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

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Atlanta Falcons 16 at Cleveland Browns 28

Dave Bernreuther: I'm super excited for this one. Not just because of the game, but because by switching to Power Home Solar I'm saving tons of money, and the Browns are dancing again.

This is one of the least inspiring 1 p.m. slates I can remember, actually, and I'd find this to be among its most interesting games even if not for the fact that I'll definitely be making a Britton Colquitt joke every time he takes the field.

Scott Kacsmar: Julio Jones has three 1-yard touchdown catches in his career (one in each of the last three seasons). One today has given Atlanta a 10-7 lead. By my count, Julio's 933 yards before his first touchdown last week was the third-most in a season before a first touchdown in NFL history. Only beaten by 2001 Keyshawn Johnson (1,077 yards) and 1991 Al Toon (963 yards and zero touchdowns that season).

Buffalo Bills 41 at New York Jets 10

Bryan Knowles: The matchup between the Jets' backup quarterback and the fourth-string Bills quarterback might be the least enticing on the schedule. Buffalo has a historically terrible offense and haven't led in a month. So, of course, they score on their second play from scrimmage, because football is weird.

Dave Bernreuther: The Matt Barkley Bills going ahead 14-0 at the Jets on a fumble recovery touchdown is the most Jets thing ever.

This is worth mentioning:

Bryan Knowles: Dion Dawkins, the Bills starting left tackle, caught a touchdown pass to give the Bills a 24-0 lead over the Jets. That's embarrassing for the Jets, but I can spread that embarrassment across multiple teams:

Dawkins is now tied for the Bills' lead in receiving touchdowns. Zay Jones has one, Kelvin Benjamin has one, Jason Croom has one ... and now Dawkins has one. Again, he is the left tackle. Make tackles eligible!

Vince Verhei: Remember last week when I suggested Logan Thomas might be a better quarterback than Nathan Peterman? Thomas threw a pass today, a 15-yard gain to Robert Foster for a first down on a fake punt. I'd say the Bills staff must be readers, but based on pretty much everything they've done in 2018, it's clear that they are not.

Dave Bernreuther: I can't believe I missed a fat guy touchdown while I was typing about fat guy touchdowns.

LeSean McCoy just scored to give the Bills a 31-0 lead. Before halftime. On the road. Again. This is incredible.

Vince Verhei: Jets get a 55-yard field goal at the gun to make it 31-3 at halftime. Obviously, the big news is that the second veteran signed off the street this season has been by far Buffalo's best quarterback all year. Matt Barkley's numbers are modest -- 9-of-15, 146 yards, one touchdown, no sacks or interceptions -- but, again, Buffalo. I would have assumed this was the best game of his career, but he did throw for 300 yards a few times with Chicago in 2016. The 114.9 passer rating he has at halftime would be a career-high, and his first game over 100.0.

I also want to point this out on Buffalo's best offensive day of the year:

  • Undrafted free agent rookie Robert Foster: two catches, 62 yards.
  • Offensive tackle Dion Dawkins: one catch for a touchdown.
  • Alleged No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin: no catches in two targets.

Dave Bernreuther: My mistake; the Bills got 27 in the first half in Minnesota, not 31.

This game they're doing it by vastly different means. Pretty sure the graphic I just saw put the yardage at 313-68.

But congrats to Todd Bowles on the field goal down 31-0 so you don't get shut out. I'm sure that'll help your resume next month...

(It was a long one at the end of the half so I actually can't be THAT critical of the decision. It still looks bad though. As did the fact that McDermott tried to ice the kick.)

The Bills offensive touchdown lead is now back in the hands of a skill player, as Zay Jones catches a score on a play that shouldn't have happened, if only because Terrelle Pryor fell down on a play where Barkley looked like an actual NFL quarterback and should've had him in the back of the end zone.

I can't really blame Todd Bowles too much for the roster he has been given and the unrealistic expectations they've placed on him ... but if you're down 38-3 at home to a contender for the worst offense in DVOA history, being led by a street free agent ... well, you deserve a midseason firing.

And on that note, I'm now annoyed that this totally ruins the 2018 Bills' shot at being the worst offense in DVOA history.

Vince Verhei: Have faith! The 2005 49ers had four games where they scored 24 points or more. The Bills have 38 (and counting) today, but that includes seven points on a play where they fumbled -- that will help them on the scoreboard, but hurt them in DVOA.

Arizona Cardinals 14 at Kansas City Chiefs 26

Derrik Klassen: Of all the teams to score the first opening-drive touchdown versus Kansas City this year, it is Arizona. The Cardinals trudged down the field with a handful of middling runs, K.C. penalties, and play-action passing. Josh Rosen connected with David Johnson on the perimeter for a short catch-and-run touchdown for Arizona's battering ram.

Arizona has no chance to keep pace with Kansas City here, but it would be nice to see them string together a few more drives like that for Rosen. He got hit too often on that last drive, but capitalized on the few legit opportunities he got. All Arizona really has left to play for this year is developing Rosen, so a few more scoring drives would be really encouraging to see from him.

I must say, Arizona's defense is doing a fine job of getting pressure on Patrick Mahomes and forcing some ugly passing within the 20-yard range. However, K.C.'s offense can make up for all those lost plays and yards in a heartbeat.

Tyreek Hill has been the engine for the offense today, constantly giving Mahomes a good target, be it burning someone down the sideline or finding a hole in tight coverage in the end zone. Arizona just has no answers for his speed right now.

With the game 20-7 in favor of Kansas City at the half, Arizona is going to need to protect Rosen and give him chances to create chunk plays to try to match Mahomes.

Jacksonville Jaguars 26 at Indianapolis Colts 29

Dave Bernreuther: With Leonard Four eggs back (no, I'm not correcting that auto correct) in the lineup, Doug Marrone is playing Hide the Bortles again. Four straight rushes to open the game, already in a seven-point hole, with the final one being a give-up draw to T.J. Yeldon on third-and-9 -- against the Colts pass rush, mind you -- does not exactly reek of confidence in your quarterback.

On the ensuing drive, the Colts stall out after a nice gainer to snack Doyle out of the backfield (not going to correct that one either) and Rigoberto Sanchez's punt bounces into the end zone ... but is legally swatted back into the field of play, directly at a Jaguar, who fields it at the 2 ... and is given forward progress to the 3. Fournette is going to have his work cut out for him on this next drive.

Donte Moncrief getting wide open enough to catch a lollipop from Blake Bortles and then waltz untouched to the end zone supports my earlier point that it is dumb to go run-heavy against the Colts defense.

Scott Kacsmar: It's funny how run-heavy the Jaguars get with Leonard Fournette in the game. He's back, so he has nine carries on the team's first 14 plays. He only has 28 yards and the team's only good play is the 80-yard Moncrief touchdown. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck passed for 163 yards in the first quarter alone. The last time he played Jacksonville (Week 17, 2016), he led a 17-point comeback win. Looks like he can play from ahead today, and just benefited from a 53-yard run as the Colts look to get big rushing numbers for the third game in a row.

Dave Bernreuther: The Dave DeGuglielmo Colts offensive line is playing so well right now that nobody is ever going to give Chris Ballard anything but praise for spending a top-ten pick on a guard, and that makes me sad.

But it was someone named Mark Glowinski who pulled and plastered a Jaguar (a defensive back, but still) to spring Jordan Wilkins for a huge gain on a beautifully designed play with just a hint of misdirection that Luck sold with a slight head fake to the man in motion ... and in the blink of an eye after that Eric Ebron has his THIRD touchdown of the first half. After he came free completely uncovered on another beautiful play design.

On another note: I won't lie. I've never been a fan of West Coast offenses. I have always thought they're better for hiding a quarterback you couldn't trust to carry a team. I don't like asking a generational talent to run that offense as opposed to a Coryell-based one, even given how much sense it makes to force Luck to get rid of the ball sooner. I despised replacing Arians' system with Pep Hamilton's. Furthermore, when I was around the Colts, I found Frank Reich likable but not in any way confidence-inspiring as a coach, and completely wrote him off when Peyton had him swapped with Ron Turner. I also don't like fullbacks. Or 22 personnel. Or any kind of run-heavy personnel in today's game.

But damn. What Reich is doing win this offense brings a tear to my eye. He's using tight ends brilliantly. He's using the backs brilliantly, playing to their strengths and against their weaknesses. He has made defenses actually care if the Colts choose to run. And on top of that he's aggressive on fourth down and hates ties (even if that's starting to look like potentially a very important half-win six weeks later).

Frank Reich has me completely smitten. He is my favorite Colts coach of my lifetime. By far.

Get that man a pass rush and this team will win a Super Bowl.

Frank Reich just went for two up 27-13 after a penalty on the extra point (after their fourth tight end touchdown of the half, another nice catch by Mo Alie-Cox) and I am out of words to describe my affection for this man. It's 29-16 Colts at half after Bortles chucks one out of the end zone despite having open receivers (plural!) and the best part is that Andrew Luck looks annoyed, rather than satisfied.

Bryan Knowles: This is essentially an elimination game -- the winner will be just one game out of playoff position, the loser will essentially be out. Frank Reich is coaching like it's a playoff game. Doug Marrone is not.

Dave Bernreuther: The Colts pass drop epidemic rears its head at the worst time after a few weeks off. Luck hits Mo Alie-Cox RIGHT IN THE HANDS but it bounces off of him and into an interception. And now the Jags have a shot to drive for the lead shortly after a missed field goal kept it a 29-23 game. It was an easy kick too, indoors, and having been there to witness the loss to a 60-yard field goal from another Jaguars kicker named Josh -- Scobee -- it was somewhat comforting to see that one sail wide.

Leonard Fournette is having a Marion Butts type of day. He has been largely bottled up and useless and put them in bad spots, but somehow has two touchdowns. After another failed run puts them in a bad spot (although at 8-for-13 on third down, third-and-long isn't that bad a spot for the Jaguars offense, I suppose), Bortles has one tipped and incomplete, and the Colts get a chance to kill some clock and possibly add to a six-point lead here in the fourth. I'm definitely having some flashbacks to the 2017 Colts and their blown leads. Boy do I not miss Chuck Pagano and Rob Chudzinski right now.

Bryan Knowles: Adam Vinatieri pushes a field goal wide right, giving Jacksonville the ball back, down three, with three minutes left in the game. This is essentially an elimination game, so we've got high drama in the dome in Indy -- those Pagano flashbacks have to be getting more vivid now.

Dave Bernreuther: Reich is testing my allegiance. Up three with under three minutes to go, he sends Vinatieri out from 52. We all know a three-point lead is better than a six-point lead. And a 52-yarder is no sure thing, even indoors. So of course Vinatieri misses (badly), which could actually be a blessing, and now the Jags are already near midfield.

On the plus side, there is enough time left that even if the Jags score here, there should be some time left. On the down side, the Colts have been shut out in the second half after a very nice first.

New England Patriots 10 at Tennessee Titans 34

Aaron Schatz: Patriots defense looks discombobulated so far. Big runs allowed, and two DPIs for Stephon Gilmore early. 14-3 Titans after just nine minutes.

Brady just ran a sneak on third-and-2 (not third-and-1) on the Titans 12 and got nothing. Titans stonewalled center David Andrews. Seems like a strange time to go for the sneak with a full 2 to go. So the Pats went for it on fourth-and-2 and got it on James White leaking out of the backfield. They got that play all the way up to the 1. Two plays later, James Develin into the end zone. Fullback touchdown! 17-10 Titans. Offenses definitely over defenses today.

24-10 at halftime. Between last year's playoff game and this game here, Corey Davis clearly keeps his best performances for New England. Great catches today -- jumping, sliding -- despite good coverage from Stephon Gilmore (as I said before, coverage so close he was flagged for DPI twice). Meanwhile, the Titans front is getting a lot of pressure on Brady and he has had some big missed throws. The best thing the Pats have going is that Logan Ryan is having trouble with Julian Edelman, he has been wide open a couple times. I do wonder, where is Chris Hogan? I mean, every other team has been picking on Malcolm Butler. Why aren't the Patriots?

Adoree' Jackson is on Josh Gordon today and has done a pretty good job in coverage; there have also been a couple of passes that went right through Gordon's hands.

With 11:41 to go in the fourth quarter, the Patriots ran some trickery on third-and-7 with a handoff to James White, flip back to Julian Edelman, and then pass to Brady coming out of the backfield. Except, you know, Brady has the legs of a 41-year-old quarterback, and he stumbles and can't even make it to the first-down marker. Marcos Cannon jumps offside to turn fourth-and-1 into fourth-and-6, and then Brady can't hit Edelman (pass defensed by Logan Ryan) for the turnover on downs. Just an all-around failure by the Patriots today.

And the Titans added insult to injury by completing a pass to their quarterback on the next drive. A better one, Darius Jennings to Marcus Mariota for 21 yards.

Dave Bernreuther: It's not the Patriots' day. And that almost never happens after September.

First we see a clever reverse pass -- White to Edelman to Brady -- literally fall *just* short of the first as Edelman didn't quite throw Brady open and the latter tripped and fell a few inches shy of the first. Then on the fourth-down try ... it's the Patriots who get flagged for a false start. That NEVER happens. That's the kind of thing that other teams seem to always do against New England. The fourth-and-6 pass is broken up and suddenly we're looking at the very real possibility that the Titans will win this game. Which is not something I thought possible, even with their lead at halftime.

And oh my goodness. The Titans immediately run the left-handed version of the same reverse-pass, with Mariota picking up a chunk of yards. Up 17 points in the fourth quarter, you could make the argument that that's a dick move. Surely half of America is laughing its head off right now though.

And as if it wasn't bad enough for New England, now Julian Edelman is walking to the locker room.

Vince Verhei: Isn't that how it went in the Super Bowl too? Incomplete pass to Brady, then the Eagles respond with the Philly Philly touchdown to Nick Foles? It's like teams take passes to Brady as an insult and feel the need to respond in kind.

Tom Gower: Well that was not quite how I thought that game would go. The Tom Brady we saw against the Titans in January was perfectly comfortable, at times running time and letting them just get set and finding yet another open receiver as the Patriots dominated the final three quarters after some early struggles. The Titans took the lead after scoring first again this time and got a couple scores on the board, but the Patriots made it 17-10, got a stop, and got into scoring position again. But Stephen Gostkowski missed a 52-yard field goal on fourth-and-4 and the Patriots wouldn't make it inside the 40 again. Credit to the Tennessee pass rush and coverage teams working together. Brady was sacked thrice and the Titans were credited with six quarterback hits, but a number of his 20 incompletions on 41 attempts were essentially throwaways with no realistic chance of completion after having to reset when his pocket broke down before he had a good receiver. Yes, having to play a third-string guard and an injured Trent Brown or backup at left tackle mattered, and Rob Gronkowski missing mattered as well. But this was the sort of performance we haven't seen from the Titans despite their investments on offense, except in their role as Blake Bortles' bête noire.

Offensively, the Titans, who have been backed up much of the season, started three first-half possessions in Patriots territory and got 17 points out of those, crucial to the 24-10 halftime lead. It was a good way to build on their improved work on offense against the Chargers before the bye and Dallas on Monday. The key to them competing for an AFC South title or wild-card spot was basically to be better than they'd been on defense, but especially on offense as they worked through the transition period. Tajae Sharpe had been their most reliable receiver and a frequent Marcus target, especially on third downs, but expectedly didn't play much of a role against New England's more man-focused coverage approach. That meant they needed a lot out of Corey Davis, singled up against Stephon Gilmore for most of the day, and they got it, even against what looked like a zone on first-and-20 after a penalty. Marcus is Marcus: able to throw well now that he's over the nerve injury, and the difference in performance between Marcus comfortable and Marcus uncomfortable can be huge, and the progression in the offense means we're seeing more of Marcus comfortable.

Washington Redskins 16 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3

Andrew Potter: Buccaneers gonna Buccaneer. A Ryan Fitzpatrick red zone interception (drink), a Fitzpatrick illegal forward pass when he was attempting to lateral on third down (drink), and a Chandler Catanzaro missed field goal from 30 yards (alcohol poisoning) have the Bucs scoreless in a game they've otherwise dominated. Washington's offense has consisted of precisely one drive in which they put together back-to-back-to-back plays of at least 15 yards. Their other ten plays, including two three-and-out drives, have totaled 21 yards. The makeshift offensive line has been dominated every bit as much as you'd expect, but critical mistakes by the Bucs mean it's 3-0 Washington despite being outgained almost 3-to-1.

Hah. Fitzpatrick just completed a short dumpoff pass to Jacquizz Rodgers, then sprinted past Rodgers and threw a lead block for him. And not just one of those "quarterback kinda gets in the way of a defender" lead blocks, but a proper diving block that, although it mostly whiffed, still kept both Montae Nicholson and Josh Norman out of the play.

That led to a field goal, and we're now tied at 3.

Dave Bernreuther: And here I was about to praise Fitz for that lateral attempt ... in real time to me that looked like he threw it backwards and it seemed like a really smart idea. Guess not.

Andrew Potter: It was better than Matthew Stafford's attempt last week, at least.

Dave Bernreuther: Washington just picked up a huge chunk of yards at the 2-minute warning in a screen to Kapri Bibbs where the (presumably street free agent replacement) offensive lineman was as much as 10 yards downfield at the time of the pass. I was relieved to see a flag on the field ... but it was in fact thrown for holding instead. Which was probably also committed by a street free agent replacement offensive lineman, and somewhat understandable/forgiveable ... but come on. If we're going to let linemen race downfield like receivers we may as well eliminate that rule altogether.

Which could be fun. Just think of how many more Fat Guy Touchdowns there would be.

Bryan Knowles: I've been banging on the table for offensive tackles to be eligible receivers for about 10 years now, and all I've achieved is a slight dent in my table.

Scott Kacsmar: Every game going right now has at least 27 combined points and a team leading by 11-plus points. But not this one. It's 6-3 Washington even though Tampa Bay had at least 36 yards on all five possessions in the first half. A missed field goal and interception hurt. Meanwhile, Washington is 0-for-4 on third down, and I hear this won't be a good game for Alex Smith's ALEX.

Vince Verhei: I turn to this just in time to see Tampa Bay with a third down in the red zone, but the shotgun snap is low and outside, and Fitzpatrick has to chase it down for a big loss. Then Chandler Catanzaro's 48-yard field goal try is wide right, Washington still leads 6-3, and I am sad I don't get to at least watch Drew Brees anymore.

Dave Bernreuther: Well at least you got to see Alex Smith take a deep shot and attempt to right his ALEX wrongs...

It was nowhere near anyone, of course. But it looked pretty while it was in the air. And somehow it resulted in a first down due to an absolutely ludicrous roughing the passer call against Beau Allen. So Washington plods along, nearing the red zone with a chance to take a commanding lead of two field goals. Which, sadly, actually is commanding against Tampa's kickers.

Vince Verhei: A touchdown! Smith finds Josh Doctson in the back of the end zone for six. At first it looked like Doctson may have stepped out of bounds before catching the pass, but the score is upheld. Washington up 13-3 early in the fourth.

After a Fitzpatrick interception leads to a Washington field goal, the Buccaneers start driving again, and Jacquizz Rodgers catches a ball and turns upfield inside the 20. But Zach Brown punches the ball out from behind, it goes all the way into the end zone, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix falls on it for the touchback. Tampa Bay now up to 22 first downs and more than 400 yards of offense ... and three points.

Bryan Knowles: The record for most yards without a touchdown belongs to the 1986 49ers, who picked up 501 yards in a 6-14 loss against Joe Gibbs' Washington way back when. Tampa Bay's within 100 yards of that record, so they have an outside shot...

Oh my. Tampa Bay gets back into the red zone AGAIN, but Fitzgerald is sacked and fumbles. Washington ball. Tampa Bay now has 481 yards with no touchdowns; that's the fourth-most in NFL history and the most since ... uh, last year, when the Lions rode 482 yards to five field goals in a 20-15 loss to Pittsburgh.

Vince Verhei: Bucs drive 80 yards in 12 plays in only 2:41 -- but Mike Evans drops a low but catchable pass in the end zone on first-and-goal from the 2, then Preston Smith gets the sack-fumble on second down and Ryan Kerrigan recovers to end the threat.

Bucs now up to 481 yards with three minutes and change to go. Record for yards in a game while scoring three points or less appears to be 424 by the 2011 Rams.

Andrew Potter: Donovan Smith was whipped on the sack, and also whipped on the previous play when another sack was wiped out by a holding penalty on Josh Norman. Lost in some of the offensive explosions earlier this year: the Buccaneers offensive line is still a liability.

Also, the Buccaneers just gifted Washington a first down on their game-icing drive by throwing the challenge flag when out of timeouts. That's a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. I've never seen that before.

Bryan Knowles: This tidbit in from Nick Mensio over at Rotoworld. Washington has not experienced a lead change all year long. They've never trailed in any of their wins; they've never led in any of their losses. First score has always won.

Tampa Bay finishes 2 yards short of the all-time yardage record without a touchdown, with 499. Fitzmagic!

Vince Verhei: That lead-change stat about Washington is even more amazing than Tampa Bay's red zone performance today, but for the record, the Bucs finish with 498 yards and 29 first downs ... and three points.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The final game book lists Tampa Bay with 501 yards.)

Scott Kacsmar: Every team with 29 or more first downs has scored at least 13 points until the Buccaneers today. What an epic game of tease and denial.

New Orleans Saints 51 at Cincinnati Bengals 14

Vince Verhei: What looked like the best game of the day has turned into a blowout thanks to the brutal, merciless efficiency of the New Orleans offense. Saints' first four drives of the game:

  • 8 plays, 75 yards, touchdown.
  • 6 plays, 75 yards, touchdown.
  • 9 plays, 90 yards, touchdown.
  • 9 plays, 60 yards, touchdown.

They're already starting to just mess with Cincinnati. On their last drive, on first-and-goal from the 1, they actually took Drew Brees off the field, and Taysom Hill ran a Tim Tebow-esque play-action pass, faking a dive out of shotgun and throwing a pop pass to Benjamin Watson. It should have worked, but Watson bobbled the ball. No matter -- Alvin Kamara scored on a pitch to the left on the next snap.

It looks like Cincinnati is going to end the half with an answering score of some kind, but then Marcus Williams intercepts the ball at the 5-yard line and returns it 78 yards to the Cincinnati 17 with 8 seconds to go. The Saints smell blood, and one snap later Drew Brees hits Michael Thomas for a touchdown. Thomas ran a skinny post and was wide open in the Bengals' zone coverage.

So it's 35-7 at halftime. The Saints have 21 first downs, and they're only 6-of-6 on third down. They've had just one penalty for 5 yards. Mark Ingram is at 99 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown; Kamara, 79 and two; Thomas, 62 and two. Brees has thrown for two touchdowns and almost 200 yards, with no sacks, no interceptions, and only two incompletions. The Bengals just look helpless today.

Bryan Knowles: I thought Saints-Bengals looked like the best game on paper in the early sessions, even with A.J. Green out. Sure, the Saints were likely to win, but the Bengals were in playoff position before the game started, and they were at home, and it would at least be a good test for a team some people are calling the best in the NFL.

It has not been a test. At all. Michael Thomas just scored his second touchdown of the day to take a 35-7 lead. This last one was set up by a 78-yard interception return by Marcus Williams who was covering ... I'm going to say open space? Because the throw was so, so far away from any Bengals that Williams was basically fielding an arm punt. That might have been alright, as there were only eight seconds left on the clock, if he hadn't managed to take the ball all the way into the red zone on the return. I am really, really surprised that the Bengals have come out as flat as they have after the bye; they have had no fight all day long. They can't even slow down Brees and company, and outside of their first touchdown drive, they have just 67 yards of offense. About the only negative thing you can say for the Saints is Terron Armstead leaving the game with an injury. This is just utter domination.

Vince Verhei: Saints open the second half with their worst drive of the game ... which still picks up 61 yards in eight plays. But on third-and-1, Zach Line drops a pass (it wasn't clear he would have picked up the first down anyway), and Wil Lutz adds a patronizing 29-yard field goal to put New Orleans up 38-7. With no Dez Bryant, they called up rookie Keith Kirkwood from the practice squad. He has caught two passes today, including a 42-yarder on that drive.

Among the many, many problems for Cincinnati today: Andy Dalton and John Ross have shown a complete lack of chemistry. The interception at the end of the first half was, officially at least, targeted to Ross. Now Ross gets behind the defense for what might have been a touchdown, but Dalton underthrows the ball and Eli Apple likely would have intercepted that too, but it looked like he dropped it anticipating a collision with Williams. On fourth down, Dalton has a clean pocket and a wide-open Ross on a crosser, but the pass is nowhere near him. Ross has a 2-yard touchdown today, but that's his only catch in four targets. This will be my last update for this game -- the local CBS affiliate just switched to Washington-Tampa Bay. Because a 6-3 game in the third quarter is more compelling than what's happening in Cincinnati today.

The Saints offense did their old defense a favor today by putting their record they don't want in jeopardy.

Detroit Lions 22 at Chicago Bears 34

Bryan Knowles: Cody Parkey has managed to hit the uprights four times today. That's impressive, and a great start to his Loser League II campaign -- two missed field goals, two missed extra points.

Not that that has helped the Lions at all. In a must-win game if they want to stay relevant in 2018, the Lions are just not getting anything put together. Trubisky is 18-for-21, and it hasn't been a bunch of dink-and-dunk, either. Admittedly, yes, the Lions have a terrible pass defense and are missing their best cornerback, but even given all that, Mitchell Trubisky is looking good today, spreading the ball around and basically doing what he wants against the Lions defense. The Bears had five first-half drives: four touchdowns, and the end of the half. They're scoreless so far in the second half because of Parkey, but I doubt the Lions will be able to take advantage.

Los Angeles Chargers 20 at Oakland Raiders 6

Vince Verhei: Chargers kicking game rears its ugly head again, though this won't show up in the special teams stats. Raiders go with a fake punt on their first drive, just a deep snap and then a sweep to the left and Johnny Townsend takes it for a 42-yard gain to convert on fourth-and-4. That's Oakland's second-longest run of the year, and their longest since September. They go for it again on fourth-and-goal from the 1, but the Chargers sniff out the SHOVeLL pass to Dwayne Harris and it's a turnover on downs.

Bryan Knowles: With four minutes left and down 14 points, the Raiders are forced to go for it on fourth-and-5. The Chargers get immediate pressure and Derek Carr … spikes the ball into the ground. It was fourth down-and-game, Derek!

Aaron Schatz: Here's the Derek Carr play. It looks like the Raiders called a negative-ALEX special, a screen pass to the running back on fourth-and-freaking-5.

Bryan Knowles: This game is over. It's a 20-6 win for the Chargers -- and it's an important result. The Raiders become the first team to be eliminated from a playoff seed -- they can no longer win the AFC West. The Browns and Bills dodged that bullet earlier today by coming through with upset victories; the Raiders couldn't do the same.

...OK, "significant" may be a better word than "important," as the Raiders were all but mathematically eliminated a month ago, but still.

Seattle Seahawks 31 at Los Angeles Rams 36

Bryan Knowles: Great play by Tyler Lockett. Seattle was running an end around that the Rams absolutely sniffed out, hitting him 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage (with a face mask penalty, but still). Lockett somehow gets around that and puts up a couple of great spin moves to turn it into an 18-yard gain -- plus an additional 14 from that penalty, putting them into the red zone. That sets up the Seattle touchdown three plays later, as they take an early 7-0 lead. A little bit of luck would really help the Seahawks in their upset bid.

Carl Yedor: Rams march right back down the field and score without needing to convert a third down. Goff was never really under duress. There was one play where he was outside the pocket but not under pressure, and that was about it. 7-7.

Vince Verhei: Last time these two teams played, they both scored 30, and it might happen again after the Rams answer with a touchdown on their first drive. Actually looked very similar to Seattle's score, a simple in route by the tight end (Gerald Everett in this case).

Most exciting play on Seattle's opening drive was an incomplete pass on a Russell Wilson bootleg. They've been using George Fant as a sixth lineman frequently all season, and they finally put him into the pattern as a receiver -- and not just as a dumpoff option, he was somewhere 10 or more yards downfield. Unfortunately the Rams were prepared and he was covered.

Other early news is the weather. There were worries the wildfire smoke would affect the game, but instead the skies are blue.

You may have forgotten, but the Seahawks used a first-round pick on a running back this year.With Chris Carson out, Rashaad Penny is getting more time today, and he just had the two biggest runs of his career, both out of the shotgun. The first he started up the middle, then cut to the left for 38 yards. Then Seattle runs a read-option, and with the defense focused on Wilson, Penny finds plenty of room off the edge to the right for an 18-yard score.

(My wife actually did forget Penny -- she just texted me asking where we got this guy.)

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure why Tony Romo seems to be so concerned with the fact that the Rams have so many new starters on defense this year. He's using that as an explanation for why the Rams have been so bad against the run. But the Rams were really bad against the run last year as well. I'm not sure what having new starters "needing to learn their gaps" has to do with anything.

Tom Gower: The 2011 Texans under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, without the benefit of an offseason, incorporated a bunch of free agents and returning players and improved from awful to sixth in the league. I'd say something more like "stars-and-scrubs is a tough model to get to work, which is why we generally discourage it."

Vince Verhei: The offenses slowed down (especially Seattle's) in the second quarter, and the Rams lead 17-14 at halftime. Officially Seattle only threw eight passes that half (they had another wiped out on a roughing the passer call on their first drive) but Aaron Donald still got two sacks, because he is Aaron Donald. D.J. Fluker being out doesn't help. Wilson is 6-of-8, but hasn't completed a pass that has gained more than 8 yards. That will have to change if they're going to win, obviously.

Seattle's defense is using a lot of bear fronts to take away inside runs, but the Rams are just using a lot of jet sweeps and outside pitches and are still getting big plays in the running game. My favorite play was out of an offset I, with the fullback lined up to the right. Jared Goff started to spin back and to his left like he was going to pitch to the tailback going right, then just did a full pirouette and slipped the ball to the fullback going left instead. Looked like something out of the single wing days. Dr. Z would have loved it.

Andrew Whitworth is having a big day clearing space on the edge, but not so much in pass protection -- he gave up Seattle's only sack so far and a few other pressures.

Tom Gower: The Rams offense is so much fun, like the Falcons of 2016. It all fits together and works. Not much of a surprise, because they're similar offenses, even if they don't operate out of the same personnel packages. Counters to counters to counters, and they're going to find a mismatch somewhere. And the pass game is distributed again this week, with five different players with multiple catches and nobody more than a quarter of Goff's yardage.

Scott Kacsmar: Any flaws Marcus Peters may have had in coverage were overlooked by how great he was at creating takeaways in Kansas City. This season, he had a pick in Week 1, but nothing since. He had an interception of Russell Wilson, but it was negated by a holding penalty on Peters.

Vince Verhei: Another big run by Penny -- this time a zone read that the Rams played so poorly that Penny and Wilson were both running untouched down the sideline, and Wilson even slid at the end to make sure he didn't get hit. Seahawks now over 150 rushing yards today, their sixth straight game over 150. They had never done that before, not even in the Super Bowl years.

Rams only have seven penalties today, but it seems like every one has been massive. Seattle's first drive would have ended in a punt, but Dante Fowler got called for roughing the passer on a third-down incompletion. That just happened again -- Seattle's punt team was coming onto the field, but Fowler mouthed off to a ref for 15 yards and a first down. And Wilson makes them pay with an absolute dagger, a 23-yard go-route touchdown to Tyler Lockett, dropping the ball neatly over Troy Hill's shoulders. Seahawks take a 21-20 lead.

Other Rams penalties wiped out an interception, as Scott noted (it also caused the interception, of course); moved them from second-and-14 to second-and-19 and nearly guaranteed a field goal instead of a touchdown; and handed Seattle 15 free yards after a Rams punt. Germain Ifedi also picked up an unnecessary roughness foul for what looked like some pretty typical pushing and shoving, the kind of thing that happens a dozen times a week. Refs calling them very tight today.

Bryan Knowles: The Rams take the lead back on the first play of the fourth quarter, after a 75-yard drive. Excluding the drive to end the first half, the Seahawks haven't held the Rams under 50 yards since early in the second quarter. The Rams are driving, repeatedly, and the Seahawks have to try to keep up. On the plus side for Seattle, they did manage to stop Todd Gurley on the two-point conversion attempt, so it's just a 26-21 Rams lead.

Vince Verhei: Rams go back in front on a short touchdown pass to Tyler Higbee. Rams go for two, but the Gurley run is stuffed, and the lead is still 26-21. Big play came when Seattle had the Rams in third-and-15, but Robert Woods got wide open in the middle of the zone for a 35-yard gain. Perfectly designed pattern with another receiver running a shorter route to suck up the linebacker and clear the hole for Woods. Sean McVay is so good at manufacturing yards and making things easy for his quarterback, man.

Wilson runs the ball into the red zone with runs of 11 and 21 yards, but then Suh and Donald team up for a sack to force a field goal. Kick is good, but Rams still up 26-24. That's a season-high 60 rushing yards for Wilson and 222 rushing yards for Seattle. They're like that college team this weekend that ran for 700-some yards in a loss.

Seahawks try the surprise onside kick afterwards, but the Rams recover.

Bryan Knowles: I don't get the surprise onside kick, honestly. It's a one-score game; if you hold the Rams to a field goal it's still a one-score game. Janikowski isn't any good at onside kicks, and onside kicks are much harder under the new rules. It feels ... reckless, as opposed to opportunistic.

Tom Gower: The Rams have gotten to field goal range every possession save one, so it's about getting a stop on third downs. Letting them score faster gives you a better chance at multiple possessions in case you need them. I'm not saying I would have done it, especially given how hard onside kicks are to recover now and that it wouldn't be completely unsurprising, but I do get it.

Vince Verhei: On the onside kick, they rolled the dice and it didn't work. It happens.

Rams get a first-and-goal, but after a pair of incompletions, they throw a wide receiver screen on third down and end up with a fourth-and-goal from the 2. I'm absolutely stunned they kicked the field goal for a five-point lead there. No faith in Gurley to pick up 2 yards and a touchdown that would have pretty much iced the game?

Aaron Schatz: I'm sure EdjSports will have an interesting Game-Winning Chance report regarding the Rams' choice to kick a field goal with 7:39 left in the fourth quarter to go up five instead of going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2. I'm guessing the numbers say this was the wrong choice, but not by as much as it would have been if the Rams had been kicking a field goal to go up six. If you fail on that fourth-and-goal, there's a big difference between being up two (field goal beats you) and being up three (field goal ties you).

Carl Yedor: Seattle goes down the field, aided in part by more Rams penalties, but the L.A. defense holds in the red zone and forces them to kick a field goal. 26-24 now, but Seattle will need to find a way to actually get off the field if they want to make the comeback. Rams are 5-of-8 on third downs, which is making a huge difference in this game.

And maybe Carroll realized that, because Seattle goes for a surprise onside kick, but the Rams recover, giving them tremendous field position. They don't convert it into a touchdown, so it is now a 5-point L.A. lead.

Sebastian Janikowski has not historically been a good onside kicker, but I don't blame Carroll for being aggressive there. Now, that does raise the question as to why they ran the ball and threw short in the two-minute drill before halftime if they did want to be aggressive...

Vince Verhei: And there's Fowler redeeming himself, beating Duane Brown cleanly for the strip-sack and a Rams recovery. And then Woods takes the ball on a jet sweep into the end zone. Rams kick the extra point to go up 36-24 with less than six minutes to go, and that should be that.

Wilson has now been sacked four times in only 17 dropbacks.

This is just like last week. A turnover puts Seattle down two scores in the fourth quarter. They score a long, slow touchdown drive, then use their timeouts to force a three-and-out and get the ball back. Now they have 1:24 to go, no timeouts, at their own 25, needing a touchdown to win the game.

And Seattle gets to the 35, but the game ends there on a spike, three straight incompletes (none of them terribly close), and a Rams kneeldown. On the fourth down, Wilson teased running, which pulled a Rams defender up towards the line of scrimmage and opened things up for Tyler Lockett along the sideline, but on the run and under pressure Wilson sailed a ball over Lockett's head.

Seahawks fall to 4-5, with a 1-5 record in one-score games. Overall, I think it's safe to say they're a much better team than most expected, but unless they start winning these close games in a hurry, it's not going to matter.

And the Rams, well, remain at worst the No. 2 team in the NFC.

Aaron Schatz: They didn't get it. The most confusing part was the play that was clearly an incomplete pass, but everyone acted like it was a fumble because the officials never blew the whistle. Why can't officials just blow the whistle when a play is obviously an incomplete pass?

I also think that should have been intentional grounding. The idea that Rashaad Penny was in the area is silly, he wasn't near the pass and was in fact running away from it.

Carl Yedor: Seattle's GWD attempt stalls out at the 35. After spiking it on first down, Wilson tries to go deep to David Moore but his throw is rushed and out the back of the end zone on second down. On third down, Wilson gets flushed from the pocket and throws it away, and then on the next play Wilson looks like he's considering running for it but at the last second tries to float it over a Rams defensive back just before Wilson crosses the line of scrimmage. Too high. Incomplete. Game over. L.A. keeps pace with the Saints in the race for the No. 1 seed while Seattle drops to 4-5, putting them in a tough position to try to make the playoffs with Green Bay coming to town for Thursday Night Football.

Tom Gower: Final note on the game: I love that Tony Romo loves watching the Rams offense as much as I do. Quite the contrast to Dan Fouts getting confused about what team Malcolm Butler was playing for in the Titans-Patriots game.

Miami Dolphins 12 at Green Bay Packers 31

Zach Binney: The Dolphins and Packers exchange fake punts in the second half. The Dolphins' made sense -- down 16, desperate, offense not moving, less than a yard. Easy pickup. The Packers ... that was reckless. Fourth-and-3 from near midfield, up 16 with about 10 minutes left against an offense that hasn't scored a touchdown in seven quarters and 20-something drives. It was pretty clearly an F-U play, but that is coaching malpractice. There was zero need for it and a lot more downside than upside. Fire Mike McCarthy yesterday.

Dallas Cowboys 27 at Philadelphia Eagles 20

Carl Yedor: This may be a "water is wet" comment but the Cowboys' timeout management has been quite poor today. They've used two timeouts on offense, and they just burned their final timeout when Philly lined up to go for it on fourth-and-10. You're playing a team known for going for it on fourth down, and the mere act of them lining up to go for it cost Dallas its last timeout.

But those missing timeouts don't end up hurting Dallas, as the Cowboys go down and score a touchdown right before half. After a first-down sack, Philly started using their timeouts to try to get the ball back, but a poorly defended screen pass on third-and-long extended Dallas' drive, allowing them to punch it in and go up 13-3. Dallas also gets the ball first to start the second half, so that long screen pass could end up being a critical play in the game.

Tom Gower: 13-3 at the half. Cris Collinsworth claimed early in the broadcast that Carson Wentz' numbers are just as good as they were last year. DVOA doesn't agree, putting him at 7.8% coming into this week's games after 23.8% passing DVOA last year. One of the big differences between this year and last was his exceptional play on third down versus this year. Tonight was another example of the trend, as the Eagles were 0-5 on third and fourth downs in the first two quarters (four passes). Dallas wasn't much easier to watch, getting a field goal after starting inside the 40 after an awful Wentz pick, but Zeke Elliott's hurdle seemed to be a bit of a turning point (or maybe it just was for my energy level). The drive at the end of the half certainly started rough, with the sack, and the Eagles were right to take a timeout then. But you're not supposed to convert third-and-15 with a wide receiver screen, and we got to see why I keep wondering about how Philly can be ninth in pass defense DVOA with all the mistakes I've seen their secondary players make in critical situations.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles' pass defense DVOA was a lot better in Weeks 1 to 4 before safety Rodney McLeod got injured. It's declined a lot in the last four games.

Tom Gower: I didn't check that split, so that makes a lot of sense.

Aaron Schatz: This was a terrible loss for the Eagles. I don't quite know why the trade for Golden Tate was such a big deal if they were barely going to use him. But it's hard to blame the Eagles' offense for this game when they had more yards per play than the Cowboys did. I feel like the problem was that they let Ezekiel Elliott run all over them and they didn't pressure Dak Prescott that much. He looked very different from the Prescott we've seen most of the year. Spread the ball around to eight different receivers.

Also, the Eagles had no accepted penalties tonight. Just a terrible loss for them to take at home. Two games behind Washington, with trips to New Orleans and Los Angeles coming up that Washington doesn't have to take. Their playoff odds are pretty low now.

Comments

125 comments, Last at 15 Nov 2018, 1:12pm

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I still think Brady is on the downslope. Yes, the WRs had trouble getting loose and the OL sucked. But that's no excuse for the way Brady was forcing everything to Gordon (into quadruple coverage, for god's sake) and Edelman. We also had at least a couple of the now weekly "miss an open player by several feet even when not under pressure" throws. And he seemed to be flinching away from pressure and not getting his feet set up well even when he had time to throw.

Also, using QB rating as the metric Brady is currently the worst QB in the NFL against the blitz (59.6).

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah, it seems as every blitz is a home-run sack or creating an INC.

Now we are to 3 games were the loss became inevitable at the end of 3rd Q and there is not even a chance for a comeback in the 4th. That never happened more than once in the recent years.

Bright sides? Dean Pees is always a challenge to TB12's offense, so you can discount that. Plus, they are still easily in control of the division, but even 1st round bye now looks a challenge.

Dark sides? STs are terrible as ever in the BBB-era and OLine is cumulating injuries and personnel-inconsistencies like it is 2015.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Given the way Brady has looked in recent weeks.....are we even sure home field in Jan would be that massive of a boon for him? Do we think he can improve his accuracy in cold or rough weather? A stunning number of inaccurate throws and even one-hoppers recently from Tommy.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Will it ever matter, if none of the other three teams in that division can organize a professional football team? I think Brady would retire if the division wasn't so, so terrible. But given winning the AFC east is basically given year in and out, you can see why he continues to play through the declining years. He's two wins from the Super Bowl year in and out. Without Brady, eeck imagine what the division would look like. The big fear with Brady, is at 40+ years he's going to take that one hit too many and ruin his retirement years.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If Hoyer started now, then that pick makes sense. From the start of the season? The Patriots are at 16th in Defensive DVOA, ahead of only the Dolphins in the division. Their special teams are tied for last in the division with Buffalo, at 17th with a perfect 0.0 DVOA. The Patriots are an unusually low 9th in Offensive DVOA, ahead of Miami and way ahead of the disasters that are the Jets and Bills offenses. So maybe, but I think you are underestimating the drop off from Brady to Hoyer. This year, because of the Jets starting off with Darnold and the Bills being a train wreck for a variety of reasons, perhaps the Pats win the division a little over 50 percent of the time. Next year? Well, as a Jets fan I would love it if the Pats start Hoyer next year.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

There is a massive drop off between Brady and Hoyer. And yet, the AFC east is so putrid, it really comes down to NE w Hoyer and Belichick or Miami w Osweiler and Gase(I am simplifying enormously). I like my chances with the former.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It's not just Belichick and Hoyer vs Game and Osweiler/etc, it's also vs Jet's next coach/Darnold and Bill's terrible coach/Josh Allen. That is for next year, and that's still simplifying it, since you also include the other players on offense on those teams, and also the extra players the Jets and Bills get next year due to the amount of cap room they have (Jets have almost 100 million, the Bills have 50 million). The Pats can get a bunch of cap room, but only if they cut Brady, Gronk, both safeties, etc. The Jet's cap room doesn't include their receivers, but I would assume they keep Enunwa and Robbie Anderson, given the cap they have.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Well, he was the MVP last season. Even regression toward the mean (of his career performance level) would look like a "downslope".

He's not playing as well this season as he did last year.

He's also missing Amendola, Cooks, and Lewis, and Gronk was out yesterday. Hogan has had a disappointing season. Were it not for James White, the team would be dead in the water.

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm sure this will come out during DVOA. But, I have to think the Jets defensive effort will go down as one of the worst single game defensive DVOAs after opponent adjustment.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Count me among the Colts fans heaping praise on Ballard for the Nelson pick (hell, throw Braden Smith in there too). I'm sure there are plenty of formulas which demonstrate how it wasn't the appropriate value pick or whatever at 6. But the transition from watching Luck risk loss of limb on a weekly basis to four games in a row without a sack, effective running, an offense that is actually fun to watch--it's been beautiful. Nelson and Smith have been immediate impact players and look like long-term solutions. Wouldn't have it any other way.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Luck isn't being hit less because Nelson is excelling in pass protection; he's being hit less because the offensive design has him throwing the ball sooner, and as he gets more comfortable in it he's not hanging onto it as long by choice anymore. Sacks are more on the quarterback than the line. Always have been.

I enjoy watching the line and the run game too. It's really a nice refreshing change. But that offense would be clicking really well right now without Nelson. They've made enormous strides at that position group with just coaching and health.

It's tough. With Chubb having come off the board, there wasn't any player I'd have wanted more. Nelson was a sure thing. You'd never say no to a sure thing. But it's just... I don't know. Conflicting. I'm not calling it dumb. I don't hate it. I just don't like it either. I don't know what to feel. Because it's pass defense that will be what turns this team into a real contender, not run offense. If and when they find that, they'll be a threat. And it won't really have anything at all to do with a guard.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I totally agree that Reich's quick-pass offense is protecting Luck too, no question about that. A shift toward that type of passing game was long overdue. But I highly doubt we're anywhere near as effective running the ball--and thus creating genuine offensive balance that defenses must respect--without Nelson/Smith; their pass protection also makes the selective intermediate to long-intermediate shots viable. They're creating pockets that allow Luck to demonstrate his natural feel for pocket movement (as opposed to mad scrambling, which he can also do of course, but that's not what you want to see). There were a few plays yesterday where Luck made a subtle step or two (usually forward, into the pocket) and released the ball on time that definitely would have been sacks before, either because a tackle couldn't handle the edge or because a guard got mauled inside. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Colts are among the best in the league at converting third-and-long this year.

The bigger picture to me is that this roster was (kinda still is?) riddled with holes. There was no solving all the problems in one draft. Seems Ballard felt protecting Luck needed to be step 1, and he went big in that direction, both schematically and via draft, especially considering the mystery surrounding the shoulder. This team was never going to be super-competitive this year no matter how the draft went. Might as well set the foundation on the line over the next few years while you try to improve the defense.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm with David in thinking that while Nelson has been good, it's been more of scheme and improvement as a whole that deserves the credit.

Also I agree, the colts have talent but there are still gaping holes all over the roster. Secondary, pass rush and wide receiver are real sore spots that nearly cost them the game.

That said, I think this has been Luck's best season so far and it's kind of flying under the radar.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

In defense of the Nelson pick (and in agreement with what was said above about scheme--they're related IMO), having an actual run game, or even the threat of one, is helping the pass game a lot as well. If the DL has to consider the run before teeing off, that's maybe an extra half-second for Luck on a dropback. Given how active the TEs are in the receiving game (I assume they are on a trajectory to have the most TE TDs in a season as a team), they're not really too active blocking--not "third tackle" like. That means that Nelson, who admittedly seems to be more of a run blocker at this point, is benefiting the run game first, which, when blended with the scheme, is producing improvements in the pass game as well--beyond what we see as his blocking on pass plays. (and it can't be crap--Luck has been unsacked in the last 3.99 games--sacked on his first dropback vs the Pats, and nothing since).

Plus his video clips are golden--just crushing guys, then pushing them down for good measure, and singing on the sideline. Saying to Castonzo "I punched you in the back... you cool with that?" And calling for Ryan Kelly after a TD like Rocky calling for Adrian at the end of Rocky I. He is, after all, like 22, just a big and very talented kid.

You know how people sometimes discuss the relative greatness of Brady and Belichick and where they would stand without the other? Well, if in ten years Nelson looks like a HOFer and Reich is still coaching (and winning), maybe the same discussion can ensue--Reich's scheme maximizes Nelson's contributions. Please note,I did not just compare Reich to Belichick or Nelson to Brady, just *potentially* their respective relationships.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The other things to notice about Nelson is his motor. He is always the first one to come into the TV screen at the end of a play, a short or long one. He follows the play to it's end, helps up his RB or WR (or sometimes his QB). That attitude helps on a OL that has been so needing of leadership for so many years. I am very happy with the pick, especially when you factor in that it was a trade down with other picks added.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I really like a Coryell/Gibbs approach to offense as well, but the First Commandment of that offense is "Thine quarterback shall be made comfortable in thine pocket, forever and ever, Amen", and if you don't have that kind of personnel, you shouldn't be running that kind of offense. In the salary cap era, combining a generational qb talent, with that kind of oline talent is extremely difficult.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I just don’t understand the constant calls to fire McCarthy. The Packers were in the NFC championship game two years ago, and were 4-1 and on pace to make the playoffs again last year before Rodgers got hurt. Yes the Packers are underperforming this year, although not by nearly as much as many seem to think, and certainly not to the level that he should be fired.

The Packers hung to the bitter end with the Rams, and were in a great position against the Pats in the 4th quarter. Two of the best teams in the league, and they were going to toe-to-toe with them in their own stadiums. They lost to the Lions when Crosby missed 5 kicks, and lost to a decent Redskins team on the road. And they tied the Vikings in another fluky game. What about this says McCarthy is doing a bad job? I just don’t get it.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah, McCarthy finally gives Aaron Jones an appropriate amount of reps, the Packers cruise to an easy victory, and still calls to fire McCarthy when he pulls out an aggressive call to basically ice the game. If anything the fact that Miami couldn't do anything in the red zone is a point in favor of the fake punt, even if it failed the D was likely to hold them to 3.

Not that McCarthy was perfect by any means. The 3rd drive where they put Williams in instead of Aaron Jones was ridiculous, due to Miami getting the ball first and later getting back-to-back possessions due to the Packers fumbling a punt meant that there was no danger of overusing Jones in the first half, and they ended up failing on both 3rd and 4th and short near midfield when they probably convert with Jones.

This Thursday's game is practically a playoff game against the Seahawks. Winner still has their work cut out for them to make the playoffs, but the loser is pretty close to eliminated. I'm definitely not going to call for firing a coach who still has the team in playoff contention (currently 7th seed in NFC) and has shown the ability to make late season runs before.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Replying to both of these at once:
-Yeah, I’m not gonna call McCarthy a great coach, but good coaches don’t grow on trees and that’s what I think he is. And rotating backs is something nearly every team does, and while everyone is saying “oh man they put in Williams for a whole series!” I’m saying Jones wasn’t out for like 4 plays. Yes Jones is better, but he’s never shown the ability to be a true workhorse back without getting injured, either.

-Yeah, watching Packers games I think it’s part McCarthy not being Sean McVay, part subpar receiving talent, and part Rodgers pressing. Not being Sean McVay isn’t a sin; the best offensive mind the league has seen in a while isn’t the best comparison. Perhaps Tom Brady and the Patriots are: HOF QB with good pass blocking and subpar receivers. Check out those DVOA comparisons and you’ll see they are quite similar.

The Packers receivers are not good outside of Adams. Jimmy Graham has looked stuck in the mud all season. Cobb and Allison are both replacement level and have been hurt to boot. And the rookies are very raw and make multiple mistakes per game bc they are rookies, but have potential to break out in the future.

And Rodgers is definitely pressing. It is obvious to anyone watching that he is still the most talented QB on the planet and just is not living up to that talent. Maybe that’s coaching, but maybe it’s also him not trusting the scheme. He misses open guys more than he should, not in throwing bad passes but in just missing that they are open and moving on to the scramble drill.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Brady may be finally playing like an old man, so that may no longer be a favorable comparison for McCarthy. We'll know more in 7 weeks. Rodgers seems fully recovered, and we're going to find out if Brady plays like a 41 year old who has been hit like an NFL player for 9 games and thus falls apart over the last 7.

Like I said, I've never been one to hammer McCarthy, but if they miss the playoffs, and finish 3rd in the division, the anti-McCarthyites are really going to go nuts. I have zero idea of how Gutekunst sees him, but it wouldn't be the first time a new GM was eager to get his own hire installed as head coach, even if it makes matters worse.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

For what it's worth, Packers president Mark Murphy is the one who would make the decision to fire McCarthy. Understandable I think that they didn't want to give a first year GM total control over a well established coach.

Not sure who would hire a new coach in the event of a firing.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't know who will start the discussion but McCarthy is slated to enter 2019 as a lame duck in the last year of his contract, so I think a decision on his job is almost certainly going to be made. And it's extremely difficult to imagine an extension for McCarthy if they miss the playoffs again.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Yeah, I’m not gonna call McCarthy a great coach, but good coaches don’t grow on trees and that’s what I think he is."

See, I disagree because I think the Packers would basically have their pick of the head coaching candidates if/when they fire McCarthy. Getting to coach Aaron Rodgers should make Green Bay by far the most attractive position available. John Harbaugh will apparently be free at the end of the season, among whatever other options there might be. As it is, the Packers seem to be settling for mediocrity from from their head coach.

Subpar coaches keeping their jobs for too long because of their star QBs seems to be a pattern in the NFL. Look at Pagano with Andrew Luck or Jason Garrett being propped up for so many years by Tony Romo. I don't think McCarthy belongs in the same category as those guys, but I think GB could certainly do better.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. For every Sean McVay, there are 10 Hue Jackson’s. Hue Jackson was lauded on this site as a creative offensive mind who got the most out of Andy Dalton; look what happened in Cleveland. Coaches with potential do grow on trees, but coaches that realize that potential do not.

The “struggles” of the Packers have much more to do with Ted Thompson’s poor drafting and refusal to sign free agents than they have with McCarthy. And let’s not forget they are .500 with a positive point differential and above average DVOA, including a top 10 offense. If that’s a coach’s floor, I’ll take that in a heartbeat.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think what's hurting McCarthy is that the offense is underachievibg given the QB they have. There are largely three possible explanations for this: the talent around the QB is so awful despite the coach and QB, the talent is supbar but the coach is not doing enough to compensate, or Aaron Rodgers himself has declined.

You hear the same stuff out of Dallas btw. I think most everyone is skeptical on Rodgers being the culprit, so it comes down to one and two and ultimately a matter of taste. Since this has been trending down for some time, I'm in the camp that they should probably move on.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If the Packers fire McCarthy, do the Browns (GM Dorsey has GB connection) hire him? Remember, Dorsey snapped up Reid right away and that seemed to rejuvenate both Reid and the franchise. My guess is yes, but if not, that would be a very telling "no hire."

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

A top ten offense is basically automatic with Rodgers. That's not a point in McCarthy's favor in the slightest I don't think. In fact, if they are merely top ten, and not top five, I'd say it's a mark against him. The rest of what you've said applies to a typical team with a head coach job opening, but it shouldn't apply to the Packers. Every coach will want to coach Rodgers, so Green Bay should be able to land a much higher quality candidate than Hue Jackson.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Interestingly, the Saints came close to firing Sean Payton, but that was the result of perennially awful defenses. A great draft saved him in that regard. Another interesting comparison would be Andy Reid with the eagles - which stemmed from failed expectations for the 2011 season.

I don't know to feel about McCarthy in comparison with Reid and Payton and I'm doing my absolute best to do so without the benefit of hindsight. I thought Andy Reid's tenure had gone on too long in Philadelphia and it was time. Like McCarthy, the team was trending downward and it just felt like the inevitable end was in sight. With Payton, I think I gave him more of a pass since the defense was awful because of poor drafts and the offense was still good despite an aging roster.

That makes McCarthy seem more like Reid than Payton. I just can't shake the feeling that this offense is underachieving and someone deserves blame for that. If you watch the offense - it just executes poorly for an alarming number of stretches. Rodgers himself is capable of absolute brilliance and then too many moments of mundane, uninspiring play.

Its considered sacrilege to suggest its Rodgers himself thats the problem and I'm still not ready to go there, which unfortunately leaves McCarthy. Its possible the replacement is Hue Jackson and the problem gets worse. Its also possible they find a different head coach that by virtue of doing something different, re-energizes the offense.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Reid has done an absolutely fantastic job in Kansas City and I've become enough of a fan of his that I hope he's able to win a title before he's done. That being said, had he remained in Philly I'm not sure he would have been able to turn things back around and have the success he's having now. I think the team and the coach both needed to move on from each other to get out of the rut they found themselves in. That's more or less how I feel about McCarthy - maybe he can reinvent himself elsewhere, but it's going on four seasons now that he has struggled to find answers for what is plaguing his team in Green Bay.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Even as the Saints missed the playoffs in '14, '15 and '16, Brees never finished worse than 5th in DYAR or 7th in DVOA. The past four seasons for Rodgers in terms of DVOA after finishing #1 in in 2014 have been 17th-8th-14th-11th (through last week). I don't know if you're appreciating just how much GB's passing offense has fallen off from where it was at and how sustained of a fall it has been.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It doesn't matter what the ratio of Sean McVays to Hue Jacksons is. All that matters is identifying and sorting them correctly.

Also, perhaps McCarthy is a good coach in a vacuum, but the NFL isn't a Hoover. It's even possible that a worse coach could achieve better results in this specific circumstance, due to a wide variety of things.