At some point in the future, Chicago Bears fans will be able to laugh about Matt Eberflus, their old failed head coach, giving away a win against the Denver Broncos. Possibly they'll do so when Caleb Williams is their quarterback.
But on Sunday, it was infuriating. Eberflus acted like a coach who was trying to get himself fired.
How else to explain an inexplicable decision Sunday? The Bears had blown a 28-7 second-half lead to the Broncos, but were tied late in the fourth quarter and within field-goal range. The Bears surprisingly left the offense on the field for a fourth-and-1. They tried to get the Broncos to go offsides before calling a timeout. We've seen that before. The Bears then could have brought on the field-goal team for a 35- or 36-yard attempt with 2:57 left. That's the blueprint for that situation.
Nope. The Bears left the offense on the field and running back Khalil Herbert was stuffed for no gain on fourth down. No field goal is automatic, but the Bears probably would have hit that one to take a 31-28 lead. They declined. It was a bizarre decision. Eberflus said he went for it because the Bears were running the ball well, which shows an astounding ignorance of game situation management. The Broncos took the ball downfield after they stopped the fourth down, got their own field goal, then picked off Justin Fields in the final minute. The Broncos improved to 1-3 with the 31-28 win, and the Bears are 0-4.
And next up will be calls for Eberflus, who is 3-18 as Bears head coach, to be fired.
The Bears are strangely proud of never firing a coach during a season, though they've had a few coaches who probably deserved to be. That would be the only thing to save Eberflus his job after the start he has had to his career. Giving up the chance to take a lead with less than three minutes left will be a part of his legacy in Chicago. The good part is losing to the Broncos gets the Bears one step closer to the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft.
No, the Bears weren't tanking Sunday by going for it. Eberflus has no reason to do so, considering he's not surviving a second straight season that results in the first overall pick of the draft. It was more the result of an incompetent head coach who is leading a sinking ship and has no idea how to fix it.
The Bears played well enough to win on Sunday. They led 28-7. Fields looked very good. Though, the Broncos' awful defense played a role in that. But the Bears started to falter and couldn't turn things around. Fields lost the ball on a sack and it was returned for a game-tying touchdown by Denver's Jonathon Cooper. The biggest blown lead in franchise history was 21 points according to ESPN Stats and Info, and the Bears tied that awful record Sunday.
Despite that rough stretch, the Bears should have won. They put themselves in position to take a lead with a late field goal. Eberflus decided against it. Now the Bears will have decisions to make.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 4 of the NFL season:
In a fair world for non-QBs, McCaffrey would have a great case.
The 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals 35-16 on Sunday and McCaffrey scored four touchdowns. He broke Jerry Rice’s team record with his 13th straight game scoring a touchdown, playoffs included. Rice never won an MVP either, which is a travesty.
McCaffrey will probably have to settle for being in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year conversation. He has 600 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in four games. It's safe to say he has been well worth the 49ers’ midseason trade for him last year.
Dallas Cowboys defense: Whatever happened to the Cowboys' defense last week at Arizona, Dallas quickly got over it.
Let's chalk up last week's loss to the Cardinals as an anomaly. The Cowboys have had three dominant defensive performances this season, and the third came in an easy 38-3 win over the New England Patriots. The Cowboys scored twice on defense, one on a Mac Jones fumble and another on a Jones interception, which turned the game into a rout. The Patriots pulled Jones in the third quarter, partially because they were trailing by a bunch but also because the Cowboys made Jones look really bad.
Dallas will do that to plenty of opponents. The defense is still stellar, even without injured cornerback Trevon Diggs, whose season is finished. Apparently the Cardinals didn't give the rest of the league a blueprint.
Lamar Jackson: Before Sunday's game, when addressing all the injuries the Baltimore Ravens had, tight end Mark Andrews told NFL Network's Sara Walsh that as long as the Ravens had Lamar Jackson, "anything is possible."
That was overdramatic, considering the Cleveland Browns were without quarterback Deshaun Watson, but there was also plenty of truth to it. Jackson was awesome against a really good Browns defense, and the Ravens picked up a big 28-3 win. As long as the Ravens have Jackson, they'll always have a chance.
Jackson seems to be settling into the Ravens' new offensive scheme. Despite plenty of injuries around him, Jackson had two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns to Andrews, one of which was a beautiful throw and catch in the end zone. The Ravens improved to 3-1, and have to be thankful Jackson didn't go anywhere this offseason.
Nacua is already a star. He set an NFL record for most catches through four games to start a career on Sunday, then finished the game with a 22-yard touchdown in overtime to beat the Indianapolis Colts 29-23.
Nacua had nine catches for 163 yards and the walk-off winner. The Rams are 2-2 and playing much better than expected, largely because of an unexpected star at receiver.
C.J. Stroud: The Houston Texans have to be happy with their new rookie quarterback.
Stroud is improving rapidly. On Sunday he was clearly better than counterpart Kenny Pickett of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Texans won 30-6. Stroud had 306 yards and two touchdowns. Pickett left the game in the second half with an injury.
The Texans have won two straight after an 0-2 start. Stroud competed hard in those two losses. Now the Texans are winning games, and Stroud looks like an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Bears, for having the Carolina Panthers' draft pick too: The Panthers traded a lot to move up and draft Bryce Young first overall. Included in the haul they sent the Bears was their 2024 first-round pick.
If the Bears don't earn the first overall pick through their own play, it might come from the Panthers. The Panthers fell to 0-4 with a home loss to the Minnesota Vikings, who were also winless before Sunday. Carolina started well, with a pick 6 and a 10-0 lead. But the offense didn't score a touchdown and the Vikings came back to win 21-13.
The Panthers have their quarterback of the future in Young, though he's not off to a great start yet. They also don't have their 2024 first-rounder, which might be a boon for the Bears.
You’d think that would have meant the Raiders could have blocked Khalil Mack. You’d be wrong.
Mack had six sacks, one short of the NFL record, and the Chargers held on to beat the Raiders 24-17. The Chargers being the Chargers, they tried to let the Raiders back in the game at the end but managed to win. After Asante Samuel Jr. had a huge interception but inexplicably slid down before the two-minute warning, Justin Herbert hit Joshua Palmer for a game-clinching 51-yard gain on third down.
Mack was drafted by the Raiders and won an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award with them. He was traded to the Chicago Bears and found his way to the Chargers, where he isn’t a DPOY candidate anymore. But he’s still capable of making a big impact, as he showed his former team on Sunday.
Miami Dolphins hype train conductors: Hey, remember this past week when the Dolphins were the reincarnation of the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams?
Yeah, everyone got a little carried away. And they also forgot the Buffalo Bills are really good. The Bills' defense did a fine job limiting Miami's very good (though maybe not yet all-time great) offense and Josh Allen had a fantastic day leading Buffalo to an emphatic 48-20 win.
The Bills are still the best team in the AFC East. They showed that Sunday. Miami is good too. Just not as good as everyone was saying after it scored 70 points against the lowly Broncos (1-3).
The Dolphins scored touchdowns on their first two possessions against the Bills. Here were the Dolphins' possessions after that: punt, punt, fumble, punt, touchdown, interception, turnover on downs, turnover on downs, turnover on downs.
No, they're not not the 1999 Rams just yet.
Ron Rivera not riverboating: The Washington Commanders had a decision to make at the end of regulation in Sunday’s game in Philadelphia. It didn’t seem like a tough one.
The Commanders scored on the last play of regulation to cut the Eagles’ lead to 31-30. They could have gone for two and the win, or settle for overtime. As a big underdog on the road, Washington probably should have taken its shot with one play from the 2-yard line for the win. Instead, it kicked an extra point.
Most Washington fans probably knew what was coming next. The Commanders went three-and-out, with a questionable call going against Terry McLaurin on what appeared to be a first down reception, and then the Eagles drove down for a field goal and a 34-31 win.
The Eagles haven’t looked great yet this season but they are 4-0. The Commanders had a shot to knock them off Sunday, and will regret not going for two.
Cincinnati Bengals' playoff chances: The Bengals are in trouble. They're not dead at 1-3, but they also don't look like the type of team that can make a run.
The Tennessee Titans have a terrible pass defense, and the Bengals couldn't do anything against it. Cincinnati's offense has been broken all season and it's not getting any better. The Bengals were completely overwhelmed in a 27-3 loss to the Titans. Burrow had just 165 yards passing. The Bengals' longest pass play was 17 yards.
When the Bengals lost in Week 1, it looked like a great performance from the Browns. It was troubling when they looked bad again in Week 2. The offense wasn't much better in the third game, though they pulled out a win. After Sunday's loss, the Bengals need to quickly figure out how to fix an offense that hasn't shown up this season.
Derek Carr's comeback: Credit Carr for a lot of toughness in returning for the New Orleans Saints despite a shoulder injury that some figured would cost him multiple weeks. He didn't miss any games.
Maybe he should have. Carr wasn't effective and the Saints lost a big NFC South game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26-9. Carr completed 23 passes but for just 127 yards. It's easy to assume Carr's shoulder was a reason the Saints had no downfield passing game. The coaching staff probably should have stepped in and not let a hurting Carr play.
Maybe Jameis Winston wouldn't have been better, but he couldn't have been much worse either.
Desmond Ridder and the Atlanta Falcons: Week after week, it becomes more baffling why the Falcons never made any attempt to sign Lamar Jackson, when he was unhappy on his franchise tag.
The Falcons are probably the mid team in the NFL. They're utterly average. They're going to beat most bad teams, especially at home, and lose to any good team. That happened again Sunday in London as the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Falcons 23-7. The Falcons are 2-2. That's fitting. They'll probably end up 8-8-1.
The Falcons, for some reason, decided Ridder was worth passing on every other quarterback option including Jackson. Ridder has not been good enough. He tried to throw pick 6s on back-to-back passes but had to settle for just one. He doesn't make enough big plays and while head coach Arthur Smith (and his "this isn't fantasy football" grumpiness) gets blamed, Ridder hasn't been good enough to get the most out of underused Kyle Pitts and Drake London.
The Falcons aren't bad. But they aren't good either, and definitely not good enough to be passing on the chance to add former MVP quarterbacks.