Audibles at the Line

Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 2

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.

Houston Texans 17 at Tennessee Titans 20

Tom Gower: So, Marcus Mariota is active, but on the bench as Blaine Gabbert gets the start. The top three tackles are all out. So, how do the Titans generate offense? With a fake punt, of course. The Texans leave Dane Cruikshank entirely uncovered, and Kevin Byard, the upman, hits him for a 66-yard touchdown. Byard might be the best quarterback the Titans have available today, considering Mariota's health.

Dave Bernreuther: We all rolled our eyes when we saw that Blaine Gabbert was starting, especially since the Titans have only two quarterbacks on the active roster. Turns out that doesn't matter: Kevin Byard fires a strike to Dane Cruikshank, who looked like he was about to be caught from behind but found a new gear and made a nice fake to get in for the score on a fake punt. Tennessee is thus far playing the way that you should play when your quarterback is hurt.

Blaine Gabbert throws a pass behind the line of scrimmage to a covered Taywan Taylor, who eluded the man covering him and then more than eluded Tyrann Mathieu on his way to the end zone. For that, Gabbert gets credit for a touchdown pass. And the Honey Badger is probably not going to want to watch the film on that one, as he got faked out of his jock strap. Somehow a team that started Blaine Gabbert is winning 14-0.

Vince Verhei:

I know the Byard-to-Cruikshank touchdown was technically an offensive play, but in reality we can chalk it up to Houston's ever-terrible special teams.

Oh my God I just saw the fake punt touchdown. Cruikshank just lined up wide as a gunner and nobody even lined up over him. The fake probably wasn't even called until they lined up and saw the opening.

Bryan Knowles: Blaine Gabbert throws the ball. Ball is batted back to Blaine Gabbert. Blaine Gabbert catches the ball. Blaine Gabbert shrugs, throws the ball again.

I guess that proves definitively that Gabbert is not only a worse quarterback than Mariota, but a worse receiver, too, because Mariota scored a touchdown on HIS reception from this own pass last year.

Deshaun Watson with a terrible mental mistake to end the game. No timeouts left, 15 seconds left on the clock. No one's open so Watson ... does he throw it away? No. Does he bomb into the end zone for a jump ball? No. Instead he scrambles past the line of scrimmage, runs back BEHIND the line, and throws a pass in bounds anyway with time expired. Like, four things wrong with his decision-making on that play. The clock hits triple zeroes, and Blaine Gabbert wins an NFL game in the year 2018.

Tom Gower: The Titans started off playing the way a team without quarterback or top three offensive tackles should play, with the opportunistic fake punt and a well-schemed drive after starting their next possession in favorable territory near midfield; a mix of Wildcat (not just a direct snap, but the complementary jet motion); and letting their limited quarterback do as much as he could. After that, it was a matter of desperately hanging on as the pass rush tried to get to Deshaun Watson before he could find a receiver. With a few drives ending just short of field goal range (after the Titans took advantage of that early just-short 54-yarder), it worked well enough until Watson found Will Fuller (who had a really productive game) for a go-ahead score. Then, the Titans offense finally did some things for the first time in a couple quarters. Blaine Gabbert converted one of the reasonable third downs he couldn't earlier (third-and-long wide receiver screen, with predictable results), and tie game. Another Houston drive stalled in long field goal range, and the Titans moved the ball well enough to get a go-ahead field goal, while Houston's final opportunity would end in Watson's multiply inexplicable decision. Big win for Tennessee, coming off a loss and with games against Jacksonville and the Eagles coming up.

Rivers McCown: It's baffling how hard everything is for the Houston offense this year. Watson's touchdown throw to Fuller was in the rhythm of the offense. Almost everything else involved him getting pushed off a spot, recovering, then throwing from a different spot. Nothing is easy. Nothing is open unless it takes forever to develop.

I don't have much else to add to the ignominy of Blaine Gabbert winning an NFL start in 2018. Houston got played hard.

Minnesota Vikings 29 at Green Bay Packers 29

Tom Gower: Aaron Rodgers is, in fact, playing, with a brace the size of a small moon on his knee. The Packers are using a lot of pistol formations to try to buy him some extra time from that pass rush, and Rodgers seems to be willing to get rid of the ball quicker, rather than hold the ball and try to make something happen like he normally does. It was working until Davante Adams dropped a pass.

And as I type this, the Packers special teams give their battered quarterback a lead, blocking a punt and recovering it in the end zone. Not too shabby a start.

Dave Bernreuther: Three big special teams plays in the first 15 minutes of the day: first a fun trick on a punt return by the Chiefs, then the Byard pass for the Titans, and now a blocked punt touchdown for the Packers. That's a great way to give your injured quarterback a bit of a cushion against a ferocious defense.

Bryan Knowles: Hey, Laquon Treadwell is still in the league! He scores a touchdown, beating Kevin King (with deep safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix apparently thinking you can give up the first 5 yards of the end zone) to tie the game at seven. Of course, it may not be super-challenging to be open against the Packers' secondary; Kirk Cousins is 7-for-7 already.

Aaron Schatz: Packers offensive line getting surprisingly big holes in the running game early against that great Vikings front. Rodgers' lack of mobility is pretty obvious, and he's still throwing weirdly without stepping into it with the left leg. The Vikings are playing him differently because of it and he took advantage. You don't leave the whole middle of the field open with Rodgers on a third-and-7 because usually he can scramble for the first. And the Vikings did it -- and Rodgers scrambled for the first anyway! Lumbered for it. Looked a lot more like Tom Brady than Aaron Rodgers on that scramble.

Bryan Knowles: We all saw what Michael Dickson can do last week, but the battle for rookie punter of the year may be joined. J.K. Scott just boomed a huge one, with over five seconds of hang time. Packers were inside their own 20, and the Vikings ended up starting their drive inside their own 20. Maybe the fifth round is the best time to be drafting punters.

I question the Packers' time management at the end of the half -- if you get the ball with 1:37 left, even with no timeouts, you should really get more than five plays -- but they still had just enough time to drive into Minnesota territory and kick a field goal to take a 17-7 halftime lead. I really have liked the Packers' game plan today; keeping everything short and quick to try to prevent Rodgers from taking unnecessary shots. It's not as impressive as the second half against Chicago, but it's working just fine. The defense has also started to pick it up after a frankly bad first quarter.

The Vikings, meanwhile, are having real trouble generating pressure. Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter wreaked havoc last week, but today, Rodgers has all sorts of time. Special teams miscues are also killing the Vikings -- not only did they have the blocked punt returned for a touchdown, but they also missed a field goal just before the half. This could be a 10-10 game, if not for all that.

Aaron Schatz: Vikings march down the field in the third quarter and get Stefon Diggs open in the end zone based almost entirely on motion. Right on the goal line, he comes in motion right and then goes back left. Cornerback Tramon Williams covering him gets sort of caught among the other defenders, so when they snap the ball Diggs is open moving left into the end zone and can catch the ball off his shoelaces for a touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: That Vikings touchdown was a thing of beauty, though I wonder if a better corner than Tramon Williams would have been able to follow the motion.

Big stop for the Vikings' defense, forcing Green Bay to kick a field goal with 7:35 left in the game. Yeah, it's still a two-score game, but a touchdown and a field goal is much more doable than two touchdowns.

Aaron Schatz: Make that a two-point game, not two-score. Kirk Cousins just launched it to Stefon Diggs, who sped past Devon House for a 75-yard touchdown. I think House was in because Kevin King was out with an injury.

Bryan Knowles: Of course, even a two-touchdown wouldn't be a big deal if Stefon Diggs is going to catch 75-yard touchdowns all day. It's worth noting that Kevin King is out, and Davon House is being asked to cover Diggs on the outside. That is a mismatch.

Dave Bernreuther: Holy crap is about all I have to say about that (deep bomb from Cousins to Diggs).

Bryan Knowles: And that might be ball game in Green Bay. In the two-minute drill, just outside the red zone, the ball bounces off Treadwell's hands, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix comes down with the interception. Not Cousins' fault, really, though the pass was a bit high. Any score ends it, and really, any extended drive ends it, too.

Aaron Schatz: Very curious clock management by the Packers at the end of this game. They get the ball back after that interception and run before the two-minute warning. But instead of running the clock with two more carries, they ... throw the ball twice. The first one was very close to being a touchdown catch for Davante Adams, but Eric Kendricks got it out of his hands in the end zone. As a result of two incomplete passes, the clock stops twice and Minnesota does not need to use its two timeouts. So the Packers kick a field goal on fourth down to make it 29-21, but the Vikings will once again have almost two minutes and two timeouts to come back with a touchdown (and they'll need a two-point conversion).

I'm curious what the EdjSports numbers will say about throwing vs. running the ball on those plays. Is the possible gain of a touchdown to ice the game worth the risk of stopping the clock, giving Minnesota more time to come back?

Cousins throws an interception on the first play which should make this just an academic exercise ... except Clay Matthews gets dinged for another roughing the passer, just like against Chicago last week, to extend Minnesota's attempt at a comeback drive.

Ugh. The roughing call on Clay Matthews was the "putting your body weight on the quarterback" version of roughing the passer. I hate that call so much. The league needs to stop trying to legislate against the concept of intertia.

Andrew Potter: Just put flags on them and be done with it. There's basically no legal way to take a quarterback down anymore.

Bryan Knowles: Kirk Cousins has noclip on or something. That touchdown pass to Adam Thielen went through two Packers defenders, I swear to god.

The two-point conversion is good, and we have a tie ball game. That roughing call looms very large.

Dave Bernreuther: Double ugh because he didn't put his weight on him at all. It was an arm tackle. What an absolute joke.

So of course a few plays later Cousins finds Thielen for the score and then Diggs on a really nice play for the two pointer to tie.

And as a fan of football and drama I should like this ... and having picked the Vikings to win the Super Bowl I should like this ... but ugh. That penalty was ridiculous. This game should be over.

Vince Verhei: Here's the Matthews foul. The only thing pass rushers can do anymore is jump and try to block the pass.

Bryan Knowles: McCarthy icing the kicker with 7:30 left in overtime is delightfully petty.

Dave Bernreuther: But it "worked." And Zimmer's worked. So we will have to continue to sit through this crap.

I can't believe we are still watching this game.

Bryan Knowles: We are going to have a heck of a battle for loser-league kicker. The Vikings miss their third field goal of the game, so they steal a tie rather than the full win from the Packers after that questionable roughing the passer call.

Derrik Klassen: Did all the NFL kickers get together and decide to make this the most baffling weekend in NFL history?

Aaron Schatz: Packers stall in field goal range when the Vikings get a nice sack. They sent cornerback Mackensie Alexander which forced David Bakhtiari to decide between blocking two different guys. Vikings take the ball after the punt is a touchback. They march down the field. Great play by Latavius Murray where he got caught behind his own blocker, and turned out of it to get 10 yards instead of getting caught behind the line of scrimmage. A nice leaping grab by Adam Thielen too. Vikings get it all the way to the Packers 17 and bring in Daniel Carlson. Carlson's missed two field goals today, including one in overtime, from 48 and 49 yards. He's not going to miss from 35, is he?

Nope, he is. Have we mentioned that the decision to shorten overtime to 10 minutes was stupid? Two weeks, two ties in the NFL. Did they want more ties? They got more ties.

Dave Bernreuther: And this would be a tie that does not make me giggle. This should not have happened. It's only half the injustice that it could have been, I guess. But it should still not have happened.

Aaron Schatz: Just to update the end of the Packers-Vikings game, referee Tony Corrente said Clay Matthews was penalized not because of putting his weight on the quarterback, but because "when he hit the quarterback he lifted him and drove him into the ground." It sure didn't look like that to me.

Andrew Potter: That is quite obviously not what happened. It was a freaking arm tackle. Matthews did everything exactly as the league wants it done, specifically avoided putting any of his body weight on the quarterback, and still gave up a huge, game-extending penalty. That it happened is bad enough. That the referee is then making up total cobblers to justify it is unacceptable.

Carl Yedor: Not sure if this was mentioned on any broadcast, but assuming I ran my Pro Football Reference query correctly, this is the first time since 1971 that there has been a tie in both Weeks 1 and 2. The NFL didn't adopt regular season overtime until 1974.

Tom Gower: We covered that fantastic game-tying drive, but I just wanted to register for the record my dislike of the new overtime format. It feels too short to be satisfying and we've already gotten two ties. Maybe fluky, sure, but it fits with what I think so it is therefore right (this is how 2018 works, right?). I'd rather have no overtime and just accept ties as a way of life than this pusillanimous nonsense.

Indianapolis Colts 20 at Washington Redskins 9

Dave Bernreuther: Andrew Luck looking sharp early, hitting T.Y. Hilton in stride for one nice gain before a nice back-shoulder throw to Eric Ebron for the score. As long as Ebron doesn't start dropping half the balls thrown his way, he's going to be a productive player in that offense.

Vince Verhei: There's not much I like about the Washington NFL franchise, but I do like their burgundy jersey-white pants combo.

Colts up 7-0 at the end of the first quarter with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game. Most surprisingly is that they did it mostly on the ground (six runs for 35 yards). Not much has happened since then. A couple of big grabs by T.Y. Hilton and lots of pressure on Alex Smith, but none of it has translated into points yet.

And now early in the second quarter, Mason Foster tips a Luck pass at the line of scrimmage and D.J. Swearinger gets the interception to set Washington up near midfield.

Scott Kacsmar: I haven't been watching this game, but it looks like something from The Twilight Zone. The Colts are up 14-3 on the road and are about 50/50 on run-pass ratio. Meanwhile, the Redskins are being led in receiving by Adrian Peterson (three catches for 30 yards) and in rushing by Jamison Crowder (one run, 25 yards). How does that happen?

Vince Verhei: It's halftime, and yeah, Peterson now has 100 receiving yards in a game and a half with Washington. His career-high in a full season is 436, but then, he has never played with Alex Smith before.

Really, Washington's whole offense is backwards today. The wide receivers had three catches for a total of 1 yard until Paul Richardson had a 34-yard gain in the closing seconds; Peterson has three catches for 30. The running backs have seven carries for 2 yards; Jamison Crowder has two for 29. Turns out this is a bad way to run an offense, which is why Washington only has three points and, aside from a long missed field goal at the end of the half, haven't really threatened to score more.

First-half star for Indianapolis has been T.Y. Hilton. He's up to five catches for 71 yards and also has a big DPI that I think pushes him over the 100-yard mark.

Adam Archuleta makes a good point on commentary: between 298-pound Margus Hunt and 265-pound Jabaal Sheard, the Colts have really big ends for a 4-3 defense, and they're just destroying Washington's offensive line, which is a good one. Washington running backs are now at 12 carries for 6 yards late in the third quarter. But Swearinger gets his second interception of the day when Luck forces a throw into double-coverage. That sets up another field goal, and Washington is hanging around, down 14-6.

After Washington added yet another field goal, the Colts marched 75 yards in 13 plays and Luck found Hilton for a touchdown and a 21-9 lead. Washington theoretically had time if they could have found a way to get into the end zone, but just outside the red zone Jordan Reed fumbled the ball away. Colts recover with five minutes to go and a two-score lead and this one looks done.

Kansas City Chiefs 42 at Pittsburgh Steelers 37

Derrik Klassen: In just six minutes of game time, the Chiefs are up 14-0 on the Steelers. Thanks to a nice special teams return by De'Anthony Thomas, the Chiefs got within striking distance on their first drive and immediately capitalized on it with a Patrick Mahomes-to-Chris Conley connection. After forcing the Steelers offense to three-and-out, the Chiefs got the ball at their own 29 and marched right down the field, again ending in a Mahomes touchdown pass, this time to Travis Kelce.

Mahomes is a flawless 4-for-4 right now with 84 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, that pace will not last, but for Mahomes to come out firing on the road is a good sign. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense need to respond quickly, but their first two drives were about as lackluster as you could imagine from any team.

Scott Kacsmar: The Steelers look really bad in all phases. Mahomes has receivers running open everywhere. Chris Boswell just missed a 49-yard field goal, getting off to a terrible start after signing his new deal. The offense only seems to know two plays today: the screen (with penalties) or an overthrow by Roethlisberger. This might get out of hand quickly today.

Bryan Knowles: The question was posed on Twitter: When was the last time the Steelers were down 21 points at home in the first quarter? They answer, apparently, is 1965, when Mike Nixon's Steelers fell behind 27-0 to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs are doing something that hasn't happened to the Steelers in multiple generations.

Vince Verhei: It feels even worse than 21-0. Mahomes has three touchdowns on three drives. Kansas City's averaging 15.1 yards per pass and 7.7 yards per rush. They have seven first downs on only 15 plays and have only gotten to third down once. The Steelers' first two drives both lost yardage, and they almost gave up a hysterical defensive score when Roethlisberger had the ball stripped and about a dozen different players got their hands on it before Kansas City recovered it and scored, but the whole thing was wiped out by a holding penalty. Pittsburgh has just looked helpless so far.

Scott Kacsmar: Some pressure on Mahomes has finally led to a stop for the defense. If the Steelers have a chance to make this 21-point comeback, it's that the Kansas City pass defense is terrible. Philip Rivers might have been in Norm Van Brocklin territory last week if his receivers had not dropped passes. Today, for as bad as it has looked at times, Roethlisberger is 11-of-17 for 135 yards and a touchdown. On his misses, his receiver usually beat the defender, but he has overthrown the pass and struggled to keep it in bounds. This defense looks pretty bad without Eric Berry at safety.

Derrik Klassen: Despite a decent first quarter, the Chiefs defense is back to being themselves: bad. The secondary is struggling to keep up with Pittsburgh's pass catchers, which is to be expected, but on top of that, the Chiefs are losing the perimeter. Pittsburgh has been constantly picking up yards the past few drives through speed outs, flat routes, screens, and dumpoff passes outside the hashes. Kansas City's defense does not have the speed to match.

Not only did the Steelers tie the game with a touchdown pass just before the half, but Chiefs defensive back Steven Nelson was helped to the locker room following that play. If Nelson can not come back soon, both in this game and over the next few weeks, the Chiefs secondary is going to make every quarterback look like they are throwing at their pro days again.

Bryan Knowles: If you saw "Chiefs 21, Steelers 21," you could be excused for thinking it has been a back-and-forth game between two great offenses and two, uh, not-so-great defenses. I guess it has technically been back-and-forth, in the sense that the first quarter was all Kansas City and the second quarter was all Pittsburgh. Very, very strange game in Pittsburgh.

Aaron Schatz: I'm shocked that the Roethlisberger touchdown at the end of the second quarter was legal. He definitely looked like he had passed the line of scrimmage before he passed the ball, but they reviewed it and decided it was good.

Scott Kacsmar: Roethlisberger still had part of his body behind the line when he threw it. It was close, but I think they got the call right. Dan Fouts saying it's where the ball is was laughably wrong. It has always been about the body. But yeah, I mentioned Norm Van Brocklin's 554 yards earlier and Roethlisberger is in range with 278 at halftime. He's also leading the team with 6 yards rushing at halftime. I would imagine a different second half since they're tied and not chasing, but I'd definitely keep throwing at will against this defense. They can't cover these receivers and Roethlisberger has been moving around to create even more separation. Should be an interesting finish. See if Mahomes can get back on track, because once the pass rush started doing something, the Steelers got stops.

Steven Nelson returned and looked like he had a big interception in the end zone, but that's because he grabbed Antonio Brown first. That penalty was the 10th for the Chiefs today. A potential big story here is that Brown is limping and out of the game. He took his helmet off on the sideline and didn't look pleased at all. The offense seems to have punched in a touchdown with Conner, but review is pending.

Derrik Klassen: Patrick Mahomes has six passing touchdowns in this game and now 10 total on the season. With the fourth quarter barely underway, it is entirely possible that Mahomes gets a seventh passing touchdown. What the hell do you even say about that?

Vince Verhei: Seems as good a place as any to share this:

Scott Kacsmar: To wrap this one up, the Chiefs continued to find easy offense while the Steelers didn't. Only a safety after the one good punt of the day by Pittsburgh and a fumble by Conley kept this one close. Much like the 45-42 loss in January to Jacksonville, the offense made a lot of plays to stay close, but couldn't get the ball back for one final drive. Before that January game, the Steelers never had a home game in team history where they scored more than 36 points and lost. They've done that in two home games in a row now. This is why I still don't understand how the draft led to another wide receiver and a backup quarterback. Unless Le'Veon Bell has picked up the ability to kick field goals or play defense, he's irrelevant right now. The Steelers have the same 0-1-1 record as Cleveland and it could stay ugly on defense if Ryan Fitzpatrick keeps doing what he has to start this season. Before last week, only Drew Bledsoe in 1997 began a season with back-to-back games of four touchdown passes. Now Mahomes and Fitzpatrick have done it.

Also, Andy Reid with a mobile, accurate quarterback in a loaded offense might be the most exciting thing in the NFL.

Los Angeles Chargers 31 at Buffalo Bills 20

Bryan Knowles: Don't let the quarterback situation in Buffalo fool you; the defense is also collapsing at an incredible rate. 14-0 Chargers, and it doesn't look to be getting much better any time soon.

Derrik Klassen: I am oddly intrigued at the possibility that the Bills might be an all-time bad team. They have been pure comedy through a game and a half.

Dave Bernreuther: It's not just you, Derrik. I like(d) the Bills too. But when you go all in on a terrible quarterback after unceremoniously dumping a good one, I'm going to root for you to fail.

And fail they are. It's now 28-3 after a throw I'd make fun of a kid for attempting, but Rivers threaded a needle for the fourth score. Meanwhile, the Bills are being the Bills and Josh Allen is being Josh Allen ... leaving clean pockets for no reason and missing receivers badly on short passes. AKA the same thing he did in college, when he wasn't even good against mediocre competition.

The Bills, whom none of us mocked for kicking a field goal down 40-0 last week, are now being outscored 75-6 through six quarters. Although as I type this Allen just [left a clean pocket for no reason and] rifled a ball [with terrible mechanics] about half a mile [to a covered guy] for a big gainer, so maybe they'll add something to that total.

Bryan Knowles: And the Bills finally score a touchdown, as Chris Ivory plunges in from the 1! Every offense in 2018 has now found the end zone.

I'm not rooting for the Bills to be terrible; I would have loved it if they had shocked us all and had all these bizarre decisions pay off. It just ... you know. Isn't happening.

Dave Bernreuther: I'm not sure what the point of having a big armed quarterback is if you design a rollout for him with an open tight end in the end zone and the quarterback won't rip the ball in there. It was second-and-goal and Charles Clay was drifting right, and instead Allen held it, kept moving, and threw it away before being bailed out by what I think was a questionable horse collar call on Melvin Ingram. On the ensuing easy first-and-goal, the refs missed a blatant false start by a guard, and Chris Ivory got an easy touchdown.

All of this was set up by a terrible throw by Allen that he was lucky to have caught for a long first down by Patrick DiMarco as he was falling down from changing direction. So even bad teams will occasionally score touchdowns ... but man, even when they succeed, they look bad.

Adventures everywhere in this game. I'd love to hear an explanation for how on earth it's a touchback when a punt is muffed backwards into the end zone, cleanly recovered, and then after a long attempt to run it out to no avail, the returner first loses his helmet and is then ultimately tackled even deeper in the end zone. To top it all off, the Chargers picked up a personal foul for hitting a guy without a helmet, so somehow the Bills are going to get the ball at the 35.

Again ... even when successful (and/or lucky), they just look like they should have Yakety Sax dubbed over them. And I'm trying to hard to be entertained, but wow ... it's just bad. What the hell was he thinking trying to run that ball out? And how was that a touchback once he got going and started making moves?

Bryan Knowles: OK, let's all try to follow along, because this was a very odd sequence of events.

The Chargers were forced to punt. The Bills returner muffs it, and the ball bounces its way to the 1-yard line. The Chargers can't pick it up and advance it, but that's moot -- because a BILLS player (Taiwan Jones) picks it up, and retreats into the end zone. There, he gets clobbered, and his helmet flies off, causing the play to be immediately dead. That should be a safety, but immediately after the helmet comes off, he's hit again by a Chargers player (who had no way of seeing the helmet had come off, due to the timing/angle). That's an unnecessary roughness call, so instead, the Bills get a touchback plus the 15 yards for the foul.

I am not 100 percent sure that play was called correctly, but that was one of the weirder series of events you'll ever see. Jones left the game bloodied after the play. Theoretically, the refs should have blown the play dead the second Jones' helmet came off, but there was just not enough time between the helmet being removed and the follow-up hit to actually physically blow the whistle. Bizarre sequence. I think it should have been a safety, with the foul assessed on the ensuing free kick, but this is why I'm not an NFL ref.

Vince Verhei: I'm very confused and I'll have to see a replay before I know what's really going on ... but you can run around with the ball in the end zone and get tackled and it's a touchback, as long as you don't leave the end zone first. It sounds like there's a lot more going on here than that, but on that one detail I think they got it right.

Dave Bernreuther: But Vince, he picked it up before the end zone. He ran there voluntarily and was tackled.

Bryan Knowles: I thought the same thing when watching it live, Dave, but I finally saw a replay which looks like Jones doesn't establish possession until he's in the end zone proper.

Vince Verhei: Football Zebras now has the breakdown.

The key passage:

As soon as Murphy touches the ball, either team may recover when it becomes loose. Because Murphy does not catch the ball -- punt catches have the same process as a pass -- he is not charged with possession. It is correctly ruled a muffed punt rather than a fumble. This distinction is a key, because on all kicking plays, the following applies: "a kick is a kick until it is possessed."

When the ball is loose in the end zone, it is still nominally a kick. That means that, by rules standards, the kick is the impetus that put the ball in the end zone. This means that a dead-ball is in the end zone treated as a touchback, not a safety, since the Chargers provided the impetus to put it in the end zone. (There are exceptions if a Bills foul occurs in the end zone after possession.)

Dave Bernreuther: Nice find, Vince. I had no idea that site was publishing live content these days. Instant bookmark. And that's a great explanation.

That said ... he ran around and changed direction and didn't give himself up. That seems wrong to me.

Bryan Knowles: ... this is new. Apparently, Vontae Davis retired at halftime, going up to McDermott and telling him he was done. I've never heard of anything like that before, but I guess that's just what this season will be for Buffalo.

Vince Verhei: This is my favorite NFL story maybe ever: Vontae Davis retired at halftime today. Just told the coaches he was done, got dressed, and went home.

Carolina Panthers 24 at Atlanta Falcons 31

Andrew Potter: The Falcons lost starting safety Keanu Neal for the year last week. This week, replacement Damontae Kazee lasted all of 20 minutes before being ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a sliding Cam Newton. Newton was evaluated for a head injury, but the long break to confirm the ejection with New York allowed him to return without missing a snap. Former Patriots second-rounder Jordan Richards, for whom the Falcons traded on cut-down weekend, is now the first-string strong safety.

Tied at 3 here, but the Panthers just reached the red zone.

Falcons red zone touchdown alert! Calvin Ridley beats Donte Jackson on a slant route and Matt Ryan finds him for the 11-yard score. These teams have matched each other drive-for-drive in the first half. That Falcons scoring drive was a rough one for the rookie Jackson. He gave up an iffy pass interference call on a third-and-9 pass to get the drive started, though it looked like Ridley fell down more than Jackson interfered. Two plays later, Jackson was unblocked on the backside of an outside zone run, but Tevin Coleman cut back his way and juked him out of his shoes to pick up 36 yards -- Jackson did recover to make the tackle and pull the ball free, but it went out of bounds along the sideline. Then to end the drive, Jackson was again juked out of the play at the line of scrimmage, this time allowing Ridley to get open on the slant.

Across from Jackson, James Bradberry is doing a good job on Julio Jones. The one time Jones got legitimately open, Ryan missed him with a deep shot that might well have gone for six.

Matt Ryan has thrown three deep balls for Julio Jones, and missed badly on all of them. The most recent was underthrown, possibly due to pressure by Wes Horton, and intercepted by Donte Jackson, who wasn't even covering Jones. Fortunately for Atlanta, Jackson was tackled at his own 2-yard line, and the Panthers went three-and-out after -- get this -- Devin Funchess dropped a contested catch on third down.

Matt Ryan's second rushing score of the day is Atlanta's fourth red zone touchdown in four trips today. Ryan plowed through two defenders at the goal line on that scramble, after his first came on a goal-line sneak. Falcons have dominated the game since the tail end of the first half.

It scares me that Jarius Wright might be Carolina's most reliable receiver. Yes, that Jarius Wright. Cam Newton's first interception just came when he found a wide-open C.J. Anderson, but Anderson tipped an easy catch into the air for Ricardo Allen. Devin Funchess has failed repeatedly on contested catches. Torrey Smith had one very good touchdown reception, but has otherwise been a non-factor. Ian Thomas, in for the injured Greg Olsen, had one big drop in the end zone on the drive that led to the Smith touchdown. Wright, at least, has been reliable when the ball has come his way as probably the fourth or fifth receiving option.

Oh, there's rookie D.J. Moore with a 51-yard score. First catch of his career. Based on this, it's a wonder we haven't seen more of him already.

Cleveland Browns 18 at New Orleans Saints 21

Vince Verhei: I'm not watching, so I don't have much insight into how Cleveland leads 6-3 at halftime, but I do see that Tyrod Taylor has completed 10-of-11 passes. That's good! Those ten completions have produced a total of 66 yards, 22 on one play. That's bad! It's a whole team of Jarvis Landrys now!

Bryan Knowles: Nooo, Tyrod Taylor throws an interception, and now the Saints are knocking on the door to take the lead. Zane Gonzalez has missed two field goals and an extra point so far today; that's seven points left on the field in what is (currently) a two-point lead for the Browns.

Tyrod Taylor is amazing! A 47-yard BOMB to Antonio Callaway on fourth-and-ball game! The Browns tie the game, pending the extra point...

...which Zane Gonzalez misses. His eighth missed point TODAY (two field goals, two extra points). Tie game, Saints get the ball with 1:16 left. Rooting for another tie over here.

Derrik Klassen: It does not seem possible for the Browns to have missed *that* extra point but here we are.

Dave Bernreuther: Tyrod Taylor just threw a 47-yard bomb on fourth-and-5 and the Browns uh, tied the Saints in the Superdome after another missed extra point, because Browns.

I love everything about this. I love that they threw deep instead of to the sticks. I love that they honked the extra point. I love that the 0-0-1 team is now possibly headed to overtime again this week. (I fell asleep before being able to add last week that contrary to everyone else, I LOVE ties. They make me laugh. Some people just want to watch the world burn.)

Bryan Knowles: And Zane Gonzalez gets a chance to redeem himself, as the Browns move the ball into (long) field goal range with eight seconds left...

... and he misses. Again. Three missed field goals, two missed extra points. Saints win, 21-18. Poor Gonzalez; my heart breaks for him.

Dave Bernreuther: Only a 1-31-1 coach would jump up and down screaming to force the kicking unit that has already missed four kicks onto the field to try a 52-yarder on the road when there's time to run another play.

How is he still employed? Seriously.

Philadelphia Eagles 21 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27

Vince Verhei: We interrupt your regular programme to bring you another look at the Irish hero "Notorious" Ryan Fitzpatrick:

Arizona Cardinals 0 at Los Angeles Rams 34

Vince Verhei: First quarter ends with no score in a good old-fashioned NFC West rock fight, though the Rams just moved into the red zone on a pair of passes to Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. Todd Gurley presently has -1 yard on six carries as the Cardinals' front is just tearing the Rams' offensive line apart.

And there's Gurley with an 11-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter ... but Greg Zuerlein apparently hurt himself in pregame warmups and is in the locker room, questionable to return. The Rams have to go for two and Gurley dives and just barely crosses the line for an 8-0 lead.

Aaron Schatz: From the play-by-play I just assumed the Rams were being smart by going for two once a penalty moved it from the 2 to the 1. Going for two because the kicker was out is a little less smart. Still, hey, good for them.

Andrew Potter: The penalty occurred specifically because the Rams were going for two. The Cardinals weren't ready, so they ended up with a guy offside at the snap because he was sprinting onto the field at the last second.

Vince Verhei: Rams take a 19-0 lead into halftime. Their secret weapon has been JoJo Natson, who has 90 yards on three punt returns. They stalled in one red zone drive and Johnny Hekker had to come on and kick the first field goal of his career. Then at the end of the half, when in normal situations you'd kick the ball almost every time, Gurley scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with no time left, and then scored his own two-point conversion again.

This shows the advantage of a dominant defense -- it lets your offense overcome a sputtering start -- and the Rams' defense has dominated today. Cardinals only have two first downs and are averaging 3.3 yards per play. Aaron Donald in particular has been impressive, but really it has been a whole team effort. Arizona hasn't even crossed midfield yet. The Cardinals have scored six points in six quarters this year and you've got to think we'll see Josh Rosen one of these weeks.

Cardinals had a third-and-2 on the first drive of the second half. They tried to convert by running right over Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. This failed as we all knew it would and the Cards went three-and-out and punted.

Scott Kacsmar: I think Arizona has been as uninspiring as any team so far this season, including the Bills. While they are playing the Rams on the road today, they were down three touchdowns to Washington at home last week before a meaningless touchdown. I was worried about Bruce Arians retiring there, because this team still managed to finish 8-8 last year despite losing David Johnson in Week 1 and lost Carson Palmer for about half the year. They got Johnson back, Sam Bradford is at least serviceable, and they still have a star corner in Patrick Peterson (nice pick today to keep this from being a bigger rout). Yet they've gone down 24-0 and 19-0 to start the season. I don't know about Steve Wilks yet, but this team isn't showing us anything so far.

Vince Verhei: It's now 34-0 and the Rams feel guilty about getting all these easy two-point conversions and have their punter kick extra points instead. In its own way, that may be even more disrespectful.

It's going to be a very, very tough question this week about who's worse, Buffalo or Arizona. The Bills at least have some explosive ability.

Aaron Schatz: The bigger surprise should not be the absence of the Arizona offense, it should be the disintegration of the Arizona defense, which has been top-ten for how many years now? I wonder how much of that is due to the scheme change.

Bryan Knowles: Breaking news. In the last minute of the game, the Cardinals finally moved the ball past midfield. Congratulations, Arizona Cardinals fans.

Rivers McCown: David Johnson had 120 targets and 80 receptions in 2016, fully healthy. Those netted 879 yards, four touchdowns, and a league-leading 274 DYAR among running backs.

This year, David Johnson has 12 targets for 33 yards. Why do these former Panthers defensive coordinators have to create every bad offense in the NFL? Why do NFL teams continue to fall for this con?

Detroit Lions 27 at San Francisco 49ers 30

Bryan Knowles: We have a 10-7 game early on here. On San Francisco's first trip to the red zone, they managed -17 yards and had to settle for a field goal, and then had a horrible defensive series that allowed Detroit to march down the field and take the lead. San Francisco's second offensive possession worked a little better, though Kyle Shanahan got livid when his up-tempo offense got thwarted by the refs being unable to keep up, blowing a play dead because the refs weren't in position yet. Still, ended up with a touchdown and it's 10-7.

It's 13-10 at the half, and Detroit is doing a good job getting pressure. While Jimmy Garoppolo has been effective when he has been able to throw, he has taken four sacks already, three of them in the red zone to force field goals. It's not all the offensive line, either; Garoppolo is holding on to the ball too long, as his receivers are just not finding ways to get open. That makes the Josh Gordon rumors all the more enticing for 49ers fans, because there's just no one open in the red zone. Full credit to the Lions, who couldn't cover anyone last week, for the quick turnaround here.

That being said, Detroit can't get anything going on offense. Their touchdown was on a blown coverage, as opposed to anything particularly impressive by the Lions offense, and the field goal was set up by a facemask. 49ers doing a good job of beating themselves on both sides of the ball, so they should be happy with any sort of halftime lead. Lots to work out at halftime, though.

Blocking is fun. Matt Breida just scored a 66-yard touchdown, and for about 20 or 30 yards of it he was walking behind Pierre Garcon, who carried a Detroit defender all the way into the end zone.

Vince Verhei: Just saw the Breida touchdown. It wasn't just Garcon, there were two or three other blockers downfield just begging for somebody to hit, with no Lions in sight. Did Detroit even have 11 guys on the field there?

New England Patriots 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 31

Bryan Knowles: We have the hottest game in 15 years -- 97 degrees at kickoff and over 100 in the heat index. Hottest game since a 2003 Cardinals-Packers game, outdoors in Tempe.

Andrew Potter: Keelan Cole just made an outrageous one-handed catch down the left sideline, over the top of Eric Rowe. One of those that needs to be seen to be believed.

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, you've got to see it. Astonishing,

Aaron Schatz: Cole ends the drive with a more conventional catch over Eric Rowe for a touchdown in the back left corner of the end zone. The Patriots' strategy today is apparently to stop the run and passes in the middle of the field -- a lot of Cover-1 Robber -- and to force Blake Bortles to beat them with passes to the outside. So far, he's doing it, 14-0 Jacksonville.

Vince Verhei: Jaguars now up 14-0 on a pair of Blake Bortles touchdown passes, and obviously Cole had the one amazing catch, but I really can't stress enough that Bortles looks as good today as I can remember seeing him. He's not just making throws to wide-open first reads --he's going through his progressions, with excellent pocket presence as he's moving just enough and only when necessary to adjust to pressure, and finding whichever man is open. Jacksonville would have won the Super Bowl with this Bortles last year. Of course, it's not even halftime yet, so he'll need to maintain this for 40 more minutes.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, this does not look like the Jacksonville defense is regressing as expected. They're playing pretty stalwart against the run and getting plenty of pressure on Brady. The Patriots finally got a drive going but it was all short stuff, James White passes and the like. The second-leading receiver right now is third-string tight end Jacob Hollister. Chris Hogan has only one catch for 6 yards.

Dave Bernreuther: Vince said everything I was thinking but didn't want to say out loud: it's not just the results of plays -- Bortles' decision-making and reads look like those of a quality starting quarterback. One you could win a title with. Or, in other words, not Blake Bortles. That second touchdown drive, even throwing behind Cole (which, yeah, wow), were as good as you could ask. Good process, good reads, good throws.

But this is the Patriots. And he's still Bortles. And they had a two-score lead eight months ago too. There's still another half of football to play.

Aaron Schatz: Jaguars go up 21-3 when Austin Seferian-Jenkins goes to the corner of the end zone and Patrick Chung gets caught up in a bit of a pick from the two wide receivers who were outside of ASJ. This may be the best I've ever seen the Jaguars' passing game play with Bortles at quarterback. He's getting phenomenal protection, even with left tackle Cam Robinson out of the game and replaced with backup Josh Wells. Andrew Norwell looks great as well. This is almost all passing. At halftime it's 25 passes and nine runs, and two of those runs were actually Bortles scrambles.

Bryan Knowles: I've only been catching parts of this game, but it seems like the Patriots are having all sorts of problems dealing with crossing routes. You wonder if they'll work more zone in the second half, but at the moment, the Jags look nigh-unstoppable. Of course, we've seen that before...

Tom Gower: Jacksonville's offensive attack was indeed short crossers and going after New England's linebackers in space with short passes. That's something we've seen before, along with New England driving the field in the second quarter while trailing by double digits to the Jaguars. The Patriots settling for three, though, and then Jacksonville's fantastic responding drive to make it 21-3 at the half, that's different. This is still the same offense that completely sputtered in the second half against the Giants last week, so I'm not changing my opinion of their fundamental essence, but that went a lot better for them than I was expecting it to.

Aaron Schatz: It's not just short crossers though. There's some deep stuff going on, the Donte Moncrief touchdown was over Stephon Gilmore, the Cole touchdown was over Eric Rowe. They're going to the outside receivers a bit too. It's all working right now.

Dave Bernreuther: And it really can't be overstated how much of the difference seems to come from the quarterback. That half-ending touchdown drive was like watching the Patriots at work. Bortles was calm, took what was there, made good decisions, and made accurate throws. He looked like he had been in the two-minute drill his whole life and just plain expected to score.

And he's an NFL quarterback playing what we've pretty much come to accept as a not-so-great defense at this point, so that shouldn't be noteworthy... but it's Blake Bortles. And the same coaching staff as last year too. And they're playing like the Patriots offense. It's weird.

Vince Verhei: Jaguars go up 24-3 and the bar turns the channel to Raiders-Broncos. Hmm.

Even weirder, the 27-0 Rams-Cardinals game is still on.

Aaron Schatz: Bortles throws an interception that gets tipped into the air by Jonathan Jones covering ASJ, Kyle Van Noy comes down with it. But then the Patriots lose the ball because they have backup right tackle LaAdrian Waddle blocking one-on-one with Dante Fowler and he gets beat badly. He's trying to hold Fowler and he can't even succeed at that and Fowler gets the strip-sack. It's one of those plays that goes against the whole idea of "momentum." The Patriots should have had the "momentum" after the interception, and after scoring the game's last 10 points, but there really isn't some magic "momentum" that makes the Jaguars defense stop trying to make plays. And they made a play.

Next Jaguars drive bogs down and it looks like they might go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Patriots 43. Get that and it almost ends the game. But no, it's just the "trying to draw them offsides" nonsense and the Jags get a false start and have to punt. Pats will get the ball, down 24-13, 9:47 left, on their own 9. Feels like the Jaguars offense got a bit conservative here with the lead in the second half. I think they've handed off on every first down. (Nope, just most of them. There was a nice 16-yard pass to Corey Grant leaking out of the backfield on one first down.)

Scott Kacsmar: It doesn't get much worse than the "let's use a timeout and try to draw them offsides on fourth down with no intention to run a real play" farce. It's even worse when you do it against the Patriots, a team you should know you have to finish instead of continuing to give Brady chances.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots decision to punt on fourth-and-a-foot with 8:13 left was a mistake. And that's even not considering that the Jaguars un-conservatized themselves with their first play, threw a crossing pattern to a wide open Dede Westbrook, and Westbrook went down the left sideline for a huge 61-yard touchdown. 31-13 and I think this sucker is over.

Vince Verhei: I was stunned at that punt. Yes, it's deep in your own end, but you're down by two scores midway through the fourth, and it's fourth-and-inches and your quarterback is the master of the sneak. Trying to win on special teams and defense instead seems very un-Patriotic, if you will.

Tom Gower: I mentioned it last year, but Bill Belichick's transformation into a more typical NFL coach when it comes to that kind of strategic decision-making is still baffling to me, especially considering the direction the league has moved.

Jacksonville's continued aggression (they just threw on second-and-9 after a Patriots timeout with just over three minutes left as I type this) is a pleasant change from what happened in the AFC Championship Game. And they're doing this without either of their first two draft picks for last year. Josh Wells hasn't been perfect, but he has been more than adequate as an in-game fill-in. With a different defense on the other side of the ball, that might be a different situation, but that's not this New England defense.

Vince Verhei: A play call I hate: Jaguars take over up 31-20 at their own 16 with 3:40 left. Obviously the defense is going to be crashing the run like crazy. But Bortles steps back, then makes an overhand lateral to Dede Westbrook, who is immediately swarmed for a loss of 6. Basically an extended pitch play, but it gave the defense extra time to swarm in for the stop. Worse, big risk for a fumble on that play, which would have been a catastrophe.

A play call I love: On the very next play, rather than a short gain just to burn New England's timeouts, Bortles hits Niles Paul on a corner route for a 22-yard gain to convert the second-and-16. Fortune favors the bold!

And then Bortles scrambles for a 10-yard gain on third-and-8. He has been the man today.

Aaron Schatz: This week in a nutshell: Going into Sunday Night Football, favorites are 3-10 against the spread and 6-7 straight up. It was a bloodbath for favorites today. That leaves out the Green Bay-Minnesota game, about which I wonder: was that the first pick 'em line in NFL history that pushed?

Addendum: I guess the Minnesota-Green Bay line moved to Vikings -2 this morning. I'm always fairly oblivious to major Sunday morning line moves. So that makes favorites 3-11 against the spread this week with two games left.

Scott Kacsmar: I want to go back to New England punting on fourth-and-1 from its own 18 with 8:01 left before the Westbrook touchdown. I think that's the kind of fourth-down decision that virtually all NFL coaches are playing scared with. Logically, you are more likely to convert there than not, and the Patriots should have a better percentage than most offenses since they've mastered the sneak and the short passing game, and rarely get stuffed runs. But even if they get stopped, you still have the goal of keeping the opponent out of the end zone. If Jacksonville gets a field goal, is there really much difference between being down 11 and being down 14 at that point? At least with 14, now you don't have to worry about getting a two-point conversion. You're more likely to face overtime, but that's fine. Also, if you get a quick stop, that's going to save you time to come back from this two-score deficit. The worst thing is to punt the ball back and give up a time-consuming touchdown drive. Even a long field goal drive makes you feel foolish in that spot. The Jaguars ended up getting a very quick touchdown to basically seal the deal, but I absolutely would have gone for it in that spot if I was Belichick.

But if he's not willing to take the heat in that spot should the play not work, then which coach is right now? I don't think we're there yet even though we should be.

Rivers McCown: Outside of the situational play stuff, the Jags stiffed New England's receivers. Only 11 of the 24 Patriots receptions were by wideouts. Of the 104 yards they gained, 48 of them came on two plays. This is not exactly a new and alarming trend by the Jacksonville defense, but I think it goes to show you that this was a game where the Patriots finally missed Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Brandin Cooks. (Recall in the AFCCG, Cooks and Amendola were their two leading receivers and both were excellent efficiency-wise.)

Zach Binney: This week in thoroughly meaningless stats: Florida teams start the season 6-0. When was the last time that happened? Has it ever happened? Do we blame global warming or something? We are through the looking glass here, folks.

Bryan Knowles: It's happened once before, Zach: 1997, when all three Florida teams earned wild-card slots. Dan Marino's Dolphins were 9-7, losing to the Patriots in the wild-card round. Mark Brunell's Jags were 11-5, losing (badly) to the Broncos in the wild-card round. Trent Dilfer's Bucs were 10-6, losing to the Packers in the divisional round.

If past is prologue, the team with the worst quarterback will go the furthest, so go-go Tampa Bay?

Zach Binney: Well if we're going by that standard, are we really ranking Jamyan Fitzwinston under Ryan Tannehill and Blake Bortles? That's a real three-way race right there.

Oakland Raiders 19 at Denver Broncos 20

Derrik Klassen: Case Keenum just threw his fourth interception of the season and has been bad enough today that you can probably expect another. Regression on Keenum's interception luck from last season was to be expected, but this is already out of hand. Four interceptions in five and a half quarters at home is not a good sign.

Bryan Knowles: Derek Carr is currently 21-for-22 passing. Sure, that's a good bounceback game for Oakland, but what does that say about the Broncos' secondary? Good lord.

Vince Verhei: Courtland Sutton makes a great leaping catch over a defender for what appears to be a touchdown. The ref rules him out of bounds, even though he comes down like a full foot in bounds, not close to the white line. The play is reviewed, and it is determined that his first foot comes down in bounds, but then slips out from under him and I guess brushes against a white blade of grass? Because they very quickly announce the call is confirmed. Broncos got a touchdown that shouldn't have counted last week against Seattle, now they have what should have been a touchdown taken away this week.

Bryan Knowles: Someone does make a clutch kick today! The Broncos drive down the field, despite some questionable decisions by Case Keenum to waste some clock, and Brandon McManus kicks the field goal to escape with a 20-19 win.

There were, like, three times that Denver was in danger of running out of clock. Keenum scrambled rather than throwing the ball away at midfield, wasting 27 of their remaining 54 seconds. Tim Patrick cut the ball inside on the reception that put them in field goal range, nearly getting tackled in bounds before a great block got him to the outside. Ends up not mattering, though, and Denver's a surprising 2-0.

Tom Gower: Derek Carr completed 29-of-32 passes, and the Raiders lost. I didn't see any of the first 59 minutes of the game, but that is the first game in NFL history where a team completed at least 90 percent of its passes (minimum 10 attempts) and lost. That's crazy.

New York Giants 10 at Dallas Cowboys 20

Carl Yedor: You're at midfield and drafted Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall. Barkley's strengths may not be getting the dirty yards inside, but you'd hope he would be able to pick up fourth-and-inches there instead of just punting it back to Dallas (who got a big-play touchdown before I even got the game on). Dallas ended up settling for a field goal on the next drive.

Vince Verhei: First-quarter carries:

Saquon Barkley: 2
Jonathan Stewart: 1

What, is Barkley already worn out?

Aaron Schatz: Then in the second quarter, the Giants *do* decide to go for it on fourth-and-inches, from their own 35. They get an Eli Manning sneak, apparently his first since 2010 according to the broadcast. I wonder what the difference was between the earlier decision and this one. Maybe the difference between 1 foot to go and 2 feet to go?

Scott Kacsmar: Eli and Barkley each have two carries, but Eli has 3 yards to 2 for Barkley. I'd also say watch out for the single-game failed completions record (Derek Carr, 16). Eli has to have about six or seven by now, mostly to Barkley, who has seven catches for 23 yards. This is not fun to watch. Seeing the Cowboys get Tavon Austin a 64-yard touchdown bomb was interesting though. This is already the fifth-most prolific receiving game of Austin's career, and he hasn't caught a pass since that opening bomb.

Aaron Schatz: Demarcus Lawrence just got Dallas' fourth sack with a minute left in the first half. Cowboys are doing a great job of dialing up pressure and getting untouched rushers with scheme. You've got to figure out a way to stop a stunt that brings Demarcus Lawrence in untouched.

Vince Verhei: At halftime, Barkley is up to four carries. Manning has 20 passes (plus four sacks). Barkley also has eight catches for all of 32 yards, but still: why even bother with the draft pick?

Only two of Manning's 16 completions have gone for first downs. That's not ideal.

Bryan Knowles: Eli Manning's first-half passing chart belongs in the Louvre.

Scott Kacsmar: I think Sam Darnold and Wayne Gallman could have led an offense to a net eight points through six-plus quarters.

Rivers McCown: Not that I think Eli deserves the entirety of the blame for this offense, but I am ready to watch Kyle Lauletta.

Scott Kacsmar: Prescott had half of his passing yardage come from the Austin touchdown before a drive that consumed 8:23 to score a clinching touchdown. Some excellent throws on that drive, and his running has been a big factor on the night. This isn't much different than the last time the Giants played in Dallas, a 19-3 loss in Week 1 last year. It's not nearly enough to make us think Dallas is back to 2016 caliber, but the Giants have really been outmatched all evening.

Andrew Potter: Saquon Barkley finishes the game with 108 yards from scrimmage, which sounds like a productive day for the rookie. Except ... Barkley caught 14-of-16 targets today for a grand total of 80 yards. Nobody has ever done that before. The closest is probably Julian Edelman with 13 catches for 78 yards against the Jets in 2013, but everybody else who had 14 or more receptions in a single game tallied at least 90 yards from those receptions.

Comments

146 comments, Last at 19 Sep 2018, 6:32pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by big10freak // Sep 17, 2018 - 10:18am

Regarding the GB/MN game a few observations:

--both GB running backs made contributions across the board running, receiving and blocking
--Nick Perry was MIA
--Kenny Clark is some kind of awesome
--the dropoff from the starting cbs to the backups for GB is startling and I don't know what 'veteran presence' Williams brings when he gets so easily beat multiple times
--the GB punter was outstanding and forced the Vikes to drive the field multiple times.
--Rodgers did not manage the clock at all today and that fake handoff and then him fumbling in overtime is inexcusable. Look, he's a superduperstar. High standard. He botched the drive
--the refs were terrible throughout the game. Phantom holding calls and then takedowns not called. OPI called and then not called and no DPI called when the grabbing was obvious. MN called early in game for phantom roughing call and then the absurd all on Matthews. Just an all around train wreck for officiating crew.

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2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mike W // Sep 17, 2018 - 10:34am

Yeah, the refs in this game were abysmal. In the first half, there was a missed PI on MIN, then two plays later the same ref calls offensive PI on a nothing push. In the third quarter there was a hold on a quick pass that had zero effect on the play. Of course they missed the Allison knee - which the MIN coaching staff also missed.

So we used to not know what a completed pass is. Now we don't know what a sack is. That call against Matthews was absolutely indefensible.

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4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 10:49am

The roughing call on the Vikings in the first half was just as bad. The shoulder pad was in Rodgers' chest while the ball was still in Rodgers' hand, and there wasn't anything the least bit unusual about the tackle.

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44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by oaktoon // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:03pm

I wonder if Corrente was just waiting for the make-up/even it out chance given the initial call. The various other mistakes (and admittedly this is from a Packer perspective) include Allison (I think) having his knee down but was allowed to get up and run 15 yards, Adams being whistled for a phantom push off, A Viking DLman falling down and inducing a holding call which negated a Graham TD, Graham being clearly interfered with (admittedly just before ball arrived but a foul nonetheless)... just an awful game for Corrente and Co. i thought the most telling thing was Mike Daniels releasing Cousins for fear of being flagged and then having to watch Cousins (whom he must have thought had thrown the ball) scrambling for a few more seconds to the outside.... It was a farce, basically

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49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:26pm

The hilarious thing about the Graham td being negated by the phantom hold is that Graham actually did push off, very obviously, on that catch, with the dbs head snapping back, Graham's hand against the db's chin. Those dopes in the striped shirts were making so many errors that they sometimes arrived at the correct outcome accidentally.

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113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 17, 2018 - 8:05pm

Those two calls were an embarrassment to the league, in the sense that Riveron and the NFL stood by them. Ridiculous.

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3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 10:45am

Yeah, it was about as badly officiated game between two good teams that I can remember, and significantly harmed the viewing experience.Really unfortunate.

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15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:01pm

Are we forgetting about the Fail Mary game?

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16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:04pm

That may have been more visible, but play for play, I think yesterday was worse. Just nonstop.

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26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Anon Ymous // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:47pm

The worst officiating I've ever seen was the Sunday night game between NE and Baltimore. It created a good sized stir, but it was lost to history when the Fail Mary the next night mercifully put an end to the replacement refs. All told, though, the Sunday night game was orders of magnitude worse than Monday, for much the same reason you described. There was no single call to bookmark, it was just a constant flow a bad calls.

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31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by theslothook // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:06pm

That was the infamous grabbing the ref game. Yea it was awful, punctuated by Harbaugh getting an unsporstman penalty for trying to call a timeout.

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45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mike W // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:04pm

Guys, those were replacement ref games. This was the real refs, and they were terrible.

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79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:34pm

During the broadcast, Charles Davis said something like "the refs just need time to learn how to make calls with the new rules." If there's any truth to Davis' statement (and there might not be), the solution isn't waiting until week 3+ to become fair and consistent. The solution is paying for full-time, year-round referees! The current situation is such a fuckshow.

It's like when refs were showing that leading-with-the-head instructional video in the preseason, and when the Eagles cued up tape of another hit to ask about, the refs were split 50/50 whether it was illegal or not. That is most definitely a problem.

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122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Eddo // Sep 18, 2018 - 8:49am

I'm totally on board with full time officials, but I don't think it necessarily solves the issue in your first paragraph. Even if the NFL were paying them to study tape in February through July (when do they start actually working for the NFL?), there aren't any live football games to call in that time period, and penalties like the roughing the passer ones need actual live football to get a hang of how to call.

As for 50/50 calls, there are always going to be 50/50 calls - it's one thing that no one seems to get when they whine about catch rules. No matter where you draw the line (for roughing the passer, control of the ball, etc.), there will always be a good amount of plays that fall very close to it and are therefore very debatable.

The Matthews play wasn't one of these, but to think the NFL can somehow fix this problem completely is foolish. There will always be borderline calls.

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126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by rj1 // Sep 18, 2018 - 10:18am

You're never going to get 100% objectivity (this is always right, this is always wrong) on what is a subjective call.

The only way to do that is you have one person that referees every single game.

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128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 18, 2018 - 11:23am

Not even then, no. But I don't think the problem is the officials since the league supported the roughing the passer calls. That means the rule itself is the issue (or the league).

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140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by ChrisS // Sep 18, 2018 - 4:59pm

Based on the application of the rule (so far this year) it would appear that any forceful hit to the QB is a penalty. Which in a QB-centric league is just what is needed to make it even more QB-centric

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134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by bravehoptoad // Sep 18, 2018 - 1:18pm

I'd think the best solution would be to change the game so that it doesn't require so much refereeing. You could use the loosest definition of a catch, get rid of illegal formation penalties, defensive holding penalties, etc.

Of course, that would be a very different game.

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18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by big10freak // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:08pm

Both teams throughout the game were assigned penalties not apparent via replay and then had obvious fouls not called. And multiple such instances impacted the game. One quick example Lane Taylor was charged with holding that negated a TD when the MN linemen fell down as Taylor watched

I don't know the performance review process for NFL officials, but in my organization the equivalent performance might not get you fired immediately, but there would be a written warning and a PIP (performance improvement plan) of 30 days in length with the outcome being you either meet defined goals or are terminated

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81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:36pm

the outcome being you either meet defined goals or are terminated

Yes, defined goals. That may be the difference here

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114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by stoste // Sep 17, 2018 - 9:08pm

If the league does go to full time 'professional' officials then I think everyone needs to think long and hard about managing their expectations. We had this in European football (soccer) and it was clear that the public and analysts expected a massive jump in ref quality that never materialised. You leave something to human judgement, there will always be human error and whilst most players (kickers would be an obvious exception) will get a pass with the 'people make mistakes' line of thought, refs will never get the same treatment. If they get calls right then it's considered easy but if they get calls wrong, they are lambasted.

Bad calls literally happen in every game, every week (whether you hear about them depends on if the teams involved have a big enough market/big name players), and whilst most of them don't impact the outcome of the game as directly as this one, it is admirable the general reaction of football players to them (we still needed to execute, can't just blame it on the refs, etc.) vs. in soccer where managers and players will blame the outcome of an entire game on one decision by the ref.

Not so much with this call, but with others in the past for sure, it's telling that you get analysts and fans who can't agree on decisions even with slow motion replays from multiple angles - imagine trying to do that job at game speed!

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129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 18, 2018 - 11:25am

I just said it above, but the problem in this case is that the league says the officials did a good job on the two roughing the passer calls, in particular. So it's not the ordinary problem of bad calls being made, which I agree with you will always happen, but of bad rules being enforced.

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131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by BJR // Sep 18, 2018 - 11:40am

I'm of the belief that the standard of officiating in top level soccer has improved significantly in recent times (based only on my casual viewing so purely subjective, of course). I think in general there is a lot greater consistency across officials. They've also done a good job of outlawing and punishing certain types of dangerous tackle. It's far from perfect, but I have to believe professionalism has made a positive impact.

Something that often shocks me is the age of NFL referees. Clearly cardio-vascular fitness is nothing like as necessary for refereeing an NFL game as it is a soccer game, but stuff still happens damned fast, requiring keen eyesight and reaction. It simply has to be sub-optimal for men in their 60s to be performing these roles.

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133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 18, 2018 - 12:37pm

I think going full-time could have a greater effect in the NFL than in soccer leagues, based on the belief that having only one ref and two side judges on the field is really the limiting factor in soccer. While having limited refs may be a good thing for the game in some ways, it also enables players like Sergio Ramos to intentionally injure opposing players. Even Gregg Williams' dumb bounties had better optics than Ramos v. Salah/goalie

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43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by ChrisLong // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:56pm

Packers' pressure off the edge is non-existent, but Clark, Daniels, and Wilkerson are all quite good. Hopefully pressure up the middle is enough bc I don't think they're getting there around the edge all year.

Sooner than later I think it will be King, Jackson, and Alexander as the starters. They'll take their chances with rookie mistakes with those guys to keep athletic guys on the field. And everything I've heard about Jackson and Alexander indicates they are smart cookies and picking up the complexities quickly.

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5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by johonny // Sep 17, 2018 - 10:56am

LACha-Buf-I had to wait for the new laundry machine delivery so I was stuck watching the Bills game. This game was so Chargers being Chargers. Up 14-0 they stopped the Bills on a 3 and out then get a dead ball 15 yrd penalty for taunting. Basically a CB did the talk to my hand to a Bill and that was worth a free first down. Bills turn it into 3 points. Later, the famous punt-muff, pick up, helmet, no-helmet, 15 yrd unnecessary roughness. An odd Charger like play. Other than that the game was terrible, just terrible to watch. Luckily the late game was Rams-Cardinals so I took my kids for a walk. Really the NFL returning to LA means that instead of great game of the week games, LA market now airs unwatchable poor match-ups on TV. Woot NFL is back in LA! AFC least update 1) New England-lost one of their toughest road games of the year, but its too early to panic. 2) Miami-won ugly in New York to be in first place and 2-0 for the first time since 2013. They finished 8-8 in 2013 so don't get so excited. Now they get a winnable trap game against the Raiders... 3) Jets, a few bad breaks from beating Miami. 4) Bills, right now have the leg up in the 1st round pick race. The Giants, Lions seem like they might win some. The Bills are having problems with players retiring at half-time. Which I guess is better than retiring mid-play.

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34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by mehllageman56 // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:10pm

There may not be as much separation between the Pats and the Dolphins as everyone thought. At the very least, the Fins and Jets have better defenses,
and Tannehill is a competent quarterback who didn't make the big mistake this week, unlike Darnold. I still think the Pats win the division, but It might be closer
than everyone thought.

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60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by johonny // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:16pm

It's very hard to tell anything after 2 games. The last time Miami was 2-0 was 2013. They went to 3-0. They finished 8-8. I like Gase, but Miami is probably only 9-7, 10-6 team unless football outsiders preseason analysis is really off on this team. The Pats lost against their hardest road game opponent they'll play all season in a game clearly their opponent game planned all offseason for. It's not a "bad" loss given that. If they drop the game in two weeks at home against Miami then things will get interesting. I'm just happy to see the fins in first for any stretch of this season :) I wish I saw more of the game Sunday. All I got to see was the Redzone channel in the second half and Miami didn't reach the redzone much in the second half.

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121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by fyo // Sep 18, 2018 - 5:27am

Tannehill had two fumbles that were just really, really bad quarterbacking. They lost one of them, which is about what you'd expect, but just because it doesn't show in passer rating doesn't mean it wasn't bad. In both situations Tannehill saw the defender coming and just made a bad decision to hold on to the ball and then proceeded to fail in executing that. He needs to take a page from the Manning/Brady book and just learn to throw the ball away. It's 1st down, the other team just scored, but you are still up by 14. Why are you holding on to the ball? Just chuck it away.

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130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 18, 2018 - 11:38am

Yeah, I agree. Tanehill has made a lot of mistakes these first two games. The funny thing is not making mistakes has always been one of his best qualities. Other than that, the difference between this year's Tanehill and others has been the excellent protection he's been getting. Repeatedly the numbers from this site have shown he's very good, even excellent, when he's not under pressure.

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142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by fyo // Sep 19, 2018 - 5:34am

Regarding that good protection... That was my thought as well, but it does bear mentioning that according to PFF, Tannehill leads the league in getting the ball out quickly so far this season. Protection always looks better if the quarterback gets rid of the ball quickly.

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144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 19, 2018 - 11:02am

That's interesting because I thought he held it too long several times on Sunday. On the other hand, the offense features a lot of bubble screens. I wonder if PFF omits bubble screens from their calculations, since it's an automatic throw and not a reflection of quick processing by the QB.

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6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Pat // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:01am

After Sunday, I felt pretty good about my prediction that it'd be really hard for the Patriots to get through Edelman's suspension without a loss... except that I didn't also predict how hard the Alshon Jeffery injury would hit the Eagles, and I really, really should've (to be fair, I had rosy fan glasses on and didn't think Jeffery would miss any games. Oops.)

Super-weird to see both the Super Bowl teams from last year basically end up with the exact same problems on their offense.

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32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by theslothook // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:08pm

It may be too early to make such proclamations. Pat's offense was fine last week and im not sure if the eagles with Foles looks more like the Superbowl team or the one that had a loss in Oakland.

Either way both teams will look pretty different after mid season.

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63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Pat // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:24pm

It's not about the outcome, it's about whether or not they looked limited due to the limited WR options, and they both did. It was obvious in Week 1 that Philly's receivers were limiting them, and it was obvious in Week 2 that they were limiting the Patriots.

The fact that it wasn't obvious in week 1 for the Pats says more about Houston than anything else.

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59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by TomC // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:09pm

Care to share some more thoughts on the TB-PHI game? I didn't see any of it, and I came here hoping to find some non-network (i.e., reasonably cogent) thoughts, but it seems none of the Audibles regulars watched it. (Which, to be clear, IS JUST FINE.)

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68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Pat // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:56pm

The game entirely came down to the Eagles blowing two deep balls, one to DeSean Jackson, which was a giant "Jenkins WTF are you doing." Blame frequently goes to Mills on that, but look at the replay - I honestly have no idea what the hell Jenkins is doing. Mills is covering Jackson, and they both basically just blow by Jenkins so he can cover... air - and even after the ball's thrown, it's like he doesn't even attempt to help out. (He admitted he screwed up after the game, but I seriously don't even know what his mistake was, other than 'total brain failure'). Second deep ball was to the Bucs tight end OJ Howard, and that was just a complete disaster of open-field tackling.

Basically, Eagles secondary looked *really* iffy, run defense looked impenetrable.

Bucs receivers looked good (especially the tight end), but the main failures looked so self-inflicted by the Eagles I don't know what to take from that.

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72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by TomC // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:22pm

Thanks!

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11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:17am

What is Rodgers' w-l at Lambeau after 2009? About 50-10? The good news for the Vikings was that they had about a net loss of 13 points on special teams, against the Packers and Rodgers at Lambeau, and still didn't lose. The bad news is that such a special teams performance, if repeated, will almost certainly cost them a critical game. If they don't fire their kicker today, I'll be shocked.

On the other hand, if that is a typical pass blocking performance on the road for the Vikings this season, they are likely going to win 12 or 13 games.

(edit) Oh, the int that Cousins threw that wasn't called back was 100% on Treadwell. That pass wasn't high at all, and was perfectly placed to maximize yards after catch. His snaps need to go to someone else, no matter where he was drafted.

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17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:05pm

I'll trade my franchise's kicker history for your franchise's DL history.

\I have to admit, I had to think hard about what part of the Viking's positional or coaching history I actually liked more than Detroit's

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87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:21pm

As a Broncos fan, all this fretting about your kicker is strange and confusing to me.

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106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by xydux // Sep 17, 2018 - 7:17pm

Are you sure about that?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbB49e34QPU

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107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 7:37pm

Well they aren't perfect, but I pointed out elsewhere in the thread that this is the full list of Broncos kickers over the last 25 years: Jason Elam, Matt Prater, and Brandon McManus. And they only got rid of Prater because of something off-field, PEDs I think

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112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by xydux // Sep 17, 2018 - 7:54pm

Oh yeah, the Broncos have a good kicking history. But that kick is horrendous, so it seemed like the obvious response.

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117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Shattenjager // Sep 17, 2018 - 9:58pm

I think you're actually mixing Prater with punter Todd Sauerbrun, who was released after an arrest but also had PED rumors swirling around him (though to be fair so did a great many of Shanahan's players). Prater was released when he finished serving a "substance abuse" suspension because of McManus's superior performance in his stead (at least according to the coaches).

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118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Grendel13G // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:25pm

A ridiculously good string of kickers, and some memorable clutch kicking seasons, too (McManus kicking a perfect postseason the Super Bowl year, Prater repeatedly nailing 50-yarders at the end of games to make the Tebow season possible, Elam basically every season). It's telling that McManus is a very good kicker, but probably the Broncos' worst since 1992.

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7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Shylo // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:07am

Some additional Texans-Titans info:

1) Paul Kuharsky tweeted that the Texans should have been expecting a fake, as Cruikshank was not the gunner in week 1, but I think this was just a coincidence, as Cruikshank made an excellent punt coverage tackle later in the game, so he evidently played gunner all game. I think it was a call that was available if the Texans didn't cover the gunners.

2) Jadaveon Clowney didn't play, but he helped the Titans get in range for their tying field goal with a taunting penalty. Last year, he shit talked corner Leshaun Sims who responded with an interception. Texans fans must be wishing he would just shut up.

3) My one criticism of Lafleur's playcalling this game was he abandoned the Wildcat after the one drive where it was used four plays in a row. It was working great with Henry mostly taking it up the gut. My only guess is he's saving the extra wrinkles in case Mariota is out extra weeks, because the jet sweep action wasn't used at all, only faked.

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8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:11am

When you look at what the D.C. team did yesterday, and what Arizona did (or to be more precise, what they didn't do) against the Rams ( who, to be sure, may be real monsters this season), you have to stronngly suspect that plutonium powered sucking may have returned to Phoenix, when it comes to the NFL.

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50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mike B. In Va // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:27pm

They might actually be worse than the Bills, which is kinda shocking since they have considerably more talent.

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139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by BJR // Sep 18, 2018 - 3:44pm

They have a considerably tougher schedule than the Bills. That could flip the balance in terms of the #1 pick.

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10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by PatsFan // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:15am

Aaron said "Patriots decision to punt on fourth-and-a-foot with 8:13 left was a mistake."

I totally agree. But it was a mistake in more than one way (if I'm remembering which drive was which correctly).

NE lined up in a will-they-or-won't-they pseudo fake punt formation and hut-hutted it. AND IT WORKED!! The JAX defender went offsides.

Except that NE did not snap the ball or have the OLman across from the defender break his stance, etc. -- i.e. all the standard, routine, typical things an offense does to draw the flag in that situation -- and the defender was able to safely get back onside, forcing NE to punt instead of giving them the first down.

The ref was even reaching for his flag because I'm sure he fully expected NE to do the routine action to get the flag.

That combination of cowardice and idiocy perfectly summarized the NE day.

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20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:16pm

Romo made an observation in the first half of that game that was really insightful (I really like him as an announcer).

NE was playing either cover-1 or robber essentially the entire game. So both Bortles and Hackett knew exactly what NE's coverage was going to be on every play. So they kept calling outside or man-breaker concepts on every play, and NE never adjusted.

1. No-spy man against Bortles is just asking for trouble. I realize he's white, but so was Bobby Douglas, Steve Young, and Rich Gannon. He's not the 3rd most-efficient QB runner in NFL history by accident. If you're in man, not spying, and asking for outside breaking routes, there's no defender anywhere near the outer boundary on either side. Bortles isn't blind. He kept running outside whenever NE got pressure and/or nothing was available by pass.
2. What the hell happened to the multiple, look-changing NE defense? They never tried to confuse Bortles with zone blitzes or quarters/cover-2 looks, or exotic pressure. What were they saving gameplans for? Jacksonville is a team you might need that tiebreaker against for homefield. New England played like the anti-Colts. Were they trying to give Old Man Brady a warm Florida game for the playoffs?
3. Jacksonville learned the lesson NE and Philly taught last year. After a brief flirtation with overly conservative play (in part because of a brief rash of turnovers), they went back to fully on the gas pedal. Indeed, they almost got too bold in the late game, throw pass bombs when they probably should have been running. Still, I have to give them credit for throwing haymakers until the bell. As Romo said, they did New England things to New England.

Watching Bortles throw for 400 yards is like watching Happy Gilmore make a putt.

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27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Anon Ymous // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:55pm

2. What the hell happened to the multiple, look-changing NE defense? They never tried to confuse Bortles with zone blitzes or quarters/cover-2 looks, or exotic pressure. What were they saving gameplans for? Jacksonville is a team you might need that tiebreaker against for homefield. New England played like the anti-Colts. Were they trying to give Old Man Brady a warm Florida game for the playoffs?

This is the "extended preseason" version of the Patriots. They spend the month of September figuring out what they have and then they start building in October. I warned my son ahead of time to not get his hopes up for a win; Jax is excellent, at home, they'd likely planned ahead for weeks and they simply wanted it more.

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28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:59pm

Even in the pre-season, I would expect to occasionally show a second defense.

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89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:31pm

Calling an early-season Pats game last year, Romo said something that I still wonder about. On one play the Pats sent a linebacker on a blitz, and Romo said something like "they don't normally have a guy blitz right here, they're just doing it to throw off scouting reports later on."

My questions are 1) how would he know or even be able to guess at that? And 2) Belichick thinks it's worth playing with what he believes are suboptimal tactics right now, in order to gain some advantage much later? Seriously? Is there anything to this idea?

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123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by aces4me // Sep 18, 2018 - 9:30am

Most of the talk I have hear about BB running different plays or personnel groups to mask tendencies happen in garbage time. I don' think BB would hurt his chances of winning the current game for an advantage in future games but if this game is already decided why not try to sow confusion on your enemies?

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25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Anon Ymous // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:43pm

I'm not sure if I'd describe it is cowardice. It was clear from the start that Jax invested more into the game and that NE was still in extended preseason mode. It wasn't just the punt, NE was tinkering with their offense in ways we likely won't see when the gloves come off later in the year.

Said otherwise, "retreat" is a much more apt term than cowardice. It wasn't fear, just recognition of the task ahead, both for the game and for the season.

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35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by mehllageman56 // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:11pm

The last couple of years, Belichick has been good for making one or two tactical mistakes in a season; kicking off against the Jets in the 2015 overtime game being the one I remember. The Belichick of two years ago would have gone for it. At least they tried to get the Jags offside (and it isn't the coach's fault if the players didn't snap the ball quick enough). But I don't remember him making a tactical mistake like this early on in a season. Perhaps Brady isn't the only one getting old. Belichick is already the second oldest NFL coach to win a Super Bowl, and Coughlin never made it back after winning it at age 65.

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52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by PatsFan // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:35pm

There were also the two times NE got to kick off from the 50 because of a JAX penalty, down big (relative to remaining time) and did not try an onsides kick at all.

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53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Anon Ymous // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:36pm

They were clearly trying to pin Jax inside the 10 on one of them, but Gost put it a yard too far.

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56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Anon Ymous // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:46pm

I'm not sure the mistakes are quite as large as you are making them out as being. In 2015, NE's offense was in shambles - they literally didn't have enough bodies to run a practice on that side of the ball - and they lost the prior game in large part because of bad field position after a short opening OT possession. As for this week, I suspect Bill would do differently in the playoffs, but there was over 8:00 remaining and they were "only" down two scores. That they tried to draw Jax offside adds another wrinkle to the equation.

All told, this doesn't ring of "tactical mistake" as much as it does of not necessarily having winning this particular game as the ultimate objective. Think of it more like bullpen usage in July vs. the playoffs.

EDIT: I'm not suggesting that NE didn't value winning at all, just that circumstance allowed other factors to creep in that wouldn't be weighed as heavily at other times. If there were only 5:00 remaining, for instance, they probably would have gone for it then.

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58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by PatsFan // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:09pm

Don't know how you don't have winning a game against a team you will likely be battling with for home field as your "ultimate objective".

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65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Anon Ymous // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:40pm

I thought I gave a pretty good example of when other factors play a role in how a game is approached - bullpen usage. Do you disagree with this? If not, do you think that there is no analog for it in football?

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84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by dmstorm22 // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:44pm

I don't think the bullpen usage is baseball in July is a fair analogue for a few reasons:

1.) Baseball has 162 games, so not pulling all advantages to win every game is far less impactful in baseball

2.) Bullpen usage is also dictated by the impact it has on overall pitcher availability. You can suboptimally use your bullpen to save better relievers for higher leverage situations or against better teams; The Patriots don't really have a finite number of plays or times they can use a play

3.) I don't think BB's decision to punt on 4th and 1 would be too much different in the playoffs; You can easily modulate a game-plan for the specifics of a game, but something that simple like going for it there isn't a 'save it for January' type move. Just go for it. Obviously the game situation dictated it, but I think FO has done the analysis - Belichick is not nearly as aggressive as he used to be

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95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Anon Ymous // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:06pm

Allow me to give making the analogy work a try. What about if Bill thinks the 4th and short plays have a reasonable chance of success, but given the game situation (still nearly a full field to go even if you convert, down two+ scores against a team that has been outplaying you all day) makes him think keeping those plays under wraps is best, which changes the balance for odds of success.

FWIW, I'm not trying to diminish Jax in any way here; this isn't a "they didn't want it anyway" type argument. To the contrary, Jax taking it to NE is why season goals start to get a heavier weighting.

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103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by mehllageman56 // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:42pm

To go back to the 2015 choosing to kick away to start overtime, Brady had just led the Pats to a game-tying touchdown. Kicking away would have made sense against Von Miller and Denver, but the 2015 Jets defense wasn't at that level. They were top ten in DVOA, but not like 2009 Rex Ryan good. And the Fitzpatrick offense was also top ten in DVOA that year. It was a mistake that allowed Denver to host the AFC championship game.

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74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by TomC // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:24pm

In general I prefer the low-tech nature of these comment threads, but this is crying out for a Herm Edwards gif.

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102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by mehllageman56 // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:38pm

Especially since Herm Edwards' Jets faced a similar situation in 2004 against the Patriots and went for it with 7 minutes left, and down only by 6. Pennington rushed for a first down, but the Jets eventually lost on downs at the Patriots 30 yard line.

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9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Cythammer // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:13am

In the Titans-Texans game Kevin Byard was still the leading passer for the Titans at the end of the third quarter, at a time when they were winning the game. Pretty nuts. In fact, I believe he was also the leading passer for both teams until some time in the second quarter. If you heard something like that and knew the Titans won, you'd probably figure they won thanks to a dominant running game. But it took them 34 rushes to get 110 yards. Houston had healthy advantages in total yardage and yards per play (7.0-5.0) so they really let one get away.

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12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:48am

I decided I'd take a little break from the NFL; between all the NO POLITICS IS RULE #1 THIS IS REDACTED in the offseason and the fact I have kind of tired of rooting for a team with a serial rapist as starting QB (in this case, the Bucs, not the Steelers), I canceled DirecTV and for the first time in 20 years, don't have NFL Sunday Ticket. I have grumbled around the last two Sundays, cooking lots, going to the store, and messing around with the kids.

So, you're telling me, after decades of fandom and following the Bucs religiously, I wind up missing two weeks of ridiculous offensive explosion, and the Bucs beating two of the teams I most enjoy watching them beat? I sat through multiple "Brian Griese, starting QB" eras, rookie Bruce Gradkowski, the Freemimplosion, Greg Schiano, and all the rest, and NOW you get exciting?

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13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:55am

Hell, a subscription to Fitzmagic's press conferences may be worth a couple hundred bucks!

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14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 11:58am

Oh, and for people who want to spend time with family on Sunday, Gamepass is the far superior, and cheaper route, compared to the Sunday Ticket!

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39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:32pm

Welcome back, Milkman! I thought of you (in regards to your angst about Bucs quarterbacks) this August when I watched this YouTube clip of "Best of Jon Gruden Mic'ed up" at the 11:54 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfCyfiL1FTs&t=411s

It was Gruden as the Buc's coach. He says "Get Gradkowski in the game!". As I watched, I thought to myself, 'Man, how bad to you have to be to get benched for Bruce freakin' Gradkowski?'. Then the screen shows the other quarterback wearing a #12 with "McCown" on the back, and I was like, 'Oooohh'.

Good or bad, watching Ryan Fitzpatrick play throughout his career has been a lot of fun, because he throws passes like he stopped giving a f*ck about the consequences like 10 years ago. That can lead to exciting big plays, or humorous bad plays.

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41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Travis // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:53pm

Then the screen shows the other quarterback wearing a #12 with "McCown" on the back, and I was like, 'Oooohh'.

That wasn't even the "good" McCown brother.

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47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:14pm

One of my takes on this season (hot-ness of said take to be determined) is that Fitzpatrick playing well shouldn't be shocking for two reasons.
One, while he's very much a journeyman/veteran backup, there's a reason he's been in the league so long and is capable of stretches of excellent play. Two, Fitzpatrick does one thing quite well, and that's throw the deep ball, which, conveniently enough, is the one on-the-field skill Winston is really lacking. Fitzpatrick is playing mistake-free ball right now, and he's taking advantage of the fact the Bucs have built a pretty ridiculous receiving corps, and somebody's going to be open.

Even if Fitzpatrick is throwing it deep, I'm assuming defenses recognize if Desean Jackson gets behind them, the ball won't be thrown four yards short or two yards out of bounds like usually happens.

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76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Tom Tulpa // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:27pm

I, too, am a Tampa Bay Buccaneer survivor. But I swear on Chris Sims' spleen that I have sat there dumbstruck these last two weeks, since I have no idea how to EAT THESE WINS. Suddenly every Sunday is Anything Can Happen Day. What's next, actually getting Chris Conte off the roster?

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77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:31pm

I am convinced that, if one day the world is utterly destroyed in some horrific apocalyptic event, all that will remain will be 1) cockroaches, 2) Josh McCown, and 3) Chris Conte still being on the Bucs.

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146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Chip // Sep 19, 2018 - 6:32pm

As a Bears fan, I can’t believe that he’s still in the league.

His poor ankle tackles still haunt me (especially in the 4th quarter of the GB game).

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19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by big10freak // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:13pm

KC has one wicked set of skill across the board on offense. Holy cow. And a dearth of talent on defense. If nothing else KC games should be wildly exciting. For Packer fans brings to mind 1983 when Lynn Dickey was healthy and he threw GB into and out of pretty much every game. For its time that offense was mind bending. Dickey average 9.2 yards per attempt and over 15 yards per completion. James Lofton average 22.4 yards per catch. Paul Coffman was the TE and not exactly swift but he averaged 15.4 yards per catch.

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21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:20pm

It's like a passing version of the Vermeil Chiefs.

Remember the No-Punts Allowed Divisional Round game against the Colts in 2003?
https://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200401110kan.htm

I can see something like that happening again this year.

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23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:23pm

When you consider what Reid was able to do with McNabb and Smith, two quality qbs, but with considerably less throwing talent than Mahomes, well, if Mahomes is mentally on top of it (and he appears to be so far), the Chiefs are going to win a lot of games scoring in the 40s, while yielding in the 30s

Yeah, you can win championship by that path, in this era.

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90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:42pm

It's tempting to assume the Chiefs win the AFC West easily, but they looked just as good early last year before falling off hard around week 7. Is this kind of thing common for Reid-coached teams? For all that Reid is a HoFer to me, he's a personification of "you can't teach a dog new tricks." Anything that's been a problem for him in the past is still a problem for him today.

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94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:55pm

Well, sure, after there are 5 or 6 games worth of film on Mahomes, opposing coordinators could start making things a lot harder for him. Mahomes has better throwing ability than any qb Reid has ever coached, except maybe for Favre, so it should be fun to watch.

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108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by xydux // Sep 17, 2018 - 7:42pm

So I did some Wikipediaing. Here's the record for the first six games, followed by the final record, for Andy Reid teams:

1999 Eagles: 2-4, 5-11
2000 Eagles: 3-3, 11-5
2001 Eagles: 3-3, 11-5
2002 Eagles: 4-2, 12-4
2003 Eagles: 3-3, 12-4
2004 Eagles: 6-0, 13-3 (Reached Super Bowl, benched starters for the majority of the final two games [both losses])
2005 Eagles: 4-2, 6-10
2006 Eagles: 4-2, 10-6
2007 Eagles: 2-4, 8-8
2008 Eagles: 3-3, 9-6-1
2009 Eagles: 4-2, 11-5
2010 Eagles: 4-2, 10-6
2011 Eagles: 2-4, 8-8
2012 Eagles: 3-3, 4-12
2013 Chiefs: 6-0, 11-5
2014 Chiefs: 3-3, 9-7
2015 Chiefs: 1-5, 11-5
2016 Chiefs: 4-2, 12-4
2017 Chiefs: 5-1, 10-6

Just eyeballing it, there doesn't seem to be much of a trend for his teams to start strong and finish weak, but doing a rudimentary numbercrunch using a straight-line projection (i.e. a 4-2 start tracks to a final record of 11-5 or 10-6, a 3-3 start tracks to a finish between 7-9 and 9-7...you get the picture) these are the results.

Andy Reid's teams underperformed (started strong before falling off) such a projection in 2004, 2005, 2012, 2013, and 2017. So five years out of 18.

Meanwhile, Andy Reid's teams overperformed (started weak and got better) such a projection in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015 (also possibly 2002 and 2016; 12-4 doesn't map conveniently to either 5-1 or 4-2). So six (or eight) years out of 18.

This suggests (and I stress that this wasn't an in-depth statistical analysis) that although there is variance between how they start and how they finish, Andy Reid's teams do not tend to always start hot and then fall off, or to always start cold and heat up as the season goes on. It's happened, sure, but there's no actual trend in that direction.

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109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 7:47pm

Nice analysis! Thanks for putting that together.

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115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by stoste // Sep 17, 2018 - 9:14pm

Great analysis in a short space of time. If Mahomes does drop off then a lot of people will talk to this being a typical Andy Reid team rather than there being more tape on Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, which is another analysis I'd love to see. Do players who start explosively start to come back down to earth once there is a certain amount of tape on them? - not asking you, just wish casting!

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22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:22pm

Fitzpatrick at the press-conference looked like Conor McGregor at a weigh-in.

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24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by achidester // Sep 17, 2018 - 12:35pm

Regarding the Raiders/Broncos game, the Raiders created a near-perfect offensive scheme for Derek Carr. They mitigated the pass rush with a lot of quick-release passes close to the line of scrimmage. Carr only threw 3 incompletions, and the last one was an absolute killer: up 19-10 with 13 minutes left in the game, Oakland had it 4th and 1 at Denver's 33. They showed play-action with the fullback on a delayed route. Bradley Chubb was the closest defender, and turned his head away from the LOS as the pass was being thrown. If the fullback had caught it, he easily would've gained 10 yards, and it's all but certain they make it at least 22-10 with ~10 minutes left; instead, he dropped it, and the Broncos scored to make it 19-17 on the next drive.

It was really discouraging to see Denver playing so much zone and giving as much pre-snap cushion as they did, given Oakland's scheme. Additionally, Keenum's INT was a killer; Denver's in FG range, and he tried to force a ball into double coverage on a route down the seam by Jake Butt.

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37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by BroncFan07 // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:22pm

At the beginning of the season, I thought Denver could start 2-0 and a reasonable record after 6 games would be 3-3. Next 4 games are at BAL, KC, at NYJ, Rams. I think the Jets game is probably the most winnable of those? Problem is, the Chiefs could be 6-0 after that span. Denver's offense seems a little bit better so far this year in that they've actually been running the ball decently. But of course, the QB they signed, who supposedly wasn't going to turn the ball over, keeps turning the ball over. Don't know, I hope they keep improving, but it seems like 8-8 is the ceiling for this year.

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96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:07pm

They look more competent than I expected, 8-8 may be pessimistic. Chubb may turn out to be worth passing on Rosen; putting a strong pass rusher opposite Von Miller seems to multiply his power, not just add to it.

Trading Talib was a mistake though, they traded him away with literally no plan, no development player in the wings. Cutting TJ Ward was the correct way to do things: get rid of the veteran because you have a kid (Justin Simmons) who's ready to take on Ward's role. Talib's public statements suggest he would have been happy enough playing in Denver another season, IIRC, so the whole thing reeks of mismanagement to me.

Adam Jones has been replacement level as a starting CB at least, maybe even slightly better, but how long can that possibly last? Chris Harris is still an All-Pro, but the team should have known that Bradley Roby (and the guys below him on the depth chart) aren't capable of picking up that muck slack.

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101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by mehllageman56 // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:35pm

We haven't seen them on the road yet, so let's not rush to judgement like I did earlier today with the Fins' chances in the AFC East. Curious about the Jets game, but going by weeks 1-2, you'd rather play the Jets at home than on the road. I do like the way the Broncos offensive line played against Seattle, didn't get to watch any of yesterday's game though.

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135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by cjfarls // Sep 18, 2018 - 2:04pm

DEN's oline looks a lot better through 2 games compared to the 2015-2017 dumpster fires, but SEA and OAK didn't have any elite edge rushers to really challenge the OTs - we'll see how they fare against the Bolts, etc. (and they also have to thanking the stars that Mack is gone). And while Billy Turner held up okay subbing at RT on sunday, I have to think that getting Veldheer out of the concussion protocol is really important.

But more importantly, Keenum has way better pocket presence than anyone they've had the past few years. He actually moves away from pressure, while still keeping his eyes downfield. If he can clean up his INTs, DEN's offense has some weapons.

Probably DEN's biggest weakness is coaching. They were playing off coverage all day and just never really adjusted which led to Carr's big numbers... but still only gave up 19 points despite losing the turnover battle/not getting any turnovers, so by scheme it seems like they were just really keeping stuff in front of them. Hard to complain since it mostly worked, but still iffy.

DEN looks pretty mediocre - talented enough that they could beat anyone, but inconsistent enough that they could also lose any game.

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136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by jtr // Sep 18, 2018 - 3:14pm

I assume they ditched Talib because of his attitude, but then Pacman is the only corner in the league with the attitude issues and poor understanding of firearm safety to match Talib's.

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29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Guest789 // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:01pm

It was extremely cathartic as a Packers fan to read that unbiased watchers agree that the game should've been over on the BS penalty on Mathews. Feel slightly better now.

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30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by theslothook // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:05pm

Pat Mahomes with 6tds is one of the more stunning statistics I've seen in a while and nearly unprecedented for a player making his third professional start. Ill try to watch him next week.

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36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by big10freak // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:21pm

One thing to enjoy is that this guy has one SERIOUS fastball. Per the old saying he could throw a snowball through a blast furnace

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61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Raiderjoe // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:18pm

wa s in attendabnce fir Pat Mahomes first win as Mets pitcher 5-15-99 if recall exatc date of Mets at Phillies game.

Saw son at Texas tecgh. rdiculous arm strength. can throw ion run, can throw without feet properly set, can deliver ball very quickly like J. Namath and D. Marino. P. Mahomes one of best arms ever. Made sure to draft in fantasy. Of course, Raiders will beat Cheigs once or twice tghis eason. In hole now, but signs are good. Still picjking Chiefs to finish 2nd place.

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97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:12pm

That's awesome! I saw Pat Mahomes pitch and got his autograph when he was playing AAA ball, must have been 1995, 1996?

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33 The Giants are a bad team

by Dales // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:09pm

Pretty obvious statement, but:

1) The OL is just as bad as last year's
2) Barkley's per-carry and per-catch stats were atrocious, but he was making guys miss consistently to get even that level of production.
3) The D seems to be holding its own, excepting right at the start of both of their games so far.
4) Eli's arm strength appears to be fine, but he is playing as though *he* thinks his arm strength is gone.
5) He has always been good for some funny facial expressions (Manning Face!) but the one he had on while being helped up later in the game was that of a shell-shocked quarterback.
6) Between 1, 4 & 5, it is hard to imagine his play improving throughout the year.
7) For all of the attention supposedly given to the special teams by the new braintrust, the results have been decidedly meh.
8) The Cowboys extended the lead to three scores with about 5 1/2 minutes to go (if I am remembering right). This is the situation where a team with an aging quarterback could give their young, developing quarterback some game experience. To do this, though, they would need to have him be active.
9) This team looks to be primed to get a shot at one of the top QBs in this upcoming draft. But they also do not have a 3rd round pick. It will be hard for them to fix the OL *and* get their QB of the future simultaneously in the offseason.
10) This team should be nowhere near a primetime or other national game slot. They not only aren't good enough, they also play a painful-to-watch brand of football.

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54 Re: The Giants are a bad team

by ChrisS // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:44pm

The chart showing Eli's passes relative to the LOS was funny. At first glance I was unable to determine which way was downfield and which was behind the LOS (old eyes could hardly see the small font scale).

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116 Re: The Giants are a bad team

by travesty // Sep 17, 2018 - 9:34pm

2) Barkley's per-carry and per-catch stats were atrocious, but he was making guys miss consistently to get even that level of production.

I was definitely reminded of watching Barry Sanders, when he would again and again pull off amazing moves for a one yard gain.

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38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by t.d. // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:23pm

In Bortles' defense, he's 26, and this is his second season without "the worst coach in NFL history to reach 50 games, by far, until yesterday" (when Hue Jackson coached his 50th game and broke a record I thought would never be broken). He had flashes of competence last season (the playcalling in the New England playoff game got conservative late, but, when they were being aggressive, he played outstanding, a week after just torching the Steelers). So he's 13-7 when Gus Bradley isn't his coach. There are also plenty of indications that Doug Marrone might just be pretty damned good, too (before he got to the Jags he'd turned around a worst-in-the-nation Syracuse program and had the first winning season in a decade for Buffalo, and, last year, the Jags had the point differential of a 12 win team- usually you guys seem to expect teams with dis-proportionally bad records in close games to regress towards the mean the next season, which is why I was surprised the Jag projection came out so poor)

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42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by ZDNeal // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:53pm

I didn't realize he had late-era Jeff Fischer as a coach.

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51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by t.d. // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:31pm

As bad as Fisher was with the Rams, in his worst season the Rams were about as good as the Jags were in Bradley's best season

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98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by BJR // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:19pm

I'm not yet sold on Marrone - I still can't put out of my mind the scaredy-cat collapse in the AFC Championship game last year. Of course they were more aggressive whilst holding the lead yesterday, they simply had to be. We'll see whether that is repeated when the stakes get higher in December/January.

I've now watched the Jags' last four games (including @Pit and @NE in last year's playoffs). Each time their offensive line has thoroughly dominated the opposition. I do not know much about the personnel on this line, but supposing that can continue, they are going to be very, very difficult to defeat.

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127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by t.d. // Sep 18, 2018 - 10:23am

I think it's fair to question how good Marrone is as a tactical gameday coach (after all, they underperformed their point differential by two full games last season, and it's probably a little worse than that- it gets harder and harder to get every additional pythagorean win the further from eight you get, so most upper echelon teams outperform their pythag win total; also, last year the Jags played to the level of the opponent a few times, dominating good teams and struggling with lousy ones). His personnel management and talent development are fantastic. The guy who replaced Cam Robinson on the first drive has a rep as a turnstile. Didn't hurt them yesterday, but it's something to keep an eye on (the middle of the line is decent-to-excellent)

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40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by big10freak // Sep 17, 2018 - 1:52pm

Lot of Packer fans griping about GB's offensive playcalling, but I had no issue with the approach taken. GB could have run more but that is at the QB's discretion, and Rodgers is predisposed to throw on a r/p option (gosh, why would the uber QB want to throw the ball??). But GB had their backs carry 21 times or about 1/3 of the plays. Would have preferred a bit more but again, no big issue. Thought the line blocking scheme was pretty solid though Justin McCray better show improvement next week against a less talented line or it may be Lucas Patrick showtime.

I am baffled as to how an experienced and great qb continues to get bumfuzzled by blitzing. Most qbs once they have been in the league a good while absolutely eat up the blitz. Not Rodgers. And nobody asks him the obvious of why do you not exploit teams when they blitz you? Same with time management. These two (McCarthy and Rodgers) are really cavalier with the timeouts and time in general.

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57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Guest789 // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:08pm

Is he particularly bad against the blitz? I seem to recall stats (either from here or PFF) that showed Rodgers has been one of the top-2 QBs in the league his whole career against the blitz.

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66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by big10freak // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:50pm

He was then the last several seasons that has changed dramatically. Tried to find the numbers but the gist is that he has really struggled against the blitz

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83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by dank067 // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:42pm

Not 100% sure if this is what you're referring to, but there's a table in this year's FOA (and pinned on Scott Kacsmar's twitter feed) that shows that Rodgers' Y/A against the blitz has declined dramatically after 2014. That said, it's not really out of line with how his Y/A has declined in general, and some of the other situational splits are even worse. Since 2015 Rodgers has somehow managed to rank 38th and 40th in Y/A on first downs and play action passes, respectively.

I'm not sure Rodgers has a specific problem against the blitz. Zimmer is more willing to blitz him than just about any opponent, and I thought Rodgers looked pretty good yesterday—better than his numbers turned out (and how DYAR will probably judge him) given that some of his best passes were wiped out by penalty or juuust missed. I think any struggles he might have against the blitz are just symptoms of the same sickness the offense hasn't been able to shake these last few years.

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125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Guest789 // Sep 18, 2018 - 10:10am

It's only one game, but ESPN stats and info had him going 9/9 for 87 yards against the blitz on Sunday.

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46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by oaktoon // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:06pm

Stat of the season, which tells you everything about the direction of the league in what is pretty obviously a battle for survival and avoiding the fate of boxing:

Aaron Rodgers career passer rating 103.9 (best all-time, i believe)

Yesterday's average QB rating leaguewide 105.1

Just wow

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55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by dmstorm22 // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:46pm

it was like 80.2 or something last week, well below the average week of the last 5-6 years.

Let's not go crazy due to one ridiculous week.

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48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by justanothersteve // Sep 17, 2018 - 2:24pm

I'm still not convinced the NFL cares much about player safety even after the ejection on the Cam Newton hit. If the NFL is truly serious they'll not only suspend the player for X number of games (even if it's one game), but also not allow the suspended player's position to be filled on the game roster for those games - essentially forcing the coach to suit up one less player on game day. This, more than any player punishment, will eliminate almost all these dangerous plays as coaches will hate having even once less player on the sideline.

The other option is go the hockey route and make the defense play with 10 men for X number of offensive plays after the penalty unless the offense scores. I don't think anyone would like trying to figure out how that would work or the results. But something has to be done to make the coaches actually care about this.

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73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:23pm

I think we've already slanted the rules as far toward the offense as can reasonably be tolerated.

If you want to play flag football, let's just play flag football and stop pretending we need to tackle.

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91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by justanothersteve // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:49pm

I don't think putting 10 against 11 is a good idea either. My point is the current punishment isn't preventing this from happening far too frequently. I think allowing one less player to suit up during suspensions for leading with the head would get the coaches' attention. There's little difference between suiting up 44 vs 45, yet I can bet coaches would make sure their players aren't tackling while leading with the head if they knew this was part of the punishment.

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93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:50pm

1. Why would the NFLPA allow a payable roster spot to remain vacant?
2. Why would the NFLPA allow players to be put in danger by an unfilled roster spot?

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105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by justanothersteve // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:51pm

1. Players on the active roster get paid regardless of whether they suit up on game day.
2. Nothing else is changed. The team roster would remain at 53 players.

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62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Raiderjoe // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:22pm

COWBOYS
DEE
V1

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64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:36pm

And the Vikings fire their kicker, and hire Dan Bailey. Shame they didn't do it the day after Bailey was cut. All the more reason to never draft a kicker; it makes you reluctant to cut him, if somebody better is cut by another team.

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67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by ChrisS // Sep 17, 2018 - 3:53pm

In other non-surprising news the browns fire their kicker (hired Greg Joseph).

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70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:04pm

In another shocking develppment, Bailey chooses the Vikings over the Browns!

All sarcasm aside, Schefter reports that Bailey had 4 offers last week, which is not surprising, but believed, it turned out correctly, that a better situation was likely to become available. If only the Vikings could have fired Carlson at the end of regulation yesterday, and had Bailey hired for overtime...

.

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143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by ghinterm // Sep 19, 2018 - 10:56am

The Bills could have tried to sign him during their game but nobody retired during the Vikings game.

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69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by rageon // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:02pm

You know how they have a rookie symposium where they teach the kids stuff like "half of you will gone in 2 years" and "don't buy all your buddies a new Lexus?"

Ifeel like they should do something like that for new executives. Lessons on nepotism, sunk cost, and "never draft a kicker."

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71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:09pm

Always thought Jimmy Johnson had the right approach. Just keep firing kickers until you get one on a hot streak, and if the hot streak doesn't last for a couple years, fire that guy, too, and start the hiring cycle anew.

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80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:34pm

Undrafted Dan Bailey was the most accurate FG kicker in NFL history up until a few years ago, when the crown was taken by undrafted Justin Tucker. I'm having a hard time understanding how, if Jimmy Johnson figured this out a couple decades ago, why it's still taking people so long to stop drafting kickers.

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141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Dan // Sep 18, 2018 - 11:21pm

Kickers usually only get drafted in round 5 or later, when most players aren't likely to pan out. The draft pick only needs to get you a slight edge on finding the next Legatron in order to be worth it (assuming that you can also make good personnel decisions after the draft about when to cut bait).

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99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:27pm

Counterpoint: the Broncos have had three kickers since 1993, and have seen consistently strong performance from the position. Playing at altitude doesn't make that kind of difference.

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132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 18, 2018 - 12:26pm

Counter-counterpoint: Of those three kickers, only Jason Elam was drafted, as Prater and McManus were UDFAs.. Again, nobody doubts the importance of a good kicker. It's just that burning a draft pick on a kicker does not increase your odds of actually getting a good kicker.

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78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:33pm

Kickers are like the extreme form of linemen. You don't notice them until you suddenly notice them, usually for bad reasons.

It's a position where you can literally lock up a roster spot for 20 years until you retire, or can be cut the day after a bad miss.

Prater got cut early in the season after one of the greatest kicker seasons in NFL history. The Lions signed him that week and haven't looked back. But up until then, they lost out on the #2 seed due to missed kicks in week 2 and fell to the #6 seed, due to sub-Chargersian kicking.

Point is, you do what you can to secure a good one, because they aren't common and you sometimes badly feel their absence.

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82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:41pm

The thing is, drafting one doesn't notably increase your chances of getting a good kicker. It seems counter-intuitive, but, if you look at the history of drafted kickers, it's not like they're exactly dominating NFL stat charts. It's the one position where there really doesn't seem to be a link between draft position and quality of career (it absolutely does exist for punters, but not kickers).

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85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Will Allen // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:04pm

I mean, the guy the Vikings fired today (purposely forgot his name) said yesterday that on his first miss, which was wide by about 25 yards, that he'd have to look at film to know what went wrong! This akin to one of the top 50 golfers in the world saying he had no idea what produced a banana slice that missed the fairway by 25 yards. As in, this never, ever, happens, unless the guy is just totally collapsed, for good. Even then, guys who do these repetitive motion athletic maneuvers at the highest level can tell you went wrong, even if they can't fix it. For this guy to have no idea how he missed the entire field, much less the uprights, well , that was crazy to me.

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110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by xydux // Sep 17, 2018 - 7:49pm

Maybe he didn't want to tell everybody he screwed up and decided to pull out the old coaches' line.

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75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 4:25pm

Re: the ball bouncing into the end zone on a muffed punt. The footballzebras said by rules standards, the kick is the impetus that put the ball in the end zone [until the ball is possessed].

Does this mean that ANY punt within the five-yard line can be "nudged" or tipped backward into the end zone by the returner? Obviously, trying to recover the then-live ball in the end zone is ridiculously risky, but how hard would it be to bat the ball out of the back of the end zone every time?

IIRC the NFL has some arcane rules making batting a loose ball illegal in some circumstances, but who could guess whether they apply here or not. I don't think this is a budding tactical revolution yet, sadly.

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86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:17pm

How is Detroit down to a 9.4% chance of winning the #1 pick?

They just sailed through the easy portion of their schedule 0-2!

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88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mike B. In Va // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:27pm

DId you *see* the Bills, Cards and Giants?

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92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 17, 2018 - 5:49pm

Did you see them lose to NYJ by 31 at home?

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100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by BJR // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:32pm

Provided Stafford stays healthy, Detroit's offence is surely good enough to win some games.

The Bills could be off the charts historically bad. But the Cardinals' schedule is absolutely brutal. I'm anticipating a close battle between those two for the #1 pick, unless some other team gets wrecked by injury.

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104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by mehllageman56 // Sep 17, 2018 - 6:46pm

Haven't watched the Cardinals so far this year, but I'm curious. How bad is their pass blocking? Just asking for a friend named Josh.

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138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by BJR // Sep 18, 2018 - 3:35pm

I don't know, I haven't watched a snap. I did read that the Cardinals did not run a single play in Rams territory, until the final play of the game. Now that is a STOMPing.

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111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 17, 2018 - 7:51pm

It's nice when people use words like pusillanimous in normal conversation

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119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by theslothook // Sep 18, 2018 - 12:50am

Its funny. I root for an offensive minded team that has been that way for a while. And I also believe offense > defense in general - over the long haul and how one should go about building their team. And yet, I love defense. And this season has three to four really interesting defensive teams that have been fun to watch. The bears through two games have a very smart, well rounded defense with one bright shining star. It was also fun watching the rams and broncos in week 1. Looking forward to seeing the Jags sometime this season.

Appreciating good defense is an art. And yes, there is a difference between good defense and awful offense.

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145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by Chip // Sep 19, 2018 - 6:30pm

Agreed.

An FO poster long ago posited that an elite defense requires more resources and no below replacement level players, largely bc they must defend against any and all tactics (Air Coryell, Power O run game, West Coast, RPO, etc). Any weak link and the chain is broken as the OFF attacks it.

Whereas, an elite OFF requires 2-3 blue chippers and that’s about it (one of which is preferably a HoF QB). You can scheme around below replacement level players since you attack and dictate the game plan.

This struck a chord as it’s the primary reason I love elite DEF. A total team effort - guys staying in their gaps, filling running lanes, CBs playing with proper leverage / technique, which is a rarity is today’s professional sports. When supplemented with brilliant strategy and tactics, it’s a total joy to watch.

- Bears fan
(& admirer of Lovie Smith and Vic Fangio)

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120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by yavimaya_eldred // Sep 18, 2018 - 1:25am

Footage from the Packers-Vikings game needs to be burned. That was one of the ugliest, dumbest, and most frustrating games I've ever watched, on top of being one of the worst officiating performances I've seen since replacement refs. From the Packers side, some things have stood out to me after the first couple games (admittedly a small sample size);

1) Despite having a good offensive line, a good receiver group, good running backs, and one of the best quarterbacks ever, moving the ball for this offense is like pulling teeth. It's depressing to be jealous of Ryan Fitzpatrick- and Blake Bortles-led offenses when your team has talent that matches or exceeds theirs, but here we are.
2) The pass rush is horrific. Nick Perry isn't very good, and Clay Matthews is garbage at this point in his career. The defensive line is pretty good, but outside of Reggie Gilbert the pass rushing linebackers are really, really bad. Bad enough to be unable to exploit bad backup tackles.
3) I was cautiously optimistic about Mike Pettine as the new D coordinator coming into this year, but it's been a rough two games. Even after Kevin King left with injury, you have two solid to good young corners (Alexander and Jackson), one okay old corner (Williams), and one slow and terrible corner (House). The Vikings have two great receivers and a pile of flaming garbage behind them. Who's covering Diggs with the game on the line? House. Result? TD. He didn't even switch onto Diggs, he covered him off the snap! I can't wrap my mind around how stupid that is.
4) The safeties are still terrible. Brice had two puzzling and stupid plays, getting lost in no-man's land on Diggs' long TD and taking his eyes off the ball on Thielen's tying TD which was stupid because a) he gave up at worst a pass breakup and likely an easy interception, b) put his head down to deliver a big hit which if it lands results in a penalty, and c) he missed hitting Thielen altogether and nearly destroyed his own teammate. Dix still looks like he's playing to avoid contact. Just sign Eric Reid already.
5) The young corners are good, but they're gonna be hung out to dry by the safeties and pass rush.
6) It's will never cease to amaze me that the head coach and quarterback both value 5 yards more than a timeout. I don't even understand how a coach gets a job in the league with clock management this bad, much less keep one. They literally wasted a timeout in a 3rd and long situation in the first quarter when the draw-the-defense-offsides ploy didn't work.
7) The special teams are pretty good. It feels weird to praise a unit led by Ron Zook.

I thought the changes in the front office and the coaching staff would breath some life into the team, but they look like the same team they've been the last few years, where they underperform their talent level and scuffle to win games. I really hope I'm wrong, but even if Rodgers plays every game they reek of a 9-6-1 team to me that barely makes the playoffs, maybe squeaks out a first round win, and gets curb stomped in the divisional round. I know that sounds pretty good to most fanbases, but considering the talent level that's pretty disappointing. I've come to grips with the idea that possible the most talented quarterback ever is going to end his career with one super bowl ring.

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124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by rj1 // Sep 18, 2018 - 10:01am

Is Eli just done being a QB that can throw downfield?

It happened to his brother.

Another provocative question to ask, I know it's easier said than done. But with the state of rules for pass rushers and the QB, I think if I was a DL/linebackers coach I'd tell my players to quit aiming for the sack and instead just put your hands on the ball and attempt to strip it.

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137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

by jtr // Sep 18, 2018 - 3:26pm

>But with the state of rules for pass rushers and the QB, I think if I was a DL/linebackers coach I'd tell my players to quit aiming for the sack and instead just put your hands on the ball and attempt to strip it.

That would work until a star QB dislocates his shoulder trying to wrestle for the ball with a defender, and the idiots in charge of this league ban the stripsack.

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