Sep 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (31) breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) in the final seconds in the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Patriots won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks Stun Texans, Vikings Win At Wembley and All of NFL Week 4—The Monday Morning Realist

Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the weekend’s NFL action in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @Li495Akiem.

Stumped The Schaub

Sep 29, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) reacts after throwing an interception during the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a Houston Texans fan, this one will sting for a while. It has been common for Texans fans to question this team overall as the Matt Schaub era has progressed (and regressed) in Space City USA, but the team and its fans will be trying to wipe the stink off of them for this loss for a little bit.

Through the first three weeks, a dominant defense has propelled the Seattle Seahawks to what many will consider as the status of being the team to beat in not only the NFC West, but the NFC as a whole. In Week 3, the Hawks defeated the Jaguars at home by a final score of 45-17. The Jaguars these days count as a virtual bye week. Meanwhile, the Texans were attempting to dust themselves off after being blown out on the road to Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens 30-9.

While the Seahawks were seen as odds on favorites to win, their performance was not seen to be as dominant as they have been in their two home victories to the 49ers and the Jags.

Early on, it looked as if this would indeed be the case. Russell Wilson was struggling to get anything as his team led only 3-0 at the end of one quarter.

Houston did all of its scoring in the second quarter when it had the most success in moving the football. Touchdown passes from Schaub to both Garrett Graham and Arian Foster had the Texans ahead by a score of 14-3. They had to settle for a couple of Randy Bullock field goals to close out the half, but given how lethargic the Seahawks offense looked, the prospects of a Seattle comeback were not too bright.

The Texans were going to be 3-1 and the Seahawks would have their first loss of their season, which would instill doubts (even in the most ardent of Seahawks fans) about their Super Bowl prospects. The narrative was already being built—a Jekyll and Hyde Seahawks team based on how they performed at CenturyLink as opposed to how they were on the road. Right?

Right?

…..

Seattle was behind Houston 20-6 at the end of three quarters with their offense showing no signs of life. Texans win, right?

Right?

In the second half, it would be Houston’s offense that would start to look out of sync as Russell Wilson and the Seahawks started blazing a comeback trail. It was 20-13 Texans after a touchdown run from “BeastMode” Marshawn Lynch. Increased pressure and bad throws from Schaub eventually led to the play of the game—a 58 yard interception of Schaub for a touchdown by Richard Sherman. Tie game. Schaub was greeted by resounding boos from the Reliant Stadium crowd.

The game did go into overtime, and almost lasted the entire overtime period. But, it took a Steven Hauschka 45 yard field goal to win it for Seattle. 23-20 Seahawks win.

Seattle clearly is not the same team they are at home as they are on the road, but it won’t matter as long as they continue to pull out victories like this. For the Houston Texans, it’s the same song, second verse for Matt Schaub. They are a complete team, that has a glaring issue at quarterback. They’re always wannabe contenders as long as he’s their QB.

The name Vince Young is starting to be repeated off the tongues of fans throughout Houston.

Schaub was 31/49 for 355 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Foster—27 carries for 102 yards. Andre Johnson caught 9 passes for 110 yards.

Wilson only was 12/23 throwing for 123 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception, but he also ran for 77 yards. Lynch ran for 1 touchdown and 98 yards on 17 carries.

The Texans, though, shall go on the road against another NFC West opponent in Week 5—the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks will also be on the road—in Indianapolis to face the Colts.

Sunday Night Handegg

Sep 29, 2013; London, UNITED KINGDOM; Fans arrive for the NFL International Series game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not even at midseason yet, and we’re already looking at our first matchup in London at Wembley Stadium. The first one this year featured the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings—two teams that going into this overseas excursion to the United Kingdom were winless. To make a long story short, both teams were likely playing to save their season early.

The Steelers have had issues with being able to score points, but they showed indications of improvement in Week 3 on Sunday Night Football against the Chicago Bears. The Vikings lost to Brian Hoyer and the Cleveland Browns at home that sent the Purple People Eaters to 0-3. Their main problem has been their quarterback, Christian Ponder. They made the playoffs last year in spite of Ponder as he was saved last year by the fact that Adrian Peterson almost set the single-season rushing record.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier pondered his quarterback issue and started former Patriots and Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel in his place.

Of course, such a game will have a lot of buildup and hype in London with the NFL fanbase that exists in the UK. It even included the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders paying a visit to Britain’s largest radio station—BBC Radio One.

Lucky BBC.

The Vikings and Steelers did not play like two teams that had yet to appear in the win column this year. The matchup was actually entertaining. After an earlier field goal from Blair Walsh, Cassel connected with former Packer Greg Jennings on a 70 yard touchdown pass. Le’Veon Bell’s eight year TD run put the Black and Gold on the board. 10-7 Vikings after one quarter.

It was 20-10 Minnesota after the first half which would see Adrian Peterson doing what he does on a regular basis—running for touchdowns, in this case, for 60 yards. Just like in the previous week against the Bears, the Steelers were down at one point large. What was 20-10 became 34-17 Vikings as both Peterson and Jennings scored their second TDs of the game.

And just like last week against Chicago, the Steelers made it interesting. In the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger connected with Jerricho Cotchery for 15 yards. Shawn Suisham also had his second field goal of the game. It was 34-27 late—the score that the Vikings would win by.

Even though the Steelers, once again, showed improvement on the offensive side of the football, it was once again the defense that let them down as it did against the Bears last week. They are now 0-4 for the first time in 45 years. Pittsburgh’s season is likely finished after this week as it is rare for 0-4 teams to come back and make the playoffs. Then again, the Arizona Cardinals were 4-0 at the beginning of last year, then flamed out after the Kevin Kolb injury.

As for the Vikings, Cassel showed himself once again to be a serviceable quarterback. Even though Leslie Frazier still insists that Ponder is still their guy going forward, there is no question that the seeds of a quarterback controversy have been planted in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Roethlisberger was 36/51 for 383 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Cotchery, in addition to his TD, also caught 5 passes for 103 yards.

There were large offensive numbers all around for the Vikings, beginning with Cassel. He was 16/25 for 248 yards and 2 touchdowns. Peterson—23 carries for 140 yards. Jennings—3 catches for 92 yards and one touchdown. Jerome Simpson also received 7 passes for 124 yards.

Both Minnesota and Pittsburgh have bye weeks Week 5.

The Cost of Victory

Sep 29, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) is carried off the field on a stretcher in a game against the New York Jets during the second half at LP Field. The Titans beat the Jets 38-13. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Week 4 of the 2013-2014 NFL season was not exactly a banner week for New York area teams. The New York Giants dropped another one—this time on the road at Arrowhead Stadium to the Kansas City Chiefs 31-7. Certainly, no one called that the Giants would be the worse of the Tri State area franchises this year.

But, what about the Jets?

The Jets did pull off a victory last week over their division rival Buffalo Bills in Week 3 while their opponents, the Tennessee Titans defeated the San Diego Chargers 20-17 to improve to a surprising 2-1 on the season.

Given that the Indianapolis Colts manhandled the Jacksonville Jaguars, and that the Texans (namely their quarterback) gave away a game to the Seahawks, a Titans victory would put them at 3-1, atop the AFC South with the Colts. No one outside of the state of Tennessee likely called this one prior to the season, especially considering that their quarterback is still Jake Locker.

This game was hardly ever close. Locker and Titans got the scoring going early with a touchdown pass to Delanie Walker. It was 10-0 after one quarter. The lead extended itself out to 18 in the second quarter as the Jets looked like, well, the New York Jets. Two Nick Folk field goals put them on the board, but the Titans would get two more passes from Locker—one to Nate Washington, and one to Justin Hunter. It was 24-6 at halftime and it looked like one of the better games of Locker’s young career.

Until his injury.

He was 18/24 with 149 yards and 3 touchdowns before being nailed by New York’s Muhammad Wilkerson. He had to be carted out LP Field and taken to a hospital in Nashville with what is said to be an injury to his hip.

Ryan Fitzpatrick had to come in and threw a touchdown to Nate Washington in the fourth quarter. Prior to that, Gang Green QB Geno Smith fell victim to a miscue that is being looked at as his own version of Mark Sanchez’ infamous “buttfumble”. Smith attempted to go behind the back with the football before pigskin met posterior and defensive lineman Karl Krug met Smith. That football folly became gold for Tennessee as the Titans converted that fumble into a touchdown.

Smith threw one touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland for 34 yards, but it was in the fourth quarter as well and the Titans already had the game on ice. Titans win 38-13.

Fitzpatrick, filling in for Locker, was 3/8 for 108 and a TD. Smith went 23/34 for 289, 1 TD, and 2 picks. Kellen Winslow caught six passes for 73 yards while Nate Washington caught two TD passes as well as four overall for 105 yards.

No one had the Titans’ Week 5 matchup on a lot of calendars, but the 3-1 Titans will stay home to play the 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs. As for the Jets, they will travel to play the Falcons in Atlanta. Actually, New York has more victories than the Dirty Birds through four games this season.

Once again—something no one outside of the Tri State area called.

Good Jay, Bad Jay?

Sep 29, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes the ball during the second half against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. The Lions won 40-32. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This meme probably feels familiar to Bears fans after they endured the Rex Grossman years for so long. Jay Cutler is certainly a much better quarterback than Grossman was, but Cutler’s performance on Sunday in Detroit is sure to have many pundits in the Windy City rushing to conclusion and thinking similar thoughts.

It was not exactly what the Bears did the previous week on Sunday Night Football at Heinz Field against the Steelers. Meanwhile, the Lions in Week 3 defeated the Washington Redskins in Landover 27-20 to advance to 2-1. This meant that Sunday’s Week 4 tilt at Ford Field would give the Lions a chance to assume first place in the NFC North.

A 3-3 tie after one quarter soon gave away to a Detroit rout of Chicago in the second. The Lions scored five times in the 2nd quarter alone including two touchdowns from Matthew Stafford and 37 yard TD run from Reggie Bush. Matt Forte also had a touchdown run for the Bears, but by the end of the second quarter, Cutler looked like “bad Cutler”.

At the half, it was 30-13, which became 40-16 midway through the 4th. Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffery did catch touchdown passes in the fourth quarter from Cutler to close the gap to eight, but this game was already out of reach by the time this occurred. 40-32 Lions win.

Even though Calvin Johnson did catch a TD pass from Stafford, he was only held to four catches for 44 yards. Reggie Bush—18 carries for 139 yards and 1 TD in a USC-esque game for him. Stafford—23/35, 242 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.

For the losing Chicago Bears—Jay Cutler was 27/47, 317 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, and 3 sacks (2 for Ndamukong Suh). Matt Forte carried the rock 14 times for 95 yards and 1 touchdown. Alshon Jeffrey caught the ball 5 times for 107 yards and one touchdown.

Bears fans need to hope Cutler can trade throws with Drew Brees next week as they play the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field in Week 5. The Lions take to the road to Green Bay’s Lambeau Field for another divional game vs. the Packers.

Close, But No Football

For a team that was a hot Super Bowl pick at the beginning of the year among press pundits, the Atlanta Falcons’ 2013-2014 campaign has started on the wrong feet. Coming into their Week 4 home game on Sunday Night Football against the New England Patriots, they were 1-2 with losses to the division rival New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins—both of whom are undefeated up to this point in the season. That will change as they play each other on Monday Night Football.

As for the New England Patriots, it has not turned out to be the flashiest or prettiest of seasons up to this point given that Tom Brady has had to turn no names into decent receivers. But, 3-0 is 3-0 no matter how it is done and that’s what the Pats were going into Sunday night at the Georgia Dome.

It was 3-0 after one quarter on a Matt Bryant 23 yard field goal. The score was tied at the half at 10-10 as both Brady and Matt Ryan threw a touchdown pass each. Brady’s was to Matthew Mulligan while Matty Ice connected with Tony Gonzalez. At the half, Pats coach Bill Belichick mentioned how the Patriots defense was struggling with containing Gonzalez.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Patriots held onto a slim 13-10 lead with the defenses dictating much of what was going on in this game.

That was until the fourth quarter, at least.

LeGarrette Blount and Kenbrell Thompkins each had touchdowns for New England. With 6:18 left to play, this game seemed like it was over. Tony Gonzalez did catch his second touchdown of the game from Ryan to make it 30-20. Then, the Falcons tried an onside kick—and were successful. Atlanta settled for a field goal to cut their deficit to seven.

They did have one more shot to tie the game, and they put themselves in great position as they were in the red zone on their last drive with under a minute to go. But Ryan couldn’t pull off another miraculous comeback as he has done on so many previous occasions. New England beat Atlanta 30-23.

Brady was 20/31 with 316 yards and 2 touchdowns. LeGarrette Blount also rushed for 64 yards on nine carries in addition to his touchdown. Two Patriots receivers had 100+ yard receiving games. Thompkins caught six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Julian Edelman caught seven for 118.

In what turned out to be a losing effort, Ryan was 34/54 for 421 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The Falcons, seen as having one of the better receiving corps in the league, also had a pair of 100+ yard receivers. Gonzalez received 12 passes for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns while Julio Jones caught six for 108.

Even though the Falcons were seen as Super Bowl contenders, one has to think short term first. Now at 1-3, this loss likely ends the Falcons’ chances of winning the NFC South as the New Orleans Saints have a chance to continue their undefeated streak against Miami. If the Saints win, they’ve virtually won the NFC South, and it’ll be the return of head coach Sean Payton that would’ve made all of the difference.

For the Patriots, they’re now 4-0 and head on the road to Cincinnati and Paul Brown Stadium to play the Bengals next week. The Falcons remain at home as the Jets will visit the ATL on Monday Night Football.

Other Games

Bills defeat Ravens 23-20

Browns defeat Browns 17-6

Chiefs defeat Giants 31-7

Cardinals defeat Buccaneers 13-10

Colts defeat Jaguars 37-3

Broncos defeat Eagles 52-20

Redskins defeat Raiders 24-14

Chargers defeat Cowboys 30-21

49ers defeat Rams 35-11

Dolphins at Saints (8:30 Monday Night Football)

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