NFL Nation: 2013 Week 4 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Dolphins Week 4

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
11:00
AM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Miami Dolphins' 38-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints:

Where the Dolphins stand: Last week, I mentioned several times that the “Monday Night Football” game against the Saints would provide a good measuring stick for the Dolphins. It turns out Miami isn’t close to being an elite team. At 3-1, the Dolphins are merely a second- or third-tier team finding its way. There’s nothing wrong with that for this young group. However, Miami was disappointed it didn’t at least have a better showing in front of a national audience. Losing by three touchdowns only furthers the national perception that the Dolphins aren’t a serious contender.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesRyan Tannehill was under pressure all night from the New Orleans defense.
Ryan Tannehill lays an egg: We hadn’t seen it in a while, but the Dolphins second-year quarterback laid his first egg of the 2013 season against New Orleans. Tannehill threw for 249 yards, one touchdown and had four turnovers. Tannehill had a costly fumble and threw three interceptions. It’s extremely difficult to win on the road when the quarterback is turning over the football that much. Tannehill had been playing at an MVP level in the first three weeks. The Dolphins are only going to go as far as Tannehill takes them. So these kind of awful performances for the young quarterback need to be few and far between.

Protection issues: The Dolphins have struggled with pass protection in every game this season. Miami allowed another four sacks Monday against the Saints. Tannehill is the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL through four weeks with 18. The Dolphins must figure out a way to stop the leaks in pass protection soon before Tannehill gets injured. Once the Saints got the lead, they were able gear up against the pass and manhandle Miami's offensive line.

Champs up next: The Dolphins can’t sulk following their first loss of the season. Miami has another important game coming up against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens at Sun Life Stadium. We are going to find out a lot about Miami and its ability to bounce back from losses. This is another golden opportunity for the Dolphins to make a statement in the AFC and improve to 4-1 before the bye week. The Dolphins have had a very tough schedule to start the season. If they can enter the bye with four victories, that will be a major accomplishment.

Upon Further Review: New England Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
3:00
PM ET
A review of four hot issues following the New England Patriots' 30-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

Life without Big Vince: With news that defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has a torn right Achilles, the Patriots now face life without one of their top players. How will they proceed? Wilfork’s value to the team, and the Patriots’ options to replace him, have been dissected and analyzed. Patriots coach Bill Belichick also shared some thoughts on rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, who bump up the depth chart behind starter Tommy Kelly. The Patriots have had experience dealing with big injuries in the past, and this is one of the more significant ones based on Wilfork’s on-field and leadership contributions.

[+] EnlargeDanny Amendola
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliThe Patriots hope Danny Amendola is able to return to action this week.
Other injuries to monitor: Alfonzo Dennard, elevated to the starting cornerback spot opposite Aqib Talib in the base defense, hobbled off late in the game and didn’t finish. Also, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson sustained a neck injury in the second half and never returned. Dobson has been working as the No. 3 receiver.

Gronkowski and Amendola close to returns? Tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Danny Amendola didn’t make the trip to Atlanta and now the focus turns to their availability for Sunday’s game in Cincinnati. Gronkowski’s murky status was detailed within the context of those in his inner “circle” having some reservations about him playing. Meanwhile, Amendola, we believe, has a good chance of making his return Sunday.

Defense answers the challenge: One of the big questions facing the Patriots was if the performance of the defense through the first three weeks was more a result of playing weak competition. Few, if any, would put quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ explosive attack in that category. Thus, the general perception of the Patriots’ defense seems to be shifting a bit. This is a solid unit, sparked by the standout play of Talib.

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
2:00
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- An examination for four hot issues from the Denver Broncos' 52-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeWes Welker
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesWes Welker has been as good as advertised playing in Denver's offense.
Spread it thick: It is what some defensive coordinators envisioned when the Broncos reeled in Wes Welker in free agency: With a quarterback as accomplished -- and as patient at this point in his career -- as Peyton Manning is, defending the Broncos' three-wide look would be a chore. And it has been just that as Manning has targeted Demaryius Thomas, Welker and Eric Decker 38, 37 and 35 times, respectively, and the three have 29, 26 and 24 catches, respectively

Screen it in: When Sunday’s game was still somewhat in the balance, the Eagles did have some success in the screen game against the Broncos' aggressive front seven, including a short toss to running back Bryce Brown that turned into a 34-yard gain early, along with a 21-yarder to running back LeSean McCoy. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has used running back DeMarco Murray plenty in the passing game -- 21 catches, tied for second on the team -- so it will be something for the Broncos to consider this week.

Finish it: Whenever Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is asked about some tweak in the scheme, he will often get the conversation back to “leverage and tackling" at some point. “It’s basic, as old as football," he said. And when things don’t go right for the Broncos' defense, it’s often because they did not fulfill that maxim. They have been steady in that department for much of the early going, but when the Eagles did move the ball Sunday, there was often a missed tackle to blame. That included a Robert Ayers miss on Michael Vick in the first quarter to go with missed tackles from linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Nate Irving later in the quarter on back-to-back plays, both on McCoy.

Go big: When kick returner Trindon Holliday scores a touchdown, it is almost always an enormous, momentum-swinging play, including his 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Eagles. In 16 games with the Broncos, last season's playoff loss included, Holliday now has six touchdown returns, with the shortest one being a 76-yard punt return last season. His three kickoff returns for scores have been for 105, 104 and 105 yards.

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
2:00
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders' 24-14 loss to the Washington Redskins:

[+] EnlargeDennis Allen
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez Dennis Allen's late gamble on fourth down against the Redskins backfired.
Why no FG?: There was still more than 3 minutes left to play and the Raiders, down 10 points, were at Washington’s 17-yard line facing fourth-and-1. Surely it was time to trot out Sebastian Janikowski for the chippy 35-yard field goal and get within a touchdown, no? Well, um, no. Coach Dennis Allen decided to go for it, with a quarterback sneak by Matt Flynn. “It was fourth-and-inches and we have to be able to make inches,” Allen said. Flynn instead fumbled and the Raiders turned it over on downs, still needing two scores. “We hadn’t been moving the ball up and down the field, and to get a chance to be down there when you’re in scoring position,” Allen said, “you can possibly get a touchdown, we have to make inches.” Except, even if Flynn had been successful in getting a few inches, more time would have burned off the clock, and Oakland still would have had 16 yards to go with two timeouts.

Blocked punt reincarnate: It only looked like a repeat of Derrick Jensen blocking Jeff Hayes' punt and recovering it in the end zone for the Raiders’ first points of Super Bowl XVIII. But Rashad Jennings blocking Sav Rocca's punt did the same for Oakland on this day, as Jeremy Stewart recovered the ball in the end zone for the 7-0 advantage. It was Jennings’ second career block -- he almost had another in the fourth quarter -- and Stewart’s first career touchdown.

Hurry-up on the way? Washington prepared a blueprint for future Raiders opponents. Robert Griffin III running the no-huddle in the second quarter helped turn the momentum after the Raiders had taken a 14-0 lead. “When nothing is going your way,” Griffin said, “you’ve got to try something … it kind of tired their defense out a little bit. We were able to move the ball more consistently and convert third downs.”

Of explosive plays IV: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air, 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had eight such plays against Washington, two runs and six passes. Washington also had eight explosive plays, two runs and six passes. In three games, the Raiders have 34 explosive plays (12 runs, 22 passes), with three passes for touchdowns. Oakland’s opponents have 31 explosive plays, eight runs and 23 passes with a touchdown each way.

Upon Further Review: Colts Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
1:15
PM ET
An examination of five topics from the Indianapolis Colts’ 37-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

[+] EnlargeDarius Butler
Phil Sears/USA TODAY SportsFor the second straight season, DB Darius Butler was dandy for the Colts in Jacksonville.
Feeling at home: Colts nickelback Darius Butler is making Jacksonville a second home. Butler intercepted a Blaine Gabbert pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown on Sunday. The touchdown was the second in as many games in Jacksonville for Butler. He had two interceptions, a touchdown, a fumble recovery and two passes defended in the Colts' win at Jacksonville on Nov. 8, 2012. Butler was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in that game. “I’m originally from Ft. Lauderdale, so I guess it’s the Florida ties I have here,” Butler said, laughing.

A lot of carries, not a lot of yards: Running back Trent Richardson got his first start in place of the injured Ahmad Bradshaw. Richardson got a lot of carries (20), but he had a difficult time finding running room. He finished with only 60 yards rushing, with 12 yards being his longest run. Donald Brown rushed for more yards (65) than Richardson on 17 fewer carries. Richardson is averaging only 2.9 yards a carry. Bradshaw’s status for next week’s showdown against Seattle is uncertain. It’ll be interesting to see who coach Chuck Pagano starts if Bradshaw is ready to play. “I feel real good,” Richardson said. “I know the big run is going to come. I know I have to contribute more to the offense, but when it comes to the time where it’s play-action and they’re not touching [quarterback Andrew] Luck and our receivers are catching the ball, that’s also a good day for me.”

Continuing the winning ways: The Colts ended September with a 3-1 record and tied with Tennessee for first place in the AFC South. The Colts have a league-best 26-10 record in September games since 2003 -- one more victory in that span than New England and Seattle.

Pounding it on the ground: Richardson has gotten off to a slow start in his two games with Indianapolis, but that hasn’t stopped the Colts from continuing to be a balanced team. The Colts have rushed for at least 100 yards in all four games this season. The team record for consecutive 100-yard games to open the season is five. They can tie the record when they face a Seattle defense that is giving up 109 yards a game on the ground this season. The Colts are fourth in the league in rushing at 149.5 yards a game. The Colts have run the ball 121 times compared to 131 pass attempts. That's pretty balanced.

Reed finally makes his debut: Do you remember receiver/kick returner David Reed? It’s OK if his name doesn’t ring a bell. Reed was acquired for running back Delone Carter from Baltimore in training camp, but he spent the first three weeks of the season dealing with a concussion and quad injury. Reed finally made his debut Sunday. He returned two kickoffs for 45 yards. The goal is for Reed to be the team’s kick returner if he can remain healthy.

Upon Further Review: Bills Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:57
PM ET
A review of four hot issues from the Buffalo Bills' 23-20 win against the Baltimore Ravens:

[+] EnlargeDonnie Henderson
David Duprey/AP PhotoDonnie Henderson, the Bills' defensive backs coach, received the game ball for Sunday's win against Baltimore.
Henderson gets game ball: Game balls are often given out by coaches to players, but the Bills gave a game ball to defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson following Sunday's game, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported. The Bills' secondary was without its top three players but held its own against Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Henderson came up through the coaching ranks with the Ravens and Jets early last decade, along with Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine. But four years ago Henderson was out of work and volunteering for the California Redwoods of the now-defunct United Football League. Quite the turnaround for the veteran coach.

Too close for comfort: Despite what looked like a lopsided matchup on paper -- the defending Super Bowl MVP leading a 2-1 Ravens team against a 1-2 Bills squad with a rookie quarterback -- this was a game the Bills controlled nearly from start to finish. Two Buffalo drives stalled in the red zone in the first quarter, and even so, the Bills were still able to lead 23-14 by late in the third quarter. It wasn't ideal for Buffalo to allow the Ravens to make it a three-point game late, with a chance to tie or win prior to Flacco's last interception. "We let them back in the ballgame," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. "We didn't steal a game or we didn't squeak by. We let them back in and we let it that get close."

Bills tie team record: The Ravens didn't exactly try too hard to run against the Bills' defense, but when they did, they weren't able to gain any first downs rushing. That ties a Bills record, set three times prior: Oct. 30, 1966 against the Jets; Oct. 26, 1982 against the Patriots; and Oct. 30, 2011 against the Redskins.

Test for Bills ahead: The Bills are 2-2 entering the second month of the season. They're 2-1 at home, but they enter a tough October stretch that includes three road trips, starting Thursday in Cleveland on a short week. They return home to face Cincinnati in Week 6, but play only three of their final 10 games at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills have gotten the job done at home, but they'll need to prove themselves on the road.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:54
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Titans' 38-13 win over the Jets:

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
AP Photo/Patric SchneiderDespite being knocked out with a hip injury in Week 4, Jake Locker is among the top five NFL quarterbacks in passer rating (99.0).
Is anyone actually watching? It’s time to start giving Jake Locker his due. He was superb against the Jets, with three touchdown throws in the first half. Yet a national overnight radio host put him in the same category as Tim Tebow and another national personality compared him to Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor. Sure, Locker has had issues with his game before this season. But if you've actually watched him through four games, you see a guy making good decisions and good throws. The Titans are 3-1 largely because of Locker, not despite him. Now they have to see how long he’ll be out with a hip injury and how well they can survive with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm.

Michael Griffin wavers: A week ago against the Chargers, the Titans free safety went low on a pass-catcher on a play he could have blown up with a high hit, or might have even intercepted. He admitted the reason he approached the play as he did was because of the way the NFL is fining players for high hits. Against the Jets, as Alterraun Verner intercepted a Geno Smith pass on the second play from scrimmage, Griffin hit the receiver, Stephen Hill, in the chin with his helmet. Hill wound up with a concussion, and odds are Griffin will end up with a fine.

Receiver depth showing: Kenny Britt was out because he’s got an injured rib and neck. Set aside any conspiracy theories. The Titans may lack a superstar receiver, but all along we’ve spoken of their good depth. They showed it off against the Jets. Nate Washington was big again. Justin Hunter had a TD catch that was better than the game winner against the Chargers. Damian Williams chipped in with five catches for 53 yards. With or without a functioning and focused Britt, the Titans have guys who can make plays.

Swarming: The Titans don’t have a singular pass-rusher, but if the group effort is like this, they don’t need one. Ropati Pitoitua, a run-stopping defensive end, had two sacks of Geno Smith. Linebacker Zach Brown and defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug also had sacks. He Titans hit Smith an additional six times. He dropped back 34 times and the Titans hit him on just under a third of them.

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:50
PM ET
Four hot issues that emerged from the New York Jets' 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans:

[+] EnlargeSmith
AP Photo/Mark ZaleskiDespite their 2-2 record, the Jets and quarterback Geno Smith are performing unevenly.
Who are these guys? The Jets finished the first quarter of the season at 2-2, demonstrating many of the qualities we expected from this group -- a defense-minded team with a mistake-prone rookie at quarterback. For the most part, they’ve been terrific on defense, especially at the line of scrimmage. Other times, such as Sunday in Nashville, they’ve suffered from shaky coverage on the back end. Offensively, they’ve been what we expected for 12 out of 16 quarters -- a struggling unit. They were prolific against the Buffalo Bills, but was that a mirage? Sure looks like it. The lack of discipline (44 penalties) is uncharacteristic and alarming.

Help the kid: Smith will remain the starter for the time being, so it’s up to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to figure out a way to help him. On Sunday, he should’ve leaned more on the running game instead airing it out. Bilal Powell averaged 5.7 yards per carry in the first half, gashing the Titans on some first-down runs, but he carried it only three times in the third quarter, when it still was a game. Look, I’m not going to rip Mornhinweg for being aggressive -- a week ago, he was hailed for his attacking mentality -- but he should dial it back a little when Smith slips into one of his funks. He already has eight interceptions, a season’s worth for some quarterbacks. It makes sense to feature the run against the Atlanta Falcons, considering wide receivers Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (concussion) are banged up and running back Mike Goodson is returning from a four-game suspension.

Cornerback issues: For three-plus years, Rex Ryan enjoyed the benefit of having two excellent cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. He never had to worry about bad matchups on the outside. Now that Revis is gone, Ryan is experiencing what most coaches go through. Darrin Walls became the third player to start at right corner, following Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson. The once-formidable secondary doesn’t scare anyone anymore. The run-oriented Titans compiled a 129.8 passer rating, beating Cromartie twice for touchdowns and Walls once. I’m not second-guessing the Revis trade, but you can certainly criticize the Jets’ post-Revis plan, as Milliner was struggling before he got hurt.

Self-inflicted wounds: The numbers are damning -- 12 giveaways and 44 penalties. Let’s simplify: That’s 56 bad things in four games. If you throw in the 14 sacks allowed, it’s 70 bad things. It’s hard to win football games at that rate. That they have only two takeaways, meaning a minus-10 turnover margin, compounds the issue. It has to get better or else the Jets will be out of the race by Halloween, especially with a tough October schedule. Ryan’s team is leaking oil in a lot of places, and it’s too late for a full-service oil change.

Upon Further Review: Steelers Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:45
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- An examination of four hot issues from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeLe'Veon Bell
AP Photo/Sang TanRunning back Le'Veon Bell scored two TDs in his NFL debut, a rare bright spot for the 0-4 Steelers.
NFL's worst team? Forget numbers when assessing how far the Steelers have fallen. Simply listen to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who said the Steelers might be the worst team in the league after falling to 0-4. Only the presence of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes that a slight exaggeration, but the point is well taken. Coach Mike Tomlin drew a line after the loss and said those who are not fully vested in turning the Steelers’ season around will not be with the team. “It’s that simple,” he said. Actually, it isn’t. Roster limitations preclude Tomlin from making sweeping changes as much as he would probably like to go that route, especially along the offensive line. Left tackle Mike Adams has been a disaster, but any plans to try Kelvin Beachum there might be put on hold if left guard Ramon Foster's chest injury causes him to miss some games.

Poor tackling: The Steelers’ tackling, as it turned out, was every bit as bad as it looked. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson gained 93 of his 140 yards after contact, according the ESPN Stats & Information. Peterson had gained 112 yards after contact in his first three games combined. The Steelers weren’t any more successful when they dared Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel to beat them. Cassel completed 7 of 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown when the Steelers put eight men in the box, according the ESPN Stats & Information. The bye-week practices give the Steelers a chance to get back to basics. Working on their tackling technique will be a top priority this week.

Ugly streak: Pittsburgh’s streak of rushing for fewer than 100 yards has stretched to 10 games, but the ground attack is headed in the right direction. Le'Veon Bell asserted himself as the feature back with 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his NFL debut. Assuming he stays healthy, the Steelers can ditch the running-back-by-committee approach they had been forced to use. Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones will also factor into the running game moving forward, and Isaac Redman looks like the odd man out. Redman, who opened the season as the starter, might not carry the ball again in what will be his final season with the Steelers. He did not dress against the Vikings and will be inactive as long as Bell, Dwyer and Jones stay healthy.

Not so special: Special teams play, which had been a strength through the first three games, took a step back against the Vikings. The Steelers gave up an average of almost 29 yards on five kickoff returns, and only a penalty on a fair-catch signal brought back a long punt return by the Vikings. Zoltan Mesko could be on shaky ground after averaging 35.4 yards on four punts, and the Steelers did not get much out of their return game. One worry they don’t have on special teams is Shaun Suisham. The veteran kicker is 6-for-6 on field goal attempts this season after making two against the Vikings.

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:31
PM ET
A weekly examination of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 17-6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals:

1. Cameron crazies. Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer may be the feel-good story in Cleveland right now, but he'll be the first to tell you the dream season he's currently experiencing wouldn't be taking shape if it wasn't for his big tight end, Jordan Cameron. In the two games Hoyer has started, Cameron has caught 16 passes and four touchdowns. During Hoyer's homecoming Sunday, his first career start in the stadium he attended games as a teenager, Cameron hauled in 10 passes and went up high and brought down a fade in the end zone. As the season continues, still possibly with Hoyer behind center, football fans across the country will learn more about Cameron. In that respect, before you know it, there might be a new kind of Cameron crazies.

[+] EnlargeJoe Haden
Matt Sullivan/Getty ImagesCleveland's Joe Haden (23) made life difficult Sunday for Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green.
2. Some good, some bad. The middle two quarters Buster Skrine played Sunday likely left some Browns fans scratching their heads and screaming at their TVs wondering if and when he might be replaced. In the fourth quarter, though, that all changed when Skrine read the high tip off a mishandled Andy Dalton pass and dived to snag the game's only interception. When the defensive back grabbed the ball out of the air with 3:43 remaining in the game, he effectively ended the contest. Even though the Bengals ended up getting the ball back one more time, they would have needed to score on that possession and another with time expiring in order to pull off a comeback. Along with the interception, Skrine had a pair of tackles and broke up three passes, including one that came on a pivotal third-quarter third down. He also had penalties for pass interference and unnecessary roughness that could have cost the Browns. Cincinnati, however, was unable to take advantage of either.

3. Efficient red zone play. Cleveland had to be encouraged by its play inside the Bengals' 20. Only once in three trips did the Browns not convert a red zone possession into a score. The lone failed red zone conversion came early in the second quarter, when kicker Billy Cundiff missed his first of two field goals. The other two drives ended in goal-to-go territory and resulted in passing touchdowns to Cameron and running back Chris Ogbonnaya.

4. Haden halts Green. Browns cornerback Joe Haden and Bengals receiver A.J. Green have been going against one another since they were in college playing in the SEC at Florida and Georgia, respectively. By now, they know each other's tendencies and nuances. In this latest matchup, though, it was Haden who got the better of Green, locking him down and making it difficult for Dalton to complete passes in Green's direction. When Haden wasn't batting away one of his two passes, he was typically right in Green's face, forcing an overthrow, or hitting him as soon as he caught the ball, limiting Green's yards after the catch. Targeted 14 times, Green caught seven passes for just 51 yards.

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:31
PM ET
A weekly examination of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 17-6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals:

1. Cameron crazies. Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer may be the feel-good story in Cleveland right now, but he'll be the first to tell you the dream season he's currently experiencing wouldn't be taking shape if it wasn't for his big tight end, Jordan Cameron. In the two games Hoyer has started, Cameron has caught 16 passes and four touchdowns. During Hoyer's homecoming Sunday, his first career start in the stadium he attended games as a teenager, Cameron hauled in 10 passes and went up high and brought down a fade in the end zone. As the season continues, still possibly with Hoyer behind center, football fans across the country will learn more about Cameron. In that respect, before you know it, there might be a new kind of Cameron crazies.

[+] EnlargeJoe Haden
Matt Sullivan/Getty ImagesCleveland's Joe Haden (23) made life difficult Sunday for Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green.
2. Some good, some bad. The middle two quarters Buster Skrine played Sunday likely left some Browns fans scratching their heads and screaming at their TVs wondering if and when he might be replaced. In the fourth quarter, though, that all changed when Skrine read the high tip off a mishandled Andy Dalton pass and dived to snag the game's only interception. When the defensive back grabbed the ball out of the air with 3:43 remaining in the game, he effectively ended the contest. Even though the Bengals ended up getting the ball back one more time, they would have needed to score on that possession and another with time expiring in order to pull off a comeback. Along with the interception, Skrine had a pair of tackles and broke up three passes, including one that came on a pivotal third-quarter third down. He also had penalties for pass interference and unnecessary roughness that could have cost the Browns. Cincinnati, however, was unable to take advantage of either.

3. Efficient red zone play. Cleveland had to be encouraged by its play inside the Bengals' 20. Only once in three trips did the Browns not convert a red zone possession into a score. The lone failed red zone conversion came early in the second quarter, when kicker Billy Cundiff missed his first of two field goals. The other two drives ended in goal-to-go territory and resulted in passing touchdowns to Cameron and running back Chris Ogbonnaya.

4. Haden halts Green. Browns cornerback Joe Haden and Bengals receiver A.J. Green have been going against one another since they were in college playing in the SEC at Florida and Georgia, respectively. By now, they know each other's tendencies and nuances. In this latest matchup, though, it was Haden who got the better of Green, locking him down and making it difficult for Dalton to complete passes in Green's direction. When Haden wasn't batting away one of his two passes, he was typically right in Green's face, forcing an overthrow, or hitting him as soon as he caught the ball, limiting Green's yards after the catch. Targeted 14 times, Green caught seven passes for just 51 yards.

Upon Further Review: Bengals Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:30
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Bengals' 17-6 loss to the Browns:

[+] EnlargeA.J. Green
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsStar Bengals receiver A.J. Green is on pace to catch nearly 100 passes this season.
1. Paging A.J. Green. Cincinnati has made a concerted effort to get the ball to receiver A.J. Green this season, targeting him 50 times through just four games. The success rate in actually getting the ball in his hands hasn't been very high, though. Of those 50 times he has been thrown to, Green has caught just 26 passes. In his past three games, the third-year wideout has caught just 17 of the 37 balls that quarterback Andy Dalton has sent his way. During Sunday's game, the pair connected on half of the 14 passing attempts that were directed toward Green. On multiple occasions, though, passes were either overthrown, underthrown or thrown into a space that Green didn't cut into. In order to get Cincinnati's offense rolling again, these two have to get back on the same page.

2. Still going to Gio. Rookie running back Giovani Bernard is another offensive player the Bengals are trying to get the ball to. Ever since his two-touchdown performance in his unofficial coming-out party during the Week 2 win over Pittsburgh, Bernard has been a fan (and fantasy fan) favorite. His speed makes him a threat to make plays in space and pick up large chunks of yards off short screen passes. Although Bernard wasn't able to get in the end zone Sunday in Cleveland, the Bengals' promise of putting him in more positions to make plays has taken shape. After having just five touches in Week 1, Bernard's role has steadily increased. He had nine touches in Week 2, 14 in Week 3 and 16 on Sunday. Against the Browns, Bernard's 6.3 yards per reception was his lowest single-game total this year.

3. Third-down difficulties. The Bengals couldn't seem to stay on the field long enough offensively, and couldn't kick the Browns off it defensively. In both phases the Bengals' third-down conversion ratings were the worst they have been all season. On offense, they converted just four of their 14 third-down opportunities (28.6 percent). On defense, they allowed the Browns to convert 9 of 18 opportunities (50 percent). All season, the offensive third-down conversion rating has trended negatively. After starting at 63.6 percent in the opener, Cincinnati has been less and less successful across the past three weeks. Before Sunday, the offense's third-down conversion percentage against the Packers (36.4 percent) had been the lowest. "At the end of the day, the tale of the tape would be third-down conversions," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "Those are things we've got to do better."

4. Crocker feels fine. Cincinnati hopes to get a little healthier this week when undefeated New England comes to town. Against the Browns, the Bengals were down three defensive backs, including veterans Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson. They hope the pair can heal from hamstring injuries this week. If not, safety Chris Crocker, who was re-signed last week and relieved both players at times on Sunday, feels confident that he can go out again if needed. After his first game since the 2012 regular-season finale, Crocker said his "conditioning was pretty good, and each week I'll be better."

Upon Further Review: Texans Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:30
PM ET
Analyzing four hot issues from the Houston Texans' 23-20 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

[+] EnlargeRichard Sherman
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsRichard Sherman had a season full of clutch plays, including this interception in Houston.
Was the play call wrong on the pick-six? The play on which Richard Sherman intercepted Matt Schaub was a short pass on third-and-4 with just under three minutes left in the game. The Texans were up seven points and ran four straight run plays on which Arian Foster had gains of 6, 5, 5 and 1 yard immediately before that play. Texans coach Gary Kubiak said it was the wrong call.

"I believe we've got to just run the ball, but we run the plays that are called, and we have to make good decisions," Texans tight end Owen Daniels said.

I say both the play call and the execution were wrong. A run play eats the clock and doesn't have as dramatic a floor as a pass play does. Fumble returns for touchdowns are possible, but much less likely than a pick-six, especially against Seattle's transcendent secondary. If they hadn't picked up the 4 yards necessary, so what? Punt the ball, let your defense do what it did for all but one drive. Further, the Seahawks had that play well-scouted, running it in practice all week. Then again, in the situation in which he found himself, there's no excuse for Schaub to have tried to force the ball to Daniels. Up seven with so little time left in the game, he didn't need the first down.

Is it time to panic? The panic that followed this game was tremendously predictable. Those panicking should remind themselves that the Texans have played only four games and this most recent loss was to what might be the best team in the NFL.

Wilson vs. blitzes: Russell Wilson has been good against blitzes, but he hadn't faced a team yet this season that brings extra pressure quite as much as the Texans do. Wilson was successful against five or more rushers in his first three games, averaging 9.2 yards per attempt. The Texans were much more effective at containing him: He averaged just 4.7 yards per attempt on Sunday in Houston. When Wilson finally got going it was because he used his legs, which he would rather not do.

Rotating guards: The Texans fidgeted with their left guard position on Sunday. Starter Wade Smith rotated with second-year guard/center Ben Jones, who started 10 games at right guard last season. Smith had knee surgery before this season, and last week I asked Kubiak if Smith's knee was still bothering him after he had some rest during the week's practices. Kubiak said it was not, but added that getting Smith ready between games has been a more involved process because of how quickly he returned. Smith didn't appreciate my asking if his knee felt OK. "Why does that matter?" he replied. I said I wondered if the knee was part of why he rotated with Jones and asked what he was told about the rotation. "I felt fine," Smith said, to both questions.

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:30
PM ET
A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 37-3 loss to Indianapolis:

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Phil Sears/USA TODAY SportsThe Jaguars are sticking by starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert -- at least for the time being.
Staying with Gabbert: Blaine Gabbert has thrown five interceptions and has led the offense to just three points in two home games this season, but Jaguars coach Gus Bradley is sticking with him as the team’s starting quarterback. Gabbert has a 5-21 record as a starter and has shown little progress since he was selected 10th overall in the 2011 draft, but Bradley wants to see more of Gabbert in the team’s current system before making any judgments about his future with the team. “I know you say, ‘Gus, we’ve waited to see,’ but I’ve got to see it,” Bradley said. He said some of the issues on Sunday may have been receivers not finishing routes, plus all three interceptions came after receivers bobbled passes.

No help: With Marcedes Lewis’ return lasting just the first series before he had to leave the game after reinjuring his calf, the Jaguars were again without any complementary playmakers to receiver Cecil Shorts. It’s one of the offense’s main problems because teams are able to roll coverages toward Shorts and force Gabbert to beat them with the other receivers -- two of whom were signed from the practice squad on Saturday. It didn’t work, obviously. Gabbert completed just five passes to other wide receivers (four to Ace Sanders, one to Jeremy Ebert). Justin Blackmon returns this week from a four-game suspension, so that should help, but Lewis’ absence is still significant.

TE troubles: The Jaguars again struggled to cover the tight end. Coby Fleener caught five passes for 77 yards and one touchdown, a 31-yarder in which he was wide open. Depending on the defense called, responsibility for the tight end falls to a linebacker, safety or nickel back. Regardless of which player had responsibility, there have been mistakes that resulted in big plays. As good as he is against the run, linebacker Paul Posluszny sometimes struggles in coverage, and the Jaguars started a pair of rookies at safety against the Colts. Through four games, tight ends have caught 20 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns. The Seahawks' and Colts' tight ends combined to catch 14 passes for 183 yards and three touchdowns.

Discipline problem: It’s not the fact that the Jaguars committed nine penalties for 65 yards that’s troubling. It’s the kinds of penalties that are the issue. Eight of the nine were discipline penalties: four defensive offside/encroachment, one illegal substitution, one false start, one roughing the passer, and one unsportsmanlike conduct. Those are mental mistakes that are avoidable. Jason Babin committed three, including lining up offside twice. The Jaguars aren’t close to being talented enough to be able to overcome mistakes like that, especially against a quarterback like Andrew Luck. “We cannot have that as part of our game,” Bradley said. “Obviously our players aren’t getting the message, and that’s on me.”

Upon Further Review: Chiefs Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:30
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Kansas City Chiefs' 31-7 win against the New York Giants:

[+] EnlargeSean McGrath
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaTight end Sean McGrath had five catches for 64 yards against Dallas.
Using the tight end: Tight end was a bright spot in the passing game as Sean McGrath and Kevin Brock combined for seven catches, 91 yards and touchdown. It’s critical that the Chiefs get help from all of their receivers because they don’t have a superstar for Alex Smith to throw to. The Chiefs were confident heading into training camp that they would get big receiving numbers from their tight ends, but none of their top three players at the position suited up against the Giants. Tony Moeaki is out for the season, and it might be at least one more week before Anthony Fasano (ankle) or Travis Kelce (knee) will be ready to play. The Chiefs grabbed McGrath off waivers from Seattle when the regular season started, and Brock re-signed only two weeks ago after being released by the Chiefs at the end of camp.

A new formula: The Chiefs proved they can win a game without winning the turnover battle. They were even in turnovers against the Giants, with each team committing three. That’s a positive sign as they head to Tennessee for Sunday’s game against the Titans, the only team in the league yet to commit a turnover. The Chiefs had been thriving through their first three games by winning the turnover battle. Heading into the Giants game, they were plus-nine in turnover differential, which was best in the league.

Streak ends: Smith's streak of 160 passes without an interception is over, but he didn’t appear much at fault with either of the two interceptions he threw against the Giants. Dwayne Bowe was running a slant on one interception and then appeared to cut the route short. Smith’s second interception was deflected by Jamaal Charles to a New York defender. Smith’s streak was second only to Denver’s Peyton Manning. Smith’s three touchdown passes were a career high. He is 23-5-1 over the past four seasons as a starter.

Scoring in every phase: The punt return brought back 89 yards by Dexter McCluster was the third touchdown scored this season by either the special teams or the defense. That equals the Chiefs’ total for the past two seasons. Touchdowns from the defense and special teams will continue to be important for the Chiefs, who don’t have a big-play offense. The Chiefs did a nice job sustaining long drives against the Giants, including one for 98 yards and another for 80 yards that resulted in touchdowns. But the big gains, such as a 69-yard touchdown catch by the Giants' Victor Cruz, have largely been the domain of the opponent.

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