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 e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these emails 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.
Los Angeles Rams 21 at New Orleans Saints 49
Aaron Schatz: These games are mostly lame. But there will be a big upset in there somewhere.
Andrew Potter: Jeff Fisher is apparently 5-0 in his career against the Saints, so there's that.
And on their opening play, Jared Goff hits Todd Gurley on a short completion to his left against a Saints secondary blitz from his right, and beats his longest completion from last week by 10 full yards for a career high of 31. Goff ends the drive with his first career NFL touchdown pass, to Tavon Austin on a corner route out of the slot. As is usual for the Saints, if they don't get pressure there's simply nothing behind the front line. Noteworthy in that respect, Greg Robinson is a healthy inactive for the Rams today -- Rodger Saffold starts at left tackle.
Vince Verhei: Very early here, there is big news for a bunch of Rams top-10 draft picks. It's bad news for Greg Robinson (No. 2 overall, 2014), who is a healthy scratch today. But Todd Gurley (No. 10, 2015) gets a 31-yard catch-and-run to set the Rams up in Saints territory on L.A.'s first drive, and then Jared Goff (No. 1, 2016) gets his first career touchdown pass on a deep ball to Tavon Austin (No. 8, 2013). If Goff can continue to make Austin look like a bona fide NFL wide receiver, that alone will justify his draft stock.
Andrew Potter: Rams just retook the lead on a 6-yard strike to Kenny Britt, but they owe that touchdown to Aaron Donald. Donald swatted Andrus Peat aside like he was on a hanging rail between Donald and Narnia, and Drew Brees never stood a chance. Sack, fumble, recovered by Mark Barron, and the touchdown came on the very next play.
Vince Verhei: Yes, Donald deserves most of the credit, but that still gives Goff two touchdown passes in the first quarter. Case Keenum hasn't thrown two touchdowns in the first quarter since December of last year against Tampa Bay.
Andrew Potter: An aggressive call from Sean Payton and a terrific run from Mark Ingram ties the game again, the touchdown coming on fourth down in the red zone. A fake jet sweep right and toss play left isolated Alec Ogletree against Ingram in space, Ogletree overplayed the outside, and Ingram cut inside him for the touchdown. Looks like not even the Rams offense can keep this Saints game from becoming a shootout.
Scott Kacsmar: Good fourth-down decisions and perfect quarterback sneaks at the goal line? I like some of what we're seeing today, but the Saints have especially been wise to take advantage of the sneak at the goal line with Brees. Just extend the ball out to break the plane and the play is over. Easy. Close to unstoppable.
Andrew Potter: The Los Angeles Rams had nine touchdown passes in their first ten games of the season. They have three touchdown passes in the first half against the Saints today.
How very Fisher of the Rams for the defense to utterly collapse as soon as the offense shows signs of life. Mark Ingram's touchdown catch for the first points of the second half was the easiest touchdown catch there will ever be for anybody, anywhere. There were three Saints blockers and precisely one Rams defender on that half of the field, as Gregg Williams called a big blitz off the offensive left side and Sean Payton ran a screen to the right.
Now Michael Thomas, who has broken several tackles today, beats E.J. Gaines off the line, catches the ball, sidesteps a flailing diving tackle attempt by Maurice Alexander, then powers through Gaines' attempt a recovery tackle for the touchdown. It's 42-21, and the Rams have shown no signs of getting back into this one since halftime.
Just business, nothing personal, as Sean Payton dials up a Willie Snead trick play pass deep to Tim Hightower to put the Saints up 49-21 against Gregg Williams' Rams defense. Not sure this is the spot in which I'd have used that play, but it certainly worked a treat.
This game's dead, but Johnny Hekker just had yet another mahoosive punt. It goes down as 68 yards officially, but he kicked from his own end zone and it was downed at the Saints 27.
Arizona Cardinals 19 at Atlanta Falcons 38
Bryan Knowles: Desmond Trufant is out, probably for the year, with a torn pectoral muscle. It appears the Cardinals were aware of this -- they marched 75 yards on their first drive, with Carson Palmer completing all five of his passes, including a touchdown. Jalen Collins has not proven to be an adequate replacement so far, though it's only one drive.
Scott Kacsmar: Big swing before halftime. Falcons were driving, but Julio Jones lost control of an easy completion that turned into an interception. Scott Hanson went with the "boy, you never see that from Julio" line on the RedZone channel, which is exactly what the announcer said the last time Julio had a big drop in Philadelphia two weeks ago. These aren't the only times this season either for Jones. How many times does a player need to drop some big plays that should have been easy catches before you leave that line out? The Cardinals turned the pick into a 54-yard field goal to end the half, because apparently that's not as much pressure on Chandler Catanzaro, who already cost this team with two likely game-winners missed from a shorter distance this year.
Rob Weintraub: Larry Fitzgerald with Hall of Fame level awareness -- with five seconds to go the Cards run a clear-out in the middle of the field. Fitz grabs it underneath, sprints for about 10 yards, then slides down and calls timeout with one second still on the clock. Long field goal good, Cards cut their deficit to 21-17 at the half.
Bryan Knowles: Another note from that Arizona game -- David Johnson is, once again, over 100 yards from scrimmage. That's getting to be very rarefied air; it's 11 straight games to start the season for Johnson. The only other player with at least 11 100-plus-yard games to start a season is Edgerrin James (who did it twice), and it's only the 16th time in NFL history someone has had 11 consecutive games, period. It has been quite a season for him.
Rob Weintraub: D.J. Swearinger does a great job reading Matt Ryan's eyes, gets a great jump on his seam pass -- then drops the sure interception. A few plays later the Falcons are in the end zone. Naturally.
The Cardinals stink, but don't blame David Johnson. As mentioned before he's over 100 yards from scrimmage yet again. He also scored a touchdown just now out of the backfield on a tremendously athletic play. Palmer's pass was low and away but Johnson not only went low to snag it off the grass but stayed fluid, kept his balance, and lunged into the end zone. Deceptively, a very difficult play.
San Francisco 49ers 24 at Miami Dolphins 31
Cian Fahey: 49ers just pulled the Dolphins defense apart on their opening drive that went for a touchdown. Read-option runs and designed plays to target Kiko Alonso in space made it too easy. Carlos Hyde's touchdown came directly as a result of Alonso's inability to get to him in space.
Colin Kaepernick has been outstanding so far against the Dolphins. He has run for more than 60 yards and converted first downs in difficult situations repeatedly. He has two precise throws against pressure -- one was a dropped touchdown, and the other was caught for a first down but subsequently fumbled away to end the drive.
Bryan Knowles: When the post-mortem of the 49ers is written after this season, something to note is their fast starts and slow finishes. Thanks to Carlos Hyde's touchdown reception in the first quarter, the 49ers have now scored first in eight of their 11 games. That's unusual for a team that's 1-9, staring 1-10 in the face, and is about to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Add in the fact that the 49ers have the longest opening day winning streak in the NFL, and it's really an odd pattern. The 49ers show up for the first 5 or 10 percent of a thing, pat themselves on the back, and then get blown out of the water.
A little followup to my earlier 49ers stat: The record for losses in a season when a team scores first is nine, shared by the 1990 Denver Broncos and the 2011 Miami Dolphins -- both of which were significantly better than this 49ers team. The Broncos had a -7.5% DVOA while the Dolphins were at -1.3%. The 49ers entered this week at -18.4%.
That being said, they had a nice little drive to score just now, and have moved the game to 17-14 and forced a Miami punt. Not exactly a performance befitting of the sixth-ranked team in DVOA so far by the Dolphins.
Aaron Schatz: The 49ers are trying to come back, down 31-24, less than two minutes left.
- First-and-10 incomplete short pass.
- Second-and-10, face mask penalty.
- Second-and-25, Kaepernick throws the ball 2 yards downfield. TWO! With 25 to go! Carlos Hyde gets 2 YAC.
- Third-and-21, Kaepernick throws the ball about 4 yards downfield to Hyde, although he gets 6 YAC.
- Fourth-and-11, Kaepernick throws the ball PAST THE MARKER (!!!!) and Torrey Smith converts with 17 yards.
That Torrey Smith play bailed them out, but that is some crappy ALEX right there. It matters on first and second down too, especially something like second-and-25.
On the other hand... you can't be playing man-to-man against Colin Kaepernick on third-and-8 and leaving him tons of space to scramble for a first down. Can't do it, Miami. And then Jeremy Kerley with an amazing catch on the sidelines... originally called out of bounds but looks like it will be overturned... that leaves San Francisco with one play from the 6 to tie the game.
Sorry, did I say one play? I meant two plays. Pass to Torrey Smith tipped away by Byron Maxwell, then Kaepernick tries to scramble for the game-winning touchdown with everyone covered and gets tackled with 2 yards left to go. Miami has now won six straight games.
Bryan Knowles: Kaepernick scrambles on the last play of the game, and can't make it. Ballgame. The 49ers are now officially eliminated from the playoffs -- and they remain in a relatively tight race with Cleveland for the first overall draft pick. Excitement down the stretch!
Cincinnati Bengals 14 at Baltimore Ravens 19
Vontaze Burfict tricks the refs into a personal foul penalty here with this flop https://t.co/t0SgdlwTd5
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) November 27, 2016
Cian Fahey: I'm actually on Burfict's side. He sells it obviously, but Smith initiates the contact aggressively with his helmet and tries to do it subtly. If we swapped the players here everyone would be criticizing Burfict.
Rob Weintraub: So many dudes have drawn penalties on Burfict by flopping -- I'm happy he has been taking notes.
Aaron Schatz: Not all negative-ALEX plays are created the same. The Bengals threw a slant to James Wright on third-and-4. That pass was thrown about 3 yards downfield, and the officials gave the Bengals a generous spot to call it a first down. But I think you're a lot more likely to get that 1 yard of needed YAC with a slant, where your inertia carries you downfield towards the sticks, than with a curl or a hitch or even a crossing pattern.
Follow-up: The Ravens challenged the spot and the play was overturned, taking away the first down. This doesn't change the discussion of curls vs. slants on third down.
Rob Weintraub: Didn't help that Cincy stupidly called timeout instead of a quick snap, which allowed the Ravens to look at it and challenge.
Plenty of big-picture failings this season in Cincy, but the little dumb stuff piles up every week too.
Aaron Schatz: Halftime in Baltimore, and this one's a defensive battle. The Bengals' stats show the importance of Brandon Williams as Ravens nose tackle; Jeremy Hill has 9 carries for 20 yards. Without A.J. Green, the passing game is just Tyler Eifert plus a bunch of possession receivers right now. Ravens aren't doing much on offense either, although Kenneth Dixon is making his case to be the No. 1 back going forward (five carries for 26 yards, three catches for 28 yards). Justin Tucker has three field goals of 50-plus yards. One of them came off a drive that was seven plays for 2 yards. No, seriously. A good drive for the Ravens seems to consist of a few short runs and passes, one long gain to either Dennis Pitta or Mike Wallace, and a long Justin Tucker field goal. I think half their playbook is made up of bootlegs with a 1-yard outlet pass to Kyle Juszczyk.
Rob Weintraub: Looking forward to the second half between two teams, the Ravens and the Bengals, seemingly incapable of adjusting at halftime.
Crappy as the Bengals have been this year, if they merely swapped kickers with the Ravens they would have a comfortable division lead.
Case in point: the Bengals open the second half by driving inside the Baltimore 40, then punt from the 38. Tucker drills a kick from there like blinking. Mike Nugent has no chance.
Scott Kacsmar: Justin Tucker should be on his way to a first-team All-Pro selection for the second time in his career, first since 2013. Only full-time kicker not to miss this year (26-for-26), and now 7-for-7 from 50-plus yards.
Rob Weintraub: Oh, and after the Bengals finally mount a drive and actually score in the red zone (Eifert, natch), Nugent misses his fourth extra point of the season.
By the way, the Bengals actually did some adjusting on that touchdown drive -- they targeted Eifert more after just two targets in the first half. He was triple-teamed on that touchdown catch but worked the back line beautifully and Dalton found him there. Also Russell Bodine was replaced by T.J. Johnson to noticeable effect. Not sure if that is a rotation thing or an injury or what. But given Bodine's spotty play it bears noting. The Bengals cost themselves points earlier when Bodine snapped it before Dalton was ready, resulting in a red zone fumble.
Bodine was indeed yanked. 2015 first-rounder Cedric Ogbuehi also watched from the sidelines on that drive. Very telling.
Meanwhile the Bengals have lost two or three secondary players in this game to injury. Fortunately they drafted a corner in the first round -- William Jackson III. Oh, but wait, he's on IR. He was eligible to come off this week, as was Cedric Peerman, a fourth string running back-special teamer. The Bengals chose to activate Peerman, not Jackson, this week when both were eligible to come off (only allowed to reactivate one of course). So the Bengals flush away any snaps Jackson could get this season, and will inevitably wind up with just a couple of seasons to evaluate Jackson now before having to decide whether he's worth extending. Part of the problem when you draft for luxury.
The Bengals convert on third-and-22 thanks to a 5-yard hands to the face penalty during the ruck and maul on the offensive line. Cincy is the benefactor but I don't love that whole automatic first down on 5-yard penalty gestalt.
It doesn't help much as the Bengals are held to a field goal try which -- miracle of miracles -- is good by Nugent. 19-12 Baltimore.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, Bengals hold the Ravens on the next drive and get the ball back at their own 19 with 4:17 to go. And they're marching down the field with a really nice drive. The offensive line play is better on this drive, they're getting some yards on the ground, and Dalton just connected with Tyler Boyd for 9 yards on third-and-2. They might actually do this and force overtime. You know, for all the people begging for more Bengals-Ravens football.
The Bengals are still in this despite the fact that Dalton keeps getting his passes knocked down by the Ravens' offensive line. He's had three of them batted down on just this drive, including two by Matt Judon, but he hit Eifert on fourth-and-3 to keep things going.
Rob Weintraub: Gotta consider going for two...
But of course the Bengals don't have to make that call. Dumervil slips past Eric Winston, playing right tackle cause Ogbuehi can't, and strips Andy Dalton. Turnover, game over. The Ravens also batted down three passes in their territory on that drive.
Reminder: Cincy had a top-5 offensive line last year.
Vince Verhei: Ravens have a fourth down, up 19-12 with 11 seconds to go. They line up to punt -- but then Sam Koch drifts back to the end zone, and the other ten Ravens go on a holding frenzy. Flags fill the field, the clock expires, and Sam Koch goes down for the safety. The game is over either way, so the Bengals go ahead and decline the penalty and take the points. But that is an ingenious way to close out a game like that.
Bryan Knowles: John Harbaugh, former special teams coach, strikes again. With 11 seconds left in the game, and facing a fourth down, Harbaugh instructs his punt unit to cheat like crazy, tackling, holding, and generally mauling the Cincinnati punt block unit, while punter Sam Koch casually strolls back to the end zone, stepping out for a safety after the clock goes to 0. About eight holding penalties on that play with every official on the field throwing a flag, but that doesn't matter -- the game can end on an offensive penalty, so the game's over.
Rob Weintraub: Another dumb rule.
Tennessee Titans 27 at Chicago Bears 21
Vince Verhei: Titans came into the week 31st in pass coverage against running backs, and you can see why early, even if it's not all showing up in the numbers. Chicago's longest play so far has been a 22-yard screen to Jordan Howard where the running back had offensive linemen running 10 yards in front of him looking for somebody to hit. They tried it again a few plays later and it looked like they were going to get the same result, but Matt Barkley overthrew the pass (yes, on a screen). Then, in the red zone, Howard was wide-open on an out route that should have been a touchdown, but he dropped the pass.
Tom Gower: Titans up 21-7 at the half. Bears actually took the lead on a nicely-designed scoring drive after their first drive ended on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 33. The Titans have a couple of third-and-short incompletions, but three scoring drives beyond that. I know, the Bears are actually a respectable 19th in defensive DVOA, but the back six has been lousy today. Corner Bryce Callahan has been a particular target of some nice seam throws by Marcus Mariota, but it would probably be unfair to single him out. Mariota has looked good, most notably maybe on a 29-yard touchdown to Rishard Matthews, and the Titans have finally mixed in Derrick Henry (five carries to DeMarco Murray's eight), albeit a month or more after they should have (and I say that as even someone who wasn't a particular fan of Henry's).
Matt Barkley has been ... a below-average backup quarterback, which is about as much as you could have reasonably expected. His one turnover was a bad decision -- he forced a checkdown to a covered tight end in the middle of the field, and Wesley Woodyard took it away. Barkley has executed some of what's there, but had some misses, like overthrowing one screen and underthrowing another, plus a botched handoff to Jordan Howard (who has found space at times) they managed to get back after it was kicked away from the line (fumble recoveries are random). But this isn't a talented enough offense right now to make up for their lack of consistent execution, so they have the one drive and a couple big defensive pass interference penalties on balls that would have been defended by corners with non-Tennessee ball skills.
Aaron Schatz: In retrospect, that Chicago domination of Minnesota on Monday Night Football four weeks ago just looks cuckoo for cocoa puffs.
Tom Gower: Bears actually onsided to open the second half and got to scoring territory and followed it up with some successful plays, but under pressure after scrambling to buy time on third-and-goal, Barkley puts up a back-foot duck under pressure that's easily intercepted by Da'Norris Searcy. On the next series, starting deep after a penalty on the kickoff, Cody Whitehair's deep snap goes off Barkley's head, and the Titans are starting in Bears territory up 24-7. Chicago's scoring drive is now but a distant memory.
Bad timing on my previous email. Bears offense now worked enough to score two touchdowns on as many possessions since then and have the ball at their own 35, down six with 1:56 to play.
Kind of a weird game. Titans had a couple third-and-short failures, but other drives ended in scores for a 27-7 lead . But then the Bears started converting on third downs -- all of them. Third-and-5. Third-and-5. Third-and-10. Touchdown. Third-and-10. Third-and-11. Third-and-ten, to fourth-and-two, and a touchdown there. And the Titans offense tried to grind things out, but went three-and-out twice. 27-7 to 27-14 to 27-21. And it looked like the 28th-ranked defense by DVOA would somehow blow it, when the Bears went from their 35 to the Tennessee 7 in a minute, with almost a minute to play. Dick LeBeau was bringing pressure, and the overloads were producing free rushers. But Barkley was standing in there, getting the ball out. Only Josh Bellamy dropped one in the end zone on first down. Wesley Woodyard broke up the third-down pass. Brice McCain was in better position than the receiver on third down. And Deonte Thompson, who caught the third score, couldn't make a sliding grab on fourth down, giving the Bears their tenth and final drop of the game (per Brad Biggs, who tweeted out Bellamy's was the ninth of the game; I wasn't actually keeping track).
And the Titans are aware of their cover problems, and were trying things today to fix it. "Dick LeBeau hates playing rookie corners" notwithstanding, LeShaun Sims was alternating series today, and Valentino (f/k/a Antwon) Blake was getting run even before Jason McCourty got injured late. Depth is better than it was last year, when the pass defense was Saints-tastic once Derrick Morgan got hurt, but the cover guys they need don't seem to be on the roster. Thank goodness for Chicago's current collection of pass catchers.
New York Giants 27 at Cleveland Browns 13
Vince Verhei: It's 14-6 at halftime, and the difference in the game is that the Giants have scored touchdowns on both of their scoring chances, while the Browns have settled for field goals of 20 and 25 yards (the latter kicked on second down at the end of the half). Josh McCown remains a waste of time at quarterback, producing little outside a handful of good plays to Terrelle Pryor, and narrowly missing an interception when Eli Apple failed to get two feet in. The Browns know they are outmatched here, and they're trying to out-scheme the Giants with gobs of motion, several times splitting chunks of linemen out wide and then moving them back into standard formation, hoping to catch some defenders out of position somewhere. Why, then, would you spread the field five wide and ask McCown to pass on second-and-goal inside the 5?
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The Giants' offense has been surprisingly inept, with just one drive gaining more than 45 yards. That's in part due to some crummy Eli Manning passes, in part due to big plays by a handful of Cleveland defenders (Danny Shelton and Christian Kirksey come to mind), and in part due to Odell Beckham missing a big chunk of the first half with a thumb injury. He returned, though, catching a short cross and outrunning the Cleveland defense across and down the field for New York's second touchdown, a 32-yarder.
Browns force a three-and-out on New York's first drive and it looks like they're going to get good field position. Then Duke Johnson, back to return the punt, not only lets it bounce, not only lets it get past him, but then chases it down and picks up, getting tackled for a loss of 3 on the return. That's at least 20 yards of field position he just surrendered, and now Cleveland is starting at their own 10.
Still 14-6 early in the fourth as neither offense can get anything going. Odell Beckham looked like he had broken the game open on a brilliant punt return touchdown, but it was called back on a hold that had nothing to do with the return. Giants then go three-and-out again, but the ensuing punt pins Cleveland inside the 5. The Giants offense has been mostly a series of deep passes knocked away by Cleveland defensive backs. They have been the better team today, but they're just letting Cleveland hang around and haven't been able to put the Browns away.
And finally New York puts the nail in the coffin. Terrelle Pryor reels in a play-action bomb for 54 yards that puts Cleveland on the edge of scoring range, but then the Browns follow with a screen pass that loses 4 yards because Danny Vitale fell down; false start on Alvin Bailey for 5 yards; and then on second-and-19, McCown is hit, the ball pops up, and Jason Pierre-Paul grabs it out of the air and takes it to the house for what is officially a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown. Giants miss the extra point, so it's still 20-6, but that may as well be 200-6 the way Cleveland's offense is playing.
Or not! Browns answer by looking like a legitimate NFL offense for the first time all day, producing a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive where four of the plays were completions for first downs. The capper was a 21-yard touchdown by Corey Coleman with a great route design -- with a slot receiver running a quick out to occupy one defender, Coleman had an easy time of things faking an inside move and cutting back to the corner for the score. Giants still up 20-13, but have to be nervous here with half a quarter to go against a winless team.
Jacksonville Jaguars 21 at Buffalo Bills 28
Rob Weintraub: Bad thumb injuries are like paper cuts in the NFL. First Odell shrugs off his injured thumb to catch that touchdown pass (and he was a speeding bullet on that play), then LeSean McCoy opens the second half in Buffalo with an 75-yard sprint off tackle. He had thumb surgery a week ago. I once hit my thumb with a hammer and was curled up in bed for four days.
Seattle Seahawks 5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14
Andrew Potter: Bobby Wagner is a great player. He's not a "cover Mike Evans 25 yards downfield" player. Then on the goal line, the Buccaneers manage to get Evans one-on-one with Steven Terrell, presumably in for the injured Earl Thomas, in the end zone. Something tells me Seattle might make an adjustment or two to that defense from here on out.
Carl Yedor: Seattle is short-handed on defense today without Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, DeShawn Shead, and Brock Coyle, and it didn't take long for Jameis Winston and company to take advantage. 7-0 Tampa halfway through the first quarter.
Andrew Potter: Whoa boy. Russell Wilson is running for his life already on Seattle's opening drive. One sack for Noah Spence (revised to a half-sack shared with Gerald McCoy), and heavy pressure on the third-down incomplete as Ryan Russell came free.
Vince Verhei: I was curious to see if Seattle would play more Cover-2 looks with Earl Thomas out, but it still looks like they are relying on single-high coverage, with either Kam Chancellor or Steven Terrell playing deep. But neither of them are Earl Thomas, which is a big reason Mike Evans has two touchdowns on Tampa Bay's first two drives.
Also missing today: Justin Britt. Joey Hunt is getting his first start at center, one of three rookies starting on Seattle's offensive line today, and it's like they're starting over and it's Week 1 all over again. Wilson and Thomas Rawls are having to break tackles every play just for the offense to function.
Seattle's defense has mostly gotten its act together after some early struggles, and thanks in part to some Tampa Bay clock mismanagement at the end of the half, they haven't given up any points since the first two drives. In fact, they've scored two points when Frank Clark was held in the end zone. But Seattle's offense is still having plenty of problems, with only three points in thirty minutes. They looked like they were threatening to score late in the half there, but Alterraun Verner jumped Paul Richardson's route and came away with an interception. Seattle's passing game has three completions for 20 yards, four sacks for 19 yards lost, 1 net yard gained, and the INT. This is not ideal. The 20 yards for Wilson is the lowest he's had in a first half in his career, breaking his previous low which came in 2013 -- against Tampa Bay.
Vince Verhei: With the offense as bad as it has been all year, and Tampa Bay getting a big punt return, the Seahawks desperately need a turnover -- and they get it! Doug Martin coughs up the ball, Steven Terrell recovers, and Seattle has life, down 14-5 with about nine minutes to go.
... and that goes awry when Jameis Winston forces a ball to a not-open Mike Evans in the corner of the end zone, and Kam Chancellor gets the interception. Cameron Brate had a touchdown taken away on the prior play on a Tampa Bay penalty. Seahawks now need a minor miracle, still down 14-5 with four minutes to go.
The Bucs get a pair of sacks to put Seattle in long yardage, and also to burn the Seahawks' timeouts. So even though they converted those long-yardage scenarios, they were still down nine points inside of two minutes, and Wilson's desperate pass to Tyler Lockett was intercepted by Bradley McDougald, and that's the ballgame. Wilson had a chance at an open Lockett on what would have been a touchdown a few plays earlier, but under pressure threw the ball too far inside.
Wilson's final statline -- 17-33-151 with no touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and six sacks -- is going to be right up there with the worst games of his career. He did have 80 yards rushing, but just a lousy day when Seattle couldn't block anyone.
On the upside, Seattle's defense had a very good day despite missing their best player and their best pass-rusher, among others. But really, best just to put this in the rearview, hope the injured players can return on Sunday night against Carolina, and move on.
Holy crap. I didn't realize this during the game because it never felt like they were out of it until the final interception, but Seattle's streak is over. At no point during the fourth quarter today were they within one score of tying the game. This is what blowing out Seattle looks like.
New England Patriots 22 at New York Jets 17
Aaron Schatz: Jets have shut down the Patriots' offense on the first three drives. On the last two, the Patriots attempted to go deep to Gronk on third-and-7 rather than a shorter pass with a higher probability of moving the sticks. It looked like Gronk beat his man on both of them -- Brady overthrew him on the first and it looked like the refs missed clear DPI on the second -- but at a certain point you gotta put the shot plays aside and get a good, long, consistent drive down the field.
The Patriots finally score their first points with a field goal in the middle of the second quarter. Tom Brady does not look like himself today. I wonder if the knee is a bigger issue than people realize. He's sailing a lot of passes. The Pats' biggest gain here was a DPI on a double-pass trick play with Chris Hogan throwing to Malcolm Mitchell downfield. The other issue is the Patriots' offensive line, which is getting killed by the Jets' defensive line -- the strength of that team, even with all the other things that have gone wrong for the Jets this year. On the last series of that drive, Leonard Williams was in Brady's face to force him to throw the ball away on two of the last three plays, with a run for no gain on second down in between.
In the first quarter, the Pats threw a ridiculous negative-ALEX pass behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-10. Dion Lewis almost had enough yardage to actually make the play worthwhile and convert. The Jets had to challenge to move the spot back and force fourth-and-1. Now it's the third quarter, and the Pats just threw another ridiculous negative-ALEX pass behind the line of scrimmage, this time on third-and-12, a swing pass to James White. And he got 11 YAC and very nearly a conversion, and then the Pats drew a neutral zone infraction on fourth-and-1 to move the sticks.
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It certainly seems like the Patriots are the only team that can regularly get conversions out of very short passes on third-and-long.
10:17 to play in the fourth quarter, the Jets just took the lead on the Patriots again, 17-13. The Patriots are having serious defensive problems again. The run defense has actually been reasonable, as the Jets running backs have 59 yards on 20 carries. But there's almost no pass rush, and the outside cornerbacks can't cover the Jets' taller receivers. The Jets have been catching jump balls all day, including a great catch by Quincy Enunwa jumping backwards and coming down just inside the corner of the end zone to give the Jets the lead.
Patriots march back down the field fairly easily as the Jets go to conservative zones with four pass-rushers. Did someone steal Todd Bowles' brain? Anyway, the drive stalls around the 20 and the Patriots get a field goal to make it 17-16 with 7:02 left.
Jets get stuck on their own 8 because of a penalty on the kick return, then get a sweet sliding catch from Enunwa to get away from their own end zone, around the 30. But Bilal Powell drops a swing pass on third-and-long and the Jets punt back to the Patriots, who will now try to march for a game-winning field goal.
Patriots get the ball back again, and they march down the field again. They had fourth-and-4 on the 36 and could have settled for a 54-yard field goal try but with Stephen Gostkowski shaky this year they chose to go for it... and just got it on a swing pass to James White. Next play, the zone coverage left Chris Hogan WIDE open up the seam to take the Pats to the 8. Same play happened in the previous drive. The Pats don't settle for a field goal. They go for the kill and score on a touchdown to rookie Malcolm Mitchell. Two receivers crossed on the left side and Darrelle Revis got caught two steps behind trying to catch up to his man Mitchell. He's had a poor game and wow, this season he has just fallen off a cliff. I was arguing not to jump to conclusions on Revis' decline back in September, but after two-thirds of a season it's pretty obvious.
Pats miss the two-point conversion because James White crossed the goal line with the ball in the wrong hand and went out of bounds before it crossed the plane. So Jets will get two minutes to come back and a touchdown would win it.
Vince Verhei: Could not agree more with New England's decision to go for it on fourth-and-4. Not only would that have been a long kick, but even if it had been good, the Jets would have had plenty of time to drive down and kick a winning field goal of their own.
Aaron Schatz: So much for that comeback. Patriots get a strip-sack from Chris Long. That might have been their first sack of the game, I'm not sure. Patriots run out the clock when LeGarrette Blount takes it down to the 3-yard line on third-and-2 and goes out of bounds. Game over.
Carolina Panthers 32 at Oakland Raiders 35
Scott Kacsmar: Does that really slow developing screen play ever work? Think the Patriots opened Super Bowl XLII with it. Cam Newton just threw an embarrassing pick-six to Khalil Mack on it, and he's now 3-of-12 for 18 yards passing against a defense that made Brock Osweiler look competent on Monday night.
Bryan Knowles: Not the first time Mack has made a play like that, either -- did roughly the same thing against Ohio State when he was at Buffalo.
Silver lining for the Panthers? Cam Newton got his first roughing the passer call since 2014.
Surprised Oakland threw two passes down deep in the red zone there -- drain some clock, make Carolina use their time outs at the very least. Instead, two incomplete passes leaves the Panthers with 1:45 and one timeout to make up this three-point deficit.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots game over, switch to the Raiders and Panthers. Oakland down at the goal line tied 32-32, and they threw the ball twice and didn't get into the end zone. Stopping the clock means Carolina has 1:45 to come back. But kicking a field goal means Carolina will likely play conservative, try to tie game at 35, and go to overtime instead of going for the win.
Instead, the Panthers don't make it more than half the field. Newton overthrows Greg Olsen on third down, when Olsen can't leap high enough to bring it down. Trai Turner, in at right tackle, gets schooled by Kahlil Mack, strip-sack on fourth down.
Kansas City Chiefs 30 at Denver Broncos 27 (OT)
Scott Kacsmar: This game is why ALEX exists, and it's not just Alex Smith, but he sure is going to end up plummeting after tonight at this rate. Chiefs just threw a 2-yard quick out on third-and-16. What purpose does that serve other than to limit the risk of a pick and bring out the punter? We're most likely going to be scoreless until there's a big turnover in this one. I don't see either offense putting together enough plays against these defenses to drive a long field for points.
Aaron Schatz: I saw that quick out too. I mean, if the point of short passes is to get YAC past the sticks, why throw 2 yards where the guy runs out of bounds immediately?
This game is where offense goes to die. Justin Houston's looking healthy, though.
Tom Gower: So, SNF. Chiefs just went up 16-10 very late in the third quarter. Broncos Right Tackle has been a problem against an outstanding opposing player, which is a story we have seen before. Tyreek Hill, another previous topic of discussion, has both Chiefs touchdowns, as Kansas City took the ball out of Alex Smith's hands in the red zone right there. Denver has a couple significant penalties on special teams -- two holds on punts that changed field position in the first half, and the awful illegal formation that just gave the Chiefs a first down. Denver has made some plays in the passing game because of their receivers winning. The biggest surprise may have been Trevor Siemian's Randall Cunningham impersonation for Denver's touchdown, buying time, time, and more time before finding Jordan Taylor for the score.
Aaron Schatz: Also, Siemian can hit deep throws that Alex Smith just can't. He's not going to do it often, but he can do it. He just launched it DEEP downfield to Emmanuel Sanders midway through the fourth quarter. Sixty-four yards.
Then Siemian hits Sanders for a 35-yard touchdown. That might be the difference in this game. Siemian will make more mistakes than Alex Smith, but he can also stretch the field in a way Smith can't and doesn't even try to.
Tom Gower: And Emmanuel Sanders made both plays happen, running away from the slot corner on the score and setting up and earning the yards after catch on the 64-yarder. He good.
Aaron Schatz: Siemian just hit Bennie Fowler for 76 yards down the left sideline. What on earth was Philip Gaines looking at? He's running with Fowler and then he looked back and slowed down for some unknown reason as Fowler kept going, caught the ball, and ran all the way down the field for the score.
Scott Kacsmar: Denver has let Siemian throw frequently in the four-minute offense this year. He delivers a big throw to Bennie Fowler while Phillip Gaines was totally lost in coverage on a touchdown. However, I'm mad that Kubiak didn't go for two with three minutes left to take a 25-16 lead with 3:00 left. This was the Pete Carroll decision a few weeks ago in New England, but this was probably even a better situation to do it since this game would be over with a nine-point lead. Either way, I highly doubt the Chiefs are going to put this in the end zone, but if they do, it's still a one-score game.
Aaron Schatz: Thanks for capturing this, Cian.
The life of a DB pic.twitter.com/6617DharwM
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) November 28, 2016
Bryan Knowles: What a finish to this one -- the refs stopping the clock with one second left to review a score.
I...think it's a score, because he was bobbling the ball. But man, this is close -- throw it into the end zone!
Rob Weintraub: Unlike that Seattle-Arizona game I don't hate myself for staying up past midnight for this one...
Aaron Schatz: There's no question that the change in the overtime rules has led to more ties. Every time a team scores a field goal on that first drive after the coin toss, you have a good chance things are going to end up with another field goal. Then there's just a question of whether one of the teams can score before time runs out.
Bryan Knowles: Win or lose, I think I agree with the decision to kick the field goal there. Punting (as the announcers were talking about) is essentially guaranteeing you won't win the game. If it was fourth-and-5 or something, you go for it -- but that field goal at least gave them a chance to win. Now you trust your defense.
Aaron Schatz: That defense begins by jumping offside... and even with a free play Alex Smith can't throw the ball downfield. He scrambles instead.
Bryan Knowles: A game of inches! The rare, overtime-ending doink field goal for the win!
Tom Gower: Is tonight an example of why Denver's style is problematic, because when you have a very good-to-great defense instead of a historically great defense, you end up not being able to take advantage of any of your outs -- at 24-16, on the tying two-point conversion, at 27-24 in overtime, or after the missed field goal? Or is that just too reflexive and reactive to tonight's blown opportunities?
Aaron Schatz: Gary Kubiak trusted his defense, and that defense was exhausted. It's not horrible to give up a 5-yard penalty, an 11-yard pass, and a 16-yard pass. But there was really very little leeway for the Denver defense to be less than great after the missed field goal.
In retrospect, the strangest decision was Denver calling a play with third-and-10 that had Bennie Fowler running 25 yards downfield as the first read. If they were going to try a field goal on fourth down, why not either a) a shorter pass that would at least get the field goal closer, or b) a 10-yard pass to try to move the sticks and set up a possible field goal of 45 to 50 yards instead of 62?
Rob Weintraub: The holder, Dustin Colquitt, totally thought it was no good. Had his head down in dismay. Then -- ecstasy!
Last year the Broncs would have forced a fumble in the last minute and won anyway. That karma just doesn't last.
This has been your analytics moment...
Bryan Knowles: Interesting spit-out from Brian Burke's fourth down calculator on that late Denver field goal, with a tie counting as 50 percent of a win.
- Win probability for going for it: 47%
- WP for attempting the field goal: 41%
- WP for punting: 52%.
Now, that's before accounting for Denver's altitude, so I don't know how that effects the field goal numbers, but from that, at least, it would indicate that Kubiak made the wrong call.
I'm not sure I buy into that, though. You have to take into account how specifically useful a half-a-win would be; what's the real difference in playoff odds between going, say, 10-6, 11-5, and 10-5-1. (I'm giving Denver a winning record the rest of the way, because if they start losing a bunch, the decision is moot).
Eleven wins probably gets Denver the top wild card spot, especially considering one of those wins comes at the expense of the Chiefs. That means a matchup with the weakest divisional champ, quite possibly the AFC South winner (right now, it'd be the AFC North winner, but, I mean, Houston...). It could also take the division outright, which probably means a first-round bye. Ten wins might throw you into a big tiebreaker with the likes of Buffalo and Miami, which looks like it slightly favors Denver but is highly dependent. 10.5 wins probably gets you into the six seed and a matchup in somewhere like Pittsburgh or Baltimore on wild card weekend.
So...maybe the field goal was the wrong decision for trying to make the playoffs, but the right decision for trying to go deeper into the playoffs? I think that's kind of where I'm going for at the moment. Definitely one of those high-impact calls.