Week 4 takeaways in the NFL: Breakthroughs for Bears, Cowboys

Clark, Saturday fine with Reich's OT decision (1:15)

Based on the talent level of the Colts, Ryan Clark and Jeff Saturday both believe coach Frank Reich made the right call to not play for a tie. (1:15)

The Chicago Bears emerged as a contender, while the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans had important wins in breakthrough efforts. The Atlanta Falcons lost again on a poor defensive showing, the New England Patriots re-established themselves in the AFC East and the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs remained undefeated.

All that and more in Week 4's biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:

Kansas City Chiefs 27, Denver Broncos 23

The Chiefs will never feel they're out of a game with Patrick Mahomes at QB, whether that's on Sunday against the Jaguars or beyond. His improvisational skills, which included a left-handed pass to Tyreek Hill on Monday night in Denver, are part of a package that makes him difficult to defend. -- Adam Teicher

The Broncos sit at 2-2 because they haven't closed the deal when they've had the chance to do what they do best on offense -- run the ball -- and on defense -- be aggressive. That was on display in Monday's loss to the Chiefs when they gave up a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. It's all slightly unnerving for a team that saw a 3-1 start turn into an eight-game losing streak in 2017. -- Jeff Legwold

Baltimore Ravens 26, Pittsburgh Steelers 14

In Sunday's victory in Pittsburgh, the Ravens' defense showed why it ranks No. 1 in the NFL. Baltimore shut out Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in the second half, limiting Pittsburgh to 47 total yards. The Ravens are the only team in the NFL not to allow a touchdown after halftime this season. This could spell trouble for Baker Mayfield next Sunday. The Ravens are 11-5 against rookie quarterbacks under coach John Harbaugh, forcing 19 interceptions over that span. -- Jamison Hensley

Not much is coming together for a team that oddly lacks an identity through four weeks. The Steelers can't get stops or run the ball consistently, which places a lot of pressure on Ben Roethlisberger's arm. That works some of the time but isn't a balanced formula for winning. The Steelers need to discover more splash plays on both sides of the ball to settle that void. -- Jeremy Fowler

Cincinnati Bengals 37, Atlanta Falcons 36

This team is tough. The Bengals could have let things spiral after Tyler Eifert suffered a gruesome leg injury early in the second half, but they fought through adversity to match the Falcons stride for stride and eventually scored the winning touchdown in the final 10 seconds. Players around the locker room talked about how it was a complete team win, leading to sky-high confidence as they return home to host the Dolphins in Week 5. -- Katherine Terrell


Giants need to get OBJ more touches

Ryan Clark and Jeff Saturday react to the Giants' loss and both say Odell Beckham Jr. needs to be involved more.

The 1-3 Falcons have to figure out how to consistently come up with defensive stops. Yes, they lost Pro Bowl defenders Keanu Neal (ACL) and Deion Jones (foot) to injury, as well as defensive captain Ricardo Allen (Achilles). But many of the wounds are self-inflicted, including dropping interceptions, playing with improper leverage or picking up personal fouls for late or illegal hits. Defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. said, "We just have to remain optimistic." It doesn't get any easier with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers next week on the road, but at least the Falcons showed signs of a pass rush with Takkarist McKinley getting three sacks. -- Vaughn McClure

New England Patriots 38, Miami Dolphins 7

The Patriots' defense isn't as bad as advertised. Coming off back-to-back disappointing performances, they throttled the Dolphins and gained some much-needed reassurance in the process, as they get ready for a quick turnaround with the Colts visiting on Thursday. While losing rookie linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley for the season is a tough blow, the returns of defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Patrick Chung -- who missed a Week 3 loss in Detroit -- showed how valuable they are to the unit. -- Mike Reiss

The Dolphins aren't ready to win the AFC East, and their offense needs more consistency. Miami had 172 total yards in its loss to the Patriots. It was also the second consecutive week Miami had 45 or fewer plays. The scariest part is coach Adam Gase believes his team got "outphysicaled" by the Patriots. Headed into another road game against the high-powered Bengals offense, the Dolphins need to figure out how to fix their lack of physicality before it derails a strong start to the season. -- Cameron Wolfe

Tennessee Titans 26, Philadelphia Eagles 23

Things are coming together for the Titans as they get healthy and the passing game improves. Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis connected nine times for 161 yards, including the winning touchdown. The final drive included three first-down conversions on fourth downs. Getting another come-from-behind win in a close game will only give Mike Vrabel's team more confidence as it heads to Buffalo next week. -- Turron Davenport

The Eagles showed some vulnerabilities that need to be cleaned up if they want to contend. There was too much pressure on Carson Wentz (11 hits, four sacks) and too many big plays given up in the secondary, which lost safety Rodney McLeod (knee) last week. The Eagles will need to play much cleaner next week against the Vikings, who have revenge on their minds. -- Tim McManus

Houston Texans 37, Indianapolis Colts 31

Houston's front seven might finally be coming together. On Sunday, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney each had two sacks. In the past two weeks, Watt has five sacks and 16 quarterback pressures, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The Texans still have an uphill battle to come back from an 0-3 start, but a turnaround will start with Clowney and Watt continuing to play at a high level next week against the Cowboys. -- Sarah Barshop

The Colts face a New England team that has beaten them five consecutive times in their next game on a short week, and there's a good chance they won't have their best receiver for the game. T.Y. Hilton left the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Texans with a hamstring injury. Coach Frank Reich didn't sound optimistic that Hilton, who had four catches for 115 yards before the injury, would be available. Hilton has missed only two games in his career. -- Mike Wells

Dallas Cowboys 26, Detroit Lions 24

Ezekiel Elliott called the win "probably the most important of the season to get back on track after a slow start." The Cowboys got Elliott going with 152 yards rushing and 88 yards receiving, and right guard Zack Martin said it felt more like the offense of old, which is what they will need if they want to sustain any kind of winning streak. The Cowboys had five plays of at least 30 yards against the Lions, after registering just one such play earlier in the season. -- Todd Archer

Detroit found its offensive rhythm again, with Matthew Stafford putting together an eye-popping 131.5 passer rating. And yet, with a 24-23 lead with 2:17 left, the Lions couldn't do much defensively to stop Dallas. And that's the worry -- that Detroit's offense is going to have to be so good this season for the Lions to make up for defensive deficiencies. -- Michael Rothstein

Jacksonville Jaguars 31, New York Jets 12

The Jaguars have allowed four touchdowns in four games, fewest in the NFL and fewest through four games in franchise history. Opponents have scored just 56 points and are averaging only 259.3 yards per game. Both lead the league, and that's after forcing only three turnovers and recording just six sacks. Sunday's game at Kansas City will be the toughest matchup the Jaguars will face all season, though, and the players know they have to ramp up pressure and get a few turnovers to stop what many believe is the best offense in the NFL. --Mike DiRocco

You knew the Jets would have growing pains on offense with a rookie quarterback, but the defense? There's no excuse for what happened Sunday. The Jets allowed 503 total yards, the most since 2008. Each level of the defense performed poorly, especially the linebackers in pass coverage. If they can't rely on the defense, the Jets have no hope the remainder of the season. -- Rich Cimini

Green Bay Packers 22, Buffalo Bills 0

A day that should have been about the Packers' defense and its first shutout in nearly eight years instead turned into a question of what's wrong with the offense after Aaron Rodgers called it "non-playoff level." A frustrated Rodgers still led the offense to 423 yards, but it's clear he wants more if the Packers are going to be a Super Bowl contender. -- Rob Demovsky

The Bills seem to be moving closer to eventual personnel changes around rookie QB Josh Allen after Buffalo's first shutout loss since 2008. Allen threw two interceptions but got little help from the running game and the offensive line, which allowed him to be sacked seven times. LeSean McCoy has been held to 85 rushing yards this season, while Kelvin Benjamin has 92 receiving yards. With four weeks until the trade deadline, the futures of both players in Buffalo seem murky. -- Mike Rodak

Chicago Bears 48, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10

A breakthrough win over the Buccaneers could mark a turning point for second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the offense. The game plan featured plenty of designed reads and open throwing windows for Trubisky, who posted career highs in yards (354) and touchdowns (6). Prior to Sunday, he had never thrown more than two touchdowns in one game. The Bears enter their bye week with confidence. "Hopefully, this is something I can look back on and say, 'This is where it all started,'" Trubisky said. -- Emily Kaplan

Defensively, there was no pressure and receivers were wide open. A young, banged-up secondary can't be the excuse against a second-year quarterback. This was the 19th time in 36 games since Mike Smith became defensive coordinator that the defense gave up more than 400 yards. When Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was asked if he'd consider making a coordinator change during the bye week, he said, "Based on that game today, we couldn't make enough changes. We should fire every person that was on the field today, starting with me. That was horrific." -- Jenna Laine

Oakland Raiders 45, Cleveland Browns 42

After Oakland blew second-half leads in the season's first three games and got outscored a combined 64-17 after halftime, doubt about whether the Raiders could rally for a comeback win started to creep in. But they forced overtime and got a field goal by a rookie kicker signed this week to give coach Jon Gruden his first win. The swagger needed to compete on the road against the Chargers next week may not be all the way back, but it is definitely on the upswing. -- Paul Gutierrez

Baker Mayfield couldn't overcome the Browns' recent plague of losing. As well as Mayfield played, the Browns still blew a 14-point second-half lead in Oakland. The emphasis going forward: finding a way to overcome themselves to win another game. The Browns keep manufacturing their own demise. -- Pat McManamon

Seattle Seahawks 20, Arizona Cardinals 17

The last image of Earl Thomas in a Seahawks uniform might be his middle-finger gesture toward the Seattle bench as he was being taken off the field on a cart. Coach Pete Carroll called Thomas' leg injury a fracture, which likely will end his season and potentially his career in Seattle. That's why Frank Clark said it feels like the Seahawks were the losers even though they won on a last-second field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. Now 2-2 heading into their Week 5 home game against the unbeaten Rams, Seattle knows its bid for a playoff spot will take a hit without Thomas, a defensive pillar and the last remaining member of the Legion of Boom secondary. -- Brady Henderson

Josh Rosen was poised, comfortable and in command as he showed off the arm so many raved about during the draft process. Even though Rosen led Arizona on a high-pressure drive late in the fourth quarter and got it into field goal range, it wasn't enough. Veteran kicker Phil Dawson missed from 45 yards, allowing Seattle to march the other way and hit its own winning kick. The Cardinals remain winless. -- Josh Weinfuss

New Orleans Saints 33, New York Giants 18

The Saints have to feel great about their 3-1 record, considering they haven't really played a complete game this season. But Drew Brees talked Sunday about the value of finding different ways to win (he and the passing game struggled, while Alvin Kamara, the defense and kicker Wil Lutz did most of the heavy lifting). Now the Saints can try to peak during a Monday night home game against the Redskins in Week 5, with Brees poised to break the NFL passing record and Mark Ingram returning from suspension. -- Mike Triplett

This latest Giants loss looked much like many of them over the past five years: The offense just wasn't good enough. The Giants had 193 yards of total offense midway through the fourth quarter and failed to reach 20 points for the third time in four games. They are a lost franchise with two top-10 scoring defenses -- the Panthers and Eagles -- on deck. This could get ugly. -- Jordan Raanan

Los Angeles Chargers 29, San Francisco 49ers 27

Trailing by as many as 14 points, the Chargers were led by Philip Rivers (250 passing yards, three TD passes) and Melvin Gordon (104 rushing yards). However, the Chargers still have issues at kicker, as Caleb Sturgis missed two extra points and a 54-yard field goal. "We'll take a look at that," said coach Anthony Lynn when asked if he'll make a change at kicker. "And if we can't make it better, we'll have to do something about it." -- Eric D. Williams

When the disappointment of the narrow road loss wears off, the 49ers should wake up Monday feeling even better about young quarterback C.J. Beathard's ability to replace Jimmy Garoppolo. Beathard's toughness was evident, and he paired it with production, nearly throwing for 300 yards and leading the Niners back into a game that appeared lost after multiple injuries and a costly red-zone interception that wasn't his fault. The Niners pledged allegiance to Beathard for a reason, and if he can continue to provide performances like that, that decision could prove a savvy one. -- Nick Wagoner

Los Angeles Rams 38, Minnesota Vikings 31

Jared Goff and the Rams' offense appeared unstoppable. Goff put on a passing clinic, connecting on a 70-yard touchdown to Cooper Kupp and a 47-yard score to Brandin Cooks. In all, he threw for 465 yards and five touchdowns. The Rams get the Seahawks' defense next week on the road. -- Lindsey Thiry

Minnesota continues to have issues with misdirection plays getting its defenders out of position. Coach Mike Zimmer took responsibility, admitting to "overcoaching" his unit. The Vikings' pass defense is the worst it's been in Zimmer's five years in Minnesota, and he said postgame that he doesn't know what to do to fix it. The unit ranks last in the NFL in defending the pass, and something has to change to avoid deepening the Vikings' hole. -- Courtney Cronin