compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails 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 turn into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails 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 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.
Seattle Seahawks 24 at Cincinnati Bengals 27 OT
Aaron Schatz: Bengals come out twice in the opening drive in a funky "half Emory and Henry" that has the two offensive tackles split out wide, but unlike the regular Emory and Henry there's only a trio of players on one side of the field. Other side looked like it had just the offensive tackle by himself. I love Hue Jackson so much. Andy Dalton ran a quarterback draw on the first one for a first down. Second one was a handoff to the running back.
Seattle and Cincinnati are supposed to have great pass defenses, but hey, nobody is perfect. Each team gets a touchdown on its first drive from totally blown coverage. Tyler Eifert was completely open up the seam, and it looked like Kam Chancellor was supposed to have him but instead jumped on a little hook route from Marvin Jones that another Seattle defender was already covering. Seahawks defenders were arguing with each other afterwards. Then Seattle scored when Jermaine Kearse got behind everyone. Alas, no analysis from me on that one. Didn't see the replay, I honestly have no idea how that coverage was blown to leave him so wide open.
Sterling Xie: Seattle got away with one when A.J. Green burned Cary Williams for a 72-yard touchdown, only to have it called back due to an Andrew Whitworth holding. I'd say that's as rare as a blue moon, but that'd be an insult to Whitworth. Anyways, it looks like that scared Seattle straight, as Richard Sherman has started following Green everywhere since then (including on one play when Green was in the slot).
Andrew Healy: The evidence that Andy Dalton has turned the corner is building. Even with that long touchdown getting called back, he is again living in the 10-plus yards per attempt zone, even against the Seahawks this week. Through one quarter, Dalton is 8-of-10 for 136 yards and a touchdown.
And Dalton throws a terrible pick at the end of the first half with the Bengals driving in a 7-7 game. It looked to me like he had A.J. Green to the corner, but a severe underthrow. Maybe that's wrong with just how far of an underthrow that would be, but I want to say good decision with a disastrous throw.
Vince Verhei: Seattle's offensive line having easily it's best game of the year, opening holes for Thomas Rawls and keeping Russell Wilson largely protected, especially on a long beat-the-clock field goal drive at the end of the first half. They're winning the line of scrimmage on the other side of the ball too -- I've counted three run stuffs so far, and I missed most of the first quarter with transportation issues.
Rob Weintraub: I'm at the Bengals game in person this week. Cincy 2-7 in games I've attended live, well on the way to 2-8.
Conditioning will be a factor in the second half -- I'm ready to drop from dehydration and I am only getting a handful of snaps (just want one clean shot at Wilson).
Aaron Schatz: Regarding the Seattle offensive line... they really aren't that bad at run-blocking. The Seahawks were 17th in adjusted line yards coming into today's game. It's just the pass-blocking that is horrendous.
Also, Thomas Rawls does look great. I know a lot of people are asking why he went undrafted... he had a Speed Score of 92 because he ran the 40 in 4.65 seconds at the combine, but that might have been a fluke. He ran it in 4.46 at his pro day. And I have to think the scouts doing film study would have seen his tackle-breaking ability. I want a running back who can break tackles and get positive yardage even when the offensive line isn't getting any for him.
Sterling Xie: Talked about Rawls' tackle-breaking ability earlier; how bout that lower body strength to get away from Reggie Nelson on that 69-yard touchdown? Amazingly Seattle's first rushing touchdown of the year.
Aaron Schatz: Seattle's offensive line also blocked wonderfully on that Rawls touchdown run, which ties back into my comment about their run-blocking not living down to their overall reputation.
Sterling Xie: Think the difference has been how thoroughly the Seahawks' defensive line has beaten Cincinnati's offensive line in the trenches. We've started to see Dalton revert to his happy feet habits in the pocket, even when the pressure isn't always there (like on that third-and-13 at the end of the third quarter). Honestly, hard to remember a good throw Dalton has made since that Green touchdown that was waved off.
Aaron Schatz: I was just typing the same thing. Three offensive holding calls and three sacks through three quarters, plus some sort of blown blocking assignment on a jet sweep by Rex Burkhead that led to a fumble returned for a touchdown by Seattle. At one point the disintegration seemed to be tied to Andre Smith going out with an elbow injury, but he's back now and things keep getting worse. This is a good offensive line. They do not look it today.
Andrew Healy: It's not all him, but with Rawls looking sort of like Lynch in his prime, it's pretty fascinating to see what they'll do when Lynch returns. With the way running backs are, there is a good chance that Rawls is already the better option.
And sorry Bengals fans, but we are in the midst of some deja vu:
2014: Undefeated Bengals play 2-2 NFL superpower in Week 5, pick on road, lose 43-17
2015: Undefeated Bengals play 2-2 NFL superpower in Week 5, favored by 3, trailing 24-7
Vince Verhei: Point taken that Seattle's line has been better at run blocking than pass blocking, but this is still the best they've looked in that category all year. There's a reason they had not rushed for a touchdown all year until today.
I don't know why teams big blitz Russell Wilson. It seems like every time he sees a cover-zero, he's getting the ball to a receiver where only the receiver can get it. Happened again in the third quarter where he hit Baldwin for a big gain. Drive ended when Wilson threw a bad tip-drill interception to a well-covered Jimmy Graham, but then the defensive line saves the day again. Michael Bennett comes in unblocked and forces a fumble on a Rex Burkhead fly sweep, and Bobby Wagner gets the scoop-and-score touchdown.
Bengals rally when they finally realize, hey, Seattle likes to give up 7-yard seams and curls. Andy Dalton scores on a 6-yard quarterback sneak when he realizes the middle of the field is wide open and just takes the snap and charges forward. Seattle then goes three-and-out and Bengals are going to get the ball back with two-plus minutes and no timeouts, down 24-21.
Andrew Healy: No longer deja-vu-y.
Aaron Schatz: Also improved play by the Bengals defense, stopping the Seattle offense while the Bengals came back. Geno Atkins looking very good, rolled off Justin Britt to tackle Russell Wilson attempting to scramble to convert third-and-4.
Vince Verhei: So Seattle punts. Adam Jones does the "these aren't the droids you're looking for" hand wave. Seattle thinks it's a fair catch. The refs think it's a fair catch. Jones then takes the ball and takes off. Refs say no, you called fair catch, you're down here. One, Jones' hand never went above his head, so I don't see how that can be a fair catch sign. Two, if you ARE going to call it a fair catch, then isn't it a penalty to run after the fair catch sign?
Aaron Schatz: Yes, it is a penalty. They called a 5-yard penalty on Jones as well. (Probably should have been a 15-yarder for taking off his helmet to argue.) I can't tell if Jones was trying to call for a fair catch or not but there was a Seattle coverage team guy right there when he made that motion and I've got to think that guy tackles Jones immediately if he wasn't scared off by the "sort of fair catch" signal. So it seemed clear that Seattle, at least, thought he was calling for a fair catch.
Bengals march down the field, thanks in part to DPI on Cary Williams (got beat by Marvin Jones) and then a great sliding catch by Tyler Eifert, then they run the fire drill to get the field goal unit on with 11 seconds and no timeouts, and we go to overtime 24-24.
Rob Weintraub: Allow me to say ...
Vince Verhei: Seattle's last six drives all end in punts and they blow a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose 27-24 in overtime. Bengals ran the ball to the right hash mark on third down, and it's a good thing they did -- Mike Nugent's winning kick doinked off the left upright and in.
On the one hand, none of Seattle's losses are terrible on their own. On the other hand, they're one forced fumble away from being 1-4, and they have been awful in the fourth quarter all year.
And Jimmy Graham remains near invisible.
Aaron Schatz: I haven't watched a lot of Cincinnati this year, and I didn't watch today's game with the remote and the DVR rewind button so I could look closely at blocking. But I wonder if there's something going on with the run-blocking style that has Giovani Bernard having so much more success than Jeremy Hill in 2015. When the Bengals made the big comeback in the fourth quarter, and then in overtime, it was all Bernard. I don't think Hill even got on the field at that point. Even Bernard was getting the carries once they were just trying to improve field goal range for Nugent at the end.
I'm still not really worried about Seattle making the playoffs this year, despite the 2-3 start. Yes, the passing game looks worse than last year, not better, despite the addition of the (invisible) Graham. But this team is still playing well, even in losses. All three losses are on the road. Seattle's schedule doesn't get any easier, but Arizona's schedule does get a lot harder.
Rob Weintraub: A few thoughts on Cincinnati and Seattle while driving back south on I-75 after the game:
It's hard to truly get into Xs and Os while watching the game from the stands. Especially when you are duking it out after every play with ornery Seattle fans. But to me clearly the key to the comeback was Cincinnati's depth on the defensive line. They shut down Seattle's running game and harassed Wilson in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile Seattle's pass rush, a huge force in the middle quarters, fell off to nothing in the fourth quarter.
An underrated aspect of the game was Cincinnati's kick coverage. They prevented Tyler Lockett from doing anything and killed a couple of punts inside the 5-yard line with good play by the gunners.
Bam Bam Kam does a lot of things, but he can be defeated by elite tight ends. Tyler Eifert had a huge game. His presence makes such a difference in the Cincinnati attack.
Colin Cowherd is right. Andy Dalton can only play from ahead and when everything is perfect. And of course he can't win the big one.
Washington Redskins 19 at Atlanta Falcons 25 OT
Andrew Healy: Really impressed with the Washington defense so far. Have held Julio Jones without a catch and forced two turnovers from Matt Ryan, who looks more uncomfortable than I can remember all year. Secondary has had a lot of breakdowns this year -- heck, even Philly hit a bunch of big plays against them -- but looking rock solid so far.
Aaron Schatz: I saw a note online that Jones is on the sidelines holding his hamstring... has he been playing mostly? Does he look healthy?
Andrew Healy: No idea about how Julio's hammy is feeling, but he seems to be walking a thin line with his health right now. He's taken a lot of abuse with all those targets, and considering how nicked up he is already, I would be surprised if he played all 16 games. As for today, I haven't seen enough of the game to say how he's looking, but I've noticed a couple throws where Ryan has forced it into double-coverage on him. Jones was open on Ryan's interception, but it was overthrown.
Julio caught one of five targets in the first half. Small piece of evidence suggesting he's not close to 100 percent. Ryan just missed a wide-open Leonard Hankerson for a long touchdown, early second half. In the parts of the game I've seen, Ryan has looked ragged, missing some pretty easy throws.
Sterling Xie: Also need to give credit to the Washington pass rush, which has really harassed Ryan all day. And Matt Bryant just missed his second field goal after a long streak of not missing at home. Between him, Aaron Rodgers, and Tampa Bay at home, it could be a big day for streak snappers.
Andrew Healy: And the previously unstoppable Devonta Freeman looks like he has had very little room to run, too. Bryant was within three inches of making both those kicks, too. He doinked one of each upright.
Aaron Schatz: Opposing field goal kickers 1-for-4 against Washington in the last two weeks. Luck be a lady tonight.
Andrew Healy: The coaching improvement in Atlanta seemed present on the third-down stop that forced Washington to settle for a field goal that kept it a 16-12 game with under three minutes left. They were calling out the wide receiver screen that they blew up for a loss.
Jacksonville Jaguars 31 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38
Andrew Healy: We have our leader in the clubhouse for Keep Choppin' Wood this week. Jameis Winston had a Blaine Gabbert moment where he inexplicably threw backwards as he went down. He was ruled down by contact after a long review, but wow what a horrible play there.
Really like Dirk Koetter's play call on third-and-2 from the Jaguars' 10-yard line. He made it easy for his struggling rookie quarterback. After a Bobby Rainey punt return set the Bucs up in the red zone, Koetter only asks Winston to throw a middle screen to Doug Martin. With the Jags looking for a run, the screen catches the linebackers scrambling to drop back and the touchdown is oh-so-easy.
Spiro Dedes just said twice that the loss of Chris Conte is "huge" for the Buccaneers. He even said it with feeling. Hope Conte is OK, but that would have to be one large helping of intangibles for a replacement-level player.
New Orleans Saints 17 at Philadelphia Eagles 39
Sterling Xie: Two absolute killer red zone picks for Sam Bradford end a couple ofpromising drives for Philly. Sam Bradford now has three red-zone picks this season; Eli Manning led the league with four red zone picks in all of 2014. Can't imagine Bradford's leash can be that much longer, right?
Cleveland Browns 33 at Baltimore Ravens 30
Sterling Xie: Gary Barnidge scoffs at Odell Beckham needing to use three fingers to catch, somehow ending up with that lob pass between his legs. For the sake of future generations, hopefully fans don't attempt to replicate Barnidge's catch as often as they do with Beckham.
Aaron Schatz: What lob pass? Is this the touchdown?
Mike Pettine bungles the end of regulation here. With the Browns up 30-27 and the Ravens inside the Cleveland 10-yard line, Pettine does not use his timeouts. The Ravens end up settling for a field goal, but please let's not make any excuses for Pettine encouraging the Ravens to run or anything. This is terrible coaching and after a poor decision by Josh McCown using too much time, the Browns end up running out the clock on a Travis Benjamin catch rather than getting off a field goal attempt.
St. Louis Rams 10 at Green Bay Packers 24
Andrew Healy: Mike McCarthy challenges whether James Jones scored on a long pass. He wins the challenge and the Packers go up 21-10. Seems like a poor challenge with him already having lost an earlier challenge. I wanted to see the replay on that one. It sounded like he challenged a spot on a 5-yard pass to Stedman Bailey, but I didn't see it, so I may be missing something there.
Aaron Schatz: When you say "poor challenge," I assume that it would have been first-and-goal without challenging? If it was an issue of complete or incomplete on a deep pass, that sounds like a better use of a challenge.
Andrew Healy: Yeah, it would have been first-and-goal from the 1. Now the Packers are out of challenges.
Nick Foles is currently 8-for-21 for 54 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions. From what I've seen, those numbers may be kind to his performance. His touchdown was a six-inch flip forward to a streaking Tavon Austin. He just fumbled when he inexplicably held the ball for maybe five seconds with Julius Peppers closing in. Greg Zuerlein then missed a 53-yard field goal attempt.
Buffalo Bills 14 at Tennessee Titans 13
Tom Gower: Bishop Sankey tried to win Keep Chopping Wood on the first play of the game, mishandling the opening kickoff, knocking it into the field of play from the end zone, and then failing to come away with it in the pile. The Bills gained possession at the 2-yard line ... or would have, had they not been downfield early on the kickoff. Five-yard penalty for offside, re-kick.
The Bills could have really used that field position, because their offense has spent most of the first half not doing a damned thing at all. It took until the middle of the second quarter (literally, 7:10 to play) for Tyrod Taylor to complete his first pass and for Buffalo to get their first first down after starting with three three-and-outs. The run game has been blah, Taylor hasn't been good, and the line didn't seem to be making either's day easy.
By contrast, the Titans have had a good offensive game plan and have moved the ball well. I thought they'd try to flood the middle of the field and go high-low, but instead it's looked at times like the Patriots in the Super Bowl, moving players from the inside (slot receivers, tight ends, backs, etc.) to the outside and using natural rub elements to free them up and create yards-after-catch opportunities. They've also found more space in the run game than I expected them to. Yet, it hasn't been great, and there haven't been many big plays. When they've gotten close, Ken Whisenhunt has turtled. Punt on fourth-and-2 from the 37-yard line, field goal and fourth-and-2 from the 3-yard line, punt on fourth-and-2 from the 39-yard line. It's hard to say any of those was an awful decision, since the odds aren't that clear-cut, but they are all conservative.
Kind of a goofy second half, after a punt-heavy first 30 minutes dominated by a Titans team that couldn't turn their yards into points. It didn't feel like the Titans or the Bills did that much proficient on offense. But it ended up being a pretty "short" half, with just nine combined non-kneeldown possessions and each team scoring on two of those. Tennessee went up 10-0 on a short drive after a fumbled punt, and then Tyrod Taylor started to make some plays on his own. He had 26 yards to convert third-and-6, then finished the drive off with a 22-yard run to get the Bills on the board. Titans up 13-7, Bills have third-and-23 from their own 7-yard line and Taylor picks up 25 (and 15 more for a horse collar, as the Titans tried to match the Bills penalty for penalty after letting them dominate early). Great throw by Taylor to Chris Hogan from midfield down inside the 10-yard line, and he finds Hogan again for the score a couple plays later. 14-13.
Tennessee has a chance, but Whisenhunt punts on fourth-and-11 from their 32-yard line. They get the ball back with 1:41 left, and Marcus Mariota's pass downfield is intercepted to end things.
Macro-level: Titans moved the ball well, better than I expected them to, but couldn't get explosive plays (long gain of 22 yards for the day) and couldn't finish drives. Add in a little Ken Whisenhunt conservatism from plus territory, and they left themselves open to just this sort of result.
Aaron Schatz: I don't remember who said this first on Twitter, so I apologize for stealing someone else's thought, but god forbid the Titans go for it on fourth-and-short in opposing territory with a mobile quarterback who can run option plays.
Arizona Cardinals 42 at Detroit Lions 17
Vince Verhei: We keep asking why Arizona is so much better this year. One reason is that Chris Johnson is giving them a running game that's more dangerous than they have had in a while, with gains of 25 and 40 yards in the first half. The bigger reason they're winning today is the three interceptions of Matthew Stafford, but it's still kind of shocking to see a Cardinals runner streaking through the secondary.
New England Patriots 30 at Dallas Cowboys 6
Aaron Schatz: Patriots are once again rotating their offensive linemen. They brought Marcus Cannon in at right tackle for the last drive of the first quarter. I don't know of another offense that does this regularly, and I don't know what the purpose of it is.
Sterling Xie: I can't think of a more unsuccessful play the Pats have run over the last three years than the pick play where the outside receiver sets the pick and the slot receiver runs under him then up the sideline. It's like the bizarro seam pass to Gronk. Keshawn Martin got called for pass interference on that sequence, then the Cowboys sack Brady for the third time. Pass protection (or lack thereof) the obvious story so far for the Patriots.
Scott Kacsmar: Seahawks hit Dallas with that pick play last year for a huge gain. I want to say Jermaine Kearse on the receiving end. Dallas gets the call there in a season that is going to shatter records for offensive pass interference flags.
Aaron Schatz: Right. The league decided to crack down on that play this year, so there are a lot more of those OPI flags. The Patriots did get flagged for it a lot last year, usually Brandon LaFell getting the flag. But everyone in the league uses that play and they are cracking down when the pick is such an obvious block and the guy doesn't look like he's running a real route.
Halftime update: The Dallas offense looks really bad today, and the Dallas defense looks really good. Greg Hardy is a despicable human being, but a very good pass rusher. But he's not the only reason Tom Brady has been under pressure all day. At one point they got to him on a three-man rush on third-and-long. The tackles just wilted under pressure and the Patriots ended up with three interior linemen blocking one guy because they were expecting more pass-rushers to come. Cowboys are also getting strong pass coverage from their usually underwhelming defensive backs like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. (Well, except for a play where Julian Edelman snapped Claiborne's ankles off to get open.) I'm surprised the Patriots aren't running more. They're getting yardage there, but missing short passes early in the series is leaving Brady with a lot of third-and-longs and they aren't converting them.
As for the Dallas offense, there's only so much this offensive line can do against constant eight-man boxes when the opponent isn't afraid of your passing game because your quarterback is Brandon Weeden and you have no No. 1 receiver.
I should have also given credit to rookie cornerback Byron Jones in my first-half report; he shut down Rob Gronkowski (just one short catch) in that first half. But Gronk finally caught one on him to start the second half, and just pushed him aside like a rag doll to get extra yardage.
One fact doesn't summarize the offensive game plan and I can't tell you who was open or covered on every play but the Cowboys just threw to Jason Witten for the first time with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
Sterling Xie: It's kind of hard to tell what Dallas' offensive game plan is other than "run the ball on first down." Near the end of Quarter 3, Terrance Williams and Devin Street have combined to catch one of five targets for 13 yards. They just don't have the personnel to exploit New England's corners, particularly undrafted rookie Justin Coleman.
Aaron Schatz: Think for a second of how awful that is. They don't have the personnel to exploit an undrafted rookie cornerback. And you aren't exaggerating!!!
Sterling Xie: Hey, so that pick play worked without getting called for a penalty for once. Looked like Danny Amendola could have been called for OPI -- he even gave the "I didn't do it" hands up signal as it happened -- but Edelman got free down the sideline and took it in for a 59-yard touchdown. Brady's splits between deep balls to the left and deep balls to the right have to be like the San Francisco Giants' splits between even-year seasons and odd-year seasons.
Aaron Schatz: The Cowboys also ran the pick play with Jason Witten on third-and-4 in the red zone, and it was a great example of how it should work for the receiver setting the pick: Terrence Williams was very clearly just running a route and not trying to block, but he ran right in the way of Devin McCourty. It was not a good example of how it should work for the receiver catching the ball, because McCourty got around Williams quickly and got over to tackle Witten short of the sticks. And the Cowboys kicked a field goal to be down 20-6 instead of going for it on fourth-and-2 because of course they did. And then on the next drive, that pass to Edelman to make it 27-6.
Denver Broncos 16 at Oakland Raiders 10
Tom Gower: Ronnie Hillman can't haul in a pass in the end zone, and Charles Woodson intercepts Peyton Manning to help bring the first half to a 7-3 Oakland lead. I suppose it's finally time to accept that this is what the Broncos offense is this year, a not-so-good unit with a bad line and popgun-armed quarterback that will have to spend their time scratching and clawing for yardage, even against a bad defense (Oakland was 26th in pass defense DVOA heading into this game). It's disquieting, really, and kind of sad to watch and hard to accept since Peyton has played so damn well for so damn long.
Scott Kacsmar: Derek Carr with the worst ALEX moment of the season: minus-21 ALEX for throwing a running back screen 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-19. I guess that's on the playcaller more than anyone, but I doubt any offense with an Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger would ever dial that one up.
Aaron Schatz: Oakland did the thing everyone seems to do in Madden, and I find it fascinating. Down by 9 with 1:40 left, they immediately kicked a field goal once they got into field goal range. Long bomb defensive pass interference put them at the Denver 32-yard line, and they didn't waste any time. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 50-yard field goal on first down. The Raiders didn't recover the onside kick, though, and with only one timeout, the Broncos could run out the clock. Last play is the punt on fourth down and Raiders can't get it all the way back for a touchdown and would-be miracle win.
Scott Kacsmar: Sebastian Janikowski might have the NFL record for most failed onside kicks in a career. Seriously. I want to say he's on an 0-for-22 streak going back at least five years. We'll dig that one up this week.
Tom Gower: Broncos' offense looked a little bit better in the second half, but it was mostly in fits and spurts. The defense is and was still the solution to every woe, with Chris Harris' pick-six the eventual winning margin. Not much of a margin of error, there, but as a fan of a 1-3 team I can tell you victories are great no matter how they come.
San Francisco 49ers 27 at New York Giants 30
Scott Kacsmar: Jon Beason is slow to get up after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Carlos Hyde. Cris Collinsworth says "Watch Hyde here, they're going to go helmet to helmet, and obviously nothing illegal about that, out in the open field."
Umm, I know it has almost never been called since it was created in 2013, but Collinsworth just described the Crowning Rule to a tee.
I guess it hasn't been used to the point where Collinsworth and these referees completely forgot about it.
Tom Gower: Here's the text of the rule:
ARTICLE 8. INITIATING CONTACT WITH THE CROWN OF THE HELMET. It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top/crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle box (an area extending from tackle to tackle and from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage to the offensive team's end line). Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.
I saw Hyde lower his helmet to drive forward for yards at the same time Beason came in head-first from an angle. Collinsworth and company didn't mention it was illegal because it wasn't.
Scott Kacsmar: How could you say he didn't initiate forcible contact? The defender is usually crouching down too, which is why it always felt like it'd be a nightmare to call this, so they don't even bother. You could say the same things about the Trent Richardson play that started this years ago. But why would Collinsworth mention the open field? That doesn't suddenly make this legal. That's the whole reason it should be illegal.
Tom Gower: You're allowed as a runner to lower your head and put yourself in a defensive posture. What the NFL doesn't want is runners lowering their helmet into another player. Hyde didn't do that.
Scott Kacsmar: We'll agree to disagree, but to me that looked like a textbook example of what the NFL wanted to accomplish with that rule.
Aaron Schatz: Obviously most of the talk about the 49ers' struggles is about Colin Kaepernick, but it's a serious problem that this team has replaced both starting cornerbacks for two straight offseasons. Add in the fact that their veteran free-agent signing, Shareece Wright, was so bad that he has already been cut, and the 49ers are stuck with Tramaine Brock, who is a reasonable No. 2 but nobody's idea of a No. 1, and a bunch of untested second-year guys. The best corners in the league are going to struggle covering Odell Beckham. These guys? Yikes.
Tom Gower: Aside from my general contrarian nature, I'm trying to remember why I wanted to zig when everybody else was zagging about the 49ers. Since Week 1, they've made it really hard to see just what that might have been.
Aaron Schatz: Well, the whole team is not a tire fire. They've got two good outside linebackers, Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch, although there's no depth behind them and Brooks is likely gone in free agency in 2016. They have two good safeties, although unless you're going to play Cover-2 your cornerbacks are really more important than your safeties. It was reasonable to think that a mostly healthy NaVorro Bowman would be as good as a mostly healthy Patrick Willis would have been. And I don't know the last time a talented quarterback saw his play gradually disintegrate the way Kaepernick has. The KUBIAK system certainly looked at his last couple years and expected a bit of a rebound in his performance this year, not a continued decline. You could talk yourself into a Vernon Davis rebound too. Certainly, we all could have been overstating the importance of the coaching changes.
Although it doesn't look like we were.
Sterling Xie: NBC just put up a graphic showing how almost all of Kaepernick's completions last week came behind the line of scrimmage. And then Collinsworth relayed a quote about how SF's coaching staff basically refuses to ask Kaepernick to throw downfield to try and pick up third-and-longs. I guess he's never really progressed from the pocket, but I don't think the coaches tightening his harness is going to help Kaepernick develop. I just looked up his ALEX in the article Scott posted on ESPN this week and was surprised to see he ranked 11th. But since that's just four weeks worth of third downs, maybe it's a small sample size effect? Would bet that Kaepernick's ALEX has probably declined year to year.
Tom Gower: Intellectually, I get it. There were enough pieces there, but they don't seem to be doing a good job of using their strengths to camouflage their weaknesses. Which, combined with Michigan's good start, suggests that coaching might be kind of important and the Niners' might have been kind of good.
Aaron Schatz: And despite all that self-flagellation... Eli Manning throws a pick at the goal line right before halftime, and then the 49ers' offensive line is suddenly making huge holes for Carlos Hyde, and now it's 13-13.
War of attrition. Victor Cruz isn't playing, Odell Beckham went out with a hamstring issue, then Rueben Randle was out for a couple of plays as the Giants' tried to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Giants take a 23-20 lead despite this.
Tom Gower: Oh, yeah, that 49ers team I slagged earlier has spent most of the second half playing a lot better. Colin Kaepernick has made some good throws, including a gorgeous seam touch pass on this drive as they try to take the lead or tie at the end of the game (down 23-20 at the two minute warning right now), Carlos Hyde is running hard, and Torrey Smith is back to drawing pass interference penalties. The defense, well, the Giants aren't doing much of a job blocking Aaron Lynch, as Cris Collinsworth keeps pointing out, and the corners have held up better, it feels, though of course those injuries... Good competitive game, much better and more interesting than the second half I was expecting at 13-3 and with New York looking to go up even more.
Aaron Schatz: This game looked early on like it was going to be a blowout, and it ended up a pretty good game. Giants actually marched down the field and won the game despite having Beckham on the sideline for most of the drive and Randle on the sideline for all of it. Hell of a catch by Larry Donnell over two defenders, great job to hold onto the ball so there was no question about the Calvin Johnson rule. Giants almost blew it at home, but they'll move into first place in the NFC East at 3-2.