The knock on the Seattle Seahawks is that their act doesn't play well on the road. At halftime of their game against Houston, that looked accurate.
Seattle was down 20-3 at halftime, and was completely dominated in the first half. Houston had 324 yards and 19 first downs in the first half. Seattle had 88 yards and four first downs. The Seahawks were lucky they were down by just 17 points.
Seattle came in at 3-0, and was down big in a non-conference game against a team that went 12-4 last year. In short, it wouldn't have been a big deal to lose. But the Seahawks showed they have some championship moxie this season.
The defense took over. Houston didn't score after halftime. And cornerback Richard Sherman made an enormous play, returning a Matt Schaub interception 58 yards for a game-tying touchdown with 2:40 left. It was a clutch play by a great player.
The Seahawks got a fortunate penalty in overtime when Kareem Jackson body-slammed Doug Baldwin, then they kicked the game-winning field goal. The Seahawks, who also came back to win a tough road game at Carolina in Week 1, are 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. While blowout wins are preferable, that road win over the defending AFC South champs without anything close to their best game revealed a lot about the Seahawks' character.
Onto the rest of the winners and losers of the Week 4 NFL action:
Philip Rivers: Rivers looked like he was finished last year. The Chargers quarterback was beaten down, for sure. Beaten down by playing behind a horrendous offensive line, on a team that continuously found ways to underachieve.
Now, Rivers is playing great and the Chargers are 2-2, just a few plays from being 4-0.
Rivers threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-21 win over Dallas. As Greg Cosell pointed out here, the Chargers are using an offense designed to get the ball out fast, and Rivers is thriving in it. He looked like he was on a significant career downturn last year. With new coach Mike McCoy helping him out, Rivers has reversed that trend.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns, who barely lost their first two games, have won two in a row and are tied for first in the AFC North. The Browns have some holes (maybe they can trade for a top back like Trent Richardson!) but given the state of the AFC North, there's no reason they can't stay in the race.
The Browns' defense had a fantastic game in a 17-6 win over Cincinnati, frustrating Andy Dalton the entire game. Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer played well again, completing 25-of-38 for 269 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Ravens' offense is terrible, the Steelers look finished, and the Browns were clearly better than the Bengals on Sunday. So, why not the Browns in that division?
Reggie Bush: Bush hasn't had a bad career, just not one that seemed destined for him when he won the 2005 Heisman Trophy (hold up, the Heisman Trust is reminding us that didn't happen) and was the second pick of the 2006 draft. It took a while, but he has turned into one of the most valuable backs in the league.
Bush is a huge reason the Lions are a serious contender to win the NFC North. Feel free to read that last sentence again until you get over the shock. Yes, Detroit looks like it could be the best team in that division, mainly because Bush has changed the entire look of the offense.
Bush had 173 total yards in a 40-32 win against Chicago. The Lions have scored 74 points in the two full games Bush has played. He's a perfect fit for the pass-first attack because he works so well in space. The Lions just have to hope he can stay healthy for most of the season. They struggled on offense after Bush was knocked out of a loss at Arizona, and again last week when he didn't play against Washington. The Lions won a close game over the Redskins without Bush. With him in the lineup, they should be favored in most of their games the rest of the season.
Peyton Manning's MVP march: The best NFL single season I've seen was Aaron Rodgers in 2011. The Packers quarterback had 45 touchdowns, six interceptions and 4,643 yards despite sitting out the final meaningless regular-season game. The Packers went 15-1 that season. Rodgers had a ridiculous 122.5 rating. Manning has a long, long way to go, but at the quarter pole no other NFL player is even in the MVP picture. Manning has lapped the field, maybe twice. Here's his updated pace: 5,880 yards, 64 touchdowns, zero interceptions (!!!) and a 138.0 rating. If his final 12 games are anything like his first four, Manning will take the title of greatest single season ever. And he's 37 years old. We've never seen anything like this.
Romeo Crennel: Bad coaching and bad quarterback play were two main reasons given for the Chiefs' embarrassing 2-14 season last year. That bad quarterback, Matt Cassel, had a pretty nice day for the Vikings against the Steelers on Sunday. And the Chiefs are rolling this season, as a 31-7 win against the Giants made them 4-0 this season. We're stuck with the realization that Crennel and his staff simply wrecked a pretty good roster last season.
Kansas City is showing it was not nearly as bad as its record last year. Andy Reid has done a great job turning the Chiefs around. But, really, it's pretty clear the talent was already in place.
Christian Ponder: First, let's get the coach-speak out of the way, from the Vikings' Leslie Frazier:
Frazier: "Our quarterback is Christian Ponder." Said #Vikings have lot of things to talk about during bye week.
— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) September 29, 2013
Sure, coach. It's tough to buy into the notion that Cassel will turn the Vikings' season around, but it would be almost impossible for Frazier to turn back to Ponder (who missed Sunday's game with a fractured rib) after Cassel went 16-of-25 for 248 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings' first win of the season, against the Steelers.
Time is obviously running out fast on Ponder, especially after the offense looked much better with him out of the lineup. Cassel isn't the long-term answer, but the 2014 draft is deep at quarterback. It would be a surprise if Minnesota didn't take one of them.
Tampa Bay and (again) Greg Schiano: Maybe Schiano had to make the Josh Freeman move when he did. Freeman surely hadn't played well this season, and if reports that Freeman missed multiple meetings this week after he was benched are true, he's not exactly a sympathetic figure. But by benching Freeman for rookie Mike Glennon after an 0-3 start, Schiano might have turned the Buccaneers into the second worst team in the NFL (yeah, we'll get to No. 32 in a moment).
Glennon was 24-of-43 for 193 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in an ugly 13-10 home loss to Arizona. Glennon gave away the game with two late interceptions to Arizona's Patrick Peterson. It's not all Glennon's fault; he is not ready yet. But the offense will struggle the rest of the year if he remains quarterback (and it's obvious there's no turning back to Freeman now). Doug Martin had 45 yards on 27 carries, an almost unfathomable stat line, because the Cardinals could overplay the run all game. Schiano made his point benching Freeman. He might not be around to see how next year's starting quarterback fares.
Anyone who watched The Team that Drafted a Punter Instead of Russell Wilson™ play football (or whatever they were doing) on Sunday: Jacksonville Jaguars fans, better days are ahead. Only 12 more games of Blaine Gabbert until Teddy Bridgewater takes over. It's crazy to start talking about 0-16 in Week 4, but the Jaguars' 37-3 loss to the Colts has to make you wonder when they'll finally be competitive in a game this season.