Biggest Stories and Best Highlights from NFL Week 4

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 1, 2017

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24:    Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lunges toward the endzone resulting in a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the second quarter at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Six of 14 NFL games scheduled to take place Sunday featured teams with winning records.

Of note, the player second in the league in yards from scrimmage went against the NFL's sack king, while an elite wideout encountered a challenge in a battle for first place.

Here's a look at the biggest stories and best highlights from the NFL's fourth week.

     

Response After President Trump's Comments Continues in Week 4

Following President Donald Trump's comments Friday, Sept. 22, regarding the NFL and protests of social injustice during the national anthem, teams and players responded on the field in various forms last weekend. Notably, a few teams stayed in the locker room, while other players locked arms, sat on their benches or took knees.

As for Week 4 games that have taken place already, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers locked arms on their respective sidelines before their Thursday Night Football contest.

Benjamin Hoffman and Ken Belson of the New York Times compiled a list of team and player actions during the national anthem Sunday.

         

Injury Report

Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones left his game with the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter with a hip flexor injury and did not return.

He walked into the locker room and was initially ruled questionable to return, but Kelsey Conway of Falcons.com reported just before the second half that Jones was out for the game.

Conway also noted that Falcons' No. 2 wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook left his game with the Detroit Lions in the third quarter with a non-contact knee injury. NFL reporter Jason La Canfora provided more detail:

He was later ruled out for the game, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. According to Brandon Mileski of The Fan 100.3, Cook will have an MRI on Monday.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota also left his game against the Houston Texans in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. He was initially listed as questionable to return, per Jim Wyatt of the team website, but was eventually ruled out. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Mariota will have an MRI on Monday. 

When it comes to the late kickoffs, a back injury suffered by Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr stole the spotlight. Carr went to the blue medical tent on the sidelines before walking to the locker room. The team later confirmed Carr was questionable to return. Coincidentally enough, both Mariota and Carr suffered their serious injuries on the same day in December last season. 

    

Notable Upsets

One of the NFL's remaining undefeated teams took a fall Sunday, with the Buffalo Bills besting the homestanding Atlanta Falcons, 23-17. There, quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 182 yards and a score, while tight end Charles Clay reeled in five catches for 112 yards.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan struggled, with one touchdown against two interceptions as Jones and Sanu left with injuries.

Elsewhere, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton downed the New England Patriots with three touchdown passes. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns, including one that helped tie the game at 30 with three minutes to go. Carolina kicker Graham Gano sunk the hosts to 2-2 (1-2 at home) with a 48-yard kick as time expired.

The upstart Los Angeles Rams improved to 3-1 by stealing a 35-30 victory in Dallas. Quarterbacks Jared Goff and Dak Prescott combined for five passing touchdowns and one interception, though the difference was seven field goals by Los Angeles' Greg Zuerlein on as many attempts.

     

Plays of the Day

Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald capped Sunday's main slate in style, breaking up an overtime dud defined by nine total field goals with a 19-yard touchdown in an 18-15 win against the San Francisco 49ers:

Two bizarre plays occurred in the matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets.

In the first quarter, Jets running back Bilal Powell ran for an unconventional 75-yard touchdown. On 1st-and-10, Powell took a toss to the right and broke through a hole. He fell down but immediately got up and ran untouched to the end zone:

Jacksonville defenders let up because they thought Powell was down by contact, but upon further review, the touchdown stood. Following an extra point, the Jags and Jets were tied at seven.

In the fourth quarter, New York was up 20-10 and in the red zone when quarterback Josh McCown threw a backward pass toward Powell.

Jaguars rookie linebacker Myles Jack scooped up the ball and returned it for an 81-yard touchdown:

The late game between the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided fireworks, especially in the second quarter, when Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston navigated a messy pocket before hitting Mike Evans for a near touchdown:

After a review placed the ball at the 1-yard line, Tampa Bay settled for a field goal.

          

Houston and Cincinnati Dominate

Led by rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson's five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) and 307 yards (283 passing, 24 rushing), the Texans crushed the visiting Titans 57-14.

Watson has accounted for eight scores in his three NFL starts.

Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught 10 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown, and running back Lamar Miller finished with 131 yards from scrimmage and two scores. His second score effectively ended the game early in the fourth quarter:

The Texans defense also picked off quarterbacks Mariota and Matt Cassel four times. One of Cassel's picks was returned for a 25-yard touchdown by linebacker Dylan Cole.

The Cincinnati Bengals also turned in a dominant performance, defeating the Cleveland Browns 31-7. The Browns did not score until after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed 25 of his 30 passes for 286 yards and four scores, including this 61-yarder to running back Giovani Bernard shortly before halftime:

Tight end Tyler Kroft caught six of Dalton's passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns.

    

Notable Player Performances

Outside of Houston and Cincinnati, numerous players put up gaudy statistical performances.

Newton accounted for 360 yards (316 passing, 44 rushing) and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). Two of his touchdowns went to wideout Devin Funchess.

Zuerlein's seven field goals were a team record. The previous mark was six, per ESPN Stats & Info.

In that game, the two starting running backs, Los Angeles' Todd Gurley and Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott, dueled all afternoon. Gurley finished with 215 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, while Elliott scored twice and gained 139 total yards.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell touched the ball 39 times en route to 186 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in a 26-9 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

The New Orleans Saints posted the only shutout of the day, as they beat the Miami Dolphins 20-0.

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount looked like a new player Sunday, gaining 136 yards on just 16 carries, including this impression of Beast Mode:

Blount's efforts keyed the Eagles to a 26-24 escape of the Los Angeles Chargers on the road.

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston dropped three touchdown passes on the Giants in an eventual 25-23 home victory. One of those went to first-round rookie tight end O.J. Howard, the first of his career. For the Giants, Eli Manning threw a pair of scores and ran for another. He got support from fourth-round rookie Wayne Gallman, who scored his first career touchdown on his birthday.

A.J. Derby of the Denver Broncos had one of the more notable performances against the Raiders. The 2015 sixth-round pick with 20 catches on his career entering Sunday led the Broncos in receiving with four catches for 75 yards and a wicked one-handed touchdown grab

    

Still To Come

The Sunday Night Football contest will start at 8:30 p.m. ET.

In that tilt, the Indianapolis Colts will travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, perhaps the hardest place for any road team to play.

There, the Andrew Luck-less Colts will look to ride the momentum they gained a week ago via their first victory of the season. The 1-2 Seahawks will simply search for an offensive identity after scoring 12 or fewer points in two of their first three games.