NFL Nation: 2013 Week 4 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Saints 38, Dolphins 17

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
11:56
PM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- A few thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 38-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins, which moved the Saints to 4-0.

What it means: The Saints were off to a great start even before their potent passing offense really got going. Then they exploded Monday night against the previously-unbeaten Dolphins. The Saints still need to find their run game, but it sure looks like quarterback Drew Brees and dynamic playmakers Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles and Marques Colston are in peak form, which makes the Saints bona fide Super Bowl contenders again. The Dolphins have a solid defense, but they couldn’t figure out how to contain all of those guys.

Brees adds to legacy: Brees completed 30 of 39 passes for 413 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. In the process, he passed Fran Tarkenton for sixth place on the NFL’s all-time passing yardage list (now with 47,353). Brees also tied his own NFL record with nine consecutive 300-yard passing games. And he continued a ridiculous run of “Monday Night Football” dominance. He and the Saints now have a nine-game MNF win streak in which he’s thrown 28 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

Stock watch: Sproles was a monster Monday, with seven catches for 114 yards, four runs for 28 yards and two touchdowns (though he ended on a low note with a late fourth-quarter fumble). Sproles was contained a bit in 2012 by injuries and constant bracket coverage from opposing defenses. But he offered the Dolphins a painful reminder that they can’t leave him in single coverage. While Miami was focused on containing Graham at tight end, Sproles got all 114 receiving yards and both of his TDs before halftime.

Defensive assist: For the first time this season, the Saints’ revamped defense took a back seat to the offense -- but only barely. Two huge first-half turnovers helped New Orleans break the game open (a forced fumble by linebacker Curtis Lofton and an interception by cornerback Jabari Greer). Both led to touchdowns. A first-quarter third-and-1 run stuff by defensive tackle John Jenkins was also big. And in the second half, the Saints started piling on the sacks.

What’s next: The Saints leave the comfort of home the next two weeks with treacherous road games at the Chicago Bears (3-1) and the New England Patriots (4-0). The Saints struggled in their only other road game this year, at Tampa Bay in Week 2. These next two games will tell a lot about their makeup -- and could help determine if they get to play at home during the playoffs.

Rapid Reaction: Saints 38, Dolphins 17

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
11:49
PM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 38-17 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints:

What it means: The Dolphins were handed their first loss of the season and fell to 3-1. Miami simply was not ready for the big stage of "Monday Night Football" and the rowdy crowd in the Superdome. Miami needed to play a near-perfect game to beat the undefeated Saints (4-0) and was not close to reaching that goal. However, the Dolphins were playing with house money after their perfect start. The biggest key for the Dolphins is getting over the embarrassment and disappointment and avoiding a losing streak.

Stock watch: The Dolphins did a couple of things well. The defensive line was strong against the run. Miami held the Saints to 69 rushing yards, and defensive tackle Jared Odrick played well. Miami’s running game also improved, although the team didn’t use it much in the second half after falling behind.

There is a lot more on the downside. This was, by far, Miami’s sloppiest performance of the season. The Dolphins’ attention to detail was not there. Miami had poor ball security and pass protection and too many blown coverages and missed assignments on defense. That usually leads to a blowout on the road, especially against a good team like New Orleans.

Tannehill’s troubles: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was stellar in his first three games but finally fell on hard times in front of a rowdy crowd in New Orleans. Tannehill had four turnovers. The first turnover was a careless fumble when he didn’t protect the ball while fighting for extra yards. The last three turnovers were interceptions thrown into coverage. Games like this provide a good lesson for a young quarterback.

What’s next: The big games do not stop for Miami. Coming off a short week of preparation, the Dolphins will host the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Miami is 1-0 at home this year. The Dolphins had a brutal schedule to start the season but still have a chance to finish with a 4-1 record before the bye week.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 30, Falcons 23

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
11:59
PM ET
ATLANTA -- A few thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday night:

What it means: The Falcons now find themselves in unfamiliar territory -- on the outside looking in. Since 1990, only 9 percent of teams have made the playoffs after a 1-3 start. One of those 22 teams (out of 258) was the 2002 Falcons, who finished 9-6-1 and lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in a divisional playoff game after beating the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card game. But this Falcons team has a tall task, with teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers still remaining on the schedule. And the Falcons were supposed to be a Super Bowl favorite.

Stock watch: If there was a bright spot in the loss, it was the play of tight end Tony Gonzalez. He indirectly lobbied for more touches leading up to the game and responded with 12 catches for 149 yards. His showing included seven catches for 90 yards in the first half and a 21-yard touchdown before halftime on which he shook a falling defender. Gonzalez, who added a second score late, was Matt Ryan's primary target on a night when Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib locked up Julio Jones. If only Gonzalez could play defense.

In the zone: The Falcons got off to a bad start in terms of red zone efficiency, driving down to the Patriots’ 5-yard line on their first possession, then settling for Matt Bryant’s 23-yard field goal. Ryan overthrew Roddy White on fourth-and-2 from the Patriots’ 7-yard line. Then Ryan was sacked on third-and-5 from the Patriots’ 18, causing the Falcons to settle for another field goal. In other words, an offense that needed to improve its red zone efficiency struggled once again.

Run down: The Falcons actually performed well against the run the first three games, surrendering just 79 yards per game to rank fifth in the league. Then they imploded against the Patriots and got gashed. No run was more significant than LeGarrette Blount’s 47-yard touchdown sprint that was the final difference. With injuries mounting at linebacker for the Falcons, other teams might follow the Patriots’ lead and run the ball down against the Falcons.

Line shuffle: Sam Baker returned to the starting lineup at left tackle after missing last week with a knee/foot injury. The Falcons opted to keep Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle and benched Lamar Holmes. Well, Holmes was right back in the lineup after Baker exited the game with a left knee injury and didn’t return. Baker picked up two bad penalties before going down. If Baker’s injury isn’t serious, it will be interesting to see how the Falcons proceed at tackle moving forward.

What’s next: The Falcons face the struggling New York Jets on "Monday Night Football" on Oct. 7 at the Georgia Dome. Under Mike Smith, the Falcons are 1-3 on Monday night, 10-24 all time.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 30, Falcons 23

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
11:51
PM ET

ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the New England Patriots' 30-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

What it means: The Patriots turned in an impressive effort through three and a half quarters and then almost collapsed. But they held on and improve to 4-0 for the first time since the 2007 season. The Falcons have been tough to beat in the Georgia Dome since 2008 (they were 34-7 entering the game), and they have been tough to beat after a loss over that span (22-3). The Falcons made a late charge, and the Patriots helped them get back into it with some sloppy play in critical situations, but the Patriots will obviously take the win.

Stock watch: Patriots defense -- rising. There were plenty of questions leading into the game about how the Patriots’ defense would fare against a top-level quarterback such as Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan after beating rookies EJ Manuel (Bills) and Geno Smith (Jets) and soon-to-be-benched five-year veteran Josh Freeman (Buccaneers). It did its part, holding down the Falcons’ explosive offense. A heavier mix of pressure was part of the plan as Ryan had his rhythm disrupted at times. Cornerback Aqib Talib came up with the big pass breakup on fourth down in the end zone to end the game.

Wilfork’s injury looms large: Starting defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, a five-time Pro Bowler, left the game on the opening drive and didn’t return. He hobbled off to the sideline and then was carted to the locker room. The Patriots announced that he had an ankle injury and, at the start of the second half, Wilfork was spotted in street clothes with his right foot in a boot in the tunnel. The Patriots have been thin at defensive tackle since training camp began. After Wilfork, they have veteran Tommy Kelly and rookies Joe Vellano (undrafted) and Chris Jones (a sixth-round draft pick of the Texans who was claimed on waivers on Sept. 11). Jones was making his debut on Sunday night. Vellano had his first career sack in the third quarter.

Dobson leaves with injury: In addition to Wilfork, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson left the game with a neck injury in the third quarter and did not return. With Dobson not returning, and with Danny Amendola (groin) and special teams captain/emergency receiving option Matthew Slater (wrist) inactive, the Patriots’ depth at receiver was down to three players -- rookie Kenbrell Thompkins, five-year veteran Julian Edelman and rookie Josh Boyce.

Brady’s stats of note: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady extended his streak of games with at least one touchdown pass to 52, which is two shy of tying Drew Brees' record. But in a first half in which the Patriots turned to the power running game, Brady attempted just nine passes. Can’t think of too many times that has happened.

What’s next: The Patriots visit the Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) on Oct. 6.

Rapid Reaction: Titans 38, Jets 13

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
7:35
PM ET
NASHVILLE -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans at LP Field:

What it means: The Jets (2-2) blew a chance to stamp themselves as a legitimate early-season surprise. They were outplayed and outcoached, committing costly mistakes at every turn. Clearly, last week's win over the Buffalo Bills, which looked pretty on the stat sheet (save for the 20 penalties), was a mirage. The Jets were not ready for this game mentally or physically -- and it started with rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who committed four turnovers. That led to 28 points for the Titans (3-1). He received little support. Continuing their lack of discipline, they were guilty of 10 penalties for 66 yards.

Stock watch: Smith took a major step backward -- and that's an understatement. I didn't think a quarterback could play as poorly as Mark Sanchez did last December against the Titans (five turnovers), but Smith did just that. Rattled by the Titans' relentless blitzing, Smith lacked poise, accuracy, pocket presence, situation awareness -- you name it. He was intercepted twice (eight for the season), putting him at a 32-interception pace. He also lost two fumbles, including one at his own goal line that was recovered for a touchdown. That play highlighted Smith's inexperience. Under duress, he actually tried to switch the ball to his left hand with a behind-the-back move. He has 11 turnovers in four games, a 44-turnover pace.

No doubt, fans will be screaming for Matt Simms. That would be a panic move by Rex Ryan and would serve no purpose. You have to ride this out with the rookie, finding out if he is the future. If Sanchez was healthy, it would be a different situation. But he's not, so be prepared to ride the rookie roller coaster.

Locked out: The Jets accomplished their No. 1 defensive goal, containing running back Chris Johnson (15 carries for 21 yards), but they left themselves vulnerable to the pass by using their base defense at times against the Titans' three-receiver sets. Jake Locker executed a controlled passing attack that neutralized the Jets' pass rush and exploited deficiencies in the secondary. He set a career high with three touchdown passes before being carted off in the third quarter with a right hip injury.

The Raiders 2.0: Ryan always has prided himself on having a low-penalty team, but that reputation is getting torched. He placed a huge emphasis on the penalty problem in practice (pushups for everyone), and it did no good. Many of the penalties were of the pre-snap variety, indicating a lack of focus. Ugly stuff.

Receiver problems: The Jets lost their starting wide receivers to injuries, as Stephen Hill (head) and Santonio Holmes (hamstring) didn't finish the game -- injury to insult.

What's Next: Now the Jets head into the difficult portion of their schedule: a Monday night road game against the Atlanta Falcons (1-2), who play the New England Patriots Sunday night.

Rapid Reaction: Broncos 52, Eagles 20

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
7:30
PM ET
DENVER -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 52-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles:

What it means: The Broncos have moved to 4-0 by defeating a passing offense that uses power formations (Baltimore), two read-option teams (Oakland and Philadelphia) and a team that hopes to sport a more traditional look (Giants). They have worked fast on offense, slowed things down and topped 40 points in three of four games.

Stock watch: Even Google stock, with a corporate timeline of good days, has really, really good days. And even quarterback Peyton Manning can have an uptick in a Hall of Fame career. With four touchdown passes Sunday, he set an NFL record with his 24th four-touchdown game and now has 16 touchdown passes this season without throwing an interception. Defensive coaches who have faced Manning through the years say his accuracy is better than ever right now.

On containment: The Broncos' defensive ends had a smattering of issues in keeping Eagles quarterback Michael Vick pinned inside the pocket. Robert Ayers, Shaun Phillips and Derek Wolfe each had moments when they got folded too far down inside in the rush and Vick was able to escape. As a result, the Eagles had 101 yards rushing by halftime. But the Broncos broke the game open after halftime and were more disciplined in the defensive front, largely muting the Eagles run game.

Special-ness: With an offense ringing up numbers suitable to a game controller, the Broncos’ special teams units added their second and third touchdowns of the season -- a 105-yard kickoff return and a blocked punt returned for a score. The Broncos would also have a defensive touchdown on their résumé already this season had linebacker Danny Trevathan not tossed the ball aside too quickly on an interception return in the season opener. It’s tough enough to defend the Broncos' offense, but when they get points from the other units they are nearly impossible to handle right now.

What’s next: The Broncos get another look at an NFC East team when they travel to Dallas next weekend. The Cowboys will face Monte Kiffin’s Cover 2 look with plenty of A-gap blitzes in the middle of the field. It's a defense that requires plenty of patience to solve. But if Manning has shown anything this season, besides other-worldly accuracy, it’s patience in the passing game.

Rapid Reaction: Chargers 30, Cowboys 21

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
7:29
PM ET
SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

What it means for the Cowboys: Once again, the Cowboys let slip away a golden chance to show they were more of a team to watch in the NFC than just a team that can compete in a bad NFC East.

They had an 11-point lead with 1:19 left in the first half, but allowed 20 straight points to the Chargers, leaving with another loss to an AFC West foe. And it doesn’t get easier with another AFC West foe, the Denver Broncos, visiting AT&T Stadium next week.

They lost 17-16 in Week 2 at Kansas City in a game they could have won, but the offense was unable to sustain any momentum. On Sunday, the defense could not come up with any crucial stops after Sean Lee's interception return for a touchdown.

Stock watch: Falling -- Morris Claiborne. He is playing with a dislocated shoulder, but this had nothing to do with his ability to tackle. He was poor in coverage against Vincent Brown and rookie Keenan Allen. Philip Rivers continually went at Claiborne (as well as Bruce Carter, who could not stick with running back Danny Woodhead).

Can’t get off the field: After Lee’s second career pick-six and the third defensive touchdown of the season, the Cowboys’ defense had no answers for Rivers, who was playing behind a line filled with backups.

After the Cowboys took that 21-10 lead, the San Diego offense ripped off 20 straight points with 310 yards on 37 plays. The Chargers only got to third down five times on those 37 plays, and converted three times.

Rivers was hardly pressured, and he was able to toy with the secondary using receivers Allen, Brown, Eddie Royal, Woodhead (two touchdowns) and Antonio Gates (56-yard touchdown).

Can’t stay on the field: Offensively, the Cowboys ran just seven plays in the third quarter.

Their second possession of the second half lasted only seven plays because a Ronald Leary holding penalty negated a first-down catch by Cole Beasley at the San Diego 32. Two plays later, Jason Witten couldn’t hold onto a seam throw from Tony Romo and the Cowboys were forced to punt. The Chargers answered with Gates' backbreaking touchdown.

The Cowboys’ third possession of the second half ended at the Chargers’ goal line when rookie receiver Terrance Williams fumbled, ending any chances for a miracle comeback.

What’s next: Peyton Manning visits AT&T Stadium for the first time when the Denver Broncos come to town, and it is only the second time Manning will play in the area as a pro. Manning brought the 9-0 Indianapolis Colts to Texas Stadium on Nov. 19, 2006 and lost 21-14.
OAKLAND –- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders’ 24-14 loss to Washington:

What it means: Depth is an issue for the Raiders, no doubt. So when they had to play the final three quarters without their starting offensive backfield -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor (concussion) was inactive and running back Darren McFadden (hamstring) and fullback Marcel Reece (knee) were both lost in the first half -- it didn't go well. Simply put, Matt Flynn, Rashad Jennings and Jamize Olawale did not have enough staying power as Flynn was sacked seven times. And the defense, which started out hot, ran out of gas after taking a 14-0 lead.

Stock watch: Falling: McFadden. He’s in a contract year and has never played more than 13 games in a season, so give yourself a pat on the back if you had the injury-prone back going down in Week 4. He started strong, carrying the ball five times for 29 yards, including a 14-yard gain on his first carry. But he was lost in the first half with a hamstring injury and watched the second half in street clothes on the bench.

Just Flynn, baby? With each sack he absorbed, the crowd’s booing of Flynn grew. And sure, his pocket presence left something to be desired. But now you see why Pryor was a more attractive starting QB candidate. His running and ability to extend plays cover up many of the offensive line’s deficiencies. Opposing defenses have to respect Pryor more than Flynn, so to speak, so they are able to pin their ears back and bull-rush Flynn, who finished 21-for-32 for 227 yards, one TD and a pick-six interception. He also lost two fumbles.

What's next: The Raiders (1-3) play host to San Diego (2-2) next Sunday, the day after the A’s play Game 2 of their American League Division Series at the O.co Coliseum. What is not settled yet, though, is the start time for Raiders-Chargers. If the A’s play an earlier game on Saturday, the Raiders kick off at the regularly-scheduled time of 1:25 p.m. PT. But if the A’s have a later game, kickoff will be at 8:30 p.m. PT. Major League Baseball is expected to announce its times early this week.

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 24, Raiders 14

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
7:26
PM ET
OAKLAND -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 24-14 victory against the Oakland Raiders:

What it means: Washington can exhale for at least another game. After an ugly 0-3 start, Washington's victory at Oakland enables them to enter their bye week feeling a little better about themselves. Yes, Oakland's offense is not that great when quarterback Matt Flynn is starting. But the Redskins needed a boost and Oakland provided one. The Redskins will not spend two weeks answering as many tough questions as they would have had they suffered their fourth straight loss. The Redskins showed a little more swagger in the second half on offense, with flashes of the old Robert Griffin III -- and a heck of a hurdle by running back Roy Helu.

Hurry up: The Redskins’ offense started to find its rhythm when they went to a no-huddle attack in the second quarter. They did not get a touchdown out of that look, but it sped the tempo and provided them with a little surge. It also seemed to provide some confidence. The Redskins do not like to use that strategy for an entire game because they feel it changes too much of what they like to do. But they favor it as a change-up approach, and it did its job Sunday. But perhaps the play that really turned their momentum around was a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie corner David Amerson.

Stock watch: Rising: Nose tackle Barry Cofield. The past two weeks Cofield has been the Redskins’ best defensive player. His quickness in the middle, plus his ability to handle -- and occasionally beat -- double teams has been huge. He recorded two sacks in a game for the first time in his career. The Redskins’ defense recorded seven sacks and made one stop after another in the second half. Cofield recovered a fumble caused by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan's sack.

Falling: Special teams. They continue to make mistakes each game and put the Redskins in an early hole when Perry Riley allowed a stunt to get past him for a blocked punt and touchdown. They’re not atoning for their mistakes.

Fortunate bounce: The Redskins received a number of good bounces a year ago when they’d turn their fumbles into touchdowns. That hasn’t been the case this season. But they received one huge break in the fourth quarter when Helu fumbled a third-down reception. The Raiders would have had the ball inside the Redskins’ 30. But an offside penalty negated the play. The Redskins ended up punting on the play; it could have been worse.

What’s next: The Redskins have a bye on Sunday before traveling to face the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 13.

Rapid Reaction: Broncos 52, Eagles 20

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
7:26
PM ET
DENVER – A few thoughts in the wake of the Denver Broncos' 52-20 dismantling of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday:

What it means: Sometimes, on any given Sunday, the far superior team with the incredibly hot quarterback blows out the lesser team. This one played out exactly as it looked on paper, with Peyton Manning shredding the Eagles' subpar defense. Michael Vick and the offense were not able to compete with Manning. Mix in two special teams touchdowns and you get an embarrassing 32-point loss. It is a good thing the Eagles (1-3) aren't in the AFC West. They went 0-3 against San Diego, Kansas City and now Denver in three weeks.

Stock Watch: Falling: Chip Kelly. His predecessor, Andy Reid, is 4-0 in Kansas City. Cleveland, the team he turned down, has won its last two games under Rob Chudzinski. Kelly has lost three games in 14 days, as many as he lost in his final two years at Oregon. Indeed, Kelly must have felt a lot like many of his college opponents as the Broncos ran up the score on his Eagles.

Empty yardage: As hard as it is to believe from the final score, the Eagles were competitive in the first half. They were within one score, 21-13, at the half. But the Eagles had just 13 points to show for 271 yards of total offense in the half. Mistakes –- a dropped first-down pass by Brent Celek, a holding penalty on Evan Mathis –- derailed productive drives. Against Kansas City the week before, turnovers and penalties kept the Eagles to 16 points despite 431 yards of offense.

What's next: The Eagles go from perhaps the hottest team in the NFL to one of the coldest, and from the unbeatable Manning to the one that's scuffling. Next Sunday's road game with the New York Giants gives Kelly and his team a chance to regroup and get their season turned in the right direction. Of course, the 0-4 Giants are overdue for a victory, aren't they?

Rapid Reaction: Titans 38, Jets 13

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
7:13
PM ET

NASHVILLE -- Rapid Reaction from the Tennessee Titans' 38-13 win against the New York Jets at LP Field.

What it means: The Titans rank as one of the NFL’s surprise teams at 3-1 a quarter of the way into the season. But they are likely going to be moving forward without their quarterback, at least for a while. Jake Locker left the game with a right hip injury. He needed to be carted off the field and was eventually taken to the hospital, according to Titans Radio. Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced him. Locker threw three touchdowns and posted a 130.0 passer rating.

Stock watch, defense: Cornerback Alterraun Verner is on fire. He collected two interceptions in the first half and scooped up a fumble that he would have returned for a touchdown if he had not tripped. The Titans wanted Tommie Campbell to win Verner’s job in the preseason, but Verner raised his game and Campbell wasn’t up for the challenge. Now Verner has four interceptions in four games. (Campbell got charity snaps late in the game.)

Stock watch, offense: Nate Washington is now over 5,000 receiving yards in his career. He pulled in four catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns, one from Locker and one from Fitzpatrick. He slowed down and went over Antonio Cromartie to collect Fitzpatrick’s deep ball, then bounced off back judge Billy Smith and headed for the end zone on a 77-yard score.

Abusing the rookie: Two Geno Smith interceptions and two Smith fumbles led to 28 points by the Titans. Once upon a time, defenses with a heavy Gregg Williams influence had a tendency to give up plays to rookies. Not on this day or with this rookie.

Tough sledding: The Jets are very hard to run against, and Chris Johnson couldn’t find any room. He wound up with 15 carries for 21 yards. In the second half, while trying to milk some clock and while they were stalling without Locker, they turned more to Jackie Battle, not that he had much more success. He finished with 11 carries for 42 yards.

What’s next: The Titans complete a three-game homestand with a game against another of the NFL’s most improved teams -- the Kansas City Chiefs. Will Fitzpatrick be starting at quarterback for Tennessee?

Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 23, Texans 20

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
4:41
PM ET

HOUSTON -- A few thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 23-20 overtime victory against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.

What it means: Even on a day when the Seahawks looked awful in many areas of the game, they still found a way to win, pulling off a stunning come-from-behind victory on the road. This game showed the Seahawks have some problem areas on the offensive line and can give up big yards on defense. But it was quarterback Russell Wilson's scrambling and running downfield that got Seattle back in the game in the fourth quarter. Then a Richard Sherman 58-yard interception return for a touchdown tied the game before a Steven Hauschka 45-yard field goal won it. This is the first time the Seahawks have ever won the first four games in a season.

Stock watch: An awful day for the Seattle offensive line, but no one should be surprised with three starters injured. Free safety Earl Thomas had an early interception off a tipped ball and Sherman tied it in the fourth quarter with the pick-six, but the Seahawks struggled on defense in the first half. It was a season-worst day for the defense early, but things changed in the second half and overtime when the Seahawks' defense looked like the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

First half woes: The Seahawks gave up 324 yards in the first half, including 226 yards passing. The Texans led 20-3 at the half after Houston receivers were wide open in the middle of the field against the highly acclaimed Seattle secondary. What happened?

Wilson a sitting duck all day: With three starters out on the offensive line, including Pro Bowlers Max Unger and Russell Okung, the backups up front were no match for defensive end J.J. Watt, linebacker Whitney Mercilus and the other Houston pass-rushers. Wilson was sacked five times and under pressure on almost every pass play, yet still managed to bring the Seahawks back in the fourth quarter and lead the team to victory.

What’s next: The Seahawks travel to face the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. It will be the second consecutive 10 a.m. PT start time for the Seahawks and the third of five 10 a.m. starts this season.

Rapid Reaction: Bills 23, Ravens 20

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
4:36
PM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills:

What it means: Undone by interceptions and no ground game, the Ravens (2-2) were upset by the banged-up Bills (2-2). Baltimore didn't show up in the first half just a week after routing the Houston Texans. The Ravens fall into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) and Cleveland Browns (2-2).

Picked apart: Quarterback Joe Flacco threw a career-worst five interceptions against a makeshift Buffalo secondary, and the Bills converted those turnovers into 13 points. The most interceptions Flacco had previously thrown were four (Week 2 in 2010 at Cincinnati). His fourth interception came late in the third quarter, when the Ravens were down six points (20-14) and in Bills territory. His last one occurred in the final minute of the game when the Ravens were within 15 yards of a game-tying field goal.

Stock Watch: Rising -- wide receiver Torrey Smith. The Ravens' top playmaker caught five passes for 166 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season. It makes you wonder why the Ravens didn't go to Smith more often. Falling -- the Ravens' run game. Even with the return of running back Ray Rice, the struggling ground attack couldn't get anything going against the second-worst run defense in the league. The Ravens managed 24 yards on the ground and couldn't break a run longer than 7 yards. Baltimore completely abandoned the run game after halftime, running the ball two times in the second half.

Streak ends: The Ravens saw their streak of not allowing a touchdown end at nine quarters. Cornerback Corey Graham, who replaced injured Lardarius Webb, was beaten by Robert Woods for a 42-yard score. It was the first touchdown given up by the Ravens' defense in 30 drives. The Ravens then gave up another touchdown in the second quarter after a Flacco interception (which went off Ed Dickson's hands).

What's next: The Ravens stay on the road next Sunday, visiting the Miami Dolphins (3-0), who play at the New Orleans Saints on "Monday Night Football." Baltimore is 0-2 on the road this season.

Rapid Reaction: Bills 23, Ravens 20

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
4:36
PM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

What it means for Bills: Another nail-biter for Buffalo at home, but they were able to come away with a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. The Bills intercepted Joe Flacco five times, but came away with only 13 points off the turnovers. However, Flacco's last interception was his biggest. In a three-point game with less than a minute remaining, linebacker Kiko Alonso came up with his second interception of the game, sealing Buffalo's victory. The Bills gained only 147 yards on offense, limited by a 10-for-22 performance by rookie EJ Manuel, who threw two interceptions. But with the Ravens' turnovers, it was enough to win.

Stock watch: Rising -- Aaron Williams. The former second-round pick came up big for the Bills, intercepting Flacco twice. With Leodis McKelvin not active due to injury, Williams started at cornerback Sunday after beginning the season as a safety. Williams briefly left with a shoulder injury in the first half, but later returned to the game and had a strong performance when the Bills needed it. He later departed with a lower back injury in the fourth quarter.

Spiller, Jackson hobbled: The Bills had a pair of injury scares in their backfield. C.J. Spiller left briefly with an ankle injury before returning, and Fred Jackson also left with a leg injury but returned. Buffalo leaned heavily on its running game Sunday, and it paid off. Spiller and Jackson combined for 39 carries for 164 yards.

Third-down defense improves: Buffalo has struggled on third downs both offensively and defensively this season, but the Ravens' third-down performance will help the Bills' defensive ranking. Flacco and the Ravens' offense were just 3-for-16 on third downs, and 1-for-4 in the red zone. Doug Marrone stressed the importance of these stats earlier in the week, and they were part of the difference Sunday.

What's next: The Bills (2-2) have a short week coming up. They'll travel to face the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, their lone prime-time game of the season.

Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 23, Texans 20

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
4:32
PM ET

HOUSTON -- Some thoughts from the Houston Texans' 23-20 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

What it means: It took the Seahawks some time to wake up, but until then, the Texans dominated them. The same old mistakes returned late, though, capped by another pick-six from Texans quarterback Matt Schaub to Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who shushed the crowd with his game-tying score. This marked Schaub's third interception returned for a touchdown in three games. The Seahawks won on a 45-yard field goal in overtime.

Stock watch: Schaub's body language on the field reflected the gravity of the mistake he made when he threw the interception that tied the game. The quarterback took a beating from fans last week and played well early in Sunday's game, other than a red zone interception in the first quarter. But his late interception sent his stock plummeting further, despite two touchdowns in the first half.

Texans defensive end Whitney Mercilus had his best game yet with 2.5 sacks against a depleted Seahawks offensive line. For the Texans to win, it was imperative they take advantage of the problems Seattle's line was having. The second-year outside linebacker set a rookie record with six sacks last season and already has 3.5 this season. The Texans constantly surrounded Wilson.

Brian Cushing's value: Cushing left the game in the third quarter with a concussion. On the very next drive, the Seahawks scored their first touchdown of the game, mostly on the back of quarterback Russell Wilson. The drive changed the momentum of the game and preceded a defensive stop by Seattle. Officially Cushing left the game with nine tackles, but that number is likely to increase after the coaches' review.

What's next: The Texans continue their tour around the NFC West, this time visiting the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers lost to the Seahawks in Week 2.

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