NFL Week 4 Recap — Drew Brees Is Still Great, Kickers Matter & Other Things We Learned
Every NFL team’s kicking game is under scrutiny after Week 4 of the 2015 NFL season featured several contests decided by kickers. Here’s what we learned this week:
Most of the Unbeaten Teams Stayed That Way…
The Bengals, Panthers, Falcons, Packers and Broncos all remained unbeaten this season with victories on Sunday. The Patriots are still undefeated, too, but they were on a bye this week.
Andy Dalton and the Bengals (4-0) routed the Chiefs, 36-21, on Sunday. Cincy limited Kansas City (1-3) to Cairo Santos' club-record seven field goals, and the defense sacked Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith five times.
Cam Newton tossed two touchdowns, and Carolina intercepted Jameis Winston four times while beating the Bucs, 37-23. Carolina (4-0) converted one of the picks for a touchdown that helped break the game open. Tampa Bay (1-3) lost its 11th consecutive home game.
The Falcons dominated the Texans, 48-21, thanks to three touchdowns from Devonta Freeman (see more below). Atlanta is off to a 4-0 start for just the fourth time in franchise history.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 224 yards and a touchdown, and the Packers beat the 49ers, 17-3, on Sunday. Green Bay (4-0) is off to its best start in four years, while San Francisco (1-3) has scored just 28 total points over its last three games.
Denver edged out Minnesota, 23-20, thanks to Brandon McManus' 39-yard field goal with 1:54 to play. The Broncos (4-0) had seven sacks, including one by T.J. Ward that helped set up the game-winning kick over the Vikings (2-2).
…But The Cardinals Lost
Nick Foles threw for three touchdowns and Todd Gurley ran for 146 yards, as the St. Louis Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals, 24-22, on Sunday. After weeks of good fortune, the Cardinals (3-1) couldn’t rally due to offensive ineptitude inside the red zone: Carson Palmer threw for 351 yards, but just 1 score. The Rams (2-2) moved to 2-0 against the NFC West.
Kicking Matters. A Lot.
It could turn out to be a statistical aberration, but many of Week 4’s most important games were decided by kickers. The Ravens, Colts, Bears and Broncos (above) all won on kicks and the Jaguars and Steelers lost — thanks, in part, to their kickers. The Saints almost made that list, too (see below).
Baltimore’s Justin Tucker made all three of his field goal attempts on a rainy Thursday night in Pittsburgh, including a 52-yard, game-winning kick that sent the Ravens (1-3) to their first win. The Steelers’ Josh Scobee missed two fourth-quarter field goals to help give Tucker his chance to be a hero. Pittsburgh (2-2) released Scobee on Saturday.
Adam Vinatieri kicked a 27-yard field goal with 4:36 left in overtime, and the Colts beat Jacksonville, 16-13 — even though backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was making his first start since 2012 in place of the injured Andrew Luck. Indianapolis (2-2) won an NFL record-tying 15th consecutive game against its divisional foe. The Jaguars (1-3) were let down by kicker Jason Myers, who missed from 53 yards out in regulation and 48 yards in OT.
Robbie Gould’s game-winning 49-yard field goal with two seconds left in regulation gave the Bears a 22-20 win over the Raiders on Sunday. Despite having an extra point blocked in the first quarter, Gould was as good as gold when it counted, giving Chicago (1-3) a win and Oakland (2-2) a crushing loss.
Drew Brees Is Still Good
Drew Brees threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Spiller 13 seconds into overtime, and New Orleans rallied past Dallas, 26-20, on Sunday night. Brees completed 33 of 41 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns, including the 400th of his career to Spiller for the game-winner. He reached 5,000 career completions earlier in the game, good for third all-time behind only Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
Brees' overtime heroics made up for kicker Zach Hocker’s miss of a 30-yard field-goal attempt with seconds to play that would have won the game for New Orleans prior to the extra session. The Saints (1-3) won their first game of the 2015 season, while the Cowboys (2-2) lost their second straight contest.
Devonta Freeman & The Falcons Are Rolling
Devonta Freeman ran for three touchdowns, carried 14 times for 68 yards and caught five passes for 81 yards as Atlanta crushed Houston, 48-21. The Falcons (4-0) remained unbeaten thanks to Freeman, while the Texans (1-3) looked to slowly be slipping into turmoil. Starting quarterback Ryan Mallett was replaced by Brian Hoyer after Atlanta raced to a 42-0 lead. Also-rans last season, the Falcons remained one of the NFL biggest surprises in 2015.
Sunday, Oct. 4
N.Y. Jets 27, Miami 14
N.Y. Giants 24, Buffalo 10
Washington 23, Philadelphia 20
Chicago 22, Oakland 20
San Diego 30, Cleveland 27
Bye: New England, Tennessee