NFL Nation: 2013 Week 4 QB Watch

QB Watch: Redskins' Robert Griffin III

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Washington Redskins’ quarterback play.

Griffin
Rewind: Robert Griffin III continues to up his game a little bit as the season progresses. He still makes mistakes; he still fails to pull the trigger at times. Just like last season. He’s still developing as a passer. But he’s starting to incorporate his legs, and that made enough of a difference against the Raiders. He carried the ball in the zone read twice for 8 yards. Another 9-yard carry was negated by a hold, but on the play Griffin showed quickness and shiftiness he did not show when the season started. Griffin completed 18 of 31 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown, good for a 91.7 passer rating. Griffin made a couple of plays with his legs but more by avoiding the rush, sliding in the pocket or stepping up in the pocket. He did each of those, and in each case it resulted in positive gains, none bigger than the 28-yard dump-and-run to Roy Helu after Griffin sprinted from pressure.

Fast-forward: The more Griffin plays, the more he starts to show glimpses of his pre-knee-injury self. He’s not the only one who needs to improve for the offense to excel, or for the Redskins to turn their season around. After the bye week, Griffin will face three defenses currently ranked 20th or worse in Dallas (20th), Chicago (21st) and Denver (25th). All three are ranked 24th or worse against the pass.

Inside the numbers: The Redskins did something rare Sunday. They won a game in which Griffin attempted 30-plus passes, something they had done only once in his young career. When Griffin has attempted at least 30 passes, the Redskins are 2-6. The most passes he threw last season was 39 in a loss to Carolina. But he attempted 30 or more passes only four times last season, a number he’s already matched in 2013. One reason the Redskins won this game was the defense sacking quarterback Matt Flynn seven times and holding the Raiders’ offense to one touchdown. It allowed Griffin and the offense to gather momentum after a sluggish start.

Prediction: Griffin will continue to run a bit more after the bye week. There’s a belief that it would take him approximately two months of playing -- and gaining confidence in his knee -- before he fully returns to normal. That means he’d be a month away, but it also means Griffin is a month removed from the start of the season when neither he nor the coaches wanted him to run. The more mobile he becomes, the more Griffin excels. It’s not just about running, it’s about extending plays, and he’s starting to do that more.

QB Watch: Bears' Jay Cutler

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play.

Cutler
Rewind: Jay Cutler reverted to bad habits in the Bears' loss to the Detroit Lions, and that resulted in turnovers, including a fumble returned for a touchdown by Nick Fairley. Tremendous pressure from Detroit’s pass rush played a role in that. Despite the poor performance (65.6 passer rating, 36.6 QBR), Cutler never let the mistakes snowball. He kept the team in the game, and gave the Bears a chance to tie it late. What’s more encouraging is Cutler’s turnovers didn’t come as the result of poor decision-making. He made the correct reads, but didn’t accurately execute the throws he’s accustomed to making. That’s correctable.

Fast-forward: New Orleans' defense entered Monday night’s game against Miami ranked No. 4, and collected four sacks, three interceptions and a fumble recovery in that contest. So Cutler faces a daunting task against the Saints, who sacked him six times during a brutal 2011 outing the last time these teams met. Detroit took away short passes, and dared Cutler to beat the Lions with longer throws. Look for the Saints to employ a similar strategy.

Keep believing in Marc Trestman: Cutler exhibits signs that he totally believes in what the Bears are doing offensively, and no longer lets emotion get in the way of performance on the field. That shows Cutler is evolving into the quarterback the team thinks he can be. Cutler appears to have already put Sunday’s game in the past, and looks forward to rebounding. How he responds against the Saints could be a seminal moment in this season, but that will only be possible if the quarterback continues to believe in the coach, the system and the protection.

Prediction: Cutler likely won’t miss on longer attempts in this game, as he did against the Lions, but he’ll be pressured into at least one interception, and will throw a couple of TDs.

QB Watch: Bengals' Andy Dalton

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bengals' quarterback play.

Dalton
Dalton
Rewind: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis danced around a question regarding Andy Dalton's play during his news conference that immediately followed Sunday's 17-6 loss at Cleveland. He said Monday he was glad he did. Dalton wasn't good Sunday, posting the third-worst yards per passing attempt average of his career at 4.9 yards. He also had his lowest completion percentage (54.8) and QBR (29.7) of the season.

Fast-forward: One week after facing the NFL's third-ranked total defense, Dalton goes against a New England Patriots unit this Sunday that has allowed the sixth-fewest points of any defense in the league. One of the reasons the Patriots have been so good on that side of the ball is because of their red zone defense. New England's defense is tied for fourth while in the red zone, and hasn't allowed a touchdown in a goal-to-go situation. Cornerback Aqib Talib has also had at least one interception in the past three games.

Third-down difficulty: Dalton passed well on third downs during the Bengals' loss at Cleveland, completing 66.7 percent of his 12 passing attempts. The problem, though, was that only four of those resulted in first downs. The other four completions ended up just short of the first-down marker. Dalton averaged 8.5 yards per third-down passing attempt, his second-highest mark this season.

Prediction: With fans critical of his play and angered by the apparent ineptitude of his offense against the Browns, Dalton has a heavy burden to shoulder this week. Those around him believe he's up to the task of playing well against the Patriots, but they know he'll need help. As the offense continues searching for an identity, Dalton needs his running game to come along in an effort to provide balance and allow his receivers to break free from corners like Talib. Look for a vastly improved Dalton on Sunday.

QB Watch: Raiders’ Matt Flynn

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Raiders’ quarterback play.

Flynn
Flynn
Rewind: The Raiders’ worst fears about Matt Flynn were realized in Oakland’s 24-14 loss to Washington. Oakland found that Flynn is not a playmaker behind a leaky offensive line, he cannot carry the team without two of the team’s most explosive playmakers in running back Darren McFadden and fullback Marcel Reece, and he has little pocket awareness. So yeah, Flynn had a rough go of it in throwing for 227 yards and a touchdown on 21-of-32 passing. But there was that unfathomable pick-six that let Washington back into the game. And the seven sacks. And the $6.5 million he is making this year. Making his debut in place of the popular and concussed Terrelle Pryor would have been tough enough without the perfect storm that developed around him.

Fast-forward: Flynn is not the QB for this team at the moment, not with so many holes around him. And not when Pryor is fully recovered from his concussion, as he should be this weekend. Pryor, you’ll recall, was actually medically cleared by the NFL concussion protocol on Friday, but he missed so many practice reps and he was still symptomatic, coach Dennis Allen said, so the Raiders erred on the side of caution by making him inactive. He should be ready to play Sunday night, though.

Facing pressure: According to Pro Football Focus, Flynn’s passer rating dropped 85.8 points (from 111.2 to 25.4) when he faced pressure. Pryor’s mobility covers a lot of the offensive line’s faults.

Prediction: Pryor wanted a tinted shield for his helmet and was denied, and with sensitivity to light a symptom of a concussion, alarms went off for the Raiders. With the late start against the Chargers -- 8:35 p.m. PT on Sunday -- might the lights present a different challenge?
A weekly examination of the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback play.

Jones
Kaepernick
Rewind: Colin Kaepernick had a strong bounce-back game in Week 4 in a 35-11 win at St. Louis last Thursday night. In Weeks 2 and 3, Kaepernick struggled and the San Francisco offense combined for 10 points in two defeats. Kaepernick's numbers against the Rams weren’t overwhelming -- he was 15-of-23 for 167 yards and two touchdowns -- but the 49ers had success on the ground, and Kaepernick made plays when needed.

Fast-forward: Kaepernick and the 49ers play against Houston at home on Sunday night. The Texans are somewhat vulnerable against the pass. That means the key for the 49ers will be their offensive line, which played at a high level in St. Louis after slumping the previous two weeks. Houston’s J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing cannot take over. If they do, Kaepernick may be uncomfortable all game.

Third-down success: The 49ers are hoping Kaepernick can stay hot on third downs. In St. Louis, Kaepernick throttled the Rams on the key down. He was 7-of-10 for 98 yards and both of his touchdown tosses were delivered on third downs.

Prediction: Kaepernick will be better at home in this game than he was in a Week 3 loss to the Colts. While his receivers are still an issue, I think Kaepernick gets the job done. I see him going 21-of-32 for 276 yards and two touchdown passes.

QB Watch: Giants' Eli Manning

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the New York Giants' quarterback play.

Manning
Rewind: Sunday was another "blah" day in what's turning out to be a rough year for Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Under pressure pretty much all day, he completed 18 of 37 passes for 217 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Of the 217 yards, 69 came on a touchdown pass to Victor Cruz. Manning's completion percentage has gone down in each game this year, though he has thrown only two interceptions the past two weeks after throwing seven in the first two.

Fast-forward: The Giants' next game is Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, who have allowed more passing yards (1,300) than all but one team in the league. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 107.2 against the Eagles this year, with nine touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Philadelphia has 10 sacks through four games.

Historically bad: Manning's Total QBR, according to ESPN Stats & Information, is 30.0 this season, his lowest through four weeks in the last eight seasons. Remember, that's on a scale of zero to 100, with 50.0 an average mark. His completion percentage of 56.3, if carried out for the rest of the year, would be his lowest since 2007. He's on pace to throw 24 touchdowns, which would be his fewest since 2008, and 36 interceptions, which would shatter his career high of 25 set in 2010.

Prediction: If he can't get it going this week against the Eagles, Manning may be in for the worst year of his career. I say he picks apart Bradley Fletcher & Co. to the tune of more than 300 yards and three touchdowns. Hakeem Nicks finally gets on the board.

QB Watch: Saints’ Drew Brees

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the New Orleans Saints’ quarterback play:

Brees
Rewind: Drew Brees had his best game of the season in another vintage “Monday Night Football” performance (30-of-39, 413 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions). He has now won nine straight Monday night games and has led the Saints to 11 consecutive prime-time wins at home. He also tied his own NFL record with nine straight 300-yard games overall.

Brees has thrown for 1,434 yards (second in the NFL) with 10 touchdowns (third) and four interceptions. His Total QBR rating of 74.9 ranks fourth.

Fast-forward: Brees will have to prove he can take this show on the road the next two weeks with difficult tests at the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots. Brees has been solid on the road (22-10 in the regular season since 2009), but not quite as prolific as he is inside the Dome. Weather conditions shouldn’t be a big issue -- but the opponents might be. The Bears lead the NFL in takeaways for the second straight year with 14, so far.

Still surprised? Saints coach Sean Payton and receiver Marques Colston both insisted that they don’t take Brees’ performances like these for granted. … Well, maybe a little bit.

When asked what level of expectation he has for Brees, Colston said, “It seems to keep growing. He’s a guy that, I say this time and time again, he comes to work and really prepares day in and day out. So it’s really not a surprise anymore for us to see the kind of games like he had [Monday] night. He’s so precise. So it’s kind of become the norm. You kind of lose sight of the fact that what he does on a day-to-day basis is really extraordinary.”

Prediction: Maybe he’ll fall short of another 413 yards and four touchdowns, but Brees is so locked in right now that he’ll help the Saints pull out a tight victory. Something like 300 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, perhaps.

QB Watch: Seahawks' Russell Wilson

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Seahawks' quarterback play.

Wilson
Rewind: The Seahawks should be thankful Russell Wilson escaped uninjured after the onslaught he weathered all day against the Houston Texans' defense in the 23-20 overtime victory. Seattle was down three starters on the offensive line, and it showed. Wilson didn’t have time to breathe, much less find open receivers downfield, most of the day. But as he has done so many times, Wilson took charge in the end and found a way to move the football. He rushed for 53 yards, including getting a first down on a fourth-and-3, on a 98-yard fourth-quarter TD drive. Sunday was the seventh time in Wilson's 22 starts the Seahawks have come from behind in the fourth quarter, although officially this one took OT to win it.

Fast-forward: Statistically speaking, it's bound to be better than the Houston game where Wilson threw for only 123 yards and had a 49.7 passer rating. But this week could be another tough test for him, a 10 a.m. PT road start against a strong Indianapolis Colts team. In three of Seattle's four victories this season, Wilson has gotten off to a slow start in the first half. The Colts likely will try to make it four-of-five by blitzing early and testing the backups on the offensive line.

Dome woes: This is another indoor game for Wilson, which hasn’t been good for him. Wilson is 16-6 overall in the NFL, but even with last week’s win indoors at Reliant Stadium, Wilson is 2-4 in domed stadiums.

Prediction: Wilson still will have to improvise at times to avoid the pass rush and make plays without his starters at offensive tackle. But rookie right tackle Michael Bowie is bound to play a little better this week after being thrown to the wolves (or lone wolf) at Houston and being forced to take on J.J. Watt in Bowie’s first NFL start. If Bowie improves and Wilson gets a little more time to throw, he probably will find a way to win.

QB Watch: Ravens' Joe Flacco

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback play:

Rewind: Joe Flacco threw five interceptions, the most in his 97-game career (including playoffs). Three were his fault. He didn't see a defender on two of them, and another was an underthrown pass in the end zone. Not a surprise that Flacco's turnovers played a major factor. Three of them were converted into 13 points, which is huge in a game decided by a field goal. His last interception essentially ended the game. Flacco struggled throwing the ball deep, going 4-for-14 on passes of more than 15 yards. He also struggled on the shorter passes, throwing four interceptions on passes that traveled fewer than 15 yards.

Flacco
Fast-forward: Flacco looks to bounce back in Sunday's game at Miami, which has the 25th-ranked pass defense. The question is whether Flacco will have time to throw the ball downfield. He was hit 12 times against Buffalo and sacked four times. Flacco and the Ravens would catch a break if Cameron Wake, the Dolphins' top pass-rusher, can't play. He missed Monday night's game with a sprained knee.

Bumpy road: The challenge for Flacco is improving on the road. After a playoff run in which he won at Denver and at New England, Flacco has failed to have the same success away from home this season. His 22.8 Total QBR on the road is only better than Chad Henne's, Eli Manning's and Geno Smith's this season. Flacco's seven interceptions on the road is two more than any other quarterback in 2013.

Prediction: No one expects Flacco to rip the Dolphins' defense like Drew Brees did Monday night. But Flacco has a good history of bouncing back after poor performances. I would be surprised if Flacco didn't have an efficient performance while throwing between 230 and 250 yards.

QB Watch: Jaguars' Blaine Gabbert

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterback play.

Gabbert
Gabbert
Rewind: Blaine Gabbert made his return to the lineup after missing two games because of a cut on the back of his throwing hand. Unfortunately, he had tight end Marcedes Lewis for only two plays because of a calf injury, leaving him with receiver (Cecil Shorts) and four other receivers who had combined to play in eight games. So naturally, it didn’t go well. Gabbert completed 17 of 32 passes for 179 yards. He was sacked four times and threw three interceptions -- all of which bounced off receivers' hands. However, he did do some of the things that coach Gus Bradley encouraged him to do: take shots down the field, scramble around and try to make plays and play more freely. But Gabbert's efforts still couldn’t get the offense moving. At one point, the Jaguars went three-and-out on five consecutive possessions.

Fast-forward: Gabbert does get receiver Justin Blackmon (four-game suspension) back for Sunday’s game at St. Louis, and that’s certainly going to help. It’s not going to save the offense, but it will give Gabbert a big-play option in the passing game. Gabbert needs to continue to try to play more freely and be willing to take shots down the field. Blackmon is a better option for that than Shorts, who seems to have been overwhelmed with the pressure of being the No. 1 target.

Protection issues: Gabbert has been sacked 10 times in his two starts this season. That averages out to a sack every 6.7 drop backs.

Prediction: The Rams rank 18th in the NFL in pass defense, so there will be some opportunities to make plays. Gabbert just has to be willing to go downfield more, which is likely to happen with Blackmon back in the fold. Gabbert should post his first 200-yard passing game of the season.

QB Watch: Eagles' Michael Vick

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Eagles' quarterback play:

Rewind: It isn't easy for a quarterback to look good when Peyton Manning is conducting his master class in the position on the same field. And Michael Vick didn't look all that good Sunday against the Denver Broncos. He was not the reason for the Eagles' 52-20 loss -- not by a long shot. But he wasn't able to put the necessary points on the board to compete with Manning. Vick's numbers: 14-of-27 for 248 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Four of Vick's passes were dropped.

With the game out of hand, Nick Foles played in the fourth quarter. He looked good, completing three of four passes for 49 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown to Jeff Maehl.

Vick
Vick
Fast-forward: Vick and the Eagles return to the familiar territory of the NFC East for Sunday's game against the winless New York Giants. The Giants have the 19th-ranked pass defense in the NFL, and they have not been able to get steady pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That should give Vick a perfect opportunity to lead his team back toward the winning path. Coach Chip Kelly has blamed the Eagles' offensive trouble mostly on the lack of pass protection. The Giants' inability to generate pressure should allow Vick time to operate.

All or nothing: Vick had a career game against San Diego, as speedy DeSean Jackson was allowed to run freely through the secondary. Since then, Kansas City and Denver locked up Jackson with physical play and safety help. Vick has not been able to work the short passing game that was a hallmark of Kelly's Oregon offenses. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Vick was just 5-for-11 on throws traveling 5 or fewer yards. He was 9-for-10 on such throws in the opener at Washington.

Prediction: Vick has said he will take the lead in making sure his teammates don't let the embarrassment of Sunday's loss linger. He will have to follow up with a good performance on the field. The guess here is that he will take advantage of the Giants' puzzling lack of a pass rush to deliver his best performance since the San Diego game.

QB Watch: Chiefs' Alex Smith

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Chiefs' quarterback play:

Rewind: Alex Smith had season highs in passing yards (288) and touchdowns (three) in the Chiefs' 31-7 win over the New York Giants, but he also threw a pair of interceptions, his first of the season. Smith took more shots down the field in the passing game and was rewarded. The Chiefs had five pass plays of 20 yards or more. Still, his passer rating was his lowest of the season and his Total QBR was second lowest.

Smith
Fast-forward: This could be another messy game for Smith on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are sixth in the league in sacks per opponent pass attempt, so they can put pressure on the quarterback. Cornerback Alterraun Verner is tied for the league lead in interceptions with four, so Smith needs to be aware of his whereabouts at all times.

Don't blame him: The two interceptions against the Giants weren't Smith's fault. On the first one, Dwayne Bowe ran a lazy slant route and allowed the Giants cornerback to beat him to the ball. On the second, Smith's throw was slightly behind Jamaal Charles and Charles deflected the ball into the air. He accidentally kicked it on his way to the ground and it then went into the possession of a Giants defender.

Prediction: Smith's passing attempts and completions have been within a narrow range in the first four games of the season, and there's no reason to believe that will change against Tennessee. Look for Smith to go 23-of-39 for 260 yards, a pair of touchdowns and another interception, this one being his fault.

QB Watch: Vikings' Christian Ponder

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback play:

Rewind: With Christian Ponder out because of a rib injury, Matt Cassel turned in the kind of performance the Vikings had been waiting for at the quarterback position. The backup went 16-for-25 for 248 yards, tossing a pair of touchdowns to Greg Jennings and becoming the first Vikings quarterback to post a turnover-free game this season. He helped the team achieve some balance on offense, with Adrian Peterson running for 140 yards, and as the Vikings went into their bye week, Cassel threw open the question of who would start on Oct. 13 against the Carolina Panthers.

Ponder
Ponder
Cassel
Cassel
Fast-forward: The Vikings will have to determine if Ponder is healthy, first of all, after he broke a rib that the team's medical staff deemed too close to his heart to allow him to play last week. Ponder said he would be ready to play against the Panthers, adding doctors told him he'd need about 10 days before his ribs would be set in place again, but coach Leslie Frazier said on Tuesday that Ponder is still hurt, adding he would have to show he is ready to go by next Friday for the Vikings to start him against Carolina. Cassel could cause Frazier to keep Ponder's threshold high; he made some throws that Ponder has so far been unable to make, and turned Greg Jennings into a legitimate weapon for the first time this year. While Ponder could return to the lineup, the job won't be handed to him at this point.

Managing the reaction: It was probably expected that players would be complimentary of Cassel after he quarterbacked the Vikings to their first win of the season, but the number of offensive players -- from Greg Jennings to Adrian Peterson -- who spoke up about Cassel's command in the huddle might speak to a larger point. If Ponder is healthy enough and Frazier goes back to him, he might have to sell his team somewhat on the idea that Ponder is the best hope for the Vikings to get their season turned around. A large section of the fan base is certainly clamoring for Cassel to start against Carolina, so Frazier will have to do some consensus-building if he goes with Ponder.

Prediction: The Vikings still seem tied to Ponder -- perhaps out of a desire to make a definitive ruling on whether the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft can play the position or not. If Ponder is healthy enough to play, the guess here is that he starts against Carolina, despite Cassel's solid performance and the support it seems to have engendered. If Ponder gets the start, he'll need to bring his level of play up against the Panthers to hang onto the job going forward.

QB Watch: Cardinals' Carson Palmer

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Cardinals' quarterback play:

Palmer
Rewind: For the first half against Tampa Bay, Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer couldn’t move the ball. He got hit on the game’s first play. The Cardinals then went three-and-out in five of their seven drives in the first two quarters. But after halftime, Palmer settled down and began working through his progressions and not focusing in on one receiver. The Cardinals moved the ball until Palmer threw two interceptions to end potential scoring drives deep in Bucs' territory.

Well, I was pretty close to being dead on. I said last week if Palmer got hit, then a repeat of the New Orleans game would take place. Palmer got sacked on the opening play, and the first three-and-a-half quarters were a replay of the game in the Big Easy.

Fast-forward: If there’s one thing Palmer needs to know about the Panthers on defense, it’s that they’re coming up the middle. They’re ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed per game (seventh), rushing yards allowed per play (eighth), sacks per pass attempt (fifth), first downs allowed per game (sixth), fourth-down percentage (tied for first), red zone percentage (tied for second), goal-to-go percentage (seventh), points allowed per game (third) and point differential per game (sixth).

Under pressure: It’s the same with any quarterback: The more they get pressured, the less they play like themselves. Even coach Bruce Arians didn’t think Palmer had “happy feet” after getting hit on the game’s first play. But the stats show Palmer seems to back down when the defensive pressure rises. His passer rating was 16.5 when pressured compared to 80.8 when not pressured, according to Pro Football Focus. He was hit four times and pressured six.

Prediction: I might get out of the prediction business. The deep ball will be open for the Cardinals, who will need to spread the field to relieve some pressure up front. I’ll say 250 yards in front of the home crowd and one touchdown.
A weekly analysis of the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback play:

Rewind: Ben Roethlisberger completed 36 of 51 passes for 383 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a 34-27 loss to the Vikings. Roethlisberger threw for more than 375 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. He also nearly led the Steelers back from a 17-point third-quarter deficit. Roethlisberger drove the Steelers to the Vikings' 6-yard line in the waning seconds of the game, but he lost a fumble when he was sacked on third down.

Roethlisberger
Fast Forward: Roethlisberger has six turnovers in the past two games. He said he doesn't count the last fumble as a turnover because he tried to get rid of the ball when he couldn't get out of the grasp of Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen with the Steelers out of timeouts. Roethlisberger said his interception earlier in the game resulted in a miscommunication between him and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders after Roethlisberger started scrambling.

Pass-happy in London: Roethlisberger's 51 pass attempts against the Vikings were the second-most of his career. The Steelers threw the ball at a 2-1 ratio in London because they played from behind -- not because the running game was ineffective. Rookie Le'Veon Bell performed as well as could be expected in his NFL debut, and Roethlisberger made it a point to tell the former Michigan State star on the plane ride that he had been impressed with his play. Look for the Steelers to show more balance on offense after they return from their bye.

Prediction: Continued improvement on offense is probably the biggest reason for optimism that the Steelers can rebound from an 0-4 start. Roethlisberger's supporting cast has received a serious upgrade with the return of Bell and tight end Heath Miller from injuries. And Roethlisberger at least proved last Sunday that the Steelers are rarely out of a game as long as he is the quarterback. "We just have to not take any steps back and keep trying to get better," Roethlisberger said, "because we feel that we are close."

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