If the Miami Dolphins were hoping to make a statement on Sunday, they did. It just wasn't a good one.
The Dolphins went into New England this week with a 3-0 record and left with their dorsal fin between their legs after taking a 38-7 beatdown from the Patriots. New England's win was so dominant that Bill Belichick was actually complimenting his players after the game, which was surprising, because Belichick rarely ever compliments anyone.
"I thought we got what we needed from our team today. The players, coaches, did a great job this week -- the coaching staff," Belichick said, via quotes distributed by the team. "We got a lot of good leadership from our players and they responded today. We got contributions from pretty much everybody, every unit, every phase of the team."
When Belichick says the Patriots got contributions from everyone, he's not kidding. One of the biggest contributions came from rookie running back Sony Michel, who carried the ball 25 times for 112 yards and a touchdown.
Thanks to Michel and the Patriots' ground game, Tom Brady didn't have to carry the team for once. The Patriots running backs combined to carry the ball 40 times in this game, which is notable because the Patriots rarely get crazy like that on the ground. This was only the second time since the beginning of the 2015 season that the Pats have finished with 40 or more rushes. In Belichick's career, the Patriots are now 27-1 when they let their running backs run the ball 40 or more times.
Basically, the team doesn't take the game out of Tom Brady's hands very often, but it does, it seems to work because the opponent has no idea what's coming. Of course, it's not like Brady had a bad game. The 41-year-old threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns, although he did also toss two interceptions.
For the Patriots, those picks didn't matter though, and that's because the Dolphins couldn't move the ball against New England. The Patriots held the Dolphins to just 172 yards in the game, which probably even impressed Belichick, as it marked just the second time since 2009 that New England has held an opponent under 175 yards.
Going into Week 4, there was a slight twinge of panic among Patriots fans, and that's because they had never really been in this situation. If the Dolphins had won on Sunday, it would have marked the first time in Tom Brady's career that the Pats were three games out of first place. Of course, within five minutes of kickoff, no one at Gillette Stadium thought the Patriots were actually going to lose.
If Week 4 proved anything in the AFC East, it's this: The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Jets and Bills might have rookie quarterbacks, the Dolphins might be in first place now, but this is the Patriots' division until Belichick and Brady decide to retire, which is starting to look like something that's not going to happen anytime soon.
The Patriots get an "A" this week and every other AFC East team gets an "F."
New England 38-7 over Miami
Miami Dolphins: F
The Dolphins have had some ugly performances over the past few years, but this one might have been the worst. Miami totaled just 175 yards in this game, which is the team's lowest total since 2013, and yes, that means the Dolphins weren't even that bad during the lost Cutler year of 2017. Hopefully, no one in Miami decided to have any "AFC East Champion" T-shirts made after the team's 3-0 start.
New England Patriots: A
If Bill Belichick is looking for something to be upset about from this game, it will probably be the fact that the Patriots gave up a touchdown pass to Brock Osweiler. Of course, that came in garbage time, so there's a good chance Belichick will be smiling this whole week after watching his team pull off one of their most dominating performances of the past few years. The 38-7 win was New England's largest margin of victory since 2016.
Green Bay 22-0 over Buffalo
Buffalo Bills: F
If the Bills want to take one positive out of this game, it's that Josh Allen made it through all four quarters alive. Allen got beat up by a Packers defense that sacked him seven times. Of course, even when Allen had to to throw, he wasn't great: The rookie threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The Bills totaled only 145 yards, which was their lowest total since 2006.
Green Bay Packers: A-
Aaron Rodgers was probably a little surprised when he looked at the scoreboard following this game and that's because he doesn't get defensive help like this very often. This game marked the first time since 2010 that the Packers have pitched a shutout and just the third time it's happened since Rodgers took over as the Packers starting quarterback in 2008. The Bills offensive line couldn't stop Kyler Fackrell, who racked up three of Green Bay's seven sacks. The Packers were so dominant that the Bills didn't get inside of Green Bay's 20-yard line the entire game.
Cincinnati 37-36 over Atlanta
Cincinnati Bengals: B+
After Tyler Eifert went down in the second half, the Bengals seemed hellbent on winning this game, and that's exactly what they did, thanks to a dramatic performance from Andy Dalton. With the Bengals trailing 36-31, Dalton led his team on a wild game-winning drive that included two fourth-down conversions (fourth-and-8, fourth-and-6) and a 13-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green with just seven seconds left to play. With Joe Mixon out, Gio Bernard also came up big, as the Bengals running back scored two touchdowns and averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 15 rushes.
Atlanta Falcons: C
No one has worse luck than Matt Ryan. No matter how many points he puts on the scoreboard, it's never enough. For the second week in a row, the Falcons lost a shootout and for the second week in a row, they lost despite getting a mistake-free game from their offense. If you're wondering how rare that is, well, it's rare.
Since 1940, teams scoring 36+ points at home with 0 turnovers are 402-4.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 30, 2018
The Atlanta Falcons are 0-2 since last week when doing that.
Half of the losses are Atlanta now.
The Falcons went 11 of 15 on third downs, turned the ball over zero times and punted only once, but somehow still managed to lose. That's not easy to do.
Dallas 26-24 over Detroit
Detroit Lions: B-
It's not easy to make the Cowboys offense look good, but that's exactly what the Lions did in this game, especially in the fourth quarter. The Lions gave up two long scoring drives in the game's final quarter, which probably had to do with the fact that their defense was on the field for 10:48 of the fourth quarter. The defense looked worn out and it showed as they couldn't generate a pass rush late in the game and they couldn't stop Ezekiel Elliott.
Dallas Cowboys: B
It looks like the Cowboys have figured out how to fix their offensive woes: just give the ball to Ezekiel Elliott as many times as possible. The Cowboys running back touched the ball 29 times and totaled 240 yards, with most of that damage coming on the ground in the form of 152 rushing yards. Elliott is the only player in the NFL to total 200 yards from scrimmage in a single game through the first four weeks of the season. The play of Elliott opened things up for Dak Prescott, who threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, marking the first time this season Prescott has thrown for more than 200 yards.
Houston 37-34 over Indianapolis (OT)
Houston Texans: B
At this point, it's probably safe to say that J.J. Watt is back. The Texans star defensive player tallied up two of Houston's four sacks in this game, including a strip-sack in the second quarter that gave the Texans the ball on the Indy 8-yard line. Deshaun Watson also had a huge game (29 of 42, 375 yards), which was somewhat surprising because he rarely had time to throw. The Texans quarterback was sacked seven times, but still managed to complete 10 passes to DeAndre Hopkins, who finished with 169 receiving yards.
Indianapolis Colts: B-
If we learned one thing about the Colts in this game, it's that they're definitely no longer concerned with Andrew Luck's shoulder. Not only did he get to throw a Hail Mary against the Texans -- so we can put to bed -- but the Colts also let him throw the ball 62 times. That number is a career-high for Luck and also represents the highest passing attempt total for any quarterback this season. Unfortunately for the Colts, when Luck wasn't passing, he had some trouble holding on to the ball. The quarterback lost a fumble after a bad shotgun snap in the end zone that the Texans recovered for a touchdown. Luck also lost another fumble inside his own 10-yard line that led to another Texans touchdown. The fact that this game even went to overtime was a borderline miracle considering Indy trailed 28-10 with 6:40 left in the third quarter. By the time OT started, this game looked like it was going to be a tie, but Frank Reich decided to play for the win and went for it on fourth down from his own 43 in OT.
Jacksonville 31-12 over N.Y. Jets
New York Jets: F
Putting a rookie quarterback on the field against the Jaguars defense is almost unfair, which Sam Darnold probably realized on Sunday. Darnold was sacked three times, completed only 50 percent of his passes and got zero help from a Jets ground attack that totaled just 34 yards.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A-
The only reason this grade isn't an "A+" is because the Jaguars' offense got a little sloppy in the second half. The Jags turned the ball over three times in the half and the Jets ended up getting nine points off those turnovers. Of course, maybe they earned the right to be sloppy and that's because they put 503 yards of total offense, which is the fourth-highest total in franchise history. Twenty-five percent of those yards came from Dede Westbrook, who caught nine passes for 130 yards.
Tennessee 26-23 over Philadelphia (OT)
Philadelphia Eagles: B-
When Doug Pederson watches film from this game, he's probably going to be disappointed by two big things: the Eagles' red-zone showing, and the fact that the offensive line had so much trouble protecting Carson Wentz. Wentz got sacked four times and the Eagles are probably lucky that number wasn't higher. The Eagles also only scored one touchdown on four trips to the red zone (25 percent), which is a low number for a team that finished second in the NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage last season. Defensively, the Eagles let the Titans convert all three of their fourth-down attempts in overtime. The ugly part for the Eagles is that all three of those attempts came on Tennessee's game-winning drive and included a fourth-and-15 conversion.
Tennessee Titans: A
It's become pretty clear that the Titans have mastered the art of the dramatic win. For the third week in a row, the Titans won by three points and for the third week in a row, half their fan base probably had an anxiety attack at some point in the game. With the Titans trailing 17-3 in the third quarter, Marcus Mariota singlehandedly led the Titans back. Despite playing with an injury, Mariota led the Titans in passing (344 yards, 2 TD) and rushing (46 yards, 1 TD). Mariota also got a lot of help from Corey Davis, who caught nine passes for 161 yards, including a 10-yard game-winning TD catch in overtime.
Chicago 48-10 over Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: F
The Buccaneers rode the FitzMagic train as long as they could, but we can probably all agree that ride is over now after the train crashed in spectacular fashion against the Bears. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs offense had no answer for the Bears. The Bucs couldn't protect their quarterbacks (four sacks), they couldn't hold on to the ball (three turnovers) and they couldn't convert on third down (3 of 12). The only upside for Tampa is that Jameis Winston was able to work some rust off during the second half when he got in during garbage time. The downside of that is that he threw two interceptions in a performance where he went 16 of 20 for 145 yards.
Chicago Bears: A+
Mitchell Trubisky threw six touchdown passes in this game, which is impressive on its own, but it's even more amazing when you consider the fact that he threw only seven touchdown passes during the entire 2017 season. The Bears also might have a new (not so) secret weapon in Tarik Cohen, who totaled 174 offensive yards in the game (53 rushing, 121 receiving), which smashed his previous career-high of 113. The 48 points scored by the Bears was the team's second-highest total since 2010.
Seattle 20-17 over Arizona
Seattle Seahawks: B-
When you hear someone describe a win as ugly, this is the kind of victory they're usually talking about. The Seahawks won this game despite not converting a single third down (0 for 10), becoming the first team since 2015 to do that. One thing the Seahawks did do well in this game was run the ball. Thanks to 101 yards from Mike Davis, the Seahawks totaled 171 yards on the ground, which is a huge number for a team that crossed the 170-yard rushing mark only one time in 2017 and one time in 2016.
Arizona Cardinals: B-
If Josh Rosen remembers anything about his first start, it's probably going to be the fact that his field-goal kicker couldn't put the ball through the uprights. Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson missed two kicks in this game, including a 45-yard attempt that came with just 1:55 left. Rosen wasn't great, but the Cardinals have to be feeling optimistic after watching their rookie throwing for 180 yards and a touchdown while playing mistake-free football.
L.A. Chargers 29-27 over San Francisco
San Francisco 49ers: B-
It's not easy for a backup quarterback to go on the road and pull off an upset in the NFL, but that's what the 49ers almost did with C.J. Beathard under center on Sunday. With no Jimmy Garoppolo, Beathard showed impressive command of Kyle Shanahan's offense, throwing for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, Beathard also threw two killer interceptions, with the worst one coming on the 49ers' final offensive possession of the game.
Los Angeles Chargers: C+
It's a good thing the Chargers won this game, otherwise Caleb Sturgis might not have a job after missing two extra points and a field goal. Melvin Gordon had a huge game for the Chargers with 159 yards and a touchdown on just 22 touches (104 yards rushing, 55 yards receiving).
New Orleans 33-18 over N.Y. Giants
New Orleans Saints: B+
Congratulations to anyone who had Alvin Kamara on their fantasy roster. With Drew Brees slightly off his game, the Saints went to Kamara early and often and the second-year running back came through with a career-high 134 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Kamara's most impressive run came on a 49-yard score with 2:09 left that iced the game.
New York Giants: C-
The Giants offense seems to have a problem and that problem is that they somehow find a new way to be disappointing each week. This time around, the unit actually looked impressive during a 75-yard touchdown drive on their opening possession, but then things fell apart after that. Following that drive, the Giants didn't reach Saints territory against until late in the third quarter. The fact that the Giants struggled this week was especially surprising since the Saints came into Sunday surrendering 34.3 points per game, which ranked dead last in the NFL.
Oakland 45-42 over Cleveland (OT)
Cleveland Browns: C+
The spotlight was on Baker Mayfield when this game started, but it was another Browns rookie who ended up stealing the offensive show for Cleveland. Running back Nick Chubb rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns and that's not even the impressive part. The impressive part is that he did that on three carries. For the most part, Mayfield looked sharp, but he also made some ugly rookie mistakes, most notably a pick-six in the first half. The Browns are probably going to be kicking themselves this week and that's because they led this game 28-14 with just six minutes left in the third quarter
Oakland Raiders: B-
After trading away Khalil Mack, it almost seemed like Jon Gruden's goal was to win games with absolutely no defense, which is basically what the Raiders did. Although the team got lit up by a rookie quarterback, they were able to escape with a win thanks to some clutch play from Derek Carr, who threw for 437 yards and four touchdowns. The Raiders finished with 565 total yards, which is the fourth-highest total in franchise history. Also, Marshawn Lynch went full Beast Mode on the Browns with 130 yards on 20 carries.
Baltimore 26-14 over Pittsburgh
Baltimore Ravens: A-
Joe Flacco completed his first six passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns and the Ravens rolled from there. Flacco seems to have a new favorite weapon every week, and this week it was John Brown, who caught three passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens held the Steelers to just 19 yards rushing, marking the first time since 2000 that they held a team under 20 rushing yards. Baltimore also got a big game from Justin Tucker, who hit four field goals in a stadium that isn't usually kind to kickers. Three of those four field goals came in the fourth quarter and helped the Ravens ice the game.
Pittsburgh Steelers: D-
The Steelers might just need to give Le'Veon Bell a blank check at this point, because their ground game is going nowhere without him. Against the Ravens, the Steelers totaled just 19 yards rushing, which was the team's lowest total since 1970. Bell's replacement, James Conner, has now been held under 20 yards in two of the past three weeks, which is mostly notable because Bell has never been held under 20 yards rushing in his career. This game could have actually been uglier if Ravens running back Alex Collins hadn't lost a fumble on the Steelers' 1-yard line.
Kansas City 27-23 over Denver
Patrick Mahomes had to go on the road for the first prime-time start of his career, but that didn't seem to phase him. The Chiefs quarterback continued his absurdly amazing season with a performance for the ages. Against Denver's vaunted defense, Mahomes threw for 304 yards, with 77 of those yards coming on the Chiefs game-winning drive that ended with a Kareem Hunt TD with 1:40 left to play. Hunt rushed for a season-high 121 yards and also added 54 receiving yards. No one in the NFL knows how to attack the Broncos defense quite like Andy Reid. The Chiefs totaled 446 yards in this game and have now topped 440 yards a total of three times against the Broncos since December 2013. To put that in perspective, no other team in the NFL has even topped the 440-yard mark A SINGLE TIME on Denver in that span.
Holding a team to 27 points might not seem impressive, but it's almost worth bragging about when that team is the Chiefs. Although the Broncos lost this game, they did become the first team all season to hold the Chiefs UNDER 38 points. Case Keenum (245 yards) nearly went throw-for-throw with Mahomes, but in the end, the Broncos made two big mistakes in this game that the Chiefs didn't: An interception and a lateral at the end of the game that ended up in Kansas City's hands.