While we wonder if the NFC West will have a team finish over .500 this year, here’s our quick slants from Week Four’s early games.
1. You can’t overstate what a massive, season-saving comeback the
Broncos had in Tennessee. Denver won 26-20 despite giving up a kick
return touchdown. They won despite only getting eight rushing yards on
17 carries from their running backs in the entire game.
because Kyle Orton is playing like a top-five NFL quarterback. The Titans
pass defense came into Sunday’s game as one of the league’s best. Orton
carved them up for 348 yards despite no threat of a running game. The
Broncos face the Ravens and Jets next. They couldn’t
afford to fall to 1-3.
2. The Titans offensive line doesn’t look right. They are supposed to be the foundation of the team, but giving up way too much penetration in the running game. Tennessee couldn’t hold a lead against the Broncos because they couldn’t run. Chris Johnson was held to 53 yards on 19 carries. Forget another 2,000 yard season; Tennessee’s run game has been mediocre.
3. Opponents have taken away the deep pass from Drew Brees. I gave the Saints a pass for “winning ugly” earlier in the year, but there were worrisome aspects about their narrow victory over the Panthers.
Drew Brees threw 48 passes Sunday; not one of them went for more than 20 yards. Teams have a book on Brees this year; he’s continually struggled to convert vertical passes. The injury-plagued Saints running back crew was not a huge problem Sunday.
4. The Panthers, meanwhile, blew an outstanding chance for a meaningful upset. Like the Titans, they are built from the inside out. And like the Titans, the offensive line has let them down in key spots. The Panthers were in position for a game-winning field goal, but a four-yard loss by DeAngelo Williams and then a sack by Saints safety Michael Jenkins won the game for New Orleans.
Give Saints safety Usama Young a lot of credit for a great tackle on Williams.
5. The Ravens earned their win in Pittsburgh. They protected Joe Flacco well most of the day. They consistently moved the ball better than the Steelers. (320 total yards to 210.) Pittsburgh understandably had very conservative play-calling and struggled to protect Charlie Batch when he dropped back.
This win will echo in December. It would have been devastating for the Ravens to fall two games behind Pittsburgh with two division losses.
6. If the Bengals didn’t like winning ugly, it will be interesting to see how they handle losing ugly in Cleveland. You know this was an easy upset to see coming when Florio and I picked it right. The Browns have played all four games tough and were overdue.
7. The Rams win puts them in the NFC West title race. Really. Eight or nine wins could win the division and there should be a three-way tie for first at 2-2 if the Cardinals lose in San Diego. Great effort by Steven Jackson to play through a groin injury.
8. The Seahawks have lost two road games by a combined score of 51-17 this year. They won twice in Seattle by a combined score of 58-26.