Here are Arthur Arkush's three quick takeaways from the late-afternoon action in Week 4:
1. The Cardinals can't run the football (52 yards on 22 carries) and they can't keep Carson Palmer (six sacks) upright. What can they do, then? Keep leaning on national treasure Larry Fitzgerald, whose leaping touchdown in overtime buoyed Arizona to a dramatic walk-off win, 15-12 over the Niners.
Fitzgerald was quiet most of the afternoon as Palmer fed burgeoning weapons Andre Ellington and Jaron Brown. But with time dwindling in the extra session and the Cardinals needing a touchdown with 38 ticks left to get back to .500, Palmer looked to his Hall of Famer to make a play, which he did on a deep post and perfectly placed ball from Palmer for the win.
It was the second week in a row when Fitzgerald played Cardinals hero, but Arizona's 'D' also deserves credit for responding vs. the Niners with a stout showing — 305 total yards, just 5-of-19 third downs converted. The Cardinals will hold their breath waiting on clarity with one-half of their fearsome EDGE tandem, Markus Golden, departing early with a knee injury. But with the Rams improving to 3-1 and one of the biggest stories of the young NFL season, Arizona, first and foremost, will enjoy a win it absolutely had to have and looked nearly out of reach late Sunday afternoon.
2. The Eagles' offense has developed a formula that the loss of Darren Sproles couldn't change Sunday: keep a shorthanded Philadelphia 'D' on the sideline with a ball-control offense. Doug Pederson's club nearly out-possessed the Chargers 2:1 in a 26-24 road victory, with LeGarrette Blount again commandeering the backfield. He churned out 136 of the Eagles' 214 rushing yards, including 68 on one forceful run immediately after the Bolts cut the deficit to 19-17 early in the fourth quarter.
We still think Carson Wentz may struggle to stay on the field for 16 games if he doesn't learn when to avoid harm's way. He only took one sack on Sunday but several of the eight hits he absorbed were particularly punishing. Wentz also made a few brilliant plays, as he does each week, and avoided turning the ball over for a second consecutive week — a vital element of Pederson's plan.
Philadelphia's reward for a hard-fought cross-country victory? It'll play four of its next five at home, beginning with Arizona, a great opportunity to build on a 3-1 start and first place standing in the division.
3. Talk about a response from the Buccaneers. One week after getting stomped in Minnesota, Tampa's Jameis Winston out-dueled Eli Manning in a game that went down to the wire for Nick Folk to win it as time expired with a 34-yard chip shot, 25-23.
Winston tossed three touchdowns without a turnover (compared to three giveaways vs. one score a week ago) and he did it with the benefit of balance — both from a Jacquizz Rodgers-led run game (23-111, 4.8) and broader contributions from his receivers (seven different players with catches, three different touchdown recipients).
The Bucs need to find a pass rush, and eventually getting talented linebackers LaVonte David and Kwon Alexander back from injuries will increase Mike Smith's flexibility.
But the Bucs have Brent Grimes again drinking from the fountain of youth — he shut down Odell Beckham, who managed just two of his seven catches with Grimes in coverage, and added three pass breakups — and Gerald McCoy living in the backfield for Tampa's second dominant showing vs. the run in three tries after struggling consistently in that department last season.
But, as we've said time and again, the Bucs will sink or swim with Winston. Sunday, he dazzled, especially on a perfect game-winning drive moments after New York appeared to take the wind out of Tampa's sails with a late touchdown.
Tampa is riding high as they ready for the reeling Patriots at home on a short week. New England's pass defense isn't close to Big Blue's, and Thursday will mark another important barometer for Winston and the Bucs offense, which welcomes back another potential weapon in suspended RB Doug Martin.
4. A bonus takeaway, as we may not spend a lot more time talking about the 0-4 Chargers and 0-4 Giants, who collide in the Super disappointing Bowl in Week 5.
The Chargers likely will never be more glad to embark on a cross-country trip after their humiliating home turnout Sunday. An Eagles contingent regularly drowned out a sparse home crowd — so sparse, in fact, that parts of the upper deck in tiny Stub Hub center were covered with tarps.
Keenan Allen again starred, and Tyrell Williams had his breakout game for Philip Rivers, who steadied following last week's turnover fest. But what about the supposed Anthony Lynn effect with Melvin Gordon (10-22 rushing in a tight game throughout)? And when's Joey Bosa going to regain his rookie dominance (1 QB hit)?
Meanwhile, the Giants may be reluctant to return home after starting the season 0-4 for the first time in 30 years. The good news is Eli Manning played well again and (gasp) wasn't sacked while again getting the ball out fast and spreading it around to his playmakers. The bad news is Steve Spagnuolo's 'D' doesn't resemble last year's group — and not just because Olivier Vernon (ankle) and Damon Harrison (knee) both suffered injuries.
The run 'D' continues to leak and the coverage plan against tight ends is still unclear: New York has surrendered five touchdowns to tight ends through four games, including two Sunday. At least Ben McAdoo has leaders in his wideout room who won't let the Giants' morale get too far down this week? We're kidding, of course. It's likely to be a long final three quarters of the season in New York, where the Giants are currently the worst team in town.