The 32 things we learned from Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season:

1. Who is the No. Who’s No. 1? After trouncing their division rival (and previously undefeated) Los Angeles Rams, the Arizona Cardinals have emerged as the league’s only 4-0 team – on a day when the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos were exposed as products of their early easy schedules – though the Cards could be joined by the Las Vegas Raiders by the end of Monday night. Who had Cards-Raiders among their Super Bowl 56 picks And who would want to see that? However, these teams should be given credit for their achievements.

2. Is there a No. What’s the No. The buildup was perhaps the greatest of any time. Had to be Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New England Patriots – Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick at Gillette Stadium after 20 years and six Super Bowl titles together – on Sunday night. It didn’t have. TB12 was warmly embraced before kickoff by Foxborough fans before receiving a few boos after the game began. Brady is the GOAT against Mac Jones, the QB in his first round. Bad weather. Poor officiating was a key factor in the Patriots’ victory, particularly those calls that almost cost them their last drive. Drew Brees lost the NFL’s career record for passing yards to Brady. Richard Sherman returned to the NFL after a day when he held the Bucs’ record for tackles with seven. There were many Patriots who weren’t playing with Brady, including TE Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and OLB Matt Judon, making their presence known. The injuries further reduce Tampa’s secondary. Bruce Arians, the Bucs’ coach turns 69. The briefest of postgame exchanges between Belichick and Brady – they met privately for 20 minutes after the game – followed by a far lengthier embrace from New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels while the QB was hugged by seemingly dozens of ex-mates. And there was the final result, Bucs over Pats 19-17, allowing Brady to join Brees, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as the only QBs to beat all 32 teams … thanks to a 56-yard Nick Folk FG attempt that banged off the upright. Wow!

2a. Perhaps the best stat in Week 4 is that Brady, who only had 269 passing yards, ran 3…or 4 times more than Patriots. Naturally.

2b. Now 1-3, New England and the balance of the AFC East now trail the first-place Buffalo Bills by two games.

3. The Brady-Belichick hype is largely lost in the misfortune suffered by Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski. His fractured ribs, which he sustained in Week 3, prevented him from enjoying Sunday’s hero’s reception.

4. Return to Arizona One notable aspect of Sunday’s victory by the Cardinals was their so-called Air Raid offense. They threw the ball 32 times, but ran it 40 times – and for 216 yards and two TDs. Kyler Murray, QB (268 yards and 2 touchdowns passing) and 39 yards rushing was the favorite to win MVP. However Kliff Kingsbury is showing that his team has many strengths.

4a. Since moving to the Phoenix area in 1988, the Cardinals have only started 4-0 one other time – remarkably in 2012 … when they finished 5-11.

4b. Since 2002 when the Raiders were eliminated from Super Bowl 37, they’ve never started with a record of 4-0.

5. The early frontrunner to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Trevon Diggs of the Dallas Cowboys is the early frontrunner for NFL defensive player of year. He picked up two more passes this season and has now collected five, including at least one in each game. Don’t expect Diggs to stay on a full-season pace for 21 picks – he had three as a rookie in 2020 – but it might not be long before he could legitimately threaten Hall of Famer Dick “Night Train” Lane’s single-season record of 14, a mark that has stood since 1952 and is generally regarded as one of the league’s most untouchable standards.

6. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has thrown for 238 or fewer yards in each of his past three starts – including 188 (with 4 TD passes) in Sunday’s win over the previously unbeaten Panthers – but Dallas has won all three. That should be enough to tell you about the importance and value of balance. 

7. New York, NEW YORK! The Giants and Jets both got off the schneid with their first wins of 2021 on Sunday – which was also the first time ever both Big Apple teams won in overtime on the same day.

8. Also, Buffalo cruised 40-0 past the Houston Texans … meaning, yes, New York IndeedWeek 4: 3-0 New Jersey came in at 2-0.

9. It is amazing how much the New Orleans Saints’ pass game, which was encapsulated in the Giants loss, has fallen. New York’s three receiving receivers had more than 75 yards while the Saints only had one.

10. The Superdome was closed in Hurricane Ida’s wake. It is a shame that they did not reopen it.

11. Pittsburgh All-Pro OLB T.J. Watt sacked Aaron Rodgers twice, Watt’s first sacks in Wisconsin since he was a Wisconsin Badger in 2016.

12. But Rodgers improved his career record against the Steelers to 2-1 in the Green Bay Packers’ 27-17 win – the first time Rodgers (248 yards and 2 TDs passing, 1 rushing TD) had faced Pittsburgh since winning Super Bowl 45 following the 2010 season and first time he’d seen the Steelers at Lambeau Field.

13. Despite the setback to the Cowboys, new Panthers QB Sam Darnold still has more wins (3) this season than the Jets and Giants – combined.

14. Darnold leads also the NFL fiveRushing TDs. In his first four games, no other QB scored as many touchdowns on the ground. Who is Lamar?

14a. Darnold had five rushing TDs total during his first three seasons with the Jets.

15. Remember waaay back in preseason, when we were largely praising the play of rookie quarterbacks while counting the drops of Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase? These are the times. Chase (21 years old) is the youngest player to score at least 4 TDs in each of his three first games. He was also named offensive rookie-of-the-month by the NFL for September.

16. However, the rookie QBs seem to have had a miserable season, with Justin Fields of Chicago Bears and Zach Wilson both winning Sunday. They are still 3-13 after four weeks.

17. You will hear coaches speak about stats and wins being important. This information should be taken with caution. In Denver, the Baltimore Ravens were able to defeat the previously unbeaten Broncos with ease 23-7. However, coach John Harbaugh was somewhat smug in his decision to play QB Lamar Jackson (for 5 yards), rather than going into win formation. But… Jackson’s touchdown extended Baltimore’s record of at least 100 yards rushing to 43 games, which tied the NFL’s record. Harbaugh admitted after the game, “That’s one of those things that’s meaningful. … It’s a very, very tough record to accomplish.”

17a. But give Jackson, who battled a bad back last week, credit – his arm (316 yards, TD) was the main element of the Ravens offense.

18. In his 148th appearance, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson scored his 100th regular-season victory. Wilson joined Peyton Manning and Wilson as the first players to surpass the 100 mark for wins in the 10 initial seasons.

COVID-19. It’s still an issue in America and the NFL in particular. Just ask starting Seahawks TE Gerald Everett, who missed Sunday’s game while on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

20. Watch out for the Cleveland Browns’ ascending defense, which has allowed 13 points and 292 yards – total – over the past two weeks. Sunday’s impressive defense against the otherwise explosive Minnesota Vikings was a far superior performance to Week 3’s slaying of the Chicago Bears.

20a. Student (Kevin Stefanski) > mentor (Mike Zimmer) … at least this Sunday.

21. Is there a better “Slash” in today’s NFL than Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson? His rushing and receiving led Falcons with 34 yards per 6 carries, respectively. He also had 82 yards from 5 receptions. Patterson scored a record three touchdowns. The All-Decade special teamer also averaged 26 yards on three kickoff returns for good measure.

22. All you folks who drafted Kansas Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (23 yards Sunday) in the first round must be pretty steamed watching the likes of Bills TE Dawson Knox and the Bengals’ C.J. Uzomah scored two touchdowns during Week 4. Did you learn your lesson? Perhaps none, or perhaps stream fantasy ends at the tightest.

23. Jared Goff of the Detroit Lions is performing much better than his rookie season with the Rams back in 2016. However, he is currently on a 7-game losing streak for only the fifth time in five seasons.

23a. Goff, of course, has won six straight against the Cardinals. Rams fans, look at what we did!

24. On Sunday the Bears beat Detroit again, but it could have been a devastating blow to RB David Montgomery’s knee. Montgomery, who rushed for 106 yards with two touchdowns this season, is arguably the best player on the team. Next man up would be Super Bowl 54 hero (for the Chiefs) Damien Williams.

25. Reminder that NFL goal lines circumnavigate the entire world. Washington RB J.D. McKissic illustrated the concept with his Atlanta game-winning 30 yard TD catch.

26. Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars are down to 19 consecutive losses. They trail only the 1976-77 expansion Buccaneers (26) for the longest losing streak in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) and will own the second-worst skid to themselves if they fall to the Titans in Week 5.

26a. Urban Meyer, the new Jags coach has never lost four consecutive games in his entire career.

26b Trevor Lawrence, the Jags’ new quarterback, has suffered losses in his four NFL debuts after losing four games combined at college and high school. He went 86-4 between Cartersville (Ga.) High School and Clemson before going pro.

27. Six sacks were recorded by the Jets on Sunday, but Ryan Tannehill was able to take down seven Tennessee Titans quarterbacks.

27a. And how about this nugget from Elias: Jets defenders Quincy and Quinnen Williams became the first brothers to record sacks in the same game for the same team since the stat became official in 1982.

28. There is no team more dismal than the Dolphins right now, which have lost three straight. Miami’s obviously been hurt by the absence of injured QB Tua Tagovailoa, but they haven’t even looked competitive in two of the past three weeks.

29. Nice job to the NFL schedule makers, who finally delivered a nice Thursday matchup (Jaguars-Bengals) between teams that don’t get much press but needed to be slotted under the prime-time lights at least once this season. Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow and Jacksonville counterpart Lawrence both looked like players who could be among the league’s leading lights in a few years. The 24-21 victory in Cincy was a refreshing taste after Week 3, which featured the Panthers-Texans matchup on Thursday Night Football. Hopefully the league’s scheduling supercomputers will learn in the future to give us more Burrow vs. Lawrence – and maybe Darnold vs. the Jets, or Texans facing the ex-Texans (DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt and the rest of the Cardinals) – so we can enjoy as much drama and subtext as possible with these required one-off appearances.

31. Overall, games were as good as ever. In the NFL’s fifth history, every four weeks has seen at least one game go to overtime. And already at this point of the campaign, 15 games have featured a game-winning score in the final minute of regulation or in overtime – the most through the first four weeks of a season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

31. Welcome back to Chiefs All-Pro WR Tyreek Hill, who had 19 grabs for 267 yards and one TD through three weeks as opposing defenses tried to limit his damage on deep shots. The Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t replicate that bend-but-don’t-break approach to Hill on Sunday as he exploded for 11 receptions for 186 yards and three scores in K.C.’s 42-30 get-well win.

32. We’ll keep it 100 for Andy Reid. Foxborough was not the only place where the NFL had a reunion. With Reid’s win over the Eagles, his former team, the Chiefs coach became the first head man to win at least 100 games with two different franchises. Big Red, congratulations!


Follow USA TODAY’s Nate Davis via Twitter @ByNateDavis


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