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.
Green Bay Packers 25 at Tennessee Titans 47
Bryan Knowles: Tennessee coming out feisty today, with a surprise onside kick on the opening kickoff! Green Bay easily recovered it, but I appreciate the effort.
Scott Kacsmar: I like a surprise onside kick from an underdog, but the Packers aren't good enough this year to justify doing that against them to start a game. And halfway through the first quarter, they certainly don't look good today. The Titans have ripped off huge plays, including a 75-yard touchdown run by a supposedly ailing DeMarco Murray, and Aaron Rodgers has been sacked twice on third down already. Murray even threw a touchdown to Delanie Walker on another trick play if you want to call it one, which is something that Mike Mularkey built a reputation for under Bill Cowher many years ago. Remember when Green Bay had that impenetrable run defense early in the season? Yeah, that was built on the schedule, but it also doesn't help that Clay Matthews is out again today.
Bryan Knowles: Great stat from Paul Kuharsky here, regarding Taylor Lewan's ejection -- Lewan was ejected for shoving an official after a scrum. Jeff Triplette and his crew have had six of the 11 ejections so far this year, so they're clearly a little more sensitive to that sort of thing, whereas other officials might let a little player-referee contact go.
The Titans scored touchdowns on their first four drives of the game. That hasn't happened since 2014. That's not what I would have expected from a Packers defense which came into this week seventh in DVOA.
The Titans have yet to throw an incomplete pass, now two-thirds of the way through the second quarter.
Packers offense still looks so much better in the quick game than they do trying to do whatever it is they're trying to do the rest of time
— Tom Gower (@ThomasGower) November 13, 2016
— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) November 13, 2016
Tom Gower: Titans up 35-16 at the half. Holy smokes, the Titans are up 35-16 after 30 minutes of play. Second-most points in a (first?) half in franchise history, behind only a 1990 destruction of a 2-10 Browns team that ended 58-14.
Offensively, everything was working for Tennessee and not working for Green Bay's defense for the first ... 25 minutes or so. DeMarco Murray went 75 yards with relatively few problems (bad pursuit). Murray threw a halfback pass to a wide-open Delanie Walker (bad coverage). Marcus Mariota found a ton of open receivers from relatively clean pockets (started 10-for-10). Mike Mularkey tried a lot, and a lot of it worked, while Dom Capers didn't seem to be winning anything. Delanie Walker stiff-arming Packers defenders to the ground made things even uglier. First four possessions ended in touchdowns, fifth in a muffed punt that was ruled to be a Titans recovery, and they scored off of that as well.
Packers' offense early looked as bad as their defense did. Trying to run. Failing to run. Holding penalties negating good plays. Aaron Rodgers holding the ball forever, then going down. Just imagine most of what we have seen since October of last year and you get the picture. 26 yards in the first quarter.
Then, the quick game. Rodgers started getting the ball out after his third step, and the Packers started moving the chains. Bang-bang-bang touchdown. Only a holding penalty on first-and-goal at the 9 and a busted screen courtesy of Jurrell Casey on one series and a Mason Crosby missed extra point kept them from getting 21 points on their second-quarter possessions. Titans offense may need to keep it up in the second half.
Not sure what to say about a second half that the Titans won 12-9 to come away with a 47-25 final. Key was Tennessee's offense answering Green Bay's score after their initial stop to get the lead back to 19 points. Two big plays that drive: Mike Daniels with a personal foul that gave Tennessee a first down on what would otherwise have been third-and-8, and yet another "why should we cover him?" play, against Tajae Sharpe for a 33-yard touchdown. Titans did better against the quick game, Richard Rodgers dropped a fourth-down pass and stopped running on a third-down deep throw so that it ended up going right to Perrish Cox with no Packer in the area, Tennessee got a couple field goals, and it was all over bar some more botched explanations by Jeff Triplette.
Denver Broncos 25 at New Orleans Saints 23
Andrew Potter: Saints first drive: punt after one first down gained on the ground, very tight coverage on two consecutive incomplete passes forcing the punt.
Broncos first drive: 13 plays, 71 yards, Trevor Siemian to Jordan Taylor for the touchdown.
These defenses are so far exactly as advertised.
A lot of A.J. Derby and Jordan Taylor on that Broncos touchdown drive, with Derby involved both as a receiver and as an H-back on running downs. Siemian was inaccurate early, but his receivers made several good catches on poor throws. The touchdown was initially ruled out of bounds, but rightly overturned on challenge. Delvin Breaux almost ripped it out, but Taylor clutched it at the second attempt.
Saints have gotten to Siemian a couple of times, but if the front four don't get pressure there's absolutely nothing behind them.
The Saints have had four drives and so far their top receiving trio of Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks, and Willie Snead have all put up doughnuts. Brandon Coleman has one reception, but Darian Stewart has caught more of Brees' passes than all of the Saints wideouts. Denver's coverage is absolutely smothering, and the young Saints receivers cannot get free. Bradley Roby has been particularly excellent, while I don't think Brees has even bothered trying to attack Chris Harris. The Broncos are putting on a man coverage clinic.
Sterling Moore picked off Siemian deep in Saints territory to give the Saints possession on their own 38 with 30 seconds before halftime. Denver softened up its coverage, so the Saints immediately went 40 yards in two plays taking all of ten seconds off the clock. A Wil Lutz field goal makes it 10-3 at the half, a scoreline that very much flatters the Saints.
Vince Verhei: Drew Brees just offered a reminder, like it was needed, of how quickly he can turn a game around, even against a great defense like Denver's. Two deep crosses, one a third-down conversion, and a bomb down the sideline to Brandin Cooks, and the Saints get a 7-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. (The actual touchdown was a 3-yard Brees-to-Willie Snead scoring strike.)
Andrew Potter: For all the praise I have heaped on Denver's defense in that first half, the Saints have now scored on three consecutive drives -- a field goal to end the first half, then touchdowns on the first two drives of the second half -- to take the lead.
First touchdown came when Denver failed to pass off a slant-flat combo, both defenders going with the slant and leaving Willie Snead wide open in the flat. Second came after Trevor Siemian threw a horrible interception to Kenny Vaccaro, giving New Orleans the ball on the Denver 38. Four plays later, Drew Brees hit Snead again in the end zone -- this time the receiver was tightly covered but made the contested catch.
Denver's secondary is still very good, but the defense on the whole is not as good as last year and, at least today, isn't quite good enough to make up for this level of bad play from the offense -- specifically the quarterback. Even the passes Siemian is completing, he's missing but the receivers are adjusting. Damned if the defense is going to give up the game without a fight though. Darian Stewart just picked up his third turnover of the game, this time on a fumble that never hit the ground after the ball was knocked out of the hands of Michael Thomas by the excellent Bradley Roby. Broncos ball on the Saints 25.
Vince Verhei: That's the fifth turnover in that Broncos-Saints contest. It has been a fun kind of sloppy.
Andrew Potter: It has been exactly the contrast I expected. Denver's defense is forcing turnovers with tight coverage and great range from the safeties, pummeling the Saints receivers into submission. New Orleans is getting turnovers from bad decisions and bad throws by Trevor Siemian, though they're causing some of that with pressure -- most commonly from Cameron Jordan and Nick Fairley. The Saints are also hurling secondary blitz after secondary blitz at Siemian, and they're getting rushers free with regularity. They did so again on that Demaryius Thomas touchdown, but Siemian had already identified the matchup and the ball was gone before Paul Kruger or Kenny Vaccaro could get there. Thomas was able to make the catch over the top of Delvin Breaux.
Brandin Cooks just made one of the plays of the year to catch a 32-yard bomb between T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby, to theoretically put the Saints up 24-23 ... EXCEPT the extra point was blocked, and might have been returned for two to win the game for Denver. However, Will Parks might have stepped out completely unnecessarily on the return, meaning it would be 23-23 with the Saints about to kick off. The play is under review right now.
Bryan Knowles: New Orleans drives down the field in fantastic fashion, eating up huge chunks of yards to score a touchdown, and tie the game at 23, pending the extra point...
...which is BLOCKED, and returned for two points by the Broncos. It's being reviewed, but if it stands, what a turn of events.
Aaron Schatz: The Saints just tied the Broncos 23-23 on a touchdown heave to Brandon Cooks with two Broncos defenders draped all over him in the end zone. And then the Broncos blocked the extra point and returned it for a two-point conversion. Except the guy returning it may have stepped out of bounds.
Not enough evidence to overrule. Broncos now lead 25-23 and Saints will have to onside kick.
Aaron Schatz: Broncos recover onside kick, game over.
Vince Verhei: So much going on at the end of this game.
Michael Thomas fumbles the ball away and the Dolphins recover. It was Thomas' second fumble in four catches, the first time a wide receiver has fumbled twice in a game this year. I think we have our Least Valuable Receiver of Quick Reads clinched this week.
Broncos, though, go three-and-out and kick a field goal. This leaves them up 23-17. That sets up the Cooks touchdown everyone else described. Then the game-winning extra point is blocked Bobby Wagner-style by Justin Simmons, and turns into a game-winning defensive runback. I think it's a good thing the returner there was wearing white shoes -- it was impossible to see precisely where his foot was. Based on body position, I think there was probably an 80 percent chance the guy was out of bounds. But since he wasn't wearing black or blue or orange shoes, I can't say for sure.
Rob Weintraub: At some point teams are going to have to employ some kind of blocker near the center to prevent that leap over play. Not sure how to make it legal but the counterattack has to come.
Andrew Potter: The Saints were the first team ever to return a blocked extra point for two after the NFL introduced that rule. I just feel like I should throw that out there while I try to process what just happened.
Los Angeles Rams 9 against New York Jets 6
Bryan Knowles: The announcers criticized the Rams, who had four shots at the end zone from the Jets' 1 and didn't let Todd Gurley touch the ball once, settling for a field goal. At the moment, though, Gurley has seven carries for 6 yards, so it's not like anything they're doing is particularly efficient at the moment.
Vince Verhei: Late start this morning, missed the first quarter (or more) of most games. Look up at the Jets game, and the first thing I see is New York running a hook-and-lateral for a 5-yard touchdown. These are the lengths to which the Jets must go to convert in the red zone.
Rams kick a field goal to tie the game 6-6 late in the third. Unlike the 6-6 tie between Arizona and Seattle, there is no debate as to whether this is good football or not -- it's definitely two lousy defenses playing soft zones and bend-but-don't-break schemes, and two quarterbacks playing to take what the defense gives them and nothing more. Bryce Petty's overall statline (14-20-128) looks decent enough, but 50 of those yards came on one deep play to Robby Anderson from his own goal line, and he overthrew a wide-open Anderson on what should have been a big play on another pass. On the other side, Kenny Britt is having his own share of big catches (101 yards on only six grabs already), but the Rams can't run at all (Todd Gurley has 33 yards on 15 carries). Both teams have moved the ball OK up to about midfield or so, but neither has been able to do much of anything at all in scoring range.
Johnny Hekker just had a 78-yard punt. He had a 75-yarder last week, and a 60-yarder the week before that. As others have said, he has probably been the Rams' second-best player this year behind Aaron Donald.
Here is Hekker's 78-yarder. The 75-yarder last week got a good roll after Ted Ginn failed to field it. This one went 78 yards and was caught on the fly. That's insane.
— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2016
Dumb Moments in TV Coverage: Bryce Petty has an almost-fumble ruled an incomplete on third-and-10, leading to a punt. Camera cuts to Ryan Fitzpatrick on the sideline. Now Petty is having a crummy day, and I don't think he'll ever be a starter, but for god's sake, Fitzpatrick was benched twice in the past four games for a reason. He's not coming in to lead a comeback here.
Atlanta Falcons 15 at Philadelphia Eagles 24
Aaron Schatz: Eagles defense dominating Falcons offense early except for one really awesome 29-yard Julio Jones catch with basically no more room before running out of bounds. Eagles scored a touchdown on their opening drive with a lot of runs and picking on Falcons depth corner Jalen Collins. Desmond Trufant is missed. 7-3 early in the second quarter.
Bryan Knowles: I love these sorts of matchups: the unstoppable force, in Atlanta's top-rated offense, versus the immovable object, in Philly's top-rated defense.
So far, the Object is leading the Force, 10-6, thanks in large part to its third-down performance. The Falcons have converted just one of six third downs so far, though they had the chance to take a lead when Matt Bryant missed a 53-yard field goal. On offense, the Eagles are doing just enough not to beat themselves, running the ball very well -- they're averaging 6.3 yards per carry. That steady run game -- something they have been lacking in recent weeks -- has helped Carson Wentz settle in, and play the sort of safe, short passing attack that he's better at.
Hard to keep Atlanta bottled up for an entire game, though, so the Eagles will probably have to score some more points if they are going to pull this one off. Very entertaining game so far.
Rob Weintraub: Philly gets about an inch shy of the goal line on the last play of the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth they lose two on third-and-goal. Yet another field goal makes it 13-9.
Little doubt the Falcs steal this one late -- just too many missed opportunities by the Iggles.
Aaron Schatz: The Falcons' defense actually ranks better against the run (17th) than the pass (21st) and their best cornerback is out, but you wouldn't know it from this game. The Eagles are gashing them on the ground. Of course, the problem with gashing a team on the ground is that at soon as you have a bad run or two, you are stuck in a third-and-long that your passing game can't necessarily convert. And that's a big reason why it's now 13-9 Eagles in the early fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Eagles defense absolutely looks like the No. 1 defense in DVOA, and that rating is going to get even better given how they have shut down the strong Falcons offense. I mean, you can't prevent Julio Jones from getting his with awesome catches, but other than that and a couple of nice dumpoffs and swings to Devonta Freeman, it's all Eagles defense.
Whoops. And right after I emailed that comment, the Falcons finally hit a big play, an 80-yard touchdown where Taylor Gabriel completely destroys Leodis McKelvin with a double-move. Now it is 15-13 Falcons (missed extra point). So, hey, we're on track for another close Eagles loss that won't drop them out of the top spot in DVOA. Yay.
Rob Weintraub: Yeah make that steal it early fourth quarter -- blown coverage, Taylor Gabriel wide open for long touchdown, 16-13 Atlanta.
Bryan Knowles: Julio Jones just dropped a wide-open pass on third down that would have kept Atlanta's drive alive. The Falcons are now 2-for-10 on third down in this game, which may end up being the difference.
Aaron Schatz: Leodis McKelvin decided that one good turn deserves another and bobbled an interception that would have heavily shut the door on Atlanta.
Rob Weintraub: So the Falcons lose, but they still win -- the Saints and Panthers get nipped at the buzzer. It's just Atlanta's year so far.
Minnesota Vikings 20 at Washington Redskins 26
Cian Fahey: The Vikings defense dictated the play to their opponents with their speed in the front seven early in the year. Since then everything has been slow. For Kirk Cousins' second touchdown pass, he underthrew Vernon Davis on the tight end throwback, but Anthony Barr still couldn't catch up to Davis. That's the type of play Barr should make.
The Vikings got to the 1-yard line and to the surprise of nobody came out in a heavy set to run up the middle three times. They scored the touchdown (eventually) but this philosophy is a major problem. They're not built to run over teams. With Norv Turner gone and this philosophy remaining for successive games after he left, it's safe to say that this is a Mike Zimmer philosophy.
The Vikings pass protection held up on the last two drives and both were turned into touchdowns. This is not a coincidence.
Bryan Knowles: Blair Walsh just missed another extra point. They tried out kickers last week, in an attempt to "light a fire" under Walsh. It has not appeared to have helped.
Rob Weintraub: It did light a fire under Walsh -- in the manner of Joan of Arc.
Cian Fahey: The one time the Vikings put a wide receiver on the field at the goal line they score a touchdown by throwing to said wide receiver. I know that's not really a fair full measure but the options need to be used and that play is a good example of why.
Commentator on this game just said Kirk Cousins is one of the most accurate passers in the NFL and then reiterated it. Man, I can't wait for this season to be over so I can put the Quarterback Catalogue together.
Houston Texans 24 at Jacksonville Jaguars 21
Blake Bortles is throwing trick shot interceptions now. Very impressive: pic.twitter.com/cBXbeoi5YY
— SB Nation (@SBNation) November 13, 2016
Andrew Potter: Good work, Jacksonville. Your franchise quarterback is now the living embodiment of a punchline to a Mick & Paddy joke.
Aaron Schatz: Life on the red zone channel:
"Ok, with that Vikings touchdown, let's go to the team that's closest to the red zone, and that's Jacksonville."
Jaguars immediately botch a handoff, then Blake Bortles one-hops his receiver on third-and-long.
Rivers McCown: Don't watch either of these teams. I'm done with Brock Osweiler and Bill O'Brien as a marriage. Maybe Osweiler's best attributes can be brought out with different coaching, or maybe he's a total dud. Either way, this needs to end. I'd feel more comfortable with any number of other quarterbacks in various states of unemployment, and even Tom Savage.
Randomly, in the middle of this game, Rich Gannon started talking about how Blake Bortles told them in pregame meetings he "doesn't consider himself a natural thrower of the football." Uhh, that might be a trait you want your franchise quarterback to feel he has. (For future reference, if anything at this point.) Bortles missed about three or four huge downfield plays in the structure of his offense today, including one pass so underthrown that a beaten Andre Hal was able to catch up to it. Jacksonville's receivers deserve so much better. Myles Jack caught Lamar Miller from a step behind to prevent a touchdown. Maybe he should actually be playing, I assume the next coaching staff will learn.
Chicago Bears 10 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 36
Bryan Knowles: Holy cow! Jameis Winston was just chased a good 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage, retreating all the way back to his own end zone and weaving around defenders, before uncorking a 50-yard pass to Mike Evans for a big first-down completion. That's just how you draw it up, with the exception of the lack of Yakety Sax.
— Luke Easterling (@LukeEasterling) November 13, 2016
And then they follow it up with a 43-yard touchdown on the very next play. That was... that sure was something
Rob Weintraub: An incredible bit of Tarkentonia from Jameis, who avoids several sack attempts, cedes about 30 yards, then heaves one that Mike Evans jumps up to snag. Considering Evans ' involvement it was quite Manzielesque, actually.
For an encore Jameis hits Martino for another bomb, this time a touchdown.
Scott Kacsmar: I'll admit I was rooting for Jameis to take a safety on a sack there just so we could have a definitive example of the worst sack anyone has ever taken, but he had the stamina to make a huge play out of that one. Fun to watch.
Vince Verhei: Both quarterbacks have had huge lucky plays today. Jay Cutler and the Bears get a 50-yard touchdown to Cameron Meredith on a deflected Hail Mary at the end of the first half. Then in the third quarter, Bucs have a third-and-10 at their own 23. Jameis Winston scrambles back to the left, back to the right, straight back, and suddenly he's having to dodge tackles in his end zone to avoid a safety. But he does, and lobs up a deep pass to Mike Evans, who is not especially open. But the defender misreads the ball, and Evans is able to make a leaping catch for the first down. Next play from scrimmage, Winston hits Freddie Martino (one career catch coming into the game) for a 43-yard touchdown.
Kansas City Chiefs 20 at Carolina Panthers 17
Bryan Knowles: Panthers driving in a 17-17 game with less than a minute left, but Marcus Peters wrestles the ball out of Kelvin Benjamin's hands for a huge turnover, moving the ball into field goal range!
However, in his celebration, Peters punts the ball into the stands. That's a 5-yard penalty, and a pretty big mental mistake when the Chiefs need a field goal.
Dallas Cowboys 35 at Pittsburgh Steelers 30
Carl Yedor: Steelers march down the field and cap the drive off with a touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Le'veon Bell after a Dallas turnover. Steelers then go for 2 and the play call is a goal-line fade to Ladarius Green, which falls incomplete. I don't love goal-line fades, but I do like that Coach Tomlin was willing to be aggressive after a touchdown early in the game.
Vince Verhei: Yeah, but he's so infuriatingly random about it! Coming into today, they had kicked the point 21 times in 23 touchdowns. I'm surprised by that -- it seems like Tomlin goes for two a lot more than that. Last year they kicked the point 34 times on 45 touchdowns. If you like your odds to pick up a two-pointer, you should do it every time, unless you're down by one or tied in the fourth. And if you don't like your odds, then you never should unless you're down by two in the fourth. With Tomlin it's like every once in a while he remembers the two-pointer is an option, and gets a wild hair and goes for it when it's not necessary.
Scott Kacsmar: Tomlin is random about it, which is why I'm shocked he went for two again with the score at 12-3. Usually he'd just kick an extra point so we could complain about his two-point randomness. This attempt also failed after Dallas did a good job on the receivers in the end zone.
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Aaron Schatz: Dez Bryant just burned Ross Cockrell to put Dallas up 22-18. Dak Prescott really launched that thing. Obviously he is getting a lot of help but plenty of rookie quarterbacks have gotten a lot of help and not looked anywhere near this good.
Vince Verhei: Steelers are about to run a spike in the red zone with 40-some seconds left and I'm screaming at them not to spike it -- and it's a fake spike to Antonio Brown for the touchdown!
Only three afternoon games today, but they have all been entertaining.
Bryan Knowles: This is a game to remember at the end of the year for the "best games" category; it's been almost nothing but entertaining.
I do have to wonder, though, what the record is for failed two-point conversions in a single game; there have been five attempts and five failures so far today in this one.
Bryan Knowles: Of course, the most important result of this game: The Cleveland Browns are still alive for a playoff spot!
Rob Weintraub: Best play of the day -- I hit pause on the Red Zone around 7 so I could read to my kids. Then I watched the trifecta of denouement!
Pitt losing of course was key for us Bengals fans but they played well -- took the co-rookies of the year to best them...
Scott Kacsmar: Classic game there, and I'll bite. In the draft, Dallas was basically forced to choose between Jalen Ramsey and Ezekiel Elliott with the No. 4 pick. As much as I hate taking a running back that high, the talent of Elliott combined with that offensive line was a dream combination that was justifiable to make happen. Now after watching Elliott this season, I can't imagine Ramsey ever making this kind of impact on the team, and it was definitely the right move for Dallas. Even though I still think it's harder to find a top-tier cornerback, getting a workhorse running back in this era is also really difficult. Elliott's impact has been huge, and Prescott obviously looks like a keeper. If the Cowboys ever get anything out of Jaylon Smith when he gets healthy, then this could go down as one of those all-time draft hauls.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not going to make a huge argument here, but I am still against taking a running back that high. Just because a big gamble paid off doesn't mean that the gamble was a wise decision. But man oh man, did it pay off. Now when we list all the recent first-round running backs who weren't worth it, there will be two names on the top of the list of first-round running backs who really did end up being that good: Adrian Peterson and Elliott.
(Todd Gurley is TBD.)
Rivers McCown: What a wonderful game this was. We talk a lot about the Dallas offense because of Elliott and Dak/Romo is a lightning rod, but the Dallas defense is secretly kind of amazing. Remember two years ago when publications were wondering aloud if they were the least talented defense in the NFL in years? Everyone had a grim view. They get some help because the offense controls the ball so well, but they legitimately looked like a good defense in this game. I was crestfallen about Anthony Brown's pass interference call on Antonio Brown in the end zone, because I don't know how you play it much better than that. Rod Marinelli really deserves a lot of kudos for the job he does.
San Francisco 49ers 20 at Arizona Cardinals 23
Vince Verhei: At the end of the first quarter, 49ers have three three-and-outs in three drives. Five of their offensive plays have gained yards, none more than 6 yards, while four (one sack, two runs, and a completion) have gone backwards. On the last play of the quarter, Jeremy Kerley returned a punt 25 yards to at least give the offense a chance -- but then he fumbled the ball away and Arizona took it back.
49ers' fourth drive goes much better. Colin Kaepernick picks up a first down on a quarterback keeper to the right. Vance McDonald then gets open across the middle for a 36-yard catch-and-run, and Kaepernick finishes the drive with a 17-yard touchdown to Kerley. 49ers ran a corner-out combo, and two defenders covered the out guy, leaving Kerley open in the end zone. Cardinals still lead 14-7 on two David Johnson touchdowns, one rushing, one receiving.
Bryan Knowles: Larry Fitzgerald continues to claw his way up the all-time charts, passing Terrell Owens for the sixth-most receptions in NFL history. It's been a pretty amazing career, considering he's had to put up with the likes of Josh McCown, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Matt Leinart as his quarterback for extended periods of time.
I'm surprised San Francisco is still hanging around, but they're only 10 points down. They had almost literally nothing going in the first quarter, with a whopping four net yards, but have woken up since then. A big pass to Vance McDonald, and a wide, wide-open Jeremy Kerley got the 49ers a touchdown, and a 15-play drive gave their defense a chance to rest, even if it only ended up in a field goal. Nothing really out there to indicate the 49ers could actually win this one, but it was looking like another historic blowout after 15 minutes, and sometimes, you have to give credit for terrible teams at least holding their heads up high.
Vince Verhei: 49ers' defensive front is keeping them in this game. First, after giving up at least 127 rushing yards (and up to 313 rushing yards) in each of their last seven games, they have held the Cardinals to 51, midway through the third quarter here. Second, after the Cardinals hit passing plays of 21 and 33 yards (the latter a flea flicker to Fitzgerald), Arizona had a first-and-goal at the 7, looking to put this one on ice. But then DeForest Buckner got a sack on first down, and Eli Harold got a sack-fumble on second down, and Buckner recovered the ball. Kaepernick got one big pass to Quinton Patton, but then the drive stalled. Still, that led to a field goal, and somehow this is a one-score game, with Arizona up 20-13.
The 49ers haven't done a damn thing on offense, but the Cardinals can't put the game away, mainly because Carson Palmer keeps throwing interceptions -- one that bounced off J.J. Nelson's hands, one where he just sailed a pass over his receiver.
49ers finally get a sustained drive, going 57 yards in seven plays. Kaepernick had a 19-yard run on the drive on a scramble down the sideline, and also scored on a 2-yard run. And somehow we are tied at 20.
Hours later, I realized I had never finished my recap of this game. Well, there wasn't much to say -- Arizona quickly and easily moved into short field goal range and got the kick at the buzzer to win. Very anticlimactic.
Miami Dolphins 31 at San Diego Chargers 24
Tom Gower: First half in a nutshell: Did Antonio Gates catch the ball? If yes, San Diego moved the ball and maybe scored points. If not, Miami got a defensive stop. I'm kind of shocked this defense looks as good as they are by DVOA because whenever I watch them they look like they have a bunch of replacement-level players in the back seven. Ryan Tannehill did hit a nice deep ball to Kenny Stills to make the score 10-7 through 30.
Scott Kacsmar: I don't know what kind of game he's had overall, but Ryan Tannehill has made some of the best plays I have ever seen from him today. First, the 39-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills was a perfect bucket throw of 50-plus yards in the air under pressure. Now, he just escaped a sack and scrambled for 18 yards on third-and-11. This probably means he'll bomb his next game out because he's been that inconsistent, but for today, some really great stuff that keeps the "this is the year he puts it together!" narrative alive in Miami.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah. Sone good throws, but over the long run he just is what he is. Jay Ajayi is putting it together for him.
Vince Verhei: I know, right? Tannehill finished third in both of the explosive metrics I looked at in Quick Reads this week, and that's not even considering that what might have been his longest play of the year was dropped in Week 1 against Seattle. Most of the time he looks like a fringe starter, but he does just enough to flash and tease and keep you interested. Maybe the league's most frustrating quarterback right now.
And then Miami's Jakeem Grant muffs a punt he never should have touched -- he had to sprint across the field to catch a ball inside the 10. A high-risk play with no reward. Chargers recover and get a first-and-goal at the 5, and then a first-and-goal at the 2 after a hold -- and then Philip Rivers overthrows a double-covered Tyrell Williams in the corner of the end zone, and Tony Lippett gets the interception, and after all of that Miami is just going to get the ball at the 20 like they probably should have anyway.
Tom Gower: Matt Bowen had a great point on Twitter. That was the same route combination -- outside receiver drops like he's getting targeted on a smoke, run the slot seam fade -- that the Chargers used successfully against Denver. Outside cornerback Tony Lippett (the converted receiver) played it perfectly, not falling for the action in front of him.
Rob Weintraub: But now with four minutes and change to play, Rivers drops one in a bucket for Williams on an incredible throw. Williams had just messed up the play before when Rivers expected him to come back for a ball. Rivers went right back to him for the go-ahead touchdown. Then Tannehill answers with a bomb of his own despite getting the forearm shiver to the skull. Miami threatening to retake the lead.
Vince Verhei: Rivers has thrown two bad picks today, but pretty much all of his completions have been tremendous throws, precise passes to downfield receivers. Not a lot of "swing pass with 20 yards after the catch" in his numbers. And his last completion put San Diego ahead 24-21, a 51-yard crosser to Williams.
And then Tannehill answers that with a bomb of his own, a 56-yarder to DeVante Parker. (He also had a 41-yarder on the prior drive called back on a penalty.) The drive ends in a game-tying field goal. I'm starting to think there is something to what Adam Gase could do with this kid.
Bryan Knowles: Make that three bad picks for Rivers, who may have just thrown a game-winning touchdown...to Kiko Alonso, Alonso perfectly undercut Rivers' route, and returned it all the way to the house.
Vince Verhei: FOUR! Tony Lippett cuts in front of Williams, and the Dolphins are in victory formation.
This San Diego season is just the stuff of legends. San Diego's last five drives today: interception, interception, touchdown, pick-six, interception.
Seattle Seahawks 31 at New England Patriots 24
Aaron Schatz: Patriots march up the field easily on the first drive of the game, helped a bit by defensive pass interference on a pass to Gronk that looked uncatchable unless we're playing with CFL end zones.
Reader Ajit Kirpekar brings up an interesting question to me in Twitter: Are the Patriots the only team to run their pass offense not through their outside receivers? Maybe Kansas City/Philadelphia? I did point out to him that it's an interesting question partly because often Gronk *is* the outside receiver. Thoughts?
Vince Verhei: You mean this year, or ever? Because there have been plenty of passing games that have focused on tight ends and running backs. The Rams, for most of Jeff Fisher's tenure, come to mind.
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Aaron Schatz: I think we're saying this year. As for the Rams, is it possible to have a passing attack run through incompletions? No, in all seriousness, I do think they applied in past years when things seemed to go through Jared Cook and Tavon Austin, before Gurley showed up and things became more run-focused.
Aaron Schatz: ... and Edelman/Welker.
Vince Verhei: The red zone failures are frustrating, but Seattle's offense looks good, getting two long field goals on its first two drives. The offense this year has usually looked very good when they get any kind of blocking at all. New England came into this game dead-last in Adjusted Sack Rate, and as Aaron pointed out, their leading sacker just got benched.
That's three long drives in three possessions now, this one capped off by a short touchdown by Doug Baldwin on what I think was a triple-move route. The scoring issues continue as the extra point is blocked, but so far New England's only hope on defense has been "leave Jermaine Kearse open and hope he drops it." And it has worked, but you can see how much the Pats are trying to force Wilson to lean on Kearse -- he's up to six targets already. Nobody else on the team has more than three.
Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady just threw his first pick of the year halfway through the second quarter. He scrambled with Ahtyha Rubin bearing down on him and then heaved it wildly downfield. It had the feel of Brady entering the "trying to do too much" zone. Terrible throw, weak duck. It was first down. Just throw it away and live to fight another day, man. Patriots defense isn't doing anything to slow down the Seattle offense tonight so anything that gives the ball back to them is a problem.
Vince Verhei: Two thoughts on New England's tight ends:
1) Gronk goes to the sideline after the big Earl Thomas hit and as a fan of the other team, you're thinking "OK, we don't have to worry about the tight end now." Then they just put their other top-5 tight end on the field and beat you with him anyway.
2) The play-action throwback to Bennett that gave New England a first-and-goal at the 2-minute warning in the first half -- I could just see that coming a mile away and knew there was nothing Seattle could do stop it. That play has given Seattle problems all year. Only way they could stop that seems like would be to see it coming and blitz from the back-side.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots defense is not making Belichick's decision to trade Jamie Collins look good. Seattle just marched upfield at the end of the second quarter in less than a minute. Wilson can ramble around behind the scrimmage as long as he wants to find guys. The Patriots looked like they were trying to keep Seattle in field-goal range and then Doug Baldwin somehow got into the end zone and Patrick Chung is standing 5 yards in front of him with no idea there's anyone behind him. They somehow lost Seattle's best wide receiver despite dropping nine into coverage and rushing TWO. Chung's been very good this year but, uh, not on that play. 19-14 Seattle at halftime.
Vince Verhei: Welp. Healthy Russell Wilson is scrambling and making plays again. Coverages are breaking down. Touchdowns are happening.
Aaron Schatz: I don't think his ankle looks much better. The Pats just aren't getting any pass rush. Or even trying on some of those plays to end the half.
Vince Verhei: That clockwise-spin-out-of-pressure-and-slip-out-to-the-left move? That used to be something he did all the time. Haven't seen it in weeks.
Patriots actually rushed two three times on that last drive. One resulted in a wide-open receiver (Tyler Lockett, I think) but Wilson made a horrible throw. Second time resulted in a deep completion to Lockett in the same spot. Third time resulted in the touchdown. Yes, that tactic failed.
Seahawks also have had their best running game in forever. 67 rushing yards at halftime. Haven't run for 100 yards as a team since Week 3 (and that was against San Francisco, so perhaps it shouldn't count). C.J. Prosise is running his ass off and dishing out as much contact as he's taking -- surprising, for a guy who started as a receiver in college. And, as others in Seattle have noted, Christine Michael looks like he's running for his job out there.
Patriots' touchdown drive to open the second half included lots of runs to the perimeter, with the fullbacks and tight ends getting key blocks. I don't think they have done much up the middle tonight, but looked much better to the outside.
Another field goal for Seattle puts them back on top. The red zone issues will probably end up costing them this game, but considering the competition, this is probably the best this team has looked all year.
Aaron Schatz: Next drive, the Patriots are having success with those one-cut zone outside runs again.
Aaron Schatz: That's OK, the Seahawks come all the way back down to the goal line on the next drive. Big play was a 38-yard pass to C.J. Prosise that he caught while diving parallel to the left sideline with two Patriots defenders basically inside his uniform. The receivers are underrated, Wilson is so good, the backs are good... what would this offense be like with an actual NFL offensive line?
Vince Verhei: Well, it doesn't matter, because we get a lost challenge on a run on second down, and an incomplete swing pass on third down (that probably wouldn't have scored anyway) and it's Steven Hauschka to kick ANOTHER field goal to go ahead. In all these failed red zone drives, by the way, has there been one pass to Jimmy Graham? I don't remember any.
Aaron Schatz: No, but a ton of Doug Baldwin. Seahawks score after stripping the ball from Julian Edelman. Amazing move by Doug Baldwin at the line of scrimmage, just worked himself open instantly. Logan Ryan covering him, I believe.
And then the Seahawks actually go for two up seven! I feel like I have seen a unicorn. They don't get it when Wilson overthrows Baldwin in the back left corner.
Scott Kacsmar: Wow, I'll have to check later, but I think this might be the first time a team ever went for two up seven in the fourth quarter. I have been pushing for this for years, and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to try it. The Seahawks didn't get it, but it was worth the shot. Defense still has the same goal of keeping them out of the end zone here.
Vince Verhei: Can't believe people on Twitter are critical of that decision. If they get it, they're up two scores and the game is over! Now they missed it, but they're still up seven, and the worst case scenario is that New England comes back to tie.
Sometimes I think people don't realize that two-point conversions are basically coin flips. They're not rare.
Aaron Schatz: I will note this tweet from Brian Burke regarding the expected score
Only way that makes sense is if Carroll believes his chance of converting 2 is better than .95 * NE's chance.
— Brian Burke (@bburkeESPN) November 14, 2016
Carl Yedor: We're definitely going to be hearing about that two-point conversion call a lot tomorrow. Suggests that the Seahawks trust their offense more than their defense, which while understandable considering the opposition is a stark contrast from recent years.
Aaron Schatz: This game has featured some really incredible offensive plays by both teams. Now the Pats have marched all the way back and Brady just dropped it over the top to Gronk to put the Patriots at the 2. While Gronk was probably being interfered with by DeShawn Shead.
Vince Verhei: This whole damn season by Seattle is nothing but a never-ending string of amazing goal-line defense.
Aaron Schatz: I do think we could have a hell of a debate about this picture and I'm
not even sure what side I would be on.
Literally the definition of holding pic.twitter.com/Bbmxzw5exQ
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) November 14, 2016
Vince Verhei: Gronk initiated contact and tried to push him over. Chancellor only grabbed him after he was already falling down. If anything, it's an offsetting foul.
Tom Gower: I thought that was a good no-call.
I wish I had more to say about the game, but last time these two played I had a much better feel for the matchups and the "game within the game" stuff. I haven't watched either team in enough granular detail to say too much interesting about them this year, so I have just been watching with interest and letting y'all comment.
Vince Verhei: Tonight was the first time we got to see a healthy C.J. Prosise and what he can do in this offense. And I am giddy. Seattle hasn't had a really good receiving back since Ricky Watters. He brings an element they haven't had in the entire Carroll/Schneider regime. As Aaron said, this team, when healthy, is right there with the Falcons, Patriots, and Cowboys for the best fantasy position talent in the league.
But yes, in a season full of mediocre games between mediocre teams, that might have been the first game I have watched all year where both teams seemed like worthy Super Bowl contenders. Just excellent football by all involved.
Aaron Schatz: The Patriots defense looks like a problem. But honestly... I'm not sure if it looked that much worse without Jamie Collins than with Jamie Collins. Yes, Elandon Roberts got beat on that deep pass to Prosise, but he did have pretty good coverage, and Collins was traded in part because he was getting beat on plays like that. Yes, the pass rush didn't look great, but it hasn't looked great in the past few weeks, and they did get a couple of sacks so it wasn't totally absent.
I think the Seahawks learned that if Russell Wilson's ankle will heal gradually, they might be able to overcome that offensive line when it is time for the postseason.
For the playoff picture, this win means a lot more to the Seahawks than the loss means to the Patriots. With Atlanta and Minnesota losing, Seahawks are now clear favorites for the No. 2 seed with a shot at No. 1. On the other hand, Patriots still have a better than 50 percent chance to be the 1 seed. Their schedule the rest of the way is just monumentally easy except for that trip to Denver and a Week 17 trip to Miami that might not even matter. Seriously. They play the Rams, the 49ers, and the Jets TWICE.
Scott Kacsmar: Seattle finished that one the way you're supposed to: don't give up the touchdown so the two-point conversion isn't even an issue. That's still the goal on defense whether it's 31-24, 32-24 or 33-24. There is way too much importance placed on the conversion, and not enough on the extra possession lead you would gain by converting the two. Even if we think New England is more likely to convert than Seattle, is it really that high of a difference to deter you from trying to go up nine? It's not like I'd give New England a 55 percent chance and Seattle a 35 percent chance. Both offenses are probably closer to 50/50. But wow, that goal-line stand, which I think was helped by some odd Brady sneaks (he's usually at his best there in the open field rather than at the goal line where he didn't even take advantage of the leap-and-stretch tactic).
Another classic game. Dallas-Pittsburgh and Seattle-New England really delivered.
Vince Verhei: Oh, and obviously, Seattle's non-blowout streak continues.
Scott Kacsmar: The only thing I'm not really confident at all about is deciding when it makes sense to go for two up seven (assuming your offense is good enough that you think you'll convert). I think eight minutes would be too early, but four and under seems right. Anything hovering the two-minute warning (by say 30 seconds) should be a no-brainer decision.
Vince Verhei: I'm seeing some surprise that Brady tried two sneaks on the goal-line at the end there. He had five runs tonight, I believe all sneaks. This article is a year and a half out of date, but the point stands: Tom Brady is awesome at sneaks, and it's pretty much never a bad play to call.
Rivers McCown: One thing today taught me, with both the Prosise goal-line non-touchdown and the rule-out on the Saints extra point, is that instant replay is worthless. We slow down game after game and are we really any closer to getting every call right? It's becoming asinine. Give the refs some more technology, give them full-time status, try anything but more replay. It's killing the watchability of these games for little benefit.