compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-ails 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.
Dallas Cowboys 35 at Cleveland Browns 10
Bryan Knowles: Tempers flaring already; that might happen when you're an 0-8 team. Browns starting center Cameron Erving has been ejected from the game, as has Cowboys' backup defensive end David Irving; they got into a scrap as the Browns entered the red zone. The loss of Erving likely hurts more than the loss of Irving, but it's a lack of discipline on both sides. Not even five minutes into the game!
Philadelphia Eagles 23 at New York Giants 28
Aaron Schatz: Kudos to Cian for pointing it out on Carson Wentz's first interception. When he misses, he almost always misses high.
When Carson Wentz misses, he misses high. Every time.
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) November 6, 2016
And he just missed high again, 2 feet over his receiver's head for a second interception downfield. Two picks in less than five minutes.
The Eagles end the first quarter with a run up the middle on third-and-5 for 3 yards. It looked like the usual conservative Eagles offense, just gaining a couple of yards to try to get a slightly shorter field goal. But NO! They ran on third down knowing they were going to go for it on fourth down. The Eagles go for it on fourth-and-2! Fortune favors the brave!
I'm sorry. I meant, "Fortune favors the brave who are not also stupid." The Giants have easily read the Eagles' zone-read option plays all day. So what do the Eagles run on fourth-and-2 to start the second quarter? A zone-read option. Nobody goes with the fake to Darren Sproles, and three guys are on top of Wentz immediately.
Vince Verhei: This is basically the anti-Carson Wentz game. His hot start was marked by a complete lack of interceptions, and also a complete lack of deep passes. Aaron already mentioned his interceptions today, but he has also thrown way more deep passes in the first half than he has in most games this year. And he's completing some of them, the biggest a 58-yarder to somebody named Bryce Treggs (the first regular-season catch of his career, and he only had two in the preseason) for a 58-yard gain to set up a Ryan Mathews touchdown.
Aaron Schatz: The Eagles just went for it on fourth-and-short in field goal range, again. They didn't get it, again. Fourth-and-1 from the 6, they ran power to the right, Darren Sproles did not get the first. At least that was a better play-call than the first one, but could we at least see what Carson Wentz looks like running a sneak? I mean, the dude is 6-foot-5.
On the other hand, Giants go three-and-out. All the criticism of the Eagles for going for it will not mention that the Giants went three-and-out from their own 6.
Bryan Knowles: The Giants may be holding an 11-point lead at the half, but they are being outgained 248-177. If Wentz can stop turning the ball over, the Eagles are finding room to move the ball against the Giants D, and the Giants will have to play the entire second half without Victor Cruz and Justin Pugh. This is one of the least solid 11-point leads I can remember.
Tom Gower: Giants up 21-10 at the half. The first two scores came on short fields courtesy of Carson Wentz. As Vince mentioned, this first half has been the anti-Wentz, with some risky downfield throws getting picked and some downfield throws completed for big gains. Halftime statline is 11-21 for 216, so both the yards per catch and the completion percentage look very, very strange.
If you want, you could say the difference in this game has been fourth downs in scoring territory. The Eagles have had four of them, and gotten just three points out of those possessions: the made field goal, a pair of failed fourth downs (fourth-and-2 and fourth-and-1, both good decisions to go for it paired with, as noted, some very interesting run play calls), and a blocked field goal. Give them another conversion or two there, and the game feels a bit different and closer than the 11-point deficit suggests.
Eagles defensive backs haven't necessarily been great today -- Rodney McLeod in particular got caught flat on Odell Beckham's first touchdown catch, and his second came when he just roasted Leodis McKelvin (not for the first time). The other, a safety, I believe McLeod, took out McKelvin and Roger Lewis Jr. ended up wide open.
Aaron Schatz: Giants ranked ninth in DVOA against tight ends coming into today but are having a really hard time covering Zach Ertz. Just caught his eighth pass, almost at 100 yards for the day. They keep leaving Ertz open in zones.
After those failed fourth-and-shorts earlier in the game, the Eagles just went for it on fourth-and-9 from the Giants' 46 instead of punting with 5:30 left. Jordan Matthews finds the hole between the short zones and the deep zones in the Giants' coverage and converts.
Eagles' drive stalls out with fourth-and-10 from the Giants' 21, and they kick a field goal to make it a five-point game, 28-23.
The Eagles bring it down to the 22 and have first-and-10. First play, Giants big blitz, no extra blockers, Wentz under heavy pressure, incomplete. Second play, Eagles still leave in no extra blockers, Giants big blitz again, Wentz under heavy pressure, incomplete. Third play... Do we think the Eagles leave in any extra blockers? OF COURSE NOT. Giants send seven guys, Wentz under heavy pressure, ball knocked down at the line of scrimmage. After the last Philly time out, the Giants did NOT big blitz on the fourth-and-10, but Wentz overthrew Jordan Matthews in the corner of the end zone and that's your ballgame.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were adamant that Doug Pederson lost this game by going for it on fourth down twice. I hated those play calls too, but that didn't lose this game. That blocked field goal was a bigger issue. Unlike failing on fourth-and-short, a blocked field goal doesn't have a chance of scoring a touchdown, and it doesn't pin the other offense back. Without that block, the Eagles could have kicked a game-winning field goal at the end.
Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Kansas City Chiefs 19
Andrew Potter: First throw of the game for Nick Foles -- whom you may have heard is starting for the injured Alex Smith today -- is a beauty down the left sideline to Travis Kelce. Second, he misses an open Jeremy Maclin over the middle. Later in the drive, he heaves the ball downfield to a wide-open Prince Amukamara, but fortunately Tashaun Gipson is there to break it up. So we have very much had the good, the bad, and the ugly on Kansas City's opening drive.
Scott Kacsmar: Just wanted to say that one of the best things about bad football is when you see something that actually makes you laugh out loud. Thanks to Nick Foles for the laugh on his arm-punt in the beginning of the game, and thanks to the Jaguars for colliding into each other to drop the interception. The Football Follies will always be precious.
Andrew Potter: Here, in case you missed it, is a video of the play:
— Will (@NOTSCWill) November 6, 2016
Vince Verhei: My god, that is Jacksonville's whole season summed up in ten seconds.
Andrew Potter: Foles finally connected with a wide receiver, after four failed attempts, on Kansas City's third drive. Starting at Jacksonville's 23-yard line after Bryan Walters fumbled on a punt return, Foles threw his first incompletion to Travis Kelce when the tight end got lazy at the end of his route and bobbled the ball as he stepped out of bounds. On the following play, Kansas City stayed in 11 personnel but moved Kelce wide against Prince Amukamara on the near side, with three receivers spaced on the far side. That meant linebacker Telvin Smith was matched up against receiver Albert Wilson, which is a mismatch even with Smith being a capable coverage 'backer. The Chiefs ran a standard 999 combination and Foles hit Wilson easily on the deep over.
Jacksonville got a touchdown on basically the last play of the half when Allen Robinson beat Ron Parker in the back of the end zone and Blake Bortles somehow managed not to throw the ball to Parker. I jest, but on the previous play Parker flat-out dropped a Bortles pass thrown straight at him in the end zone, again targeting Robinson. All of Kansas City's points have come off turnovers, but the biggest play of the half might have been that one they didn't get.
That Jacksonville is even in this game is testament to its respectable defense, its surprisingly effective running game, and Nick Foles.
Chiefs finally get points that don't come off a Jaguars turnover ... instead, they came off a big punt return by Tyreek Hill. Hill then got WIDE open on a slant in the end zone, but Foles threw the ball about 5 full yards behind him. Cairo Santos added another field goal, but Foles is still proving the difference between a Chiefs blowout and a nominally competitive game.
One injury I probably should have mentioned but haven't yet: Jeremy Maclin left the game in the first quarter with a groin injury and hasn't returned. I'm not sure, with the way Foles is playing, that having him would have made much difference. Maybe as a blocker on some of the screens.
Aaand Travis Kelce has just been ejected, after having a meltdown claiming for pass interference against Prince Amukamara. He got two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls after the play, one for arguing about the call and one for flipping out about the first flag. So the Chiefs are down both of their top receiving options, and just went from third-and-4 at the Jacksonville 12 to third-and-34 at the 42.
Bryan Knowles: Been a heck of a day for ejections. Travis Kelce just got the boot, for first protesting a not-called pass interference, and then for throwing his towel at the referee.
Andrew Potter: Craziest thing is, it didn't even look like a bad call, certainly not egregious. Not sure where the meltdown came from.
...then on the play after the 51-yard bomb, Chris Ivory becomes the third Jaguars ballcarrier to fumble, and it's recovered in the end zone by Marcus Peters. On review, he probably broke the plane before losing the ball, but the call on the field stands.
In discussing the review, the announcers note that the officials cannot freeze the replay review -- slow motion, yes, but not freeze frame -- which would seem incredible to me if this wasn't the NFL, whose rules make such incredulous situations into every-week occurrences.
Chiefs nickel cornerback Steven Nelson has been outstanding today, and just all but ended the game by knocking away a Bortles pass to Bryan Walters on fourth-and-3. Because on fourth-and-3 the guy you want to be targeting in tight man coverage is your punt returner who has two catches all year, against a corner who has been shutting down your better receivers all game.
Kansas City needs one first down to ice the game, and gets it on a 14-yard run by Charcandrick West.
New York Jets 23 at Miami Dolphins 27
Bryan Knowles: From the "things that missed Scramble" file, I expressed incredulity that Miami was only favored by three over the Jets, while Andrew pointed out that it was a matchup of the Jets' one offensive strength -- the running game -- versus Miami's one defensive weakness. Score one for Andrew; the Jets just came out in the jumbo package they have been using fairly heavily over the past few weeks and blew up Miami's line, opening up a huge hole for Matt Forte and a 31-yard touchdown run.
The Jets have a problem at linebacker, and the Dolphins are exploiting it. Neither Jordan Jenkins nor Mike Catapano are doing anything in pass coverage today. The Dolphins are getting matchups there and taking advantage; their most recent touchdown came when tight end Dominique Jones beat Jenkins easily, and it was set up by a 20-yard reception that Catapano whiffed on.
Vince Verhei: The Jets' field goal drive on the first possession of the game included three third-down conversions, the most exciting of which was Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambling up the middle for 14 yards on third-and-9, then lateraling to Bilal Powell for 8 more yards. They're running the wishbone in New York!
Ryan Fitzpatrick has left the game with a knee injury, which means...
I admit I stopped focusing on this game as the Lions-Vikings contest captured my attention, but I can report that a lot of stuff happened:
- Bryce Petty only stayed in the game for two passes. Ryan Fitzpatrick returned and threw what appeared to be a go-ahead touchdown to Robby Anderson, but on review Anderson was ruled down at the 27.
- Three plays later, Fitzpatrick threw an interception in the end zone for a touchback.
- This led to a Miami three-and-out, and then punter Matt Darr fumbled the snap, setting the Jets up at the Dolphins 18.
- Jalin (not Brandon!) Marshall then produced an 18-yard touchdown grab on second-and-10 to put the Jets up 23-20.
- Miami returned the ensuing kickoff to the 22, but the Jets were called for offsides. They kicked again, and this time Kenyan Drake took it back 96 yards for a touchdown to put Miami back on top 27-23.
That all happened in barely five minutes of game time, and there's still more than five minutes to go.
Other than that, the highlights here have been Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing an interception to 335-pound Jordan Phillips, and Ryan Tannehill trying to outdo him by throwing one to Sheldon Richardson, but Richardson dropped the pass.
Dolphins forced a punt and took over with 2:53 to go, and never gave the ball back. Against the Jets' stout run D, Jay Ajayi had runs of 9, 20, and 16 yards on the drive, finishing with 111 yards on the day.
Andrew Potter: Let the record also state that, on this day in 2016, after taking over possession in Miami down 4 with five minutes to play, the New York Jets took 2:21 off the clock ... to go three-and-out.
Detroit Lions 22 at Minnesota Vikings 16 (OT)
Aaron Schatz: The Vikings started a drive in the red zone and ended it with a punt on fourth-and-32.
- 1-10-DET 18(12:25) (Shotgun) J.McKinnon up the middle to DET 14 for 4 yards (T.Wilson).
- 2-6-DET 14(11:47) (Shotgun) PENALTY on MIN-T.Clemmings, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at DET 14 - No Play.
- 2-11-DET 19(11:37) (Shotgun) S.Bradford pass short left to S.Diggs to DET 17 for 2 yards (T.Whitehead). PENALTY on MIN-J.Sirles, Illegal Block Above the Waist, 10 yards, enforced at DET 17.
- 2-19-DET 27(11:21) (Shotgun) R.Hillman right end to DET 31 for -4 yards (G.Quin).
- 3-23-DET 31(10:42) (Shotgun) S.Bradford sacked at DET 40 for -9 yards (K.Hyder).
- 4-32-DET 40(9:56) (Punt formation) J.Locke punts 24 yards to DET 16, Center-K.McDermott, fair catch by A.Roberts.
And yet, the game is 3-3 after 25 minutes because the Vikings' defense is great. What a year for ridiculously unbalanced teams.
Tom Gower: PFR's drive finder query produced just one other drive since 1999 that began inside the opposing 20 and ended in a punt. It, too, was led by Sam Bradford, back in 2011 with the Rams against Washington.
Vince Verhei: On the same day undrafted rookie Bryce Treggs has his first career catch for Philadelphia, first-round draft pick Laquon Treadwell gets his first career catch for Philadelphia. Treggs still leads Treadwell in yardage 58 to 15. Playmaker was negative on Treadwell coming into the year, but he still should have produced more than this.
Good for Minnesota: as usual, the defense, which has now held the Lions to four straight three-and-outs to open the second half.
Bad for Minnesota: Blair Walsh, who missed an extra point that would have tied the game, then had a go-ahead field goal blocked. That sets up an 8-yard drive, the fourth of those three-and-outs, but Matt Prater hits from 52 and the Lions have gone up 13-9 early in the fourth quarter.
And the Vikings follow that by reaching the red zone in just four plays. On third-and-2, Jerick McKinnon's shotgun plunge is stopped just short of a first down. The Vikings challenge the play, the logic there being they were probably going to call timeout anyway so they really have nothing to lose, but the call stands. Rather than kick a field goal that would still leave them behind, they go for it on fourth-and-inches, but Matt Asiata is stuffed. Lions have been outgained by about 80 yards and are losing the turnover battle, but they have got the ball and the lead with about eight minutes to go.
Trailing 13-9, the Vikings get a first-and-goal at the 3, and the Lions call their last timeout. At that point, if I'm Detroit, I'm letting them score to ensure I get a chance at a tying field goal. But the Vikings pass on first down (risking a clock stopping incompletion, which is insane) and then run on second, and then call timeout. On third down, they go to the tight end end-around to Rhett Ellison. At first I thought he had fumbled and Detroit recovered, but he was very clearly in the end zone before the ball came out. So the Vikings are now up 16-13, about to kick off with 23 seconds to go and Detroit out of timeouts.
... and Matt Prater, the only kicker in NFL history to ever hit a 64-yarder, who has already hit from 47 and 53 today, hits a 58-yarder at the gun to send this one to overtime.
Lions took the ball in overtime and scored a touchdown on their first drive to win 22-16. Counting penalties, Matthew Stafford converted four third downs on the drive, including the game winner: an out route to Golden Tate that should have resulted in just a first down, but Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes badly missed tackles and Tate scurried into the end zone, crossing the goal line with an Owen Hart-style spinning kick for fun.
Vikings' offensive numbers in the first post-Norv Turner game are going to be ugly -- 16 points is tied for the fewest scored against the Lions all year. On an individual note, Stefon Diggs gaining only 80 yards on 13 catches is pretty ugly, and Cordarrelle Patterson failed to catch a ball in the end zone -- a high pass and not necessarily a drop, but definitely catchable. But really, you won't find many games like this that are won and lost mostly because one team had a bunch of big kicks, and the other had multiple misses.
One last note on the Vikings: They came into the weekend in a virtual dead heat with Atlanta and Seattle for the second first-round bye in the NFC behind Dallas. All three were favorites this weekend. Seattle doesn't play Buffalo until Monday night, but with Atlanta taking care of Tampa Bay last Thursday, it's quite possible that this loss will have the Vikings playing in the first round.
Scott Kacsmar: Honestly, I'm not sold that the Vikings are a playoff team. Defense has shown some cracks, and the offense is probably going to be a problem more often than not. A lot of this depends on Green Bay improving, and an NFC East team staying up in the wild-card race, but the Vikings don't look like much of a contender to me. A lot more faith in Dallas, Atlanta as long as Matt Ryan is playing this well, and Seattle if the offense can sort itself out.
Pittsburgh Steelers 14 at Baltimore Ravens 21
Vince Verhei: Cian promised on Twitter that this would be a slop-fest, and he has been right. Joe Flacco has a horrible interception where he rolled right and lofted a lazy pass late to the middle of the field, but he also has a 95-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace on a quick post that had about 85 yards after the catch. Steve Smith also has a 30-yard catch-and-run, so it has been a good afternoon for Baltimore's "Imagine If We Had Been Teammates In Like 2008" receiving corps.
Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger has avoided big plays either way, but he's just 5-of-11 for 39 yards.
Scott Kacsmar: We're used to low-scoring games from these two, but this is just bad football. The Steelers are 0-for-7 on third down and have more penalty yards (70) than offensive yards (67) past the two-minute warning. Ben Roethlisberger probably shouldn't have played today. His timing looks bad, he's had two dropped interceptions, and the Steelers twice ran on third-down passing situations, as if they were hiding him. Le'veon Bell has run into a brick wall all day, and this is about example 68,547 of why a wide receiver should never win MVP. You couldn't convince me Antonio Brown was playing today.
On defense, Artie Burns has been very involved, covering a variety of receivers. He got his first career interception after Joe Flacco panicked under pressure, but he was also beat by Breshad Perrimian down the field, only to see Flacco miss the throw. I'm not 100 percent sure if Burns was in coverage on Mike Wallace on the 95-yard touchdown, the longest play in Ravens history. I expected Wallace to catch a bomb in his "revenge game" against the Steelers, but I did not expect him to adjust to an inaccurate pass, break a tackle and turn on the jets for a huge YAC touchdown, the only score of the day.
This game has also made me realize that too many of Pittsburgh's best and most important players have durability issues. Talking about Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Le'veon Bell and Ryan Shazier. Pouncey has been in and out of this game today, and Shazier had a fantastic forced fumble that makes you remember just how good he can be when he's actually on the field.
Aaron Schatz: Ben Roethlisberger is totally ready to play today.
Vince Verhei: Joe Flacco scrambles for a third-down conversion, but clutches his knee, which has a grotesque bulge sticking out to the side. At first I thought this was a Joe Theismann-style bone break, but Flacco pops up and hops off the field and into the tunnel, which indicates that's not it, and apparently his kneebrace needed adjustment and/or repair. Ryan Mallett led a three-and-out. Flacco actually returned to the field for the "try to get them to jump offsides on fourth-and-1" play, but it didn't work and Baltimore is punting.
Aaron Schatz: So, are any of you watching the Pittsburgh-Baltimore crime against offense today? Pittsburgh had one of the best offenses in the league until two weeks ago. I'm curious how much of this is Ben Roethlisberger being injured, how much is the Baltimore defense, and how much has to do with other Pittsburgh injuries? I mean, in the past when Maurkice Pouncey has been injured, the Steelers offense has never really had much of a problem.
Bryan Knowles: Pittsburgh just ran the worst onside kick attempt in the history of football.
Aaron Schatz: What was so bad about the onside kick? Explanation por favor?
Andrew Potter: Words cannot do it justice. Regardez:
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2016
Bryan Knowles: Yeah. It looked like Chris Boswell was attempting to do a little bit of trickeration and backheel the ball the other direction. It went maybe an inch? Two? A wee bit short of the ten yards needed for a legal onside kick, at least.
Andrew Potter: For what it's worth, this is what he was trying to do:
Scott Kacsmar: Just all around pretty bad by the Steelers, though the defense was respectable outside of one big miscue on the Wallace touchdown. When a team loses 21-14, that blocked punt for a touchdown and dropped touchdown by Sammie Coates late in the game really stand out. Roethlisberger might not have thrown for 60 yards in the first three quarters. He got on track in the fourth, but a lot of it was backyard football and just general aggressive passing down the field. When the Steelers tried to run a conventional offense today, the Ravens had them completely bottled up. I did notice the coverage on Brown got much softer in the fourth quarter, but Ben kept this a game with some nice throws to Eli Rogers. And yes, that onside kick was the worst I have ever seen. In fact, I don't get why the Steelers (or any team) wouldn't have gone for two before that. If you're down by 14 points and score a touchdown, go for two in the last minute since you already know you'll need a highly improbable onside kick recovery. If by some chance you get it, then you can win the game with a touchdown and extra point. Not any real gamble here since your win probability absolutely sucks anyway, but at least there's a nice incentive to come from making it.
Carolina Panthers 13 at Los Angeles Rams 10
Vince Verhei: A good example of hidden special teams yardage: Panthers force a punt, and Johnny Hekker kicks a 50-yarder, which is nothing special in the NFL. Ted Ginn, though, fails to make a fair catch, letting the punt hit the ground -- where it bounces and rolls another 25 yards. And it goes in the books as a 75-yard punt with no return for Hekker.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) November 6, 2016
Both teams have had the ball once now in the third quarter, and this is still a 7-0 game. That's no surprise for the Rams, but the Panthers' struggles need some explanation. First, the Rams' defense is owning the line of scrimmage -- Panthers have only 22 rushing yards and have given up three sacks. Cam Newton is also having a bad day. He looks to be side-arming everything, with lots of overthrows. He had Devin Funchess open for what would have been a 50-ish yard touchdown, and overthrew him. Carolina's offense right now is basically big catches by Greg Olsen or nothing.
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And as I type that, Mark Barron comes through unblocked on a delayed blitz and drills Newton into the ground for another sack.
Meanwhile, the Rams remain the Rams. They're going nowhere and doing nothing and letting the top pick in the draft waste an entire year of his rookie deal. It's baffling.
Case Keenum throws an interception. That leads to a long drive, but that stalls when Aaron Donald gets another sack, leading to a field goal and an insurmountable 10-0 lead. Keenum is still at quarterback when the Rams come back on offense, having scored zero points in their last six quarters. To be fair, that interception was more a great leaping grab by Thomas Davis than a terrible throw by Keenum, but the wheels in L.A. just continue to spin, with no forward progress being made.
Keenum responds by looking like a legit NFL quarterback for the first time in forever, but on third down, Lance Kendricks drops a pass at the goal line with nobody around him, leading to a field goal. Hard to be too hard on Kendricks there -- like Olsen for the Panthers, he has been clearly the Rams' best player today, with about one-third of their offense coming on his catches. Panthers now lead 7-3 with eight minutes to go.
Carl Yedor: The Rams just had a big drop in the end zone from tight end Lance Kendricks. Case Keenum hit him right between the numbers with a pass and Kendricks had it bounce off of his chest. L.A. has to settle for a chip shot field goal instead on fourth-and-goal from the 8.
Carolina then marches down the field aided in part by a really dumb horse collar tackle penalty from defensive end William Hayes. The Panthers end up using their final timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty but come away with a field goal.
It certainly seems like the Rams take a lot of cheap shots at quarterbacks when they're sliding/in vulnerable positions. This is anecdotal, but two Rams defenders launched themselves at Cam Newton after he was clearly sliding on the second-down play before the field goal. Teddy Bridgewater and Russell Wilson can definitely relate.
Vince Verhei: That Aaron Donald sack that set up Carolina's last field goal was a similar situation. I thought it was clean, but a lot of quarterbacks would have gotten a flag on the defense there for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Cam doesn't get the same benefit of the doubt.
Rob Weintraub: Take back everything negative you say about Case Keenum! He just threw a pass left-handed to escape trouble on a play that resulted in a first down. And now the Rams are threatening with a little over a minute to play. Maybe if Keenum threw it lefty the whole game his numbers would be better.
With 38 seconds to play, the Rams on fourth down throw it from the 10 instead of kicking the field goal, taking the points, and trying the onside kick. So naturally Case throws a touchdown pass and it's 13 -10, onside kick coming.
Aaron Schatz: The announcers here can't believe that the Rams are going for it down 13-3, with fourth-and-goal from the 10 and 38 seconds left. "You need 10 points," they say, "You might as well get the 3 first." Guys, what are the odds after an onside kick that the Rams can get the ball down to the 10 again? Compare that to the odds of Greg Zuerlein hitting a field goal of 55-plus yards if the Rams can get to the 37 or so after recovering an onside kick. Going for the touchdown first was the right call given who the Rams' kicker is.
Vince Verhei: They should have kicked it once they got a first down inside the 20, leaving themselves time to get a touchdown after an automatic kick.
It's a moot point, since the Rams' onside kick is almost as bad as Pittsburgh's earlier, but for the opposite reason -- they tried to catch the Panthers napping, but the rushed kick actually bounced deep into Carolina territory for an easy recovery. Rams were also offside on the play, not that it mattered.
Rob Weintraub: The Rams onside kick wasn't as bad as Pittsburgh's, but still pretty comical. They tried the old "I'm talking to my guys -- nope just foolin' -- I'm gonna turn around and blast it as hard as I can" onside kick. I guess the idea was to ricochet one off a Panther. Instead it went about 40 yards downfield where it was easily covered by the Panthers and they will win.
Scott Kacsmar: I view the Rams' decision similar to what I said about Pittsburgh earlier in the day. When you know it's going to take an onside kick recovery in the final minute to extend the game, you might as well go for the maximum amount of points now. So I liked the decision to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal, down 13-3. However, I shouldn't say maximum amount of points, because I do agree with the extra point to make it 13-10 instead of trying to go for two to make it 13-11. With such little time left, the Rams needed to keep it a field-goal game to be realistic, or else you're hoping for a Hail Mary victory.
New Orleans Saints 41 at San Francisco 49ers 23
Andrew Potter: This is a bad, bad 49ers team. I know, the Saints offense is good enough to make decent defenses look bad, but the 49ers have once again given up more than 130 yards rushing in the first half, both Saints running backs have touchdowns, and Mark Ingram has a score through the air too. New Orleans has four touchdowns in five drives.
On the other side, Colin Kaepernick's stat line is not too bad, but the pick he threw straight to Craig Robertson in underneath coverage was dreadful. Only a DuJuan Harris yards-after-catch touchdown that punished an ill-advised safety blitz has anything remotely positive happening for San Francisco.
Vince Verhei: Last week, Mark Ingram had three carries for 5 yards and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and then he was benched. He's doing better in the first half today: four carries for 89 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, plus two catches for 13 yards and another score. In other news, Seattle's run defense is better than San Francisco's.
Here's a clip of Ingram's long run. As others have noted, this might be the slowest 75-yard run of all time. There's just no speed on the field there, for either team. This is just the third 40-plus-yard run of Ingram's six-year career. Jeremy Hill has three 40-yarders for Cincinnati this season alone.
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2016
Aaron Schatz: The 49ers' fluke Week 1 victory thing the last two years is very odd.
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Bryan Knowles: The 49ers actually have a six-game winning streak on opening day, longest in the NFL.
Teams perform better when they have that extra week to game plan; clearly, the 49ers just need an extra month or two between games for that extra strategic value.
Andrew Potter: You could apply basically the same lack-of-speed comment to the Vance McDonald 65-yarder. This Saints defense pursues worse than any other defense in the league.
Perhaps recognizing this, San Francisco literally just used the "deliberately foul every single receiver on the field, forcing the other team to settle for a field goal" approach on the Saints' final pass attempt of the half. Four receivers, every single one being held and wrestled by a defensive back:
- (0:04 - 2nd) (Shotgun) D.Brees pass incomplete short left to T.Cadet. Penalty on SF-J.Ward, Defensive Holding, declined. Penalty on SF-K.Reaser, Defensive Holding, declined. PENALTY on SF-E.Reid, Defensive Holding, 5 yards, enforced at SF 13 - No Play
The 49ers did it!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/1e0JYdnvCJ
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) November 6, 2016
Bryan Knowles: The 49ers' defense is terrible, but they can't be blamed on that Michael Thomas touchdown. Tramaine Brock was step-for-step with him, and Drew Brees' pass bounced off his back, but Thomas made a fantastic concentration play to come down with the ball anyway and extend the Saints' lead to two scores.
Seven running backs in a row have rushed for more than 100 yards against the 49ers run defense. They have allowed at least 125 yards on the ground in each of their last seven games, the longest active streak in the NFL. David Johnson and the Cardinals host the 49ers next week after a bye week. That's going to get ugly in a hurry.
Indianapolis Colts 31 at Green Bay Packers 26
Vince Verhei: Packers trail 24-10 at halftime. Aaron Rodgers is just 7-of-17 for 77 yards with two sacks against the defense that came into the weekend next to last in DVOA. Ross Tucker has a theory on Twitter that I haven't seen before: that a big part of shutting Rodgers down is keeping him in the pocket.
The book on keeping Aaron Rodgers in the pocket is out. Colts treating him like he's Vick.
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) November 6, 2016
So I checked.
In 2015, Rodgers was 20th in DVOA in the pocket, seventh out of it.
2014: First in the pocket, fifth outside.
2013: Fifth inside, 14th outside.
2012: Fifth inside, eighth outside.
Yeah, that theory doesn't seem to add up.
Aaron Schatz: I feel like the biggest story of this game is the surprising interceptions. Three picks so far, two by Andrew Luck and one by Aaron Rodgers. These guys are great quarterbacks but you have got a couple of plays where they just didn't see where the safeties were. If I remember correctly, the other Luck interception was an overthrow.
Colts are doing a really good job of covering the Packers' receivers today. Maybe the best day of the year for that unit. Rodgers simply can't find anyone open. He just went deep to a double-covered Jordy Nelson on third-and-6 because none of his shorter options were open.
Vince Verhei: Let's not overlook the real star in Green Bay today:
Breakout performance today. pic.twitter.com/uWyGVd2aJH
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 6, 2016
Rob Weintraub: With six minutes left the Packers scored to make it 31-19. Strangely, they went for two, and didn't get it. Now they have just scored again with a little under four minutes to play. And now of course they kick the extra point so it is 31-26 and things got interesting.
Incredible play by Andrew Luck to shrug off a clean sack attempt by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on third-and-10 and rifle a bullet for the first down. They were about to give the ball back to Rodgers but instead Indy is in good shape to hold on now as Green Bay is out of timeouts.
Scott Kacsmar: Incredible four-minute offense by the Colts to close this one out. Luck was money on two third-down throws.
Tennessee Titans 35 at San Diego Chargers 43
Tom Gower: The Titans defense was a tire fire for most of the first half, so down 19-14 is a great place for them to be after 30 minutes of play. They did a nice job of stopping a third-and-1 and held San Diego to a couple field goal attempts (Josh Lambo missed an extra point, so San Diego has two touchdowns and two field goals). Tennessee had a big drive that ended in the end zone right before halftime to get it to 19-14. The offense has looked either good (both touchdown drives) or very bad (the rest of the time), with nothing in between. Nothing in the run game (DeMarco Murray had seven carries for 16 yards), but they are finding space in the middle of the field against San Diego's "who are these guys? I thought I actually followed the NFL closely" linebackers, and Mariota has made a couple of sharp downfield throws (and another that was intercepted). For San Diego, it has been their receivers getting open and winning, against some man coverage and more zone, plus Melvin Gordon has been ripping off chunks at times.
Rob Weintraub: Mariota just got pick-sixed by Brandon Flowers, the second of his turnovers to be taken to the house by the Chargers defense. This one should wrap it up for the Bolts win.
Spoke too soon on the Titans -- they zip downfield to close within 43-35 with 2:45 left and all three timeouts left.
Announcer discussion before the kick off by Tennessee:
FOUTS: Don't think I would onside kick here, still plenty of time and your timeouts left.
HARLAN: That's good because Ryan Succop is only 1-of-19 on onside kick attempts.
Is that so unusual? Do we have individual onside kick numbers handy?
Meanwhile Melvin Gordon just pulled a Luck -- on third down he straight bulls over a pair of defenders and explodes for 47 yards. San Diego down at the 25 now, in great shape to ice this one. Gordon up to 188 yards on the ground, plus 65 receiving yards. He may well crack two bills before this is over. In a word, wow.
Aaron Schatz: The leaguewide number is something like, what, 20 percent of expected onside kicks recovered? So Succop is less successful than average, but I don't know how much that has to do with him. We would have to go back and look at all those kicks to see what his teammates were doing. It seems like a pretty small sample size to judge anything on.
Scott Kacsmar: Onside kicks have fallen off since 2010. More like 16 percent in that time, and probably a little lower when you remove the few surprises. I meant to look into those in the offseason until I discovered just how weird the NFL is with defining what actually counts as on onside kick. There's usually only about 60 attempts in a season.
Rob Weintraub: Yeah, sounded weird to pin it all on the kicker, though it was just a rhetorical device by Harlan more than anything. Meanwhile Gordon finished with 261 yards from scrimmage, the second most by a Charger ever, 10 yards behind Tomlinson in 2002.
Tom Gower: Second-half report: Titans defense still bad, Titans offense much better in shotgun pass-heavy than under center run-heavy sets. Marcus Mariota ball security still bad.
And Mike Mularkey kicks the extra point down nine with about 2:40 to play, because that's still a thing. I couldn't help myself and got into arguing about it on Twitter with a bunch of people who think eight points is always a one-score game if you kick the extra point and recognize it's not necessarily a one-score game if you try to get 8 points right there. I should probably put myself in Twitter jail.
Postscript from the box score: the Titans had 12 possessions in the game. They had six possessions that started with a play from under center and six that started with a play from the shotgun. They scored zero points on the six possessions that started with a play under center, and they scored 35 points on the six possessions that started with a play from the shotgun. It's not quite that simple, but I thought that was kind of funny and illustrative.
Denver Broncos 20 at Oakland Raiders 30
Tom Gower: Raiders up 20-10 at halftime. Oakland has 124 yards on the ground, including a pair of Latavius Murray touchdowns, so in case you missed it you can run on the Broncos this year. Denver's not finding any running room, and Trevor Siemian and the pass game had very little going early. That wasn't entirely on Siemian, with such things as Virgil Green dropping a third-and-12 pass near the sticks and other receiver failures holding him back. Overall, the macro-level surprise was Oakland's level of dominance, but the specific factors were, at least at a surface level, unsurprising.
Scott Kacsmar: Nothing like a ref signaling a fumble belongs to one team, then changing his mind that it belongs to the other team. Either way, big play by Khalil Mack (haven't said that much this year) to force a Siemian fumble. Then Derek Carr immediately tries to waste it by lobbing a dangerous pass right to T.J. Ward for an interception. Or was it? Damned if I know with the NFL's inconsistent catch rulings. Seemed like the ball hit the ground though.
Andrew Potter: When people ask why ratings are down, point them to this drive. Oakland has driven 39 yards for a touchdown on five straight incompletions, 4 yards rushing, 36 yards of penalties, and a replay-overturned interception. A bunch of bad-to-mediocre throws, but it doesn't matter because defensive backs aren't allowed to play coverage. (Yes, Chris Harris interfered. The call on Taurean Nixon was a bad underthrow bailed out by a worse DPI.)
Aaron Schatz: Oakland looks dominant tonight, but people are going to really overrate them based on this one game. Looking like the far superior team on one Sunday night at home does not mean you are the far superior team every week for the rest of the year. This is their best game of the year by leaps and bounds. They didn't have a win all year against a team that currently has a winning record, and five of their six wins were by a touchdown or less. Week 3 (17-10 at Tennessee) was their only game with DVOA of more than 25.0%.
This team from tonight -- if the Raiders can be this team from here on, they're dangerous. But I need to see it in two games before I believe it.
Tom Gower: Oakland's offense in the second half was more of the same, and it's clear the injuries, most notably the absence of Aqib Talib, have had an effect on the Denver pass defense and its ability to match up against wide receivers. The big difference from my perspective, though, was Oakland's pass rush. This wasn't last year's Oakland win in Denver when Khalil Mack just repeatedly beat up Michael Schofield at right tackle, but Siemian seemed to be under pretty consistent pressure and couldn't make the same plays in the pass game he could in the first half.
Vince Verhei: I didn't have a chance to see much of this, but the primary takeaways seem to be:
- Oakland now has to be taken very seriously. Can't say they don't have any big wins anymore.
- As good as Denver's pass defense still is, the Broncos never found a good replacement for Danny Trevathan, and the mediocre run defense could be a fatal flaw.
- The NFL calls too many penalties on defenses.
- Marquette King makes a good punt to pin opponents deep, does a little dance to make the non-returned punt more exciting, and everyone loses their minds. If a dancing punter honestly upsets you, you need to re-evaluate your life.