By Ben Morse, CNN
With a lot of starting NFL players not playing in the preseason, the first few weeks of a new season sometimes are more mistake ridden and have more miscues than we’d tend expect.
But, by Week 4, those kinks are beginning to be ironed out and we’re starting to see the stars shining on offense and defense.
And that was on full display this week, with some electrifying touchdowns, athletic interceptions and clutch kicking (or missed kicks in some instances) on display across the country — and world.
So after the San Francisco 49ers’ win over the defending champion Los Angeles Rams wrapped up Week 4, let’s look at the top stories to come out of the latest round of games.
Changes in the works
The week started with Thursday Night Football, and arguably, the biggest talking point of the season so far.
In the Miami Dolphins’ 27-15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was taken to the hospital after suffering a concussion in a scary looking incident, just four days after he was knocked out of a game against the Buffalo Bills briefly after a hit forced the back of his helmet to the turf. The 24-year-old quarterback got up stumbling against the Bills and was taken to the locker room for a concussion check but later returned to finish the game.
Video from the Bengals loss showed Tagovailoa’s forearms were flexed and his fingers contorted — a sign that CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon, said is a “fencing response” and can be linked to a brain injury. The incident has raised concerns about the NFL’s concussion protocols and a number of questions about the handling of head injuries.
An investigation is now underway into the handling of Tagovailoa’s apparent head injury, while the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who was involved in the quarterback’s first concussion evaluation is reportedly no longer working with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).
The NFL and the NFLPA released a joint statement saying that both sides agreed that updates to the protocols are required, in particular those in relation to “gross motor instability” incidents.
NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills told Gupta on Friday that the league will conclude the review into the situation and get the changes to the concussion protocols “right.”
On Sunday, two quarterbacks left games as a result of the concussion protocol: Tyrod Taylor of the New York Giants and the New England Patriots’ Brian Hoyer, as the league cracked down on head injuries.
In what was a rerun of Super Bowl LV, the rematch between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided a vastly different result.
Having been convincingly beaten by the Bucs in the 2020 season’s championship game, star quarterback Patrick Mahomes got some form of revenge on Sunday, as he was back to his magical best, propelling the Chiefs to a 41-31 win over Tom Brady and a typically ferocious Tampa Bay defense.
The Chiefs signal-caller threw 23-for-37 for 249 yards and three touchdowns, showcasing his improvisational best as he scrambled with his legs and threw with awkward arm angles — the highlight of which was a weaving run around two tackles which ended with a little flick pass at the last moment for a touchdown.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce called Mahomes the “Houdini of our era” as he proved once again why he’s one of the leagues best and why you would be silly to write off the Chiefs in their hunt to feature in this year’s Super Bowl.
Starting the rookie
After weeks of stodgy offense and calls from fans for a quarterback change, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin finally relented on Sunday.
Kenny Pickett, selected by the Steelers with the 20th pick of this year’s draft out of University of Pittsburgh, replaced starter Mitchell Trubisky in the second half against the New York Jets.
And although the afternoon didn’t end in success — completing 10 of his 13 passes for 127 yards with three interceptions and running for two touchdowns — as the Steelers lost to the Jets 24-20 at the death, the change at the most important position offers hope for Pittsburgh.
The rookie showed glimpses of what he could bring to the team, and according to a report from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the 24-year-old is in line to make his first start against the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 next Sunday.
It will prove to be a tough place to make his first NFL start, but Pickett could provide the spark which could ignite the Steelers offense and their plethora of offensive weapons.
Eagles remain undefeated, Bills produce comeback
Two of the league’s early season favorites continued their good starts to the season, with both producing narrow victories on the wet and windy East Coast of the US.
The Philadelphia Eagles remain undefeated to start the season, beating the feisty Jacksonville Jaguars 29-21 in horrible conditions at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly.
A potent rushing attack behind quarterback Jalen Hurts — and led by running back Miles Sanders — beat up the Jags on the ground while a menacing defense forced five Jacksonville turnovers as the Eagles erased a 14-point deficit to win and improve their record to 4-0 on the season.
For the Bills, they had to produce their own stirring comeback to beat Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
Having fallen behind by 17 points in the second half, Buffalo needed quarterback Josh Allen to be at his MVP-favorite best to mount a comeback.
Safety Jordan Poyer intercepted Jackson twice in the fourth quarter too, as the Bills won 23-20 thanks to a Tyler Bass field goal as time expired to move to 3-1 on the year.
Week 4 also saw the first international game of the season — and the NFL’s 100th game ever outside of the US.
The Minnesota Vikings faced the New Orleans Saints at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, and UK fans were treated to a thrilling ending.
Minutes after nailing a 60-yard field goal, Saints kicker Wil Lutz had a chance to convert a 61-yard attempt with time expiring to tie the scores and take the game to overtime.
Unfortunately for Lutz, his kick hit both the upright and the crossbar of the posts before bouncing out — coined a “double doink” — giving the Vikings a 28-25 victory.
It’s the first of three games in London, as the New York Giants face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in Week 5 — both of whom won in Week 4 — and the Jaguars play the Denver Broncos on October 30 at Wembley Stadium.
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