Week 4 started off with a Thursday Night Football banger. The Rams’ explosive 38-31 win over the Vikings made us forget all about the days of poopfest Thursday night games. It was one of the more exciting Sundays we’ve seen play out this season, overtime drama, gobs and gobs of offense and a few iffy calls thrown into the mix.
Sunday’s games also had a sour note to them. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who had been involved in a complicated contract situation with his team, broke his leg late in a win over the Cardinals. He’s scheduled to be a free agent next season, and the last image of Thomas in a Seahawks uniform will be of him riding off in a cart, air cast on his leg, flipping the bird to Seattle’s sideline.
We saw game-winning drives from the Bengals, Cowboys, and Seahawks. We got three overtime games and three almost-but-just-missed-’em ties, courtesy of ballsy play-calling that worked (Mike Vrabel) and ballsy play-calling that didn’t (Frank Reich).
The day concluded on a down note, with a snoozy game between the Steelers and Ravens. After a promising first half that ended in a 14-14 tie, things slowed to a crawl in the second half. Baltimore won 26-14, in case you (understandably) fell asleep.
Here’s what we’re talking about this Sunday — and probably Monday too:
Worst: The Browns got screwed
For some reason, the Browns didn’t get a touchdown when Derek Carr fumbled a ball right into the arms of Myles Garrett. But at least that call was quickly rectified with a Nick Chubb touchdown that proved ball don’t lie.
The Browns didn’t get their karma moment the second time they were screwed by the officials, though.
Cleveland just needed one more first down and it would’ve been time for the victory formation to cap a 42-34 win. It appeared as though the Browns got it with a Chubb run that got right to the line. The officials measured and, yep, first down.
But wait, the officials took a closer look and, despite what appeared to be no conclusive evidence that Chubb was short, the call was overturned.
Former NFL head of officiating and FOX rules expert Dean Blandino was confused by the decision and couldn’t understand what the officials saw in the replay review to change the call. Here’s the NFL’s explanation:
On the spotting of the ball after Hyde appeared to make the line to gain late in 4th qtr of Browns’ loss to Raiders, NFL explains: pic.twitter.com/kNiKUEVbWY— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) October 1, 2018
The Browns were forced to punt, and the Raiders forced overtime — and got the win.
Cleveland had a whole bunch of mistakes that resulted in their loss, so they can’t point the finger that much, but a little frustration from Browns fans feels warranted.
Best: The Raiders pulled a George Costanza
In the first three weeks of the season, the Raiders looked great in the first half, led at halftime, and then blew it each time for three losses. So this week, they flipped the script. The Raiders channeled George Costanza and did the opposite to get their first win of the year.
At halftime, the Raiders were losing for the first time all year, with the Browns ahead 17-14.
But instead of wilting in the second half, Oakland kicked it into gear and scored 28 in the second half to force a 42-42 tie. The Raiders scored a total of 17 second-half points in their first three games of the season combined.
A field goal in overtime gave the Raiders their first win of the second Jon Gruden era:
.@NFLResearch: 3,000 tweets— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 1, 2018
Want a bigger number?
How about 3,591? The number of days it’s been since Jon Gruden won a game as an NFL head coach.
Still not impressed?
How about 6,133? The number of days since Gruden won a game as the @Raiders head coach.#Raiders
Does this mean the Raiders should go into the locker room at halftime in a hole on a weekly basis? Don’t mess with a winning formula, if you ask me.
Worst: Earl Thomas got injured before he could get a new contract
This offseason, Earl Thomas held out because he wanted a new contract. He didn’t get one and made it known just how unhappy he was with the Seahawks about that.
But he still balled this year, playing better than every other safety in the league at the start of the season. Despite sitting out a couple practices, and trade rumors swirling yet again, Thomas still played every game for the Seahawks.
That won’t be the case going forward, after he fractured his leg and left in an air cast against the Cardinals. And in case it wasn’t obvious that Thomas would be upset by the misfortunate timing of this injury, he flipped someone off on his way out:
Best: Mitchell Trubisky stole Ryan Fitzpatrick’s magic
Magichell Trubisky? Magic Mitch? Whatever you want to call him, Trubisky was the star of day.
Not only did he have the best game of his life in a 48-10 drubbing of the Bucs, but Trubisky had arguably the best game for a Bears quarterback ever. He threw five touchdowns in the first half alone and finished with six, the most for a Chicago quarterback since Johnny Lujack threw six touchdowns in a game in 1949.
His prettiest one was this 14-yard strike to Allen Robinson in the back corner of the end zone:
Allen Robinson scores his first TD with the Bears.pic.twitter.com/ZcnepLxIh9— LeadingNFL (@LeadingNFL) September 30, 2018
Trubisky came into the game with just nine career passing touchdowns and two this year. He’ll have to show he can connect with his receivers consistently, but if he can use this as a springboard for a breakout season, the NFC North-leading Bears will stay at the top of the division.
Worst: The Bucs need to fire everyone
It was a disappointing day for the Bucs, who surprised us all with a 2-0 start. They’re now 2-2 and headed into a bye, with Jameis Winston likely starting their next game.
The 48-10 loss was their worst offensive showing all season and got Ryan Fitzpatrick benched at halftime. But that’s less shameful against a defense as tough as the Bears’. What the Buccaneers need to do is find some answers on defense. Right now, they’re giving up more than 475 yards and 34.8 points per game.
In the words of their head coach:
Dirk Koetter: "We should fire everybody that was on that field today, starting with me. That was horrific.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) September 30, 2018
Or you might want to start with defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
Best: No ties!
Before the Raiders beat the Browns in overtime, the Texans-Colts and Titans-Eagles games both went into overtime, for different reasons. They came out of overtime with no ties (barely!), also for different reasons.
The Colts came roaring back against the Texans, turning a 28-10 deficit into a 31-31 game that need an extra period. The Colts added a field goal on their first possession in overtime from Adam Vinatieri the GOAT (and NFL record holder for field goals). The Texans matched that with less than two minutes to go. Then with 27 seconds left, the Colts decided to go for it on fourth-and-4 at their own 43-yard line.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad move. The call was all wrong, though: a short pass to a covered Chester Rogers. It ended up costing the Colts, but Frank Reich had no regrets about not settling for the tie:
#Colts coach Frank Reich not backing down on his fourth-down call in OT. Says only change he’d make is go for it the first time, rather than doing the hard count/timeout. Normally a “money route” with T.Y. Hilton, who was out with hamstring injury. Instead went to Chester Rogers. pic.twitter.com/u4Zjwxc4b1— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 30, 2018
Elsewhere in the AFC South, the Titans slowly, uglily chipped away at a 20-3 hole and went to OT against the defending Super Bowl champs. The Eagles hit a field goal on their drive and the Titans could have settled for a game-tying 50-yarder with just over a minute to go, but Mike Vrabel instead decided to go for it on fourth-and-2.
His chutzpah paid off when Marcus Mariota dumped it off to Dion Lewis, who sprung loose for a 17-yard gain. With 17 seconds left in the game, Mariota threw it up to Corey Davis for a game-winning touchdown.
And we narrowly avoided any more ties this season. At least for now.
Best: Jadeveon Clowney is back
Clowney returned to the Texans lineup last week after missing Week 2 due to injuries. He hadn’t made much impact this season, though, with just four tackles coming into this week. That changed against the Colts.
First, he got the Texans on the board with a fumble recovery for a touchdown:
He got the first of his two sacks on the next drive:
And then added what ended up being a pivotal sack on the Colts’ final drive in OT. And phew, that this was a stone-cold move:
What Jadeveon Clowney just did to Quenton Nelson is just wrong pic.twitter.com/lxgepYlEB1— Jody Smith (@JodySmithNFL) September 30, 2018
Best: Saquon Barkley can fly
Barkley is a physical specimen, but who knew he could defy gravity?
Spread your wings and fly away, Barkley.
Best: Alvin Kamara says bye
The Saints were able to pull away from the Saints in part due to Kamara’s 181 total yards and three touchdowns, including this dagger.
Yup, he pulled a Flipper Anderson.
Worst: Bill Belichick thinks Bobby McCain is faking an injury
The Patriots were up 10-0 in the second quarter and had just switched the lineup on fourth down. Before they could get a snap off, Dolphins corner Bobby McCain went to the ground with an injury.
For all the lip readers out there, Belichick seemed to think McCain was faking it:
Narrator: He was not faking it.
Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain has a very noticeable limp— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 30, 2018
Dolphins CB Bobby McCain out 2-3 week with knee injury per source.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 1, 2018
Maybe Belichick will be a little more cheerful now that the Patriots destroyed the Dolphins and are 2-2 again, just like they were last year at this time. LOLOLOLOL, just kidding.
Best: The Lions were so disrespectful
Golden Tate had a terrific game against the Cowboys, finishing with eight catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He let the Cowboys defenders know it on his first score:
And he gave the Lions the lead on his second:
Kerryon Johnson scored the first touchdown of his career, too — and ran over Jeff Heath in the process:
Unfortunately for the Lions, the Cowboys got the last laugh when Brett Maher connected on a game-winning field goal.
Best: The Cowboys remembered to feed Zeke
The Cowboys have looked pretty pitiful on offense this season, which is why we all laugh at Jerry Jones comparing the Rams and Cowboys. They’ll never have an offense like Sean McVay’s, but they do have a weapon that they needed to use more this season: Ezekiel Elliott.
They finally did that Sunday. Elliott led the team in both rushing and receiving, with 25 carries for 152 yards and four catches for 88 yards. He scored his only touchdown on his absolute beauty:
Another 34-yard catch helped set up the game-winning field goal:
As Dez Bryant tweeted (just ignore the lack of punctuation because we’re hoping he didn’t mean it like this):
Eat Zeke!— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) September 30, 2018
And Dak Prescott, who fans were losing confidence in FAST, deserves some credit too:
Dak Prescott orchestrated his 10th career game-winning drive today, which is the 2nd most in the NFL since 2016, behind only Matt Stafford (12).— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) September 30, 2018
Best: Clay Matthews WASN’T called for roughing the passer
For the first time this season, Matthews didn’t get called for roughing the passer in a game. Maybe the NFL’s attempt at “clarifying” the rule this week worked?
On the other hand ...
Worst: The Jets kicked a FG down 25-3
There’s nothing more frustrating in a game than coaches clearly throwing in the towel — especially when one of the guys announcing the game is Jeff Fisher. With about 13 minutes left in the game, Todd Bowles elected to kick a field goal, down by three scores. That field goal got them to within ... three scores.
The Jets added a touchdown on their next drive, so we know they’re at least capable of doing that. They still lost by three scores, though, because the Jaguars ran in a late touchdown. And y’know, we understand why Doug Marrone went for two on that one.
Best: The Ravens’ fourth-down conversion foretold a nice win
With a 20-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens had a choice to make. Despite Justin Tucker’s kicking godliness, they were a little too far away to try for a field goal attempt. They were a little too close to punt. So they went for it, with wide receiver Chris Moore running behind the left guard for a 3-yard gain.
That upped their chances of winning to a nice 69 percent:
And guess what? It worked. The drive still ended in a Tucker field goal, of course — the only scoring we got all second half was Tucker field goals. But it was a simple, smart decision that too many coaches still screw up too often.