On the fourth Sunday of the 2021 NFL season, Green Bay handled business at home, Baltimore did the same on the road, and Buffalo barely broke a sweat in another blowout. All three teams have bounced back nicely from season-opening losses by logging three straight wins to sit atop their respective divisions.
But who had the most significant wins in Week 4? Allow me to break it down, Schein Nine style.
The win: Arizona Cardinals 37, Los Angeles Rams 20
Wow. I’m impressed. Sure, I’ve known these Cardinals are talented, which is why I picked them as a playoff team before the season began. But to go on the road and absolutely dismantle their previously unbeaten division rivals? What a statement!
The Rams were my preseason pick to win the division and the conference. Two Sundays ago, they smacked around the defending Super Bowl champs. One week later, though, Sean McVay’s group had no answer for the upstart Cardinals, who led 37-13 before the Rams logged a garbage-time score.
In a matchup between two unbeaten teams, Arizona pummeled Los Angeles on the ground (216 rushing yards and two touchdowns) and through the air (268 passing yards and two TDs). It was Kyler Murray, not Matthew Stafford, who resembled an MVP. The third-year pro befuddled the Rams with his cat-like quickness and live arm, spreading the ball around to the Cards’ bevy of weapons. It was a majestic thing of beauty — and the truly striking aspect of the three-score win was how everyone got involved, including a playmaking defense that forced two first-half turnovers and then made a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.
This is the signature win for Kliff Kingsbury as the Cardinals head coach. This team is for real.
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The win: Dallas Cowboys 36, Carolina Panthers 28
I spent a good portion of the offseason hyping the Cowboys’ offensive explosiveness. And it was on full display Sunday. Carolina entered the game with an unblemished record and the No. 1 defense in football. The Panthers had allowed a total of 30 points over the first three weeks of the season, yielding an average of just 191.0 yards per game. The Cowboys scored 36 points, piling up 433 yards in the process. And it was a balanced approach, as Dak Prescott threw four touchdown passes while Ezekiel Elliott ran 20 times for 143 yards and a score. Dak’s clearly healthy, and the reports of Zeke’s demise were greatly exaggerated — the 26-year-old back was a superb blend of power and speed for the second straight week.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ defense is no longer a hopeless sieve. The appointment of Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator is clearly paying off. And second-year CB Trevon Diggs has emerged as a dynamic ballhawk, with two more picks on Sunday giving him a league-best total of five in the young season.
Carolina trailed 36-14 before adding two fourth-quarter touchdowns. It was a game that made the Panthers look more like pretenders than contenders. But the Cowboys, on the other hand? They looked like a team that’ll run away with the NFC East title and look to do damage in the postseason.
The win: Tom Brady 19, Bill Belichick 17
Yes, I saw what Bucs coach Bruce Arians said in the postgame.
“I was very, very frustrated with everybody saying this was a quarterback and a coach,” Arians said. “This is a team sport. The Bucs won this game. We beat the Patriots. We were losing sight that this is a team game.“
I understand and appreciate where Arians is coming from as a coach … but respectfully disagree. This was the most anticipated regular-season game in recent memory (NFL history?) because of two men and two men only: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. You know, the two key components of the greatest dynasty in sports history? The guys who won six rings together and then got a divorce? So, with apologies to BA, I labeled the final score as such above. And in a game that ultimately proved worthy of all the build-up, TB12 emerged victorious.
While Brady posted season lows in completion percentage (51.2), passing yards (269), passer rating (70.8) and didn’t post a single touchdown for the first time in 2021, he did author a game-winning field goal drive. Sure, he got a little help from the upright on New England’s final possession, but Brady braved inclement Foxborough weather and left Gillette Stadium with a comeback win. Sound familiar?
The win: Chicago Bears 24, Detroit Lions 14
The first win of many for Justin Fields. No, the rookie quarterback wasn’t perfect, but he showed the electric playmaking ability — most notably, as a deep thrower — that had Chicago buzzing after the Bears traded up to draft him 11th overall in April. This is what Chicago’s season should be all about. Matt Nagy’s reluctance to allow Fields to be The Guy had been mind-numbing. Fortunately, following a deplorable game plan for Fields’ first start in Week 3, Nagy benched himself as the play caller and it paid off with a win.
Fields flashed stellar chemistry with second-year wideout Darnell Mooney, as the two youngsters hooked up five times for 135 yards. These are the types of things Chicago should be building around. This is the future. Let it happen, coach! Here’s hoping this positive result calms the waters, shifts the conversation for a minute and Fields can play forever without looking over his shoulder.
The win: Seattle Seahawks 28, San Francisco 49ers 21
Russell Wilson has never experienced a three-game losing streak in the NFL, an impressive fact which remained true after the Seahawks hit the road and knocked off the rival 49ers to get back to .500. This was a gargantuan win for Seattle. Starting 1-3 in this brutally tough NFC West could’ve buried the ‘Hawks. But Wilson (16 of 23 for 149 yards and two touchdowns, with an additional score on the ground) provided an efficient if not spectacular effort. OK, the scramble-drill touchdown pass to Freddie Swain was pretty spectacular, but I digress. The much-maligned defense continued to bend … but didn’t break! While Seattle gave up 457 yards of offense to San Francisco, the D caused two turnovers and held the 49ers to 2-for-14 on third down.
Now the Seahawks are 2-2 with the Rams coming to town for a prime-time affair on Thursday night. Think the 12s will be up for that one?
The win: New York Jets 27, Tennessee Titans 24
I know A.J. Brown and Julio Jones didn’t play for the Titans, but this was still a big deal for the Jets. They looked beyond inept over the first three weeks of the season, getting outscored 70-20. But now they’re off the schneid! In fact, they’re suddenly in a three-way tie for second place in the AFC East. OK, so the Bills are going to run away with the division title … Stop ruining my narrative and just let long-suffering Jets fans feel good for once!
Zach Wilson and Robert Saleh logged Win No. 1 as quarterback and head coach, respectively. Wilson was great after the first quarter, making a series of high-level throws and showing off the talent that made him the No. 2 overall pick. Saleh’s defense flew around and sacked Ryan Tannehill seven times. The Jets dealt with adversity and won in overtime. That never happens!
The win: New York Giants 27, New Orleans Saints 21
What a day for New York metropolitan area football! The last time the Giants and Jets won in the same week was Week 16 of 2019.
This was an absolute stunner in New Orleans. I didn’t give the Giants a remote chance — not with the Saints finally opening up the Superdome for the first game this season in the wake of Hurricane Ida, and not with the G-Men winless and seemingly rudderless. When New Orleans took an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, this game was over. Except it wasn’t! Saquon Barkley ran like he was in Penn State. Daniel Jones looked fantastic, throwing for 400 yards for the first time in his career. The Giants forced overtime, took the opening drive 75 yards and walked it off with a beastly Barkley score. Big win for Big Blue!
The win: Kansas City Chiefs 42, Philadelphia Eagles 30
Remember the Chiefs’ two-game losing streak? Me, neither.
Kansas City is far from perfect, with serious issues on defense. But Patrick Mahomes is the ultimate deodorant. After an uncharacteristically sloppy loss to the Chargers, Mahomes lit Philly up like a Christmas tree, with five touchdown passes on just 30 total throws. Tyreek Hill was targeted 12 times, catching 11 balls for 186 yards and three touchdowns. That’ll do. But actually, I thought the most significant part of the win was the domination on the ground by Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The second-year back turned 14 carries into 102 yards, adding a receiving touchdown for good measure.
I assume no one counted out Kansas City after the 1-2 start because, well, that would have been stupid. Now the Chiefs are back on the right track, preparing to host the Bills in an AFC title game rematch on Sunday Night Football. Can’t wait.
The win: Cleveland Browns 14, Minnesota Vikings 7
Kirk Cousins entered Week 4 piping hot, presenting a legit challenge for Cleveland’s defense. But Myles Garrett and Co. made the Vikings quarterback nondescript. Cousins boasted a sparkling 118.3 passer rating over the first three weeks of the season. On Sunday, he posted a 66.0. Now, Browns QB Baker Mayfield didn’t fare any better, completing just 15 of 33 passes for 155 yards, clearly missing injured security-blanket receiver Jarvis Landry. But Baker’s backfield mates picked up the slack, as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 169 rushing yards at a healthy 4.8 yards a pop.
This Browns team can beat you in a number of ways, at home or — like Sunday — on the road. This is a testament to the roster Andrew Berry has put together. And yeah, the reigning NFL Coach of the Year isn’t too shabby, either. In his first two years as Cleveland’s head man, Kevin Stefanski has posted back-to-back 3-1 starts. That’s something the Browns hadn’t accomplished since 1994-95, back when someone named Bill Belichick was in charge.
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