October 27, 2020

NFL Week 4 Recap: Breaking down the many storylines in the NFL

7 min read
This week, after another slate full of shocking upsets and impressive performances, the NFL Week...

This week, after another slate full of shocking upsets and impressive performances, the NFL Week 4 Recap returns to give you my unfiltered opinion. Week 4 continued the recent trend of high scoring matchups, while some contenders strengthened their Super Bowl aspirations, and other pretenders started to show their true colors. We start our NFL Week 4 Recap with a breakdown of another disappointing Dallas Cowboys loss.

We’ll be updating the NFL Week 4 Recap throughout the evening and on Monday morning, so be sure to keep checking back for more insight and analysis.

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NFL Week 4 Recap | Tom Brady has the Buccaneers looking a lot like the 2019 Patriots

Tom Brady threw for 369 yards and five touchdowns in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-31 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in NFL Week 4. That means that the GOAT is more caprine* than ever and is on pace to lead the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl, right?

Maybe. NFL Recap doesn’t want to go the Worst. Five-TD game. Ever. route, but Brady’s Buccaneers look a lot like his Patriots. His 2019 Patriots that is, a team that feasted on weaker opponents but didn’t have what it took to hang with the true contenders.

Buccaneers-Chargers Recap

Michael Davis jumped a route and turned a Brady pass into a pick-6 to give the Chargers a 14-7 second-quarter lead. The Chargers extended that lead to 24-7 when the Buccaneers failed to move the ball on several series while Justin Herbert spread the ball around to unlikely targets like Tyron Johnson and Donald Parham. But Josh Kelley fumbled near his own goal line before halftime, setting up a Brady touchdown to Mike Evans and awakening the Bucs offense.

Brady threw for 236 yards and four touchdowns after halftime while Herbert, short on weapons with Austin Ekeler injured, struggled to sustain any offense and threw a late-game interception to seal the Buccaneers victory.

What Tom Brady’s five-touchdown performance means

As mentioned above, the Chargers fumbled deep in their own territory and lost one of their top offensive weapons early in the game. They missed a short field goal and lost a 42-yard punt return to a penalty, Their defense, missing Melvin Ingram, failed to mount a pass rush. When Brady’s receivers weren’t wide open in the second half, their defenders were comically misplaying the ball instead of contesting catches.

In other words, the Chargers played like a rebuilding team with a rookie quarterback and a young, thin, mistake-prone roster. And that’s becoming a trend. The Bucs’ Week 3 opponent, the Denver Broncos, are one of the NFL’s most injury-plagued teams, and they were forced to switch from backup quarterback Jeff Driskel to third-stringer Brett Rypien mid-game. The Buccaneers’ Week 2 opponent, the Carolina Panthers, are another rebuilding team with little talent on defense who lost their best all-purpose weapon (Christian McCaffrey) while trying to stage a comeback.

It’s almost as if the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and (original recipe) Buffalo Bills followed Brady to Tampa and brought all of their quarterback woes and eagerness to lose their composure with them! Brady’s 2019 Patriots feasted on their AFC East serfs and the NFC East’s FCS-level competition, but they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, and Houston Texans in the regular season before the Tennessee Titans upset them in the playoffs. These Buccaneers look like similar daisy stompers right now. 

Brady is playing well, of course, if you overlook the pick-6’s, which is a heckuva thing to overlook. No one doubts that he can stand in a clean pocket and pick apart a weak defense. But the schedule is about to get harder. Everyone on the Bucs must play better to defeat stronger opponents who won’t hand opportunities to them. Tom Brady is no exception. 

What’s next for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers

Brady and Nick Foles get to relive Super Bowl LII on Thursday night as the Bucs visit the Chicago Bears, followed by a visit from Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 6. We’ll know much more about where they really stand after that. 

*Caprine is Latin for “goat-like.” It’s like the freakin’ SATs up here in NFL Recap.

NFL Week 4 Recap | Trying to make sense of the Dallas Cowboys

Bungling, embarrassing starts. Thrilling, desperate comebacks. King-sized statistics. Emperor-sized blunders. The Cowboys are must-see TV after their fourth-straight shootout of the 2020 season: A down-to-the-wire 49-38 loss to the Cleveland Browns. But are the Cowboys any good? Are they better or worse than their 1-3 record? And can they turn things around in the worst division in professional sports? NFL Recap is willing to risk a hallucinogenic journey through the Cowboys season so far in search of answers.

Dallas Cowboys 2020 Week 4 recap

NFL Recap isn’t going to try to summarize Sunday’s loss, because about 200 things happened in that game, and most of them were ridiculous. Cowboys games look like they were scripted by overstimulated television writers for the Freeform Channel who got all of their football knowledge from playing NFL Blitz in arcades as teenagers. The heroes are always down by two touchdowns. Every play is either a touchdown or a turnover and comes packed with unlikely, unnecessary drama. Including the kickoffs. ESPECIALLY the kickoffs.

The average final score of a Cowboys game this season is opponents 36.5, Cowboys 31.5. Dak Prescott is on pace to throw for 6,760 yards, which would break the NFL record by over 1,000 yards, but with 24 turnovers. The Cowboys are getting outscored 96-53 in the first half (that works out to 24-13 at halftime) but outscore opponents 49-26 in fourth quarters.

They would be 3-1 if not for a few mistakes but could also be 0-4 if the Atlanta Falcons weren’t a symphony of despair and regret. The Cowboys are agents of pure chaos, more dangerous to themselves than others. 

What’s wrong with the Dallas Cowboys?

Here’s a list of the Cowboys’ biggest problems.

Early turnovers

The Cowboys have nine turnovers this season, most of them in the first half. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have combined for five lost fumbles this season. 

Prescott’s lack of feel for the pass rush results in strip-sacks, and he has also developed a habit of locking on to receivers and forcing passes: He threw a few would-be interceptions on Sunday which went through defenders’ hands. 

As for Elliott, it’s time for him to spend a week carrying the football at all times while coaches, teammates, and travel secretaries try to pry it loose. If this violates social distancing guidelines, they should try to pry it loose with garden rakes, halberds, and toilet snakes.

Run defense

Opponents average 172.5 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per rush against the Cowboys. The Browns, without Nick Chubb for most of the afternoon, rushed for 306 yards and 7.7 yards per carry. The Cowboys run defense loses too many line-of-scrimmage battles, and defenders get latched onto blocks too easily. 

The Cowboys pass defense would never be mistaken for the Legion of Boom, either, but their biggest issue is that opponents constantly have great field position due to turnovers (see above) and favorable down-and-distance situations.

Terrible situational football

The Cowboys are 4-of-9 on fourth down conversions, with some goofy decisions (including a pair of failed fake punts) in the mix. Little details like proper clock management before halftime escape them. 

As for kickoffs, whoa nelly: Tony Pollard (who muffed a kickoff last week) nearly let one roll until Browns defenders pounced on it on Sunday; it trickled harmlessly into the end zone at the last moment). Mike McCarthy later called for a short squib while trailing by five with 3:42 to play, as if he couldn’t decide between an onside kick or a deep kickoff and figured he would split the difference. The decision gave the Browns the ball near midfield, setting the stage for Odell Beckham Jr.’s game-icing end-around touchdown.

So can the Cowboys turn things around?

The Cowboys have had a little bad luck on those fumbles: They have lost six of seven, an abnormally high percentage. The special team mistakes can be cleaned up by coaching and/or swapping out returners. A team with a high-powered passing game can overcome a weak run defense by just outscoring everyone, assuming they stop spotting their opponents two possessions in great field position before halftime every Sunday.

That leaves Prescott’s turnover issues and the coaching mistakes in high-leverage situations. Both of those issues point directly to McCarthy, who was hired to be a better game planner and in-game decision-maker than Jason Garrett. That’s a really low bar to clear, but McCarthy has coached like Mega Garrett so far this season. 

The good news for the Cowboys is that 7-9 could win the NFC East this year. The bad news is that they entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, and Prescott is supposed to be leaping into the upper echelon of quarterbacks this season, not turning into a Jameis Winston-like touchdown-and-turnover factory.

What’s next for the Dallas Cowboys?

The Cowboys are only scheduled to play one NFL game for the next month, as they face the Arizona Cardinals in two weeks. No, that’s not a scheduling quirk: They just face the Giants, Football Team, and Eagles in three of the next four weeks, and those are more like soccer friendlies or marching band tournaments than real NFL games.

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