The fourth week of the 2011 NFL season is nearly complete as we await Monday Night Football but Sunday once again brought us everything we expected -- the unexpected. The Lions complete a massive comeback, the Cowboys choke one away and the Packers look unbeatable.
Here are the story lines coming out of Week 4 and 10 things to remember from Sunday:
Lions complete comeback over Cowboys. I remember looking at the score early in the game: Dallas 27 Detroit 3. 'The fairy tale is over,' I thought of the Lions and their surprise 3-0 start. They beat the upstart Bucs and the winless Chiefs and Vikings, so we're still not sure who they are and whether they're for real. That 27-3 score early in the third quarter validated things for me....until the Lions came back. No, really, a 24-point comeback to win. Calvin Johnson had two touchdowns for the fourth time this season (ironically, tying Cris Carter's record). Tony Romo threw three second half picks. Things just lined up perfectly for Detroit as the Cowboys totally and completely blew it. The opening line of the postgame report from Blogging The Boys says it all: "Unbelievably pathetic. It's impossible to describe what we just witnessed. Epic fail is the only term that comes to mind."
One more on the Lions. To further illustrate their return to glory: Last November, the Lions came into Dallas and lost, notching an NFL record 26th consecutive road loss. Now? They've won a franchise record five consecutive road games and an NFL best eight consecutive games overall. Oh, and this is also two straight 20-point comebacks for Motor City. Wow is all I can say.
Who's going to beat the Packers? And who's going to stop Aaron Rodgers? Anyone? Anyone? The Packers cruised to their fourth win of the season, remaining undefeated. at 4-0, by beating the Denver Broncos, 49-23. Rodgers accounted for a whopping six touchdowns (which isn't so cool when you're going against him in fantasy football) including four passing and two rushing. Acme Packing Company noted that the defense struggled but they still managed three interceptions. Green Bay fans have different standards from the rest of us. The Packers look straight up dominant and their biggest competition in the NFC might be....the Lions. Or the Saints. Or maybe the Falcons, who they'll face next weekend on Sunday Night Football.
Whittling down the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams are all still alive, as they lost on Sunday moving each team to 0-4 on the season. What's interesting is that only one of those teams, the Dolphins, really need a quarterback. The Vikings drafted Christian Ponder 12th overall last year and the Rams aren't picking Luck over Sam Bradford. The Luck sweepstakes become a little more intriguing.
Cam Newton's big numbers come in another loss. Newton has had an impressive season to this point, statistically speaking. He's has two 400-plus yard games and added a 374-yard day on Sunday. But....the Panthers lost all three of those games. They're certainly on the right track and, even though the losses hurt, the real story line from this season is Newton playing at a level none of us expected to see him at this early in the season.
The Bills return to Earth and Cincy makes us pay attention. Buffalo, the other surprise team of 2011, came back to Earth in Week 4 as the Bengals notched a last-second field goal to beat Buffalo. It's funny how you can go from completing double digit comebacks against Oakland and New England, then return to lose one against Cincy, of all teams. The Bengals, by the way, are tied for second in the AFC North.
Super Bowl hangover in Pittsburgh? Is that what the problem is there? They're 2-2 which, for most teams, isn't a bad start to the season. But this is Pittsburgh, one of the best teams in the NFL (or so we thought). They move to 2-2 on the season after going down 17-10 against Houston. It's a bad start but things can always get worse as we await the news on Ben Roethlisberger's MRI.
Let's not forget about Drew Brees. The big story lines this season have been Tom Brady and Cam Newton's impressive starts but let's not forget about another quarterback putting up gaudy numbers -- Drew Brees. He now has 10 touchdowns through four games and the Saints sport a 3-1 record. If they didn't play the red-hot Packers in Week 1, this team might be undefeated through the first month.
Don't forget about the Titans either. Somehow, I've been overlooking the Titans as they move to 3-1 on the season. They're winning this season in a way few of us thought they would -- through the air. Chris Johnson is averaging less than three yards per carry and the Titans have won three of four games this year. Does anything make sense anymore?
Dream Team moves to 1-3. Michael Vick had a huge day coming off his injury, throwing for over 400 yards and rushing for another 75 but the Eagles still walk away in a loss. That's three in a row for the Dream Team, who had Super Bowl aspirations before the season.
Speaking of 2011 playoff teams struggling ... We won't have trouble seeing turnover in this year's playoff teams. The Jets are 2-2, Colts are 0-3, Steelers are 2-2, Chiefs are 1-3, Falcons are 2-2, Seahawks are 1-3, Bears are 2-2 and the Eagles are 1-3. That's half the playoff field from last year that doesn't have a winning record through the first month of the season.