Melissa’s Monday Musings Week 4: Back to Normal

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To quote the great philosopher and former NFL Denny Green, Week 4 was mostly a case of “they are what we thought they were.” It was riveting and frustrating, solemn and overwhelming. This column will take you through a cascade of teams, players and coaches showing their true colors, plus some other randomness of note.

Let’s start in Oakland, where the Cleveland Browns unofficially won the game but the Raiders are the ones notching the “W” after the final score read 45-42 in overtime.  The Browns, up 8 with 1:41 remaining, seemingly wrapped up the win on 3rd-and-1 when Carlos Hyde inched across the first down marker. That’s what the officials called, that’s what everyone saw on replay. But upon further review the spot was moved back, the call was overturned and the Browns had to punt. The Browns, not to mention the entire football zeitgeist, were stunned.  The Raiders valiantly tied and subsequently won in OT.  Old Browns would have lost due to their own mistakes. I truly believe this way of losing is far worse.

“They called a first down,” Hyde told reporters following the game. “I don’t know what the hell they saw.”

Every close game has at least a questionable call or two where you play sliding doors and think about all the dominoes and how the outcome could be different. But to lose so directly on one call is just brutal. (Green Bay’s 2012 Fail Mary loss is just one of many examples.)  If the officials don’t overturn Hyde’s spot, that’s it. With a win, Cleveland is 2-1-1 with a huge game against the 3-1 Ravens next week. Instead they are 1-2-1 and trying to avoid their home for so many years: the AFC North cellar.

As for the game, Baker Mayfield mania was thick, especially after it felt like three years had passed since Mayfield took the league by storm against the Jets in Week 3.

Sunday’s performance against Oakland wasn’t exactly as jaw-dropping. Mayfield showcased his incredibly quick release and processing time, like on his first-ever NFL passing TD to tight end Darren Fells:

But he also made some bad decisions. Mayfield was charged with four turnovers (2 INTs and 2 lost fumbles). Some were more his fault than others but overall he continued to display why Browns GM John Dorsey handed him the keys to the franchise. The Raiders and Derek Carr had a similar day on offense. Some baller highlights mixed with bone-headed decisions. Unlike Mayfield, Carr is so aided by his weapons, in particular the indestructible, and dare I say now underrated RB Marshawn Lynch (20 carries, 120 yards) and the sizable stud tight end Jared Cook (8 catches, 120 yards, 2 TDs). I’ll believe Amari Cooper is back to full form after he cobbles a few more impressive performances. But boy do the Raiders miss Khalil Mack. Neither defense could stop my great-grandmother on Sunday but the Raiders’ lack of pass rush is a particularly glaring weakness given the controversial trade of Mack. So while Jon Gruden won his first game in “100 years,” it felt a little sullied. As for Cleveland, they have begun a new era, but it seems they have a little more Brownsin’ to do before fully turning the page.

– For half of the first quarter the Patriots looked like their offensive woes would continue, so much so that I jotted down a few notes at the time to possibly lead this column. Normally I’d be too embarrassed to share but my thoughts were widely corroborated on Twitter, plus I think this provides a nice lens into how thing rapidly change in the good ole’ NFL.

Not mentally prepared for the Pats to be bad. We just say they’ll be in the Super Bowl because of Brady and Belichick. Brady looking human…INT right to [Bobby] McCain. Can’t blame that one on lack of weapons

Ok, so this wound up being terribly wrong. The Patriots clobbered Miami 38-7 as Brady annihilated the Dolphins secondary, including emergent corner Xavien Howard. Even after Rob Gronkowski left the game with an ankle injury, the playcalling was inventive and varied, and the offensive line was stout, allowing the Pats mismatches in all facets. I mean, did we really think the Dolphins would march into Foxboro and open a three-game lead on New England? It’s not like anyone would be so stupid as to, say, throw a few benjamins on the Dolphins’ money line just in case. Nope, not talking about anyone in particular. Anyhow, we’ll see Gronk’s status during the week, though New England has had plenty of practice compensating for their injured tight end. But Brady gets Julian Edelman back next week, a more comfortable Josh Gordon, and an improving offensive line. Yeah, we’ll see Brady and Belichick in the AFC Championship.

J.J. Watt has officially returned to form this season. Watt’s best game came Sunday when he finished with four tackles (four solo), two sacks, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit and two forced fumbles. His get off is insane and he’s as explosive as ever. While this is terrible news for the Colts and the rest of the AFC South, a dominant Watt is fabulous, especially in a league where rules are putting some defenders at a disadvantage.

Mitchell Trubisky‘s coming out party to the tune of 6 TD passes was not expected, but Khalil Mack’s turnover-inducing ways were. My Bears fan husband and I discuss whether the Bears offensive rise is sustainable, plus reminisce about offensive-starved Bears teams of yesteryear on a new, Week 4 episode of Football Date Night.

– Colts head coach Frank Reich  probably didn’t get the best night’s sleep or maybe it was calm. Reich seemed at peace going for it on 4th and 4 from Indy’s 43-yard-line tied with 27 seconds remaining in OT. The Colts were unsuccessful, and Houston won on an easy field goal after one first down. A punt would have guaranteed a tie.

“I’ll do that 10 times out of 10,” Reich told reporter. “That’s just the way it’s got to roll.”

Love general gutsiness and sure, a tie won’t get the Colts far in a fierce division led by the 3-1 Jaguars and Titans. But I just don’t get that call at all.

– I guess Josh Allen and the dominating Bills we saw last week were just a mirage. How embarrassing to get shut out in today’s NFL with so many explosive schemes and rules designed to aid the offense.

– I had gone back and forth on Le’Veon Bell’s holdout but screw it, he’s right to preserve his body. We saw both Earl Thomas and Tyler Eifert suffer devastating season-ending injuries (Eifert’s could be career-ending). Bell’s value is largely tethered to his ability to stay healthy. The NFL as a  league offers little guarantees and will throw you on the street if you don’t provide enough value, so hell yeah, try to squeeze as many dollars as you can.

– Over in New York, what happened to Week 1 Sam Darnold? And will Odell Beckham score a TD this season? (I know he will be he hasn’t yet which is rather startling.)

– Really impressive poise by Dak Prescott and coaching by Jason Garrett as the Cowboys responded to Golden Tate‘s TD in the late 4th quarter to eke out a 26-24 win over their Thanksgiving colleagues. That’s the kind of win that can truly coalesce a team and comes as the offensive line is starting to become an asset again.

– Why did the Lions hire Matt Patricia again?