By HCR Staff | October 5, 2020
NFL 2020 WEEK 4 OBSERVATIONS
The NFL league office brass is conducting a league-wide call with owners and GMs this morning to re-emphasize COVID guidelines, and we hope the message takes hold. Week 4 was entertaining and we’re hoping the season can safely continue.
Let’s get to it.
The Ravens Still Have The Winning Formula. Notwithstanding the beating they took from Kansas City in Week 3, the Ravens still are going to be there in the end fighting for a Super Bowl slot. As we all know, they’ve got talent – young and veteran – up and down the roster, and they know what their winning formula is: get the lead early so they can stay in their offense. In this game, WFT actually held their own for a quarter and half, and even though the Ravens were staked to an early 14-7 lead, WFT was hanging around – effectively.
Then came, what we consider, the key decision moment in the game for WFT head coach Ron Rivera. His team trailed 14-7 toward the end of the Q2, but the Ravens were still having to fight. Rivera’s team faced a 4th & 7 at the Raven 36, meaning Rivera was in a position to attempt a 53- yard FG with kicker Dustin Hopkins. Hopkins already had missed a 46- yarder earlier.
From a game-feel standpoint, the best option for Rivera was to attempt the 4th down – even if WFT gained 4 yards and was short, the Ravens would get the ball on their own 32, and a bit longer field to confront.
Instead of doing that, however, Rivera decided to give Hopkins another opportunity. Hopkins proceeded to miss, the Ravens took over on their own 43 – decidedly better field position – and then QB Lamar Jackson proceeded to take it in for a long TD run and a 21-7 lead that never really was threatened again.
We applaud Coach Rivera, of course, for attempting to coach through chemotherapy treatments, but from a decision-making standpoint, he’s got a very young team, and he can’t take the risky option much; he simply doesn’t have that kind of margin for error. He just has to be more by-the-book in our view.
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn Made The Best Of A Bad Situation. As a head coach, Anthony Lynn still has room for improvement with his game management skills, but he doesn’t have any issue with motivating a team to play hard for him.
The Chargers were on a long road trip, a 10a PDT start time, and the injury list was long. As a consequence, Lynn had to play a lot of green and undrafted players. Nevertheless, they performed admirably, and were in a position to win this game.
Young offensive coordinator Shane Steichen shows promise as well as he’s trying to bring rookie QB Justin Herbert along. Steichen isn’t asking Herbert to do anything he can’t do at the moment, and that’s keeping the Chargers competitive.
On the flip side for the Bucs, we were disappointed in the performance of Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. He’s getting predictable with his blitz calls, and showed tremendous injudiciousness on his 3rd & 7 blitz call right after the Bucs had taken a lead after overcoming a 24-7 deficit.
A positive development for the Bucs was the play of rookie OT Tristan Wirfs. He had a solid day against stud Chargers DE Joey Bosa. Bosa brings the heat on every single play, but Wirfs held his own.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski May Be Figuring Out That Running The Team Through QB Baker Mayfield Isn’t The Right Course. While the Browns almost blew an historic lead against the Cowboys, we loved what Stefanski did for the Browns on Sunday: run the team through its best players, and that’s backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, WR Odell Beckham, and DE Myles Garrett. Put them in a position to do well, and the team will do well.
Compared to these elite players, QB Baker Mayfield’s talent pales in comparison. If they can get lucky with the injury diagnosis to Chubb, the Browns will be a handful for teams this season.
Stefanski should continue to build this team’s identity around running the ball; he’s got the talent in the backfield, and his offensive line is developing an identity and rhythm.
Stefanski also did well getting Beckham involved early – his enthusiasm is rocket fuel for this team. On defense, we liked the games we saw on the defensive line, particularly when it allows Garrett one-on-one opportunities.
Stefanski just has to keep it simple: let your best players play, and Mayfield isn’t one of them.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule Continues To Impress. We saw it early: Rhule knows what he’s doing, and the Panthers will be a tough out all year long. If you’re a Panthers fan, be excited for the future because a solid foundation is being set. The Panthers are a fundamentally sound team, and Rhule is a sound game manager, so if you’re a bettor, take note now. This is a guy you can count on to help your money.
Rhule has good judgment, and he’s also created a team that likes to play with each other. One thing that jumps out at us as well: players know their role – there’s not a lot of freelancing going on with this group. Discipline wins games, and Rhule has it.
On the flip side for the Cardinals, we’re starting to see a trend with head coach Kliff Kingsbury – he’s limited as an offensive innovator. We’re seeing too much reliance on QB Kyler Murray’s unreal skills to bail them out.
The Cardinals aren’t a popular national team, so most fans don’t see them, but from a raw skills standpoint, Murray takes a backseat to no one, including Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and DeShaun Watson. Murray just doesn’t have as much help on the coaching side.
The Giants Played Hard – Again – But They Lack Talent. It’s still far too early to judge Giants rookie head coach Joe Judge, but we can judge GM Dave Gettleman, and he’s not getting a passing grade from us.
The Giants had the Rams on the ropes and played as hard as they could play, but they just don’t have the talent for 60 minutes with a good team like the Rams. QB Daniel Jones continues to turn the ball over, but frankly, the poor kid is running for his life on nearly every play, and he’s taking extreme punishment.
Judge passed up a FG late in the fourth quarter we thought he should have taken, but other than that, coached a good game from a decision-making standpoint. Giants fans, your team will play hard, but you’re still another draft away, at least.