By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Rookie quarterbacks are getting their chances early this season.
One is taking advantage of the opportunity in extremely impressive fashion.
After all three first-round quarterbacks started the opener, two more were forced into action because of injuries this week, with Aidan O’Connell getting the nod for the Raiders and Dorian Thompson-Robinson for the Browns.
This marked just the third season since the 1970 merger when at least five rookie quarterbacks started in the same week this early in the season, with it also happening in 2012 and 2021.
While Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, O’Connell and Thompson-Robinson all ended up on the losing side, No. 2 overall draft pick C.J. Stroud extended the solid start to his career.
Stroud threw for 306 yards and two TDs to lead Houston to its second straight win, 30-6 over Pittsburgh. Stroud’s 1,212 yards are the second-most ever for a player in his first four games — trailing only Cam Newton’s 1,386 in 2011 for Carolina — but it’s his ability to protect the ball that might be most impressive.
Stroud joined Brock Purdy and Joshua Dobbs as the only quarterbacks this season to start all four games and not throw an interception.
Stroud is now part of a far more elite group, joining Aaron Rodgers (2020), Patrick Mahomes (2018 and ’19), Drew Brees (2018), Tom Brady (2015 and ’17) and Peyton Manning (2013) as the only players to throw for at least 1,200 yards with no interceptions in the first four games of the season.
It hasn’t been as easy for the four other rookie quarterbacks with Young ranking in the bottom five in passer rating and yards per attempt and O’Connell and Thompson-Robinson looking overmatched in their first starts.
Richardson has been better, with three touchdown passes and four TD runs in three games.
The Buffalo Bills have rebounded from a Week 1 loss in impressive fashion.
The Bills beat previously undefeated Miami 48-20 on Sunday for their third straight win by at least 28 points. That is tied for the longest streak of wins by that many points in the Super Bowl era. The only team in NFL history with more was the 1942 Chicago Bears — a mark Buffalo will try to tie in London on Sunday against Jacksonville.
The Dallas Cowboys also have put together some blowout wins, with their 38-3 victory at New England on Sunday the most lopsided loss ever for Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The Cowboys have won three games by at least 20 points so far this season, with one slip-up in a Week 3 loss at Arizona.
Before this season, only 15 teams since the merger had three wins by at least 20 points in the first four games. Thirteen of those teams made the playoffs and six made the Super Bowl, with the 1996 Green Bay Packers and 1999 St. Louis Rams winning it all.
Mack had six sacks on Sunday against the Raiders, one shy of Derrick Thomas’ NFL single-game record. The only other players with six in a game since sacks became an official individual statistic in 1982 are Thomas, Adrian Clayborn, Fred Dean and Osi Umenyiora.
Mack also had five sacks in a game in 2015 for the Raiders against Denver, joining Thomas as the only players with two games with at least five sacks.
The Seahawks tied a franchise record with 11 sacks on Monday night against the Giants with a balanced unit. Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, Devon Witherspoon and Uchenna Nwosu all had two sacks in the game.
It was the sixth time since 1982 that a team had four players record multiple sacks in the same game. It last happened in 1987 for Dallas against the New York Jets in a game featuring replacement players.
The Denver Broncos have been known for some dominating defenses over their history, from the Orange Crush unit from the 1970s to the dominant squad that won a Super Bowl in the 2015 season.
This year’s edition is far different.
Denver is off to one of the worst defensive starts in NFL history, ranking in the bottom five in the Super Bowl era in points per game allowed through four games (37.5), yards per play (7.05) and passer rating against (133.4).
While much of the damage was done in Miami’s 70-point outburst in Week 3, the Broncos weren’t much better at the start of this past week’s game against Chicago.
They allowed Justin Fields to complete his first 16 passes before an incompletion on a desperation heave to end the first half as Fields had his first career game with either 300 yards passing or four TDs.
Denver got two takeaways in the second half to rally from a 21-point deficit in the second half to win 31-28, matching the largest blown lead in Bears history.
It was the second comeback from 21 points down in the second half to win already this season, with the Giants doing it in Week 2 at Arizona. The only other time that happened in the first four weeks of the season was 1999.
It was quite a day for Stanford alumni when the 49ers hosted the Cardinals a short drive away from campus.
Former Stanford star Christian McCaffrey scored four touchdowns for San Francisco and another former Cardinal player, Michael Wilson, caught two TD passes for Arizona in the 35-16 Niners’ win on Sunday.
That marked just the third game since the merger when players from one college scored at least six touchdowns. It last happened on Christmas Day in 2020 when former Tennessee star Alvin Kamara scored six TDs for New Orleans against Minnesota.
Former USC stars O.J. Simpson (four TDs) and Sam Cunningham (three) had seven touchdowns in a Buffalo win over New England on Nov. 23, 1975.
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