Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 7

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.

New York Giants 17 "at" St. Louis Rams 10 (Twickenham, London)

Bryan Knowles: I'm actually not opposed to London games at all. I like the idea of expanding the game and playing in new and interesting locations. I like the NFL's ambition to expand the game and bring American football to a worldwide audience. I even think that, one day, when all the many, many, many logistical issues have been taken care of, a team in Europe would be an interesting idea.

But making the Los Angeles Rams play a 6:30 a.m. game, local time, is unfair to them and their fans. If you thought 10 a.m. kickoffs put West Coast teams at a disadvantage, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Andrew Potter: It's good to see the Rams emptying their playbook of ways to not go for it on fourth-and-short in opposition territory. We have had motions and hard counts trying to draw the defense offside. We have had punt formation shifts, including lining up Johnny Hekker in shotgun before dropping him back into a normal punt formation. I believe all we're missing for the full house is an actual snap out of a shotgun set followed by a quick kick.

Bryan Knowles: If you were asleep or otherwise occupied, catch a replay of Landon Collins' interception return for a touchdown. It's one of the best returns I have ever seen, with him cutting across the field and breaking multiple tackles on his way to the end zone.

It's been the highlight of what has been a fairly sleepy game so far; neither team is exactly firing on all cylinders. The Rams came out hot, taking advantage of an early fumble to jump out to a lead, but since then, it has been punt, interception, punt, punt, punt. 122 of their 173 first-half yards came in the first quarter. The Giants, meanwhile, have only crossed midfield once. Odell Beckham is playing, but it seems like his hip is still bothering him; he's not looking as explosive as he usually does, and just looks uncomfortable out there.

Andrew Potter: That was an absolute minger of a first half, and I blame nobody who didn't get up to watch it. We have seen the bad, the worse, and the ugly of both offenses, with the last drive of the first half featuring the greatest lowlight so far: Case Keenum dropped back to pass and was technically strip-sacked when Olivier Vernon knocked the ball out of his hands as he was winding up, but the ball bounced straight back to him so he threw it straight to Giants cornerback Eli Apple instead. Apple failed to catch it though, possibly surprised that Keenum underthrew the sideline that badly.

The one real highlight of the game so far was Landon Collins' interception return touchdown, on which he was able to weave across the field from right to left, breaking a tackle before bursting through a pile of bodies at the goal line. Collins got the interception in the first place because a perfect Keenum pass was knocked into the air by Tavon Austin on a 5-yard in route. Shocking, I know.

On the other side, the Giants look like they, not the Rams, are the team playing at 6:30 a.m. Their top three wide receivers have a combined total of 54 yards at halftime; Brian Quick has almost eclipsed that on his one catch.

So, um, not a classic.

Tom Gower: One of the fun games within the game to watch today has been the tackle-end matchups, as Ereck Flowers and Rob Havenstein try to block Robert Quinn and Olivier Vernon, respectively. It has been a clinic. Snap-jumping, aligning just barely on the won't-get-you-flagged side, and two offenses (and quarterbacks) that watched their game film.

Cian Fahey: I only ever watch the fourth quarter of these early games and not once have I regretted missing the first three. This game has been no different.

Meanwhile, Roger Goodell is doing a PR hit for the NFL on BBC with the softest interview you'll ever see. He had the gall to say he wants to sell the "personalities" of players like Beckham globally because he believes his players are great people.

Andrew Potter: All three Giants interceptions have come on passes to Tavon Austin. Austin was also the target on the throw I mentioned earlier that could have (maybe should have) been picked by Eli Apple. (Well, "officially" the target on the Apple play. I think Keenum's real target was the sideline, which he underthrew by 5 yards.) Oh, and Austin also has two fumbles, though neither resulted in a turnover.

Bryan Knowles: Case Keenum's fourth pick of the day is one of the worst cases of miscommunication I have ever seen. Brian Quick runs a short comeback route, but Keenum thinks he's running to the corner of the end zone, and LOFTS a pass. The thing hung in the air like a punt; it looked like a routine fly ball when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came up with the absolutely uncontested interception to end the game. Not all of Keenum's interceptions were his fault, and that was technically miscommunication, but that was an ugly, ugly ball.

Andrew Potter: It was, and a fitting end to an ugly, ugly game.

Bryan Knowles: Just saw a highlight of Jeff Fisher's postgame press conference, where he mentioned that the media wouldn't be asking about possibly switching Jared Goff in had the Rams won the game.

Yes, coach, if the Rams were winning more, they wouldn't be asking about the backup quarterback. Well diagnosed, there.

Vince Verhei: RedZone just played some Jeff Fisher postgame quotes that I must transcribe here:

"Jared's going to play when we feel Jared's ready. Had we won this game, you wouldn't be asking about Jared. Which I understand. We didn't lose this game because of quarterback play today. We lost at some other positions."

"Kenny Britt stopped on the post. Didn't think he was primary, stopped on the post, [or] we have got a touchdown pass. I'll make changes at receiver before I make changes at quarterback."

I was asleep for every snap of this game and have only seen a play or two in highlights. So it's quite possible Britt was dirt-terrible today and single-handedly cost his team the game. But even if that's true, he's still having the best season of any Rams offensive player since Steven Jackson in his prime, and you're going to name-drop him and throw him under the bus to stick up for your oughtta-be-a-backup quarterback, and insist that said quarterback is a better option than the top overall pick in the draft? And if that's true, then you utterly wasted the top pick in the draft, and you're missing out on one of the four seasons you get him under cheap contract before theoretically re-signing him to a big-money deal. This is all just such a mess and I can't fathom what makes Jeff Fisher a good enough coach to be worth retaining at this point. And he's a jerk.

Rivers McCown: I can remember at least one deep Britt route that would have been a touchdown had Keenum not thrown it dreadfully. But hey, what do I know? I'm not five losses away from the career coaching record.

Indianapolis Colts 34 at Tennessee Titans 26

Rivers McCown: The Colts defense just got played by a tackle-eligible Taylor Lewan catch. Not even at the goal line. Early touchdown for Tennessee, but because this is the AFC South, they don't get off an extra-point attempt.

Tom Gower: Colts up 17-13 at the half. They have been the consistently better team today. The Titans moved the ball well the first drive, and the last drive, ending in the end zone both times (botched extra point hold after the first touchdown, thus 13), but in between Marcus Mariota was ... scattershot? Errant? Inaccurate? Not good? One or maybe all of those things. Five straight incompletions, at least, and some of them were wildly off, like the missed short throw to Andre Johnson on a third-and-1.

Credit to the Colts line, which now that they're not quite as injury-plagued (left guard Jack Mewhort is out today, granted) has looked a lot better than people give them credit for being. Andrew Luck hasn't had to deal with that much pressure, and he has been sharp. With Dwayne Allen, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett all out, I thought the Titans could go all "Seahawks against Steve Smith in the 2005 NFC Championship Game" on T.Y. Hilton, but nope, he has gotten some decent matchups, lining up often in the slot against Brice McCain. The 37-yard post touchdown against single-high safety (Rashad Johnson bit on the underneath route) wasn't a great look for Tennessee's heretofore stouter than expected defense. They did only give up three after the Colts recovered a surprise onside, though Jack Doyle probably should have caught the ball on third-and-goal. Solomon Wilcots, calling this game today (no The Two Steves or the G/H crew for the Titans today!), was very critical of Luck's pass on first-and-goal. In fairness, he could have done a much better job of leading Hilton, but either way it would have been negated by a holding call, something that I'm not sure he really processed.

Bryan Knowles: That will probably do it in Tennessee. The Titans get the ball back with less than two minutes left, down four. On their very first play, however, T.Y. McGill got massive penetration and knocked the ball out of Marcus Mariota's hands. Colts scoop it up and run in for the score that should end things. Not exactly rising to the moment there in Tennessee.

Tom Gower: Titans came back from 17-6 to take a 23-20 lead in the fourth quarter. The tying touchdown (20-20) came with a lot of assistance from Colts linebacker Josh McNary, who negated an interception with a ludicrously bad penalty. He nailed Delanie Walker in the chest with the ball in the air. Since Walker was not the intended receiver, this was unnecessary roughness, not pass interference. Down in the red zone, on third-and-goal, he gave up the middle of the field to Walker for an easy score. A great drive on third-and-long for the Titans -- not just the touchdown, but third-and-15 and third-and-19 conversions earlier. The Colts spent some time going backwards themselves (penalties were an issue for them at times today on both sides of the ball), including a stupid illegal shift penalty that negated a T.Y. Hilton touchdown, but Luck found the end zone anyway. Titans got strip-sacked (T.Y. McGill beat backup left guard Brian Schwenke, playing because Quinton Spain was carted off in the first half), Robert Mathis got the scoop-and-score, and we meandered our way to a 34-26 final.

Some quasi-interesting notes on Mike Mularkey's strategic decision-making late:

1. After the Colts got to first-and-goal with 2:35-ish to play, Mularkey used two of his timeouts before the two-minute warning (he had three left). I imagine most coaches would have left the clock run to the two-minute warning and started using them then. I'm not going to work through the whole logic here, but I think this was the right move.

2. Down 34-23 after the fumble-sack, the Titans got near the red zone (they were at the Indianapolis 26) with 1:00 left. After a spike on first-and-goal, Mularkey initially sent the field goal team out before pulling them and sending the offense back out on the field. I like this move by him. More teams should think about kicking the field goal and preserving time knowing they need two scores in a time compressed situation like that one. But I'm also glad he didn't kick the field goal there. Down 11, chances are pretty good you're going to need two touchdowns (FG+TD+2 only gets you to overtime, which as a slight favorite is probably close to 50-50). But on fourth-and-10 after two incomplete passes, I think field goal was the right move, or at least far from obviously wrong.

Takeaways:

1. Marcus Mariota had some decent throws, like the third-and-long conversions, but on the whole he was not good this game. Not just the errant deep balls (last week's productivity against the Browns was obviously not repeatable), though he only competed 2-in-11 such throws today, but he was lousy at times today.

2. Backup interior linemen are not very good. The Titans got to Luck at times, with fill-in Joe Haeg a player I noticed a lot more in a negative way in the second half, and of course Schwenke's role in the big fumble-sack.

3. Not a surprise, but the Colts have a lot, too many, not very good players on defense, and not enough good ones.

4. For as much grief as we give Andrew Luck, and as much as he deserves it a lot of the time, he's still capable of playing some pretty good football. He wasn't perfect today, but he did pretty well, and once again the disparity in quarterback play was enough for Indianapolis to get a division win notwithstanding their deficiencies elsewhere on the field.

5. Terry Robiskie and Mike Mularkey did seem to have adjusted the last two weeks in a way that was working more successfully. This week had a lot more plays that looked like the struggling offense of the first couple weeks.

Minnesota Vikings 10 at Philadelphia Eagles 21

Cian Fahey: Charles Johnson should have had a long touchdown early in the first quarter but Sam Bradford was hit as he released the ball. Notable just how easy Johnson beat the cornerback in a straight sprint since he's not exactly a burner.

Bryan Knowles: The Eagles' pass rush is making life difficult for Sam Bradford. Both of his two turnovers to this point were aided by excellent penetration; the Vikings' injuries on their offensive line seem to be impacting them significantly in this one.

Of course, the Eagles have turned the ball over three times already themselves in what has been a wacky first quarter.

Cian Fahey: This Eagles-Vikings game is an interesting game so far simply because it's highlighting how all turnovers aren't equal. Bradford's have really been forced by pressure, whereas Carson Wentz's have been mistakes of his own creation. One was a wild overthrow underneath, one was a fumble before he handed the ball to his running back, and one was just an awful decision from a clean pocket.

Vince Verhei: I overslept and missed all of the Rams game and the start of this one, but in the first quarter here we have had three punts, three interceptions, two lost fumbles, six first downs (one on a roughing the kicker penalty), 87 yards of offense, and two defensive backs (Andrew Sendejo for Minnesota and Ron Brooks for Philadelphia) carted off with injuries. Eagles, though, have been moving the ball on a drive that started at the end of the first, moving from inside their own 5 to just across midfield, going most of the way on Carson Wentz passes.

Cian Fahey: Being a kicker isn't an easy job. The toughest part might be kicking the ball off and being in a position where you have to tackle someone who is paid to break tackles against actual defenders and linebackers. Yet, while understanding that, this play from Blair Walsh is simply unacceptable.

Vince Verhei: Vikings kick a field goal, which backfires, because Josh Huff returns the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Blair Walsh was in position there to make a tackle that most people reading this could have made just by going low and forcing Huff to go over him, but instead played two-hand touch and pushed him on by. I know he's not out there to be a tackler, but that was pathetic.

Eagles kick the extra point, but the Vikings are called for roughing the kicker. Eagles elect to go for 2 from the 1-yard line, and Wentz scores on a quarterback dive behind a pulling guard. That's an interesting risk-reward discussion -- it worked out for them, but in that situation I think I would have taken the extra point and then the penalty yards on the kickoff, especially with the way defenses have been dominating in this game.

Cian Fahey: Jake Long is starting at left tackle for the Vikings and he doesn't appear to have any idea what he's doing. On Bradford's second fumble he was in position to stop the cornerback off the edge and just watched him go right by to get to the quarterback.

Vince Verhei: Fun with strategy at the end of the first half. Eagles have a fourth-and-2 at the Minnesota fourth-and-4, classic No Man's Land territory (too close to punt, too far away for a field goal). They try to get the Vikings to jump offsides, then call timeout. Troy Aikman is on commentary and saying they should punt, their defense is playing well enough to win. I would argue that their defense is playing so well that they can afford to go for it, because if they don't get it, the Vikings probably won't score anyway. The Eagles do get it, and though Wentz bobbles the snap, he does convert on a sweep to the left. 

Shortly thereafter, the Eagles have a second down at the 17 with no timeouts and 20 seconds left. They send in the field goal team, I guess fearing a sack that would take their chance for a field goal away. Vikings call timeout to ice the kicker, and given the extra time to think about it, Doug Pedersen sends the offense back on the field. I was really, REALLY hoping they would score there to punish the icing the kicker strategy, but after one incomplete pass, they send in the kicker, who puts the Eagles up 11-3 at halftime.

Eagles force a punt after a pressure-induced incompletion and a sack on back-to-back plays. Bradford has played better than his numbers today, and has been getting killed by pressure. Most of that is on the offensive line, but not all -- on that second-down throwaway, Malcolm Jenkins was covering the man in the slot and wasn't even tight to the line of scrimmage, but came on the blitz anyway. It took him a full three seconds to cover the distance to Bradford, and only at the very end was Bradford able to see him, avoid the sack, and get the ball away.

Cian Fahey: Norv Turner seemingly used the bye week to re-emphasize the elements of his scheme that destroy the offense. More vertical(/isolation) routes, more deeper drops, and more of the quarterback under center.

Wentz throws a touchdown midway through the third quarter to give the Eagles a two-score lead and the game feels over. The Vikings have shown nothing on offense to this point so it's hard to see them making any kind of comeback.

Vince Verhei: Eagles go up 18-3 on a Dorial Green-Beckham reception at the goal-line. That drive featured two more fumbled snaps by Philadelphia. One, Wentz recovered, scrambled, and found Darren Sproles for a 19-yard gain, the second time today Wentz has turned a fumbled snap into a first down. The other, Sproles recovered and at least got the ball back to the line of scrimmage, setting up Green-Beckham's score.

Now we'll see how Minnesota's offense looks in a catch-up situation -- this is the first time all year the offense has had the ball down by 14 or more points.

Vikings get three first downs on their next drive, all on third-down conversions, all by Matt Asiata, including a 29-yard run on a third-and-14 give-up draw, down 15 points late in the third quarter. On third-and-1 inside the Eagles' 10, though, Zach Line is stuffed for no gain, and then Asiata is stuffed on fourth down. Both plays were just clogging the field with a mass of bodies, relying on the blocking of an offensive line that hasn't looked good all day.

Vikings defense forces a three-and-out, but Marcus Sherels muffs the punt, and the Eagles recover. That's six fumbles in this game, three by each team, and the Eagles have recovered five of them.

Cian Fahey: Fourth-and-an inch. The Vikings need the first down to keep the game alive. What's the play call? All 11 players in tight and a run up the middle. What's the result? One of the tight ends (who is actually a backup lineman) is unable to block one of the six defensive linemen the Eagles have on the field. No good.

I will never understand why NFL coaches think the best way to gain an inch is to bring every player on the field as close as possible to the ball.

The quarterbacks in the Vikings-Eagles game have combined for three interceptions and seven fumbles.

Vince Verhei: I turned away from this game for a while, then turned back just in time to see the Vikings with a first-and-goal at the 32. What?

Heh. Vikings ended up turning that first-and-goal at the 32 into a touchdown. A meaningless touchdown, but still.

Rivers McCown: Mike Zimmer basically told the offensive line after the game that it was their fault. Ouch.

The Eagles seemed to be having a bad snap clinic. It was almost as if the bad snaps were their version of play-action.

New Orleans Saints 21 at Kansas City Chiefs 27

Andrew Potter: Two first-quarter touchdowns in this one are a fun demonstration of the contrasting offensive philosophies from these two teams.

New Orleans took a 7-0 lead by using formation diversity to get receiver Brandin Cooks matched up one-on-one against linebacker Frank Zombo. Cooks lined up in the backfield while the fullback and tight end were split wide, beat Zombo to the sideline on a wheel route, and scored in the corner of the end zone.

Kansas City tied the game on the next drive with a 46-yard touchdown pass, its longest of the season, when it also got a receiver matched up against a linebacker in formation. The Chiefs, though, used Jeremy Maclin to block Craig Robertson out of the play on a screen to Spencer Ware. Nobody else was in position to make the tackle and the Saints were again poor in pursuit, so Ware went the full 46 yards to the end zone without being touched by a defender.

Tyreek Hill just roasted Ken Crawley so badly on a deep sideline shot that even when Crawley tried to commit DPI, he whiffed. Hill made the one-handed catch with ease to put the Chiefs up by 14. The Chiefs have now had their longest touchdown pass of the season and their longest drive of the season in consecutive drives, with a Daniel Sorensen pick-six sandwiched in between.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like any mention of Tyreek Hill has to link to this story, especially given what's going on with Josh Brown right now.

Andrew Potter: Yeah, I have read that report about Hill. It's utterly abhorrent, as is the Josh Brown situation. Unfortunately, he's also a good football player and it's hard to talk about the game without mentioning him.

Tom Gower: One of the few people there at the draft on Day Three was a Kansas City radio host. I don't know the name, but he was spitting absolute fire after the Chiefs took Hill.

Andrew Potter: Was it one of the guys from 610 Sports? They very quickly ran a fundraiser for a local domestic violence shelter as a response to their outrage over Hill being drafted.

On the subject of rookie returners: several times already this season, across several different games, the announcers have brought up and praised Saints undrafted rookie Tommylee Lewis, invariably mentioning that Lewis was recommended to Sean Payton by none other than Bill Parcells. Lewis turned heads in camp and preseason, particularly with his athleticism, but like a lot of great athletes he has struggled with some of the more technical aspects of being a football player -- for instance actually catching the ball. The announcers compared the two returners today -- Lewis and Hill -- but that's not really fair as Hill is far, far superior as a football player at this point. Lewis is currently closer to a less refined Devin Hester type than an actual receiver.

Vince Verhei: Oh god, the end of this game. Saints get the ball back down six points, at their own 25, 28 seconds left, and no timeouts. Obviously a desperate situation anyway, but they made the absolute worst of it: delay of game, completion in bounds to keep the clock running, spike to stop the clock, completion in bounds to end the game. Both of those completions were near the sideline and should have stopped the clock, and the Saints should have at least gotten to try a Hail Mary.

Andrew Potter: And that's after, up three, Tyreek Hill took an end-around out of bounds before the two-minute warning to stop the clock, but Nick Fairley committed a personal foul on completely the opposite side of the field to give the Chiefs the free first down. So much failure.

Cleveland Browns 17 at Cincinnati Bengals 31

Vince Verhei: Terrelle Pryor is apparently sidelined with a hamstring injury, but Cleveland really wants to run some read-option, and Cody Kessler is not the guy to do it. So in comes rookie Kevin Hogan, fifth-round rookie out of Stanford, and unbelievably the sixth quarterback the Browns have used in seven games. But it's working -- he gets a pair of 15-yard runs on a drive that ends Isaiah Crowell's 1-yard touchdown run to put Cleveland ahead 10-7.

Bryan Knowles: Pryor has been in and out; he had trouble making cuts during warmups, though, so that would go a long way to explaining why they wouldn't trust him in the read-option. Plus, they knew about his hamstring coming in, so I imagine Hogan got plenty of work this week. Creative use of roster depth, there.

Vince Verhei: Something about the Browns, man. Even when it seems like they're playing well, their opponents just elevate their game. Witness A.J. Green's one-handed juggling catch for a Hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half:

Also, Cody Kessler is out with a concussion. It's the Kevin Hogan show in the second half.

By the way, can I say that if the Bengals are going to wear orange jerseys and white pants, then the Browns must be forced to wear brown or white pants? Both teams are decked out in all orange-and-white, and it looks like a scrimmage.

So many long runs in this game, it's like a college game. Hogan scores on a 28-yard scramble, breaking tackles along the way. He's up to 72 yards on five carries now.

Not to be outdone, Jeremy Hill answers with a 74-yard score on a sweep to the right. It was blocked very well at the point of attack, and then Cleveland's safety took a terrible angle, basically running himself behind the play and giving Hill a wide-open field to sprint through. Hill now has 132 yards on only five carries himself. 

Bengals now averaging 7.4 yards per run. Bengals, 12.5. And we're in the third quarter.

Bryan Knowles: With Kevin Hogan in the game, the Browns have now had six players throw at least one pass. The last time that happened in the first seven games of a season, excluding replacement players during the strikes in the '80s, was with the 0-14 1978 Buccaneers. Maybe not the team the Browns want to be compared to.

Rob Weintraub: Remember when it seemed clever that Cincy picked Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round despite a knee injury suffered in college? Yeah, not so much. He simply can't stand up to the bull-rush, which has been killing the Bengals offense. He gives up a sack that ends a potential put-away drive, and Mike Nugent misses another field goal. 

Fortunately the opponent is the Browns and their eleventy-billionth quarterback so the Bengals should hold on. But Ogbuehi has to power up or he's a bust in waiting.

Scott Kacsmar: There can't possibly be a more unexpected 100-yard rushing performance in NFL history than what Kevin Hogan (104 yards) did today, right? Not only is he a quarterback, making it rare to begin with, but he's a rookie and was the backup coming into today. I knew he had a little mobility at Stanford, but never thought he'd be that kind of runner in the NFL, if he ever even saw the field. Hue Jackson has made this a functional offense, but man does that defense stink. They made Jeremy Hill look like a stud. Also, the Hail Mary touchdown was probably my favorite catch of the season. A.J. Green needs more praise than he gets. He's right up there with Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.

Rob Weintraub: Course, Cincy did have their favorite patsies in town. Since the memorable Thursday night Dalton Debacle, the Bengals have beaten Cleveland 30-0, 31-10, 37-3 and 31-17, or 129-30 aggregate.

Washington Redskins 17 at Detroit Lions 20

Aaron Schatz: I'm at Ford Field for my first game in Detroit. Thanks to the folks in the Lions front office for their hospitality, but apparently both the Lions and Redskins left their offenses at home. That's a bit unexpected since the Lions are dead last in defensive DVOA. Washington has managed a couple of strong drives up the field, but they blew one when Matt Jones fumbled the ball away near the goal line, and another ended with a missed field goal. Washington really wants to run the ball. They are running a LOT. This hasn't worked quite as well since right guard Brandon Scherff went out with an injury. When Washington passes, it's almost all to Jamison Crowder and Vernon Davis (playing for an injured Jordan Reed). The Lions cornerbacks have somehow erased Washington's outside receivers, and I'm not sure how, especially since Darius Slay got hurt and missed the second quarter. However, the Lions can't cover Crowder at all. He's constantly open on crossing routes.

Detroit also has an actual pass rush today. Ziggy Ansah returned from an injury last week but this week he seems to have finally returned to being "Ziggy Ansah." He made a first-quarter sack by Armonty Bryant when he blew up Trent Williams, which forced Cousins to move into Bryant. Kerry Hyder, who leads the Lions with five sacks as a defensive tackle, is also showing up today.

The Detroit offense has suffered from a couple of bad drops by Andre Roberts and (if I remember correctly) Golden Tate, and they seem to get stuck a lot on third-and-long because there isn't much running game. There was one nice run up the middle with a big hole but otherwise, there aren't a lot of yards there for runs up the middle. The whole running game is generally built to sweep guys to the outside and try to get them turning the corner ahead of the defender.

Also, what on earth is going on with placekicking this year? Accuracy numbers are down league-wide. I'll try to write about this more in the DVOA commentary on Tuesday, but league-wide going into this week, field goal percentage was 84.3 percent, lower than last year's 84.5 percent despite the fact that it's not November yet and field goal percentage always drops when the weather gets colder. Today, each team has gone 1-for-2 on field goals. Dustin Hopkins of Washington dinked it right off the top of the upright, which was a little absurd.

Bryan Knowles: Coming into today, Marvin Jones had been targeted 47 times. So far today? None. Maybe the death of Josh Norman was reported a bit too prematurely.

Well, they finally targeted Jones, and got a 50-plus-yard completion out of it -- and Josh Norman got hurt on the same play. That might be something that swings the momentum entering the second half here.

Aaron Schatz: See, I don't think of that as "changing the momentum." I think of it as "removing Washington's best defensive player."

Bryan Knowles: Well, that and "finally targeting their best receiver." I mean, Norman's good, but at some point, you have gotta go with your strength.

Cian Fahey: Don't get them started on momentum, Bryan.

Bryan Knowles: You're right, I wouldn't want to give that discussion any extra force, propulsion, or thrust.

Aaron Schatz: The Lions scored on the goal line to end that drive with a run play that had halfback Zach Zenner at fullback while fullback Michael Burton was at halfback to run the fake outside pitch. Cute.

By the way, Norman injury was not shoulder or elbow. Concussion. Let it be known that the protocols worked in this case. He's done for the day. Hopefully only for today.

We'll have to find a clip somewhere of the "nutfumble." On third-and-1 with about three minutes left in the third quarter, Kirk Cousins tried to hand to Matt Jones on a stretch and just stuck the ball right in his crotch, and it bounced off to be recovered by the Lions. Even worse, the Lions video board announced the recovery as "LION'S BALL."

Detroit marched upfield after that and kicked a field goal to make it 13-3. Washington's offense woke up a little bit after that. Jamison Crowder and Vernon Davis were open pretty easily all game, but they had even more room to run on that next drive with a 26-yarder for Crowder and a 27-yarder for Davis. A Rob Kelley 1-yard touchdown made it 13-10, and then Detroit had to punt after one first down. Washington got the ball with 5:20 left and it looked like we were in fourth-quarter comeback territory. Washington moved it easily again, long pass to Crowder on third-and-4 and some Chris Thompson runs with bad tackling by the Lions. And then, with 1:13 left, Jay Gruden pulled one out of his bag that he must have been saving all day for a special occasion. I'm guessing he saw something in the Detroit defense, but Washington ran a zone read and Cousins kept it with no Detroit defenders anywhere near him until he got near the goal line. 19-yard touchdown, and it looked like things were over.

But it turned out that the fourth-quarter comeback belonged to both quarterbacks today. Washington had been covering well most of the game, even after Josh Norman went out. But suddenly with a minute left, the coverage just disintegrated. It wasn't a prevent zone. It was normal coverage, mostly man coverage and they just couldn't stay on guys. Plus Matthew Stafford got a 14-yard scramble because when you're in man coverage it's going to leave that big huge space right in the middle of the field. It took them three plays to get to the Washington 18, two big passes and the scramble. Then two incompletions, but Stafford found Anquan Boldin near the goal line on third down and Boldin pushed in the last couple yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Washington should be pretty depressed about this one. They had this, and they needed it given how good the competition is in the NFC East this year. Detroit really hasn't been that good this season but the Lions are now 4-3 and their defense at least looked "bad" instead of "horrific" today.

Plus, I have to say, being inside a dome stadium when the home team finishes off a last-minute comeback win is pretty crazy and loud as hell.

I missed that Washington actually ran the zone read on the last two plays of that drive, not just the touchdown. Cousins handed it off on the first play. In the postgame presser, he said that the touchdown was actually an audible -- the pass play they wanted didn't work with Detroit's pre-snap look so they audibled to run the zone read again.

Buffalo Bills 25 at Miami Dolphins 28

Vince Verhei: Jay Ajayi tops 200 yards rushing in back-to-back games. Only other players to do that since 1960, per the announcers: O.J. Simpson (twice), Earl Campbell, and Ricky Williams. Three of those played in the AFC East, and two played for the Dolphins. Wacky.

Moments after that happens, Ajayi leaves the field with cramps. With the ball at the 12, Damien Williams takes the handoff and hits first contact at the 8, then runs into four Bills at the 5, where he should have been stopped by all rights. But he powers through into the end zone. to put Miami up 21-17 with just under four minutes to go. Dolphins now have 253 rushing yards today. 

I don't much like watching RedZone during the bodies of games -- it's too much whipping around to really understand what's going on -- but boy it's invaluable when you have got a bunch of games coming down to the wire at once. 

Bills are down by four points and need a stop, and they have got the terrible Miami passing attack trapped in a third-and-6. Then two Bills defenders trip over each other to take themselves out of the play and give Kenny Stills an easy 66-yard game-clinching touchdown. I can think of no better summary of Rob Ryan's career as a defensive coordinator.

Oakland Raiders 33 at Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Bryan Knowles: Punters are people too! Raiders face a fourth-and-24, and the long snapper bounces the ball back to punter Marquette King. No problem, though -- King scoops it up and scampers around the right side of the line, picking up a valuable first down. Just like you draw it up.

Andrew Potter: Marquette King is one of those guys who has been excellent without much recognition this season, probably by virtue of 1) being a punter, and 2) on the Raiders. He's having a very good year though, so far.

Baltimore Ravens 16 at New York Jets 24

Vince Verhei: Ravens failed to run for a single first down today. That's more common than I would have thought, and apparently something that happens a handful of times in a season. But it's still kind of jarring when you watch the Patriots and Tom Brady runs for two first downs by himself in the first quarter alone.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers

Andrew Potter: The Buccaneers may have heard that San Francisco's run defense has problems, as they came out running, and running, and running, and running some more. They ran their way from their own 13 to midfield, but then ran into a failed fourth-and-1. Lots of Jacquizz Rodgers, but also some Peyton Barber -- whose name sounds like a fictional Football Manager-style Madden rookie -- and Antone Smith, getting only his third carry since November 2014.

Bryan Knowles: The 49ers are giving up 174.5 rushing yards per game and are 28th in defensive rush DVOA. So, of course, the Buccaneers get stuffed cold on third-and-2 and fourth-and-1. That makes sense.

Vince Verhei: To be fair, short-yardage play has been the relative strength of the 49ers run defense. They were 21st in power success coming into the game, giving up a first down 73 percent of the time. I'd have run twice on third and fourth down too, but it wasn't a guarantee.

Andrew Potter: San Francisco is already up 14-0, and the second touchdown is Colin Kaepernick being everything Blaine Gabbert isn't. Mobile, escaping pressure in the pocket, threatening to run, then delivering a rifled 20-yard throw to Shaun Draughn tight to the sideline in a place only Draughn can catch it.

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Tampa Bay's kick returners need to stop taking the ball out of the end zone. That's twice in two returns that the Bucs have had horrible starting field position, firstly at the 13 after a 14-yard return and now at the 5 after a 6-yard return.

Bryan Knowles: Andrew praised Kaepernick earlier for doing something Blaine Gabbert never could, so we should also point out that Kaepernick made a mistake I don't think Gabbert would have, either. Scrambling around in the pocket, Kap forced a pass across his body, outside the numbers towards Vance McDonald. Bradley McDougald was just sitting on the route, and made a fairly easy interception. Kaepernick had room up the middle to run, too, so it wasn't like it was the best of several bad options.

Andrew Potter: Kaepernick just almost threw another interception on a very similar play. I didn't get a clear view of the coverage on the first, but on the second Rod Streater was open when he came out of his break. The throw was simply too late in arriving. That's a situation in which the quarterback needs to have the ball on the way as soon as the receiver breaks, not wait for the receiver to break before beginning his motion.

This game has, um, not been a returning clinic. Bucs kick and punt returns have been awful, specifically the decision making by the returners, but at least their players haven't run into each other and muffed a punt straight back to the opponents like the 49ers just did.

Bryan Knowles: The score's Tampa Bay 17, San Francisco 14 at the half, but that's not the number that draws the eye the most. Tampa Bay is outgaining San Francisco 307-173. Entering this week, there were 58 games this season where one team had less than 307 yards of offense in the entire game. I scoured the box scores to find a team who gained more yards in the first half this year, and I found one: Seattle. In Week 3. Against San Francisco.

San Francisco had to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal, a play after Kaepernick missed a wide-open Torrey Smith in the end zone, and I mean WIDE-open.

Shades of him missing an uncovered Smith last season against St. Louis on what could have been a 98-yard touchdown pass.

Peyton Barber just ran for what is likely the game-ending 44-yard touchdown on a play where he was essentially not touched. Yes, the 49ers are missing Arik Armstead and Aaron Lynch at the moment, but urgh.

That's 232 rushing yards allowed and counting. And counting, and counting...

Aaron Schatz: Who on earth is Peyton Barber? Tiki and Ronde's adopted Manning brother?

Bryan Knowles: Six career rushing yards before today on three carries. Today, 82 yards on 10 carries.

I think I could probably rush for 20 against the 49ers run defense, and you can time my 40 with an hourglass.

Andrew Potter: San Francisco has now allowed at least 249 rushing yards in each of its last two games. The last team to allow that many rushing yards in consecutive weeks was the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and those two are the only teams to allow that many yards in consecutive weeks since 1986. Lowering the bar to 245 gets a few more results from 2010 to 2013, but still only a handful.

So yeah, this is not a good run defense.

Rivers McCown: Not only is it not a good run defense, it's such a bad offense that the game scripts are always tilting towards San Francisco's opponents running the ball more. Which they, of course, can't stop. Coming into this year I was convinced that San Francisco and Cleveland were the two franchises with zero hope this year, and after the Jets win I think they'll likely shake out as 1-2 in our No. 1 pick odds.

New England Patriots 27 at Pittsburgh Steelers 16

Aaron Schatz: The Steelers need a pass rush and the run defense ain't no great shakes either. They miss Cameron Heyward. The drop from Ben Roethlisberger to Landry Jones is colossal. 

Are we going to have to write much more than that about this game over the next three quarters?

Scott Kacsmar: Probably not. We knew Pittsburgh's defense would be in a world of trouble today. The offense had to be surprisingly good, and daring I think with some aggressive calls on fourth downs. That red-zone interception Jones threw was huge after Pittsburgh picked up its only first down of the first 20 minutes. Antonio Brown can clearly get open against this defense, which is 25th in pass DVOA in case we forgot, but there are going to be issues with Jones forcing the ball like he did on that pick, and hitting the open opportunities. But I will say he did a nice job on a touchdown pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has to step up with Markus Wheaton out and Sammie Coates already leaving the game in the first quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Small change of plans. New England's previously scheduled domination of this game has been temporarily preempted due to two things:

1) key third-down drops by Brandon Bolden and Julian Edelman;

2) Le'veon Bell's remarkable agility and ability to avoid tackles. 

They're still winning though, 14-7 close to halftime.

Scott Kacsmar: Jones is 14-of-20, but he has thrown two very dangerous passes in addition to the early interception. Throw in a missed field goal, and Pittsburgh could be in much better shape than 14-10 at halftime, but it beats 14-0. New England's offense did a better job of stopping itself than the Steelers did, though I will point out there was a holding penalty on the Edelman third-down drop. So that would have brought up a third-and-13. Still can't see Pittsburgh pulling this off unless the defense suddenly gets some pressure, or if Jones avoids any more turnovers.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure if the Steelers are actually getting more pressure, but two holding calls on the Patriots' first drive of the third quarter showed how Brady is stuck holding the ball way too long. Coverage much improved, couldn't find anyone open.

Carl Yedor: That defensive play call on the Rob Gronkowski touchdown was interesting, to say the least. I feel like the breakdown had to have happened because of something New England did with its personnel, but having a safety rolled over to the single receiver side seems... ill-advised? I haven't been watching a ton of this game, so I don't know if the corner getting support had been getting burned. However, from the replay it looked like the Patriots just had them beat by alignment.

Aaron Schatz: Then Gostkowski shanked the extra point. His foot was angled in a weird direction. He has been great on kickoffs this year but his placekicking issues since the AFC Championship Game seem to be more than a fluke.

Steelers get a huge break when they strip Julian Edelman on a punt return. But on fourth-and-2, Tomlin brings in his kicker for a 54-yard field goal try. At Heinz Field, with its weird kicking winds! Losing by 11 to Tom Brady! Fourth-and-TWO!

It's shanked, of course.

Vince Verhei: This happened shortly after San Francisco kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal at the 10, down 13 points with six minutes and change to go. Not a good day for Aggressiveness Index.

Scott Kacsmar: Why do I get on Mike Tomlin's case so much? Decisions like that. Down 27-16 with just over nine minutes left, how do you justify a 54-yard field goal instead of a fourth-and-2? This is probably the toughest stadium in the league to get a 54-yard field goal. Your defense stinks, and you're running out of time with an 11-point deficit. It was only 2 yards, and Bell seems to get that every time he touches the ball. Just a horrific decision to try the field goal, which was badly missed.

San Diego Chargers 33 at Atlanta Falcons 30 (OT)

Vince Verhei: Oh my goodness, Tevin Coleman. He gets great blocking at the line of scrimmage (Andy Levitre pulled from left to right and took out two Chargers) and gets to the second level with ease, and then he hits the turbo button and weaves untouched through the San Diego defense for a 30-yard touchdown. Announcer then calls him "Devin," and then "Kevin." 

Julio Jones is already over 100 receiving yards in the first half again, by the way. At this point, he's starting to look like a reasonable MVP candidate.

Tom Gower: San Diego was up 10-6 in the second, holding the Falcons to field goals. Then the wheels fell off. Falcons score, 13-10. Griff Whalen knocks the kickoff out of bounds, start inside the 10. Three-and-out, Falcons start at the 50. Tevin Coleman 30-yard touchdown finishes that off. Fumble-sack, return score. 27-10 four minutes later.

The Chargers are significantly better on defense by DVOA than they were last year, but ah, well, it's Atlanta. Julio Jones is putting up big numbers, and Atlanta is finding chunks of yardage at time on the ground. Losing Denzel Perryman, like they did before Coleman's touchdown, doesn't help. His replacement, rookie Joshua Perry, got blocked into the safety by a pulling Andy Levitre. On the other side of the ball, it's a race between whether Tyrell Williams can beat his man (probably on a crosser) fast enough for Rivers to find him before the man whipping Joe Barksdale gets to the quarterback. Vic Beasley got the strip that made it 27-10, but Williams got them to the red zone soon before half to set up Melvin Gordon's second score to make it 27-17.

Vince Verhei: Joey Bosa making an impact in the third quarter. On first-and-10, Falcons run a sweep to his side, and Bosa beats two blockers to push Devonta Freeman outside, where he is stopped for no gain. On the ensuing third-and-10, Bosa beats Jake Matthews for the sack to force a punt. 

Bosa is probably their best defensive player, and he missed four games after a ridiculous contract dispute, and they lost three of those four games by a combined ten points. It's totally reasonable to think that contract squabble could cost them a playoff spot, and given the state of the team, could even lead to a departure to Los Angeles. Which, now that I think about it, is probably what ownership really wanted all along. So way to go Chargers, I guess.

Add the Falcons to the list of teams finding creative ways to get around the NFL's anti-GIF policy.

Falcons defense gonna do what Falcons defense does. They actually scored on a fumble-return touchdown to put Atlanta up 27-10, but have now allowed San Diego to score two touchdowns and a field goal on its next four drives, and the Falcons are now ahead just 30-27 with about six minutes to go. The scoring drives are long (seven, eight, and 15 plays), but Philip Rivers is finding guys open for just enough yards to get first down over and over again.

And we're going to get another exciting finish in a San Diego game, apparently. Falcons have a first-and-20, and from a clean pocket Matt Ryan tries to force a ball to a double-covered Julio Jones. Denzel Perryman gets an easy interception, and it's San Diego's ball at its own 35, down 30-27, with three timeouts and 3:32 to play.

Chargers kick a tying field goal with just 18 seconds to go. For a second there I was reminded of their loss to Kansas City last year when they got the ball with 5 minutes to go and two timeouts and still ran out of time. Biggest plays of the drive were a quick slant to Antonio Gates to convert a fourth-and-2, and Melvin Gordon running for a 15-yard gain after getting hit in the backfield on a third-and-1.

Julio Jones gets two more big catches on Atlanta's final drive, plus another DPI no-call on the final drive. Matt Bryant misses his first field goal of the year, though, when his 58-yard try hits the upright and bounces out. Given how San Diego's season has gone thus far, I'm stunned that didn't bounce in.

Falcons win the coin toss and start on offense. They very quickly get a fourth-and-1, and elect to go for it, on their own side of the field. And it's Denzel Perryman with the stop again, tackling Devonta Freeman in the backfield. Chargers take over at Atlanta's 44, needing a field goal to win.

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Carl Yedor: Atlanta goes for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 44 on the first possession of overtime. Devonta Freeman is stopped in the backfield, giving the Chargers the ball. I don't know what the numbers are there (even factoring in how good the Falcons' offense is); they're definitely different because a field goal ends the game now. But this is definitely something we're going to be hearing about tomorrow morning.

On the Chargers' drive, they ran on three out of four plays before Rivers took a knee to set up the field goal. Josh Lambo is good from 42 and the Chargers win.

Aaron Schatz: I wonder what win expectancy numbers say there. That might actually be a case where going for it is the wrong choice because expected points basically has to disregard the idea that if you don't convert and the ball goes to the opponent, keeping them to a field goal is a minor victory. As a result, the cost of not converting is higher. PLUS, the benefit of converting is LOWER than it might be otherwise because even if you do convert, you may be stopped on the next series and forced to kick a field goal, which extends the game.

Vince Verhei: Flip side of that: Atlanta's defense is terrible. San Diego's last three drives of regulation each gained 50 yards or more. You punt there, there's still a good chance you don't get the ball back.

Chargers win on a 42-yard field goal. Rivers took a knee on the play prior. I'm never a fan of settling for field goals of 40 or more yards, but it worked out for them.

Falcons and Vikings lost today. Cowboys are on a bye, but could still have a very good week if Arizona wins at home against Seattle tonight.

Scott Kacsmar: That was a Mike Smith type of call by Quinn in overtime. Not sure I liked it, because as Aaron said, you really have to continue being overly aggressive to get the touchdown to make that drive pay off. Tough loss for Atlanta, but at least the division is still putrid.

Tom Gower: Second half of that game ended up a lot more in San Diego's favor than I was expecting. Both teams had the same basic dilemma, allowing the quarterback enough time to find the generally open passing targets. The Chargers used some of the usual tricks to help out Barksdale in the second half -- inline tight end, wing tight end, closely-aligned slot receiver, shotgun running back to that side, that kind of thing.

Denzel Perryman, who returned to the game obviously, with the two biggest defensive plays. The interception looked ludicrously bad by Ryan, which underrates how good a defensive play it was. Ryan thought he had man coverage, with Perryman on the tight end. If Perryman follows Jacob Tamme upfield and to the post, the dig for Julio Jones is open for a big play. But Perryman did a great job of breaking off Tamme and being in perfect position to intercept the pass. The fourth-and-1 stop was a good play of getting into the backfield -- not sure how exactly the blocking broke down or how he defeated it.

I'm with Aaron -- as much sense as going for it on fourth-and-1 generally makes, I doubt it's better than a toss-up there. Even with a tired defense and San Diego just needing a field goal, I think punting probably made more sense. And what Vince said about settling for the long field goal attempt.

Vince Verhei: While we're critiquing coaches in that game, let's not let Mike McCoy off the hook for having Philip Rivers take a knee on the last offensive play to set up a 42-yard try. Since 2010, NFL kickers have missed more than 20 percent of field goals from 40 to 45 yards out. I don't know what the odds of San Diego moving backwards or turning the ball over there are, but I'm sure it's a lot less than 20 percent. Settling for a long field goal, let alone moving BACKWARDS at that critical range, is terrible risk analysis, even if Lambo did bail him out.

Aaron Schatz: On the subject of Atlanta's fourth-and-1 call:

Seattle Seahawks 6 at Arizona Cardinals 6 (OT)

Vince Verhei: In a defensive game like this, punt analysis matters. Jon Ryan's first two resulted in gains of 41 and 55 yards. Ryan Quiqley's first two punts were bad, netting 33 and 36 yards, but his third was a winner, netting 53 yards before being downed at the Seattle 1.

And then Seattle goes three-and-out again, and Ryan's punt from the end zone, after Patrick Peterson's return, only picks up 28 yards. 

At the end of the quarter, it does like the better punter will win this game.

Ryan's bad punt sets Arizona up in field goal range, but Bobby Wagner does the super-human jump-the-line block the field goal. His toe tapped Arizona's center, but NFL's head of officiating says it was a legal play:

(Let's not forget that Kam Chancellor did this twice in a playoff game, but both were waved off.)

And then Seattle punts again, and Ryan's punt gets only 37 yards after Brittan Golden's 8-yard return.

Cardinals take eight-plus minutes and 15 plays to drive 53 yards and kick a field goal for a 3-0 lead. Officially, they have 36 plays from scrimmage. They have handed off or thrown the ball to David Johnson 19 times.

Welp. We're at halftime with Arizona up 3-0. Cards were in range to at least try another field goal, but Frank Clark gets the sack and the fumble. Cards recover, but they are out of timeouts, after losing one trying to challenge the field goal block, which is not a challengeable play. (Wait, spell-check tells me that "challengeable" is a real word. How about that?) There are post-play offsetting personal fouls, dumbassery by both teams, but officials rule they occurred after the clock had run out and the half is over. 

Arizona's defense is absolutely brutalizing Seattle's offense -- Seahawks have two first downs and 47 total yards on five drives, all punts. They have had some drops, and as predicted, Markus Golden and Chandler Jones are dominating Garry Gilliam and Bradley Sowell. Cards have no sacks and only three hits in 17 Wilson dropbacks, but Wilson clearly has no confidence in his line to give him any protection at all, and he's getting the ball off to the first guy, open or not, deep or short. This makes their pass-heavy strategy so wacky -- Christine Michael only has four carries for 15 yards, but given how putrid Seattle's passing game has been, it's clearly the better option. Going to need more running, and a screen pass or two wouldn't be a bad idea -- Cards came into the game first against the pass in DVOA, but 13th against the run. 

Cardinals, at this point, have been David Johnson and nothing else. The Cards have handed off or passed the ball to Johnson 21 times in 45 offensive plays. Just like the Cards, Seahawks are getting massive output from their defensive ends -- two sacks and seven hits on Palmer.

Aaron Schatz: Michael Floyd is just non-existent, and of course John Brown is not playing due to health problems. So much for the vaunted Arizona receiving corps. And hey, what happened to the big J.J. Nelson breakout? This would be a good time for that.

Vince Verhei: Second half starts with Seattle's sixth punt in six drives. They used the screen I was calling for, but I was thinking of one where the screening linemen actually blocked people. Silly me. The punt sucks and goes out of bounds for a gain of 33, at Arizona's 24.

And yet again, another long Arizona drive results in no points. Nine plays, 57 yards, ends on a failed fourth-and-1 run at Seattle's 19. I know a touchdown there probably wins the game at this point, but geez, a field goal there might win the game too. Instead, you have 216 yards of offense and still have only three points. But Seattle's "play conservative coverage and wait for the opponent to screw up" defense works yet again.

Aaron Schatz: The thought might be: even if we turn the ball over on downs here, what can Seattle do with it against our defense tonight? And, in fact, the Seahawks went three-and-out and punted. AGAIN.

Vince Verhei: End of the third. Arizona has three points. Seattle has three first downs.

Andrew Potter: I went to bed three hours ago and slept through the first three quarters of this game. How is it only 3-0? Even Chelsea-Man United had a higher score than 3-0 with a quarter of the game left to play.

Vince Verhei: I'm not a big believer in time of possession being a factor, but in this extreme case, it does look like Seattle's defense is wearing down. Then finally start missing tackles on a long David Johnson run on third-and-2 -- but the play is called back for holding. And then on the next third-down try, Earl Thomas zooms in from out of nowhere to break up the pass, and Arizona punts again.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't get why Arians is so not into the quarterback sneak. That last drive would have been a good opportunity for Palmer to do one. Seattle only has three first downs through three quarters, yet I'm still not convinced the offense doesn't figure things out to win this one. Important for Arizona to get a touchdown to go up 10-0.

Vince Verhei: Seattle's offense now has eight punts in eight possessions, including five three-and-outs. 

And then Richard Sherman rocks Larry Fitzgerald's world on a third down pass, and THEY punt again, and the ball goes into the end zone. Seattle is about to start their ninth drive, at the Arizona 30, just over nine minute left in the game. And yet still down only three points.

Nine possessions, nine punts, six three-and-outs.

Bryan Knowles: This game is something else. I'm not sure I can say what it is on a family website.

Aaron Schatz: It seems a lot more like great defense than bad offense to me.

And with a blocked punt, the Seahawks just got the ball in Arizona territory for the first time. And they may be able to tie this up now.

Vince Verhei: And there, on the 15th punt of the game, Seahawks get a block, and they are set up with a first down at the Arizona 22, 4:33 to go.

Andrew Potter: Punt block came on a straight rush, no trickery required. Kerwynn Williams simply wasn't able to block Tanner McEvoy one-on-one. Williams has bounced on and off the Cardinals active roster and practice squad, and is the back Arizona signed earlier this month to replace Chris Johnson. Little ways that injuries can add up.

Vince Verhei: Heh. Seahawks Twitter was screaming for them to kick the field goal on first down -- then there's a holding penalty on first down, and they move back 10 yards. They get those yards back but it's a tenth three-and-out, and Steven Hauschka hits the game-tying 40-yarder.

Scott Kacsmar: I can't give the defenses too much credit for a 3-3 game, with the last field goal essentially being a three-and-out after the blocked punt. Only seven games since 1990 have had fewer than nine combined points scored (19 final scores in single digits), and I know a few of those were played on a field destroyed by weather. With the talent on the field tonight, you have to expect more than this.

Andrew Potter: Thing is though, a lot of the talent on the field is hurt, including both quarterbacks -- Wilson worse than Palmer -- and several of the Cardinals receivers. Sometimes, that's all it takes to turn a game against a tough defense into a game where you can't move the ball at all.

Scott Kacsmar: If we get to overtime here, how in the world could either coach justify going on offense first? Of all the games where you want your defense out there to get the stop and get the ball back, only needing a field goal, this is the game.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks, in a very literal sense, have an offensive line that is simply not capable of playing NFL football. I have got them for four holding penalties and a false start, and those could grow in overtime.

Aaron Schatz: Here we go with overtime. It would be very appropriate for this game to end in a 3-3 tie.

Rob Weintraub: Surely Seattle should ship a second-round pick to Cleveland for Joe Thomas, no?

Aaron Schatz: I think it's clear the Browns won't trade Thomas if they haven't already. It's very reasonable to expect that Thomas will still be a good left tackle when Cleveland is done rebuilding and ready compete in 2018 or so. And I do think there's something to the idea that you want to keep at least one or two legit veterans around to keep order in the locker room.

Rob Weintraub: Tell that to Florio...

Aaron Schatz: Of course the Seahawks finally have an extended offensive drive when they're down 6-3 in overtime. Of course.

Rivers McCown: I think the big problem here is that both of these teams tried to play their ideal offenses, and neither Carson Palmer nor Russell Wilson were up to the task in these circumstances. Wilson is immobile and his line is garbage, and Palmer has not been able to play well against elite defenses since the end of last season.

But since neither team was good enough to decisively win the script, nobody had to make an adjustment.

Also this is one of those rare situations where I would have considered yielding the ball in overtime. Neither offense was getting a first-drive touchdown.

Vince Verhei: If I live to be 200 years old, I will never forget this game.

(Arizona misses a 24-yard field goal that would have won the game.)

Bryan Knowles: ....

Oh my god.

Andrew Potter: That was absolutely, 100 percent a consequence of the earlier block.

Vince Verhei: If I live to be 200 years old, this game might still be going.

Andrew Potter:

Aaron Schatz: There has been a strong Twitter debate tonight between Team OMG More Crappy Football and Team This Is A Great Playoff-Quality Defensive Battle. I think with that bonked field goal by Catanzaro, Team OMG More Crappy Football has dropped the mic on the debate.

Tom Gower: I am not normally Team OMG More Crappy Football -- expect ironically insofar as that I follow, root for, and regularly watch an AFC South team that I believe is badly run -- but I'd be more sympathetic to This Is A Playoff-Quality Defensive Battle if A) both these teams hadn't lost to the Case Keenum-led Rams earlier this year, and B) both offenses were not repeatedly hamstrung by the same limitations that hamstrung them in previous games, by which I mean Carson Palmer's inability to throw the ball down the field with any consistent success and Russell Wilson's ankle preventing him from doing his normal "bailing out my miserable offensive line's protection and moving to find a throwing lane because I'm only 5-foot-10" routine.

Aaron Schatz: I'm definitely more sympathetic to This Is A Playoff-Quality Defensive Battle, but this is definitely NOT Playoff-Quality Special Teams.

Andrew Potter: I think Bobby Wagner got away with one on that missed field goal too. Though technically the rule isn't simply that you can't make contact with a lineman, which is why the earlier play was legal, I have definitely seen plays like that second one -- in which Wagner's leg appeared to drag over the back of the long snapper -- called.

(Seattle misses a 28-yard field goal that would have won the game.)

Bryan Knowles: ...

Oh my god.

Aaron Schatz: And then Hauschka misses a 28-yard field goal and we're going to get a tie. DEFINITELY not Playoff-Quality Special Teams.

Andrew Potter: This game should really have been played next weekend. I now want these teams to meet in the playoffs, so the game literally never ends. It may be less poetic than Dante, but there must be a circle of Hell in which that happens.

Bryan Knowles: The tie probably hurts Arizona more than Seattle, just from the homefield advantage issue. If the Seahawks and Cardinals tie for the West, it would come down to their Week 16 rematch in Seattle. Still, what a... I mean, what a game.

In pace requiescat, NFC West.

Vince Verhei: That. Was. Amazing. 

I can't defend the special teams, but put me solidly on the side of "tremendous defensive football." I will take 6-6 ties every week over that Oklahoma-Texas Tech abomination they had on Saturday. 

And if I'm Seattle, I'm ecstatic to escape this game with a tie. To hell with that miss at the end, you dodged more bullets here than G.I. freakin' Joe, and ultimately stopped what is still your most dangerous division rival from making up any ground. Plus, you don't have to worry about annoying tiebreaker scenarios for the rest of the year!

Let's not overlook David Johnson's contributions here. 41 touches, usually being gang-tackled by a bunch of angry men trying to rip the ball free, and he never fumbled. 

Also, probably not a coincidence that Seattle's best drives came after Bradley Sowell was knocked out. George Fant, an undrafted rookie who played only one season of college football at Western Kentucky, was a significant upgrade in that he was only very terrible. 

Scott Kacsmar: Well that was unsatisfying. Not many things I hate more than kickers shanking short game-winning field goals and ties, and we got the mother lode of that in this one. Arizona needed the win more, and was closer to pulling it off. Has to hurt those players more tonight.

Comments

152 comments, Last at 25 Oct 2016, 4:50pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Lining up in a fake punt formation, then motioning to a normal punt formation and kicking it, is Peak Fisher. I hope they put a diagram of that play on his tombstone, under a giant heading of "7-9".

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Quick question for those on the side of Team OMG Crappy Football, can you point to a game that you think was great defensive football where the offenses were bad?

As someone who loves defense, I thought yesterday's game was fantastic. Of course I would have preferred one of the two teams win, but the defensive intensity and performances were stunningly good.

My all time favorite defensive showdown was the PIT @ BAL game in Week 15, 2008, when Pittsburgh beat Baltimore 13-9, but this really was, at least for me, a memorable game for its quality along with the ridiculousness of the OT period.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

That's an interesting one because I too thought last year's Super Bowl was a great defensive battle.

But I heard the same thing from NFL media about how it was awful and boring.

If the FO consensus was last year's Super Bowl being a good defensive battle that is great. My larger surprise on the SEA @ ARZ game was that FO writers and the NFL media types that I follow on-line seemed it was an awful game as well.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I understand the idea that the Special Teams disasters did not help things, but I feel like even if Catanzaro just hit his field goal, people would still have decried that game.

As for teh holding penalties, a lot of them were caused because of great defense forcing the Seattle/Zona lineman to hold. That is still great defense.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

As to the kicks, really only Hauschka's was an out-and-out shank. The first blocked FG was an amazing play by Bobby Wagner. If hurdling the OL to block a field goal (and recover it) is awfulness, then more awful football, please.

And I think it's fair to say that this block facilitated the second miss as well. We will never know for sure, but I think Cantanzaro makes the chip shot if he's not thinking about Wagner coming up the middle again (Sherman also was coming in from the edge hard).

And then the punt was just a great individual effort by Tanner McEvoy -- a rooking free agent making a name for himself. Again, that seems like great football to me, not bad football.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The 2nd miss occurred because the Cards couldn't get their field goal unit lined up in an orderly fashion, resulting in the 5 yard penalty, resulting in the hook bouncing off the upright, instead of making it through. Well coached high school teams regularly execute what an NFL team could not last night.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

C'mon, what's the drop off in success rate between 19 yards and 24 yards? 99.5% to 99%? You can say those five yards mattered on this particular kick, I suppose, but then you get into "Alternate 1985" territory. It was still a chip shot, and it clearly (to me) was missed in large part because the kicker was worried about the strong rush.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Look, the whole reason Arians didn't kick the ball immediately, once it was at the 5, was because he doesn't trust his kicker, so the league average is irrelevant. If kicking at the 5 makes you nervous, then you sure as hell don't want to be so disorganized as to give 5 yards back prior to kicking, because 5 yards, on kicks that are hooking or slicing badly, is meaningful, and when you don't trust your kicker at the 5, it is because he regularly hooks and slices badly.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Before that kick Catanzaro was 21 for 21 in his NFL career from inside 30 yards (let alone 25). And if Arians really wanted to, he could have tried to get it closer, as it was only third down when he kicked.

The five yards obviously didn't help, but I think you are overstating the effect it had to try to prove a point being the Cardinals being sloppy. The much, much, much bigger effect, in my opinion, is that Catanzaro was worried about the rush given what happened earlier in the game.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Arian sees the kicker perform every day, from close to far. If you think Arians' behavior was that of a coach who is confident in his kicker's ability inside the 30, we will have to agree to disagree. Yes, the kicker was likely unduly affected by the previous kick, and that is likely due to the fact that he isn't a very good kicker. Losing 5 yards, anywhere, when your kicker isn't very good, because you are not organized, is a really, really, bad idea.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

You aren't disagreeing with me, unless you are asserting that Arians has confidence in his kicking unit's ability to make sub 30 kicks, or you are asserting that it is tolerable to give away 5 yards because of disorganization.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

They should certainly be able to make it out there in time. Probably because they kicked on third down instead of either immediately or on 4th they were more disorganized than usual. At that distance taking a 5 yard penalty is probably also preferable to rushing the kick.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Sure, it is preferable to rushing. The point is that it shouldn't be a rush. You should have the decision made ahead of time; no td signal, kicking team on the field. It should not be a challenge to get the kicking team on the field, in plenty of time, in that situation.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Its kind of the latter. Ok, so the haphazard execution of the field goal wasn't good; but that's still a sub 30 field goal. Blame BA for that indecisiveness because someday it could mean the difference between a 45 yarder and a 50 yarder, but in this circumstance - the loss is 99 percent on the kicker imo.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

It's interesting reading these interpretations. The ball was spotted out on one of the hash marks, right? In my mind at the time, I was thinking that the hash marks were slightly wider spaced than the goal post width. I assumed Arizona took the 5 yard penalty on purpose, to improve the angle. I even openly wondered if Seattle could decline the penalty to keep the placement at the more acute angle.

But then, after reviewing, it looks like both the NFL hash marks (18'6" spacing) and NFL goal posts (18'6" width) are lined up, so my thoughts at the time were based on incorrect field geometry. I blame the extremely wide spacing of the college football hash marks.

Edit: Thinking about it even further, he hit the post that was in line with the hash mark the ball was spotted on. Had he hit it the same way from five yards closer, the result would have probably been the same, depending on any hook in the flight of the ball. Regardless, the field geometry in the NFL means that the closer the kick, the wider the angle, so my thought process at the time was definitely mistaken.

Anyway, I loved the game. I was cheering for Seattle, but still thoroughly enjoyed that it ended in a tie, and the manner in which it did. It was totally worth it to stay up past midnight to watch.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Regarding media reactions to defensive games, I think it's easier for announcers to call a great offensive game than a great defensive game. Even the most casual fans can understand one-handed receptions and touchdowns, but when the d-line keeps stuffing runners in the backfield, it might look more like the offense is incompetent. Then the announcers' explanations become more important, and it's on them to call a game with an eye to whatever unit is actually doing well. That goes for stats too; instead of showing something like "no quarterback since 1998 has had less than 50 passing yards on 20 attempts in a game", they should phrase it as "no defense since 1998 has held the opposition to less than 50 passing yards on 20 attempts in a game." Defensive games can be great, but it's harder to appreciate them when the analysts treat them as snoozers.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Perhaps this is because the vast majority of announcers are offensive players?

This was Madden's advantage -- he was a former lineman and defensive coordinator. I think he watched games differently than most announcers do.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

My rule of thumb for years has been, If Chris Collinsworth says something is A, then it's really Z.

I was a little surprised the announcers were saying stuff like "wow, this was a pretty bad game." I mean, no offensive fireworks, but plenty of other fireworks. Two good Ds, two injured QBs... what the hell did they expect? Yes, holding penalties are bad, but allowing an OLB to decapitate your QB is worse in pretty much all respects (except for said OLB's sack total), no?

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

That's an interesting one because I too thought last year's Super Bowl was a great defensive battle.

But I heard the same thing from NFL media about how it was awful and boring.

A significant percentage of the NFL viewership is watching NFL RedZone on Sunday instead of the games themselves. The younger fantasy crowd especially loves it because it is all touchdowns all the time. Plus no commercials.

The net result is any game that is defensive in nature, especially nationally televised, is considered bad.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

That was old Pete 2.1, before he got the upgrade to Pete 3.0 at USC. (Also it was divisional round - Pete never won a playoff game in New England, and the Steelers then lost to Denver in the AFCCG.)

Both teams had decent offenses that year. The Kordell experiment was weird. The Pats were without Curtis Martin that day and Ben Coates was limited. Those were their top two offensive weapons.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Yeah, I suspect the barrage of penalties are what pushed a lot of people in to the "OMG Crappy Football" camp. But many of the penalties were offensive holding forced by a good pursuit. The Seahawks OL in particular seemed to take the mindset "we clearly can't stop them, so let's hold, because they won't call it every time." But refs responded by calling it *almost* every time.

There were also a bunch of drops and some missed receivers, which play into the bad football narrative. (But again those could be caused by good D.)

One huge mistake by the Seahawks I haven't heard mentioned is the boneheaded personal foul by Ifedi on Wilson's self-completion. The Cardinals were clearly called first for unsportsmanlike conduct, and it would have given Seattle a first down from their own 40, if Ifedi can just not retaliate. In that game 15-yards and a new set of downs would have been *huge*.

Overall, as a Seattle fan, I thought this game was frustrating, but supremely entertaining. Not all football games have to look like. We should just enjoy this one for the remarkable oddity that it was.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I loved this game. I rarely go all the way with a game these days, but this one was well worth it. It wasn't just the great defenses but all the magical things that seemed to happen every time Arizona was about to score. Which, as it turns out, was only a setup for that final Seahawk FG miss with Al Michaels screaming "That's impossible! That's impossible!" And Pete Carrol's reaction was priceless. We really need a gif of that. Especially in the context that Michaels had pictured him earlier in the game walking up and down the sideline saying, don't worry, we'll make a play and win this one! I'm convinced he thought it was his manifest destiny to win this game and to see that spoiled in such an unbelievable way was just beautiful.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

That new Arizona stadium has been the site of a lot of weirdness and craziness.

We've had in the 10 years it's been there:

- The 'We let them off the hook' game
- Super Bowl XLII - The Helmet Catch
- The GB @ ARZ wild card game that ended 51-45
- The GB @ ARZ divisional game last year with the Hail Mary's and Fitz-magic
- This game

And I'm probably forgetting a few one's as well. Had a really nice NFCCG there in 2008 as well.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"I'm convinced he thought it was his manifest destiny to win this game"

I think that's how Pete Carroll thinks about every game -- Russell Wilson too. That's part of what makes them so great.

With that said, if you offered either one of them a tie when David Johnson is millimeters away from converting the game winning TD, I'm sure they both take it a second.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I'm with Noah, it was an awesome game. I watched the Pats-Steelers game and enjoyed that and don't usually bother with SNF but thought I'd give 'Hawks-Cards a look as it's two of the league's better teams.

Having said that, if this happens on Thursday's Titans-Jags game I'd probably decry it as terribly rubbish. Truth is, this'll be a Thursday game I won't even bother to watch.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Sehaks vs Cardinals gerat game. Thst and Jets vs Biols week 2two best fgames this season. One was defensive special. Other was long tossing special. Both Bills and Jets averaged more than 9 ya ds per pass atempt (rarity).
Week 7 also had tremendous intefcetpion return by Giants player L. Collins. also had tremendous orange vs orange action in Cleve vs Cincinnati game.

6 side not

E . it is amazing you guys do these emails during game
s . I could maybe do that sort of thing but would have to be during halftime ir right after game ended. So good job doing it

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"But making the Los Angeles Rams play a 6:30 a.m. game, local time, is unfair to them and their fans."

It's only 8:30 in Saint Louis.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Notable just how easy Johnson beat the cornerback in a straight sprint since he's not exactly a burner.

How fast do you have to be before you're considered fast? Charles Johnson ran a 4.39 40 at his pro day. The reason the Packers originally drafted him was because he was big and fast, even though he was really raw.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"The tying touchdown (20-20) came with a lot of assistance from Colts linebacker Josh McNary, who negated an interception with a ludicrously bad penalty. He nailed Delanie Walker in the chest with the ball in the air. Since Walker was not the intended receiver, this was unnecessary roughness, not pass interference."

In McNary's defense, hitting the wrong receiver while the ball was in the air wasn't a penalty last week in Cincinnati. All you have to do is mumble something about "pump fake" and it's fine - even if you target the knees or ankles.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I can't find video of McNary's hit on Walker, but when Burfict hit Bennett, it was 3 yards downfield. Given that it wasn't DPI, and it wasn't holding (ball was in the air), and you can hit receivers within 5 yards, what's the call? Tripping?

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The hit being illegal is what makes it unnecessary (there's a tautology in here somewhere).

More to the point -- being hit when it is illegal to be hit makes it unnecessary roughness. With Bennett -- while I absolutely agree that it was a dirty hit and Burfict has a loooonnnnnnngggggg history of unhinged behavior -- he was hit in a time and location where it was legal to hit him. Unless diving at his feet is illegal, I'm not sure what makes it unnecessary roughness under the present rules.

Again though, I haven't seen the McCary hit, so I can't compare them.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Article 8 - There shall be no unnecessary roughness. This shall include, but will not be limited to: [...]
(e) unnecessarily running, diving into, cutting, or throwing the body against or on a player who (i) is out of the play or (ii) should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent, before or after the ball is dead.

It seems to me that either Bennett was out of the play, and it was UR, or he had a (however slim) chance to catch the ball, in which case it would have been DPI.