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32 things we learned from Week 4 of 2022 NFL season: Concussion crisis overshadows on-field drama

USA TODAY SPORTS 10/3/2022 Nate Davis, USA TODAY
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The 32 things we learned from Week 4 of the 2022 NFL season:

1. The league's concussion protocol – it's issue No. 1 hanging over this season. No. 1 also happens to be the jersey number of Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa, who was in obvious peril – at least to any casual observer, and most certainly to current and former NFL players who were watching – after his head snapped into the ground twice in a five-day stretch spanning Weeks 3 and 4. Tagovailoa and the Dolphins blamed a back injury on the first incident against the Buffalo Bills, which left him staggering back to the huddle before temporarily leaving the game. The NFL Players Association initiated an investigation into Tagovailoa's treatment – the case remains open – but the union has already fired the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped "treat" the quarterback Sept. 25. Since Tagovailoa was cleared that day, he was not placed in concussion protocol in the days leading up to Thursday's game in Cincinnati, when he suffered a vicious sack against the Bengals which left no doubt about his condition – the third-year quarterback left in a fencing position on his back before being carted off the field and to a local hospital. Saturday, the league and union released a joint statement, which read in part: "The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety. ... We anticipate changes to the protocol being made in the coming days based on what has been learned thus far in the review process."

Bengals DT Josh Tupou (68) sacks Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa on Thursday, leaving him concussed and sending the third-year passer to a local hospital. © Katie Stratman, USA TODAY Sports Bengals DT Josh Tupou (68) sacks Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa on Thursday, leaving him concussed and sending the third-year passer to a local hospital.

1a. The current system failed once again Sunday night, when Tampa Bay  Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate re-entered the game after suffering a blow to the head that eventually landed him in the protocol.

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1b. The upside is that the NFL and NFLPA acknowledge this isn't working, and that a better resolution need not be delayed by two sides which are so often bitterly divided on collectively bargained issues. Thank goodness they're expeditiously working toward what should be a common goal.

1c. The downside is the obvious price paid by Tagovailoa, who wasn't sufficiently protected by medical professionals nor, apparently, his team – rookie coach Mike McDaniel's protests to the contrary notwithstanding – which clearly cast caution to the wind by allowing him to play Thursday despite the frightening episode 100 hours previous.

1d. Let's get this fixed and safeguard the players, who are the only indispensable aspects of this game, no matter how expendable they might seem given football's inherently violent nature. They deserve better and fans almost universally want the best for them – and the owners better recognize as much lest their golden goose go the way of boxing and horse racing as once ubiquitous sports that were relegated to niche status.

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NANCY ARMOUR: One simple question could have protected Tua Tagovailoa from serious injury

2. New York Jets QB Zach Wilson gave a gritty and Griddy performance in his 2022 debut. Wilson, who missed the first three weeks following surgery from a preseason knee injury, threw a pair of picks against the Pittsburgh Steelers but also passed for 252 yards and a TD in a 24-20 upset at Acrisure Stadium. He became the first Jets quarterback to ever catch a TD pass ... and celebrated accordingly.

3. As for the Steelers, who have lost three in a row without OLB T.J. Watt, rookie QB Kenny Pickett made his regular-season debut. The 2022 first-rounder became the first quarterback in league history to rush for multiple TDs in his inaugural game. He also threw a trio of INTs, one a Hail Mary attempt on the contest's final play, and the other two maybe not his fault, either.

4. Though Pickett failed to throw a TD, New England Patriots QB3 Bailey Zappe connected for one – making him the first rookie to do so in 2022.

5. Time to trade Dak Prescott? Backup Cooper Rush became the first Dallas Cowboys quarterback to win his first four starts after overseeing a 25-10 win against the Washington Commanders. Rush passed for 223 yards and a pair of TDs while the Dallas defense largely snuffed the Commanders offense.

5a. Said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of Rush, who might have made his final start if Prescott is able to hit his targeted Week 5 return: "To give us a chance to sit here after these last three ball games and maybe have the opportunity we've got for the rest of the year – it's amazing. It's far more than what I would've expected."

5b. Or anyone else. But Dallas is 3-1 and just a game behind the league's only unbeaten team, the Philadelphia Eagles, in the NFC East.

6. Also 3-1 in the NFC East? How about the New York Football Giants. The last time they began 3-1 was 2011 – which also happens to be the last time they won the Super Bowl.

6a. Sunday, the Giants and Chicago Bears combined for 226 passing yards. No, Y.A. Tittle and Billy Wade weren't the quarterbacks.

7. Lest you'd already mentally moved off the latest iteration of the league's concussion crisis, a reminder that Tagovailoa was on the turf at Paycor Stadium for more than seven minutes Thursday night.

8. The Eagles improved to 4-0 – for the sixth time in team history and first since 2004 (when they ultimately lost Super Bowl 39) – largely thanks to RB Miles Sanders, who proved to be an all-weather back by scoring twice and rushing for a career-best 134 yards at waterlogged Lincoln Financial Field.

9. Sunday's game in London's Tottenham Hotspur Stadium between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints was the NFL's 100th played outside American borders, 41 of those of the regular-season variety.

10. For the first time in an NFL International Series game, "God Save the King" was sung prior to kickoff. King Charles III did not attend.

10a. The late Queen Elizabeth II's reign of 70+ years predated the existence of all but 11 of the NFL's 32 teams.

11. The Vikings' 28-25 win moved them to 3-0 in International Series games, tying them with the Patriots for the best record on foreign soil.

12. Had Saints kicker Wil Lutz had just a bit more juice on his game-ending 61-yard field-goal attempt – he established a career high earlier in the game by connecting from 60 yards – New Orleans might have improved to 3-0 in London.

12a. But Lutz's "double doink" – maybe an upright-to-crossbar carom should be worth two points? – certainly added an extra layer of drama for our soccer-loving allies, who continue to progress into fervent American football fans.

12b. And we're glad to embrace them ... so long as we can reasonably minimize this concussion bugaboo.

13. Cool to see the cast from "Ted Lasso," including Jason Sudeikis, at the season's first UK tilt. A shame there's no NFC Richmond given this game was between the Vikes and Saints.

14. The Giants and Green Bay Packers will meet in London in Week 5, the Pack becoming the last NFL team to play a regular-season game abroad.

15. More Patrick Mahomes magic as the Kansas City Chiefs thumped Tom Brady and the Buccaneers 41-31 on Sunday night, the score closer than the game ever was.

15a. Mahomes evened his record against TB12 to 3-3 and got a (small) measure of revenge for K.C.'s embarrassing performance on this same Raymond James Stadium field in Super Bowl 55.

15b. Mahomes also surpassed 20,000 career passing yards in just his fifth season as an NFL starter.

16. The Bucs offense did, uh, erupt for four TDs – this after posting three during the first three weeks combined. Maybe it helps falling into a 21-point hole and being so grossly imbalanced that the run game manages all of 3 yards.

17. By edging New England in overtime, the Packers notched their 785th franchise victory – tying the archrival Bears for the most in NFL history.

17a. The Pack also ran their regular-season winning streak at Lambeau Field to 15. (Of course, they've lost their past two playoff games at home, both times as the NFC's No. seed.)

18. Also Sunday, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers threw his 500th career TD pass, including playoffs – the fifth man in NFL history to reach that plateau.

18a. Brady (716), Drew Brees (608), Peyton Manning (579) and Brett Favre (552) are the others.

19. Like Philadelphia, Baltimore was soaked by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, putting a damper on the showdown between Bills QB Josh Allen and the Ravens' Lamar Jackson. Probably the league's leading MVP candidates entering Week 4, they combined for three TDs and three interceptions in suboptimal conditions.

20. However Allen collected a new feather for his cap, leading the Bills to a 23-20 victory after they trailed by 17 points in the second quarter. It was Allen's first career comeback from a deficit so large and Buffalo's first since 2011, when Ryan Fitzpatrick was the team's quarterback.

21. If the Cleveland Browns hope to be relevant when suspended QB Deshaun Watson is scheduled to return in Week 13, QB2 Jacoby Brissett and Co. can't afford to lose to teams like the Atlanta Falcons and Jets. Tough break for the Browns to be without starting DEs Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett, who was injured last Monday in a car accident. But they'll surely rue these defeats given their schedule is about to get significantly more difficult, starting with the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5.

22. And give the Falcons (2-2), now tied for the NFC South, some deserved flowers. We're all overdue.

23. The Tennessee Titans have won four in a row in Indianapolis. Prior to that, they'd lost 14 of 16 to the Colts in the Circle City.

23a. The Titans, who won the AFC South the past two seasons, improved to 2-2 and claimed a share of the division lead following the Jacksonville Jaguars' loss at Philadelphia. Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson's return to the City of Brotherly Love was marred by five turnovers from QB Trevor Lawrence.

24. Lawrence became the first player in the 21st century to lose four fumbles in a single game.

25. The over/under for the Seattle Seahawks' visit to the Detroit Lions was 47½. Turns out, that should've been the over/under for each team, Seattle prevailing 48-45. The teams combined for 12 TDs and 1,075 yards of offense.

26. Chargers RB Austin Ekeler tied for the league lead with 20 TDs scored in 2021 but began Sunday with a doughnut in the scoring column. But he reached the end zone three times as the battered Bolts notched a badly needed 34-24 win against the Houston Texans.

27. The Las Vegas Raiders' Josh McDaniels broke a personal six-game losing streak as a head coach, a skid dating to 2010, as the Silver and Black secured their first win of 2022 by beating his former team, the Denver Broncos, 32-23.

28. The Texans (0-3-1) are now the league's only winless team.

29. The Arizona Cardinals' 26-16 win over the Panthers on Sunday ended a six-game losing streak to Carolina that dated to 2015. His record now 11-26, how many more nails are needed to close the coffin on Panthers coach Matt Rhule?

30. The first 14 games of Week 4 were within one score at some point in the fourth quarter, tied for the most in a single week in NFL history. In sum, there have been 49 games within a score in the final period – a record for this point of an NFL campaign.

31. There have also been 23 games this season decided by three points or fewer, also a record in the first four weeks of a season.

32. And the constant drama and upsets are what help make NFL football so compelling. But how about we do a better job addressing and managing the concussion issue, y'all? And lest we forget, it's hardly just Tagovailoa. Patriots QB2 Brian Hoyer and Colts All-Pro LB Shaquille Leonard also suffered head injuries Sunday.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 32 things we learned from Week 4 of 2022 NFL season: Concussion crisis overshadows on-field drama

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