Insider notes: Lions prove they're legit despite loss, time isn't now for Dwayne Haskins and more from Week 4
Detroit went blow for blow with the best offense in football and showed we should take them seriously
I'm buyin' the Lions. Even in defeat, and a tough loss to swallow at that after playing the Patrick Mahomes/Andy Reid Chiefs offense about as tough as anyone could have hoped for, there are signs of life in Detroit, and the makings of a more interesting season than many would have anticipated. I like the spirit this team plays with, I like its aggression and I believe they can be a factor in what threatens to be a jumbled up NFC North.
Yes, they lost for the first time this season, but they did much to impress again, and after finding a way to somehow blow a late 18-point lead to the Cardinals in Kyler Murray's first NFL start a few weeks back, the Lions have displayed a strong will and determination. That tie seemed like a loss at the time, but it could end up being a crucial non-loss in the standings if this bunch can continue to exude this sort of effort.
All of the purchases made on defense are paying off – and the Lions battered and harassed Mahones as few teams ever do, despite defensive lineman Mike Daniels not being available. They play a physical brand of football and excelled at exploiting a vulnerability in the Chiefs' more sleight players Sunday, punching the ball loose repeatedly and forcing fumbles on three straight drives at one critical junction in the game.
A wild Week 4 Sunday is in the books and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough joined Will Brinson to break everything down on the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast. Listen to the full show below and be sure to subscribe right here to get daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
Matthew Stafford, whose status was in doubt much of the week with a painful hip injury, was a gamer Sunday, leading go-ahead drive after go-ahead drive and also delivering some tough runs, bouncing off linebackers along the way. Stafford was brilliant, going 21 of 34 for 291 yards and three touchdowns, one of many players who seem to benefiting by the arrival of new offensive coordinator Darrrell Bevell.
Stafford has nine touchdowns already this season and has cut down on the turnovers, with just two picks. The Lions' speed on offense leaps out, and they are more balanced and far less predictable than a year ago. The run game has been stout -- they rolled up 186 yards on the ground on the porous Chiefs run defense, an area they needed to get going a bit more.
Bottom line is this team is 2-1-1 despite facing Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes in a row, and I don't think anyone in their division is going to run away and hide. The Lions have shown me enough to believe they can be a factor, and with games against the Packers and Vikings looming, they have a great chance to make a statement in October.
Playing Haskins shouldn't become a regular thing
Washington cannot stick with Dwayne Haskins. Doing so would do little other than risk breaking the young man's body, not to mention his confidence, and he looked every bit as raw on Sunday as . Unless the plan is to compete with Miami for the first overall pick, Washington needs to do the right thing and roll with Case Keenum and/or Colt McCoy for a while.
McCoy's unavailability Sunday left Haskins as the next man up, and he was overwhelmed, as expected. The lack of a supporting cast, or a left side of an offensive line, would cripple most veteran quarterbacks let alone a kid who played one year of college football, and Washington was even more talent-starved than usual against the Giants, with breakout rookie receiver Terry McLaurin out with injury along with stud guard Brandon Scheriff.
This outing for Haskins (9 of 17 for 107 yards, three picks) would curb most fan enthusiasm rather than have people clamor for more of the rookie, and one would figure that ownership took note as well. The Skins had eight total first downs and 176 net yards against what had been one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Let Keenum and McCoy take the beatings, trade Trent Williams for picks and rebuild around Haskins for 2020, when hopefully he will stand a fighting chance.
Clipped wings in Atlanta
I wrote in this space not long ago that it was getting late in Atlanta and that was a team on the brink. Well, Sunday they sunk. They once again got pounded physically on both sides of the ball and failed to show up in the first half. The season, my friends, is doomed. They have shown no real ability to get off the mat to this point, so I'm pretty convinced that this is who they are.
The Falcons have a first-half scoring differential of minus-51 through just four games; only the hellbent-on-0-16 Dolphins are worse (minus-56). Matt Ryan once again started a game slow and staggered, and the Falcons defense was pushed and shoved all over the field as the Titans pulled ahead 24-7 in the second quarter. Marcus Mariota, fighting to keep his starting job, carved Atlanta up in their dome, and the suspect outings in that beautiful new dome must be making owner Arthur Blank sick by now. The Falcons haven't entered the meat of their NFC South schedule yet; at this point it might be too late when they do at the end of October.
Baltimore's defense is a big problem
Earl Thomas has been bad. The secondary -- which I thought would be among the best in football – can't tackle or cover. The pass rush is limp. Teams have caught on to them having to bring numbers to get any pressure, and the Browns gutted them on screen passes on several occasions.
Baker Mayfield had his rebound game, and the Ravens are looking like a team that is going to have to score in the 30s to win each week, which means they better be the kind of ball control squad they became last year after Lamar Jackson took over to keep their defense off the field no matter how improved the quarterback is.
More notes from Week 4
- The Chargers did the smart thing and not playing Melvin Gordon Sunday. He was only getting in as an emergency option due to injuries, and they didn't need him in Miami. But his addition is significant and he'll be ready to carry more of a load in Week 5.
- The Dolphins' lack of skill and talent really manifest itself as games go on, but Josh Rosen has managed to keep them in both his starts into the second half and continues to flash some good stuff under dire circumstances …
- The Broncos finally got a sack! Hooray! Still cannot fathom that they went three straight games without one.
- Another dozen hits on Deshaun Watson Sunday and another brutal outing from that offense, which tends to do that every other week. I just don't think that much contact is sustainable.
- The Panthers will keep winning games with Kyle Allen. That is a strong roster, Christian McCaffrey looks like an MVP candidate, and while Allen had some issues securing the football with fumbles, he did well to manage the game and make plays to keep drives alive in just his third NFL start.
- Still far too many jump balls that result in easy picks out of Josh Allen. Love his heart and toughness, but especially against a defense as superior as New England's, on a day when the Pats were beat up and not able to be explosive on offense, those giveaways were huge.
- The Patriots may have a kicker issue.
- Full marks to Steve Wilks and the Browns defensive staff. That secondary was wiped out by injury and the unit played with cohesion and smarts and negated Baltimore's downfield game much of the day.
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