Here are five things to love about the NFL from the fourth Sunday of the regular season:
One. The Ravens’ defense. How do you up the ante after forcing seven turnovers against the Steelers in your opener? Score when the other team has the ball. That’s what the Ravens did on Sunday. A club-record three times, in fact, during a 34-17 victory over the Jets. Weakside linebacker Jameel McClain returned a fumble 6 yards for a score in the first quarter, thanks to a fumble-forcing sack by safety Ed Reed. Defensive end Jarret Johnson scooped up a Haloti Ngata-forced fumble and ran it back 26 yards for a TD in the second quarter. And cornerback Lardarius Webb returned an interception 73 yards for a score in the third quarter. That all this came against the increasingly insufferable Jets made it all the better.
Two. Calvin Johnson. The Lions roared back from a 27-3 deficit early in the third quarter to pull out a 34-30 victory over the Cowboys in Dallas, and they wouldn’t have done it without the 6-foot-5 Johnson. He had TD catches of 23 and 2 yards in the fourth quarter that pulled the Lions within six, 30-24, and then provided the winning margin with 1:39 to play. It’s not just that he’s making TD catches, but how he’s doing it. Johnson went up between three defenders on one, and somehow came down with the ball. In four games, Johnson has eight TD receptions, which puts him on pace for 32 – and Randy Moss’ NFL record is 23 from 2007. As Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin put it on the NFL Network, “He’s playing basketball on the football field and he’s unstoppable.”
Three. Devin Hester. Going into Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, the Bears’ return specialist was tied with Seattle native Eric Metcalf for the most punt returns for TDs in NFL history. After his 69-yarder in the second quarter, Hester stands alone with 11. Hester also had a 73-yard kickoff return to setup a TD run by Matt Forte. Hester doesn’t turn 29 until next month and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Four. The Packers. Just because they’re the Packers. And they’re the defending Super Bowl champions. And their quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, he of the league-best 124.6 passer rating and 12 TD passes compared to two interceptions. And all that hair flying everywhere when their defense is on the field. Oh, and because they’re 4-0, and have scored more points (135) than any team in the NFC.
Five. Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown celebrations. It’s not what the Seahawks’ “Beast Mode” running back does after he scores, but while he’s doing it that’s so entertaining. There was his backward leap into the end zone after his electrifying 67-yard TD run in the playoff win over the Saints in January. Sunday, it was a leaping somersault to slap an exclamation point on his 11-yard scoring run against the Falcons. What more could you ask? More scores, and celebrations, please.