If Drew Brees is supposed to be washed up, someone apparently forgot to send him the memo, because for the first time all season the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer actually looked like a future Hall of Famer during the Saints' 35-29 win over the Lions on Sunday.
After struggling to throw the ball downfield for the past three weeks, there had been some whispers that maybe the Saints quarterback had lost his fastball, but that definitely didn't seem to be the case in Detroit as Brees diced up the Lions secondary for 246 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Saints offense actually got off to an ugly start after the Lions picked off a pass from Brees that had been tipped, but after that interception Brees caught fire, completing 19 of 24 passes. Although the interception helped put New Orleans in a 14-0 hole, that didn't seem to bother Brees, who responded by leading the Saints on five straight touchdown drives.
It was a wild Week 4 Sunday, and there's a lot to go over. John Breech, Ryan Wilson and host Will Brinson break it all down on the Pick Six Podcast; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Both of Brees' touchdown passes were vintage Brees. The first TD pass was a short one (just three yards), but the ball needed to be thrown perfectly for the score to happen, and that's exactly what Brees did.
That's Brees putting perfect touch on the pass, which was caught by Tre'Quan Smith for a three-yard score.
Of course, we all know Brees can throw short passes, because he's been doing it all season so that throw wasn't a huge surprise. The bigger news for the Saints is that it looks like Brees can still throw downfield. Later in the second quarter, Brees threw another touchdown pass to Smith, and this time the ball traveled roughly 30 yards in the air, and once again it was a perfect throw.
That score, which came with 44 seconds left in the first half, put the Saints up 28-14. At that point, it felt like the game was over.
The most impressive thing about Brees' performance is that he did it without Michael Thomas in the lineup. Although the Saints star receiver didn't play on Sunday, he was definitely watching the game.
Drew throwing DIMES!— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) October 4, 2020
The win over the Lions was the first time that Brees and the Saints had ever won a game without Thomas on the field. Before that, they had been 0-3, including 0-2 this season.
Brees' ability to throw downfield is one reason why the Saints offense has been so good for so long, if he can't make the deep throw at least once in a while, then opposing defenses don't have to protect that part of the field. Against Detroit, Brees absolutely proved that he can still make the deep throw.
Drew Brees had his best downfield passing performance of the season, finishing 9/12 for 174 yards & TD (+22.4% CPOE) on passes of 10+ air yards.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 4, 2020
First 3 Games (10+ Air Yards)
➤ 12/22, 249 yards, TD, INT (-7.4% CPOE)#NOvsDET | #Saints pic.twitter.com/hEaWEWf1XH
If this is a sign of things to come, then the rest of the NFC is going to be in trouble. There's a reason the Saints were one of the favorites in the conference to get to the Super Bowl, and if the Brees who played on Sunday is going to show up every week for the rest of the season, then the Saints are going to be tough to beat.
Alright, let's get to the grades for every game from Week 4. If you're looking for a deeper dive on the Broncos-Jets game that was played on Thursday, be sure to click here.
New Orleans 35-29 over Detroit
|Drew Brees wasn't the only reason the Saints offense was so good in Detroit. New Orleans also got a lot of help from its rushing attack. With Michael Thomas out, Alvin Kamara became the focal point of the Saints offense as he totaled 119 yards against the Lions (83 on the ground, 36 through the air). Latavius Murray also bulldozed his way to 64 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. One thing the Saints did well in this game was convert third downs. Overall, the Saints converted 10 of 14 times on third down, which allowed them to hold the ball for more than 36 minutes. Since 2015, the Saints are 17-0 when they have the ball for 36 minutes or more.|
| This game went like pretty much every other Lions game this season: They jumped out to an early double-digit lead and then completely fell apart. This collapse was a team fail. Defensively, the Lions gave up five straight touchdown drives to New Orleans after picking off Drew Brees on the first play of the game. The Lions secondary got dissected by Brees, who had struggled through the first three weeks of the season. The Lions offense also disappeared after jumping out to an early 14-0 lead. One of the biggest mistakes of the game for Detroit came from Matthew Stafford, who threw an ugly interception in the end zone midway through the second quarter. After that pick, the Lions didn't get near the Saints end zone again until the third quarter was almost over. |
Seattle 31-23 over Miami
|If we learned one thing about the Seahawks in this game, it's that anyone can move the ball on their defense. The Dolphins put up 415 yards of offense, but that didn't matter because Russell Wilson had another huge game. Not only did the Seahawks quarterback throw for 360 yards and two touchdowns, but he pulled off one of the most impressive two-minutes drives that you'll ever see, and that's mainly because he had less than 30 seconds to work with on the drive. With just 24 seconds to go until halftime, Wilson led a touchdown drive where he went 4 of 4 for 75 yards. The much-needed score put the Seahawks up 17-9 at halftime and gave Seattle some much-needed breathing room.|
|It's not usually a good thing in the NFL when you give up 360 yards to an opposing quarterback, but the Dolphins could argue that they actually did pretty well against Russell Wilson on Sunday, despite giving up those big numbers. The Dolphins actually kept Wilson bottled up for the better part of three quarters, which allowed Miami to stay in this game. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions for the Dolphins in this game, which was an especially big problem because Seattle turned both picks into touchdowns.|
Cincinnati 33-25 over Jacksonville
|This game had good news and bad news for the Jaguars. The good news is that the return of D.J. Chark brought a spark to their offense. After missing Week 3, Chark returned to the lineup and didn't miss a beat. The Jaguars receiver caught eight passes for a team-high 95 yards and two touchdowns. The bad news for the Jaguars is that their defense had no idea how to stop the Bengals offense. The Jags gave up 505 yards to a Bengals offense that went into Sunday averaging just 317.3 yards per game on the season.|
| The Bengals gave Joe Mixon a huge contract extension this year for a reason, and he proved why on Sunday. Going into this game, Mixon had zero touchdowns on the year, but that all changed against the Jaguars as Mixon ran all over them. Not only did he run for 151 yards and two touchdowns, but he also added 30 receiving yards and another touchdown. Although the scoreboard says this game was close, it probably would have been a blowout if Joe Burrow had gotten any help from his receivers. The Bengals dropped multiple passes in this game, including a TD in the second quarter that ended up being intercepted after Myles Jack wrestled the ball away from Bengals tight end Drew Sample. Despite those issues, Burrow continues to impress as he threw for 300 yards and a touchdown. Overall, the Bengals put up more than 500 yards of offense for the first time since October 2016. |
Minnesota 31-23 over Houston
|With 0-4 staring them straight in the face, the Vikings went to Houston and gave one of their best offensive performances of the season. Dalvin Cook steamrolled through the Texans defense for 130 yards and two touchdowns, but more importantly, the Vikings passing game looks to be back on track. For the second straight week, rookie receiver Justin Jefferson proved to be key weapon for Kirk Cousins as he caught four passes for 104 yards. Adam Thielen also came up big for Minnesota with 114 receiving yards and a touchdown. The ability of the Vikings offense to keep Houston's defense guessing in this game was a huge factor in Minnesota's success, especially in the red zone, where the Vikings came away with four touchdowns on five trips.|
|This game got off to a disastrous start for the Texans and they were just never able to recover. The winless Texans fell flat on their face to start the game as they punted on their first three possessions, which included two three-and-outs. Not only did that happen, but things got even worse after punt returner DeAndre Carter fumbled away the ball to the Vikings in the second quarter. Despite the early struggles, the Texans still had a chance to tie this game in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, but a Deshaun Watson fourth-down pass to Will Fuller that was originally ruled a TD was eventually overturned and ruled incomplete after a review.|
Baltimore 31-17 over Washington
| The Ravens needed a bounce-back performance this week, and they got exactly that with a 31-17 win over Washington. Lamar Jackson completed 14 of 21 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and also rushed for a career-long 50-yard touchdown in the first half. Marquise Brown led the Ravens with 86 yards on four catches and Mark Andrews caught two touchdowns. The defense also showed up, as they held Washington to just 10 points before a garbage-time touchdown.|
| Terry McLaurin caught a career-high 10 passes for 118 yards and rookie running back Antonio Gibson had his best day as a pro. He rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, but was more effective through the air. The Memphis product caught four passes for 82 yards -- including a 40-yard gain which set Washington up with its first score of the day. Kendall Fuller also recorded two interceptions, but Washington never appeared to be a legitimate threat to steal a victory. The passing game was limited to screens, slants and cross patterns while the secondary struggled to cover and tackle.|
Ravens-Washington grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Cleveland 49-38 over Dallas
| All the Browns needed to do to steal a win in Arlington was exactly what they wound up doing, forcing the Cowboys into turnovers and capitalizing by turning them into touchdowns. Forcing two fumbles that led to two touchdowns not only helped them ascend from a 14-7 deficit that looked early on like a coming rout by the Cowboys, but it launched Cleveland into a stratosphere that saw the Browns score more than 30 unanswered points as Odell Beckham, Jr. turned the screws on the Cowboys. The Dallas defense was dissected with surgical precision, and even more impressive for the Browns was how they did it after losing Nick Chubb early in the game. A late-game rally by the Cowboys reminded the Browns a football game is 60 minutes long, but other than some missteps in the fourth, this is the best game you've seen from the Browns in a very, very long time.|
| It's to be determined if the Cowboys will ever figure out how to not shoot themselves in the foot, having done it yet again. The offensive start couldn't have been hotter, with Dak Prescott completing nine of his first 10 passes for nearly 180 yards along with two touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3, but the defense put up another historically bad effort that operated in tandem with a fumble from Prescott -- on Myles Garrett's second sack against Terence Steele -- and another from Ezekiel Elliott. From there, the Browns racked up points and the Cowboys defense looked much like a Pop Warner club hoping the coach would stop the game and pass out fruit boxes. instead of Juicy Juice, they'll get back to licking the wounds from Week 3 and try to figure out how a 502-yard, four-touchdown game from Prescott gave way to their third loss of the season in just four games.|
Browns-Cowboys grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Tampa Bay 38-31 over L.A. Chargers
| Justin Herbert was fantastic again. Los Angeles used a lot of play action to get him mobile and create passing lanes, and that paid off as he threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns. He made some elite NFL quarterback throws, which is remarkable considering he is often throwing off his back foot. The Chargers have publicly backed Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback when he returns from injury, but it is difficult justifying the removal of Herbert. Joey Bosa got to Tom Brady a few times but was never able to deliver the game-changing moment.|
| It took a while for the Bucs defense to get some traction Sunday, but it buckled down towards the end of the game and put the offense in a position to win. Tom Brady had the most passing yards (369) in a game since Super Bowl LII against the Eagles. Rob Gronkowski made a big play to wrestle away an interception late. Mike Evans had a huge day (122 yards, one TD) despite leaving the game for a brief period of time with an apparent injury. When the game mattered most, Brady delivered touchdowns to wide receiver Scotty Miller and tight end O.J. Howard. It was not a pretty victory, but the Buccaneers continue progressing towards the postseason. |
Chargers-Buccaneers grades by Josh Edwards (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Carolina 31-21 over Arizona
| The fact that the Cardinals were without safeties Budda Baker and Chris Banjo is the only reason why Arizona didn't get an 'F.' That being said, the Cardinals needed to find a way to make the Panthers' offense one-dimensional, which they were unable to do. Arizona's offense also relied entirely too much on Kyler Murray, who threw three touchdowns but was held to just 133 passing yards. He was also the Cardinals' leading rusher, as Arizona gained just 51 yards on 17 carries on runs that weren't attributed to Murray.|
| Carolina received a stellar outing from Teddy Bridgewater, who led the Panthers to three touchdowns on their first four possessions. Bridgewater was aided by a Panthers rushing attack that gained 168 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. Carolina's defense also came up with a key turnover, as Yetur Gross-Matos' forced fumble of Kyler Murray in the third quarter set up the Panthers' first score of the second half.|
Cardinals-Panthers grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Rams 17-9 over N.Y. Giants
|The Giants defense gave New York a fighting chance to win this game, but the team's offense flopped when the Giants needed it most. Daniel Jones had three chances in the second half to lead the team to a game-tying touchdown, but each one failed in spectacular fashion with a punt, a turnover on downs and an interception by Jones with just 52 seconds left to play. Although the offense struggled, the defense will be able to hang its hat on the fact that they held the Rams to just 240 yards, which was the team's fourth-lowest total since the hiring of Sean McVay in 2017.|
|The Rams offense didn't really show up for this game, but that didn't matter, because their defense absolutely overwhelmed the Giants. The Rams front-seven against the Giants offensive line was a mismatch from start to finish as the Rams were able to total five sacks. The Rams defense didn't give up a single scoring drive or more than 60 yards. Offensively, the Rams seemed to struggle because they couldn't get anything going on the ground. The Rams totaled just 58 rushing yards, which marked just the third time under Sean McVay that they've gone under 60 rushing yards in a home game.|
Buffalo 30-23 over Las Vegas
|The Bills' decision to trade for Stefon Diggs is continuing to look like one of the most brilliant moves of the offseason. Although Josh Allen had another great game, a big reason why he looked so good was because of Diggs, who caught six passes for 115 yards. As for Allen, he continued to play like an MVP candidate, throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns. The Bills offense was so good in this game that it wasn't forced to punt for the first time until the second half. Defensively, the Bills are finally starting to get healthy and it's definitely showing on the field. The defense came up with two key turnovers in the second half that helped seal the win. Any Bills fans who were in Vegas to watch this game might want to make sure they bet on their team to win the Super Bowl before leaving town.|
|This was actually a tight game late in the third quarter, but then the Raiders offense completely imploded. Not only did the Raiders lose two fumbles in the fourth quarter, but the team also gave the ball back to the Bills following a failed fourth down where they couldn't muster a single yard on fourth-and-1 from their own 34. Coach Jon Gruden also mismanaged his timeouts late in the game, which killed any chance the Raiders had of winning. The offensive struggles late in the game were surprising, if only because the Raiders went up and down the field early in the game, scoring on each of their first four possessions.|
Indianapolis 19-11 over Chicago
| Let's talk about how dominant the defense was. The Colts D came into the game allowing just 15 points per contest -- they gave up 11 points Sunday -- and 225 yards per game. They allowed just 190 Sunday until the final drive, when the defense let up. The defense applied tremendous pressure on Nick Foles throughout the afternoon, a product of holding Chicago to just 28 yards rushing on 16 carries (1.8 yards per carry). Most of Chicago's yards came when they were down 16 points and the game was out of hand (though the Bears did come back from 16-point deficits twice this season). A solid effort by Indianapolis, which is stating its case as the best team in the AFC South. |
| The Bears defense is a top-10 unit in the league; there's no denying that. They held the Colts offense to under 275 yards, which should be good enough to win a game. Here's the problem -- the offense wasn't any better under Nick Foles than it was under Mitchell Trubisky. Chicago failed to score an offensive touchdown in Foles' first start until the Colts went into soft coverage until late in the fourth quarter, a hard task since the former Super Bowl MVP faced the No. 1 ranked defense in points and yards allowed and the No. 1 pass defense -- in typical Chicago October weather. Foles finished with less than 250 yards passing and was not good outside of a drive where he went 5 for 6 for 82 yards -- which led to the Bears' only points. Foles will still be Chicago's quarterback, but this was a bad first start and wasn't helped by Matt Nagy's questionable play calling. |
Colts-Bears grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Philadelphia 25-20 over San Francisco
| Sunday night was not always a pleasant sight, and it's hard to say the Eagles' performance is sustainable. But let's not gloss over this entirely: Philly just beat the Niners in San Francisco, in prime time, after tying the Bengals and starting 0-2-1. Carson Wentz at least looked like he was having some fun alongside a makeshift receiving corps, and the defense was even better, pressuring Nick Mullens all the way to the bench. Don't look now, but this is a first-place (!) team.|
| What if Kyle Shanahan had flipped from Mullens to C.J. Beathard in the second quarter? The Niners deserve at least a partial pass for all the injuries they're battling on both sides of the ball. They also did some really good things early on, with Shanahan successfully scheming up some big Brandon Aiyuk plays and the defense keeping pretty much every Eagles target in front of them. Still, Mullens was very shaky when he wasn't throwing to George Kittle, and you could argue Shanahan's play-calling could've been slightly more run-based to help him out.|
Eagles-49ers grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Kansas City 26-10 over New England
|With their starting QB out and the fact that they had to travel on Monday to get to Kansas City, the Patriots had the deck stacked against them in this game, but they still almost played well enough to pull off the upset. The game probably would have gone down to the wire if the Patriots didn't make so many uncharacteristic mistakes. Two big ones came from Brian Hoyer, who took two ugly sacks. One sack came at the end of the first half and prevented the Patriots from getting a field goal. On the second sack, Hoyer lost a fumble after driving the Patriots inside Kansas City's 10. New England got a brief spark from Jarrett Stidham after Hoyer was benched, but that spark was extinguished late in the fourth quarter when Julian Edelman bobbled a pass that turned into a Chiefs pick-six. Bill Belichick teams aren't known for their mental errors, so it was surprising to see the Patriots make so many against the Chiefs.|
|The Chiefs offense always tend to struggle against the Patriots and that's exactly what happened for the first three quarters of this game. After getting just two field goals in the first half, the Chiefs exploded in the second half with two touchdown passes from Patrick Mahomes. With Cam Newton out for the Patriots, the Chiefs defense took advantage of an overmatched New England offense. The Chiefs forced the Patriots into four turnovers, including a pick-six by Tyrann Mathieu that iced the win.|
Green Bay 30-16 over Atlanta
|The good news for the Falcons in this game: They didn't blow a lead. Of course, a big reason that didn't happen is because they never led. The Falcons sputtered out the gate on Monday with two three-and-outs on their first two drives. Todd Gurley scored two second half touchdowns for the Falcons, but that didn't do much to cut into the lead as Atlanta trailed by double digits for the entire second half.|
|With Davante Adams out of the game, the Packers needed a pass-catcher to step up on Monday and that's exactly what Robert Tonyan did. The Green Bay tight end put on a how at Lambeau Field, catching six passes for 98 yards and three touchdowns. Going into the game, Tonyan only had four touchdowns in his entire career. The Packers were able to run away with the win thanks in large part to Aaron Rodgers, who diced up the Falcons secondary in a game where he threw for 327 yards and four touchdowns. The Packers set the tone early with a touchdown on their opening drive, which ended up being a preview of what was to come in the game. The Packers were able to move the ball at will as they racked up more than 400 yards.|