The Week 4 NFL Rundown

WE RE-CAP THE SUNDAY WINS BY THE COWBOYS, NINERS & THE BUCS

PLUS OUR MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW: CAN THE TOM BRADY-LED PATRIOTS’ OFFENSE GET A WAKE-UP CALL IN KANSAS CITY?

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT – TEXAS A&M AND MIZZOU STRIKE UP MONSTER COME-FROM-BEHIND WINS

Hope you were tuned in on Sunday night when NBC play-by-play man Al Michaels said that these days the NFL stands for the “No Form League”.
Michaels – who knows of what he speaks – was digesting the Week 4 afternoon results with particular interest being paid to Tampa Bay’s stunning come-from-behind 27-24 win at 7-point favorite Pittsburgh.

Sure, we know a bunch of folks that were kayoed in their “suicide pool” with that result but the bottom line so far with this here-and-now NFL season is that some of the alleged “good teams” haven’t exactly gotten off to roaring starts with the aforementioned Steelers just 2-2 SU (straight-up) here at the proverbial “quarter pole” and what to make of the likes of New Orleans and Carolina – there’s two 2013 playoff teams that have three combined wins so far through eight total games!

Let’s review some of the NFL Week 4 happenings …

DALLAS 38, NEW ORLEANS 17 (A Gold Key winner for Jim Hurley, along with the Bucs upset of the Steelers for a 2-0 Sunday)

Okay, so there were a few moments of trepidation there in the early-to-mid stages of the fourth quarter for the now 3-and-1 Cowboys but generally this was “runaway city” right from the start when Dallas won the coin toss, elected to receive and proceeded to march 80 yards in 12 plays while chewing some seven-plus minutes off the game clock before a QB Tony Romo-to-WR Terrance Williams 6-yard scoring strike.

Heck, the Saints’ offense was out of sync even before it ever made an appearance on the field and our finger of blame is pointed at New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan whose unit never “wrapped up” till it was way too late and who didn’t fare too well versus the Dallas ground game that wound up banging out 190 yards rushing (a hearty 5.4 yards per rush).

Okay, so we’ll tip our cap to that good-and-getting-better young Dallas offensive line and to star RB DeMarco Murray (149 yards rushing and two TDs) and consider the Cowboys won the all-important turnover battle 3-to-0 and – forgive us, NBC – but we didn’t think both Michaels and sidekick Cris Collinsworth made nearly enough mention of the turnover category here.

It’s becoming clear that stocking up on those offensive linemen with the recent first-round draft picks is paying off big-time for the Cowboys who didn’t even need WR Dez Bryant (3 catches for 44 yards and 1 TD) to be much of a factor here in this prime-time affair – then again, not sure this Saints team would have beaten anyone with that brand of amateurish tackling at the first, second and third levels.

SAN FRANCISCO 26, PHILADELPHIA 21 – Okay, so the 49ers got the cash here as 4-point betting favorites but should they really have needed that fourth-quarter goal-line stand to hold off the Eagles?

doubt you either saw the game or the highlights with Philadelphia scoring three non-offensive touchdowns – a blocked punt recovered in the end zone, a DB Malcolm Jenkins “pick six” and that dazzling 82-yard punt bring-back for a score by Darren Sproles – and so we’ll be the first to claim this was a flawed San Fran win even though Jim Harbaugh’s crew held off the Eagles when a pair of QB Nick Foles passes from the SF one-yard line went incomplete.

Yes, the Niners played a particularly physical brand of ball on “D” while stealing two of Foles’ passes and snagging two fumbles – but it’s clear-as-day that something remains terribly wrong with this 49ers’ offense that isn’t getting crisp play from QB Colin Kaepernick (218 yards passing and 58 yards rushing but some hellacious decisions) and now has TE Vernon Davis (back) hurt once again.

Sure looks to us like the Cowboys’ OL will be a strength for years to come – while this reshaped Niner blocking wall is a mess even with RB Frank Gore coming alive for a 119-yard ground game. For the 2-2 Niners, a win’s a win, we know, but there was no time for Kaepernick to look deep and teams – sooner rather than later – will be loading the box to take away Gore/Kaepernick runs.

TAMPA BAY 27, PITTSBURGH 24 – Raise your hand if you thought this year’s Steelers had a shot at getting to the Super Bowl! Okay, so we were not alone, apparently, but let’s get right to the crux of the matter regarding this game that truly slipped away from the AFC North crew.

Okay, so Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin ranted and raved after the game about his team and its propensity for collecting penalties but – coach – you had a 24-20 lead and the ball with 1:44 remaining at your own 14-yard line and you blew it!

Pittsburgh went ultra-conservative with two running plays – including a shotgun handoff to RB Le’Veon Bell that gained two yards on third-and-five – and thus the Steelers were forced to punt and rookie Brad Wing got off a rotten 29-yard boot that gave Tampa Bay the ball at Pittsburgh’s 46-yard line.

And the rest was history as a QB Mike Glennon-to-WR Louis Murphy 41-yard pass play got the ball to the Pittsburgh 5-yard line and then Glennon-to-WR Vincent Jackson hooked up for the go-ahead score.

Still, should a “quality team” lose a game at home in which it piles up 27 first downs, loses just one fumble and has its QB Ben Roethlisberger throw for 314 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs?

Okay, so Tomlin’s got a point with all those yellow flags – 13 penalties for 125 yards in all Sunday – but if you can’t pound out one or two first downs late with this backfield and with that quarterback, then you’ve got major issues!

The Bucs’ win – coming off that humbling 56-14 loss in Atlanta some 10 days ago – was satisfying stuff for Lovie Smith’s squad and that Glennon-to-Murphy pass/catch combo (6 hookups worth 99 yards) might well be worth watching in the weeks ahead.

Jim Hurley’s Handicappers and Bloggers are ready to rock-n-roll with more gridiron winners this week beginning here with the Side & Totals winners on tonight’s Monday Night Football Game between the New England Patriots at the Kansas City Chiefs and then we’ll roll on later this week with Thursday/Friday Night Winners before we even get to a jam-packed weekend card. Check with the Jim Hurley Network right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. ET on week days and any time after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday and cash in big!

Plus get all our Major-League Baseball Playoff winners too including the Wild Card playoff games – that’s Oakland at Kansas City in the AL on Tuesday night and San Francisco at Pittsburgh in the NL wild card game Wednesday evening. Folks, October’s gonna rock with both Football and Baseball at the Jim Hurley Network – so don’t dare miss out on all the fun-and-profits!

On Monday Night Football, it’s …
NEW ENGLAND (2-1) at KANSAS CITY (1-2) – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Nope, you’re not seeing things: The New England Patriots are indeed ranked a lowly 26th in the NFL in passing offense (196.3 yards a game) and Pats QB Tom Brady sportsn 82.9 QB rating which ranks 23rd among NFL starting quarterbacks … so what’s wrong?

Brady has completed just 1-of-13 passing tries of longer than 21 yards so far and you get the sense that the three-time Super Bowl-winning slinger has no faith in his O-line (see seven sacks) and thus the all-too-quick passes in the flat to the likes of WR Julian Edelman who might make for a nice slot receiver but it no home run hitter (see WR Randy Moss circa 2007).

If Brady and the Pats want the passing attack to “get healthy” here at Arrowhead Stadium, then we’ll expect WRs Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola and – yes, TE Rob Gronkowski too – to expand the field here against a Chiefs team that has all sorts of injury problems in the secondary.

Best game plan here for Andy Reid’s home underdog side is this: Let the league’s 11th-ranked ground attack stuff the ball into the arms of RB Knile Davis (32 carries for 132 yards rushing in last Sunday’s 34-15 win at Miami – and give RB Jamaal Charles another week to recover from his ankle woes.

Spread Notes – New England is 3-10 ATS (against the spread) away since late in the 2012 season and that includes a spread split thus far in 2014 with the Patriots besting 3-point home dog Minnesota 30-7 in Week 2 play following that 33-20 loss at 3 ½-point pup Miami in Week 1. On the flip side, Kansas City’s a rotten 5-12 versus the vig at home the past two-plus seasons and that includes the 26-10 season-opening loss to 3-point underdog Tennessee this year.

THE COLLEGE GRIDIRON REPORT
At last check there were eight SEC teams inside the Associated Press’ Top 25 and two of ‘em -- #6 Texas A&M and #24 Missouri – sure had season-saving wins last weekend and both teams faced double-digit fourth-quarter deficits.

The A&M Aggies – with favorite son Johnny Manziel in attendance at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington – roared back to best 8 ½-point underdog Arkansas 35-28 in overtime as QB Kenny Hill threw for 386 yards and 4 TDs including that 25-yard hummer in OT to wide-out Malcome Kennedy. Still, it was those 86- and 59-yard TD flings by Hill in the fourth quarter that saved the day and left folks wondering why the Hogs slacked off so badly in their deep coverage. P.S., throw some goat horns around the neck of Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema who – like Mr. Tomlin above – got a bit too conservative at crunch time.

Missouri, meanwhile, rallied from down 20-7 to win at 7-point fav South Carolina 21-20 and you’re lying if you said you saw this one coming. The Tigers had gone three-and-out some 11 consecutive possessions and QB Maty Mauk looked lost but two passes that chewed up 67 yards got Mizzou in position to inch closer on a short TD run and then the Tigers banged home the winning TD on fourth down – don’t know South Carolina didn’t feed it to physical RB Mike Davis (22 carries for 104 yards) more in the final frame but Steve Spurrier’s squad mismanaged lots of things in the last quarter and now winning the SEC East could be a pipe dream for the Gamecocks.

In other NCAA Football Notes …
The weekend firing of Kansas head coach Charlie Weis was no big surprise – the Big 12 program had tired of all the losing (6-22 in two-plus seasons) and the real news is that Kansas really wanted to get rid of Weis even before this 2014 ever started but simply didn’t pull the trigger.

A bad hire at a bad football school – but at least Kansas is looking to fix its problem before we got too deep min this current campaign that’s already seen the Jayhawks lose to Duke by 38 points and to an injury-wracked Texas team 23-0 this past weekend.

The names making the rounds as of late Sunday night included former USC interim boss Ed Orgeron, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and even Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel but we won’t be totally surprised if Kansas lets defensive coordinator Clint Bowen – named the interim head coach – run the show and then the school might make an off-season run at a “hot name” come season’s end … maybe an Art Briles (Baylor) or a Ruffin McNeill (East Carolina).

NOTE: Catch our Jim Sez Mid-Week Update in the next column as we’ll get you the NFL Week 5 Thursday Night Preview of Minnesota at Green Bay plus Thursday’s high-octane college clash between Arizona at #2 Oregon.

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