Ben Roethlisberger again appeared mysteriously unable to get on the same page with Antonio Brown, and the Ravens used four Justin Tucker field goals after halftime to methodically pull away for a surprisingly uneventful, 26-14 win.
The first half provided almost all the highlights, particularly from Pittsburgh’s perspective. That’s when the team scored all of its 14 points, on two field goals and a Rothelisberger pass to, yes, Brown.
Over the final two quarters, though, Roethlisberger repeatedly misfired, to Brown and almost everyone else. He threw for just 50 of his 275 yards in that span, including one completion to Brown for five yards and another pass meant for the receiver that turned into a back-breaking interception late in the fourth quarter.
The “other” Brown dominates early: There was a wide receiver named Brown staging a dominant performance in the early going of the Ravens-Steelers game, but it was not Antonio. Rather, it was Baltimore’s John Brown, who turned his first reception into a 33-yard touchdown, and his second into a 71-yard gain.
While Antonio Brown has gotten off to an relatively ineffective and somewhat contentious start to his season with Pittsburgh, John Brown has shaken off the injuries that dogged him over the past few seasons in Arizona to become the Ravens’ top receiver. In his first season with the team, which also brought veteran wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead in the offseason, Brown now has 14 catches for 226 yards and three scores.
Raiders beat Browns in overtime: In Baker Mayfield’s first NFL start, Cleveland came soooo close to getting its second win of the season, and only its third since 2016. Instead, Oakland scored late in regulation, got a two-point conversion to tie the game and won it in overtime.
Raiders kicker Matt McCrane atoned for an earlier miss in the extra session by nailing a field goal attempt from 29 yards out, giving his squad a 45-42 win. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr helped lead comebacks from multiple double-digit deficits, completing 35 of 58 pass attempts for 437 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Mayfield completed 21 of 41 passes for 295 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Browns’ standout performer was another highly drafted rookie, running back Nick Chubb, who romped for 105 yards and two scores on just three carries.
Angry Earl Thomas gets carted off: Players don’t always flip the bird to their own sideline as they are being carted off the field, but then again, players aren’t usually in Earl Thomas’s position. The Pro Bowl safety has been seeking a contract extension from the Seahawks or a trade to a team that will give him one, and both scenarios plunged into jeopardy Sunday, as he suffered a leg injury against the Cardinals.
Seattle Coach Pete Carroll said after the game that Thomas suffered a fracture of his lower left leg. It remains to be seen if he can return, but the injury makes it much less likely that he gets traded before the NFL’s Oct. 30 deadline. The Cowboys and Chiefs had reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Thomas, a ninth-year veteran and three-time first-team all-pro.
Sebastian Janikowski comes through for Seahawks: Seattle might not have been in a tied game late in the fourth quarter had Sebastian Janikowski not missed first-half attempts from 38 and 52 yards, but he was clutch when necessary. The veteran kicker, in his first season with the Seahawks, nailed another 52-yarder as time expired to give his squad a 20-17 win over the Cardinals.
Janikowski also made a field goal from 40 yards out during the game, which saw the first NFL start for Arizona quarterback Josh Rosen. He led a late drive that could have given his team a 20-17 lead, but kicker Phil Dawson missed an attempt from 45 yards out and just under two minutes remaining.
A head-scratcher amid the pulse-pounders: The early Sunday contests featured some late-game dramatics, with the Titans and Cowboys winning on the final play while the Bengals scored the go-ahead touchdown with mere seconds left. The Texans also won on a game-ending field goal, but their victory will likely be overshadowed, in terms of Monday-morning chatter, by a decision made by the losing head coach, Frank Reich of the Colts.
That’s because Reich, in his first season on the job in Indianapolis, decided to go for it on fourth down late in overtime. To be more specific, he decided to go for it on fourth and four from his own 42, in a game that was tied with 24 seconds left and with the Texans out of timeouts.
In other words, Reich could have chosen to punt the ball away, with a good chance of pinning Houston deep in its own end, at which point the Texans almost certainly would have played it safe and accepted a tie. Instead, Reich’s aggressive gambit blew up in his face.
Andrew Luck attempted a fourth-down pass that fell incomplete, Deshaun Watson took over and connected on a 24-yard pass with wide receiver Deandre Hopkins and Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn hit a 37-yard field goal. Just like that, a near-certain 34-34 tie became a painful, 37-34 loss for Indianapolis and its home fans.
The reaction online was quick and brutal for Reich. “Frank Reich just decided he’d rather lose than tie. His job is to not feel that way,” ESPN’s Mike Greenberg tweeted.
After the game, though, Luck stuck up for his coach, telling reporters, “We had a discussion and I put my stamp of approval on it. I love it. I’m sick to my stomach we couldn’t get it. We are not going to play for a tie. Everyone in that locker room likes that. They love it.”
Luck notched career highs in passing yards (464) and attempts (62) while throwing four touchdown passes, but he was ultimately out-dueled by Watson, who threw for 375 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, adding 41 yards and another score on the ground.
Titans stun Eagles in overtime: Marcus Mariota led a 16-play touchdown drive in overtime, one that included two fourth-down conversions and another fourth down that became a first after a pass-interference flag, and Tennessee stunned Philadelphia, 26-23. With Carson Wentz playing well in his second start, the Eagles had taken a 17-3 lead in the third quarter, but the Titans would not go away.
Tennessee took a fourth-quarter lead, but Philly kicker Jake Elliott forced overtime with a 30-yard field goal with 16 seconds left in regulation. Elliott then connected again in overtime, but as that occurred on the first possession of the extra frame, Mariota and Co. had a chance to tie or win, and he ended up hitting wide receiver Corey Davis on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Andy Dalton leads late drive: The Bengals-Falcons game was expected to feature plenty of offense, and it delivered in a big way. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Andy Dalton delivered the final blow for Cincinnati, hitting wide receiver A.J. Green in the end zone with seven seconds left to snatch a 37-36 win on the road.
The play, on which Green made a terrific, sliding grab, capped a 75-yard drive, and Dalton finished with 337 yards passing, with three touchdowns and one interception. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for 419 yards, three scores and no picks, managed to hit Julio Jones twice in the final seconds for 66 yards, but the wide receiver was tackled at the 11 as the game ended.
Cowboys win at the buzzer: For one week, at least, some of the usual turmoil in Dallas figures to subside. Well, a little anyway. Dallas made its fans, not to mention owner Jerry Jones, very happy by beating the visiting Lions on a 38-yard field goal as time ran out.
Brett Maher, who replaced longtime Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey this season, came through with the game-winner, but Dallas has Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott mostly to thank for the 26-24 triumph. Elliott accounted for 240 total yards, including 88 and a score on four catches, while Prescott completed 18 of 28 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Prescott went over 200 yards passing for the first time in six games, quelling for the time being some concerns that the stellar start to his career was something of a mirage.
Mitchell Trubisky shines as Bucs swap QBs: As good as Khalil Mack has been for the Bears, another monster of the Midway asserted himself Sunday, this time on offense.
That would be Mitchell Trubisky, who completed 14 of 18 for 289 yards and five — yes, five — touchdowns in the first half against the Buccaneers, as Chicago took a 38-3 lead into the halftime break. Lest you think that was a fluke, Trubisky threw his sixth TD pass early in the third quarter, adding 354 yards passing en route to a 48-10 destruction of Tampa Bay.
The Bucs, under quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, came in with NFL’s leading offense (473.3 yards per game) and the leading passing offense (400.7 yards per game) and Fitzpatrick was the leading passer (with 1,230 yards). But Fitzpatrick was doing nothing to solidify his job, and Jameis Winston, fresh from his three-game suspension, was under center when the second half.
New QB, same result, though, as Winston was instantly intercepted by Danny Trevathan. In his first action of the season, Winston completed 16 of 20 passes for 145 yards, one touchdown and two picks, while Fitzpatrick had 126 yards on 9-of-18 passing, with no touchdown and one interception.
Tampa Bay now heads into its bye week, which may be well timed, as head coach Dirk Koetter has a difficult decision to make. Given that Winston, the draft’s No. 1 overall pick in 2015, was viewed was a cornerstone player for the franchise before allegations of groping led to his suspension, whereas Fitzpatrick is a veteran journeyman, the former may well get his job back, but we may not know for another week.
The Bears finished the game without defensive end Akiem Hicks, who was ejected just before halftime for pushing an official.
Adam Vinatieri makes history: Move aside, Morten Anderson, Adam Vinatieri now stand alone. With a second-quarter boot from 42 yards out, the Colts’ 45-year-old place-kicker set a new NFL record for most field goals made in a career. Vinatieri had been tied with Anderson, who made 565 over a 25-year career that ended in 2007, but has the rest of the season to put some distance between himself and the former Saints and Falcons star.
Actually, Vinatieri may have the rest of the decade, to judge from his apparent ability to defy Father Time. Remarkably, he’s now in his 13th season in Indianapolis, after 10 with the Patriots that included a number of crucial playoff makes.
Josh Gordon debuts: New England’s new wide receiver, Josh Gordon, is active for the game against the Dolphins, who are hoping to go 4-0 for the first time since 1995, and the Patriots wasted no time in involving him in the offense. His first reception was good for 13 yards and the Patriots are pitching a shutout at halftime.
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill is 10-1 in his last 11 starts and is fourth in the NFL with a 121.8 passer rating. Miami will bring two of Tom Brady’s former targets, wide receiver Danny Amendola and running back Brandon Bolden, to town. “They’re going to do what they always do and get better each week,” Dolphins Coach Adam Gase said of the Patriots. ” . . . The records are irrelevant right now. It doesn’t matter.”
A gruesome injury for Tyler Eifert: Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert was carted off the field after suffering an ugly lower-leg injury early in the second half of the game against the Falcons. (You are advised not to look at replays.)
Let us now praise Drew Brees: Is it possible that a quarterback who has passed for over 70,000 yards and won a Super Bowl is underappreciated?
If his name is Drew Brees, we’re going to go with “yes.” Brees goes into Sunday’s game against the New York Giants in New Jersey as the NFL’s leader in completion percentage at 80.2 (the highest ever by a quarterback after Week 3) and in interception rate at 0.0. Last week, he broke Brett Favre’s record for completions with his 6,301st.
This week, he seems likely to pass Favre and move into second place on the career passing yardage list, trailing Favre’s 71,838 yards by 315. Next up after that is Peyton Manning’s record of 71,940, a mere 417 yards away. Brees has passed for 1,078 yards in three games so far.
“I hope there’s a lot more coming,” Brees said. “I think about all the people who had a hand in that. A lot of hands caught those passes. A lot guys blocked to make that happen. They all are a part of this.”
Watch for roughing the passer calls: There has been pushback against the NFL’s overprotective rules about quarterbacks as the league sends the message that some players are more equal than others. Especially star quarterbacks, who are all but encased in bubble wrap by roughing the passer rules. Just look at what happened to Clay Matthews, who has been flagged three times in the first three games, and Dolphins defensive end William Hayes. He was lost for the season to a torn anterior cruciate ligament when, according to Coach Adam Gase, “he was trying to not put his body weight on the quarterback.”
The 49ers’ Richard Sherman put it best, tweeting: “They don’t care about the rest of us getting hurt. Long as the QB is safe.” The Texans’ J.J. Watt added: “Roughing the passer calls are absolutely out of control.” Even some members of management hate it. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that the rule has altered the NFL “as much as any one [rule] I have seen make a change from our past.”
First day of school: Two prized rookie quarterbacks will make their first starts, with Baker Mayfield (the No. 1 overall pick) and the Browns facing the Oakland Raiders and Josh Rosen (the 10th overall pick) and the Arizona Cardinals playing the Seattle Seahawks.
Hello, byes: Bye weeks begin, with the Panthers and Redskins the first teams taking a breather. D.J. Swearinger, among others, isn’t thrilled to get a week off so early in the season.
Secrets from under the hoodie: Football may be evolving, but Bill Belichick says the keys to winning will never change. (Read more)
Who’s behind the Rams and Chiefs? Mark Maske’s power rankings are a bit of a jumble after the top two teams. (Read more)
A Vikings concern: Pro Bowler Everson Griffen was involved in a police incident last weekend. (Read more)
Everyone really, really hates the roughing the passer calls: That goes triple for Clay Matthews, the rule’s poster child. (Read more)
‘Left wing’: ESPN says Jason Witten’s ‘left-wing’ comment on the NFL rule had nothing to do with politics. (Read more)
Fournette’s hammy acts up: Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette returned from a hamstring injury but quickly aggravated it and went out. He is questionable to return.
Rodgers in, Cobb out: Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring) and cornerback Kevin King will not play against the Bills. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is nursing a knee injury, is listed as questionable, but he will play.
49ers’s RBs are hurting: Matt Breida dodged a serious, noncontact knee injury and is listed as questionable, despite practicing fully Thursday and Friday. Alfred Morris also has a knee injury, a surprise addition to the injury report.
Freeman out: The Falcons’ Devonta Freeman remains out with a knee injury.
Allen uncertain: Wideout Keenan Allen is questionable with a knee injury.
Mixon out: Bengals running back Joe Mixon is out with a knee injury; wide receiver A.J. Green should be a go despite his pelvis injury.
McCoy says he’s a go: Bills running back LeSean McCoy said last week he will play against the Packers.
Fantasy player rankings: Who’s not, who’s less so. (Read more)
Players you need in your lineup: (Read more)
Week 4 cheat sheet: The choicest tips for Week 4. (Read more)
Week 4 Start/Sit: The Rams won’t trouble Kirk Cousins. (Read more)
The Patriots are no sure thing against the Dolphins. (Read more)