NFL week four analysis: Five things we learnt as we returned to London and Aaron Rodgers continues his MVP form

Week four of the NFL season is over, and so too is the first International Series game in London. Zander Swinburne examines which team came out on top in London, who is looking for a third MVP award, as well as which position has collectively tripped up this week.

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The Independent Online

Miami gave their London home crowd nothing to cheer about

In what was supposed to be one of the more competitive games in the history of the International Series, the Miami Dolphins failed to live up to their potential, disappointing the Wembley crowd with a 27-14 loss to the Jets.

Whilst the majority of the game felt as though it was being played in front of a neutral crowd, this was a result of the Dolphins giving the Wembley audience little to cheer about.  Following a cascade of three and outs as well massive inefficiencies on defence in the first quarter, the game looked over before most of the spectators had even taken their seats.

Ryan Tannehill was completely ineffective at getting his team down the field with only a couple of pass interference calls to help. The defence was also nonexistent in stopping running back Chris Ivory, and this was a defensive line made up of Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh.  

In the flashes of positive play from Miami, the crowd was animated, clearly cheering on a franchise that has thousands of followers in the UK. Yet if Miami were to complain about the lack of noise for their team throughout the game, they have no one else to blame but themselves.

The St Louis Rams don’t know if they’re a good team or not

Now that we have reached the end of the first quarter of the season, it becomes possible to tell just who the good teams are and who the bad teams are. This, however, is easier said than done as there are often a few teams that continue to pull off some of the best wins as well as the worst losses. The St Louis Rams are one of those teams.

After a stunning win over the Seattle Seahawks in week one, the Rams followed up the victory with two terrible losses against the Redskins and Steelers. At this point it looked like the same old Rams were gearing up for another 6-10 season.

This prediction, however, was again thrown into contention as Sunday saw the Rams topple the previously undefeated Arizona Cardinals 24-22. The Cardinals represent the cream of the crop in the NFC, and the Rams secured a hard fought and deserved win over their divisional rivals. Nick Folk looked much improved and rookie running back Todd Gurley made the Cardinals defence look amateurish.

If the Rams can gain a bit of consistency then they could be in for their first winning season since 2003. For this to happen, they need to beat the bad teams as well as the good.

A bad week for kickers

A good or a bad kick in the NFL can make the difference between winning and losing. Missed field goals can lead to livelihoods being lost, both those of the kicker and the coaching staff. In a strange set of circumstances, week four saw the NFL’s top kickers miss an unusually high number of kicks. A total of 18 field goals and extra points were missed, the second highest since 2010. The increased distance of the extra point is obviously having an effect, and no longer can it be seen as a given. It was the high number of missed field goals, however, that resulted in a number of teams either missing out on a victory or coming very close to doing so.

Zach Hooker of the New Orleans Saints missed a last minute 30-yard kick which would have given his team a win without having to go to overtime.

Jason Myers of the Jacksonville Jaguars unforgivably missed the same game winning kick twice after being iced by the opposition head coach. To make matters worse, he then missed another game winner in overtime.

The most significant of missed kicks came on Thursday night when Josh Scobee missed two potentially game winning field goals for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh went on to lose the game in overtime and Scobee has since been released, showing that there is no mercy when it comes to kickers missing the uprights. No doubt the other 31 kickers in the league will be looking to avoid such a fate next week.

Aaron Rodgers is slowly reeling in his third MVP award

Despite a number of teams in the NFL gaining lots of attention due to either their unexpected good results or unexpected poor results, the Green Bay Packers are quietly maintaining their undefeated record as they move towards Super Bowl 50. At the helm of this juggernaut is quarterback Aaron Rodgers who is amassing a near perfect statistical season.

In Sunday’s 17-3 win over the San Francisco, Rodgers had a comparatively poor performance, completing 22 of 32 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown. Rodgers now has just five interceptions in his last 670 attempts, none of which have occurred this season. This shows that not only is Rodgers playing better than other quarterbacks in the league but he is also limiting the turnovers that lose teams games.

The statistics are almost endless, with Rodgers sitting on a 70 per cent completion rate, eleven touchdowns in four games and nearly 1,000 yards passing. The way Rodgers throws is truly beautiful to watch as nearly every pass is spot on and thus he has since become a human highlight reel. It’s no surprise that Rodgers’ dominance had been compared Michael Jordon’s in the NBA earlier in the week.

Much has been made of the Patriots during the first quarter of the season, but with Aaron Rodgers leading this Green Bay team, it’s hard to see anyone else standing a chance in the NFL.

The Denver Broncos’ defence is what wins games, not Peyton Manning

Despite what can safely be described as a shaky start to Peyton Manning’s season, his Broncos side sit atop the AFC West with a record of 4-0. Manning has proven that he is no longer the faultless quarterback he has been through most of his career, and Sunday’s 23-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings added further evidence to that theory. However, he is playing well enough to keep his side in every game, and instead it is Denver’s defence that is winning games for its team.

In Sunday’s game, Denver were able to limit Adrian Peterson to only 81 yards, not a terrible effort considering the 2012 MVP averaged 130 yards rushing the previous two weeks. If it weren’t for one 48 yard touchdown, Peterson’s box score would have looked far worse. Denver also made life hell for Teddy Bridgewater, crucially sacking the young QB in the dying moments of the game and recovering the fumbled ball.

The win belonged to Denver’s defence and they have proven over the past few weeks that they are now the heart of the Broncos organisation. Manning may no longer be the be all and end all of this team, but combined with a promising defence, the aged quarterback may still have enough left in the tank to take this team back to the Super Bowl.

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