense,” an AFC South Scouting Director told Heavy on Sunday. “But they also have a really good defense. So, when you see what they did to Jacksonville, they can be one of the top teams in the NFC.”

Here are 10 other takeaways from Sunday’s Week 4 action across the NFL.


It Takes 60 Minutes of Domination to Beat the Bills

Until the clock strikes zero, the Buffalo Bills are always a threat.

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens learned that lesson the hard way Sunday afternoon.

One week after simply running out of time to trot out the field goal unit for a game-winning try in Miami, quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense unleashed a frenetic comeback in Baltimore.

Even the Ravens jumping out to a 20-3 second-quarter lead couldn’t keep the cardiac Bills from carding a bounce-back win against a fellow AFC heavyweight.

Allen and the Bills stormed back with 20 unanswered points, capped by a Reid Ferguson 21-yard game-winner just as time expired, 23-20, Bills’ status as Super Bowl favorites intact.

How did Buffalo do it?

Allen put the offense on his back, rushing for 53 yards and a touchdown after halftime, in addition to 108 second-half passing yards and a touchdown. Throw in Ravens head coach John Harbaugh opting against trying a go-ahead chip shot field goal try with 4:15 remaining, that instead wound up a back-breaking Jackson interception.

“Good luck slowing that team down,” an AFC South scout told Heavy, of the Bills. “They have weapons all over the place, and that quarterback is a cyborg.”

Sunday in Baltimore, the Ravens just couldn’t quite hold Allen and the Bills’ weapons down for 60 minutes. They paid the price.

This was the type of win that could significantly impact the race for home-field advantage in the AFC, as the Bills move to 3-1 with the tiebreaker in hand over the 2-2 Ravens.


Aaron Rodgers’ Milestone a Glimpse of the Packers’ Future

There’s something a bit poetic about rookie Romeo Doubs being on the receiving end of Aaron Rodgers‘ 500th career passing touchdown.

That’s what happened with 6:14 remaining against the New England Patriots, in the Green Bay Packers‘ eventual 27-24 overtime escape.

Sunday inside sunny Lambeau, Doubs pulled down Rodgers’ historic touchdown, in a 5-catch, 47-yard and 1 touchdown effort, as Green Bay’s first-round pick Christian Watson also reached pay dirt on a 15-yard rushing touchdown.

There had been much handwringing in Titletown over this offense’s makeup without Davante Adams, and the Packers’ receivers went through plenty of growing pains in the first two weeks to justify those concerns.

But, Rodgers now has a whopping 123.2 passer rating when targeting Doubs, and an 87.2 mark when targeting Watson.

It’s still early, just four weeks into their rookie campaigns, but Watson and Doubs are not only heating up but they also have the look of potential centerpieces of the Packers’ passing game for years to come.


The Kenny Pickett Era Begins for the Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin appears to have seen enough.

With 11:07 remaining in the third quarter against the Jets, first-round rookie Kenny Pickett replaced Mitchell Trubisky behind center with Pittsburgh trailing 10-6.

Unfortunately for the Steelers, the Pickett era began similarly to how the Trubisky epoch has played out in Pittsburgh.

Pickett’s first pass was intercepted by Jets safety Jordan Whitehead, and the University of Pittsburgh alum wound up throwing 2 more picks, on his way to a 10-of-13 for 120-yard NFL debut. But, the rookie passer also rushed for a touchdown, the first of his career.

Even though Pickett’s stat line was underwhelming, he still flashed the plus-arm strength and poise from the pocket the Steelers identified ahead of selecting him No. 20 overall in the 2022 draft. Despite the outcome, despite 3 turnovers, there’s no turning back for Tomlin now.

The Steelers are now Pickett’s team.


Saquon Barkley Powering Giants Offense, Even When He Doesn’t Touch the Ball

Saquon Barkley returned to his most dominant form on Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys, rushing for 81 yards and a touchdown, including a 36-yard slashing and dashing run through the heart of the Cowboys’ defense for a touchdown.

Finally healthy, Barkley is once again the most explosive and prolific running back in the NFL.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Bears, and New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka capitalized on Barkley’s resurgence by drawing up a pair of play-action fakes that sprung quarterback Daniel Jones for 2 rushing touchdowns.

Kafka played off the Bears’ respect for Barkley by calling a play-fake on a run off right tackle by Barkley that Jones instead tucked and sprinted off the left side and down the sideline for a 21-yard touchdown. Later, a fake halfback dive sprung Jones on a naked boot for an 8-yard touchdown scamper.

When Jones went out with an ankle injury, and backup Tyrod Taylor was forced into the concussion protocol, Barkley was the last man standing as the Giants’ emergency quarterback. During his time at Penn State, Barkley would routinely dominate quarterback competitions during practice, but this was his first extended run behind center.

He wasn’t asked to throw a pass, but Barkley with the ball in his hands on every snap is a recipe for dominance.

Barkley was a force in the ground game against Chicago, rushing for 146 yards while averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and playing a vital role on Jones’ two rushing touchdowns.

Whoever is behind center for the Giants next week, New York’s ability to parlay their star running back’s explosiveness into big-play opportunities and scores from the quarterback position has the potential to throw the playbook open for the rest of the season.

If nothing else, using Barkley both as a driving force on the ground, as well as a decoy, could really mask the Giants’ deficiencies at wide receiver.


Zach Wilson’s Presence Ignites the Jets

Zach Wilson came of age in his 2022 debut.

Making his first start back from a torn meniscus that sidelined him since August, Wilson went into a tough environment, overcome adversity in the middle of the game, and ultimately lead his second career comeback game-winning drive leading the New York Jets past the Steelers, 24-20.

Not only did Wilson pass for 252 yards with 2 touchdowns to 1 interception on Sunday, but he also caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Berrios with 12:42 remaining in the second quarter.

In the three games Wilson was sidelined, the Jets averaged 370 yards of total offense and just 17 points. But, with Wilson back in the saddle In Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Jets’ offense took flight, slicing, dicing, and gashing the host Steelers for 348 yards of total offense and converted the biggest plays in the game’s biggest moments.

Maybe Sunday will wind up being a turning point for Wilson and the Jets.


The Chargers Need to Keep Feeding Austin Ekeler

The Los Angeles Chargers may have entered Sunday facing the most adversity in the league.

Without All-Pro wide receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring), All-Pro pass rusher Nick Bosa (torn ACL), All-Pro offensive tackle Rashawn Slater (torn biceps), and quarterback Justin Herbert still a bit limited from a rib injury suffered two weeks ago, Sunday was a crossroads for the Chargers. Even against the lowly Houston Texans.

But, even with so much star-power sidelined, and Herbert still banged up, running back Austin Ekeler became the star attraction for Los Angeles’ offense.

Ekeler logged 13 carries for 60 yards and a pair of touchdowns, adding 6 catches on 7 targets for 49 yards and another score.

Sunday marked the first time this season and 22nd time in his career that Ekeler surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage. As the Chargers navigate this season besieged by injuries, Ekeler has the chance to be the driving force.


The Vikings Have a Colossal Problem on Their Hands

Few teams boast the star-power at the offensive skill positions that the Vikings do; receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, and running back Dalvin Cook are among the most consistently dominant players at their respective positions.

However, against the Saints on Sunday morning in London, one of Minnesota’s potentially fatal flaws was exposed on the international stage. The Vikings‘ offensive line may be Minnesota’s undoing.

When Kirk Cousins wasn’t getting sacked three times and hit eight times by the likes of Cam Jordan flying off the edge as Marcus Davenport stunted applying interior penetration, New Orleans’ pass rush was disrupting his rhythm from the pocket just enough to disrupt his throws.

Meanwhile, according to NFL NextGen Stats, the Saints held Dalvin Cook to 27 yards fewer than expected, the NFL Network broadcast pointed out.

The Vikings survived, 28-25, after Saints kicker Wil Lutz double-doinked a game-tying 61-yard field goal attempt. But, against a team that isn’t missing its starting quarterback, starting running back, and top wide receiver, it’s tough to envision this line — in its current form, not costing Minnesota dearly.


The Cincinnati Bengals are Back

Reports of the Bengals’ demise were both premature and greatly exaggerated.

Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins, the Bengals were led by their most prolific playmakers and most important players.

Joe Burrow passed for 287 yards with 2 touchdowns, Joe Mixon rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown, Ja’Marr Chase bounced back with several athletic receptions among his 4 catches for 81 yards as Tee Higgins busted out for 7 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t just that the Bengals won, going away, 27-15.

No, it didn’t even matter that the Bengals seemed to return to the balanced form that powered Cincinnati to a Super Bowl berth last season.

Thursday night felt like a turning point for a loaded roster, that then benefited from the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens all losing Sunday afternoon.

Now .500 and in a three-way tie in the AFC North, Cincinnati faces the eighth-easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. Burrow’s Bengals are hitting stride with nothing but opportunity in front of them.


Comeback Sunday

No one does drama quite like the NFL.

While one-score games have become the norm as the league has mastered parity to near-perfection, Sunday will be remembered as comeback Sunday across the league.

No lead was safe in Week 4, as four teams came from down 16-plus points to win, and nine overcame deficits of 10 or more points to notch victories.

The landscape was littered with cautionary tales of not being aggressive enough in key spots, or of letting loaded teams hang around long enough to break off big plays in big spots to yank victory from the jaws of defeat. In today’s NFL, as we saw Sunday and have seen through the first four weeks, the game truly isn’t over until time runs out.


Commanders Reach Rock Bottom?

At a minimum, the Washington Commanders acquired Carson Wentz in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts in hopes the former No. 2 overall pick would be a bridge, at worst, and at best, he could finally provide stability at the most important position in sports.

Things have now officially gone off the rails in the nation’s capital.

After getting sacked twice by the Dallas Cowboys, Wentz has now been sacked 11 times in his last eight quarters of football.

The Commanders’ offense struggled moving the football all afternoon in Arlington, with the lone highlight being a touchdown catch from first-round rookie receiver Jahan Dotson. Wentz was held to 170 yards with 1 touchdown to 2 interceptions and is now tied for the league lead with 5 picks.

One has to wonder if we’re reaching a tipping point where head coach Ron Rivera would consider making the move to rookie Sam Howell? Wentz certainly hasn’t done much to justify a stranglehold on the starting job the past two weeks.


Week 4 MVP: Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

There might not be a more versatile game-breaker in the NFL than Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Not only did Jefferson catch 10-of-13 targets for 147 yards against the Saints, but his game-altering speed was on display on a gutsy jet-sweep call by head coach Kevin O’Connell where Jefferson’s speed beat the Saints to the pylon with ease for the conversion.


Week 4 Breakout Star: New England Patriots QB Bailey Zappe

It doesn’t get much more impressive than seeing a fourth-round rookie quarterback forced into action as the third-string quarterback, go toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers, the Packers, and the ghosts of Lambeau Field.

But, that’s what Bailey Zappe did on Sunday, taking Rodgers’ Packers to the brink — and to overtime — while completing 10-of-15 passes for 99 yards with 1 touchdown for a 107.4 passer rating. Zappe managed the Patriots’ offense nearly flawlessly, and nearly pulled off a monumental upset.

https://heavy.com/sports/philadelphia-eagles/jalen-hurts-week-4-top-10-reactions/ Lombardo: Top 10 NFL Reactions From Wild Week 4

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