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 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.
Cleveland Browns 26 at Tennessee Titans 28
Tom Gower: On Titans-Browns early. In the immortal words of Terry Tate, Office Linebacker, "When it's game time, it's pain time."
Cian Fahey: Film Room this week looked at Terrelle Pryor's route-running and ball skills. His touchdown at the end of the second quarter highlighted his progress with a smart route and great play on the ball.
Tom Gower: Titans up 14-13 at the half. Tennessee came out moving the ball well, converting two third-and-longs on their first possession, including on the touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews. After failing on a couple third-and-shorts, they found the end zone after another third-and-long conversion. The score there was a 48-yard pass to Kendall Wright, the rare deep completion to him from a Titans starting quarterback. Third downs returned to normal thereafter, with the Titans failing on a couple long ones (they had been something like 1-for-a few since the Vikings game in Week 1, not even converting any against Miami last week). Credit to the Browns for mostly doing a good job of concentrating on stopping the run, and limiting DeMarco Murray. He has ten carries for 24 yards, 15 of them on a play where Cleveland blew a tackle in the backfield.
I'm not really revising my opinion on Cody Kessler yet, which is that he's a physically limited quarterback who needs open receivers and to be put in favorable situations to be successful. The Browns' initial field goal drive was basically a one-play effort -- he found Gary Barnidge for 43 yards of catch-and-run in between the levels of what looked like Cover-3. The second field goal drive was a couple short passes and a 39-yard pass interference penalty on a ball that was probably a bit overthrown. The touchdown drive was 42 yards to Ricardo Louis on an improvisational catch-and-run late in the down after scrambling, plus 24 yards on a swing pass to Duke Johnson. The non-touchdown drives revealed the base Titans defensive strategy, limiting Isaiah Crowell in the run game and putting them in unfavorable down-and-distance situations, and Kessler did squat. But so far, he hasn't really thrown the ball right to an opposing player (Marcus Mariota did it on the second play of the game, after he ran for 41 yards to open it, but Joe Schobert dropped it), so we're still competitive.
28-26 final, Titans win. Titans got the first two scores of the second half to go up 28-13, and it looked like they might be on their way to their first back-to-back wins by more than 7 points since Weeks 5 and 6 of 2010. A Browns offense that went three-and-out its first four possessions of the second half looked to be in trouble after gaining 9 yards on its first three plays, but Terrelle Pryor had yet another contested catch after Kessler found him late in the down on fourth-and-1 and Kessler converted on third-and-6 and fourth-and-15 (note for Scott: the third-and-12 throw right before this was a great "we hate our QB" ALEX play), and Pryor finished the drive off.
Then, down 28-19 just before the two-minute warning, holding two timeouts, Hue Jackson decided to drive The Mad World of 2016 even madder. He went for the two-point conversion rather than kicking the extra point to "make it a one-score game." The Browns failed the two-point conversion. Commentator Adam Archuleta, whom I generally like much more than most of his CBS compatriots, declared the game over. Former players, fans, and beat writers chimed in on Twitter that Jackson, by going for two before he had to, had cost his team the game. I threw my stress bracelet into the chair. I retrieved it and checked Twitter. I threw my stress bracelet behind my couch. I finished it out with a broom. I checked Twitter again. I threw my stress bracelet under my refrigerator, and stopped checking Twitter.
Knowing they needed two scores, the Browns did not try to pin Tennessee deep, as they might have otherwise. They actually got the ball back after the Titans mishandled the onside kick. Duke Johnson got 28 yards on a short pass to take them to field goal range. But that cost them 39 seconds (slapdash execution -- should have used one of their timeouts). Kessler completed another pass. Then took a sack. Timeout. Horse collar after a completion puts them at the 7 with :48 to play. Hue Jackson, predictably to me, decided to screw up the Titans by running. Not close to the end zone, goodbye last timeout. Kessler scrambles on the next play, burning :10 of the remaining :40, after trying to buy time. Hue runs it again from the 1, knowing a non-touchdown basically ends the game. They got it. 28-26. Needed another onside. Didn't get this one. Kneel. Game over.
Tennessee in the second half? First touchdown was set up by a Mariota deep ball. It's weird to look at the gamebook and see the Titans with three plays of 40-plus yards, but it happened (Mariota rush on first play, earlier Wright deep ball, this one to Matthews). The second second-half score featured consistent execution on third down to Kendall Wright. A couple of them were "get him in a stack or bunch and run a speed out." Unless Cleveland had a guy cheating to outside, it would work well (others teams might have a player who could cover this). Mariota had gotten away with a couple throws earlier, but he eventually paid for trying to throw across his body while scrambling on a third down when the Browns player took the ball away.
Takeaways? I know Audibles generally eschews the play-by-play format, but I thought it was worth going into the last drive to emphasize just how limited Kessler is right now. Rookie/backup processing speed is something I get on at times, and he definitely displayed it today. The Titans brought him down about six times, and maybe two of those were what I think of as "good" sacks, beating the offensive line. The others were him just holding on to the ball or scrambles for a loss of yardage (he doesn't have the athleticism to turn those into non-losses or even throwaways). The second-half drives generally featured negative plays early, and when Cleveland gets to negative situations, Kessler's toast. Pryor can only bail out so much (Ricardo Louis had a couple sub-optimal non-catches today, so it would be nice for them to get Corey Coleman back one of these days). And what made those two goal-line runs by the Browns so strange was that they had virtually abandoned the run to that point (and all game, really, with 48 dropbacks and 14 rushes).
Repeatedly executing is hard, and most NFL games are lost. These teams scored when they got big plays or extra chances, or that one Titans drive where they moved the ball well. But by and large if there's a mistake, there's a punt soon to follow.
Carolina Panthers 38 at New Orleans Saints 41
Vince Verhei: Your early creative play call of the day: Saints have a fourth-and-1 at the 2 on their first drive and opt to go for it -- and they run the fly sweep to Coby Fleener, of all things. It works, and the Saints go up 7-0.
Bryan Knowles: Carolina cut starting cornerback Bene Benwikere two weeks ago, forcing their understaffed and very young secondary into a bit of a bind. Fifth-round pick Zack Sanchez just got lost on a double-move from Brandin Cooks -- it looked like he was trying to sit on a short route -- and Cooks streaks 87 yards down the sideline for a 14-0 lead for the Saints.
Three rookie cornerbacks may not be the best staff for dealing with Drew Brees.
For all Carolina's struggles, Cam Newton is still an amazing player to watch. Catch a replay of his touchdown pass to Ed Dickson if you can -- Newton rolled left, saw his primary receivers go to the ground, and hit an astonishing jump pass for the touchdown. The number of players in the NFL who could make that pass can be counted on one hand, and possibly one finger.
Vince Verhei: This game is Carolina's whole season in a nutshell. They fall behind 21-0 early, rally all the way back to apparently tie the score, but Graham Gano misses the extra point and the Saints are still ahead 31-30 with more than half a quarter to go.
Andrew Potter: This game is both of these teams' seasons in a nutshell. Every time either team gets in a good defensive situation, they either do something really bad or really stupid. The Kawann Short penalty on the Josh Hill touchdown was incredibly stupid, while the Saints are only holding Cam Newton below 400 passing yards because they're giving up long pass interference penalties instead of long touchdown receptions.
Pittsburgh Steelers 15 at Miami Dolphins 30
Scott Kacsmar: After a Miami field goal, Adam Gase opted for a surprise onside kick that was apparently a big surprise to the referees. Ed Hochuli blew Pittsburgh's recovery dead because an official wasn't ready for the play. On replay, it looked like they were ready. So while Miami may have technically caught a break, the Steelers scored on the long field anyway after an end around to Darrius Heyward-Bey popped for a 60-yard touchdown. DHB looked great on that run. Then Mike Tomlin decided to go for two, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a running back catch a jump ball while being wide open on a two-point conversion. How did it happen? Le'veon Bell lined up in the slot, the Steelers ran a little pick play, and Ben Roethlisberger, under some pressure, just lobbed one up for him. Steelers lead 8-3.
Bryan Knowles: It has been a bad week for injuries so far. Ben Roethlisberger goes down with a left knee injury, Odell Beckham limped off the field with a hip problem, and LeSean McCoy just crumpled to the turf in Buffalo. It has been a bad 15 minutes.
Vince Verhei: I heard Darrius Heyward-Bey scored on a long run, and thought, sure, he's crazy fast, you give him a hole and he'll burn you. Then I saw the play. Miami didn't give him a hole, he made his own. The defensive back (I think it was No. 25, Xavien Howard) came up and lowered his shoulder, and Heyward-Bey just steamrolled him, then kicked in the jets and hit the end zone.
Scott Kacsmar: When you combine the Steelers having their usual "playing down to the competition" performance with a Roethlisberger injury, it's not a pretty sight. Miami leads 23-8 and Jay Ajayi has been impressive as a runner today. Ryan Tannehill has been very solid, looking more like Roethlisberger with some plays he was able to extend to find open receivers down the field. The defense is clearly struggling without Cameron Heyward, who is missing the first game of his career. Roethlisberger has been picked twice and doesn't seem to be reading the field well. The blocking has also been pretty subpar.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) October 16, 2016
Perhaps the two biggest themes in the Pittsburgh chapter in this year's Almanac (EDITOR'S NOTE: still available!) were the Steelers playing small in small games, and their season's success hinging on how they fare against the Patriots. So maybe it was just bad luck to draw the 1-4 Dolphins a week before the AFC's game of the year against the Patriots. I'm not saying the Steelers were overlooking Miami today, but this was a really poor effort, right down to letting the play clock repeatedly dip under 15 seconds while the team trailed by 15 points late. They just looked like a beaten group. It was the second time this season that the team was dominated on both sides of the ball, and that's usually not done to Tomlin's Steelers by teams such as Philadelphia and Miami. It's usually done by a New England or playoff-caliber Baltimore team. There were injuries, and yes, Roethlisberger definitely looked worse in the second half after returning from the knee scare. I can confidently say that this was one of the worst games of his career, especially when you consider a 60-yard run by DHB was the only score the offense had until what felt like a garbage-time drive at the end. But there is no excuse for allowing Ajayi to rush for 204 yards. Miami entered the week ranked 31st in rushing yards, and its backs did not even have 300 yards on the season. They made this guy look like vintage Ricky Williams, and Ryan Tannehill was not sacked once, a rare occurrence. Miami had its proper offensive line combo starting today, but the only thing the Pittsburgh defense did well today was make some stops in the red zone.
I'm not sure what to think of this Pittsburgh team as far as being a contender, but I guess we'll find out next week when the Patriots come to town. I would expect the media to bury this team with "no shot against the Patriots" stories this week, and if that's the kind of motivation that is needed to turn this around, then so be it. But if the Steelers play anything like this next week, the Patriots will win by at least three touchdowns.
Cincinnati Bengals 17 at New England Patriots 35
Elandon Roberts has made some splash plays at linebacker for New England. And now that I say that he goes down on the goal line.
Aaron Schatz: When the Patriots spread things out, they end up with a linebacker on Gronk or Chris Hogan. That seems suboptimal, and I'm surprised they aren't taking advantage of it more. That linebacker is Karlos Dansby, who is good in coverage, but still, it seems like a mismatch. Another surprise, the Patriots barely used Martellus Bennett until their third drive.
The Bernard runs are working for Cincinnati but not the power runs with Jeremy Hill. They got stopped repeatedly at the goal line, including when they went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
The Patriots finally marched up the field for a touchdown on their last drive of the first half by picking on the underneath stuff, lots of swing passes to James White, plus a big catch across the middle by Chris Hogan who then accelerated for an extra 10 yards or so. Still, despite a 10-7 Pats lead, I think the big takeaway here is that this is the Bengals defense we expected to see all season. More like last year's defense (10th in DVOA) than this year's (19th). There's a real pass rush, and the secondary is holding long enough for that pass rush to get to Brady. The run defense is less of a strength (nine carries, 50 yards by Patriots running backs) so we may see more Pats running in the second half.
As for the Bengals offense: A.J. Green is great, the rest of the receivers are mediocre or inexperienced, they run a lot of funky formations, what else is new. Andy Dalton scored their only touchdown on an old-school speed option play. Someone, I think Rob Ninkovich, bit on the pitch and Dalton just waltzed into the end zone.
The Bengals and Patriots trade touchdowns in the third quarter, plus a safety for the Patriots on a Donta' Hightower sack. I think we're seeing three general truths about these two teams in these drives:
1) Andy Dalton is much more mobile than most fans realize. He has gotten out of a couple of sure sacks today. Not that one in the end zone, but a couple of others.
2) Cedric Ogbuehi may be the weak link in the Bengals' line. He's definitely got more to learn before he can be a good NFL starting tackle. His hold moved the Bengals way back, which led to the safety.
3) The Patriots' two-tight end sets just kill people. The Pats' touchdown drive was heavily made on passes to tight ends being covered by Bengals nickelback Josh Shaw. That's part of the problem, right? The Pats can use those two tight ends like wide receivers, but if you put your nickelback on them, it won't go smoothly for you.
Vontaze Burfict is clearly not chastened by last year's playoff game. He's been jawing with Patriots all day, just drew a 15-yard flag on Rob Gronkowski for jawing back at him. Also going low on Patriots players:
— Will D. (@WAD1980) October 16, 2016
Meanwhile, Gronk hit a career high with 162 receiving yards today, and his first touchdown of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles 20 at Washington Redskins 27
Rivers McCown: No Jordan Reed, no offense anywhere. The Eagles are being dared to throw deep and can't. Philadelphia ended one long third down with about eight defenders behind the first-down line. I wonder what they think of Kirk Cousins' deep ball.
So since I talked about how it was a defense-heavy game, it has mostly just been that way for Philadelphia. Lane Johnson's absence has left fifth-round rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai exposed. Ryan Kerrigan already has 2.5 sacks, and they're sending a lot of help to that side on every play at this point. The Eagles are only in this game because of a special teams touchdown and a Kirk Cousins pick-six on a bootleg underneath throw.
Coming into the game, the Eagles had a top-seven DVOA run defense, so naturally Washington has averaged 6.4 yards per carry on 27 attempts through the middle of the third quarter.
Carl Yedor: After almost being picked by Malcolm Jenkins in the end zone, Kirk Cousins has done a good job throwing the ball away instead of forcing it into tight coverage or taking sacks during the second half. In the face of a blitz on third-and-long, Cousins got rid of the ball, allowing Dustin Hopkins to attempt and make a 50-yard field goal. Washington now up 10 with 9:37 to play.
Aaron Schatz: Can we please put this somewhere in the PHI-WAS writeup? It's amazing.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) October 16, 2016
Andrew Potter: You'll enjoy this too, then:
TOUCHDOWN BROWNS! pic.twitter.com/RjRt9DVlpB
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 16, 2016
San Francisco 49ers 16 at Buffalo Bills 45
Bryan Knowles: So. Colin Kaepernick.
Through the first quarter and a half, you have to wonder why Blaine Gabbert was starting. The 53-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith is the highlight, but the 49ers offense in general feels a lot more open and dangerous with Kaepernick behind center; he's moving the team well -- 8-for-10 for 135 yards and a touchdown at the moment. He has been far from perfect -- he still has been holding onto the ball for a bit too long and has seemed a bit tentative at times -- but he looks like an actual NFL starting quarterback so far.
Of course, the 49ers are still losing, because the defense can't get off the field. Buffalo is 4-for-4 on third downs so far, and LeSean McCoy has a pair of touchdowns against his old head coach. The 49ers' problems go beyond the quarterback position, but they at least feel competitive again.
Bryan Knowles: Before going down with an injury, LeSean McCoy had rushed 11 times for 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 49ers did finally get a third-down stop; Buffalo is now 6-for-7 on the day and have picked up 164 yards rushing on the ground. If McCoy comes back in -- and he was spotted making cuts on the sideline, so Buffalo maybe dodged a bullet -- I don't think San Francisco has the defensive fortitude to get off the field. The loss of NaVorro Bowman is really being felt; Michael Wilhoite and Gerald Hodges are not an acceptable duo in the middle of the field.
The San Francisco media questioned the 49ers not going after an interior linebacker during the draft, as they passed up on players like Reggie Ragland. General manager Trent Baalke said, during the draft, that the team "felt really good" about their depth at the position; he appears to have significantly missed the mark there.
— Chris Biderman (@ChrisBiderman) October 16, 2016
Vince Verhei: Baalke has been handling San Francisco's draft since 2011. He has frequently missed the mark.
Bryan Knowles: Baalke had been getting some credit for the 2010 draft as well, which obviously went much better (Bowman, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati...), but he was only technically in charge on draft day. Most of the work leading up to the draft was done by Scot McCloughan, who left the team five weeks before the draft due to his personal struggles. Baalke has been riding that, and his solid 2011 draft (Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith) ever since, but the bloom seems to be off the rose, and there are plenty of stories about him possibly getting the ax this year. Most 49ers fans probably wish the result of the Baalke-Jim Harbaugh power struggle had been reversed at this point.
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Aaron Schatz: I'm guessing most 49ers fans wished the result of the Baalke-Harbaugh power struggle had been reversed at THAT point, when it happened.
Bryan Knowles: Truer words have rarely been spoken, and Michigan's rise has done no favors for their opinion of Baalke's management style.
Vince Verhei: Did LeSean McCoy used to play quarterback somewhere? He's always carrying the ball in one hand, not tucked away, and it looks like a fumble waiting to happen. He bobbled a run just now early in the third quarter, but was able to grab the ball out of the air so I don't think it was technically a fumble.
Cian Fahey: Trying to think of things to say about this Bills-49ers game but really it's just uninteresting.
There are two bright spots in the Bills game and both are in the Bills' backfield. LeSean McCoy was excellent until he hurt himself and has been limited since then, he just had one impressive run in the third quarter that began a touchdown drive. More importantly, Tyrod Taylor has played his best game of the season. His accuracy to all levels of the field has been far superior to what it has been throughout this season so far.
Bryan Knowles: Taylor's best game is being significantly helped by the performance of the offensive line; I'm not sure the 49ers have actually touched Taylor since the first drive of the game.
Baltimore Ravens 23 at New York Giants 27
Vince Verhei: Marc Trestman's gone, but the Ravens are still pass-wacky, with 25 dropbacks and 14 runs in the first half, even though they're averaging better than 5 yards per carry. Their interior line is pushing the Ravens around. Speaking of, the Giants defensive line is the most overpaid, underperforming unit of 2016, right? New York got two sacks in the first half, bringing their season total to six, but one of those was by Landon Collins on a safety blitz, and the other was by Johnathan Hankins up the middle. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon continue to be non-factors.
Giants offense, meanwhile, can do hardly anything. They have one good touchdown drive, but otherwise, one lost fumble, three punts, and a quasi-Hail Mary interception to end the half. Ravens corners are making lots of good plays to separate the ball from Giants receivers, and that's not a matchup I would have picked to go Baltimore's way before the game.
Odell Beckham and Mike Wallace have done what they do, trading 70-plus-yard catches on back-to-back plays from scrimmage. Beckham's was a touchdown, while Wallace's set Baltimore up with a first-and-goal from the 3. Ravens can't punch it in though, getting stopped on four straight running plays, thanks largely to the efforts of Jonathan Casillas. He was among the defenders who stopped Terrence West on third-and-1, then on fourth-and-1, he shed the block of Kyle Juszczyk to stuff West in the backfield.
Ravens take the lead on a touchdown drive where the biggest play was the Joe Flacco special, a long DPI. Giants then need a field goal to tie, and have a fourth-and-1 at their own 34, inside the two-minute warning. I'm screaming at them to run it, but thankfully for them they do not listen to me. Beckham runs a quick slant for the first down. Tavon Young trips over another defender so he can't make the tackle, and then Beckham is gone for six. And the young man who has been under intense media scrutiny removes his helmet and runs to the sideline to share the moment with his friends and colleagues, and for this he is flagged 15 yards. There was nothing, zero, nada about this that was in any way disrespectful to the Ravens or fans, it was just pure emotion. I love pro football, but the NFL really, REALLY sucks sometimes.
Rivers McCown: I was pulling for the Ravens to finish the comeback for the takes, I'll be honest. Alas, Flacco could not get the job done. (And it looked like another of his receivers was open on his heave to the end zone to finish it.)
Aaron Schatz: That DPI on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was awful. One of the worst I've seen. I couldn't even figure out where the contact was. Meanwhile DRC had established inside position and Breshad Perriman may have interfered with HIM when they went for the ball in the end zone.
Scott Kacsmar: I think we should keep complaining about the NFL's ridiculous increase in penalties for celebration and taunting. While I agree that there should be some ground rules in place so that players don't take things too far, at the end of the day this is a game and this is an entertainment business. Human players are going to show human emotions, especially after the ultimate thrill of a touchdown. Stop trying to eliminate that, and hurting teams in the process with a 15-yard disadvantage on the kickoff. Maybe down the road if the league gets some younger blood in ownership and a new commissioner, this will be handled more rationally. Right now, we have a hypocritical league that uses these "illegal" celebrations to promote the game, but will complain about the falling ratings, especially in that key demographic of younger viewers. Well, when you're forcing the average touchdown scorer, a male in his twenties, to act like a robot, what do you expect? Some of these offenses are boring to watch as-is. Let's not kill the excitement even more when they actually score a touchdown.
Los Angeles Rams 28 at Detroit Lions 31
Vince Verhei: Crazy series at the end of the first half as a 43-yard Kenny Britt reception and 22-yard DPI on a pass to Tavon Austin set the Rams up with first-and-goal at the 9. We then get six-straight goal-to-go plays, including a strip-sack that might have been recovered by Detroit except Devin Taylor was too busy celebrating the sack to actually look for the ball; a hit to the head on Austin in the end zone that turned second-and-goal from the 19 into first-and-goal at the 9; a 6-yard loss on a stuffed Austin sweep; a Britt completion right at the goal-line that resulted in fourth-and-inches; and, on the last play of the half, a Todd Gurley stuff on the ensuing fourth-and-goal, so all of that accomplished nothing. It's 14-14 at the half.
Kenny Britt with the catch of the year. With Johnson Bademosi draped all over him, Britt stretches out with one hand and reels in the ball. It comes lose when he hits the ground, but he's able to catch it between his feet, then kick it back up and catch it with one hand a second time. Lions challenge the play, and I can't blame them, but it's upheld and a gain of 47 yards. Britt now has 121 yards midway through the third quarter. He came into the game with 356 yards and seems like a lock to become the first Rams receiver with 800 yards since Torry Holt in 2007. Lance Kendricks finishes the drive with a touchdown and we're tied at 21.
This is quite the shootout. Matthew Stafford is 14-of-18 for 184 yards and three touchdowns, and Case Keenum -- Case Keenum! -- is 20-of-22 for 256 yards and two scores. And that's not including the big gain on the DPI, or Keenum's rushing touchdown on a goal-line bootleg.
On a third-and-2 from the 9, Britt catches a quick slant for the first down, then breaks five Lions tackles on his way into the end zone. Rams now lead 28-21 in a game where the two teams have combined for seven touchdowns and seven incomplete passes.
On a franchise that has employed Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin, Roman Gabriel, Jim Everett, and Kurt Warner, it's Case Keenum who now has the team record with 19 consecutive completions. I'm starting to think we won't see Jared Goff this year.
Golden Tate gets a 23-yard screen-pass touchdown to tie things at 28-all with six minutes and change to go. We're now up to eight total touchdowns and ten incomplete passes. Only four times all day has an offense with the ball failed to score a touchdown, and one of those was a failed fourth-and-goal play.
Keenum turned back into a pumpkin at the end of the game. After Tate's game-tying score, he went 0-for-2 on a three-and-out and Detroit had the ball back. They then kicked a field goal after a 44-yard drive, largely thanks to Zach Zenner (three carries for 16 yards on the drive). They had a fourth-and-inches inside the 20 and actually lined up to go for it, but it was just an attempt to get Los Angeles to jump offsides.
So Keenum and the Rams got the ball back, down three, 1:29 to go... and two plays later Keenum forces the ball to a double-covered Lance Kendricks, and Rafael Bush gets an interception, and that's your ballgame.
Dallas Cowboys 30 at Green Bay Packers 16
Bryan Knowles: Just saw this on Twitter -- other than backup quarterback Brett Hundley, every single available Green Bay Packer offensive player saw at least one snap on their first drive, including both backup offensive linemen. That's a heck of a substitution regimen. End result was just a field goal.
Aaron Schatz: Mike McCarthy has twice now decided to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1. I understand that Eddie Lacy is hurt so they may not want to run in these situations, but he's got some good receivers. Do they not want to try a spacing play? Or slants and flats, or stick? You know, Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback and the Dallas secondary isn't that good.
I definitely understand the argument from film that Aaron Rodgers is still playing at a high level and is being held back by problems on the Green Bay offense. But whatever those problems are, yes, they are certainly holding him back. After what Case Keenum did today, it certainly looks like Rodgers' big game against Detroit was more about how bad Detroit's defense is and less about the Packers fixing their offense. On some plays, Dallas is getting pressure; on other plays, Rodgers holds onto the ball for a while and it seems like he can't find anyone open. And Rodgers just threw a terrible pick where he just didn't see the safety drop into a zone.
Rough stuff from Rodgers https://t.co/D5GKzLDWSB
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) October 16, 2016
Things aren't going well for the Packers on the other side, either. Their run defense, after giving up something like 2 yards per carry for the first five weeks, has let Ezekiel Elliott run 16 times for 88 yards so far.
Bryan Knowles: Green Bay gets a coherent drive going, and marches down to the 1-yard line. Lacy, who has been in and out, isn't in the game as the Packers spread it out wide. Rodgers, however, fumbles on a quarterback draw, and the Cowboys jump on top of it, preserving the 20-6 lead. To add injury to insult, Bryan Bulaga had a chance to recover but muffed it, and then limped off the field. Today is not going well for the Pack.
Aaron Schatz: And then the Packers picked off Dak Prescott, finally, officially, ending his streak. They got to start a drive in the red zone, and they still couldn't punch it in because Aaron Rodgers overthrew a wide-open Randall Cobb in the end zone. Greg Cosell and the NFL Matchup guys always talk about certain quarterbacks who "play fast." They act like they're under pressure even when sometimes they aren't, they move of their first read quickly, their fundamentals start to go because they are hurrying things. Aaron Rodgers looks like he's playing fast today.
Kansas City Chiefs 26 at Oakland Raiders 10
Andrew Potter: The Kansas City Chiefs just ran a tight end screen to Dontari Poe. I'm not joking.
Even better, they scored on it. Though apparently it was a backward pass, so it goes down as a 1-yard touchdown run instead of a 1-yard touchdown reception.
Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs just ran a passing play to Dontari Poe. And not your general big man fade or something, but a play where they motioned him into the outside and hit him with a bubble screen for the touchdown. I've never seen anything like that before.
Vince Verhei: You've got to find a way to get the ball into Dontari Poe's hands. He's so dangerous in space.
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Andrew Potter: The story of this game so far, incidentally, is the Oakland defense's total inability to stop the Chiefs offense since the opening drive. Kansas City leads 23-10, but that's on only six drives and includes a missed field goal and a missed extra point. The Chiefs are averaging 6.3 yards per carry and 9.9 yards per pass, omitting a 1-yard scramble (on third-and-11, sigh) by Alex Smith and the aforementioned Poe "run" that was really more of a bubble screen and should probably go in the passing numbers.
Oakland, meanwhile, has gone 9-of-10 for 117 yards to Amari Cooper but only 1-of-2 for 5 yards and an interception targeting Michael Crabtree. The Raiders have also driven into scoring range on four of their six drives, but Sebastian Janikowski missed a 52-yarder and on the next drive Derek Carr failed to connect with Seth Roberts on fourth-and-5 in similar field goal range.
This game has gone by very quickly as a result of the lack of three-and-outs and incompletions (only nine incompletions total, and only two by the Chiefs).
Tom Gower: Some pretty fade passes by Derek Carr and some great toe-tapping by Amari Cooper, but it hasn't been enough for Oakland to move the ball with any consistency on a rainy day in the East Bay. An opening-drive touchdown has been followed by just three points for a 23-10 deficit after three quarters, granted with the two drives for nothing that made it near the Chiefs 30 as previously noted.
Andy Reid is 14-2 coming off bye weeks in his career, and it's easy to match that with his reputation as a great coach from Monday to Saturday and with all the difficulty Oakland has had defending an offense we saw looking mostly moribund against Pittsburgh, and build a coherent story off of that. I think I buy that story, though it hasn't helped that Oakland's defense is vulnerable in the areas that Kansas City is well-equipped to attack.
Andrew Potter: Oakland yet again come away with nothing from a drive deep into K.C. territory, as Dee Ford forces a Derek Carr fumble on the first Chiefs sack of the game (and only the second by either team). Tamba Hali gets the recovery. That's the fifth time Oakland has reached scoring range, and the third time they've failed to come away with points.
Atlanta Falcons 24 at Seattle Seahawks 26
Vince Verhei: I don't know if the flagging ratings have hurt ad sales or what, but this game saw three punts, a lost fumble, and a touchdown before the first commercial break. Biggest plays were Cliff Avril swatting the ball out of Matt Ryan's hand for the strip-sack, and then on the next play Christine Michael and the Seahawks front manhandling Atlanta's line for 9-yard touchdown run. Germain Ifedi blocked his man into the end zone there, and then pancaked him. Though, to be fair, it was Ifedi's missed block (literally, he never touched the defender) on a third-down run that led to a punt on Seattle's first drive.
Carl Yedor: Atlanta spent the week in Seattle after their game in Denver to avoid having to fly back and forth across the country, but it didn't seem to matter in the first half. Matt Ryan spent a lot of time on the ground at the end of his dropbacks.
Julio Jones has been getting open against Richard Sherman and the rest of the Seattle secondary, notably for a big gain right at the end of the half that was wiped out by a holding call on tight end Levine Toilolo. Jones will likely continue to make plays in the second half, but Atlanta will need somebody else to make an impact if they want to make the comeback. Their offense is potent, so they are definitely capable of making it happen. We'll see if the second half has a little more offensive firepower than the first did.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks lead 17-3 at halftime. It's hard to see how the defense could be playing much better given the competition. They're blitzing way more than usual and putting a beating on Matt Ryan, with eight hits and three sacks. It's been a year almost to the day since Ryan was sacked more than three times in a game. Julio Jones has two catches for 24 yards (another catch for a good gain was wiped out by a holding penalty). Richard Sherman has usually covered him on the outside, but hasn't usually followed him into the slot. The Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman combo has a total of 19 yards from scrimmage on nine rushes and five targets. Falcons have 86 yards of offense and are 0-for-6 on third downs in six drives.
Seattle's offense hasn't been dominant, but Russell Wilson is having a good game -- 11-of-15 (with two drops) for 135 yards. Jimmy Graham continues to be the most dangerous weapon, with four catches for 62 yards, though he also had one of the drops. They'd have more points if they were better on third downs (just 2-of-6), but the way the defense is playing that won't matter.
Julio Jones with a 36-yard touchdown on the first drive of the second half. The touchdown came against blown coverage, but even before that Atlanta's offense was moving better than it had all game. Biggest adjustment was a heavy use of bootlegs and rollouts to give Ryan more time to pass. I still think the simple rollout is the most under-used play across the NFL.
Richard Sherman is having a total meltdown on the sidelines afterwards. There's like six guys grabbing him and trying to hold him back. I can't tell if they're trying to keep him away from someone or just trying to cool him down, but it's a pretty ugly scene.
Well that turned around quickly. Seahawks go three-and-out, Falcons drive again, and Mohamed Sanu ties the game on a 10-yard touchdown catch, with six-plus minutes still left in the third. Falcons are having their tackles cut Seattle's ends, with mixed results. On the play before the touchdown, Michael Bennett (from the defense's left end) easily fought off the block and drove Ryan into the ground on an incomplete pass. On the touchdown, Bennett moved to the defense's right, took a shot to the knee, and went down and had to be helped off the field before the extra point. So we're tied at 17-17.
Carl Yedor: Atlanta certainly woke up at halftime, scoring touchdowns on each of its first two drives of the half, with a Seahawk three-and-out in between. With Michael Bennett going down with an injury after a cut block on the second touchdown pass, the Seahawks, already down Frank Clark and Kam Chancellor before the game, will have to find a way to get stops without his ability to create pressure if they want to keep Atlanta from pulling ahead.
Atlanta beats the Seahawks with what looked like a Switch Verticals concept from the broadcast feed. That play has been a bugaboo for the Seahawk defense in the past few seasons and is a good counter to Cover 3.
Vince Verhei: Seattle opts to punt on fourth-and-inches shortly across the 50. It looks like a good decision when Eric Weems inexplicably fair catches the ball at the 3. But the Falcons get a 97-yard touchdown drive to take the lead, the scoring play a 46-yard completion to Levine Toilolo when the Seahawks blow coverage AGAIN. First one, on replay, Ronde Barber showed was clearly Sherman's blown assignment. This one, it wasn't as obvious just who screwed up, but Sherman was a candidate.
Seahawks go from up 14 to down 7 in 15 minutes. That was the worst quarter than they've played since the first half against Carolina in the playoffs. And before that it would have been the fourth quarter against New England in the Super Bowl. In the regular season, I can't even think of one. Might have been before Pete Carroll was hired.
Carl Yedor: After seeing the replay from the All-22 angle, it wasn't exactly Switch Verticals, but they had two receivers running deep down the field, which puts pressure on teams trying to play a 3-deep zone.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks might lose this game on special teams. Early in the fourth they miss a field goal due to a bad snap. Now they get what should have been a game-tying touchdown, but the kick was blocked. So Atlanta still leads 24-23. Most notable thing about that drive, and really the whole game, is how the Falcons are playing a heavy dose of zone defense and leaving the middle of the field open, begging a hobbling Russell Wilson to scramble. And he has refused, stepping up in the pocket, finding plenty of green grass, and stopping to throw. He finally ran once on that drive, on the edge of field goal range, and even with his mobility so limited he still gained 6 yards.
Ryan's pass is thrown slightly ahead of Julio, and the pass bounces off Jones' hands, off Sherman's, and into Earl Thomas'. I'd put that one on Jones, not Ryan, but others might disagree. Seahawks take over at midfield and kick a go-ahead field goal right at the two-minute warning. They're about to kick off, up 26-24, with 1:57 to go, and Atlanta still has two timeouts.
Carl Yedor: Mentioned this on Twitter, as did Chase Stuart, but the end of Falcons-Seahawks was a prime example of why home field advantage matters. Vitally important DPI no-call goes to Seattle. Game goes to Seattle.
Vince Verhei: Game ends on four straight Matt Ryan incompletions. The last of those was a fourth-down lob to Julio Jones, who had half a step on both Sherman and Thomas. Sherman got away with a subtle grab of the arm on the play. His worst day in a long, long time. Dan Quinn, who looks exactly like Jay Buhner, goes nuclear, but he fails to convince the refs there's a foul, and the game ends on some kneeldowns.
Says a lot about Seattle that they can take most of the second half off and still get a comeback win against a good team. Between the blown coverages and the kicking errors, that's an 18-point margin they handed Atlanta on a silver platter, and they still got the ugly win.
Bryan Knowles: It WAS DPI, wasn't it? Sherman had his right arm completely locked over Julio Jones. That could swing a home playoff game, the way things are going at the moment.
Vince Verhei: Oh, it was. But the official closest to the play couldn't see it because Sherman's body was in the way, and nobody else saw the hand on the arm for a fraction of a second as three bodies raced downfield. Unless they make replay reviewable, calls like that will be missed sometimes.
On the drive that resulted in Seattle's last touchdown, Wilson had one of his run-up-to-the-line-and-throw plays, an overthrow of Jermaine Kearse that everyone on Seattle thought should have been DPI. The ref actually put his hand on his flag, then changed his mind at the last second and didn't call it. It didn't matter, because Seattle got six points on the drive anyway. But it shows that yes, refs miss calls sometimes.
Scott Kacsmar: I think last year I proposed a review of the final play of the game where everything is reviewable, including DPI. Now, I'm thinking if a coach has a challenge left, then maybe in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter he can challenge a play where everything is reviewable, including DPI. Just hate to see games end after the refs do a shoddy job. I think it was enough for DPI, but we know there's a reluctance to make that call because of how decisive it is. I do not recall where the ball landed, but that probably puts Atlanta in game-winning field goal range.
Aaron Schatz: I do want to say, in defense of... um, I don't know who this is in defense of, actually. But while officiating like this goes in favor of the home team more often than not, it does not always. Witness that DRC DPI call I complained about from Ravens at Giants.
Vince Verhei: Had DPI been called, ball would have been at about the Seattle 45. So Falcons could have tried a field goal from there, but would have needed about 10 more yards for a realistic shot, or 15 or 20 for a good shot.
Interesting conversation on KJR radio after the game concerning officials and how their calls can be influenced. Both hosts agreed that Sherman got away with one, but the refs might have been reluctant to bail Atlanta out on a blind fourth-and-10 scrambling heave. Had the play come on first down from a clean pocket, the flag would likely have been thrown. Discussing another play, they also said you were more likely to get a DPI call on the offense's sideline, because the screaming of the players and coaches could overcome the screaming of the fans.
Indianapolis Colts 23 at Houston Texans 26 (OT)
Rivers McCown: The Texans are a ponzi scheme.
Tom Gower: A lot of easy shots to take about the Texans offense down 13-3 at the half and looking mostly inept. I took one of them on Twitter, that it had been more than 12 quarters since the Texans scored in a game they were playing in an exclusive national telecast window (shut out by the Patriots on Thursday Night Football, the Chiefs in the playoffs, and the Pats in the second half of last year's SNF game before taking most of two quarters to score tonight). There's also that Houston was a better offense with the FitzMallHoyMisc combination the last two years -- not good, but better than this year's. Or the Brock Osweiler contract. It's awfully hard not to take those shots.
But at the same time... quarterback is the most important position in the game. Osweiler, the high profile free agent acquisition, has been playing poorly at that position. Makes it awful easy to take those shots. The offensive line, which is clearly not the 2015 offensive line, hasn't helped at times, with either him or Lamar Miller.
Texans run defense, troubled even with a thin Watt-less defensive line, was even worse in the plays Benardrick McKinney missed. Max Bullough wasn't an adequate replacement. But if you've watched Houston, that wasn't news. Andrew Luck made a bad throw that cost the Colts a great shot at more points. Whitney Mercilus is good.
Then again, what did I think I'd learn in this first half?
Aaron Schatz: The Colts defense just completely crumbled in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. I have no idea how they allowed this horrible Houston offense to go 52 yards in three plays to tie the game 23-23. Osweiler really has been horrible most of the year, and really did make his best throw of the night to squeeze that last touchdown pass right in front of C.J. Fiedorowicz.
Tom Gower: Texans win 26-23 in overtime. Osweiler was less of a disaster in the second half. He hit the Random Deep Ball Down The Left Sideline to Jaelen Strong for the game-winning field goal. He had the nice pass to Fiedorowicz for the tying score. He hit Lamar Miller for the other touchdown. Miller was good in the second half. Texans line gave him better running room, and he made people miss (like on the touchdown pass).
Indianapolis was ... the Colts. They're not a good defense. Chuck Pagano likes his defense. He capital-B Believes in them. Repeatedly. Unendingly. Without regard for what happens. I feel like I need as much time to process this game as I did Green Bay-Arizona in the playoffs last year, except I don't have anything like writing 1,800 words on "LOL you hired Mike Mularkey and announced it at halftime of a postseason game LOL" to distract me. What a game. What a division. What a competition. What a country.
Rivers McCown: Even ponzi schemes need a little bait on the hook.
Seriously though, I can't imagine waking up as a Colts fan tomorrow. The team around Luck is utter garbage, the coaching staff has mucked up five years of his career, the general manager has brought nothing to the table but T.Y. Hilton and Vontae Davis. And because of it, you lose a game to what might've been the worst display of nationally televised quarterbacking/offensive coaching for three quarters I've seen since the Josh Freeman Vikings game.
Fox Sports 0 vs. Minnesota Vikings 1
Bryan Knowles: Fox apparently doesn't have photographic evidence of Sam Bradford playing quarterback for Minnesota, and resorted to one of the most laughable photoshops I've seen in recent memory:
— Shawn Kriegshauser (@ShawnKriegs) October 16, 2016
Vince Verhei: More on this:
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 16, 2016
Tom Gower: The Vikings have responded:
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) October 16, 2016