NFL Nation: 2011 Week 4 Rapid Reaction

TAMPA, Fla. -- Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 24-17 victory against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday at Raymond James Stadium.

What it means: The Buccaneers got their spot on prime time television, and they won. It wasn’t pretty, and it came against quarterback Curtis Painter and an Indianapolis team that had to play a third-string left tackle much of the night due to injuries. There were Tampa Bay struggles on offense and defense. But, hey, a win is a win, even if Peyton Manning isn't on the field. The Bucs are 3-1 and tied with the New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South.

Play of the night: A 35-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount with 3:15 remaining put the Bucs ahead to stay. Kind of makes you wonder why the Bucs didn’t just try to pound Blount up the middle all night against an undersized Indianapolis defense that continues to get more banged up every week.

What I liked: The Bucs might not always play pretty, but they are resilient. If you keep pulling games out at the end, you’re not lucky. You’re creating your own luck.

What I didn’t like: Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib is a marvelous physical talent. But he’s an enigma. I saw him drop a sure interception, get beat in coverage, whiff on at least one tackle and get called for a penalty. The Bucs like to say this guy is an elite cornerback. But he’s not going to be that until he starts playing at a high level consistently.

The surprise wide receiver: Mike Williams is off to a quiet start in his second year, and Arrelious Benn is coming off a major knee injury. But Tampa Bay has another second-year receiver who is doing big things. That’s Preston Parker, who made the team as an undrafted free agent last season. He played mostly on special teams last season but has been making an impact as a receiver. He had his first NFL touchdown catch Monday night.

The growth of the defensive line: You can see this gradually becoming a strength for the Bucs. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is starting to make plays consistently. Rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn keeps making plays every week, and defensive end Michael Bennett is playing well enough that nobody’s calling for second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers just yet. Put four early draft picks into your defensive line in two years, and you should get results. The Bucs are getting them quickly.

What’s next: The Bucs don’t have an easy stretch ahead. They have to go all the way to San Francisco to play the 49ers on Sunday. Then, they come home to play the Saints and they go to London to play the Bears after that. They get a bye week when they come back from their London trip, but the flip side of that is they’ve got the Saints waiting for another game after the break.

Rapid Reaction: Ravens 34, Jets 17

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
12:04
AM ET
Okay, now it’s official: It’s crisis time for the New York Jets, who embarrassed themselves Sunday night on national television, falling to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-17, at M&T Bank Stadium.

What it means: The Jets have a two-game losing streak, and it’s the first time in the Rex Ryan era they’ve suffered consecutive back-to-back, double-digit losses. This is bad; their once-promising season could be in peril. They were outcoached, outplayed and, frankly, intimidated by the Ravens, who scored three defensive touchdowns for the first time in franchise history.

Rex’s return: Ryan’s old defense is a lot better than his current defense. This game was personal for Ryan, a former Ravens assistant, and his team wasn’t ready to play. Maybe Joe Namath was right, after all. This was a Kotite-ian performance by the Jets, who allowed two fumble-recovery touchdowns for the first time in franchise history.

Woe Mark: Quarterback Mark Sanchez was under duress from the first play until the last. It would be wrong to blame him for the entire offensive debacle, but he didn’t help matters with a few horrible decisions. He committed four turnovers -- one interception (returned for a touchdown) and three fumbles (two returned for scores). By the third quarter, he was so rattled that he was just chucking and ducking.

This was Sanchez’s worst game in a long time; he needs to regroup and lead his team out of this funk. He has nine turnovers in four games. If Ryan had a viable alternative, we’d have a quarterback controversy.
On the interception, by cornerback Lardarius Webb, Sanchez misread the coverage and threw quickly to Santonio Holmes off play-action. Webb sat on the route and made an easy pick. On the Jets’ first play, Sanchez failed to recognize a safety blitz by Ed Reed. It wasn’t a sneak attack; Reed was positioned on the line. They decided not to block “the best safety that ever played,” as Ryan called him. Sanchez was blindsided, a strip sack that was returned for a touchdown.

A second touchdown came on another blindside sack, this time defensive tackle Haloti Ngata splitting the left side of the offensive line. It was scooped up by outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and, well ... you know the drill by now.

Musical linemen: Once again, the Jets played without the leader of their offensive line, as Nick Mangold (ankle) was declared inactive before the game. Rookie Colin Baxter made his second career start, but he was benched for three series in the second quarter. Bad move. They weakened two positions, sliding left guard Matt Slauson to center and inserting Vladimir Ducasse at left guard.

The move reeked of desperation, and the Jets nearly paid a steep price. Ducasse was awful, giving up a strip sack/touchdown to Ngata. They’re lucky Sanchez was able to get up after being blasted by Ngata. The coaching staff came to their senses and went back to the starting lineup. Truth be told, the starting unit couldn’t pass-block, either. Who ever thought Mangold was their offensive MVP?

Injury report: The Jets lost dependable outside linebacker Bryan Thomas in the first quarter and he never returned. Thomas was carted off with what was announced as an ankle injury. He was replaced by Jamaal Westerman. Thomas’ injury looked serious and he could be out an extended period.

Bright spots: Not many. Joe McKnight scored on a 107-yard kickoff return to make it 7-7, the longest play in Jets history. Pass rusher Aaron Maybin, picked up off the street, recorded his first career sack.

What’s next: The Jets are on the road for the third straight week, heading up to Foxborough for a showdown against the Patriots -- the Jets’ first AFC East game.

Rapid Reaction: Ravens 34, Jets 17

October, 2, 2011
10/02/11
11:56
PM ET
BALTIMORE -- Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 34-17 win over the New York Jets:

What it means: The Ravens improve to 3-1 and move out to a one-game lead on the entire division (the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers are all 2-2). Other than a slip-up at Tennessee, Baltimore has been one of the most dominant teams in the NFL. And the Ravens have been extremely dominant when it comes to the Jets, beating them seven straight times.

Thumbs up: Baltimore's defense. The Ravens set a franchise record with three touchdowns scored by their defense, which says a lot considering their legacy on that side of the ball. Baltimore scored defensive touchdowns in the first (6-yard fumble return by Jameel McClain), second (26-yard fumble return by Jarret Johnson) and third quarters (73-yard interception return by Lardarius Webb).

Thumbs down: Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco didn't complete a pass in the second or third quarters. Not all of the passing game's struggles can be blamed on Flacco, whose receivers dropped some passes, too. His forgettable streak was 12 straight incompletions, which spanned 35 1/2 minutes.

Jumping out: The Ravens took a 17-7 lead in the first quarter, which isn't surprising. Baltimore has outscored opponents this season, 52-7, in the opening period.

No help: The Baltimore defense didn't get any support from the rest of the team. The Ravens' special teams allowed a 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and Flacco had an interception ran back for a score. That was 14 of the Jets' 17 points.

What's next: The Ravens enter their bye week before playing the Houston Texans in Baltimore.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 31-27 home defeat against the New York Giants in Week 4:

What it means: The Cardinals blew a chance at claiming a key home victory outside the division, dropping them to 1-3 heading into a road game against the Minnesota Vikings. Arizona needed to win this game after NFC West rival San Francisco upped its record to 3-1 with an upset road victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. Had the Cardinals won, a breakout performance from running back Beanie Wells and timely turnover production by the Arizona defense would have removed the focus from another mostly shaky showing by Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb.

What I liked: Larry Fitzgerald made another spectacular leaping grab for a spot in the Cardinals' record book. This time, his 47-yard grab deep in Giants territory moved Fitzgerald past Roy Green for the top spot on the franchise list for receiving yardage. Last week, his touchdown grab at Seattle moved him past Green for most scoring receptions. Wells provided the physical running presence Arizona missed against Seattle, topping 100 yards on the ground. This was his second career game with more than one rushing touchdown in a game. On defense, Calais Campbell and David Carter forced fumbles leading to 10 points for Arizona. Darnell Dockett was a force, disrupting plays.

What I didn't like: Kolb continued to struggle, losing a fumble and tossing an interception. He took too many sacks, seemed affected by pressure and lacked awareness when taking a grounding penalty. The Cardinals mismanaged a sequence right before halftime, setting up the Giants for one last drive in the quarter. Wells fumbled on the Cardinals' first possession of the second half. Penalties hurt Arizona on both sides of the ball; the Cardinals had 10 of them before reaching the fourth quarter. Strong safety Adrian Wilson let a potential interception slip through his grasp for the second week in a row. He is consistently getting chances for interceptions and should have more than the one he collected at Washington. Cornerback A.J. Jefferson had trouble finishing tackles.

Injuries of note: The Cardinals lost right tackle Brandon Keith to an apparent knee injury. Jeremy Bridges replaced him. Fitzgerald briefly left the game with what appeared to be a calf injury. Wells rode a stationary bike on the sideline to keep his injured hamstring loose. Arizona benefited when the Giants lost center David Baas to injury. Carter beat Baas' replacement for the fumble-forcing play on Manning. The Cardinals lost cornerback Richard Marshall to a quadriceps injury in the fourth quarter. Jefferson was shaken up late in the game, leaving Michael Adams as the primary corner opposite Patrick Peterson.

Upon further review: Referee Jerome Boger overturned on replay Manning's scoring pass to tight end Jake Ballard. Brandon Jacobs scored from the 1 on the next play, pulling the Giants within 20-17 early in the fourth quarter. Before Sunday, referees had overturned 13 of 20 touchdowns when reviewing whether a runner had broken the plane of the goal line.

Controversial call: The Cardinals, leading 27-24 late in the game, thought they had produced a turnover when the Giants' Victor Cruz set down the ball before a defender touched him during the Giants' go-ahead scoring drive. I thought Boger was correct in ruling that Cruz had given himself up on the play and was therefore down. However, former NFL officiating director Mike Pereira said he thought Cruz stumbled on the play, and that this should have been ruled a fumble. Should be some good debate on this one.

What's next: The Cardinals visit Minnesota in Week 5.

Rapid Reaction: Pats 31, Raiders 19

October, 2, 2011
10/02/11
7:31
PM ET
OAKLAND -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 31-19 win over the Raiders:

PatsRaidersWhat it means: The Patriots improve to 3-1, while the Raiders -- who were using this game as a measuring stick to see where they stand in the AFC -- drop to 2-2. The Patriots took advantage of Raider penalties and turnovers to post the win. The defense looked vulnerable for large stretches of the game, but provided enough resistance in critical situations, while also benefitting from a few Raider gifts. This wasn’t a convincing effort, but the Patriots will obviously take it.

Injury to Mayo a top story: Patriots defensive captain Jerod Mayo left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. He had to be carted to the locker room at halftime. The Pro Bowl linebacker plays every snap, leads the huddle, and also tops the team in tackles. In addition to Mayo, running back Danny Woodhead limped off at the end of the second quarter and did not return.

Turning point at end of half: Much like last week’s game in Buffalo, a key turning point came at the end of the first half, and this time it went in the Patriots’ favor. The Raiders were driving with a chance to go ahead 17-14 when Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell gift-wrapped an interception to safety Patrick Chung in the end zone. The Patriots drove down for a field goal in what was a 10-point swing, and then got the ball at the start of the third quarter and scored a touchdown (24-10).

Welker simply remarkable: What else can be said when it comes to Wes Welker? At the quarter-point of the season, he has had an MVP-worthy stretch. He finished with nine catches for 158 yards and a touchdown Sunday. When the Patriots need a big play, it’s usually Tom Brady looking to Welker.

Ridley continues to rise; running game shows life: Rookie running back Stevan Ridley (10 carries, 97 yards, TD) had his best day as a pro, getting his most extended playing time and contributing with an impressive 33-yard touchdown run in the second half. Ridley played five snaps in the first half, but saw more time in the second half as Woodhead was sidelined with an injury. Overall, the Patriots’ running game was a big part of the victory, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis (16 carries, 75 yards and a TD) also running well. The Patriots were balanced and answered the physical challenge.

Turns out Seymour helps Patriots: Former Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour helped the Patriots, as he was flagged for unnecessary roughness and a face mask on the Patriots’ first drive. The Raiders had seized some early momentum at that point, but Seymour gave it back. It might have been a case of him being too fired up to play his former team.

Another INT for Wilfork: The Patriots’ secret weapon on pass defense? That would be 6-foot-2, 325-pound defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. For the second time in three weeks, Wilfork had an interception, this one coming in the fourth quarter on a short pass across the middle. Given the team’s thinned depth at cornerback ... (sarcasm intended).

Raiders not yet in the elite discussion: After beating the Jets last week, the Raiders had their fans excited that perhaps they were ready to enter the discussion of the AFC’s top teams. But their undisciplined and sloppy play in this game made them look like the “same-old” Raiders.

What’s next: The Patriots host the Jets next Sunday (4:15 p.m.). It will be the Jets’ third straight road game.
OAKLAND – A look at a down day for the Raiders:

What does it mean: The Raiders aren’t ready to compete with the game’s elite. Not yet, at least. After an impressive win over the New York Jets last week, the Raiders were handled pretty easily by New England. The Raiders need to clear up mistakes or its playoff hopes will be dimmed at some point. Oakland is heading in the right direction, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Tomorrow’s talker: The Raiders’ defense is a problem. It couldn’t stop the Patriots on the ground or in the air. New England had 410 yards of total offense. Defense has been a problem in the early season for the Raiders. It has to be addressed. There is too much talent on that side of the ball for it to get routinely gashed. The least amount of points the Raiders have allowed the season is 20.

Trending: This was Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell’s worst game of the young season. He has become a solid game manager. Sunday, Campbell threw two terrible interceptions, including a crucial pick in the end zone late in the second quarter, which was the turning point of the game.

Keep your cool, Richard: This game clearly meant something to Oakland defensive end Richard Seymour. It was the first time he played New England since it traded him to the Raiders in 2009. He had two 15-yard penalties on the Patriots’ first offensive drive of the game and he added another five-yard penalty. Seymour is Oakland’s leader. I know he was amped, but he has to keep better composure.

What’s next: The Raiders finish a tough three-game stretch at Houston next week. The challenge doesn’t get any easier for the Raiders’ challenged defense.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cowboys blew a 24-point lead, the second time this season a double-digit second half lead was blown resulting in a loss. Detroit 34, Dallas 30.

What it means: The Cowboys head into the bye at 2-2 and missed a chance to take momentum into the game against New England in two weeks. It was a bad loss, possibly worse than the Week 1 loss to the New York Jets. The Cowboys were booed when they walked off the field. This was terrible.

Romo's screwups: Tony Romo's three second-half interceptions led to three touchdowns for the Detroit Lions. The last turnover was on a pass to Jason Witten that came with 4:13 to play in regulation, and the Lions took the lead on the ensuing drive. In the Week 1 loss to the New York Jets, Romo committed two turnovers in the fourth quarter. You can't have that if you're trying to be an elite quarterback.

Johnson's day: He didn't have a catch in the first quarter, but as the game picked up, Calvin Johnson turned into Megatron. Johnson finished with eight catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 1:49 to play. The Cowboys' secondary struggled to cover him in man and zone coverage. The last score was a jump ball over Terence Newman. Rob Ryan said Dez Bryant and Miles Austin were better and Jason Garrett said Johnson was the best player in the NFL. Looks like Garrett may have been right.

Where'd Dez go? After catching three passes, including two for touchdowns, in the first half, Dez Bryant was shut out in the second half. Bryant played with a bruised thigh but still was effective, catching touchdown passes of 25 and 6 yards. But with the Cowboys turning the ball over and running the ball, it made Bryant ineffective on the day.

What's next?: A bye. The Cowboys take four days off and will get ready for a trip to New England in two weeks.

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 24, Eagles 23

October, 2, 2011
10/02/11
4:45
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- Some thoughts from the Philadelphia Eagles' absolutely brutal loss to the San Francisco 49ers:

What it means: Huge, huge trouble for an Eagles team that has no reason to consider itself a playoff contender, let alone a Super Bowl contender, after a loss like this. You get a 20-3 lead and your quarterback throws for more than 400 yards against an offense led by Alex Smith? You have to win that game, and you have to win it easily. Instead, the Eagles' defense fell completely apart in the second half and allowed Smith, Frank Gore and Co. to come all the way back and get out of town with a huge upset victory. It's the third straight game the Eagles have lost after leading in the fourth quarter.

At least Vick finished the game: Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who injured his head two weeks ago and his hand last week, said he was determined to play all four quarters this week, and he did -- brilliantly. Vick threw for 416 yards, rushed for another 75 and looked poised to lead the Eagles on a potential game-winning drive until Jeremy Maclin's costly fumble in the final three minutes. If the Eagles can draw any positive from this awful, awful game, it's that Vick was at least able to play the whole thing.

It's spelled T-A-C-K-L-E: For all of the work they did to improve the defense this offseason, somebody forgot to teach tackling. The Eagles' linebackers and defensive backs consistently go after ball carriers in attempts to make big, bone-jarring, ball-loosening hits, and as a result, big, strong players like Vernon Davis and Gore can bounce off and continue running. It happened last week against the Giants, happened again this week and will continue to happen until the Eagles start stressing defensive fundamentals and execution. Jason Babin was the star of the show with three sacks, but when the Eagles don't get to the passer, they have almost no defense at all.

Too one-dimensional: LeSean McCoy came into the game as the second-leading rusher in the NFL and gained 18 yards on nine carries. That's a game plan flaw, and it's hard to imagine why it happened, especially with the Eagles leading 20-3 at the half. It was important for the Eagles to establish the downfield passing game, and they succeeded in doing that, but a little bit more balance would have helped keep the defense off the field in the second half.

Mistake-prone Eagles: Ronnie Brown trying to throw a pass while being tackled at the goal line? Maclin's fumble? The silly lateral on the punt return when the ball was already in DeSean Jackson's hands? The Eagles play too loose on offense, defense and special teams, almost inviting teams to try to beat them. Often, they look too convinced of their own considerable talent, and they forget the little, important things.

Rookie kicker: Some did ask in the preseason whether it was wise to spend so much money and then leave the field goals to rookie kicker Alex Henery. Not that former Eagle David Akers looked all that good in his return with the Niners, but Henery's late misses were costly.

What's next: The Eagles travel to Buffalo on Sunday to play the 3-1 Bills, who suffered their first loss of the season Sunday in Cincinnati. The Buffalo offense has been much more potent so far this year than San Francisco's, so it's hard to imagine the Eagles' defense containing the Bills on the road.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions’ latest stunning victory, a 34-30 win over the Cowboys:

What it means: What should we call the Lions? Maybe they’re the NFC North’s Kardiac Kitties. Last week, they made up a 20-0 halftime deficit against the Minnesota Vikings. Sunday, they trailed the Cowboys 27-3 with 12 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter and came back for the win. They’re 4-0 for the first time since 1980, on an eight-game regular-season winning streak for the first time since 1953-54 and one of two undefeated teams in the NFL pending the Green Bay Packers’ late result against the Denver Broncos.

MegatronWatch: Receiver Calvin Johnson’s leaping 1-yard touchdown catch won the game for the Lions with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining. Johnson has two receiving touchdowns in each of the Lions’ first four games, an NFL record for consecutive multi-touchdown games by a receiver. His 23-yard scoring reception in the third quarter came in between three defenders. Can we please, please stop all of this silly talk about where Johnson belongs in the NFL hierarchy of receivers? Pretty please?

Defensive spark: The Cowboys gashed the Lions' defense for most of this game, but three huge interceptions were the equalizer. Linebacker Bobby Carpenter and cornerback Chris Houston each returned their interceptions for touchdowns in the third quarter, and linebacker Stephen Tulloch tipped a pass to himself late in the fourth quarter when Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was inexplicably throwing with a lead. Tulloch’s play set up the Lions’ winning possession. Yardage doesn’t count when you have players who can make up the difference like that.

Injury report: The Lions played much of the second half without safety Amari Spievey, who had a leg injury.

Stafford Watch: Quarterback Matthew Stafford managed only 88 yards in the first half, clearly unsettled, possibly because he was playing in his hometown. But he was cool during the Lions' comeback and capitalized repeatedly when the Cowboys put Johnson in single coverage. Unofficially, Stafford threw for 158 yards after halftime.

What’s next: The Lions will host the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football." They last played at night on Dec. 11, 2005, a 16-13 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers. Their last Monday night game was in 2001, and their last victory on Monday night was in 1998.

CHICAGO -- Running back Matt Forte ran for a career-high 205 yards and a touchdown, proving he can carry the often-ignored rushing attack, while electric return man Devin Hester proved Sunday why Chicago’s special teams units rank among the league’s most dynamic in the team’s 34-29 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Here are a few quick-hitting thoughts from the game.

What it means: For a team that breaks the year up into quarters, it was important for the Bears to break a two-game skid to finish the first quarter of the season with a 2-2 record. In defeating the Panthers, the club proved it could improve upon several highly-scrutinized areas such as the ground game, pass protection, and receiver play on offense.

But defensively, the Bears know they need to shore up a few areas. The secondary has been seemingly decimated by the loss of safety Chris Harris, and the front four hasn’t generated sufficient pass rush to take pressure off the back end. The team is also allowing unacceptable numbers against the run, which is something the Bears hope to correct with extra prep time for next week’s game.

Moore scores: Third-year nickel corner D.J. Moore definitely shows no problem morphing into offensive playmaker mode when he intercepts passes.

Moore returned his second career interception for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Panthers. With the Panthers backed up at their own 9, Cam Newton misfired on a pass that ricocheted off the mitts of linebacker Lance Briggs and into the hands of Moore, who raced 20 yards for the TD.
Moore now has five career INTs, with two returned for TDs.

Ratio rectified: Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz took criticism over the past two weeks for a wildly lopsided pass-run ratio. Coming into Sunday’s game, the team had run the ball 24 times in losses to the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers while throwing 82 passes.

Martz made amends for the playcalling mishaps against the Panthers, and the Bears benefitted. Chicago ran the ball 12 times in the first half while passing on just four plays. Led by Matt Forte, the team averaged 9 yards per carry in the first half in rushing for 108 yards.

More importantly, the constant run threat kept the Carolina defense off balance. Perhaps that’s allowed quarterback Jay Cutler to complete three of the four passes he attempted in the first half.

For the game, the Bears ran the ball 31 times, netting TDs on the ground from Forte and backup Marion Barber.

Secondary struggles: Despite increased focus on stopping Panthers receiver Steve Smith, the veteran still managed to haul in six catches in the first half alone for 132 yards. His 53-yard reception to start the second quarter set up a Newton 1-yard run which tied the score at 10-all.

The Bears did a better job on Smith in the second half by holding him to only one catch.

Run D lackluster, too: Chicago entered Sunday’s contest with No. 18 rush defense, and it’s quite apparent the club’s ranking will drop further after a dismal performance against the Panthers.

Opponents averaged 109.3 rushing against the Bears over the first three games. By the end of the first half Sunday, the Bears had given up 100 yards to the Panthers, which were averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

Given Smith’s preference to snuff out the run above all else, look for this team to spend extra time working to correct run fits in the week of practice leading up to Monday night’s showdown with the Detroit Lions. The Bears have been gashed two weeks in a row now (the Packers rushed for 100 yards on the club last week), and it appears teams are using wider splits along the offensive line to exploit the run defense.

What’s next: The Bears face the Detroit Lions on the road on Monday night in a crucial NFC North clash. Chicago trails both the Lions and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North standings. So the Bears can’t afford to fall further back if they want to remain in contention for the divisional crown.

HOUSTON -- Thoughts on the Texans’ 17-10 win against the Steelers at Reliant Stadium.

What it means: The Texans move to 3-1 and maintain a share of first place in the AFC South. We saw some of the second-half killer instinct that’s been a question, which is a very good sign.

What to worry about: Receiver Andre Johnson left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. Matt Schaub did well finding tight end Owen Daniels in his absence. But any extended absence for Johnson will be a significant dent to the Texans’ high-powered offense.

What I liked: On a crucial late possession by the Steelers, Antonio Smith and Mario Williams collected back-to-back sacks of Ben Roethlisberger, forcing a punt from deep in Steelers’ territory. Also, Arian Foster played his first full game of the season after dealing with a hamstring injury and ran hard, with 30 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown. That meant 138 passing yards were enough.

What I didn’t like: Penalties hurt the Texans, though they overcame several. They should have been up 17-0 instead of 10-0 at the half, but a blocked field goal attempt by Danieal Manning returned for a touchdown by Johnathan Joseph was wiped away by an illegal block above the waist by Manning. It was completely unnecessary and could have been an absolute killer.

What’s next: The Oakland Raiders come to Houston and the Texans will need to stop Darren McFadden, who’s been one of the league’s top running backs so far.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFL SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/21
Friday, 8/22
Saturday, 8/23
Sunday, 8/24
WEEKLY LEADERS