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Week 4 Judgements

The SportsXchange

When coaches mention signature victories they are talking about the type of thing that happened in Detroit Sunday. The Lions not only beat the division leader, they overcame history.

The Chicago Bears scored victories in nine of the previous 10 games between these teams and quarterback Jay Cutler absolutely owned the Lions, with 12 touchdowns and only one interception. If the Lions were going to make a move in the NFC North, they had to win a game they were not expected to win.

And so they did.

The Lions are now tied the Bears at the top of the NFC North because of that convincing 40-32 victory in which they intercepted Cutler three times and forced him to fumble away another possession. In short, the Lions won because they had the defense that was absent in years past, and that will make them a factor in the division race.

2. It's hard to consider Houston a Super Bowl-worthy team after blowing a 20-3 lead at home against a Seattle team that historically struggles on the road. Give Seattle credit: The Seahawks never quit. But Houston blew this one.

3. Tell us the Seahawks' victory doesn't remind you of a similar, come-from-behind, overtime win over Chicago last season. That game launched the Seahawks to the playoffs. This one solidifies the belief that they are a legit Super Bowl threat.

4. Yes, those are the Cleveland Browns tied for first in the AFC North.

5. Never mind the drama surrounding Josh Freeman. What's the future of Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano? He blew another fourth-quarter lead, this time to lowly Arizona. So he gained the dreaded vote of confidence from Tampa Bay's brass, with team executives reportedly giving him time to clean up the mess left by Raheem Morris. The question is: Who cleans up the mess created by Schiano?

6. OK, so Pittsburgh lost another game when Ben Roethlisberger fumbled away a last-gasp opportunity, and the Steelers are on life support. We know the offensive line has more holes than the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and we know Pittsburgh can't run. But what in the name of Dick LeBeau is wrong with the defense? With all the criticism of the Steelers' inept offense, people forget that one of the league's most reliable defenses can't make stops, can't choke off big gainers and can't force a mistake. Through four games, the Steelers have as many takeaways as they have wins ... zero ... and start there when you wonder what's wrong with Pittsburgh.

7. Now you know why Terrelle Pryor won the starting quarterback job in Oakland; or how Matt Flynn lost it.

8. Here's why San Diego's comeback victory was so impressive: The Chargers did it without three of their five starters on the offensive line. Offensive line woes have been a problem in the past, but they didn't deter Philip Rivers vs. Dallas. Rivers completed all but seven of 42 passes, throwing for three TDs in the process -- including the game-clincher to tight end Antonio Gates late in the fourth period.

9. The New York Giants should be toast ... and they probably are. But here's why they can't be ruled out of anything: The NFC East is weak, with Dallas the division leader at 2-2 and everyone else under .500. Hard to believe, but it's not inconceivable to think that 8-8 could win it.

10. The Giants can't run, can't protect the quarterback and can't rush the quarterback. But here's the number that stands out: They're 5-of-37 the past three weeks on third downs, including 1-ror-14 on Sunday.

11. In his first month in Kansas City, Andy Reid already doubled the number of Chiefs' victories from the previous year. On behalf of everyone in Chiefs' nation, thank you, Philadelphia.

12. That should slow the Geno Smith-for-Mayor campaign in New York.

13. The biggest play by Seattle's Russell Wilson was one that won't appear in your box score. With the Seahawks down 20-6 and facing a fourth-and-3, Wilson somehow scrambled out of a sack and picked up the first down. One play later, Seattle scored to close the gap to seven. Then Matt Schaub did the rest.

14. Tennessee should be concerned about that injury to quarterback Jake Locker. But that's why the Titans invested in Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's a proven backup who can step in and win ... which he might have to do next week vs. Kansas City. Good news, Tennessee fans: The game is home.

15. The more you see of Robert Griffin III, the more you believe Pierre Garcon was right when he said RG3 is not "fully healthy." That's another way of saying he's not the same guy he was a year ago.

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED

1. One fourth of the way into the season, it's Denver and everyone else. Yeah, OK, so Seattle is the best in the NFC, but the Seahawks were lucky to escape Houston. Denver has pulverized each of its four opponents, including defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore.

2. It's safe to scrap that Manning Super Bowl in February.

3. The NFC West is not the NFL's best division; the NFC North is.

4. It doesn't matter who quarterbacks Jacksonville. The Jaguars stink. Pencil in the top quarterback in next year's draft for the Jaguars.

5. Houston cannot be considered an AFC powerhouse until or unless Matt Schaub elevates his game and refuses to crumble in the face of playoff-worthy opponents in significant contests. So far, it hasn't happened.

JUST ASKING BUT ...

How can Minnesota not start Matt Cassel next week?

Where does Josh Freeman land next?

Brian Hoyer or Brandon Weeden?

Why in the world did Houston give up on Trindon Holliday?

Who's the first to beat Denver?

FIVE PEOPLE WHO HAVE SOME EXPLAINING TO DO

1. Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson. It was his personal foul that extended Seattle's game-winning drive in overtime. Jackson planted wide receiver Doug Baldwin after a 7-yard catch, drawing a 15yard penalty and putting the Seahawks in business for Steven Hauschka's 45-yard field goal.

2. Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. What in the world are you doing calling a pass with a rookie quarterback ... under 3:30 left ... and the ball at your own 11? Patrick Peterson made the interception, and one play later Arizona tied the game. The Cardinals hadn't scored a TD in 56:30 minutes, so why give them a short field? Sullivan should've played it conservative and trusted the Bucs' defense.

3. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub. He's up by seven. There are under three minutes left. And he has a third-and-4 at the Seattle 40. So what does he do? Make a horrible decision and float a pass that Richard Sherman intercepts and returns for a game-tying 58-yard touchdown. "I got to be better," Schaub said. Amen.

4. Oakland quarterback Matt Flynn. An interception was returned for a touchdown. He was sacked seven times. He made no significant second-half plays. And on a critical fourth-and-1 near the end of the game, he failed to get the first down, fumbling away the ball.

5. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears hired Marc Trestman because they believed he could make Cutler a better quarterback, and so far, so good. But then came Sunday in Detroit, and Cutler committed four turnovers in a loss that appeared closer than it was. That can't happen if Chicago is serious about making a run at a playoff berth.

NUMBERS THAT MAY MEAN SOMETHING

2 -- Second-half runs by Baltimore in the second half

5 -- Joe Flacco interceptions Sunday

16 -- Peyton Manning TD passes this year

16 -- New York Giants' turnovers this season

20-- Jets penalties the past two weeks

47-7 -- Seattle vs. opponents after the third period

138.0 -- Peyton Manning season passer rating

1968 -- The last time Pittsburgh started 0-4

NEXT WEEKEND'S FIVE BEST GAMES

New Orleans at Chicago

Detroit at Green Bay

Seattle at Indianapolis

Kansas City at Tennessee

Houston at San Francisco

-- Clark Judge, a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange, has covered pro football for four decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selections Committee.
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