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.
Washington Redskins 27 "at" Cincinnati Bengals 27 (OT; London)
Aaron Schatz: I think this may be a statement about how tired we all are of these 9:30 a.m. Eastern London games. This may have been the best game in the entire 10 years of the London International Series. These are two teams that made the playoffs last year, neither is a terrible team this year. They played a close game that actually went into overtime. We have an entire staff of football writers, two of whom actually live in the British Isles. And yet, with 4:11 left in overtime, none of us had submitted a single thought about this game for Audibles. Myself, I've only watched little pieces of it. I think we're all just a little tired. The idea of watching four games in a row is tiring.
But one thought I did have during this game. I'm not a fan of the Bengals' "Chaos" formation because I've noticed they are now running it without a running back in the backfield. The Emory and Henry, which the Bengals ran last year, has three guys on each side and then three in the middle plus the quarterback and running back. The Chaos seems to be four guys on one side and two on the other, with four offensive linemen in the middle and the quarterback. With the Emory and Henry, you have four options: screens on either side, plus a zone-read option where the quarterback can hand to the running back or keep. In the Chaos, all you have are the two screen options. Without the running back, why would you keep more than a couple defenders in the middle of the field? You know that you don't need to really rush the passer because the passes would be fast screens. There's no running back to look out for. You just need a couple of spies to make sure Dalton doesn't run with it, and everyone else can cover the screens. So there's almost no yards after catch on those. It doesn't work without the run option.
Tom Gower: I actually forgot this game was on and didn't tune in until almost an hour after kickoff, so I missed most of the first half and didn't send my usual halftime email.
Also, I didn't have much I wanted to say about the game. The game was fairly clean and without too many major errors, though Andy Dalton had a howler of a red zone throw. Mike Nugent missed an extra point and a 51-yard field goal, which is part of why we went to overtime. Washington missed a game-winning field goal. A.J. Green is good. So is Jordan Reed, especially against Cincinnati's unathletic linebackers. I have to keep revising my opinion of Jamison Crowder upward, probably because I don't raise it that much when I do.
Bryan Knowles: It was a good game, from what I saw between getting everything else set up for the day. I thought Washington had it late, but the dreaded scourge of icing the kicker reared its ugly head once again.
So. Two ties in less than a week. Hasn't happened since '97. At least it happened in England, where they're a little more used to draws in their football games.
Andrew Potter: On the tiredness point, I think it's the consecutive weeks and the even earlier start (our daylight savings ended last night, so the game started at 1:30 p.m.) that did it for me. For all the closeness and the "best game in London, ever" statements, I really didn't enjoy the game that much. It felt like the reverse of Sunday night, where there were quite a lot of points and scoring drives but the offenses didn't have to be great to get them. Cincinnati's secondary looked to be a problem, which I hadn't expected coming into the season. Washington's is too, Josh Norman aside, but the Bengals didn't have the ancillary receivers to quite take advantage of that the way Jamison Crowder could on the other side. Both quarterbacks left a lot of plays on the field, to borrow a cliche. The special teams weren't great here either, with both kickers having bad misses on field goals and extra points.
Any positive comment I have would simply focus on how much better these offenses are with their top tight ends back, which isn't exactly revelatory. Jordan Reed would be pretty clearly in the conversation as one of the league's best non-Gronkowski tight ends if he wasn't so frequently injured. Maybe he's there anyway, I'm not sure, but he missed a lot of games in the first three years of his career, and has already missed another two this year. With Gronk, you can overlook that as he's so utterly dominant when he's on the field. Reed's very, very good, but not quite at that game-changing level. Maybe with a better quarterback...
Rob Weintraub: Actually, from a personal schedule standpoint, I'd prefer the Bengals play at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday. But yeah, the ennui is overall systemic of pigskin fatigue.
Chaos is just unnecessary trickeration to compensate for the Bengals' lack of consistent execution.
This game was reminiscent of the Cincy 37-all tie with Carolina in 2014. Shoddy tackling, Nugent the easy goat, lots of offensive highs and lows. Also a team coming off a division title that clearly took a step back (mainly to injury then, to personnel and coaching turnover now). The Bengals found a way to a wild card spot that season -- not sure it can be replicated this time. Would be a token appearance regardless.
Cian Fahey: Been going through this game while the afternoon games are on since there are only two. Dalton was lucky not to come away with six interceptions. He was just as bad as Blake Bortles was on Thursday night.
Seattle Seahawks 20 at New Orleans Saints 25
Vince Verhei: First quarter ends in New Orleans with Seattle up 7-0 on an Earl Thomas fumble return for a touchdown. So in six quarters now against Carson Palmer and Drew Brees, the defense has scored more points than it has surrendered. Both front sevens are dominating. Seattle's offensive line, which has been lousy all year, is even more hamstrung with Bradley Sowell out. Your starter at left tackle: George Fant, who hasn't started a football game since junior high, and didn't play football in high school or in his first three years of college. The first Seattle drive ended after he committed a clipping penalty; the second, after he committed a false start.
Seahawks go up 14-3 on Christine Michael goal-line touchdown. They are now 8-of-8 passing -- 7-of-7 by Russell Wilson, and 1-of-1 by Tanner McEvoy, who hit C.J. Prosise for 43 yards to set up Michael's score. That's one blocked punt and one long pass for McEvoy in his last three quarters.
Carl Yedor: In response to New Orleans' field goal drive, the Seahawks offense scores its first touchdown since the fourth quarter of the game against Atlanta. Most of the yards came on a 43-yard double pass from Tanner McEvoy to C.J. Prosise. As the broadcast team made sure to point out, McEvoy played quarterback at Wisconsin, meaning he is well-equipped to carry out those types of trick plays. I'll be interested to see if they incorporate more gadget plays given McEvoy's varied skill set.
Vince Verhei: Saints get a 50-plus-yard field goal and it's 14-6. I haven't done the math, but it feels like they have completed at least 90 flat routes today, and nothing more than 5 yards downfield. Seahawks were blitzing a ton early, perhaps to cover for the absence of Michael Bennett, but seem to have played more conservatively here in the second quarter.
Russell Wilson throws his second interception of the season when he doesn't see Nate Stupar in underneath coverage. That leads to the longest 37-yard touchdown drive of all time, as Drew Brees' sneak on third-and-goal finally caps off the nine-play, four-plus-minute drive. With 41 seconds left and no timeouts, the Seahawks actually get into position to try a 58-yard-field goal, but there's a bad snap and the half ends with Seattle up 14-13.
I have never been a big time of possession guy, but man these Seahawks are asking a lot of their defense. They played 90 snaps last week, and have already played 43 today. In those same two games, the Seahawks offense has run 57 and 19 plays.
Remember the halcyon days of last year, when Seattle had a very good rushing attack? Today, at halftime, the Seahawks have three carries for 3 yards. Against the Saints.
Andrew Potter: A Saints defense, incidentally, that opened the game in a 4-2-5 alignment against the Seahawks' 11 package, with safety Kenny Vaccaro covering Doug Baldwin in the slot. Vaccaro, Jairus Byrd, and Vonn Bell were all on the field full-time during the first half -- well, as full time as you can be in only 19 plays -- which may be a response to Seattle's line being bad and Jimmy Graham at tight end being more of a receiving threat than a blocking one.
Dannell Ellerbe got the start, but it was Ellerbe's replacement -- special teamer Nate Stupar, who has played a ton of defensive snaps since James Laurinaitis got hurt -- who got the defense's biggest play with a pick of Russell Wilson.
Vince Verhei: So, naturally, Seattle takes the ball first in the second half and runs it seven times in a row (for 45 total yards) on their first drive. Then they go incomplete, run for a loss, short completion, but they're close enough to tack on a field goal and push the lead to 17-13.
Heck of a lot going on on the Saints' last drive. Seattle looked to have a stop near midfield, but DeShawn Shead was called for the ticky-tackiest of holding calls, just briefly placing a hand on Michael Thomas' pads, but it was enough to draw the flag. From there, Saints run a flea flicker, and Brandon Coleman beats Richard Sherman for a 38-yard gain. A Coby Fleener completion gives New Orleans a first-and-goal at the 1, but from there they still can't punch it in. The biggest play was Ahtyba Rubin stuffing the runner for loss on third down, which didn't just stop that play but also took away what might have been a fourth-and-inches try on the next snap. The number of plays Seattle has made at the goal line the last two weeks is just ridiculous. Saints kick a field goal but still trail 17-16.
Another Seahawks three-and-out, another Saints red zone possession, and this time they finally cash in, with Brandin Cooks scoring on a pick play. Seattle still stuffs the two-point try on a shovel pass, so New Orleans leads 22-17. At some point we should consider adding two-point conversions to offense and defense DVOA, because that was kind of like another goal-line stop for Seattle, and they should get some credit for it.
Rob Weintraub: I haven't seen pick play this proficient since Stockton-to-Malone.
Meanwhile, Seattle has to burn its last time out when K.J. Wright slams a receiver out of bounds yet somehow the referee winds the clock.
Vince Verhei: Well, I didn't want to bring it up, but since Rob did: Seattle's defense has been called for every possible hold today. Saints' wideouts haven't been called for any of many possible OPIs. And yes, the last play was the worst, when the receiver very clearly went out of bounds and the refs wound the clock, forcing Seattle to call its last timeout.
And yet, they hold New Orleans to yet another field goal, and Seattle is going to get the ball back with no timeouts but nearly two minutes left, down 25-20 and needing a touchdown to win.
Seahawks get one play inside the 10, but Wilson's pass to Jermaine Kearse in the corner of the end zone is thrown too far, and Kearse can't come down in bounds, and the Saints win.
Fant was barely noticeable aside from those early penalties, so that's a plus.
Really, this was a weird game -- Seattle had by far the more explosive offense (6.6 yards per play to 5.2), got all those red zone stops, and even got a defensive score, and still lost. They had big problems on third downs on both sides of the ball -- 5-of-11 conversions on offense (and 0-for-1 on fourth down), while the Saints converted 9-of-15, and had at least two more on holding penalties.
Sucks to lose, but I don't think we learned a ton about either team. Saints have a Hall of Fame quarterback who's still playing great and a defense that is much better than last year, but still gives receivers too many chances to make YAC plays. Seahawks have maybe the best defense of the Pete Carroll era, especially in scoring range, but also maybe the worst offense, and they suck at 1 p.m. games.
Seahawks defense has now played 162 snaps in the last eight days and it really sucks that they have already had their bye.
New England Patriots 41 at Buffalo Bills 25
Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady just hit Chris Hogan for a 53-yard touchdown pass, almost all in the air. It's remarkable how much Brady's deep ball has rebounded since the middle of last year. It was the weakest part of his game for a couple years there. On the play before, Brady hit Julian Edelman for what would have been a 47-yard gain, but that was less of a beautiful downfield pass and more of a weird rainbow heave by Brady under heavy pressure with Edelman just totally open -- Edelman had to sit and wait for the ball to come down. Play got called back for an ineligible man downfield on the Patriots. Bills brought a lot of pressure on Brady on the second drive.
As for the Bills' offense, they're starting Justin Hunter at wide receiver. No, really. Hunter's third team this year. Tyrod Taylor started 2-for-7 with no receptions by wide receivers because he basically has no wide receivers today. There's a good amount of full house going on with three backs plus Charles Clay at tight end and only one wide receiver.
We complain a lot about how many of the league's top teams right now seem to have bad offensive lines, but hey -- Buffalo actually seems to have developed a reasonable offensive line! Cordy Glenn looks good despite playing on a hurt ankle, Richie Incognito has been really good this year, Eric Wood is good, John Miller has developed well at right guard. The Bills are getting run blocking, and the pass blocking is pretty good too. The Pats keep sending five and the Bills keep picking them all up. Some of that is the fact the Pats don't have a very good pass rush, of course.
Oh, and a slight edit on my previous note regarding the Bills' wide receivers. They don't have NO wide receivers. Robert Woods is playing today. He's usually a good No. 2 guy, but he's playing on a foot injury.
But hey, at least something is going right today. On the next drive, the Bills go what should be three-and-out but punter Colton Schmidt botches the snap... and then picks it up and somehow runs 16 yards on fourth-and-15 to keep the drive alive. That's the second time this year that an aborted punt has turned into a first down instead of giving the opponent great field position. Marquette King of the Raiders had the other one.
Bryan Knowles: Reggie Bush almost made a terrible mistake. He was running a halfback option, which the Patriots had well covered. As they were tackling him, however, Bush whirled and tried to throw backwards back to Tyrod Taylor as he was falling to the ground. The backwards lateral bounced around, fortunately right to Taylor, who was able to cover it. That's the issue with option passes like that -- you're making players make decisions they're not really used to making. Bills dodge a bullet.
Oakland Raiders 30 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 (OT)
Cian Fahey: Sloppy game for the Raiders early on in Tampa Bay. Michael Crabtree essentially ended the first drive with a dumb taunting penalty before the second drive saw Derek Carr fumble when he never felt pressure in the pocket. Jameis Winston took advantage with a precise touchdown throw.
If you drank a shot every time Jameis Winston overthrew Mike Evans this game would be awesome.
Early in the second quarter and the Raiders offense gets a kickstart from Jamize Olawale. The fullback was left wide open for a 68-yard gain because Chris Conte played man coverage while the rest of the defense played zone.
The Buccaneers defense is there for the taking if the Raiders offense can stop sabotaging itself. A handful of penalties and a few panicked plays from the quarterback have limited them to three points at the half despite having four 20-plus-yard plays.
The NFL has a major DPI problem right now. Raiders get to the Tampa Bay 1-yard line because the cornerback tries to play the ball in the air and is taken out by Amari Cooper, who is drifting away from it. The cornerback could literally do nothing except wait for Cooper to catch the ball and hope that he dropped it.
At some point in his career, Jameis Winston has to realize that he can't just throw the ball at his receivers and hope they make a play on it. He's constantly missing the wide-open and huge Mike Evans. Whatever he needs to do, be it mechanical, repetition based or whatever, something has to change if he's ever going to live up to his potential.
Aaron Schatz: He's not going to learn the lesson if the Bucs get all "#QBWinz" because the Raiders do stupid things. They just got a 12 men on the field penalty to hand the Bucs a conversion on third-and-1 in the red zone. Apparently, that's 150 yards of penalties on Oakland today, the most on any team in the league in a single game this year. And the Bucs run it in two plays later to make it 22-17, pending the two-point conversion try.
Cian Fahey: On that drive they gained four first downs because of penalties that the Raiders defense gave away.
Rob Weintraub: Pretty blatant head-to-head shot by Karl Joseph on Evans goes uncalled on third down, so Carr gets a shot at a dramatic moment. Or should I say "another dramatic moment."
Aaron Schatz: Raiders just hit their 20th penalty of the game in overtime, moving themselves back out of easy field goal range after a great catch and run by Michael Crabtree (and terrible tackling by Vernon Hargreaves). That gave them third-and-21 on the Tampa Bay 34, and they threw a pass to Andre Roberts 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage. WTF, Oakland? What kind of sub-ALEX nonsense was that? God forbid you throw a 10-yard pass into easy zone coverage to get into better field goal range. So of course, Sebastian Janikowski missed it from 54 yards out, his second miss of the game.
Oakland just received its 23rd accepted penalty, which is apparently the new all-time NFL record. This would be even more hilarious if the Tampa Bay defense didn't keep giving the yardage back with bad tackling. Amari Cooper had a 20-yard reception to put the ball at the Tampa 46 and then Oakland moved back: minus-1 yard run, 5-yard illegal formation penalty, 4-yard sack (with declined penalty), and then a 13-yard catch-and-run with a 10-yard illegal block in the back penalty from the spot of foul. That turned third-and-20 into third-and-17, and the Raiders got a few yards on third down and then punted.
In the end, we are spared a second tie game in one day when Tampa Bay, once again, can't tackle at all. What should be a pass to Seth Roberts that puts the Raiders in long field goal range instead becomes a game-winning touchdown. Derek Carr is apparently now in the all-time NFL top 10 for yardage in a single game with 513 yards today, but he also threw the ball 59 times. FIFTY-NINE!
Tom Gower: What a game. What a country. An NFL record for accepted penalties. A pass game that kept making plays at key times, even with some misfires (the defensive hold right before the touchdown that tied it at 24 covered up a not so good throw by Derek Carr on fourth). In a different era, with two different teams, we'd be talking about this as one of the all-time memorable games. Now it'll get some decent air time on Football Night in America and mostly forgotten outside of the diehards unless Oakland goes and wins the Super Bowl or something.
Rivers McCown: Tampa has really created an impressive blueprint in that they have two of, I'd say, the most well-regarded defensive players in the league in Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy. And yet, they surround them with terrible players and defensive coordinators, and they haven't had a good defense since 2013.
Vince Verhei: Is anyone else constantly re-checking the standings to make sure Oakland is really 6-2? Or is it just me?
New York Jets 31 at Cleveland Browns 28
Vince Verhei: That also goes for Ryan Fitzpa -- Wait. Fitzpatrick is playing the Browns and still looks terrible. Oh well.
Scott Kacsmar: Quincy Enunwa has had a pretty strong day for the Jets. On his touchdown catch, he made one of the finer individual efforts you'll see this season in regards to making moves after the catch. In fact, plays like that are why I wish someone would track the yards after catch that comes after the moment of a broken tackle. This would help differentiate from YAC that is simply a function of a guy running fast after catching a pass in stride vs. someone actually making moves and making people miss.
Kansas City Chiefs 30 at Indianapolis Colts 14
Tom Gower: Flipped to this game after the conclusion of the tie, and the team with the better quarterback play is winning. Naturally, that's the Chiefs, up 17-7 at the half. Andrew Luck, after playing very well against the Titans last week, has missed a number of throws. I haven't formally counted, but a number of them seem to be down to errant placement, mostly behind the receiver. That included a couple of middle-of-the-field throws for T.Y. Hilton and, costliest, a short out for Donte Moncrief right before halftime that was intercepted. Alex Smith, who left the game before I flipped it on for a concussion evaluation before returning, hit Jeremy Maclin for a touchdown. At the time, the Colts were down their top two corners -- Vontae Davis took some friendly fire on Nick Foles' earlier touchdown to Travis Kelce (nice route) and went for a concussion eval, and Patrick Robinson was not on the field for some reason. Indy's defense is problematic at best when those two are on the field; without them, they're in deep doo-doo.
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Two further notes:
1. Right tackle Joe Reitz hasn't been good, with some notable misfires, but I believe it would be a mistake to blame him or the line for Luck's misses.
2. On the play where Davis was injured, the Colts were flagged. After the penalty, Andy Reid chose to kick onside from the 50. The Colts were ready for the possibility and got the ball back, but trying that (or the pooch to the 5- or 10-yard line and hope for good coverage) makes so so so so so much more sense than kicking the ball through the uprights now that a touchback sends the ball to the 25.
Scott Kacsmar: When Alex Smith was feared to have a concussion early, you think maybe Andy Reid wouldn't call a designed quarterback keeper when he came back into the game? Not like Spencer Ware doesn't have a fantastic matchup here or anything. Now Smith is gone for the day with a concussion, but the Colts can still make anyone look their best this season. Nick Foles has had some easy big plays and it's up to Andrew Luck to lead another big rally in the second half against the Chiefs. Luck had a bad pick before halftime, but from what I've seen, he has generally played well today.
Tom Gower: Luck wasn't as errant in the second half, but the Colts' overall problems manifested themselves still. The defense wasn't good, the line isn't good (even though I will still say it's not as bad as too many people say it is), and a key defensive stop is largely a thing of myth and legend outside the head of Chuck Pagano. Nick Foles was mostly useful and hit some downfield throws, but also missed some shorter ones. Obviously Andy Reid deserves a lot of credit for that, especially with Spencer Ware like Alex Smith (hit in the head a second time) out with concussions.
Arizona Cardinals 20 at Carolina Panthers 30
Aaron Schatz: I can hear the voice of Paul Maguire now: "You don't have a lot in the playbook for third-and-44."
Green Bay Packers 32 at Atlanta Falcons 33
Vince Verhei: You watch Aaron Rodgers throw off his back foot and hit Jordy Nelson in stride 40-some yards downfield, and it's hard to believe Green Bay's offensive struggles in the past year and a half actually happened.
Rodgers finishes the drive with a touchdown to Nelson to put Green Bay ahead 7-3.
Aaron Schatz: Not only does Aaron Rodgers look good today, but the Packers are getting some great plays out of some receivers nobody has ever heard of before. Trevor Davis is a fifth-round rookie, he's got 24 yards and a touchdown. They also have a four-yard touchdown from a guy named Geronimo Allison. That is an actual person.
Falcons respond with a touchdown on a slot screen to Devonta Freeman, making it 21-19. Really nice block on the outside by Mohamed Sanu on Micah Hyde, plus Jake Ryan totally overran the play before Levine Toilolo could even take him out. We don't talk a lot about wide receiver blocks -- certainly a hard thing to quantify and not something you pay much attention to on a broadcast -- but it is one of Sanu's quiet skills.
Tom Gower: This is the best Aaron Rodgers has looked since at least the last time I said "this is the best Aaron Rodgers has looked since ___." What has stood out to me is that he seems to be getting the ball out better within the timing of the base offense, instead of deciding to wait for something better and buying time by scrambling. He's still doing that, of course, but he now is throwing the ball quickly.
Vince Verhei: This game, after watching the last two Seahawks games, is like something out of an Arena League highlight reel. We haven't even mentioned Matt Ryan's laser-guided missile to Taylor Gabriel for a long touchdown.
I see a Falcons running back slip a tackle in the backfield, pop through a hole at the line of scrimmage, and juke out the safety for a big run, and I check to see if it's Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman, and it's... Ward? Who the hell is Ward? How many good running backs does Atlanta have?
(To answer my own question: Terron Ward, second-year player out of Oregon State, had 95 rushing yards last year, making his 2016 debut because Coleman is out today.)
Freeman finishes that drive for Atlanta with a 1-yard plunge. Cian, you'd be proud -- needing 1 yard, they spread the field, tean ran an inside trap against Green Bay's six-man front. Julio Jones lined up wide to the left, and the Packers threw two guys wide to that side to cover him. Not one corner head-up and a safety lined up back and to the middle of the field -- two corners head-up on Jones to make sure he didn't beat them. And he didn't, so way to go Green Bay.
So this is interesting. After Freeman's touchdown, the Falcons kicked the extra point to go up 26-24 with about three minutes left in the third quarter. I didn't think much about it at the time, but in the closing minutes of the fourth, Green Bay was driving, and I realized that the Packers only needed a field goal to take the lead. As it turned out, they got a touchdown and two-pointer, so they're up 32-26. So I don't think, in all the various possibilities of what might have happened, that's going to matter -- no matter what had happened on the extra points earlier, the Falcons were going to be in position to win with a touchdown right now.
Packers got a third-down conversion on that drive when Nelson caught a pass right at the line of scrimmage, but gave up ground and was tackled behind the line. However, Green Bay challenged, and won the review when it turned out they had pulled off the Aaron Rodgers special: snapping the ball while the defense was substituting and catching them with 12 men on the field.
Scott Kacsmar: Matt Ryan was really on point today. The touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel was as good as any throw in Week 8, and Mohamed Sanu stepped up on the game-winning drive when Julio Jones wasn't 100 percent. By the way, it sure seems like Jones is hurt quite often. Mike McCarthy did the Falcons a favor by not calling a timeout, leaving his offense only 31 seconds to answer.
San Diego Chargers 19 at Denver Broncos 27
Vince Verhei: Scary scene in Denver as the Broncos get a pick-six. Upfield of the play, there's a sideline collision, and Wade Phillips goes down hard. The game is stopped for several minutes as he is tended to. Eventually he's strapped to a board and carted off, talking and wagging one finger. Hoping the best for a speedy return.
Tom Gower: Best wishes for Wade Phillips.
What we saw of Paxton Lynch wasn't good enough for people to clamor to see more of him, so Trevor Siemian can keep playing not particularly effectively as long as he doesn't make too many big mistakes. It does help with defenders keep dropping your passes, as San Diego did a few times in the first half.
Vince Verhei: Interesting play in this game when Trevor Siemian lobbed a pass downfield. Emmanuel Sanders was tracking the ball, running straight towards the end zone, while Dwight Lowery was zooming over to break it up, heading straight for the sideline. A massive collision seemed imminent, but at the last second Lowery slammed on the breaks, fearing a head-to-head hit and the penalties and fines that would go with it. Sanders made the diving catch and was touched down. Chargers got the ball back on a sack-fumble a few plays later, but that's the first time I can remember a defender flat-out stopping on a play to avoid a headshot like that.
Scott Kacsmar: With only two games going, I thought it was poor of the RedZone channel to not show a full-screen shot of the Wade Phillips injury. They probably did later, but not anywhere close to within minutes of it happening. Don't see why we needed the double box to show what was going on in Atlanta-Green Bay when this was a serious situation at the time. Some felt that Gary Kubiak's absence in the first San Diego matchup was costly for Denver. We'll see if Phillips' absence leads to any second-half miscues for the defense, but as a tipped pick just happened, we know this game is really about Trevor Siemian and his flirtations with turnovers. He gets away with quite a few, but had a big fumble today in the red zone.
Vince Verhei: Denver's defense in a nutshell: They just almost got a sack, but Philip Rivers was able to get the ball away. And it almost was intercepted, but it bounced out of the defender's hands -- into the hands of another defender. They had three guys with opportunities to make big plays on one snap there. Playmakers all over the place.
Tom Gower: I'm typing my reply that this defense is missing Aqib Talib, normally the kind of loss you'd expect a defense to notice against a good quarterback like Philip Rivers, and their interceptions have mostly been on tipped passes, and T.J. Ward is in the right place when Griff Whalen is not and the Broncos have great field position again, this time up 17-7.
Vince Verhei: Following a Denver field goal, the Chargers take over at their own 25, needing a touchdown and two-pointer to tie. And they get into scoring range quickly -- eight plays later (including penalties), they have a first-and-goal at the 2. Melvin Gordon had a 17-yard run on the drive, and is over 100 yards on the day. So what does San Diego do with four plays from the 2? Incomplete, incomplete, incomplete, incomplete. The good news is, they saved enough time that they could get the ball back, but I'd rather run for a chance to score there.
Aaron Schatz: The Chargers just got down to the 2-yard line, down 27-19, and they threw the ball four times instead of trying any runs. I don't understand why NFL teams are so reticent to spread things out and then run at the goal line. Have these people ever played Madden?
I also think that the question of going for it or kicking the field goal on fourth-and-goal is interesting here. If the Chargers only need seven points, it's pretty obvious to go for it. However, needing eight points, their odds of tying it up depend on not just scoring from the 2 but also hitting the two-point conversion. And then, that just ties the game. On the other hand, if you kick the field goal there and get it, you kick back off to Denver with 2:30 left and three timeouts. If you stop the Broncos, yes, you still need to score a touchdown -- but you don't need a two-point conversion, and that touchdown WINS the game, instead of sending it to overtime.
I mean, let's say that the touchdown is guaranteed, and let's say that we know Denver can't march down the field to kick a game-winning field goal with the 2:30 they have left. Even with those stipulations, San Diego only wins the game roughly 25 percent of the time! They only get the 2-point conversion roughly half the time, and they only win in overtime roughly half the time.
Detroit Lions 13 at Houston Texans 20
Rivers McCown: God, what a snoozer.
Did you know wide receivers played in the NFL? If this was your introduction to the game, you might think of them as bit parts. Matthew Stafford spent the afternoon dumping to Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron. The Texans went down to three healthy receivers at one point, and spent much of the afternoon featuring C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin.
I haven't watched much Lions football this year, because the suits decided to put the Bears on in prime time approximately 900 times this year instead, but I don't think they make MVP cases out of dumpoffs to Theo Riddick. So I am confused.
Philadelphia Eagles 23 at Dallas Cowboys 29 (OT)
Aaron Schatz: They used to say that Denver could just pick up any running back off the street and that guy would get 1,000 yards in the Mike Shanahan offense. Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, whoever. And I always said, "OK, fine, but there's a difference between those schmoes and what somebody special like Terrell Davis or Clinton Portis can do in that offense."
That's Ezekiel Elliott. Yes, the offensive line gives him a ton of opportunity, but he's doing more with it than most backs would. He's not definitely not just some schmo.
Rivers McCown: People love to talk about creating hard and fast draft heuristics like "never draft running backs before _____" but sometimes you wind up with a high pick and a running back is the best player on the board. Woe is you.
Tom Gower: Kind of a weird matchup, strength against strength and weakness against weakness. Eagles up 13-10 at the half. The obvious Dallas strategy is to use their excellent run-blocking line to overwhelm and beat up the Eagles. That has been standard operating procedure against Jim Schwartz defenses for quite a while, for obvious reasons. Naturally, Ezekiel Elliott had eight carries in the first half (granted, Alfred Morris did have three more). One thing if Dak Prescott had been efficient, but he's been more the opposite of that (5-of-13 overall, including 3-of-3 to Elliott and Dez with the only completions), including a costly red zone interception. Carson Wentz has been his usual self, completing many of his passes (17-of-21) for not very many yards (107, long 12).
Aaron Schatz: If the Cowboys move away from Ezekiel Elliott down 20-10 in the third quarter, they are making a big mistake. It's not that big a gap. Just run your offense, guys. It has done pretty well this season.
Cris Collinsworth also pointed out that the Cowboys have yet to throw to Cole Beasley tonight. And they just had a third-and-5 and somehow Beasley wasn't even on the field. They converted it with a pass to Terrance Williams, but still -- why would you not have your ace chain-moving slot receiver on the field on third-and-5?
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Well, OK then. We're going to overtime yet again today. Quite a day for extra football. Great play by Carson Wentz at the end, somehow holding onto the ball when Orlando Scandrick came up behind him to strip it.
Dak Prescott had only one interception coming into this game, but if he keeps chucking it up for grabs under heavy pressure instead of taking a sack, he's not going to finish the season with only two or three of them.
Ezekiel Elliott balls out in overtime. Why weren't they using him more earlier in the game? Then Dak Prescott twists away from pressure and finds a wide-open Jason Witten on the scramble drill. Touchdown, Dallas wins. I'm guessing that the Eagles may stay at No. 1 in DVOA though... this is going to be one of those games where both teams end up positive thanks to opponent adjustments.
Bryan Knowles: So, as it stands at this exact second, the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and Minnesota Vikings would get byes in the first round of the playoffs. Just as we all predicted, right?
Aaron Schatz: The funny thing is, it wouldn't have been the strangest prediction about Dallas or Minnesota... before the quarterback injuries in the preseason.
Tom Gower: Doug Pederson has two chances, both at least somewhat risky, to increase his team's chance of winning. He eschewed a 54-yard field goal attempt that would have given his team a 10-point lead, and he didn't call timeout after Connor Barwin's sack late in regulation, letting the clock expire. His team then lost in overtime.
Scott Kacsmar: If the Eagles are still No. 1 in DVOA, then that probably just says more about the overall down level of play this season than anything else. The Eagles had some dominant wins when they were 3-0, but have fallen off over the last four games since the bye week. I have a little theory for this split in performance, especially in regards to how Carson Wentz and the offense have played. Their wins were against Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Well, Doug Pederson came from the AFC with the Chiefs. He prepared for the Steelers in each of the last two seasons and they met in this year's preseason too. The Chiefs also played the NFC North last year. Cleveland, as we know, is just handing out wins to everyone so far this season.
The Philadelphia losses have been against Detroit, Washington and Dallas. The Detroit game was winnable in the end, but Wentz broke his tendencies by forcing a deep interception. Washington ran all over the Eagles, and Dallas had some up-and-down success tonight while severely limiting Wentz in the passing game. Since these were division matchups, the staffs of Jay Gruden and Jason Garrett seemed to have the upper hand over a rookie coach in Pederson in his first divisional games. Maybe none of what I said has actually mattered, but I like to think it at least played some part in the preparation for their games so far.