Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

30 Oct 2017

Audibles at the Line: Week 8

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Minnesota Vikings 33 "at" Cleveland Browns 16 (London)

Andrew Potter: This game looks like exactly what it is: two teams with better defenses than offenses, trying to avoid blowing the game on offense. All nine points have come off turnovers: a Joe Schobert interception on Minnesota's first drive, and a muffed fair catch after their second, gifting the Vikings a field goal. The Browns offense has been almost exclusively short passing plays and quick runs, possibly in an attempt to keep pressure off their new left tackle Spencer Drango. They threw in a screen on an Emory & Henry formation, but that's about as adventurous as they've gotten. Minnesota has been almost exclusively inside handoffs, drags, curls, and throws to Jerick McKinnon in the flats that are basically overarm toss plays. Any deep plays have happened almost by accident, and the biggest of them all -- a 41-yard completion to Adam Thielen -- was called back for an illegal high-low block against the left side of the Vikings line.

And of course, as I type this, Case Keenum goes deep right to a WIDE open Adam Thielen. A simple route straight upfield against zone coverage. The corner left Thielen to the safety, and the safety never showed. Thielen was able to stand still in the back corner of the end zone and wave for the ball, and still had ten yards of space when he caught it.

Oh, and we just had our second missed extra point of the day. It should end up the closest-fought of the London games, but this has not been a classic.

Tom Gower: Browns up 13-12 at the half. As Andrew noted, Cleveland has concentrated on not letting Spencer Drango lose the game for them after the problems he had last week after the Joe Thomas injury. That quick pass-oriented game plan also fits with the game plan DeShone Kizer executed for the most part fairly successfully early last week. It doesn't make for the most attractive viewing and doesn't show off what makes Kizer a much better potential option than Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, at least not until he hit the deep ball on the touchdown drive in the two-minute drill.

And then we get to the last drive of the first half, a drive that definitely never should have taken the form it did, on multiple levels. First, it was Cleveland's insistence to save time, notwithstanding that they were in first-and-goal with over a minute left, enabling the Vikings to save all their timeouts. Second, Gregg Williams insisted on blitzing. It didn't get home, and Keenum found McKinnon up the sideline for 20 yards. Second play, another big blitz, and Keenum got it out too quickly. Third play, overload blitz, throwback to McKinnon wide open. Another short completion, and the Vikings were in field goal range without Case Keenum having to make a throw to a receiver or more than about 7 yards downfield. Frustrating sequence, because 34 seconds feels like a good time to play it safe and ask a quarterback who will rarely risk tight-window throws to downfield receivers to do just that or be ineffective.

Andrew Potter: The announcers keep bringing attention to Cleveland's deep safety, who in this game appears to be Ibraheim Campbell with Jabrill Peppers inactive. Evidently, that role isn't exclusive to Peppers, but a feature of Gregg Williams' Browns defense. In this particular game, it seems counterproductive. The Vikings offense is all short stuff, all day: I don't recall the last time I saw a team fake a handoff then throw to the same running back this many times in one game. Even when receivers are coming open deep, Case Keenum isn't going near them unless they're either left completely alone or are the "target" on an underthrown throwaway. Rather than taking away a non-existent deep ball, all keeping a safety that deep seems to achieve is taking one defender out of the meaningful portion of the play.

Duke Johnson just caught a roughly -12 ALEX pass to gain 9 yards on third-and-17, with the Browns down 14 points and roughly 9:00 left. Those 9 yards are enough to give Johnson 10 yards on four catches. Yes, this has been an exceptionally conservative Browns offense, why do you ask?

Kai Forbath's fourth field goal gives us a 33-16 final score. This was the closest, most competitive of the four London games this year. An estimated 30,000 fans went to all four games.

If London ever does get a franchise, hard to say those 30,000 people didn't earn it.

Rivers McCown: Gregg Williams' defense leaves people wide open so often that it's a feature rather than a bug.

I actually thought Kizer looked downright competent at times in this game. But his receivers are horrific. David Njoku dropped two or three bunnies. I don't know how this team expects to be able to give a fair evaluation of Kizer with the team lacking even Bears-level receivers. Kizer takes too many sacks ,but that's the only truly bad trait I see.

Los Angeles Chargers 13 at New England Patriots 21

Dave Bernreuther: A 51-yard try in New England on fourth-and-1 is a sure thing, of course, and bound to be super helpful on the road against the Patriots offense. Well coached, Marty. Err, Norv. Err, McCoy. Err ... whatever, it doesn't even matter.

Why even fly cross country if you're not going to try to win?

Scott Kacsmar: We're barely 15 minutes into the games and I'm already fed up with the coaching today. Anthony Lynn pulled his offense off the field on a fourth-and-1 at the New England 33 in favor of a 51-yard field goal. Nick Novak doesn't have a very strong leg. This is why he was consistently bad on kickoffs in his first stint with the team. He tried to kick it low, but the Patriots may have gotten a fingertip on the ball. Either way, it was a missed opportunity that shows zero acknowledgement of the team you're playing. You need touchdowns in New England, not settling for long field goals. Meanwhile, the Raiders had a fourth-and-1 at midfield in Buffalo, went for it, and turned that into a touchdown drive. The Chargers needed to try the same.

It won't look so bad though after Melvin Gordon took off on an 87-yard touchdown run. Excellent vision on that run.

Aaron Schatz: Not just excellent vision. The cut through the hole was sweet after it looked like he might lose yardage, but I also want to bring attention to very good blocks on that side by Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, and then Hunter Henry reaching up to the second level. Took out the entire Patriots secondary that might otherwise have gotten Gordon after a few yards of gain.

Dave Bernreuther: Well then. Lynn's diabolical strategy of losing 50 yards of field position in order to put the Patriots defense right where he wants them ... works.

Worse, as Gordon bounced the handoff to the sidelines and sort of backwards, I made a sarcastic comment about going backwards being a sure path to success. Patrick Chung didn't win a battle, though, and Melvin Gordon rumbled and stumbled 87 yards to give the Chargers the lead.

I'll be the guy over there in the corner with my foot in my mouth.

Aaron Schatz: We may need to find another video clip to show Travis Benjamin's horrible punt return that just gave the Patriots a safety. He muffed the punt, it dribbled backwards, he went to pick it up, then ran backwards about 8 yards trying to avoid the Patriots' coverage guys and ended up down in the end zone.

Bryan Knowles: Travis Benjamin, welcome to Keep Choppin' Wood! We'll be replaying that one for years!

Scott Kacsmar: I was doing radio the other day and said that Philip Rivers' career against New England is the stuff of a Greek tragedy. He has hit all three of his passes for 38 yards so far today, but his teammates and coaches are killing him again. For one, a Wildcat play on third-and-2 with Branden Oliver getting the ball is just a no-go for me. I'm not sure there's any offense in the league I feel great about using the Wildcat in that spot, but certainly no value to splitting Rivers out wide. Then when you think the Chargers are getting the ball back, Benjamin has that all-time embarrassing effort with the muff and retreat to the goal line for a safety. Then when the Patriots faced a fourth-and-1 at the 36, they went for it and got it, like you would expect from a well-coached team. Tom Brady not seeing Danny Amendola open on a third down is the only reason this is 12-7 instead of 16-7 right now.

Aaron Schatz: Seems to me that the Chargers are having some of the same issues the Falcons had last week. They aren't bringing much inside pressure on Brady, so he can step up and make passes even if Melvin Ingram or Joey Bosa beat their guys. Looks like the Patriots are giving more double-team attention to Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget, letting Bosa and Ingram get their wins as long as Brady doesn't have to face the inside pressure.

Scott Kacsmar: If we're looking for contenders for the worst punt return ever, we can't forget when DeSean Jackson did this in crunch time against the 2015 Cowboys:

Meanwhile, the Chargers just tried to run a pick play on third-and-1 and didn't even get a good pick or good throw out of it. It's like they forgot about Gordon after his 87-yard run. With two minutes left here and the Patriots getting the ball to start the third quarter, this one might get out of hand soon.

Dave Bernreuther: I was about to mention the theme of letting Rivers down, given the kickoff offsides and the illegal touching call that negated a perfect pass that could've tied the game, but after Rivers just fumbled the ball without being touched, I guess we can't say he's completely without blame. That was pretty poor.

Still, that's a horrible swing in what feels like, as Scott said, could be a game that gets out of hand. After an attempted arm punt and an actual one, the Patriots have the ball, up eight, at home in the second half. The Chargers could really have used that completion.

Aaron Schatz: Chargers are also getting more pass pressure on Brady in the second half. Even if it's mostly coming from the outside, that pressure is disturbing Brady more than it was before. Was partially responsible for the three-and-out after the big Dion Lewis kick return that started the second half, and Brady just took a 0-yard sack and then tried to hit Gronk under duress (incompete, partially Gronk's fault) to force another field goal attempt. Gostkowski hits it, 18-7.

Gostkowski is 2-for-4 on field goals today, Nick Novak 0-for-1. The winds are swirling in odd ways, and both kickers seem to be having issues. Novak came out early at halftime to try to test the winds. Chargers keep stiffening in the red zone and bringing out Gostkowski, and when he has missed the last two field goals it is keeping the Chargers in this game.

The Patriots honestly did not play much better than the Chargers today. They won this game (final: 21-13) because they did fewer dumb things. It's kind of amazing how many dumb, head-scratching things happen to the Chargers. It was like this game needed its own Chargers BINGO card.

  • The Travis Benjamin muffed punt safety.
  • Philip Rivers having the ball slip out of his hands for a self-sack to set up third-and-31.
  • Tyrell Williams stepping out of bounds and losing a touchdown catch to an illegal touching penalty.
  • Joey Bosa jumping offsides on third-and-5. It didn't give the Pats a first down because it was more like third-and-5.5, and it will be listed in the PBP as a 4-yard penalty, but it set up an easy Brady sneak for the first down while the Patriots were on their last drive to try to either ice the game or set up an 8-point lead.
  • Travis Benjamin starting the comeback drive with 1:02 left with a nice catch for about 12 yards, then wasting like eight seconds trying to get more yardage (and getting an extra couple) but not getting out of bounds.
  • Fourth-and-2 with 14 seconds left, instead of throwing a pass on the outside, they threw the ball in the middle of the field. They did manage to spike the ball with one second left for one more play, but an outside pass probably sets up two shots at the end zone instead of one.

The Chargers had 6.7 yards per play today, although a lot of it was the one Gordon run. The Patriots had 5.0 yards per play. New England keeps winning these close games on guile, and that's wonderful because it's better to win games than to lose them, but guile tends to eventually run out and you lose games unless performance improves. DVOA is right: the Patriots are not a top-5 or even top-10 team in the NFL right now. In past years, these early periods were fine because the team would fix its problems and then go on a run of outstanding play where they weren't just winning on guile. But if that's supposed to be coming here ... it sure is taking a lot longer than in past seasons. We're eight games in and the Patriots just look kind of tired.

San Francisco 49ers 10 at Philadelphia Eagles 33

Bryan Knowles: The way you want to prepare for a game against a 6-1 team is with massive defensive changes forced by injury and poor play, right? Legar Douzable (with the team for 10 days) is starting at end for the injured Arik Armstead. Eric Reid is no longer a safety, and he starts at weakside linebacker. Brock Coyle starts at middle linebacker for the injured Reuben Foster. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon has replaced Rashard Robinson at corner. Leon Hall, who has been signed, cut, and re-signed by the team this month, starts at nickel corner. Other than that, everything's going fine in San Francisco, why do you ask?

Derrik Klassen: San Francsisco is bringing the heat to Carson Wentz. For most of the first quarter, they brought more than four pass rushers and forced Wentz to get rid of the ball quickly. Wentz has had some success, but has been constantly having to dance around pressure. He missed on throw in the red zone on a hitch/seam concept that would have been a touchdown. The Eagles instead settled for a field goal.

San Francisco's offense, however, is abysmal. Either C.J. Beathard misses the throw or the intended receiver drops it. The play calling is till fine -- players are getting open enough -- but this team just cannot execute. They are especially bad on the ground versus this ferocious Eagles front, rushing for fewer than 2 yards per carry right now.

Though the score is 3-0 Eagles through one quarter, it feels pretty clear that the Eagles are the better team and will break out eventually. It is more a matter of when, rather than if.

Bryan Knowles: Piggybacking on Derrick's comment, the 49ers' pressure started picking up when they started blitzing after the first drive. Wentz has never been the best quarterback in the world when under pressure, and gambling by having their subpar secondary cover one-on-one is probably the 49ers' best option in this game.

Wentz was only hit three times "officially" in the first quarter, though he was also brought down on a 1-yard gain after he was essentially sacked a yard past the line of scrimmage. He also took a bit of a shot on a really weird play midway through the first quarter. Solomon Thomas jumped on a hard count, and Jason Kelce opted to snap the ball in order to get the penalty. No one on the offense knew that was coming, though, and the 49ers' defense poured through the line and sacked Wentz. Play was negated by penalty, of course, but I'm not entirely sure the five yards was worth the free shot on the quarterback.

It turns out, C.J. Beathard's college issues were not magically fixed by pairing him with Kyle Shanahan. After the defense and special teams hold Philadelphia, and San Francisco gets their best field position of the day, Beathard throws a ball behind Aldrick Robinson. Robinson reaches back and gets a hand on it, but it's bounced up into the air and intercepted. The 49ers force another three-and-out (DeForest Buckner is a monster), but none of this will matter if the 49ers can't get more than one first down per quarter.

And, finally, the Philadelphia offense kicks in. A bad punt, giving the Eagles the ball at midfield, and pass interference in the end zone lets the Eagles finally punch in a touchdown. Wentz connected to a wide open Zach Ertz; the 49ers sold out to stop the run and left no one on Ertz. That breaks the seal, as on the 49ers' ensuing possession, Beathard throws another interception, which is returned for a touchdown. 17-0, Eagles.

Vince Verhei: Jalen Mills' pick-six puts Philadelphia up 15-0 just before halftime. Eagles then go for two and get it to go up 17-0, but I'm a bit surprised by that decision. Failure there means a 15-0 lead, which means SF could win 16-15 with a FG-FG-FG-TD combo (assuming they shut out the Eagles from here on out, which is easier said than done obviously). With 30-plus minutes to go there, I think I'm kicking the PAT and taking the 16-0 lead. Their aggressiveness is rewarded, though, with the 17-0 halftime advantage.

Derrik Klassen: The Eagles are not scared of the 49ers play-action/boot-action game one bit. They are shutting down the running game, so they are willing to play it safe on play-action and keep an eye on receiving threats. Kyle Shanahan has tried to get some easy yards on quick boot-action throws, but it just is not working. Through two-and-a-half quarters, the 49ers have just 63 yards on 17 carries, about 3.7 yards per carry. That number is buoyed by a few scrambles from Beathard, too. Carlos Hyde has 15 yards on nine carries.

Well, the chaos finally got to Carson Wentz. He was on a stretch of 1-for-7, then threw an interception in the direction of Mack Hollins. It appeared to be a miscommunication: Hollins cut off his dig route, but Wentz threw it as if he would keep running across the field. Given the defensive back had inside and over-the-top leverage, it made sense for Hollins to cut off his route and sit in the open grass. Hard to fully pin the interception on either player, though. Sometimes that happens, especially with offenses as aggressive as Philadelphia's is this season.

Vince Verhei: Not Carson Wentz's best game. He has less than 150 yards and has taken three sacks, and he just threw a bad interception. From a very clean pocket on third-and-14, he just threw the ball right to Ahkello Witherspoon. No receiver was even in the area.

San Francisco turns that into their first points of the day, doing a fine job of using Philadelphia's aggressiveness against them. Beathard fakes a handoff to Matt Breida, lures the pass-rush into him, then flips it to Beathard on a shovel pass/screen. With blockers in front of him and the Eagles' linemen behind him, Breida scampers for a 21-yard touchdown. Eagles still lead 20-7 late in the third quarter.

And that doesn't last long -- Wentz underthrows Alshon Jeffery on a deep ball down the right sideline, but Jeffery does a great job of coming back to the ball and beating Witherspoon for the catch, then throwing Witherspoon to the ground and going to the end zone for a 53-yard score.

49ers have a fourth-and-goal at the 9, down 27-7 early in the fourth quarter. They go for the cowardly field goal, which would still leave them down by three scores. The Football Gods frown upon them, and Robbie Gould's kick is blocked and returned to the 38. Eagles now have a 20-point lead and good field position and this one feels over. Of course, those have been dreaded words in 2017.

Carolina Panthers 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3

Bryan Knowles: One reason Tampa Bay has been on the ropes this season is defensive failures on third down. Coming into the week, they were 31st in the league, allowing teams to convert 49.4 percent of the time on third down. So far, so bad for the Bucs today -- Carolina was 5-of-6 on third downs in the first quarter. You won't win many games if you can't get your defense off the field.

Carolina pays off those conversions with their first rushing touchdown (from a running back) this season -- that's an astonishing stat this late in a season, but I guess when you have Cam Newton, you don't need Jonathan Stewart or Christian McCaffrey to punch it in. Miami becomes the only team to not have a rushing touchdown from a running back this season.

Tom Gower: Panthers lead 10-0 at the half. Maybe I'm a curse, after I saw zero offensive touchdowns in Titans-Browns in last week's early game and two in Chargers-Broncos in the late window (exclusive national telecasts don't count). Stewart's rushing touchdown has been noted. Fox graphic before the score noted non-Newton Panthers had 16 carries for 28 yards, I believe in the whole red zone but maybe just goal-to-go, coming into that. The Panthers' three non-scoring possessions went three- or four-and-out.

Jameis Winston's numbers may seem superficially kind of OK, completing 11-of-19 passes for 84 yards, but he had a very stupid turnover on the edge of field goal range, trying to throw a ball he had no business throwing to avoid a sack and had it knocked out of his hands. His intermediate accuracy has been off on a few occasions, which makes it tough to sustain some drives.

The highlight of the first half for me might have been a pretty good punt save by Chris Godwin to pin the Panthers at their own 2. Nothing too spectacular, just the standard jump into the end zone and bat the ball back move.

Bryan Knowles: Carolina's self-inflicted mistakes killed them against Philadelphia and Chicago in the past two weeks. Three turnovers in each of those games were basically the difference, meaning Carolina's just 4-3 and fighting in the middle of the pack rather than atop the NFC. They've cleaned that up today, and that same defense that shut Chicago down has held Tampa Bay to just over 100 yards of offense in the first half, which is why they're up 10-0.

The Buccaneers just can't seem to get off to a good start. This is the third straight game where they've failed to score an (offensive) touchdown in the first half. Winston has been inaccurate, the running game has been non-existent, and they can't get off the field on defense. This is an absolute must-win game if Tampa Bay wants to have any chance of reaching the postseason this year, and they just haven't shown up yet. They're only down two scores at the half, but Carolina starts with the ball. Some serious halftime adjustments need to be made, or they can start looking forward to the draft.

Andrew Potter: Halftime in Tampa Bay, and the Panthers will be disappointed to only lead 10-0 in a game they have almost totally dominated. Bryan Anger's punting, paired with some excellent downfield coverage, is just about the only thing Tampa Bay is doing well to keep itself in the game. The ground game has been largely bottled up, with Doug Martin gaining 8 yards on his longest run and 19 yards total on his other eight. Jameis Winston's accuracy has been absent throughout most of the first half, with only two downfield completions offsetting a bunch of misses in intermediate range. Winston also had a horrible fumble when he tried, and failed, to flip the ball forward while being sacked -- he's in his third year now, and really needs to learn that sometimes taking the sack is better than the alternative.

For Carolina, the outside receivers have once again been horrid. Kelvin Benjamin should be an imposing physical mismatch, but makes such poor use of the space available to him that he's far too easy to defend, particularly on boundary throws. Devin Funchess took away an important first down deep in Carolina's own end of the field with a completely unnecessary pushoff against Vernon Hargreaves -- again, Funchess, as the big receiver, should be able to maneuver his body between himself and the corner on a comeback route rather than having to blatantly shove the defensive back out of the play.

Both of these offenses should be better than this.

Aaron Schatz: I pointed out on Twitter when a Bucs fan disputed my comment that the Bucs have been much better on offense than defense this year. Going into today, the Bucs were 15th in offensive DVOA in the first half, but third in offensive DVOA in the second half. No idea what that means, but it does mean that not scoring in the first half of the last few games does overstate their offensive problems of the last few weeks a bit.

Vince Verhei: The horrible-ness of Tampa Bay's defense, and specifically the secondary, has been under-reported this season. Robert McClain, Vernon Hargreaves, and Brent Grimes were all among the bottom 10 cornerbacks (out of 63 qualifiers) in yards allowed per target coming into the week. They only have seven sacks as a team. The Chargers have two players (Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram) with more than that. It's really awful.

Andrew Potter: I mentioned in Scramble that the Jaguars had more sacks in one game last week than the Bucs have all year. Vernon Hargreaves has been better this week, as in fact has the coverage in general, but that says more about how terrible Carolina's receivers are. I am by no means a Ted Ginn fan, but the Panthers really miss Ted Ginn. They don't have anybody else who can fill that role, and Newton needs a receiver to play that role. Newton has been very poor today too, incidentally. His interception was a terrible underthrow of Ed Dickson. Chris Conte was a full yard behind Dickson, and the throw was straight to him.

Bryan Knowles: And that's how you start a comeback opportunity: Chris Conte makes a diving interception to get the Bucs the ball back quickly. Ed Dickson was running a deep out, and Conte just jumped the route. That's the hypothetical version of Conte who is good at playing football, there. It's Newton's sixth interception in the last three games, which is #notgood. Of course, Tampa Bay isn't able to capitalize, but it is, at least, a spark of life.

Tampa Bay's blocking has looked a little sharper here in the second half, which has allowed them to have some semblance of a running game; they nearly doubled their total rush yards in the third quarter. All they have to show for it is a field goal, but it's still a one-score game going into the fourth quarter…

Andrew Potter: The punting in this game has been out of this world. 7-of-12 inside the 20, five (I think) inside the 10, and one each inside the 5.

Bryan Knowles: Mike Adams comes up with an interception for Carolina. That's Carolina's first interception since Week 1. Naturally, he fumbles, but Carolina falls on top of it, so no harm, no foul. It leads to the first deep success Newton has had all day long, hooking up with Kelvin Benjamin for a 25-yard touchdown. Andrew's right that you'd expect the big receivers on the outside to be doing more work in general, but there was no way the Bucs were stopping that lob. Benjamin just boxed out rookie Justin Evans, and it was an easy touchdown. With the way the Panthers' defense has been playing, that might be game at 17-3.

Andrew Potter: That touchdown was Benjamin being what Benjamin should be on every down: a huge target whom a smaller defensive back simply can't cover. Justin Evans played it the worst way possible, but he was never going to succeed when he was isolated in that situation. It was almost too easy. Evans was also juked out by Newton on his option keeper earlier in the drive.

Indianapolis Colts 23 at Cincinnati Bengals 24

Dave Bernreuther: Sloppy would be a polite way to describe this game so far. Seconds after the tipped FG in New England, the Bengals block a Sanchez punt, which they manage to convert to a field goal. After some typically woeful Colts offense and defense, the Bengals were in position to double their lead to an insurmountable 6-0 (it's the Colts, so I'm only being sort of sarcastic) when a third blocked kick in about ten minutes of real time gives the Colts new life (and a three and out). I believe it was Henry Anderson that blocked the kick, which is nice to see. He was extremely promising, especially for a Grigson pick, but derailed by injuries. It's not a stretch to call him the lone bright spot in that defense this year.

The Colts can't move the ball on offense, though, so it took more sloppiness to get them on the board, in the form of a muffed punt. And so we're looking at an ugly 3-3 game in which Andy Dalton is 4-10 against a Colts defense without a pass rush or an ability to cover anyone.

Also, the orange stripes on the 20s are too similar to the first down line on the broadcast, which has confused me at least four times so far.

Entering halftime: given a reprieve by a roughing-the-passer call after Jacoby Brissett was nearly decapitated, with 19 seconds left and a timeout, from the 22, the Colts throw a checkdown and then don't call timeout. There really aren't even words for how bad that effort was. It's 13-10 at the half, with the Bengals to start the second half with the ball.

How we got here was just as sloppy as before. In between penalties, Jacoby Brissett showed that he could look like a functional NFL quarterback if given time, firing a dart to Jack Doyle for a touchdown on a play where he had as much time in the pocket as Tom Brady has today. The Colts defense, confused by the fact that they were playing with a lead, promptly surrendered a third-and-long completion to Tyler Kroft where he settled in beyond the sticks without a defender anywhere on the screen; then a 67-yard gain to Joe Mixon on yet another totally uncontested screen pass; then Andy Dalton remembered he had A.J. Green on the field too and hit him for the tying score. In between, we've seen pretty much all we'd expect to see in a game with Marvin Lewis and Chuck Pagano.

Rob Weintraub: Bengals down six near midfield and follow with a glorious sequence:

  • Dalton chased from the pocket and runs out of bounds for 3-yard loss rather than throw it away.
  • Pass off Green's hands, another drop from him.
  • Sack. Oy.
  • But then a pick-six by Carlos Dunlap who bats the pass, catches it, and goes in! Only takeaway No. 5 for Cincy on the season.

Jack Doyle is killing the Bengals. Eleven catches on 13 targets, 113 yards unofficially. Colts just need a field goal to win.

But they don't -- for the first time all game the Bengals pass rush shows up. Sack by Carl Lawson on second down, then Chris Smith blasts Brissett on fourth down. Somehow, Cincy pulls one out against the dogass Colts.

By the way, the key to Cincy's win? While the Bengals were tossing away the lead and embarking upon a tragicomic attempt at offense, I was futilely trying to extricate a needle for blowing up basketballs from our bike pump. Drove me insane. As soon as I hurled it across the room, the Bengals came back to win, and voila! The needle came flying loose.

Once in a great while, Sunday frustration has a positive impact...

Also, with only a handful of games left, somehow the "perfect fantasy team" quarterback that Red Zone puts together is ... Andy Dalton? Truth is he wasn't awful, but the offensive line sure was.

Dave Bernreuther: Colts lose by a point. Wonder if anyone has any regrets about not even trying to score a touchdown at the end of the first half. Hope that extra timeout keeps you warm tonight, Chuck.

Chicago Bears 12 at New Orleans Saints 20

Vince Verhei: Zach Miller appears to catch a 25-yard touchdown on a corner route, but on instant replay it's reversed to an incomplete pass. Nobody seems to know why the call was reversed, and since calls are only supposed to be reversed on indisputable evidence, this seems like a terrible call. Worse, Miller suffered a gruesome dislocated knee on the play, and multiple replays to review the catch means multiple angles of Miller's leg flopping around in a way no leg should. Somehow, he held on to the ball through that, though the catch was taken away anyway. Feel terrible for him as an individual, and for the Bears, who just can't seem to keep their players healthy year in and year out.

Oh, Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair have left the game for Chicago too. I think that's five offensive starters out for Chicago now (including Kevin White, who has played only one game).

Rob Weintraub: Tough break for Zach Miller, who appears to make a tough touchdown catch. But he has his knee landed on in grotesque fashion, and gets helped off the field. Then upon review the touchdown is taken away for the usual reasons.

Dave Bernreuther: Plenty of confusing reviews happening here, as Chuck Pagano apparently won a challenge but didn't get possession and lost field position, and in New Orleans, Zach Miller destroyed his knee while catching a touchdown that was overturned for reasons known only to one person in the entire world.

This seems to fit:

Taking that touchdown away from him in what could very well be the last play of his career after such a gruesome injury just strikes me as incredibly mean. I'd love to hear the explanation for that one.

Rivers McCown: This game has mostly played to my expectations. Chicago's defense has been good-to-bothersome depending on the drive, with Akiem Hicks being a load up front. Mitchell Trubisky has been more off then on. He had a beautiful strike on his first throw downfield to Tre McBride, but at the conclusion of the drive pre-determined his read to Zach Miller in the end zone and Miller was jammed so badly that the throw wasn't close. Chicago has mostly buttoned up with the run when they've had the ball, at least until they were trailing by two touchdowns.

I enjoy when Chris Spielman is on the mic. He gets it.

As I finish typing this, this game gets stupid. Drew Brees launches a 54-yard rainbow to a double-covered Ted Ginn on a deep post that arced right over Eddie Jackson's shoulder (after a push-off) and into Ginn's mitts. The rejuvenation machine the Saints have found for Ginn, who has barely dropped anything this year, has been awesome. However, Mark Ingram, phenomenal all year, puts it on the deck for the second time in the fourth quarter, and the Bears now have the ball down five with the two-minute offense. Let's see what the kid does.

Rob Weintraub: Drew Brees the hero, but on defense? Up 17-12 and in field goal range, Mark Ingram is stripped as he fights for yards. As it's pulled free it looks like the Bears defender has the opportunity to scoop and go, but Drew is on the spot! He makes an immediate tackle. The Saints stop them on third- and fourth-and-short.

Not over yet though.

Rivers McCown: The Bears get to third-and-1, incomplete. Go for it on fourth-and-1, Trubisky feels pressure and steps up to throw to Kendall Wright. Wright is well-covered by Kenny Vaccaro, though, and the ball hits the turf harmlessly.

Sean Payton tells you what he thinks of Ingram by turning to Alvin Kamara for running out this clock. Because everybody knows fumbles are an incurable disease that strike in batches, as history has never been recorded up until this moment.

Rob Weintraub: Now it's over -- Trubisky lets loose a mistimed throw and it sails to Marshon Lattimore for the interception. Saints win 20-12.

Oakland Raiders 14 at Buffalo Bills 34

Scott Kacsmar: Glad to see Sean McDermott had his offense go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 1-yard line to start the fourth quarter. Tyrod Taylor did the quick quarterback sneak where the ball just has to break the plane and the play is over. He had the ball knocked back at him, but the play was already over for the score. Bills lead 27-7 and should win this one, dealing major damage to Oakland's playoff chances.

By the way, Amari Cooper just made his third catch of the game with 12 minutes left. He only has 26 yards today, but made sure he had that career game the day I put that article up. But the Oakland offense still has issues.

Atlanta Falcons 25 at New York Jets 20

Bryan Knowles: I almost picked the Jets to win this one. Almost. And it looked like they were going to be in prime position to do so! Down two points, the Jets forced a three-and-out from a sputtering Atlanta offense, and the Falcons were forced to punt. I should mention that the game is being played in heavy, heavy rain, which might explain Jeremy Kerley's awful, awful fumbled punt. Just a killer muff. The Jets manage to keep the Falcons out of the end zone, but now they need a touchdown and not just a field goal. Just a backbreaker.

The Jets may have just performed the worst game-ending comeback drive attempt I've ever seen. Absolutely no urgency, despite needing a touchdown with a minute left and no timeouts. Four short completions, all checkdowns, three of them ending in the field of play. The game ends on a botched spike that may have been a fumble, honestly, but it doesn't matter -- they weren't set properly, and the ten second runoff ends this one.

Houston Texans 38 at Seattle Seahawks 41

Rivers McCown: Will Fuller adds another pelt, burning Earl Thomas badly. Deshaun Watson responds with the bomb, early 7-0 lead for the Texans.

Bryan Knowles: But Deshaun Watson doesn't have the arm strength to be an NFL quarterback, right?

It was both Thomas and Shaquil Griffin in coverage on the Fuller touchdown; Griffin's starting at cornerback despite Jeremy Lane being active for the first time since Week 4 thanks to groin and finger injuries. We'll see what role, if any, he has on defense today; it's not nickel corner, where Justin Coleman is still playing.

Watson throws another touchdown on Houston's second drive; however, this one went to Earl Thomas. Thomas read the play the entire way, jumped an errant throw, and took it 70-plus yards to the house. So, call it even.

Vince Verhei: Five minutes in, we have already seen the full Deshaun Watson experience -- the deep ball touchdown to Fuller (Shaq Griffin and Earl Thomas in coverage), then a pick-six on a crossing pattern to DeAndre Hopkins. They've thrown at Hopkins twice so far, and Sherman has been all over him like a blanket on both plays. The first, Hopkins caught the ball for a first down anyway. This time, the Seahawks were using a rare (for them) two-deep safety formation, and Thomas broke on the ball and reeled it in for a pick-six. Lots of excitement here so far.

Rob Weintraub: Looked like more of a Shaq Griffin mistake, released too early and Thomas didn't know it was happening until it was too late. Either way, Thomas atones shortly afterward by jumping a telegraphed pass to Hopkins and gets a pick-six off Watson.

Scott Kacsmar: This is Pete Carroll's 65th home game with Seattle (including playoffs). It is only the third time the Seahawks have allowed 14 points in the first quarter at home, and the quickest they did so (6:08 left).

Aaron Schatz: "But Deshaun Watson doesn't have the arm strength to be an NFL quarterback, right?"

Who said this? Did people really say this? I honestly can't tell which retroactive mentions of scout-types dissing Watson are real and which ones are not. I've seen people writing that some scouts doubted his leadership ability, for crying out loud. How is that even possible?

Vince Verhei: This game is nucking futs. Texans have moved the ball with ease and were only stopped by the pick-six. They go up 14-0 on a drive where the biggest play was a pass interference on Jeremy Lane, showing why he was benched. On the next drive, Russell Wilson is hit while throwing, and his third-down pass falls incomplete. Blair Walsh comes out to try a long field goal, but Seahawks challenge the call, saying actually Jadeveon Clowney knocked the ball out of Wilson's hands. Yes, they challenged to get an incompletion by their own quarterback changed to a fumble. And they win -- which means it's a fumble recovery by Luke Willson for a first down. Two plays later Wilson scrambles and finds Paul Richardson for a 20-yard touchdown to tie the game. And the first quarter isn't even over yet.

Very concerning how Houston's offensive line has dominated things so far though. Watson hasn't had to scramble or break tackles much, he has mostly had a very clean pocket.

Bryan Knowles: They did attack Watson's arm! He had the lowest ball velocity at the combine, which raised all sort of questions, and a lot of retroactive looking back at his college film and pointing out balls he didn't quite get enough oomph on.

"Over 55 mph doesn't guarantee success, but under it pretty much guarantees failure," said Benjamin Allbright. That's what we're seeing for Houston today: guaranteed failure.

Derrik Klassen: When concerns about Watson's velocity came up after the NFL Combine, nobody stopped to ask themselves if it actually ever hurt him in game. Many just jumped to the threshold, like Bryan said. That threshold does have a stunning hit rate, but Watson's arm was never an issue on film. He hit every throw imaginable.

At the time, I asked, "If he threw under 55 MPH before his final season, then played as well as he did, would anyone care?" -- and I must say, I don't think anyone would have. The order of things in the scouting process can be arbitrary and lead to wonky conclusions like those about Watson's arm.

Vince Verhei: Texans have a fourth-and-1 at the Seattle 48. They go for it, and Lamar Miller converts with a run up the gut. Texans make it pay off on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Fuller, which I'm pretty sure is the first touchdown Sherman has allowed all year. The play included a fake read option, then a fake overhand pitch to the left, and finally the pass to Fuller, who cut inside at the line of scrimmage and then back to the sideline in the end zone. Fuller now has seven touchdowns in 11 catches this season. With all these playmakers and all this creative scheming, the Texans are going to be lots of fun in Madden next year. Houston now up 21-14.

Bryan Knowles: I wonder what odds you could have gotten on Paul Richardson leading the Seahawks in touchdown receptions before the season started. He just caught his second of the day -- which is as many as he had in his first three seasons combined.

It's a good thing Seattle's passing offense is working, because they are getting zip on the ground. They're running at Jadeveon Clowney and that's ... I mean, no. Don't do that.

According to Red Zone, this is the first game this season where both teams have scored at least 21 points in the first half. Patriots-Texans was 21-20, but that's as close as we've gotten. Offense! It's fun!

Vince Verhei: Seattle can't run against Houston, at all. Currently at seven carries for 2 yards. For some reason they keep running at Jadeveon Clowney, even though no tackle, tight end, or fullback on the roster can block him, and all have tried. Houston's pass coverage, however, is best summarized by this photo:

That's the immortal duo of Tanner McEvoy and Amara Darboh both getting wide open deep downfield. It turned into a 53-yard gain for McEvoy, his first catch of the year. Wilson hit Richardson for a game-tying touchdown shortly thereafter. McEvoy then forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff (Houston recovered) and nearly blocked the following punt. Big quarter for him.

Rivers McCown: This is a fun game. The referees seem utterly clueless and jumpy to call anything they can, and Rich Gannon asked them to hold his beer by sounding, at times, like he's barely understood what he was watching.

Seattle being in a neutral game script actually might be a good thing for Houston if it means Eddie Lacy keeps getting carries.

Vince Verhei: 21-all at halftime. It has been 12 years since the last time Seattle played a game where both teams had 20-plus points at halftime. So no, this is not typical. It's just all big plays both ways -- mostly chunk plays and big gains, but the defenses have lots of hits in the backfields and third-down stops, and of course Seattle has the big defensive score.

Teams trade field goals in the third quarter. Houston's big play was Watson scrambling for a first down on third-and-14, directing his blockers on the fly and taking a big hit at the marker. Then Seattle comes out using some I-formation, and Houston loses all track of fullback Tre Madden up the middle of the field. Wilson finds him for a 66-yard catch-and-run, their longest play of the season. They go away from the I-formation in the red zone though, and on third-and-1 Wilson misses a wide-open Thomas Rawls in the end zone. Bad throw by Wilson that made the catch way too hard, and bad hands by Rawls on what was still a catchable ball. 24-all.

Watson makes another mistake. Under pressure, he throws ahead of tight end Stephen Anderson, and Sherman snags the ball for his first interception of the year. That leads to a first-and-goal at the 4, but Rees Odhiambo is hopeless against Clowney, who stuffs Rawls for a 5-yard loss, and eventually the Seahawks add a field goal to go up 27-24. We're at the end of the third quarter now, and the Seahawks have gained more yards when Russell Wilson is sacked (net gain of 5 yards on two plays, including the fumble recovery) then on running plays (net gain of 2 yards on 15 carries, including one kneeldown).

Seahawks punt after Wilson is called for a false start, because not enough nutty stuff has happened in this game. Watson and the Texans then starts picking on Griffin, as Hopkins beats him on a fade route for 34 yards, and then the fake-read fake-pitch play that led to a touchdown earlier gets another big play, as Fuller gains 36 yards down to the two. On second-and-goal, Dwight Freeney (who is having a good day just a few days after being signed) hits Watson and spins him around, but Watson maintains his composure and focus and hits Lamar Miller to put Houston up 31-27. The balls on this Watson kid are something else, man.

Charles McDonald: God bless Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson. Feels like they're both making Herculean plays on every single drive. Watching them create big plays out of nothing has been remarkable.

Scott Kacsmar: It's a shame these teams won't meet again until 2021 (in the regular season at least). Wilson's also doing this today with a running game that's produced 17 carries for 3 yards.

Vince Verhei: My god this game. Seahawks now have negative rushing yards and still took a 34-31 lead. Go-ahead drive included Wilson-to-Tyler Lockett on a deep bomb off play-action; a third-down conversion by Paul Richardson where he was tackled before the catch and still managed a reception while sliding to his ass; a Wilson touchdown pass through an impossibly small window to Richardson, one of the great throws of his career, which technically never happened because Rawls was called for a chop block (between penalties, rushing, and receiving yards, Rawls has now contributed -16 yards); a second-and-22 conversion on a DPI foul by Kareem Jackson on Doug Balwin; and finally a touchdown to Jimmy Graham. Watson now has five-plus minutes and two timeouts to show what he can do.

And on the very next play, Texans run a wide receiver screen to Hopkins and get a couple of blocks, and next thing you know it's a 72-yard go-ahead touchdown. PAT puts them back on top 38-34.

Bryan Knowles: Can they just play eight quarters? Can this game never, ever end? This has been the best game of the year so far; it's amazing from start to finish.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks are driving again and it feels like they might score too quickly, but then Wilson throws a terrible interception where it appeared Markus Williams was running the route and Richardson was on defense.

Texans then have a third-and-four inside the two-minute warning. First down wins the game ... and they take the ball out of Watson's hands and run it up the gut instead. Are you kidding me? What a gutless, gutless call. So Houston punts, and Seattle has no timeouts, but more than a minute to go 80 yards for the winning touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: This freaking game.

Seattle drives down the field with a couple bombs down the middle. Who needs to work the sideline when you can eat up 40-yard chunks? They take a three-point lead, and they still may have scored too quickly -- 21 seconds left, and Houston has two timeouts left. Don't touch that dial.

Rob Weintraub: The "these protests are driving people away from football " bowl turned into the most thrilling game of the year.

Scott Kacsmar: With Seattle having one timeout left, Houston absolutely had to put the ball in Watson's hands to win the game on third down. That's leaving Wilson way too much time to answer, and the end result wasn't too surprising. Can't give a great player multiple chances. They already did this in New England against Brady this year, and this is deja vu. We'll probably be talking about how Deshaun Watson could have won MVP as a rookie if his defense could just get one more stop on the road against the two teams most of us picked for the Super Bowl this year.

Vince Verhei: Not counting penalties, kicks, and kneeldowns, last five plays of that game:

  • Wilson to Richardson for 48.
  • Wilson to Lockett for 19.
  • Wilson to Graham for 18-yard go-ahead touchdown.
  • Clark sacks Watson for loss of 10.
  • Sherman intercepts Watson prayer to seal win.

What a monster, monster game. Seattle needed that to catch the Rams for first place in the division. Houston needed a win to catch Tennessee and Jacksonville; instead they're a game back but pretty clearly the scariest of the three. I mean, Watson, man. That young man has no fear and a short memory. So many different ways to beat you, and he'll make mistakes that would kill the confidence of most players (most humans, really) and come back and beat you anyway. He looks insanely great.

Bryan Knowles: You have to think Houston's defense was pretty shot at the end of the game, and Seattle's play calling capitalized. The game-winning touchdown was just four verts; stretching that secondary down the field. Nothing too fancy, but Houston just seemed out of sorts. Graham just headed up the middle of the field and had no defenders between him and the end zone. Simple stuff, and that hurts; Watson did so much to put the Texans into a winning situation in one of the toughest places to play in the league, and the defense just opens up a huge hole in the zone for Graham to score.

What a game. More of those, please.

Rob Weintraub: Maybe we should have listened when Dabo Swinney compared Deshaun to Michael Jordan...

Vince Verhei: Scott makes a great point about Watson, O'Brien, and short yardage. Houston had a second-and-3 with the lead against New England, where a first down would have won the game. They handed off twice and kicked on fourth-and-1. Today, they had a third-and-4 needing a first down to win the game; they handed off, then punted. Watson should have gotten the ball on third down both games, and they really should have gone for it on fourth down in both games. With more aggressive play, they likely get at least one, maybe two more wins, in a division that's just sitting there waiting for somebody to take hold.

Rivers McCown: I guess the positive side of that is that at least nobody has run away with the division yet. I dunno, O'Brien made go-for-it-on-fourth calls in both those games that turned out alright. He's also revamped an entire offense from being terrible to terrific this year, so maybe I'm inclined to cut him a little slack. My main two negatives in this game were as follows:

1) On Seattle's touchdown throw to take the lead at the end of the game, with the defense looking completely out of sorts and pass-rushing with the heart of someone chasing a ball thrown behind them by a clumsy friend, NOBODY thought it was a good idea to call a timeout? That's compounding the initial error in my point of view. You had to know the defense wasn't game based on all the evidence of the last two quarters.

2) Houston's most explosive running back this year has been D'Onta Foreman. The Texans responded by immediately ditching him and letting Alfred Blue carry the ball five times in a game where one more explosive run could have won it.

Trying to temper my own enthusiasm on Watson has been an interesting exercise as a fan of a team who has never had a quarterback better than Matt Schaub. Remember Robert Griffin's rookie year? Me too, man. But hey, the Texans are really fun to watch. Nobody would have predicted that with a straight face in July when they were talking up Tom Savage.

Rob Weintraub: Further to Vince's point about Watson's short memory, he's also incredibly tough. Alabama pummeled him throughout both title games, especially last year, but there he was, making big plays at the end.

I of course remember his first game, against Cincy -- he scored the game's lone touchdown on a scramble from midfield. What is forgotten is that one or two plays earlier he was knocked into next week by Geno Atkins. People were still making the GIFs on how Watson was dead when he weaved his way through the Bengals defense for six.

He's flawed like all rooks but already you never feel safe playing against him.

Carl Yedor: The only thing I'll add on Houston-Seattle is that it looked like Earl Thomas came up injured on the long Hopkins touchdown. Seemed like he was grabbing his hamstring, and Bradley McDougald replaced Thomas on the remaining two drives for Seattle. We all know how poorly Seattle played on defense in Thomas's absence last season, and they brought in McDougald for depth in part to prevent another Steven Terrell situation should Thomas get hurt again. Early reports are that the hamstring strain is minor (Thomas wanted to go back on the field after the injury, but this is a guy who played a Super Bowl two weeks after dislocating his shoulder so who knows), which is encouraging for Seattle. However, the Seahawks play on Thursday night in Week 10, so Thomas could be missing multiple games with the injury.

Dallas Cowboys 33 at Washington Redskins 19

Aaron Schatz: Dallas moved up the field super easy on their second drive of the game, but since then Washington has been the better team today. For the first quarter, the Washington replacement offensive linemen were actually doing a reasonable job of giving Kirk Cousins time, and clearing holes for the running game. The last couple of drives, they've crumpled a bit. A sack on Cousins gave Washington fourth-and-10 on the 18 ... and the field goal was blocked by Tyrone Crawford. Orlando Scandrick weaved his way through a couple guys, got a couple blocks, and ended up returning it down to the 4. Ezekiel Elliott's second touchdown quickly followed. That's one of those non-predictive plays, a little bit of skill and a little bit of fluke that won't matter in forecasting the rest of the season but sure as hell matters for Dallas today, because the Cowboys are up now 14-13 despite being outplayed in the first half.

The Cowboys just went up 20-13 after they lost an Elliott touchdown to Tyron Smith's second holding penalty of the day. The FOX broadcast shows Dez Bryant on the sideline after the penalty holding up two fingers, and they suggest he's pointing out that he has only two targets today. Which you think at first is Josh Norman playing well ... except whenever I've noticed coverage, it seems Washington is using Josh Norman on Terrence Williams, not Bryant. Bryant is being mostly shut down by Quinton Dunbar.

Washington walking a fine line on its comeback attempt, down 26-13 with 5:30 left. First, Kirk Cousins threw a negative-ALEX pass to a covered Chris Thompson on fourth-and-5 and got away with it when Thompson broke the tackle and got the first down. Next pass, Cousins threw a would-be interception to Taco Charlton but Charlton couldn't quite hold onto it as he dove to the ground. A couple plays later, the Cowboys almost get another pick, another diving attempt, this time by linebacker Jaylon Smith. After review, looks like he didn't hold onto it either, so Washington is still alive on this drive.

By the way, Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor each have one target with no catches today. Both seem to be behind Ryan Grant on the depth chart. So much for that awesome new Washington receiving corps this year.

Heh. So much for my Doctson comment. Washington finally threw to him two more times on that comeback drive. The first was a long 22-yard DPI call on Anthony Brown of the Cowboys, the second was a 1-yard touchdown throw. So they're still getting some use out of Doctson. Pryor, not so much. 26-19 Washington after the new kicker, Nick Rose, misses the extra point in the rain.

Oh, and Washington just lost T.J. Clemmings to a left leg injury on that pass. That's the backup left tackle with Trent Williams not playing today, who was horrible in Minnesota last year (but just run-of-the-mill mediocre today for Washington) and that puts them on the third-string left tackle for the last few minutes of this game. I feel like I may have taken a bullet for the rest of the FO staff by watching this game instead of Seattle-Houston.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 at Detroit Lions 15

Charles McDonald: Who cosigned these all blue smurf jerseys for Detroit? They're a disgrace. On the flip side, maybe the Lions are trying to distract the Steelers with them. Certainly worked on that dropped touchdown to Eli Rogers. Ran a beautiful corner route to the pylon and dropped the pass. It was a little far, but certainly catchable.

Vince Verhei: I actually don't hate these Lions unis as much as I expected to.

Bryan Knowles: They need to break them up; the blue pants combo does not work. It's reportedly the first time ever the Lions have been in monoblue; hopefully, it will be the last.

On the field, the boys in blue kick another field goal for a 6-3 lead. A bit of a letdown after that afternoon session. The Lions are shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. False starts killed their first drive, and holding killed that last one. I have to feel that field goals aren't going to be enough to win tonight.

(NARRATOR'S VOICE: They were not.)

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers have completions of 32, 40, and 41 yards, but only 10 points at halftime. Lions have been limited to four field goals. Eli Rogers and Darren Fells each cost their team four points by not coming away with a ball in the end zone. Both offenses moving the ball too well to not have more points than this at halftime. Turnovers were a big problem for the Steelers with another Ben Roethlisberger interception and a rare fumble by Le'Veon Bell when it looked like they would score before the half. Detroit is 0-for-6 on third down. Should be a pretty competitive second half, but the next turnover should be a huge swing for the team that goes on to win.

Aaron Schatz: The Steelers certainly don't feel like the team that's No. 2 in pass defense DVOA and No. 3 in adjusted sack rate. Only one sack so far through 37 minutes. On the other hand, there have been drops or passes that just missed guys. Stafford just converted Detroit's first third down of the night on a scramble.

Rob Weintraub: Detroit blew it. Washington scored on first-and-goal when he bounced off the defender. No challenge, and they go on to get sacked on fourth-and-goal, naturally. And any shot for the Lions goes by the wayside.

Aaron Schatz: That seems awfully aggressive, writing off of the Lions in a game where Pittsburgh is currently winning by one point and the Lions have home-field advantage.

I do agree with the decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal with 4:30 left in the third quarter. We'll see what happens here but they need to take advantage of the fact that failing still left Pittsburgh pinned at its own 2.

Oh, never mind. The Lions just totally blew it when JuJu Smith-Schuster blew past Quandre Diggs with a little double move and somehow ... there was nobody else from the Lions behind them or able to catch up to them. That whole thing about going for it on fourth-and-goal doesn't work when you pin the other team back and then they throw a 97-yard touchdown.

Rob Weintraub: Gotta trust me on these things, Aaron. I'm an expert on teams blowing games to Pittsburgh.

Bryan Knowles: Make that Pittsburgh winning by eight -- JuJu Smith-Schuster has some wheels when he wants to. 97-yard touchdowns are probably not what you're hoping for when you fail on a fourth-and-goal.

Scott Kacsmar: I think Detroit needed to go for it too. Another field goal would have been frustrating, even if it would have given them a small lead. But now they'll feel really bad after a 97-yard touchdown pass to JuJu right down the seam. It was nice knowing you, Martavis Bryant. The Steelers have been close to explosive plays like that a lot this year, but finally connected on one. Oh yeah, it's also the longest completion of Roethlisberger's career.

Aaron Schatz: Then the Lions make it down the field ... and get fourth-and-goal from the 1 again. This time they kick the field goal. Which makes no sense logically. If you were going to go for a touchdown down 1, you should go for the touchdown down 8. But you know, recency bias is a hell of a drug.

Yeah, we found the Steelers pass defense, too. That last Detroit drive, the fourth-and-7 ... they had everyone covered, some of them with two defenders, and they got pressure with just three pass-rushers.

Dave Bernreuther: It gets old making the same jokes year after year about Jim Caldwell. And I don't mean the statue ones ... the guy just loves him some field goals. He was this way in Indianapolis, he was this way when Detroit hired him and he tried to beat the Patriots by trading field goals for touchdowns (and long, unreliable, outdoors ones at that), and he has been that way even more lately now that Matt Prater has been so good, even from 50-plus.

So color me pleasantly surprised when he went for the touchdown the first time around. Results trump process, though, so the next time through, he kicked again. Taking them from needing a touchdown to ... needing a touchdown. Sigh. (Alternate joke: Hey, now you're only trailing by two field goals! And sadly that's not the first time we've made that joke about Caldwell's Lions.)

Another thing that reminded me of his Colts teams was the first-down conversion following that field goal, which Collinsworth properly mocked, by lining up way off the line and backpedaling, giving up an easy uncontested catch.

I really want to like Jim Caldwell. He's a good guy. He showed a willingness to learn in the past. He even paid his own money to a group of Harvard kids for a fourth-down model back in 2011, giving fans like us hope that he'd get aggressive on fourth downs (only to then see his quarterback disappear and be stuck with the Collins/Painter season) ... but man, it's hard not to watch his teams and think of him as anything other than an emergency brake that's stuck on, slowing the team down.

And at the 2:00 warning, third-and-5 from the 6 ... they lose yards on a draw. In a five-point game, this is a no-brainer, making that play call pretty awful. With Caldwell, though, even with a free timeout to think about it, we have to wonder, because it'd shock precisely nobody if he kicked.

He doesn't, though. I wonder if now, on fourth-and-7, as Stafford heaves a ball without a prayer under pressure from a three-man rush, Caldwell wishes he had tried for the seven instead of three that last time.

The Lions are 0-for-5 in the red zone tonight.

Oh no ... Collinsworth just pointed out the other alternate reality/what if argument: if they had taken the chip shot from the 1 the first time, they could have kicked there. Which is what most people will talk about after the game. Which is probably what Jim Caldwell is thinking right now.

Because yes, we should all assume that kicking a field goal to go up 21-20 with two minutes to play is safe.

Tom Gower: Coming into tonight, the Lions, though they ranked 32nd in adjusted line yards, were actually sixth in power situations on offense, while the Steelers defense ranked 29th. That was absolutely not what happened tonight, but rather what you'd think might happen based on the overall quality of each team's line.

Given how the game was progressing, I would not have hated a field goal attempt to take the 15-13 lead nearly as much as I would have normally hated a fourth-and-goal-from-the-2 field goal attempt.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 30 Oct 2017

90 comments, Last at 01 Nov 2017, 1:31am by Willsy

Comments

1
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 10:43am

Seahawks/Texans was obviously a testament to the inefficiency of college qb evaluation, and I'll never understand how either guy fell as far as they did, Wilson obviously moreso than Watson. Maybe Watson tanked his velocity measurement to avoid being drafted by the Browns, and I'm only half kidding. To reflect on the insanity of the process, consider that Watson was drafted in about the same spot as The Ponderous One.

11
by big10freak :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:41am

The word around Madison at the time is that scouts didn't like Wilson's girlfriend. She was considered too 'involved and pushy'.

I have no idea as to the veracity of the above.

13
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:45am

If true, the NFL is genuinely staffed by idiots.

44
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:37pm

I realize I'm being the devil's advocate here, and I don't completely agree with this position (I felt Watson was a decent prospect deserving of being drafted mid first round to second round), but PFF had Watson as the 2nd worst starting quarterback going into this week according to their grades. They claim he has thrown a lot of dangerous passes and not paid for it much yet. Watson also went to the perfect team for him: tall first round receivers with big catch radiuses, and able to turn jump balls into touchdowns, a defense strong enough that he doesn't get stuck behind too much. The Texans' current major flaw (bad offensive line) would be a problem for many other young quarterbacks, but Watson's scrambling ability erases that issue.

Wilson went in the third round only because of his height. One draft magazine claimed he would have been taken third in the 2012 draft if he was 6-3 or taller. I watched only a part of the Seahawks game but watching Wilson play quarterback is a joy, and gave me a new perspective on the prospects for next year's draft.

Honestly, when I think of guys getting drafted too early, I think of Mark Sanchez and Jake Locker. Sanchez came out too early, and most quarterbacks who come out that early fail (Cam Newton is the exception). Jake Locker is a case of scouts being enthralled with physical characteristics and not paying attention to stats like completion percentage. This may happen again in the case of Josh Allen, if he comes out early. Allen can run, and throw harder than anyone else. Watching him play you also discover he has no idea how to play quarterback. Really worried the Jets will draft him.

54
by Yu Narukami :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:07pm

(only partially related)

PFF does a great job of tracking every player, every play, yaddayaddayadda, BUUUUUUUT I see two fatal flaws that keeps me from paying to much attention to them:

- No opponent adjustments.
- No knowledge of what is the coaching's call, making individual grades totally bogus.

58
by PatsFan :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:24pm

- Owned by Chris Collingsworth

59
by Perfundle :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:26pm

To be fair, they admitted that that ranking is heavily skewed by his first game, and that he's graded around the league average since then. Now, I hadn't seen him play before Sunday, but what I saw was someone who was incredibly accurate at all distances and threw with anticipation; that pass to Hopkins with Sherman draped all over him was a thing of beauty. If Brown's return improves the OP to serviceable, I don't see why Watson can't maintain that level of production from here on out.

74
by bubqr :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 5:01pm

I think that given his inaccuracy at the college level, it's crazy to see him have that kind of impact in the NFL so early in his career.
I'm still cautious, as given the short sample, and how much the Texans offense is geared towards his set of skill (they have at least 5 or 6 variants of their RB dive/QB option with WR/RB play for example) + history of success of similar players early in their starting career (RGIII mainly, Kaep/V.Young to some extent): I won't crown him as the next big thing yet.

76
by scraps :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 6:55pm

RGIII was seriously injured, and was never the same. Bothers me that most people think he was a phantom.

84
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 10/31/2017 - 10:35am

It's really sad that there wasn't an adult in the room to tell Shanahan 'No' when RG3 was clearly hurt and he thought it was a good idea to turn his knee into pudding. That's probably one of the costs of short term coaches.

4
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 10:55am

The Lions offense last night was testament to the value of having an o-line that can slug it out on the goal line. 8 guys in coverage, with only 15 yards of depth to handle, makes for a crowded space.

I had to chuckle at the ref's facial expression when the Steelers did their bench press td celebration. I swear he rolled his eyes, and if there had been a thought balloon above his head, it woulda' read "Somebody needs to tell these schmucks that none of us are gettin' paid by the hour".

15
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:55am

If the Lions had the type of offensive line that could convert a 3rd and 1, they would probably have at least two additional wins. Right now, running attempts are wasting a down for them.

17
by big10freak :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:00pm

This ties to the lack of decent linemen throughout the league. Power blocking requires not just strength but the ability to create leverage via good technique. This whole 'lean' on a guy won't cut it.

79
by jonsilver :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 8:12pm

+1 (and +1)

Jon Silverberg

2
by dmb :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 10:48am

"Oh, and Washington just lost T.J. Clemmings to a left leg injury on that pass. That's the backup left tackle with Trent Williams not playing today, who was horrible in Minnesota last year (but just run-of-the-mill mediocre today for Washington) and that puts them on the third-string left tackle for the last few minutes of this game."

Technically Clemmings was Washington's 3rd-string tackle; their regular backup, Ty Nsekhe (who has been solid at both LT and RT in limited action in previous years) has been inactive for the past several games due to injury.

Per ESPN's John Kiem:
"By game's end, the Redskins' offensive line included a rookie undrafted free agent taking snaps at left tackle for the first time as a pro (Tyler Catalina), a left guard signed Saturday (Arie Kouandjio), a rookie [backup] center (Chase Roullier) and a right guard who was signed earlier in the week (Tony Bergstrom)."

3
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 10:51am

liked the detorit liosn blue pants with blue jerseys look.

did not like Texans 3rd down call to hand fof to running back. as soon as saw handoff, knew seattle would come back to win.

6
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 10:59am

Some minor credit to O'Brien today, for admitting he made some terrible calls.

5
by nat :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 10:57am

It's kind of amazing how many dumb, head-scratching things happen to the Chargers. It was like this game needed its own Chargers BINGO card.

The Travis Benjamin muffed punt safety.
Boneheaded play. But it was a safety because the coverage team got to him much quicker than he expected. Against most teams he either turns the corner to gain a bunch of yardage or at worst drives forward to the 2 or 3 before getting tackled.

Philip Rivers having the ball slip out of his hands for a self-sack to set up third-and-31.
Rivers was under extreme pressure that play. The fumble lost extra yardage. But a sack was almost certainly coming.

Tyrell Williams stepping out of bounds and losing a touchdown catch to an illegal touching penalty.
Williams was boxed out by good coverage. Had he not stepped out to run around the defender, this would have been an incomplete pass: the same "penalty" that he got. The penalty was heartbreaking for people rooting against the Patriots. But meaningless otherwise.

Joey Bosa jumping offsides on third-and-5. It didn't give the Pats a first down because it was more like third-and-5.5, and it will be listed in the PBP as a 4-yard penalty, but it set up an easy Brady sneak for the first down while the Patriots were on their last drive to try to either ice the game or set up an 8-point lead.
Shit happens, especially if you are too aggressive timing the snap against a veteran QB. Third and 5.5 was quite make-able anyway.

Travis Benjamin starting the comeback drive with 1:02 left with a nice catch for about 12 yards, then wasting like eight seconds trying to get more yardage (and getting an extra couple) but not getting out of bounds.
Yup. Dumbass move. It cost them a few seconds and gained them a few yards. Hardly a huge mistake.

Fourth-and-2 with 14 seconds left, instead of throwing a pass on the outside, they threw the ball in the middle of the field. They did manage to spike the ball with one second left for one more play, but an outside pass probably sets up two shots at the end zone instead of one.
The key here is that it was a fourth down. It was essential to get a completion for a first down. Getting out of bounds was a "nice to have", while getting yardage to make a final TD attempt shorter was also important. The most important thing here was to get the first down and not let the clock run out. They did that well.

If you're hanging your "Patriots didn't win, the Chargers lost" hat on these plays, then you're making a pretty weak case. The safety was a boner for sure. The rest is the kind of minor "coulda done slightly better" nitpicking that seldom means much.

22
by Yu Narukami :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:11pm

"Travis Benjamin starting the comeback drive with 1:02 left with a nice catch for about 12 yards, then wasting like eight seconds trying to get more yardage (and getting an extra couple) but not getting out of bounds.
Yup. Dumbass move. It cost them a few seconds and gained them a few yards. Hardly a huge mistake."

That was exactly the kind of situational football where Pats excel, while many of the other teams are terrible at.

I am kind of sure no Pats' receivers would have made that (minor, but incrementally important in that crucial situation) mistake, without incurring in a cut the day after.

27
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:28pm

It was a weird game overall. The final score seemed reasonably appropriate; SD brain farted a few opportunities away, but their lone second half score was entirely due to dubious officiating. The long DPI was questionable and the LT literally tackled Flowers on the TD pass without a flag. The long run as well would have been a 3 yard loss if just one of three guys covered the gap instead of staying too far inside. Then there was the second half opener where a return to the 25 was followed by repeated self-inflicted errors ending with a missed FG. Just C- efficiency there and the game is effectively over 33 minutes in.

So SD missed some opportunities, but they caught some breaks as well that balanced those off.

The game that was really odd was between Pitt and Detroit. If that game were played 10 times with the same general flow of action, Detroit wins 8 times with half of those in a blowout. I feel bad for Detroit fans as I suspect they've seen that type of game play out many times before.

31
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:38pm

"I feel bad for Detroit fans as I suspect they've seen that type of game play out many times before."

We have, but at least in clumps of years when the Lions have been competitive (so basically excluding the Matt Millen years), these losses have tended to be balanced out by them pulling out games they had no business winning.

I see yesterday's game as paying the debt for the week 5 win against the Eagles last year (where the Eagles completely dominated the second half, but kept settling for field goals, and lost 24-23 due to a fumble as they were trying to run out the clock).

42
by hscer :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:30pm

To complement your last sentence:

Detroit last night had the third most yards in the PFR play index for a team that didn't score a touchdown. And the 2012 team has the most yards in the play index for a team that scored only one touchdown. [This may exclude teams with 0-1 offensive TD's who also had D/ST touchdowns.]

0 TD: https://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny.fcgi?id=oBIFf
1 TD: https://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny.fcgi?id=tdoBY

34
by Kulko :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:39pm

Fully agreed, The punt was very bad, and all of the other things combined where bad plays but blown up above importance.

Even if they would have played the last drive perfect, they would have had 2 or 3 long shots at the end zone and needed a 2 pt. Conversion only to get up to 50 % WP Again.

After the Pats TD to draw the game and before the last drive I never felt like this game would not end in a Pats W, even considering how needlessly hard they made it on themselves.

I very much doubt, that Ghost is going forward averaging 2 misses per game and Gronk having 4 drops a game. But still they were comfortably ahead of most of the game until the prevent defense allowed the Chargers to get within 8 for one last hurray.

Win Probability chart also seems to agree with showing a slow but inevitable decline and even that last TD not getting things above 25% for the chargers. Unless you believe the chargers to be a bottom Dweller, this was a solid win over an average team, which should definitely fit with the description of NE as team situated 5 and 10 and very likely headed for the playoffs.

38
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:49pm

One other thing that seemed to go unnoticed: on Gronk's key catch on NE's final drive, SD was called for holding. What would otherwise be an uneventful declined penalty was surprisingly impacting since it stopped the clock with ~3:48 remaining. Without that stoppage, NE runs off 40 extra seconds prior to the next play, and SD gets the ball back with ~25 seconds instead of a little over a minute.

I find it amusing that SD's own infraction granted them a defacto 4th TO. Yet another hidden break for SD that evened out the stuff that didn't go their way.

48
by nat :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:45pm

If the game clock is stopped after a down in which there was a foul by either team, following enforcement or declination of a penalty, the game clock will start as if the foul had not occurred, except that the clock will start on the snap if:
(1) the foul occurs after the two-minute warning of the first half;
(2) the foul occurs inside the last five minutes of the second half; or
(3) a specific rule prescribes otherwise.

So, yes, you can benefit from a foul committed by your defense.

Seems like a rule that could use a slight tweak to be better. (e.g. require the penalty to be accepted to keep the clock stopped) But I haven't thought out the nuances for this situation.

56
by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:10pm

I don't think this is that big a deal though. You can gain an advantage vis-a-vis the situation *after* the play occurred (like the Chargers did). But I don't see how you can gain advantage vis-a-vis the situation *before* the play occurs, so there is virtually no incentive to commit a premeditated penalty, which is why I'm okay with it.

In order to intentionally use this rule to his team's benefit, a defensive player would basically have to suss out the various scenarios as a play is happening and then make the determination on the fly that a penalty would help his team and then commit such a penalty. I think it's basically not going to happen on purpose, so it doesn't bother me much.

68
by nat :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 3:39pm

I agree.

I do wonder if you couldn't just plan to grab the nearest face mask if the offense has already gained a first down. That trades 15 yards for a clock stoppage. It would be easy to figure out before the play.

The fix is to have the team that has been fouled decide whether the clock starts at ready-for-play or the snap for these plays.

As you say, not a big deal.

72
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 4:32pm

I know, I wasn't complaining or saying it was a bad call, just pointing out something with hidden importance that I hadn't seen any comment on.

73
by nat :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 4:38pm

I didn't think you were complaining.

I did notice the same thing during the game. "Why the heck isn't the clock moving?" I asked my TV at the time. It was only today that I looked up the relevant rule. It turns out (surprise!) refs get this kind of thing right most of the time.

39
by sbond101 :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:54pm

It's starting to seem like NFL writers well writing about the Pats totally forget about all the dumb things that happen in every other game played in the NFL each week, and then beat up on the Pats for staying on the right side of the "most NFL games are lost by stupidity rather than won by great plays" mantra (in a very similar way so many seemed shocked last week When the John Fox Bears won by not turning the ball over and allowing the Panthers to implode). The Pat's (one rushing play aside) played really well on defense this week, and played one of the better kick-coverage games I ever remember seeing, and didn't turn the ball over (they also played about average on offense, but lost some high leverage battles in field goal range and missed some kicks). Playing that kind of football usually results in wins (though they will need to play better find there way through the playoffs).

(unlike the way they played the first 4 games, with all the totally blown coverages and gaudy comeback-offense numbers to make it look like they played less bad; that kind of football usually results in losing over time).

70
by theslothook :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 4:22pm

To defend it a little, you have to consider what its like from an opposing fans viewpoint. Disclaimer - none of this is trying to write away the Patriots accomplishments - you don't win 5 sbs with a chance at 7 without being transcendent. And every dynasty has both, good fortune and transcendency.

Part of whats built into the Pats success has seemed to be a series of unfortunate events for the other team. It started with the tuck rule - but it goes further. The rams going into a soft zone on the final drive. James Kasey kicking the ball out of bounds on the final drive of that sb. The Marlon McCree fumble int. Throwing the ball on the 1 yard line. Blowing a 28-3 lead. etc etc.

Sure, its cherry picking events but theres more to the story. I remember in the audibles in 2008 - one of FO's writers opining about the Texans meltdown vs the Colts when the game was in hand. He didn't exclaim how lucky the colts were(they were), but just how unhinged the Texans got when they had their perpetual bully on the ropes and just couldn't execute down the stretch.

I think a similar thing happens to opponents of NE. Its the vaunted Patriots and to beat them, you clearly need to out special them to do it. Even when you have them on the ropes, you can't outthink yourself.

The steelers seem be the prime example. They can and do beat every other team but completely meltdown in every way vs New England.

Give credit to NE. They never seem to fall into this trap. Down 28-3 in the sb, how many other teams hit the panic button and totally switch gears in how they play? How many other teams meltdown in that situation? But they don't.

So when another team has a deluge of dumb mistakes - yes its just football - but its something everyone remembers because it comes on a mountain of other similar mistakes littered on the battlefield of fallen opponents. Give credit to Ne - they force those kinds of mistakes wittingly and unwittingly.

77
by sbond101 :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 7:46pm

I think that's a pretty cogent account for the issue, and it's true beyond doubt that the Pat's have buried a lot of teams that have melted own in the last 16+ years (that's a key part to winning 74% of your games since coming to the Pats). My point is that most other teams that have won consistently also win through applying pressure until an opponents implode; the Pats have just done it for so long that it has become conspicuous.

Being from Toronto and watching a ton of Bills games where the Bills gradually crumple under the pressure of an opponent that is better but isn't stomping you is something I've become pretty familiar with. Consider last year Bills @ Seahawks, the Bills jump out to an early lead after a blocked punt, and have two really effective subsequent drives but thanks to a good kick return, a bomb into good 1-1 coverage, and some questionable officiating it's only 17-14 (well into Q2). The ensuing drive begins with a Hawks 22 yard punt return, includes 39 yards of penalties to set the Seahawks up 1st and goal from the 1. 45 more Buffalo penalty yards and a missed Buffalo field goal later its 28-17 Hawks going into the half. Under the resulting pressure Sherman comes up with a pick on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter, but the Bills still pull within 3 late in Q3. Hawks get a PI-assisted field goal to make it 6 early in Q4 and stop the Bills twice (including on 4th down from the Seattle 15 to close out the game.

Upon reflection the Hawks beat a middling Bills team that played better than they did, but made a bunch of important mistakes (Buffalo with 40+ mins of TOP & 12-17 on third down; but also 115 yds of penalties, a missed Bills FG & a couple of big punt/kickoff returns given up). This game is rightly thought of as a footnote on the season of a pretty good Hawks team that won a playoff game despite some early season struggles. It's pretty similar to a lot of the Pats games this year and others that are extensively talked about, but no one really notes it. Everyone in 2016 expected the Bills to gradually go to pieces on the road in Seattle even when they playing well because of the pressure to execute perfectly; In the same way I expect teams to continue to go to pieces in Foxborough (playoffs or otherwise), it happens very frequently to road teams that aren't better than their hosts (the 2013 & 2015 Pats are high-profile examples of teams this happened to).

7
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:06am

Vikings Browns may have been the most boring game in NFL history.

16
by eggwasp :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:58am

as one of those 30,000 who went to all four London games, it was only the fourth most boring game....

28
by lokiwi :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:29pm

There was a 6-6 overtime tie just last year.

It was bad though. Could have been more competitive if Njoku could catch, or the Browns didn’t gift the Vikings 2 FGs. I thought it was Kizer’s best game this year, and against a tough defense.

35
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:40pm

That 6-6 overtime game was amazing. Awful, but not boring.

45
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:41pm

That 6-6 tie featured great defensive play. Didn't watch it all but found it very interesting.

51
by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:55pm

Agreed! I don't think I'd even say that 6-6 game was awful -- most of it was great defense and special teams (save Hauschka's final shank at the end).

One thing that's weird about football is that when it's a blow-for-blow shootout, like Sea-Hou, we say it's a great game (because it is) and generally credit the offense more than we disparage the defense. When it's a blow-for-blow defensive/special teams battle -- big sacks, turnovers, and blocked kicks -- we usually say it's sloppy and disparage the offense more than we credit the defense.

Is this the right way to look at things? I don't know.

66
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 3:30pm

it alld epends.

Carduinals-jets 2012: awful, awfukl ioffense
Seahawks-Cardinals 2016: quality defense beteween two quality temas

chiefs-Raiders 2000: e. grbac got a lto of accolades for passing ovber 500 yards byt Raiders won 49-31. Like, big whoop, Grbac threw a lto of yards.
clots- cghiefs playoff game 2003: final score msakes look like shootout but thought tui was garbage game
Texans0Seawjs 2017: nice gam to watch. good plays by offensive players. game decided in final moments.

8
by pqskgt :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:16am

These new ads make these articles literally unreadable

9
by big10freak :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:29am

FWIW I am on Chrome with no issues

10
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:35am

When posting the article and inserting the advert codes, I check how it is formatted on Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. If anybody is having problems, can you please contact us via mailbag -at- footballoutsiders.com with a description of the issue and, if possible, a screenshot? Thanks.

40
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:16pm

I literally cannot read the article in Chrome. Any time you scroll away from ad it snaps back. I still have no idea how a what 13 year old website can be this consistently behind the times. Anyway I had to use Edge!, to make the web page readable.

Like FO is probably 1/4% of my total browsing and is the source of 50% of the headaches. And those figures might literarily be underestimates. Not exaggerating.

Just go get some off the shelf solution.

46
by milo :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:44pm

Chrome on phone. Click on ad once. Hit back. Problem goes away. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. FO gets the ad revenue. You only need to let it start playing once.

57
by crw78 :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:24pm

I am on Chrome and see the issue as well. Sent email to FO with screenshot as instructed in the comments in the Week 7 DVOA Ratings article.

37
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:44pm

We've contacted the ad networks to try to solve this problem. Please have patience with us. Thank you.

14
by PatsFan :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:49am

Are we starting to see the beginning of the end for Brady? More bad throws and bad decisions. On the fleaflicker Hogan was wide, wide, wide open on a crosser after #31 bit on the fake, but Brady forced it into double-coverage to Cooks. There was the play where he saw the defense forgot to cover Cooks split out wide and Brady threw a horrible pass into the dirt at Cooks's feet. And there was at least one dropped INT and a couple more no-hope throws into multiple coverage.

18
by Yu Narukami :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:07pm

Except for these plays you have listed, I thought that he showed one of the best pocket awareness of the season, facing the duo of Ingram-Bosa.

He also threw a 60yd dime on (double-covered) Hogan's hands.

However, declining is only a matter when, not if (maybe).

19
by Scott P. :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:08pm

Brady's having one of his best seasons. He had a 68% completion percentage for the game, 6.3 yards per pass, and threw for 300+ despite terrible pass protection.

33
by RickD :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:39pm

The alarmism seems misplaced. As you point out, his overall numbers are fine. Yes, he made a couple ill-advised throws yesterday and didn't notice a couple open targets. This isn't new behavior for Brady. His deep ball has never been particularly good. And nobody is a perfect decision-maker. But he's had much worse games than yesterday's over the years. That wasn't even a bad game.

The offense has been stalling in the red zone in recent weeks. Injuries on the o-line certainly are part of the problem. Like most QBs, Brady is better when he's not constantly feeling pressure. Injuries to receivers are also part of the problem. Losing Edelman is still a huge issue. Hogan's also been having some injury issues. And Brady isn't totally comfortable with Cooks yet, nor is he comfortable at all with Dorsett.

Thankfully he still has Gronk, Amendola, and a great group of pass-catching RBs. I'm more optimistic about the offense solving their red zone issues than I am about this defense ever rising above "middling".

47
by hscer :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:44pm

Alarmism is wrong, but he's also 40. 2014 Peyton had much better numbers by this point in the season and was done by the end. That's an anecdote that doesn't mean anything predictive, but regardless of Brady's numbers to date, it also might be justifiable to worry about things the OP noticed. Brady's on pace to get sacked the most he's ever been (42; current career highs are 41 in 2001 and 40 in 2013) at an age where only two quarterbacks have succeeded before (Moon and Favre). That diet notwithstanding, it's certainly possible for things to go south as wear-and-tear accumulates through 17+ games.

62
by Eddo :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:39pm

At first I thought, no way were Manning's 2014 first-half numbers as good as Brady's have been this year, but, per P-F-R:

Peyton Manning, 2014:
games 1-8:
67.3%, 24 TD, 5 INT, 2572 yards, 9.15 AY/A
games 9-16:
64.9%, 15 TD, 10 INT, 2155 yards, 6.96 AY/A

Tom Brady, 2017:
games 1-8:
66.7%, 16 TD, 2 INT, 2541 yards, 8.97 AY/A

64
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:44pm

I don't know exactly when it will happen, but in the contest between Old Qbs and Violence, the smart money is on Violence eventually prevailing.

83
by RobotBoy :: Tue, 10/31/2017 - 7:09am

No doubt. Some day Tom Terrific is going to get dragged over a cliff by a 350 lb. man who can ran like a cheetah.
However, Brady certainly doesn't have a chronic injury history like whatever was going on with Peyton's neck. Those last six games were hard to watch but, hey, superbowl.

86
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 10/31/2017 - 1:27pm

I'm not sure an earlier poster hasn't mistaken 2014 for 2015?

87
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 10/31/2017 - 2:32pm

No, 2014 was Manning's "over the cliff" year. 2015 was more "from the ravine at the bottom of the cliff". :)

49
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:48pm

I was one of the ones arguing that Brady may fall apart this season. Did not see any of that in the Jets game earlier. I think Brady needs a quick slot guy, and they're missing that due to injuries, but I would gladly swap him for just about any quarterback in the game right now. The other thing is, this Brady slipping talk only applies to the last two games, the fog bowl and a game against the 8th ranked pass defense by DVOA. Agree that the offense will probably solve their red zone issues, and that the defense will be a problem.

81
by RobotBoy :: Tue, 10/31/2017 - 4:44am

Really good points here about the Patriots and varying ways they win games. We all know about putting someone in a position to succeed, the Patriots focus on putting opponents in a position to fail, by presenting them with the unfamiliar. For example, a lot of special teams units are end of the roster guys and a speedy returner. That returner rarely, if ever, faces the speed and talent that the Pats put into the unit. It's a place where a market inefficiency has allowed BB to continue investing in the unit with excellent returns.
Last year the narrative centered around the defense being overrated and the offense struggling without Gronk (and Bennett hobbled). In 2014 it was another early-season loss to the Chiefs that brought out the 'Brady is in decline' narrative. This year, we were told that the defense would doom them, until they began to put it together. It's not strange that the Pats have scored less while the defense has improved - a better D allows BB to play more conservatively on offense, which also protects Brady. All those RBs catching swing passes and screens and taking handoffs.
I was sure that Garoppolo was going to replace Brady sooner rather than later. That's why the O-Line play was so bad - BB was letting Brady get destroyed so that he could be replaced by Jimmy G. with little fuss. Apparently not.
I'm actually surprised that Gronk hasn't put up better numbers this season - could the endless injuries finally be starting to slow him down?

12
by Eddo :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:45am

"And that's how you start a comeback opportunity: Chris Conte makes a diving interception to get the Bucs the ball back quickly. Ed Dickson was running a deep out, and Conte just jumped the route. That's the hypothetical version of Conte who is good at playing football, there."

While overall Conte is not a good player, he's always had pretty good ball skills and will make a couple really nice interceptions each year when he instinctively jumps routes.

He's not a good centerfielder, though, and a terrible tackler.

20
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:10pm

"The Patriots honestly did not play much better than the Chargers today. They won this game (final: 21-13) because they did fewer dumb things."

The Patriots have been winning games for 17 years now, in significant part because they do less dumb things than their opponents.

24
by PatsFan :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:24pm

"Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake."

29
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:31pm

LOL, quite.

I dispute the quote that started this thread, though. NE made plenty of mistakes, which is why they only won by a single score despite dominating most of that game.

53
by johonny :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:04pm

Pretty much. While the Pats are far from the best team this season, week in and week out they tend to be the team that's the best coached. They rarely make killer mistakes like I saw the Chargers make Sunday. In fairness almost every other team in the league is sorting out new management, coaches, scouts...the Pats have been amazing at keeping their package together while winning. You have to think it helps the team focus on the small things, because they're not inserting a total new package year after year.

21
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:10pm

Dave Bernreuther: "...So color me pleasantly surprised when [Caldwell] went for the touchdown the first time around"

In the past two seasons, Caldwell has gone for it on 4th down quite a lot (usually in mid-field "no mans land", but more often in the red zone than he used to). But you're right that he was probably spooked by the Smith-Schuster TD. It's unfortunate that even though he made the right decision to go for it, he's currently being lambasted by the local media because of the results.

It should also be mentioned that the 3rd down draw play at the end of the game was an audible by Stafford, not the original play call (it worked in Minnesota last year when the Vikings were bringing an A-gap blitz, but clearly did not work yesterday...I agree it was a terrible audible in that situation).

Overall, I feel vaguely more hopeful about the Lions after the game than I did before. I frankly expected a Steelers blowout win. Instead the Lions were able to move the ball through the air against an excellent pass defense, and were able to keep the Steeler's stars on offense in check, for the most part anyway (the coverage breakdown on that Smith-Schuster TD is what really cost them to game). The red zone stuff I suspect is a one game anomaly. They may not be getting the lucky bounces they got least year, but this year's team looks to be much better.

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by Chappy :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:36pm

I totally agree. Last year I thought the Lions played a little above their record and this year despite higher quality, they just aren't winning the close ones. Luck is a foul temptress. However, I think a lot of it is schedule. I'm pretty sure SOS eases up here in the second half, so I expect them to win a few close ones in the second half.

I don't watch enough games to definitely say, but, to my eye the improvement is mostly on the defense. Having a more than competent LB in Davis is a huge upgrade. Also, I'm not sure if Zettel is playing above his head, but the pass rush seems better. I'm less sure about the secondary. Seems like there were at least 3 or 4 really bad broken coverages last night.

On the other hand, I'm less sure if I'm see the offense as any better. It's incredibly frustrating to see Stafford make 3 or 4 passes per game that only he and maybe Aaron Rodgers could make in the context of an offense that is pretty conservative overall. Clearly a lot has gone right under the Cooter offense, but I just don't feel that are on the efficient risk/reward frontier given the arm talent of their QB. (And, I don't say this lightly since the "heave a long ball in the general direction of Calvin Johnson and expect an amazing catch" days of Lions offense are very clearly behind us).

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:33pm

Actually, my opinion is the pass rush has been mostly disappointing (they barely bothered Big Ben yesterday), but the secondary has been playing very well to compensate for it (yesterday's blown coverages were out of character). Davis at MLB and Whitehead going back to his more natural WLB position have made a huge difference against both the run and in coverage.

The offense has been hamstrung this year by the injuries at offensive line. That waiver wire left tackle they started yesterday was actually an upgrade over Greg Robinson. Stafford had his best game in a while because he could actually trust his pass pro. I think the offense will be fine once Taylor Decker returns (hopefully in the next week or two).

The schedule is considerably easier the last 9 games. Two games against the sans-Rodgers Packers, two games against the Bears (although they play everyone tough), home game against the Browns, road game against the Buccaneers.

I still think Minnesota wins the division, but it's not a lock. The Lions already have a road win against them, so if they can sweep them again and take care of business against the rest of the schedule, they have a shot.

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by Chappy :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:58pm

Ah. Good point. I think I was confounding Zettel didn't look bad with improved pash rush. I've also seen the Giants game this year, so I suspect I shouldn't use that game as representative of the Lions play overall.

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by ChrisS :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 3:37pm

I don't understand Caldwell's reasoning for going for it on 4th down. Last game (against the Saints) he did the same thing, go-for-it and fail then next chance kick FG. I guess it is better than always kicking the FG as it will eventually pay off.

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 4:28pm

If I remember correctly, the sequence was the opposite in the Saints game.

Anyway, you have to decide to do one or the other. Either go for both or kick the FG on both. He really screwed himself with the combo of trying and failing on one, then settling for the FG on the other.

23
by RickD :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:24pm

Dropped the Gordon run to see how it affected the Chargers' yards/play. It is 6.71 with the run and 5.13 without. Still better than the 5.05 for the Pats. The Pats had 82 plays to 52 for San Diego, which is also a huge differential.

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by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:08pm

The Patriots outgained the Chargers on a per-play basis in the passing game (6.2 vs 6.3). The Chargers advantage comes entirely in the running game - and having a higher per-play running game isn't at all surprising when you trail almost the entire game.

The Patriots were able to string together many long scoring drives (or missed field goal drives) - the Chargers had a couple of big plays, and a whole lot of nothing otherwise.

The comparison is silly, and completely ignores the entire context of the game.

25
by lokiwi :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:24pm

Maybe it’s unfair but I have a hard time giving O’Brien much credit after he trotted Savage out there to start the season. The team has clearly turned it around, but that ranks as one of the most inexplicable coaching decisions of all time and makes it really hard to trust him moving forward.

26
by Yu Narukami :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:26pm

My Pats hot takes:

- Weird schedule arising: from now to Christmas, Pats will be at Foxboro once (26th november vs. Miami) in 7 weeks.
- I saw several two RB sets (usually Burkhead-White), love that, since it always resulted in successful plays.
- Injuries are piling up (Brown, Cannon, Hogan), in 2013 and 2015 fashion. As I wrote on week 1, I foresee a similar end for this season (maybe @KC or @PIT).

41
by RickD :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:20pm

The Pats have the deepest RB corps I've ever seen, and I remember the '78 team that set the NFL rushing record that still stands. No, their #1 runner isn't as good as Curtis Martin or Corey Dillon, but their top four RBs are all solid, and they also have Develin as a great blocking FB.

So, yeah, they should keep using these guys. The Chargers were clogging the deep routes and leaving the underneath routes yesterday, so the Pats exploited that.

The schedule is funny. Five road games in six weeks, though after the two weeks in Denver and Mexico City, the rest of the games will be in the Eastern Time Zone. (I wonder if they'll stay in the mountains between those two games.)

As for injuries, the Hightower injury is the most troubling. So far they've been able to compensate to some extent for the Edelman loss, though he's certainly missed in the red zone. I think none of Brown, Cannon, or Hogan has a season-ending injury. I'm very curious about What Is Going On With Stephon Gilmore. Apparently he was a game-time scratch yesterday. That could mean he was still dealing with the after-effects of the concussion, or it could be something more sinister.

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by PatsFan :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:42pm

I thought Belichick said he was unable to clear the last stage of the protocol. So he had been approved for non-contact practice (stage 4) but ultimately was unable to clear stage 5 (no activity restrictions) by gametime.

Or did I hallucinate reading somewhere that BB said that?

32
by TomC :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:39pm

I'm clearly in the minority here, but I was not thrilled by the Texans-Seahawks game, because the pass D was so bad. I had zero doubt that Seattle would score when they got the ball back the last time, and on the winning TD to Graham it did not appear that anyone from Houston was actually on the field.

36
by mrt1212 :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:44pm

O'Brien probably should have taken a time out, damn the consequences, on that last defensive drive. The Texans were so clearly gassed that having 2 time outs with less 30 seconds seems less good than regrouping on defense and hoping that your squad can stymie the Hawks offense for 2 or 3 more plays.

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by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:27pm

To this point, watch the effort of the Texans D-Line on the final TD, particularly the nose tackle. He literally does nothing of substance.

I'd say the Texans thought Wilson was going to spike it, except he clearly was not (he was in shotgun and signaling the next play). More likely all 11 guys were dog tired and harried and just couldn't hang on for the final few plays.

If you believe in the "coaches should do what opposing fans don't want them to do" line of coaching critique, then O'Brien really failed at the end. As a Seahawks fan, I was thrilled when he didn't let Watson try to seal it at the end, and when he didn't call timeout -- Wilson is at his best when he's running the frantic sandlot hurry-up offense!

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by mrt1212 :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 3:15pm

Thats some poker thinking right there. Go Hawks!

78
by Bisquick :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 8:10pm

There's a lot to be said for that, honestly. I hadn't thought about it, but it makes sense. It was more than just the Texans' D being gassed at the end of the game; the hurry-up offense is harder to defend against precisely because it doesn't allow any time for the defense to figure out what the offense is doing. The offense knows exactly what the next play call will be, they get into formation and snap immediately, already knowing who is running what route, leaving the opposing defense no chance to adjust or even to stop and take a look for a second. Texans are literally still lining up as Wilson is about to snap it. No plan, no communication, just watch what the offense does and adjust in real time. That's not easy. So on the one hand you don't want to let the offense have time to get ready... but on the other hand, in a matchup between an experienced last-minute-comeback QB running a hurry-up offense vs a very tired and disorganized defense, the offense is at a decided advantage. This might help to explain why offenses are so much more effective in the last minute than they were in the third quarter. So maybe you go ahead and call that timeout, counterintuitive though it may be, so you can let your defense breathe and look and think.

50
by Perfundle :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:52pm

I don't know what coverage Houston had been playing earlier, but on Graham's TD they were in a cover-3 and Seattle ran 4-Verts, the perfect counter. The announcers blamed the middle safety, but he could only cover one of Baldwin and Graham and he chose Baldwin. The real fault was the four Under defenders not sinking enough. With no timeouts and only 25 seconds, Wilson was not going to throw short; it was going to be four passes to the endzone all the way.

As for the pass defense, that Richardson pass on the last drive was pretty well defended, but otherwise, yeah, Houston's was not good. Seattle had better coverage, but there's only so much you can do if the protection gives Watson that much time and/or he's scrambling to give himself time.

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by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/31/2017 - 12:58pm

Count me in...why was that such a good game? I don't know why people love huge-scoring games with crappy defense, while some 9-6 game, regardless of how good the play is, tends to get derided as boring.

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by Perfundle :: Tue, 10/31/2017 - 3:07pm

I mean, while I did enjoy the defense in that 6-6 game, most low-scoring games have horrible offensive play and/or offensive play-calling. And while most high-scoring games have bad defensive play, the QBs still need to make the throws and the receivers the catches. Take the 53-yard pass to McEvoy that Verhei highlighted: poor coverage yes, but Wilson still needed to make an accurate 50-yard pass, which he did. Ditto for Watson's TD to Fuller. In contrast, the Giants' defense was crappy too, but Seattle only scored 24 because of all the drops.

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by mrt1212 :: Tue, 10/31/2017 - 6:51pm

To get a 9-6 game, usually you get to see two offenses stepping on their dick multiple times, regardless of what the defense is doing.

I'm sure there are some fun low scoring games, I just havent witnessed many.

61
by big10freak :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 2:34pm

Ryan Kerrigan is awesome and I wish he wasn't wasting his career in Washington

69
by ChrisS :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 3:55pm

As Tom said Cleveland's use of timeouts at the end of the first half should be illegal. Pass to the Minn 6-yard line & the ball spotted with about 1:25 left, Cleveland calls time out with 1:19 on the clock (about 20 seconds on the play clock). Run 2 quick plays and call time out immediately after the second one with 49 seconds left. Score TD and leave 40 seconds on the clock for Minn to drive for a FG. Any non-incompetent clock management would have left 10-15 seconds at most on the clock, but this being Cleveland fixing bad-clock management is about number 10 on items to address.

80
by OldFox :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 9:51pm

Agree on all counts. The Browns' clock management is consistently bad, but it hardly merits attention since the team has so many more pressing problems. It's like being on the Titanic while the ship is going down and having someone complain that the band sure isn't playing very well.

75
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/30/2017 - 5:31pm

The only highlight of the Bucs game is Vernon Hargreaves had a very solid game. Not just solid for him (he has been utterly awful this year), but a genuinely good game with several pass breakups and generally excellent positioning.

That's about it.

I actually expect Winston's shoulder injury to continue to cause problems, and he'll wind up on IR in a few weeks after the season is completely gone, and then it's time for the full Ryan Fitzpatrick experience.

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by killwer :: Tue, 10/31/2017 - 5:07am

"Vince Verhei: Jalen Mills' pick-six puts Philadelphia up 15-0 just before halftime. Eagles then go for two and get it to go up 17-0, but I'm a bit surprised by that decision. Failure there means a 15-0 lead, which means SF could win 16-15 with a FG-FG-FG-TD combo (assuming they shut out the Eagles from here on out, which is easier said than done obviously). With 30-plus minutes to go there, I think I'm kicking the PAT and taking the 16-0 lead. Their aggressiveness is rewarded, though, with the 17-0 halftime advantage."

To Vince, the Niners could also have won the game 17-16 with the same combo just with a 2 pt, if the Eagles on kicked that PAT.

I cant understand how a guy who writes for FO can ever be against taking a 3 score lead over a 2 score lead (If the Eagles had 16 points, the Niners could tie with 2 TDs+2 pt).

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by Willsy :: Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:31am

Agree with Rivers comment about Spielman. Have enjoyed a few games he has been on this week