News & Analysis

NFL Week 4 MNF: Key takeaways from Chiefs’ 26-10 win over Patriots, Packers’ 30-16 win over Falcons

No team has given quarterback Patrick Mahomes more fits throughout his young NFL career than the New England Patriots, and that story remained the same on Monday Night Football in Week 4. However, the Kansas City Chiefs prevailed thanks to the Patriots’ poor quarterback play due to Cam Newton being out with COVID-19.

In game two on Monday Night Football between the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers, neither team looked any different from the previous three weeks — Aaron Rodgers once again produced at an MVP level, while the Falcons looked anemic on both sides of the ball.

With the help of PFF’s advanced database, here are the big takeaways from the Chiefs’ 26-10 win over the Patriots and the Packers’ 30-16 win over the Falcons in a Week 4 edition of Monday Night Football.

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Jaire Alexander put the clamps on Calvin Ridley and the Falcons, and he looks like the best corner in the NFL right now

Alexander had established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the league in his first two seasons in the NFL in 2018 and 2019, but he hadn’t yet put himself in that elite tier. He ranked 28th in coverage grade as a rookie in 2018 and improved to 12th in Year 2, when he flashed play that showed he could join the likes of Stephon Gilmore and Richard Sherman.

Take the first three weeks of 2019, for example. Alexander was the highest-graded corner in regard to coverage grade in that span, but consistency issues arose. In 2020, though, it looks like he just might be taking that next step forward — not only as a better player but as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) is seen with a Black Lives Matter message on the back of his helmet before the Green Bay Packers play the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020.

Entering Week 4, Alexander was the second-highest graded cornerback in the NFL (87.4). He didn’t have an easy task in Week 4 against Atlanta, m watching up with a top wide receiver duo in the league in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Granted, they each were banged up entering the game, but it still wasn’t a walk in the park on paper. Alexander saw matchups against Jones before the Atlanta wideout exited the game because of an injury, and Alexander limited him to just five yards in their faceoffs. Alexander also saw two targets in coverage against Ridley and didn’t allow either to be caught. In all, he gave up just one first down in coverage against Atlanta while forcing an incompletion and posting three passing stops. 

Following that lockdown performance, Alexander now has a 90.8 coverage grade for the year, more than six grading points higher than anyone else at the position. We will see if this continues, as he had a similar — although not as dominant —  start in 2019, but he is so far producing like the league’s best cornerback.

Attn: Atlanta — blow it all up!

Atlanta’s hopes at a 2020 playoff run are all but done now as they sit at 0-4 to open the 2020 NFL season. Just as we saw last night, both sides of the ball have been responsible for the struggles, but the coverage unit, in particular, is getting the Falcons nowhere. 

Against the Packers, the Falcons’ coverage unit posted a 29.9 coverage grade and surrendered 0.62 expected points added per pass play, both of which ranked last in Week 4. They were missing cornerbacks A.J. Terrell (COVID-19) and Darqueze Dennard (IR), but even with them on the field, this unit is still a liability for Atlanta. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars have allowed more expected points added per pass play through the first quarter of the 2020 season than the Falcons.

On offense, Atlanta has fared a little better but still ranks 22nd in expected points added per pass throughout the first quarter of the season. Quarterback Matt Ryan had a slightly disastrous start on Monday Night Football, earning a 41.7 passing grade through the first three quarters of game action, the worst of Week 4 by eight grading points. Julio Jones left the game early due to injury, and as said above, Ridley was nowhere to be found all game long — due in large part to Jaire Alexander’s performance.

Even with Ryan playing like his usual self to start out the 2020 season (75.6 PFF grade through the first three weeks) and the duo of Jones and Ridley looking like one of the best in the league to start out the year, this offense still couldn’t get much cooking to offset the deficiencies everywhere else. With playoffs in 2020 becoming a pipe dream, Ryan turning 36 next offseason and the defense — specifically the secondary — needing a complete overhaul, it might be best for Atlanta to completely start from scratch and part ways with their Hall of Fame quarterback to get a leg up on the rest of the teams in their division. 

And when you consider the fact that one of the best collegiate quarterbacks of all time will be available to be taken first overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, blowing this team up as soon as possible to ensure it gets the first overall pick seems like the best route to go.

Kudos to Green Bay for having the best offense of the week with replacement wide receivers

With Davante Adams and Allen Lazard both out in Week 4 with injuries, Green Bay had to trot out a combination of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Darrius Shepherd, Malik Taylor and Reggie Begelton at wide receiver. To no one’s surprise, the unit didn’t play the best, combining to produce the third-worst unit receiving grade of the week and generating open separation on only two of its 11 targets beyond the line of scrimmage (only one of those came against single coverage). 

As a result, the majority of Aaron Rodgers' throws on the night went to running backs and tight ends. And behind the combination of him, those receivers and Matt LaFleur, the Packers managed to produce the most efficient offense of Week 4 despite trotting out backup wide receivers on the field. The Packers produced positive expected points added on 80% of their 20 passes to the backs and tight ends, leading the NFL for the week. On those throws, Rodgers went a perfect 20-of-20 for 241 yards, four scores and a couple of big-time throws.

Cam Newton not getting signed earlier in free agency for far more money is still mind-boggling

There was a rightful reason to be worried about Newton’s overall health following his release from the Carolina Panthers this offseason. But him going unsigned for many months before settling on a one-year, $1.75 million deal (can reach up to $7.5 million if he reaches incentives) with the Patriots is still puzzling. And how the New England offense looked without him in Week 4 compared to the first three weeks with him verifies that. 

Sep 27, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) reacts after running for a first down during the second half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Solely from a passing perspective, Newton helped lead the Patriots to the 10th-most efficient passing offense in the NFL through Week 3. With him having to miss Week 4, the Patriots had to settle for Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Sitdham in replacement.

It did not go well. 

Those two led the Patriots to produce a combined -0.45 expected points added per pass, the worst of the week and the fourth-worst mark ever in a single game for New England in the PFF era (since 2006). Had Newton been able to go in this one, we might be talking about a different outcome. I’m not saying he is back to MVP form, but Newton is the sole reason why this Patriot offense was a clear top-10 unit entering Week 4 before Hoyer and Stidham came in and tanked their ranks in numerous statistical categories. This game and the Patriots’ significant dropoff in efficiency without Newton was just another example of why the rest of the teams in the quarterback market this offseason made a huge mistake in not at least kicking the tires on the veteran.

Patrick Mahomes’ historically subpar play against the Patriots continued, but the Chiefs’ passing attack was still efficient

Against any team not named the New England Patriots in his NFL career, Mahomes has recorded a 93.7 passing grade. In the three career games he has had against New England prior to Monday night, Mahomes had combined to produce a middling 64.3 passing grade. Now, that has dropped even further after he put up just a 44.5 passing grade in his Week 4 outing — the second-worst mark of his career. And when the Patriots played man coverage, Mahomes passing grade dipped down to 29.5. 

Despite Mahomes not having the best of days, the Chiefs’ passing attack still managed to rank 11th of the 30 teams in Week 4 in expected points added per pass play generated and a reason why was the performance of the receiving unit. The Chiefs’ receivers caught every catchable ball thrown their way and averaged 8.1 yards after the catch (second-highest of the week). They produced 5 yards after the catch on over 63% of their receptions, the highest of any team this week.

Kansas City also lucked into a game-changing pass interference early in the fourth quarter on third-and-10, which extended the possession and led to a touchdown that put the Chiefs up a couple of scores. That all played a part in Kansas City’s offense being at least efficient, but easily the biggest reason they were able to pull off the victory were the four turnover-worthy plays produced by Hoyer and Stidham. 

Mahomes’ woes against the Patriots continued, but luckily for him and the Chiefs, the receiving unit’s solid play, combined with poor decisions from Hoyer and Stidham, won them this game.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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