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-mails 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.
(Ed. Note: There is some discussion of Colin Kaepernick below in conjunction with the Green Bay Packers. However, don't want political arguments to take over a discussion of this weekend's games. We have a separate XP post about Kaepernick's lawsuit against the NFL. Please limit discussion here to Kaepernick specifically in relation to the Packers and take other Kaepernick discussion to the other discussion thread. Thank you. -- Aaron Schatz)
San Francisco 49ers 24 at Washington Redskins 26
Bryan Knowles: Kirk Cousins and Washington march down the field with roughly no resistance from the 49ers defense. With Reuben Foster still out and NaVorro Bowman released, to describe the 49ers as "thin" at linebacker would be a bit of an understatement. The touchdown came to Josh Doctson; Jaquiski Tartt gave him about an 8-yard cushion expecting the fade. Doctson cuts inside instead, touchdown Washington.
Cousins was 4-for-4 with a perfect passer rating. John Lynch had to be physically restrained from handing him a massive check to come to San Francisco between drives ... one would imagine.
49ers fire sale watch: Carlos Hyde has been the running back early on, getting all the carries ahead of Matt Breida. Breida got the lion's share of the carries last week against Indianapolis, and scuttlebutt has the 49ers shopping Hyde this week, a few days after they released Bowman. Is Hyde's extra workload a way of keeping him happy after he was disgruntled with his workshare last week? A way of highlighting him for potential suitors? Over-analyzing two drives because the team is sort of falling apart and it's more interesting than discussing yet another San Francisco three-and-out caused by a dropped pass? Maybe it's the last one.
Dave Bernreuther: To this I'll add that Greg Manusky is a seriously underrated coach who was unfairly scapegoated for a lack of talent in Indianapolis. It's no surprise to me that his defense can get after a quarterback now with some actual talent in the ranks. Especially when it's not an elite quarterback.
(Before anyone says anything, yes I'm aware that Brian Hoyer's career day last year came against Manusky's defense...)
Bryan Knowles: It turns out that Brock Croyle is not an NFL starting linebacker. Reuben Foster can't get back soon enough -- Washington is targeting Coyle early and often, running in his direction and throwing the ball when he's covering their running backs. That's where Bowman would be had he not been cut this week.
Vince Verhei: What's working for Washington today: screen passes. I know San Francisco is playing third-stringers at linebacker, but the way Washington is executing these screens, with whole convoys in front of the running backs, they'd be effective against anyone. Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine are over 60 yards combined receiving, and it's still midway through the second quarter.
What's not working for Washington: deep passes. Kirk Cousins just threw interceptions on back-to-back plays, though the first was ruled incomplete on instant replay. Neither throw was anywhere near a receiver or had any chance to be caught. Chris Myers (who has been terrible all day, missing tons of calls) asks what is wrong with Cousins and his receivers. Well, it's probably not the receivers, Chris.
Bryan Knowles: It's apparently the end of the Brian Hoyer era in San Francisco. C.J. Beathard's in, and the 49ers get a first down before punting, which counts as improvement. However, receivers drop a couple of his passes and the end result is another punt. Beathard also nearly threw an interception and was a bit inaccurate, though I'd say he looked better than Hoyer in an extremely small sample size.
Feels a bit early for Beathard -- I was betting on him starting at Week 9, when the 49ers schedule goes home against Arizona, home against the Giants and then a bye. But you can cross Hoyer off the "Potential 2018 49ers quarterbacks" chart now.
49ers decide to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 at the end of the half, and they score a touchdown. That puts them at 17-7 rather than 17-3 going into the half, which is probably flattering them. Full credit going for the touchdown rather than just kicking the give-up-shrug field goal; they're not likely to be down at the goal line much today, so get the most out of your opportunities.
Hoyer ends at 4-of-11 for 34 yards. Beathard's at 6-of-14 for 89 yards and the touchdown drive. That's nothing really to write home about -- though he lost a good couple completions due to drops -- but Hoyer can go ahead and take his helmet off, as he's not coming in. Beathard has been a bit inaccurate, and the big play of the drive came on a great reception by Marquise Goodwin on an overthrown pass. At the very least, however, Shanahan looks more willing to call big plays with Beathard behind center, which might be a plus in and of itself.
For Washington, Trent Williams is playing on one leg and it is showing. Solomon Thomas beat him for a sack, and he has been on the back foot quite a few times in the first half. Kirk Cousins has 201 yards passing, but a lot of that is coming on quick screens, taking advantage of the lack of depth at linebacker for the 49ers. They're still likely going to win, but at least Beathard makes this game more intriguing in the second half.
Kind of a bizarre play in Washington. Cousins hits Vernon Davis with a pass, and Davis goes down. About two seconds later, the ball pops out, Jimmie Ward scoops it up and runs all the way down to the 2. Turnover is reviewed, of course, and there's no clear view of Davis' knee on the ground. It looked, to me, like Davis' elbow was down while he was being contacted. Refs don't see it that way, and the 49ers punch it in on the next play. 17-17 game.
Vince Verhei: Vernon Davis loses the ball going down. Everyone assumes he is down, except Eric Reid, who picks it up and returns it 40-some yards inside the 5. The play is reviewed, and Myers insists the replay shows Davis is down before the fumble, and he is plainly wrong. I promise you, he is having a worse day than any player, coach, or ref today. Carlos Hyde scores for San Francisco to tie the game at 17 -- and Robbie Gould missed a 47-yard field goal, or the 49ers would be ahead right now.
Bryan Knowles: Zone read's still not dead. Kirk Cousins pulls it down, the 49ers fail to contain, and it's an easy walk-in score for Washington. That's a nine-play, 84-yard drive right when they needed it most. 26-17 with 3:28 left in the game probably ends this one. Of course, I said that last week...
I am going to stop predicting things are over. Beathard moves around in the pocket (which Hoyer cannot do), buys time (which Hoyer never did), extends the play -- and hits Aldrick Robinson for a 45-yard touchdown. Two-point game at the two-minute warning.
The 49ers got the ball back and had a chance, but Beathard's last-gasp pass is intercepted. Washington holds on to win, 26-24.
That's the 49ers' fifth consecutive loss by three points or less. That's an NFL record.
The 49ers have a -33 point differential this season. As best as I can tell, that's the best point differential ever for an 0-6 team:
- 1944 Brooklyn Tigers (-39)
- 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-45)
- 1962 Los Angeles Rams (-50)
- 2004 Miami Dolphins (-52)
- 2007 Miami Dolphins (-54)
The New York Giants could join this list too, tonight, if they lose a close one against Denver -- they're at -40 through their first five games.
(Ed. Note: The Giants did not lose a close one at Denver.)
Detroit Lions 38 at New Orleans Saints 52
Andrew Potter: Saints open things up in New Orleans with a defensive touchdown. After a great job on punt coverage by Nate Stupar pins the Lions at the 2, Matthew Stafford drops back into the end zone on third down and, with a blitz coming, tries to leak out of the pocket to his right. Greg Robinson had pushed Alex Okafor around Stafford's back, but the quarterback's movement gave Okafor a clear path for the strip-sack and Kenny Vaccaro recovered in the end zone. It didn't look like Stafford was especially impaired on the play, he simply made the wrong move against a blitz.
On Detroit's second drive now, Stafford hasn't taken a single snap under center so far. The Lions are mixing up shotgun and pistol to make things easier on Stafford's legs, but he did just scramble for a third-down conversion.
Tied at seven now, after Golden Tate scores a 45-yarder that was about 40 yards after catch. Tate came back on the right sideline for the catch, Ken Crawley fluffed the tackle, Rafael Bush had Tate dead to rights about 10 yards later but went for the strip instead of just, ya know, TACKLING THE RECEIVER, and Marcus Williams took himself out of the play with a horrible pursuit angle. So we've seen the good and the very, very bad of the Saints defense already here.
My goodness. Craig Robertson just took the ball right out of the hand of Stafford after coming through untouched on a blitz. A healthy Stafford tries to spin away from the pressure, but all the gimpy Stafford can do is try to pull the ball away. Robertson drags it out of his hand and recovers the fumble, to put the Saints deep in Lions territory. Second huge strip-sack for the Saints defense.
Saints just ran an option pitch from Zach Line to Alvin Kamara, and followed it up immediately with a flea flicker to Brandon Coleman. This is the most expansive their playbook has been all year. They've also scored on every drive except the opener. Funny that.
We're getting a crazy run this season on weird "going to the ground" catch rule plays resulting in turnovers, and the first Saints turnover of the season is the latest example. Darius Slay wrestles the ball away from Michael Thomas as the two players land on a play that would have been called down by contact if the rule was slightly different -- Thomas had caught the ball firmly but was going to the ground, so when Slay pulls it away instead it's an interception. NFL record for games without a turnover to start the season stays at four.
I've never heard a referee sound as angry as Jeff Triplette did when announcing the taunting penalty on Jamal Agnew's punt return touchdown. It sounded like Triplette took the wave as a personal slight.
Don't look now, but this game has gone from 45-10 to 45-31 in only three Lions drives and that punt return, while the Saints have only one first down over that period. It's like the Saints thought the game ended when they got to 45 and simply stopped playing. With 11 minutes still to go, they should probably think about getting started again.
Derrik Klassen: Was this the Lions' "come back to Earth" game? Heading into this week, their defense was eighth in DVOA, ranking top 10 in both run defense and pass defense. Just giving the roster a quick eye test, I do not know how anyone thought they would be that good this season. Good on them for enjoying some early success, but that defense is still lackluster outside of a few cornerstones in Darius Slay and Glover Quin. The Saints have already put up 45 points on the Lions with about half of the fourth quarter left to go. This feels closer to Detroit's reality than when they held the Giants to 10 points and the Vikings to 7 earlier in the year.
Andrew Potter: Two of those Saints scores came on defense: a fumble recovered in the end zone on the first Lions drive, and a pick-six by Marshon Lattimore. Another was a 31-yard drive after a Craig Robertson strip-sack. So the Lions defense has allowed 31, which isn't amazing, but it's not as bad as it looks. Saints offense was excellent in the first two-and-a-half quarters, but has been shut down completely since the middle of the third.
Dave Bernreuther: And the Lions are halfway to closing that DTD gap ... Fat Guy touchdown from the 2 just made a game we were about to switch off into something very interesting.
Rob Weintraub: Yes, the Saints are about to blow a 45-10 lead.
A'Shawn Robinson jumps to bat a ball down, but picks it off instead and rumbles in for the score.
Incredibly it is 45-38 with plenty of time left.
Scott Kacsmar: I can't believe a game that was 45-10 is going to end up in Clutch Encounters, but apparently it won't be a winning kind. Another weird defensive touchdown puts the Saints up 52-38, and maybe that will be enough. There are somehow five minutes left still.
Andrew Potter: This game is absolutely nuts. Third Saints defensive touchdown of the day, fourth in total. Stafford has had a crazy number of passes batted today, and Cameron Jordan caps a magnificent game with the pick-six.
That's five non-offensive touchdowns in total here.
Rob Weintraub: Now the Saints get a pick-six in the end zone. Football Follies in the Dome.
52-38 still lotta time to go.
Green Bay Packers 10 at Minnesota Vikings 23
Brett Hundley is the backup.
Dave Bernreuther: My first reaction was "that's not so bad. Why don't they just take a timeout so he can get back out there for third-and-9?"
But now I just saw Rodgers being carted off and I kind of want to cry. Football will be far less fun to watch if he's seriously injured.
In on-field news, I disagreed with everything about Case Keenum's decision and throw to Adam Thielen on a third down short of the line. But wow, what a catch by Thielen while wearing a defender. So the end result is a first down.
Two plays later, an uncatchable ball on a deep out again nets a first down due to Thielen being mauled. Those of us with high exposure to Thielen in DFS are feeling somewhat slighted by this unrewarded productivity.
Just while typing this, two more flags and two more poorly placed Keenum throws have happened. With Rodgers being done a real possibility, this game suddenly looks really unwatchable.
Vince Verhei: Hey, there's our No. 4 prospect from FOA 2017, Brett Hundley, scrambling on third down and finding Davante Adams over the middle for a game-tying sandlot touchdown. Most of the credit for that score goes to the defense -- Jake Ryan forced a Jerick McKinnon fumble, and Clay Matthews scooped it up and returned it 63 yards into the end zone.
Bryan Knowles: Jay Glazer is reporting it's a broken collarbone for Rodgers. That's at least a couple months, right? The only other quarterback the Packers have active is Hundley; Joe Callahan is on their practice squad, but they'll have to add somebody else for the next portion of the schedule, I'd imagine.
Tom Gower: Vikings up 14-10 at the half. The big story of the first half is the Aaron Rodgers injury. We'll know a lot more about the severity of that later today or tomorrow, so I'll pass on speculation there beyond noting Jay Glazer's early report Packers fear a broken collarbone, and missing Aaron Rodgers for two months or more would be bad for the Packers.
Both teams have been offensively challenged most of the game. The Packers' scoring drives both started in Minnesota territory, as did the Vikings' first touchdown (their second included a 42-yard pass interference penalty). Quarterback play is part of why. Keenum, we know, he's a backup or bottom-8-type starter. Will make a couple throws, miss a couple throws, doesn't have the ability to force things, can make some plays with his legs. Adam Thielen has played an expectedly large role in the run game. Jerick McKinnon has looked like the better Vikings back. He had a long gain wiped out by linemen way way downfield, and has both of the touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers being out has mostly emphasized how much he does for the offense in all phases. Hundley went down twice to Harrison Smith on safety blitzes it's hard not to think Rodgers would have done more against; neither Aaron Jones nor Ty Montgomery has found the going easy; and the later-down pass plays just haven't been there. Hundley did have a good third-down conversion to Jordy Nelson on a good throw, and the touchdown wasn't a bad play either, but c'mon, it's Rodgers, there's a huge drop-off to the backup.
It's official. Rodgers has a broken collarbone and could be out for the rest of the year. Injuries suck.
Scott Kacsmar: I have to agree with Mike Zimmer's decision to kick the short field goal on fourth-and-1 to start the fourth quarter. Take a 20-10 lead and make Hundley play from a two-score deficit. Green Bay's only scoring drives have come on very short fields.
Rivers McCown: Brett Hundley's first game was bad, but I think we need to see some time with him actually having starter practice snaps before I'm willing to bury him. I'm all about getting Colin Kaepernick a job, but I regard Hundley highly enough to think that's a situation where I'd at least see a few weeks of Hundley before I wanted to make a move. There are plenty of better places to wishcast Kaepernick on.
Rob Weintraub: I think the "wishcasting" for CK to the Packers, at least for me, would be the irony of it -- no team was tortured by Kaep's Keepers and his overall game worse than Green Bay.
Plus, since the community "owns" the team, there's no phony old rich white guy to stand in the way...
Bryan Knowles: Also, just generic "won't someone sign Kaepernick already?"
Aaron Schatz: I made a big deal about this on Twitter, but let me say it here: the way Kaepernick has been treated is practically criminal but the answer to the problem is not to take a promising young African-American quarterback like Brett Hundley and cut him off at the knees. Hundley is not a retread. He deserves to see what he can do with the Green Bay offense with a couple of weeks of experience and starter preparation. I don't think these calls for Kaepernick in Green Bay are about how Joe Callahan doesn't deserve to be the backup. Kaepernick would be a huge upgrade on Callahan, but that's not what people on Twitter are asking for.
Rob Weintraub: I'm just trying to figure out how we can blame Olivia Munn for this...
New England Patriots 24 at New York Jets 17
Vince Verhei: Jets go ahead 7-0 on the opening drive, which goes 13 plays and includes four third-down conversions. Josh McCown scrambling for a first down on third-and-8 is a pretty good summary of this whole season for both teams so far. Biggest play was McCown on the run hitting Jeremy Kerley for 30 yards on third-and-6 down to the 1, then a touchdown pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins (again on third down) to finish things off.
The teams trade punts after that, then Mike Gillislee fumbles and the Jets recover just outside the red zone. Seven snaps later, McCown finds Kerley again, this time crossing to the left side. The ball just clears the fingers of the Patriots defender, and Kerley reels it in for a 31-yard touchdown. Jets now up 14-0 early in the second. They're really living on the edge -- five-of-six on third downs through three drives.
Derrik Klassen: It's time to sound the alarm on the Patriots. The defense was bad through the first five weeks, nobody would dispute that, but to give up 14 points to the Jets by early in the second quarter is disastrous. Josh McCown is having one of his rare games where all of his tight-window throws just hit. He's moving around well and negating the little pass rush that the Patriots provide.
On the flip side, the Patriots offense is starting off slow. They cannot seem to string together more than a couple good plays before things stall out and they have to punt. Given how good the offense has been all year, they probably figure it out later in this game, but it is not looking good. Best-case scenario for the Patriots right now is this becomes a weird shootout, in which they are better equipped for because of Brady.
Jets lead 14-0 right now and just received the ball off a Patriots punt.
Aaron Schatz: Elandon Roberts looks like he has no idea what he's doing on pass plays. He bites on every play fake and never seems to be in the right place on coverage. The Patriots' pass rush is also getting manhandled by the Jets offensive line today. McCown has tons of time to throw.
Scott Kacsmar: It's 2017 and this still happened: refs throw a flag on the Patriots defense for helmet-to-helmet hit, discuss the call, replay shows it was a legit call, but they pick up the flag anyway. Jets ended up punting, but should have had 15 yards and a first down. How has the game not changed to the point where Todd Bowles can challenge that botched case of officiating? A helmet-to-helmet hit is pretty binary. It happened or it didn't, and here it did, but no foul. And now the Patriots are driving for points in a 14-0 game instead of potentially being down 17-0 or 21-0.
Make that two awful calls against the Jets in a short period of time to make this 14-7. The Jets were flagged 24 yards for defensive pass interference, but Rob Gronkowski had a chokehold on the defender, who did turn his head around for the ball. That's either OPI or just let them play.
Aaron Schatz: There's one thing that isn't working right for the Jets today, and that's the run defense. This was one of the best run defenses in DVOA history in both 2015 and 2016 and suddenly this year the Jets can't stop the run at all. Ranked 25th in run defense DVOA through Week 5 and so far today the Patriots have 12 carries for 58 yards and now a touchdown to make it 14-7. It's particularly strange because of the research I've done showing that run defense is more consistent from year to year than pass defense. The Jets have the same players on the defensive line as last year; they're missing Sheldon Richardson (who moved all over the place but actually played a lot of outside linebacker a year ago) and David Harris (who is aging and can't even get on the field for the Patriots). There's really no explanation for why the Jets suddenly can't stuff any running backs at the line of scrimmage. It's the one thing the Patriots have going right in the first half of this game.
The refs in the Jets-Pats game really aren't covering themselves in glory. Scott noted some questionable calls, and now we've got a couple more. Buster Skrine pushed Philip Dorsett on the deep Brady interception, I thought pretty clear DPI, and then Kyle Van Noy just had a hit to the head on McCown on a third-down sack, also not called.
Remind me again why the Patriots cut Kony Ealy? Wait, actually, I don't need to be reminded, because I never minded or understood the move in the first place.
Bryan Knowles: Um, can anyone explain what just happened in the Patriots-Jets game? They ruled Sefarian-Jenkins was fumbling when he went over the goal line?
Aaron Schatz: I don't understand what the hell the guys in New York saw. The officiating in this game has been bad but that wasn't even on them.
It looked to me like ASJ caught a touchdown pass. Fine. On further review, I guess the ball was moving a little bit in his arms, so maybe you overturn it to incomplete. But how on earth do you get a fumble out of the back of the end zone? The ball never left his possession, at all. There's no fumble. There's no "football move." If he didn't have the ball, then it is an incomplete pass. And if he did fumble, I think he recovered in the end zone. I can't exactly rewind here because of the technical problems I'm having with streaming today but that was just totally messed up. And here I was about to post something into Audibles about how Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is finally fulfilling his potential now that he's cleaned his life up.
Vince Verhei: Oh, wow, I hadn't even seen that. I just though Seferian-Jenkins had scored and it never occurred to me there was anything to review. But yes, they said he fumbled the ball into the end zone and then out of bounds, and that's a touchback for New England instead of a touchdown for the Jets. Same rule that bit the Rams on Todd Gurley's near-touchdown against Seattle last week.
And then on New York's next drive, the Patriots lose all track of Jermaine Kearse, who gets open for a 44-yard gain, and the Jets are back in the red zone right away. And the drive stalls there and they kick a field goal, but they're only down 24-17 with 3:40 to go.
Patriots hang on for the 24-17 win. I've seen some replays of the ASJ fumble, and believe it or not, by the letter of the rule and the benefits of modern technology, I think they got this right. Seferian-Jenkins caught the ball near the hashmarks and took three or four steps to the sideline, where he collided with a gaggle of Patriots. Then, in the space of a few frames, Seferian-Jenkins lost control of the ball in midair, regained control in midair, and then landed out of bounds. It's clearly a fumble. Although ... the more I watch this, the more I have no idea how you can definitively say he was short of the goal line when he fumbled, but then across the goal line when he landed. Based on where he landed, he must have already been across the goal line when the ball came loose.
I don't watch baseball, but I heard there was a similar play this week when super slow-mo high-def replay showed a guy had stepped off the base and was called out. The way it was described to me, they technically got the call right, but he would have been called safe in every game ever played for the prior 100 years and nobody would have complained. This feels like that.
Aaron Schatz: To wrap this up... Yes, the Patriots won the game today to go to 4-2 but it was yet another close game. Every week we wait to finally see the emergence of the Patriots team we thought we were getting, and every week it keeps ... not ... happening. This Patriots are 4-2 and they are still going to have a DVOA about 20th with the worst defense in the league and I don't see any subjective reason to disagree with our system about that ranking. Among the other problems today, the linebackers just seem to have no ability to cover running backs in the passing game at all. I mentioned Elandon Roberts earlier. Coming into this game the Patriots were 27th in DVOA against running backs in the passing game. Today, Matt Forte and Travaris Cadet combined to catch 11 of 11 targets for 85 yards. Oh, and hey, look, next week it is the Atlanta Falcons.
Cue Charles McDonald complaining about the way Sarkisian is calling the offense this year. Is he going to realize how much Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman should just obliterate the Patriots on pass routes?
Miami Dolphins 20 at Atlanta Falcons 17
Zach Binney: The Dolphins offense actually has been moving the ball better, at least on the ground, than they have in weeks. But any drives they have strung together have been cut short by penalties (it's a chippy game with two personal fouls in the first half, one on each side) and a Jay Cutler interception.
Some bold time-out usage from Atlanta, too. They had so little fear of the Dolphins on third-and-6 in Atlanta territory that they called their second time out with 1:55 left in the half. Miami converted but gave it back with 40 seconds left via the aforementioned pick. It still almost paid off for Atlanta, but Matt Bryant came up just short on a 59-yarder to close out the half. It's 17-0 Atlanta, though.
Coming out of the half, Miami starts with a 15-play, 8:42, 75-yard touchdown drive with, I think, four third-down conversions and a fourth-down conversion. Very un-Dolphin.
Then the defense, perhaps rested and fired up, sacks Ryan and forces at Atlanta three-and-out. The punt takes a Miami bounce, and suddenly the Dolphins have the ball back at midfield with four minutes left in the third, down 17-7.
But Miami has lost center Mike Pouncey to a concussion.
Two rough penalties for the Falcons nullify a dropped pick and an actual pick, respectively, keeping a Miami drive alive. They make Atlanta pay on a beautiful play that had Jarvis Landry looking like he might be taking a shovel right, but then he suddenly reverses direction, Cutler and the running game make the entire defense bite right, then Cutler goes back left to Landry without a defender within 7 yards. Easy touchdown. Miami pulls within three late in the third quarter.
Charles McDonald: Falcons continue to shoot themselves in the foot. Conservative offensive approach, silly penalties on defense, and horrific play on special teams. Really, really disappointing coming out of a bye.
Zach Binney: An incredible turnaround for Miami. The Falcons botch a punt and give Miami the ball at midfield again. Gase is showing good aggression, going for it on fourth-and-2 from around the Falcons 45 to continue the drive, which ends with a 47-yard field goal. It's the third fourth down they've gone for today, and Miami has picked up two of them. 17-17 in the fourth.
The 11-point underdog pulls out the upset in Atlanta. A field goal put the Dolphins up 20-17 with 2:40 left. Atlanta was driving and was well into field goal range for the tie. But then rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley punches out a pass intended for Taylor Gabriel, it bounces straight into the hands of safety Reshad Jones, and Miami kneels to win the game out.
A Tale of Two Halves it was. Atlanta 17-0 in the first, Miami 20-0 in the second. Very impressive half by the Dolphins defense, and the offense finally got rolling with Jay Ajayi and the short passing game despite losing two offensive linemen during the game. The whole offense really runs through Ajayi in Miami. When they get him going it sets up everything else and they're able to hang with better teams. The game reminded me of the Pittsburgh-Miami game last year when the 1-5 Dolphins won on the back of 200 yards from Ajayi.
Rob Weintraub: Stunning comeback by the marine mammals! The Falcs blow a 17-0 lead, but down 20-17 Matt Ryan leads them well into Miami terrain with under a minute left. But a tremendous deflection by Tankersley pops the pass to Reagan Jones, who picks it to ice a stunner. Big picture, the Falcons still win with Rodgers out, but they were pushed around pretty good from what I saw in this one.
Chicago Bears 27 at Baltimore Ravens 24 (OT)
Dave Bernreuther: It's not just New York where the officiating is changing games. Or at least trying. In Baltimore, where Joe Flacco has been having another positively elite day, the Ravens throw a give-up swing pass on third-and-17, and Christian Jones spun Bobby Rainey by the shoulder as he went out of bounds with a gain of a few yards. Flag, personal foul, free first-and-goal.
Flacco being Flacco, the Ravens quickly failed and kicked the same field goal they would have anyway, but boy was that awful, and suddenly I'm in the Belichick/Kacsmar camp that everything should be reviewable.
Without sound, I assumed they called a horse collar, but now I'm reading unnecessary roughness, which is equally absurd, but a bit harder to disprove.
Zach Binney:I swear I'm not gonna talk about my fantasy team on here, but ... yeah, I'm gonna brag about having the Tarik Cohen-Zach Miller connection. I TOTALLY called that. Not a result of bye week flyers in a 16-team league AT ALL. Nosiree.
Vince Verhei: Halftime in Baltimore. The best quarterback in this game isn't Joe Flacco or Mitchell Trubisky -- it's Tarik Cohen. His 21-yard completion to Zach Miller is the longest completion of the game for either team, and the game's only touchdown. It wasn't necessarily an easy throw either -- Miller had a few steps on his defender, but Cohen had to drop the ball in over his shoulder before he ran out of bounds. The Bears have 50 yards receiving, and Cohen has been the pitcher or the catcher for 35 of them. Trubisky only has eight dropbacks in 33 Chicago offensive plays -- they're going to extremes to hide him.
Meanwhile, the Ravens offense has been terrible all year, and they're no better with Jeremy Maclin out today, and now Breshad Perriman leaving the game too. Flacco has 22 throws already today, for less than 100 yards, with an interception and a couple of sacks. Meanwhile, the Ravens are averaging 6.6 yards on 11 carries. Maybe run more and pass less, guys?
Bears go up 17-3 when Baltimore loses track of Dion Sims in a bunch formation. Trubisky underthrows the ball, but Sims is so open it doesn't matter, and it's a 27-yard touchdown.
The ensuing kickoff results in an all-time great folly. Bobby Rainey collides with his own teammate, Tyus Bowser, and goes flying ass over teakettle and goes down. But nobody from Chicago touched Rainey, so he popped up and kept running. There's a shot of Bowser sitting on the ground in shame as the play continues down the field behind him. Benny Cunningham ran Rainey down and had a chance to make a tackle at about the 10, but Rainey threw on the brakes and let Cunningham pass him by, and that was that.
Joe Flacco appears to tie the game on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, but the play is nullified by a penalty -- on Flacco, who was at least 3 yards past the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball. He looked so completely clueless there, trying to scramble, then stepping back to pass, and still being way too far downfield.
On third down near midfield, Lardarius Webb gets a sack and forced fumble on Trubisky, and C.J. Mosley recovers to give Baltimore great field position. Buck Allen picks up a fourth-and-1 conversion on a fullback dive, and now it looks like the Ravens are going to get their go-ahead touchdown. But then Flacco tries to force a pass to a well-covered Chris Moore. Kyle Fuller tips the ball in the air, and Adrian Amos reels in the carom and returns it 90 yards for what sure feels like a game-clinching pick-six. Ravens now trail 24-13, and the only touchdown they've scored today was scored by a guy they signed off the street this week.
Rob Weintraub: Flacco compounds trouble in the next series. Nice coverage by Kyle Fuller leads to a deflection and Adrian Amos takes it back some 80 yards for a touchdown. Flacco went to make the tackle, but turtled. In so doing though he wiped out Perriman, who was chasing Amos and about to make the tackle. Oh, Joe.
Vince Verhei: Well, I spoke too soon. Ravens get a field goal and then force a punt, and then Baltimore special teams take over again, as Michael Campanaro gets a 77-yard return touchdown. Flacco then hits Nick Boyle for a game-tying two-pointer. Boyle was wide open, but Flacco threw behind him and forced him to make a one-handed catch. So we're all tied at 24, and Trubisky has about 100 seconds to get a go-ahead field goal.
Rob Weintraub: Bears are giving me a coronary. First they give up a punt return touchdown inside the two-minute warning, essentially the only way the Ravens can score. Two-point conversion ties it at 24. Then on third-and-long, Jordan Howard runs out of bounds, stopping the clock for the Ravens to get it back for one last try. Already in Justin Tucker range, which is the whole field pretty much.
But they didn't get it off I guess because now it's overtime.
Tom Gower: Ravens get the 77-yard punt return score and two-point conversion to tie inside two minutes. The Bears get flagged for OPI then take a sack. Rather than take a knee and let the clock run out with the Ravens out of timeouts, John Fox decides to hand off. Jordan Howard goes out of bounds, forcing a punt and giving the Ravens a chance. Baltimore starts on their own 44, which wouldn't even be the third-longest field goal attempt in NFL history. They run a play. Mike Wallace catches it and runs upfield. He's tackled in-bounds, and the Ravens don't come close to getting a field goal attempt off. Gift squandered, me left frustrated, and off to overtime we go.
Rob Weintraub: Bears get the ball first in overtime, and predictably they go nowhere, and then shank the punt. Ravens start at their own 40, just need 3.
Jordan Howard redemption! Deep in his own territory after the Bears stuff the Ravens, Howard sheds several tacklers (main culprit: Eric Weddle tackling the ball not the man) and burst free near midfield. Still hope for Chicago.
The Trubisky and Kendall Wright make very athletic plays on either end on third-and-11. Bears in field goal range.
Connor Barth is good from 40 and the Bears win it!
Cleveland Browns 17 at Houston Texans 33
Vince Verhei: Kevin Hogan's position over Cody Kessler on the depth chart only makes sense if the Browns are going to go to a full-time option offense (which wouldn't be the worst idea). Hogan had a good second half last week but otherwise has never looked remotely capable of being an NFL-caliber passer, and that hasn't changed today. Kessler's very limited, but we know he can at least run a functional offense and not hand the ball to the opposition on a silver platter, which is more than can be said for Hogan or DeShone Kizer.
(A quick note on Kizer, by the way: he probably won't see the field again this year, but let's not write off his career just yet. Beyond the fact that he is a rookie and rookies often improve in later years, he's still only 21. He's younger than Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph, who are still making plays in the Big 12. With that in mind, he may warrant even more patience than usual.)
Someday we're going to have to break offensive plays into three categories: runs, passes, and passes to guys behind the line of scrimmage that work the same as runs. Houston keeps running these plays that are really fly sweeps, but Watson is lining up in shotgun and pitching the ball forward 6 inches, so technically it's a pass. They had one for a touchdown earlier, but tried another one just now and it resulted in a loss of yards and a third-down stop.
Derrik Klassen: The Browns are upholding their reputation as one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson has 207 passing yards and three passing touchdowns on just 25 attempts. Be it blown coverages allowing Will Fuller to run free or failing to match up one-on-one in the red zone, the Browns just cannot contain anyone, and Watson is making sure to find the open receivers.
On a more macro level, this game is propelling Watson to the rookie touchdown record. His three passing touchdowns today put him at 15 passing touchdowns on the year. From here on out, Watson needs just 11 more passing touchdowns to tie Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning's record of 26. Watson is on track to shatter that record.
Vince Verhei: To add to Derrik's note: the rookie record for passing plus rushing touchdowns is 29 by Dak Prescott last year; Watson is up to 17 already.
Derrik Klassen: Wouldn't the plus-rushing rookie TD record be Cam Newton's 35?
Vince Verhei: Whoops. Derrik's correct. Newton does have that record.
While we're talking about quarterbacks in this game, we should note that Hogan is playing with much less than a full deck today. No Kenny Britt, no Corey Coleman. His top wide receiver is Ricardo Louis, who should be a third guy, and then he's left throwing to Kasen Williams, Sammie Coates, and Bryce Treggs -- quite literally, rejects from other teams.
Rivers McCown: I am enjoying Deshaun Watson but inwardly cringing whenever I hear about rookie touchdown records. Blake Bortles threw 30 touchdowns one time. I'm not saying the touchdowns mean nothing, because he's clearly capable of making big plays without it being garbage time, but I think they overstate his progress a bit. Watson's pick-six was a baffling throw, and he's clearly still learning what he can and can't get away with on an NFL field. He's been impressive, but I think a lot of the credit should also go to ... Bill O'Brien.
At this point Houston's offense is night-and-day from what they were in Week 1. The passing offense has easy throws installed for Watson, and his legs have improved the running game. It's a hell of a turnaround for O'Brien, and one that I would have never predicted after the first week of the season.
Cleveland's offense was horrendous and I don't really understand why they keep running out three receivers. The running game has a chance to work, and they have two solid tight ends in David Njoku and Seth DeValve. Duke Johnson looked spry in this one. Kevin Hogan's deep ball hangs for so long you could dry clothes on it. I'm not sure if Hue Jackson is just over this or what, but I think this offense could be managed to be a lot more productive. And since having two tight ends would also, in theory, help with blocking for the statue-esque Kizer, I think it's gotta be their base formation.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33 at Arizona Cardinals 38
Vince Verhei: Adrian Peterson in four games with New Orleans: 27 carries, 81 yards, no touchdowns.
Adrian Peterson in one drive with Arizona: four carries, 54 yards, one touchdown.
Andrew Potter: Adrian Peterson has his first 100-yard rushing game since 2015. Carson Palmer is 14-for-14 for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald has eight catches for 128 yards and a score. We expected the Buccaneers defense to regress, but ouch.
Vince Verhei: Ryan Fitzpatrick came into this game with Tampa Bay down 24-0. He rallied them to a 31-20 deficit thanks partly to a Lavonte David returning a fumble for a touchdown, and partly to Fitzpatrick's pass to Cameron Brate, the first Harvard-to-Harvard touchdown in NFL history. Then the defense forced a punt and the Bucs took over at their own 1, with 7:28 to go -- plenty of work to do, but plenty of time to do it.
The Bucs somehow pulled within 38-33 and were trying an onside kick at the two-minute warning. Don't ask me how. But in many ways, the NFL in 2017 is a game I don't recognize.
Andrew Potter: That was their second onside kick of the fourth quarter. The Bucs recovered the first, but it touched Peyton Barber before it had gone 10 yards so Arizona was awarded possession.
Patrick Peterson shut Mike Evans out solo in the first half, allowing the coverage to rotate elsewhere. After he left with an injury, it was Justin Bethel on Evans. That is not quite so advantageous. Add that the Cardinals made more mistakes on offense, including a Larry Fitzgerald fumble returned for a touchdown and a bunch of costly penalties, and the Buccaneers were able to chip away at the lead without ever quite having the chance to win the game.
Pittsburgh Steelers 19 at Kansas City Chiefs 13
Vince Verhei: The Chiefs are so blessed this year that even their most embarrassing mistakes work out in their benefit. With the ball deep in their own end, the ball is snapped over Alex Smith's head and out of the end zone for a safety. However, the Steelers have no idea what to do with the ensuing free kick. Nobody touches it as it's bouncing around, and the Chiefs recover for what is essentially a very long onside kick. The offense can't do anything after that, but they still kick a field goal for a 3-2 lead.
TL;DR: the Chiefs snapped the ball out of the end zone and it resulted in a net benefit of one point.
Aaron Schatz: Well, the Steelers may have found a solution to their offensive stagnation: never let Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball. On the last drive, Le'Veon Bell had eight carries for 64 yards and a touchdown to go up 9-3. The holes were colossal, with particularly strong blocking from David DeCastro.
Vince Verhei: Wait, Le'Veon Bell got a 15-yard penalty for using the goalpost as a heavy bag? Vai Sikahema was never called for that!
Carl Yedor: I know it's easy to harp on coaches not going for it on fourth downs, but I would have really liked to see Pittsburgh go for it at the goal line just now. The Steelers have been running the ball effectively all day today, and the Chiefs just got their first first down of the game in the two-minute drill. Pittsburgh likely could have gotten the ball back quickly, but the clock could have been an issue for scoring again, I guess. 12-3 Steelers at the half.
Vince Verhei: The Chiefs came into today No. 1 by a mile in offensive DVOA. (No. 2 New England was closer to No. 9 Houston than they were to the Chiefs.) Their first-half offense today: Four possessions, one first down, 11 total yards, 0.7 yards per play. First of all, Pittsburgh was already fifth in defensive DVOA, and is going to climb even higher now. Moreso, we have seen Kansas City's option-style scheme put up big numbers when they have been able to play with a lead or a close deficit. We haven't really seen them play when behind by multiple scores in the second half -- just a few plays against New England in the opener, right? So, now we'll see how they handle what seems like an obvious passing situation.
Aaron Schatz: The Steelers defense is playing phenomenal. Looks like stopping Kareem Hunt is their No. 1 goal, but they've also got everybody covered when Alex Smith drops back to pass. There have been a couple of coverage sacks here by Pittsburgh's Vince Williams, because Smith just can't find anyone open, even on his beloved short routes.
Bryan Knowles: It's interesting that Kansas City has struggled so much -- they were more effective against Pittsburgh last year in the playoffs, and were a worse offense back then. It's been an abrupt falling back to Earth in the first half. 6 net yards at the half.
If I had to put my finger on one thing to blame, it's the backup offensive linemen. Mitch Morse and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif were both inactive coming into today, and Pittsburgh is winning up the middle. That kills the Chiefs' ability to get a consistent running game going, putting more pressure on a passing game that's missing Albert Wilson and Chris Conley. Just kind of a domino effect of trouble. Gotta go back to the drawing board at the half.
Best news for them is they're only down nine, so there's plenty of time to bounce back.
Aaron Schatz: Backup linemen seemed to do OK the last couple weeks for Kansas City. They were able to withstand Washington and Houston, which both have strong defensive fronts. It wasn't the offense that made that Houston game 42-34. So I'm not sure what has changed today. Just woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Good scheme from the Steelers? Pittsburgh defensive players just having a great day?
Steelers decision to take a delay of game and then punt instead of going for it on fourth-and-2 from the Kansas City 35 (or even trying a 53-yard field goal) is ridiculously conservative.
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers should be doing much better than a 12-3 lead, but still coming up short. Bell just had to stretch out to convert a third down, but he didn't. Brown gave up a first down after moving back a little, then Ben didn't see JuJu Smith-Schuster wide open on third down. Tomlin punted for some odd reason, but only after the lame attempt to draw K.C. offsides with the punt team.
Aaron Schatz: I'm sure the numbers will say the Chiefs were correct to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the goal line, rather than kicking a field goal to make the score 12-6. But as seems to be a trend with these plays, I'm not sure about the play call. They didn't go heavy, but they also maybe spread it out TOO much. There was no back in the backfield, so the only run option is an Alex Smith draw. And they are spread with a three-TE set. Is that where the Chiefs are, that they trust Ross Travis over one of the wide receivers or even something like Charcandrick West motioning from the backfield to a slot position?
I mean, I assume it was three tight ends. I saw Harris and Travis but not Kelce. But Kelce had to be on the field, right? Otherwise it REALLY makes no sense.
Well, all that amazing Steelers defense just got mostly flushed down the toilet. Artie Burns got caught looking in the backfield, leaving De'Anthony Thomas WIDE open, and he went and broke a couple tackles for a 57-yard touchdown, and now we've got a one-score game. 12-10, and the Steelers better be able to find those huge running holes from before so they can run this sucker out.
Vince Verhei: A thought concerning the Thomas touchdown: One of the reasons I was skeptical of Kansas City coming into the year was that after they released Jeremy Maclin, I didn't like any of their wide receivers. But in their scheme, they don't need wide receivers, they need playmakers. They will rely on scheme, matchups, and Alex Smith's decision-making to get guys open and get the ball to them, and then count on guys like Thomas and Kelce and Hill to make plays with the ball in their hands. It's really a good example of a front office and coaching staff on the same page, even if it's not working all that well today.
Scott Kacsmar: Jaw-dropping.
The Steelers go empty on third-and-2, and Roethlisberger's pass goes right to Phillip Gaines. Gaines deflects it up in the air, but Antonio Brown is able to reach back, grab it, and scamper downfield for a huge touchdown. Has to be seen to be believed; what a play. Luck, sure, but also a hell of a job concentrating by Brown to come down with it.
Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs just can't get past the Steelers. Since 2016, they're 17-3 against everyone else, and 0-3 against Pittsburgh.
I will say, it doesn't help your comeback chances when your receivers on the final drive are Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp and De'Anthony Thomas. Injuries kind of banged the Chiefs up today -- that, and a fluke Antonio Brown touchdown. It's impressive that they were even in this one after getting absolutely shut down in the first half, but they have to feel like this one got away at the end.
Los Angeles Rams 27 at Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Vince Verhei: The Jags are wearing white jerseys with teal numbers and black trim, and black-and-gold two-tone helmets. The Rams are wearing blue jerseys with gold numbers and blue helmets with white horns. Nothing matches anything. It's a total eyesore.
Given that, I guess it's a good thing I missed the first quarter. But in that quarter I missed:
- Pharoh Cooper returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
- Leonard Fournette scoring on a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. (That's 165 yards on his last two carries going back to last week.)
- The Jaguars getting another touchdown on a four-play drive with every play getting at least 17 yards.
- The Rams answering with their own touchdown drive and a Jared Goff scoring pass to Gerald Everett.
So it's 17-14 Jacksonville midway through the second. On top of all that, there have been four punts per team too. Are they even running the clock here?
Who was it that faked a fake punt earlier this year? It was the Rams, wasn't it? Because they just did it again, shifting from a punt formation to a standard set with Johnny Hekker at quarterback, but then just taking the delay of game and punting from the 49 anyway. It ended with Jacksonville taking over at the 18, and then going three-and-out. And the Jaguars' punt is blocked and recovered for a Los Angeles punt. So I guess the fake fake punt worked.
Tom Gower: The Packers faked a fake punt earlier today. Like the Jaguars, the Vikings refused to jump offside and the fake punting team thankfully took the delay of game instead of burning a timeout after their nonsense failed to work.
Rivers McCown: Heading to halftime, neither quarterback has been impressive. Blake Bortles because he's Blake Bortles, and Jared Goff because the Jaguars defense turns opposing quarterbacks into Blake Bortles. Lots of rushing success, though, as would be expected by a glance at the run defense DVOAs heading into the game. Right before halftime the Rams blocked a kick to take a 10-point lead, and now we get to see if the Jaguars can overcome a negative game script. Should be popcorn-worthy.
Vince Verhei: It's 24-14 Rams at the half, but like Rivers noted, if you take away a handful of big plays the offenses aren't actually playing very well. (Or, if you prefer, the defenses are playing very well.) The teams have a combined 16 first downs, and are a combined 1-for-14 on third downs. (The Jags also converted a fourth-down play.)
They just showed a replay of Fournette's 75-yarder. John Johnson was playing middle safety and looked to be in position to at least try a tackle, but Fournette cut to the side and up and Johnson never even got a finger on him. Either Fournette is the most deceptively quick big man in the league (quite possible) or Johnson made a business decision and didn't really want to bring Fournette down.
Tom Gower: I was watching San Francisco's comeback against Washington, where a marginal but maybe real offensive pass interference penalty knocked them out of even marginal field goal range, and the Lions' follies against New Orleans, so it was 17-14 by the time I turned this game on. And it's 24-14 at the half, with the only score on that punt block. Both offenses have been mostly bad. Kind of to script, really, what with Blake Bortles on one side and the Jaguars defense on the other. The teams finished a combined 1-of-14 on third downs in the first 30 minutes of play.
Vince Verhei: A sample of the action in the middle stages of this game: The Jaguars take over after Robert Woods fumbles. Jacksonville picks up a couple of first downs, but then Blake Bortles fumbles on a third-down strip-sack by Aaron Donald. The Jaguars will try a field goal, but first the ball moves closer on a Los Angeles penalty, and then farther away on a Jacksonville penalty. Finally Jason Myers is good from 41, and the Jaguars still trail 24-17.
I don't know if I've ever really watched Blake Bortles play football before. He's really bad. He just hangs in the pocket and goes first read covered, second read covered, hell with it, he's not open but I'm throwing it anyway. So many passes that have a zero percent chance of being completed. Or, he hangs in there forever and gets strip-sacked -- it just happened again, but the Jaguars are lucky to recover it again. And the Jaguars are doing nothing with play-action or bootlegs do give him simple completions, they're taking a limited guy and making it as hard for him as they can.
And on that note, Bortles throws to Marcedes Lewis on a crosser, and despite tight coverage there is a pass to be made here. But Bortles is off-balance and throws it too far ahead of Lewis, and it bounces off his hands to Nickell Robey-Coleman for an interception. Bortles had a pocket to step up into, but he still just fell off to the side as he threw the pass.
Fournette's leg buckles as he makes a non-contact cut, and he's in obvious pain. It's scary, but word gets back that he is OK and he will return to the field when Jacksonville gets the ball back. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the Jaguars, the Rams are putting a sustained drive together for the first time in a while, killing almost four minutes already in protection of their one score lead, with a third-and-4 just outside the red zone ... and Gurley picks up the first down there on a pitch play to the right side.
Rams add a field goal and hang on for the 27-17 win. I guess I got a chance to see garbage-time Blake in action -- he went 4-of-6 for 44 yards on Jacksonville's last drive, but it was just dumpoffs against a defense happy to give up 12-yard gains, nothing special, and then a missed field goal to really end things. Nothing here to indicate garbage-time Blake is anything meaningful to build on. He plays quarterback like a junior who needs to come back for his senior year to prepare for the NFL, not a fourth-year pro with 50-plus starts under his belt.
Tom Gower: Jaguars do something sort of clever on their final possession. Down 10 points, knowing they need two scores, they don't try to maximize their touchdown chances but instead send Jason Myers out for a field goal attempt on second-and-8 with 1:12 to play and the clock stopped. My problem with this idea was that it was a 54-yard field goal attempt, not a distance I'd trust any kicker outside of perhaps Justin Tucker. Myers unsurprisingly sent the left hash kick wide to the left, and that was that. With less time left (say 30 seconds), I'd understand and even approve of that move. But you're in a must-onside situation, a field goal only puts you in a tie situation (unless you go for two for the win/loss), and I'd rather take another shot or two at more yardage than take the long field goal risk.
Bryan Knowles: I wasn't watching this one. So I wasn't listening to Dick Stockton's amazing announcing job.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) October 16, 2017
Los Angeles Chargers 17 at Oakland Raiders 16
Derrik Klassen: The Raiders should have more control of this game. They lead 7-0 with about four minutes left in the first half, but the lead could be larger. Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is averaging a sturdy 6.1 yards per carry right now, having ran for 49 yards on just eight carries so far. Derek Carr had a 23-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree in the first quarter, finding the receiver on an out route to the short side of the field. Carr got him the ball just as he was turning out of his break, enabling him to trot right into the end zone. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers struggled early on to get anything going and gave the Raiders chances to get out in front.
Turnovers and sloppy play is killing the Raiders, though. On their first offensive drive, Carr threw an interception near Crabtree on what appeared to be some route communicative. A few drives later, Carr was strip-sacked by Joey Bosa, though the Raiders recovered and were forced to punt. If the Raiders can tighten up their pass protection and sloppy play in the second half, this game should be theirs to control.
And there are the Chargers tying it up. After Hunter Henry nearly broke the plane on a third-down catch, Melvin Gordon took a fourth-down carry up and over the defense. Gordon's high-flying touchdown puts this game at seven apiece, which does not feel right given how sheepish the Chargers have looked on offense. Raiders are about to get the ball back with just under two minutes to go in the first half.
New York Giants 23 at Denver Broncos 10
Tom Gower: Giants up 17-3 at the half. What we've seen tonight has looked a bit more like the 2016 Giants defense that made them a playoff team than the 27th-ranked unit they have been so far this year. The Broncos have gotten zip going on in the ground game, and Trevor Siemian threw more incompletions than completions before leaving the game with a shoulder injury suffered trying to tackle Janoris Jenkins after that horrible interception. The Giants haven't done that much on offense -- they went three-and-out on three of five first-half possessions, but the other two featured enough good plays to get to scoring territory. I don't know if it was Ben McAdoo handing over play-calling duties, the newest version of the offensive line, or what, but they've looked ... almost functional? Not completely dysfunctional? Like they stopping eating paste? With a game plan that has a minor or larger focus of attacking Justin Simmons, or just calling plays that end up with him in coverage maybe more often than average? Either way, not the game most people were expecting through 30 minutes.
Vince Verhei: Wait a minute, the Giants are up 17-3 at halftime? In Denver?
Scott Kacsmar: If you're wondering if former first-round pick Paxton Lynch stinks, he is already decomposing behind Osweiler on the depth chart.
Tom Gower: Paxton Lynch is injured.
Bryan Knowles: Yeah, Lynch just started throwing again on Thursday, and is weeks away from a potential return.
Vince Verhei: OK, that makes me feel better. Hopefully he is feeling better too.
Aaron Schatz: If the Giants hold on to win this, underdogs will be 9-4 this week. I don't mean they will be 9-4 against the spread. I mean underdogs will be 9-4 STRAIGHT UP this week. With two teams, the Giants and Dolphins, winning as 13-point underdogs. Against the spread, the underdogs are 11-2 this week. The only favorites to cover were Houston and New Orleans. This has been a very, very, very unpredictable season so far.
Vince Verhei: And New Orleans needed three defensive scores to do it.
Scott Kacsmar: Orleans Darkwa just went over 100 yards rushing. There was that adorable stat that the Broncos held LeSean McCoy, Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, and Marshawn Lynch under 100 yards combined. Orleans Darkwa with 117 yards tonight. Yep, that makes sense from one of the worst rushing offenses in the league.
At least 2017 has one constant: the Browns suck and don't have a quarterback.
Rivers McCown: I'm pretty sure that was a worse game than I've seen the Browns play all season from Denver. And that's saying a lot.