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.

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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)



James Conner explains how crucial the Steelers’ win vs. Bengals is for the team moving forward in the season.

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)

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)



Sean Payton was not a fan of the play call that lead to QB Teddy Bridgewater taking a sack on their last drive.

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)

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)



Travis Kelce hauls in a catch and immediately laterals to LeSean McCoy, who runs to gain an extra 23 yards.

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)

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)

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)

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)



Nick Chubb scores three touchdowns against the Ravens, including an 88-yarder in the fourth quarter.

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 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)

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)


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