NFL

NFL AM: Saving Their Season’s In Week 4

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Gutty Wins For 5 Teams

It’s not completely impossible to earn a spot in the NFL playoffs with a 1-3 record, but roughly 96 percent of the teams that start 1-3 fail.

13 teams entered Sunday’s action with a 1-2 record and five of those teams, the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams found a way to save their 2015 seasons.

The Giants may have been the most impressive of the group as they went on the road and dominated a Buffalo Bills team that was not only favored to win, but No. 1 running the football and stopping the run.

New York held Buffalo to just 55 yards rushing and forced a pair of turnovers in their 24-10 victory.

Meanwhile in Indianapolis, the Colts were forced to start 40-year old backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and found a way to come out with a 16-13 overtime victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Colts didn’t play a fantastic game by any means, and sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.  They used the horseshoe on their helmets to somehow steer two game-winning field goal attempts by Jaguars rookie Jason Myers wide and Indy capitalized on their second drive in overtime which ended with a 27-yard kick by 42-year old future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri.

“We kind of hugged it out for a second,” Vinatieri said. “He (Hasselbeck) does a great job. Watching him have the opportunity to go out there — hate saying `at his age’ because he’s younger than I am — but I know he wanted that.”

After looking miserable last week, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins engineered a game-winning drive to lead the ‘Skins over the Philadelphia Eagles, 23-20.

Cousins completed 31 of 46 throws, for 290 yards with a four-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon and more importantly no turnovers.

“That final drive — I wasn’t capable of doing that when I came in the league as a rookie. It takes time. It takes failure. It takes learning from experiences,” said Cousins.  “A culmination of, I guess it would be, three-plus seasons’ worth of work got me to a point where I was able to make the necessary plays on that drive.”

It wasn’t a thing of beauty for the San Diego Chargers, but they found a way to get a home victory against the Cleveland Browns, 30-27.

The Chargers defense allowed 432 yards and more than 34 minutes of possession to a Browns team that came into the game ranked 25th in offense.

San Diego was nearly pushed to overtime when rookie kicker Josh Lambo pushed his 39-yard field goal wide right.  In true Browns fashion, Cleveland was offsides on the play and Lambo made the most of his mulligan by knocking through a 34-yarder.

Finally, the St. Louis Rams saved their season and possibly head coach Jeff Fisher’s job by going into Arizona and beating the previously undefeated Cardinals, 24-21.

The Rams used the legs of rookie Todd Gurley to ice the game as he gained a career-high 146 yards on just 19 carries, 144 of which came in the second half.

At 2-2, the Giants, Colts, Redskins, Chargers and Rams now have a new lease on life.

Second-Year Signal Callers Fell Short

Three quarterbacks from the Class of 2014 started on Sunday, and all three played well at times, but ultimately lost.

Oakland’s Derek Carr became the first quarterback to lose to the Chicago Bears this season as he fell victim to a Jay Cutler comeback, as improbable as that seems.

Cutler overcame an interception to lead the Bears down the field for Robbie Gould’s game-winning 49-yard field goal.

“It’s a big win,” Cutler said. “Guys are excited. Coaching staff’s excited. We’ve got a good group in there.”

Meanwhile Carr completed 20 of 33 throws, for 193 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception and was the victim of a few bad drops.

“This was just one of those old-fashion NFL fights,” Carr said. “Down to the wire. There was no lack of focus, or lack of effort. Nothing that would alarm you.”

In Indianapolis, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles played one of the best games of his career against the Colts, but ultimately fell short, 16-13 in overtime.

Bortles was on target for much of the day, despite dealing with a lack of weapons without Julius Thomas and Marqise Lee injured.

“Yeah, I mean you try not to think about that,” Bortles explained. “But you know when those guys get back, the quality of players that they are, they are only going to help. They’re not going to hurt, they’re only going to allow you to do more things offensively, both in the run game and pass game. I think it’s definitely something we’re looking forward to, but we aren’t counting on it. We have who we have right now, and we have to be able to play with the guys who we have and we have to be able to win with them.”

He still completed 28 of 50 passes, for 298 yards with a brilliant touchdown pass in traffic to Allen Hurns.  Bortles used his mobility to avoid oncoming rushers and even ran for 31 yards on just four attempts.

Ultimately, the Jaguars were held scoreless in the second half, but to no fault of Bortles.  He put the team in position for a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation that rookie kicker Jason Myers missed, and then again in overtime.

“I mean you get the opportunity whether it’s at the end of the game or whether it’s in overtime. We have a big play, we have to be able to close it out,” Bortles said. “We have to be able to continue to pick up positive yardage and score. Whether it’s get Jason (Myers) in range to kick a winner, or whether it’s actually scoring six. We have to be able to do that and finish games.”

Finally, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took to the road and led his team on a furious comeback against the Denver Broncos, before ultimately fumbling on the team’s final possession in their 23-20 loss.

Bridgewater completed 27 of 41 throws, for 269 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.  Unfortunately, his inability to process the Broncos rushes led to seven sacks and the game-clinching turnover.

Game Balls

There were several great individual and team performances on Sunday, and it’s time to recognize a few.

  • New York Jets running back Chris Ivory gained a career-high 166 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown as New York stomped out the Miami Dolphins in London.
  • Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman had four tackles, defended three passes and had a pick-six of Buccaneers rookie Jameis Winston.  Norman already has three interceptions and two touchdowns this season.
  • Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman had 149 yards from scrimmage with three touchdowns in the team’s 48-21 demolition of the Houston Texans.
  • The Green Bay Packers defense held the San Francisco 49ers to just 196 yards of total offense and three points in their 17-3 victory.
  • Rookie running back Todd Gurley gained 146 yards on just 19 carries in just his second NFL game.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.