Somehow, someway Newcastle United emerged from West London with a point Monday after a scoreless draw with Queens Park Rangers.
That Newcastle posted its third clean sheet of the young season was nothing short of astonishing given the repeated chances QPR created in the first half alone.
United, by contrast, looked toothless going forward. Shola Ameobi and Leon Best appear totally ill-suited to play together - both are target forwards and neither has elite speed - and Newcastle's 4-4-2 formation was predictable and mechanical in attack. There was no interchanging among the attacking players or surging runs from the center of the midfield. United looked content to simply pump hopeful balls forward to Ameobi and Best.
Cheik Tiote continued his search for last season's form, while Yohan Cabaye was anonymous in his worst performance in a Newcastle shirt. Instead, QPR, playing a dynamic 4-3-3, controlled the midfield and looked dangerous with Shaun Wright-Phillips darting down the flanks and Adel Taarabt roaming all over.
Maybe Alan Pardew will follow suit and opt for a similar 4-5-1/4-3-3 hybrid at Aston Villa on Saturday. We sure hope so. Pardew repeatedly mentioned during the summer that he wanted his team to play more of a free-flowing, possession-based style this season. It's still early, but that style change doesn't appear to have taken effect just yet - and Newcastle doesn't look that dissimilar from the second half of last season in a long-ball-heavy 4-4-2.
From a big-picture standpoint, it's important to remember that United is still unbeaten after four Premier League games, and its eight points are good enough for fourth in the table. And, as ugly as Monday's performance was, Newcastle found a way to grind out a result in a match that had the potential to result in major embarrassment. It would have been typical Newcastle luck to see Joey Barton star as QPR, a club seemingly on the rise after an ownership change, rolled to a lopsided win.
Perhaps Pardew summed it up best: "Sometimes when you don't play well, you get beat. We didn't get beaten."
Hopefully that resolve - and not the performance - is a sign of things to come.