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Todd Gurley, Rams

NFL Week 4 Highs & Lows: Todd Gurley dominates, Patriots defense flops

NFL Week 4 of the 2017 season brought about many star performances (Todd Gurley shines again) and disappointing losses (the Patriots defensive struggles continue). Here is a look at the highs and lows of the weekend in professional football:

Highs

1. Todd Gurley’s dominance

todd gurley

TheRams.com

The Los Angeles Rams upset the Dallas Cowboys 35-30, thanks in large part to the performance of running back Todd Gurley. The former Georgia Bulldog solidified his place among the league’s best rushers with his 121 yards on 23 carries. However, it’s through the air that Gurley continues to make his greatest impact. He caught seven passes for 94 yards and a touchdown as the Rams came back from an 11-point deficit.

Gurley proved how talented he was with his performances early in 2015. Unfortunately, a lack of offensive creativity and poor blocking left Gurley struggling to find his footing for nearly a year and a half.

One of the first things Sean McVay did as head coach was bring Gurley back into the fold, and it’s worked wonders. Gurley’s performance against a solid Dallas defense puts him among the best in the league after four games. By the end of the year, Gurley might just lead the NFL in total yards and rushing.

2. Houston’s quarterback problems are solved

DeShaun Watson

Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Texans spent the past couple of years wasting their talented roster without a quarterback to lead them to the promised land. They attempted to solve this problem through the draft and free agency, and in the end, they found their solution. National championship-winning quarterback Deshaun Watson entered the season in a battle to earn the starting job, and he eventually won it.

It took Watson some time to break out, but his last two games have been impressive. During those two starts, Watson has completed 47 of 67 passes for 584 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. In the Texans’ critical 57-14 win over the Tennessee Titans, he threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Watson’s dominant performance served notice that the Texans finally have a quarterback they can rely on to make big plays. Watch out for Houston throughout the rest of the season. The Texans might just win the AFC South.

3. Pittsburgh recovers

le'veon bell

Steelers.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers faced a rough week. First, they made the ill-fated decision to stay in the locker room prior to their game at the Chicago Bears. The team dealt with major criticism from the fans and several media outlets for their decision, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The Bears beat the Steelers 23-17 in overtime, sending them to their first loss of the season.

The team did its best to control the fallout from the rough week and hit the road to face the archrival Baltimore Ravens. It’s usually a close one when these two teams meet, but it was Pittsburgh that set the tone early and blew out the Ravens, 26-9. The Steelers jumped out to a 19-0 lead on Baltimore, riding their workhorse star running back Le’Veon Bell. He rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries to carry the load for the offense.

The sign of a good team is how it reacts when dealing with adversity. The Steelers served notice that they are more than ready to compete for the AFC title.

Lows

1. Dalvin Cook goes down

dalvin cook

Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings lost a vital cog in their offense when rookie running back Dalvin Cook tore his ACL during the team’s 14-7 loss to the Detroit Lions. Cook’s injury comes after he sparked the anemic Minnesota running game early and rushed for 354 yards and two touchdowns in his first four games. The Vikings will attempt to make due with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, but the team will miss Cook.

2. Where has the New England defense gone?

Panthers, Patriots

Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots fielded one of the league’s best defenses in 2016. Unfortunately, the momentum from last year hasn’t carried over to this season. The Patriots defense sits at the bottom of the league in total yards allowed per game (456.8) by a large margin. The unit has also given up 32 points per game, which is 31st in the NFL.

Pass coverage appears to be the biggest problem for the Patriots. The unit has yielded the third-most completed passes of over 20 yards and a league-worst 324 passing yards per game. It’s been a long time since a New England secondary has been this porous. It might just keep the Patriots from not only repeating as Super Bowl Champions, but also from earning another AFC East crown.

3. Derek Carr out again

derek carr

Joe Mahoney/The Associated Press

The Oakland Raiders struggled without quarterback Derek Carr at the end of 2016, and now they must face 2-6 weeks with him healing up from a back injury.

The Raiders built their franchise around Carr. The roster features plenty of offensive talent, but Carr is the linchpin. Oakland simply isn’t the same team without him on the field. The Raiders could find themselves out contention for the AFC West crown by the time Carr returns to the lineup.