Week 4 NFL takeaways: Patriots, Chiefs stay unbeaten ... barely

The Chiefs bested the Lions in Motor City, New England moved to 4-0 in Buffalo, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones continued the impressive start to his career, Cleveland's offense got back on track against the Ravens, and Houston couldn't get going against Carolina. In the late games, the Bucs and Rams ran up the score, and Minshew Mania continued for the Jags in Denver.

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

Jump to a matchup:

Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Cincinnati Bengals 3

The Steelers' offense under Mason Rudolph looks different -- and that's OK. With Rudolph in command, Pittsburgh used more short-yardage passes and heavily integrated the running backs into the passing game. James Conner and Jaylen Samuels combined for 140 receiving yards on 16 receptions and a touchdown. Rudolph stretched the field a couple of times in his first win, including on a 43-yard touchdown strike to rookie Diontae Johnson. The formula for success wasn't flashy, but it was efficient, and it paved a way forward for the Steelers to salvage something from the dismal start to their season. -- Brooke Pryor

Next game: vs. Baltimore (1 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 6)

The Bengals made a coaching change this offseason in hopes of finding a spark for a franchise without a playoff win in nearly three decades. What happened in Pittsburgh on Monday night shows the Bengals have a lot more problems to address. The Bengals were routed by the Steelers in a loss that was historic on multiple levels. Under first-year coach Zac Taylor, winless Cincinnati is off to its worst start since 2008, when the Bengals opened with eight consecutive defeats. In the 100th meeting between the teams, Cincinnati dropped its ninth consecutive game to Pittsburgh, the longest such streak in series history. The task of rebuilding the roster might be more difficult than anticipated before the season started, and any slim hopes of a playoff push likely ended at Heinz Field. Over the past 10 seasons, the 28 teams to start the season 0-4 missed the postseason. -- Ben Baby

Next game: vs. Arizona (1 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 6)

New Orleans Saints 12, Dallas Cowboys 10

So much for merely surviving without Drew Brees. The Saints are improbably 2-0 without him -- and they unquestionably have their defense to thank for this one. They need more of a spark from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and they need much more from their offensive line than they got on a night filled with sacks and penalties. But this victory proved why they were such a popular Super Bowl pick before the season: They have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL and can win in a variety of ways. -- Mike Triplett

Next game: vs. Tampa Bay (1 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 6)

Dallas had no answers on offense. Instead of taking control in the NFC East and maybe the conference as a whole, the Cowboys left the Superdome with a 12-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints. For the first time this season, the offense had no answers (257 total yards). The defense had its best game, even if it came against Saints backup QB Teddy Bridgewater, but there were simply too many mistakes on the other side of the ball, and left tackle Tyron Smith was carted off the field on the ill-fated final drive. Next up? Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers is 6-2 as a starter against the Cowboys, including postseason, with 10 touchdown passes and one interception. -- Todd Archer

Next game: vs. Green Bay (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 6)

Kansas City Chiefs 34, Detroit Lions 30

Patrick Mahomes can impact a game even when he isn't throwing touchdown passes. His impact on the win over the Lions happened in a different way. Mahomes served notice to opponents who play a lot of man-to-man coverage that he's willing to run. His 15-yard scramble on fourth down was the biggest play of the winning touchdown drive. "On the final drive, he made every play we needed him to,'' Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. "He won't play a game where he's not the most important player on the field. It doesn't matter what the stats show.'' -- Adam Teicher

Next game: vs. Indianapolis (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

It ended with a loss, but Detroit made a statement Sunday. The Lions might not like the result, but the defense held Mahomes without a touchdown, the offense moved the ball well, and with a minute left in the game, Detroit was leading. It'll live on as a loss, but on Sunday, the Lions showed they can play with any team in the NFL. "We showed a lot as a team," cornerback Mike Ford said. "Being able to show that we're tough -- that we don't give up." -- Michael Rothstein

Next game: at Green Bay (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday, Oct. 14)

New England Patriots 16, Buffalo Bills 10

The Patriots are a team led by their defense. It has been a while since that could be said decisively in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, but that's where things stand after a close call Sunday on the road. The defense (and special teams) came to the rescue with an end zone interception on fourth down and, ultimately, a stop on the Bills' final drive. The Brady-led passing offense hasn't looked sharp for the past seven quarters. -- Mike Reiss

Next game: at Washington (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Josh Allen becomes the big question after entering concussion protocol. The Bills holding the Patriots to 224 yards and 3.6 yards per play no longer matters. The main focus in Buffalo is the health of Allen, who is in concussion protocol after an ugly helmet-to-helmet hit from Patriots safety Jonathan Jones. Even before his injury, however, Allen struggled to make plays in the pocket, where the Patriots seemed intent to keep him. Buffalo's defense will keep it in most games, if not every week, but its offense needs to hold up its end of the bargain. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: at Tennessee (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Tennessee Titans 24, Atlanta Falcons 10

The Titans kept Marcus Mariota from getting sacked after giving up a league-high 17 sacks through three weeks. The solution is to keep him on schedule with decisive throws in the quick passing game. As a result, Mariota connected with rookie wideout A.J. Brown for two scores and Corey Davis for another. Tennessee is tough to beat when it plays complementary football. "For the first time, I feel as a team we showed what we can really do when we hit on all cylinders," linebacker Rashaan Evans said. The challenge for the Titans is being consistent, starting next week at home against a tough Buffalo defense. -- Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Buffalo (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Whatever message the Falcons' coaching staff is sending to the players is not getting through. It's the same story every week as the Falcons get off to a slow start and aren't able to recover. This time, it was a 24-7 hole in the second quarter against the Titans. They've been outscored 38-10 in first quarters and 71-20 in first halves this season, a major factor in their 1-3 start. Asked why these slow starts keep mounting, especially for an offense that's supposed to be extremely explosive, quarterback Matt Ryan responded, "Usually it comes down to all 11 of us executing and finishing our plays, and winning our one-on-one matchups ... across the board, we haven't done a good enough job of that.'' Recovering from their latest loss won't be easy -- the Falcons have to travel to Houston. -- Vaughn McClure

Next game: at Houston (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Cleveland Browns 40, Baltimore Ravens 25

The Browns' offense finally came alive. Quarterback Baker Mayfield delivered his sharpest performance of the season, while running back Nick Chubb and wide receiver Jarvis Landry stepped up, as the Browns produced a 300-yard passer, 150-yard rusher and 150-yard receiver for the first time in franchise history, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was held to a career-low two catches but demonstrably helped open up space for his teammates. "This sets the standard of our offense," Mayfield said. The Browns now lead the AFC North for the first time in five years, and their offense has momentum going to San Francisco for Monday Night Football next week. -- Jake Trotter

Next game: at San Francisco (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday, Oct. 7)

The Ravens lost more than sole possession of the AFC North lead -- they also lost the pride of what has been one of the traditionally strong defenses. The Ravens gave up 531 yards in an embarrassing performance in which receivers went uncovered downfield and running backs went untouched on long runs. This marked the first time in the Ravens' 24-year existence that they've given up more than 500 yards in back-to-back games. The 40 points were the second most allowed by Baltimore at home in the John Harbaugh era. The Ravens will look to get their defense back on track against the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers. -- Jamison Hensley

Next game: at Pittsburgh (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Carolina Panthers 16, Houston Texans 10

Carolina had six sacks at Houston and has 14 in the past two games. That's the second most in a two-game span within the same season in team history. (Carolina had 15 sacks in Games 15 and 16 of the 2013 season.) This is what coach Ron Rivera envisioned during the offseason when he added more speed to the defense, particularly at outside linebacker, and made the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front after finishing 27th in the NFL in sacks a season ago. Despite Kyle Allen holding the offense together while quarterback Cam Newton rehabs a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot, the Panthers have won their past two games to get back into the conversation as a playoff contender in the NFC. If the defense can maintain pressure on the quarterback, the Panthers have a chance to continue their win streak next week against Jacksonville. -- David Newton

Next game: vs. Jacksonville (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Deshaun Watson faced pressure all game -- again -- and was sacked six times. After guard Zach Fulton was scratched before the game, the Texans started their fourth different offensive line in four games. Watson has been sacked 18 times in four games, something left tackle Laremy Tunsil said the Texans have to fix going forward. -- Sarah Barshop

Next game: vs. Atlanta (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Oakland Raiders 31, Indianapolis Colts 24

The Raiders dictated the pace of the game early. They found a certain synergy -- a balance between the passing and running games -- that bodes well for Oakland as it prepares for a trip to London to face the Bears. Consider that the Raiders had 189 yards through the air and 188 yards on the ground, a week after being pummeled by the Vikings. "You have to be able to run it and throw it against this defense," quarterback Derek Carr said. "We were able to run the ball efficiently. We were able to pass the ball very efficiently ... overall, you sit back and look and it was very balanced." -- Paul Gutierrez

Next game: vs. Chicago (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

The defense hasn't actually progressed. The Colts were supposed to take a step forward defensively this season after surprising many by finishing 11th overall last season and using seven of 10 draft picks on that side of the ball in the spring. The Colts appeared to be on their way to having a good pass rush when they recorded eight sacks in the first two weeks of the season. But that pass rush has vanished the past two weeks, as the Colts had one sack combined in those two games. The Raiders also rushed for 188 yards. Things won't get any easier for Indianapolis next week when it faces Kansas City. -- Mike Wells

Next game: at Kansas City (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Los Angeles Chargers 30, Miami Dolphins 10

The much-anticipated return of Melvin Gordon will have to wait another week. With only two practices, the Chargers chose to use the Wisconsin product only in case of emergency. With Gordon sitting, Austin Ekeler continued to carry the load for the Chargers' running game, totaling 122 yards from scrimmage and scoring his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the season. With three touchdown catches this season, Ekeler became the first undrafted running back since 1967 to have at least three TD catches in each of his first three pro seasons. Will he remain the Chargers' workhorse back next week at home with Gordon back in the fold? -- Eric D. Williams

Next game: vs. Denver (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

The Dolphins aren't even close to getting a win, even when they play OK. Josh Rosen played a near-perfect first half, going 12-of-16 for 159 yards, one touchdown and a 126.8 quarterback rating, his highest in a single half for his young NFL career. But the Dolphins' second-half horrors -- they've been outscored 81-0 in their first four games -- have doomed any realistic chances they have had of winning a game. They've now been outscored 163-26 in their first four games. Still, perhaps their best chance at a win is looming after their bye week, when they face Washington in Week 6. -- Cameron Wolfe

Next game: vs. Washington (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 13)

New York Giants 24, Washington Redskins 3

There is a noticeable difference between rookie quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins. It's not the be-all, end-all for the first-round picks, but it was a major factor in the Giants' victory. Haskins threw for barely more than 100 yards and had three interceptions after entering in the second quarter and admittedly "didn't execute the way I wanted." Jones threw for 225 yards and a touchdown as the Giants moved the ball effectively most of the afternoon before shutting it down early with a big lead. For one day, at least, the Giants proved they made the right selection by taking Jones over Haskins with the sixth pick. -- Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. Minnesota (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

The Redskins don't have a quarterback controversy as much as a quandary. Do they go back to an ineffective starter in Case Keenum? Do they turn to the rookie they think wasn't close to being ready in Haskins? Or do they hope Colt McCoy's right leg is ready? Nobody has grabbed this job, and that's a huge part of the problem. Keenum can be upset about being pulled, but then he needs to play better. Haskins didn't show enough to automatically keep the job, especially with New England the opponent next week. Yes, he's the future, but the team has wanted him to be further along before starting the clock on that future. At 0-4, that time is close -- regardless of where he is in his development. -- John Keim

Next game: vs. New England (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55, Los Angeles Rams 40

The Bucs finished. Coach Bruce Arians wrote "finish" in big letters on the team's dry-erase board this week, and after surrendering an 18-point lead at the half and losing to the Giants at home last week, the Buccaneers found themselves in a similar predicament against the Rams on the road. But this time, they didn't let up, setting a franchise record with 55 points and forcing four turnovers to upset the defending NFC champions. Now they have a shot to take control of the NFC South with a trip to New Orleans and then a Carolina rematch in London. -- Jenna Laine

Next game: at New Orleans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Despite a 3-1 start, the Rams are figuring things out this season. They have no time to sulk and must quickly turn the page to prepare for a division opener on the road Thursday against the Seahawks. But before the Rams can totally move on, they must find answers to a few pressing questions: Why has their offense started slowly through four games? How did their defense, which was stout through three games, suddenly collapse against Jameis Winston? How can they find a way to get running back Todd Gurley, their best offensive player the past two seasons, more involved? -- Lindsey Thiry

Next game: at Seattle (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday, Oct. 3)

Seattle Seahawks 27, Arizona Cardinals 10

The Seahawks are capable of staying out of their own way, something they couldn't do in their first three games. Seattle went the first half without committing a penalty, and running back Chris Carson went the whole game without a fumble after losing one in each of the first three weeks. With a quick turnaround to their Thursday showdown with the Rams, it's good news for the Seahawks that they appeared to make it out of State Farm Stadium without any injuries of note. They haven't been as lucky in that building in recent seasons. -- Brady Henderson

Next game: vs. L.A. Rams (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday, Oct. 3)

The Cardinals need to minimize their mistakes. Sitting at 0-3-1 wasn't where the Cardinals expected to be a quarter of the way through the season, even with a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback. The road ahead doesn't look any easier. But the feeling from the locker room after Arizona's loss to the Seahawks was that they are losing because of self-inflicted wounds -- penalties, dropped catches, missed blocks and bad passes. All of which, rookie quarterback Kyler Murray said, are easily correctable. If they're all fixed, the offense, which yet again struggled in the red zone, can excel. Only time will tell, though. -- Josh Weinfuss

Next game: at Cincinnati (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Chicago Bears 16, Minnesota Vikings 6

Bears quarterback Chase Daniel is a better fit in coach Matt Nagy's offensive scheme than the more athletic Mitchell Trubisky. However, there is no official quarterback controversy in Chicago. Trubisky -- the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft -- will be the Bears' starter whenever his shoulder heals, but it's impossible to ignore how much Nagy opens up the playbook when Daniel is under center. Nagy trusts Daniel. The coach is still learning to trust Trubisky, who struggles when asked to do too much on offense. -- Jeff Dickerson

Next game: at Oakland (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

The Vikings still haven't figured out their offense. When does it become apparent that quarterback Kirk Cousins' limitations and the desire to run the ball have come to a head? How much longer can Minnesota stumble on offense against a team with a dominant defense? We're a quarter of the way into the season, and Minnesota's offensive issues, from its quarterback to a game plan that hasn't featured one of the best receiving duos in the NFL, need to be addressed before things get out of hand, blame gets publicly assigned and the wheels come off a team with playoff hopes. -- Courtney Cronin

Next game: at N.Y. Giants (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Jacksonville Jaguars 26, Denver Broncos 24

The offense's second-half revival won the game for the Jaguars. Gardner Minshew II turned in a little Mile High magic on Sunday, leading the Jaguars to four scoring drives after halftime -- including the game winner -- to add another chapter to Minshew Mania. The Jaguars had 115 yards of total offense in the first half but rolled up 340 in the second, including 190 yards rushing by Leonard Fournette. Minshew threw two touchdown passes -- including one on which he danced to avoid three tacklers -- and led the Jaguars to 23 second-half points. Jacksonville is now 2-2, despite losing its starting QB to injury (Nick Foles) and playing without its best defensive player (Jalen Ramsey) this week. -- Mike DiRocco

Next game: at Carolina (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

For the Broncos, it's now put-up or shut-up. "That's the bottom line, man, if you consider yourself a tough, NFL football player, well then, damn, look at yourself in the mirror, pick yourself up, and get ready to go back to work,'' quarterback Joe Flacco said. The Broncos fell to 0-4 for the first time since 1999. Their losing spiral dates to Week 14 of the 2018 season, the first loss in their current eight-game skid. The Broncos have three-quarters of a season left, and though they keep saying they have the character to keep from pouting their way to a historically dismal run, they will have to prove it. -- Jeff Legwold

Next game: at L.A. Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

Philadelphia Eagles 34, Green Bay Packers 27

Jordan Howard helped relieve some concern for Philadelphia. He busted up his old rival for 115 total yards and three touchdowns, as the Eagles (2-2) turned to the ground game for a hope-restoring victory. Not all the Eagles' ailments were fixed -- the defense continues to struggle against the pass, and they lost cornerbacks Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones to injury. But they can at least breathe a little easier as they set their sights on a Week 5 home game against the Jets. -- Tim McManus

Next game: vs. N.Y. Jets (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)

This game showed the Packers how much they need Davante Adams -- and how much they miss him. After Aaron Rodgers said they needed to get the ball to Adams more, he did just that. And Adams delivered with 10 catches and a career-high 180 yards. Then they lost him to a turf toe injury midway through the fourth quarter and failed on two separate drives deep in Eagles territory, including one that included four plays from the 1-yard line. If the Packers are going to put together a complete game on offense next week at Dallas, they're going to need Adams both available and heavily involved. -- Rob Demovsky

Next game: at Dallas (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 6)