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.
Oakland Raiders 20 at Miami Dolphins 28
Zach Binney: Just to be first on the record here, now that everyone's talking about Florida teams being 6-0 I bet they go no better than 1-2 this week. It feels like a trap game for Miami and Fitzmagic turns back into a pumpkin this week.
Aaron Schatz: The Dolphins have forgotten to cover the middle of the field today. Halfway through the first quarter and Jordy Nelson already has 139 yards and a touchdown. The first two catches were against huge holes in zone in the middle of the field: linebacker stayed up, safety went a different direction in the back, and Nelson was wide open. Third catch was man coverage where Nelson just blew past Bobby McCain and then Minkah Fitzpatrick had, once again, gone the other direction as the deep safety. The Raiders clearly saw something on film about where the safeties tend to go in deep coverage. Raiders got up to fourth-and-goal and went for it from the 1, but got stuffed on a fullback give to Keith Smith, so it's still just 7-0 Oakland.
Zach Binney: Well, Miami IS a popular destination for old men, and Jordy Nelson seems right at home. Three catches for 139 yards already, but a fourth-down goal-line stand by Miami has them only down 7-0 midway through the first. With safety Reshad Jones out with a shoulder issue the Dolphins defense looks in complete disarray early in this one. They're frantically calling out signals and resetting through the snap. They just look unprepared.
Zach Binney: Still doesn't look like the Dolphins know what they're doing as they had three guys covering, I believe, Amari Cooper deep. Fortunately for them, Derek Carr decided to chuck it up for an easy pick.
Then Miami promptly gets a holding penalty, runs up the middle for a couple yards, and throws two passes behind the line of scrimmage. The fans are, rightly, a little displeased.
And on the ensuing punt we have a touchback that places the ball on the Raiders 2 because of a block in the back at the 4. That's a fun line for the stat book.
It's hard to tell exactly what happened, but you could make an argument that the new body weight sack rule just CAUSED an injury to Miami's William Hayes. He sacked Carr squarely and then tried to kick his right leg out to avoid putting his whole weight on Carr. His knee hit awkwardly and he limped off the field after a visit from the trainers. I wonder, if he had been able to go squarely through Carr, if he wouldn't have hurt his knee.
Aaron Schatz: The Dolphins finally remembered on their last drive of the first half that they have passes in the playbook in between 2 and 30 yards. Bing, bing, bing, three quick first downs, offense finally looks really good, and then it all got bogged up in penalties that ended up knocking them out of field goal range, 10-7 Oakland at halftime.
Zach Binney: Oh my word. The Dolphins take their first lead of the game on a flip back to Albert Wilson, who then passed it to a wide open Jakeem Grant. Two nifty jukes by Grant later, and Miami is up 21-17. I forget where I saw it, but this week at least one writer wrote about Wilson's versatility and noted he played quarterback in high school. Miami certainly leveraged his talents there, though Grant was so wide open I'm pretty sure at least half our writers could've made that throw.
Aaron Schatz: Dolphins deep in the playbook today. They have just 9 yards on ten carries with regular running back handoffs. But they got an 18-yard touchdown on one of those touch passes from Ryan Tannehill to Grant, those little forward flips that are really run plays but count as pass plays. Then the wide receiver option pass from Wilson to Grant for another touchdown. Did we all remember to play Jakeem Grant in DFS today? No?
The other major storyline in the Dolphins-Raiders game is that injuries have really hurt the Dolphins' ability to rotate their defensive linemen, so those guys are tired. Marshawn Lynch is breaking through them and pushing for an extra couple yards on each run but it doesn't really feel like the Raiders passing game can take advantage of it. Raiders are also down a guy, Donald Penn got a concussion so they have T.J. Clemmings (awful in Minnesota) now playing right tackle.
Bryan Knowles: The Raiders are now the second team in NFL history to be leading at halftime in their first three games ... and end up at 0-3.
Green Bay Packers 17 at Washington Redskins 31
Vince Verhei: Broadcast opens with a graphic showing that Jay Gruden's win-loss record is much better when his team scores first. (I suspect this is true of all coaches, of course.) Just a few plays into the game, Paul Richardson puts Gruden and Washington ahead 7-0 on a 46-yard touchdown, the rare deep ball from Alex Smith. Jaire Alexander and Kentrell Brice had Richardson in bracket coverage and he just ran right between and by them on a skinny post.
Bryan Knowles: I do hate stats like that; teams in general have a .682 winning percentage when scoring first (since 2015), and 28 of 32 teams have a winning record then. Everyone's better when scoring first!
That being said, there may be something to the Gruden first-drive success; Jon Gruden's Raiders scored on their first drive today (thanks to a 60-yard pass to Jordy Nelson); they've scored on their first drive in all three of their games so far, something they did just five times in 2017.
Aaron Schatz: We did run with one of those "score first" winning percentage stats in the book this year, but Jacksonville was 10-2 in that situation last year, a lot better than the general .682 winning percentage.
Vince Verhei: Washington leads 28-10 at the half and it doesn't feel like it has been that close. Packers would be down by more if not for two big Washington mistakes. Jordan Reed quit on a route and gave up an easy interception to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and then Josh Norman didn't get the safety help he was expecting when released Geronimo Allison inside, leading to a 64-yard touchdown.
Otherwise, Washington's old men are just having their way with Green Bay's young secondary. Smith has 214 yards and two touchdowns on only 15 throws. Adrian Peterson has 87 yards and two touchdowns on only 12 carries. Vernon Davis has a 50-yard catch.
Biggest news might be a pair of injuries, one to each team. Muhammad Wilkerson was carted off after a teammate hit him in the legs. He looked to be in great pain. And Morgan Moses has left for Washington with a concussion.
Packers open the first half with a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capping it off with Rodgers-to-Adams with the goal-line slant pick play that apparently always works unless you are the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Then they force a three-and-out and quickly reach Washington territory, and it looks like things are about to get very interesting. But then they go for it on fourth-and-2 at the 43. It looks like they convert, but on instant replay it's clear that Randall Cobb dropped the pass and Washington takes over.
And then -- stop me if you've heard this before -- Clay Matthews gets a sack, but it's wiped out on a rougher the passer penalty. Helmet hit the shoulder pad, so that's not it. Never touched his legs. I guess it's the "landing on the quarterback" rule, but, I mean, it's a tackle. It's a sack. Sometimes when humans tackle other humans they land on them. I really don't know what else he's supposed to do. I'd start coaching guys to wrap up, but don't put him down. Make the refs call in the grasp, I guess.
Bryan Knowles: The next time Clay Matthews breaks into the backfield, he's going to ignore the quarterback and just tackle the referee instead. This was ruled roughing:
Roughing the passer. Clay Matthews may actually kill a referee at this point pic.twitter.com/ta9zJqrAOO
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) September 23, 2018
Dave Bernreuther: Clay Matthews should just walk off the field and retire, Vontae Davis-style, after that RTP call.
It's not quite as terrible as last week's, but it's still terrible. He was running full speed. He didn't touch the head or use any kind of excessive violence at all. He tackled the quarterback in the only way that was possible. And once again, was flagged and extended a drive. What a joke.
Andrew Potter: The most damning thing for me, on that Matthews sack, is that he had just made what should have been a terrific defensive play, yet he was immediately worried that he was going to be flagged for it. Of course he was right to be worried, because the NFL's current interpretation of the roughing rule is beyond stupid.
Indianapolis Colts 16 at Philadelphia Eagles 20
Scott Kacsmar: Maybe there was a slight deflection I missed, but how was Andrew Luck able to throw to center Ryan Kelly on third down to avoid a sack and not get a penalty? A center cannot declare as an eligible receiver if he is at his normal position of center. Kelly was not downfield blocking at least, but that just seemed like something that should get flagged and wasn't. It's not a big deal since the drive was over, but if a team was to do that on first down to save about 5 yards of field position, then I think that'd be an advantage to exploit at times.
The Eagles scored a touchdown on Carson Wentz's opening drive after the Colts had a lot of trouble guarding the two tight ends.
Scott Kacsmar: Luck had a sweet 33-yard scramble to convert a third-and-9. That's the Colts' longest play of the season. He's still sitting on 24 yards with his 11 throws. On the plus side, the defense has gotten after Wentz on subsequent drives following a bad start.
Colts catch a big break. They blew a coverage to leave Wendell Smallwood wide open down the seam, but the pass wasn't perfect so he fell down after the catch instead of scoring. On first-and-goal, a bad snap meant Wentz had to eat the ball and that turned it into a second-and-14 situation. Colts held to force a field goal, but that bad snap (it has been raining) was just a good break for Indy.
It will go down as a dropped touchdown for Chester Rogers, but I thought Luck had the space to run for a first down on third-and-4. He was a little high with the throw, but Rogers has to come down with that one. They settle for a tying field goal that Adam Vinatieri just snuck inside the right post.
Dave Bernreuther: He did, Scott, but I don't blame him for throwing that one, it should've been caught.
Luck looks like he's raising his arm up as one motion, then throwing it with just his wrist. It's weird. But a few plays earlier (prior to the nice fourth-down conversion) he was lucky not to be intercepted on a floater he threw to a wide open T.Y. Hilton that arrived about a full second late. Granted, he was throwing from the far hash, but that ball just hung up there forever. His mind and his accuracy look to have returned, but I've seen a few throws today that make me wonder if maybe he actually has lost a bit of velocity after all. I had previously dismissed such criticism as lazy. Now I'm not so sure.
A Wentz pick -- telegraphing a throw to a covered Zach Ertz -- sets the Colts up inside the red zone again, where Chester Rogers drops his second consecutive touchdown pass (although in this case it doesn't count due to holding). If the Colts can convert here, they'll have a lead in a game where they were completely outplayed in the first half.
Scott Kacsmar: Some of Luck's passes have definitely floated. He gave Eric Ebron a shot in the end zone on another third down, but Jalen Mills did a good job on the coverage despite the size disadvantage. Still, that's an opportunity you'd like to see your big free agent signing make a play on. Colts lead 13-10.
Dave Bernreuther: The Colts are still not a very good team, so while they were leading, they were winning ugly, and it took a fair amount of good fortune in the form of Wentz red zone turnovers for them to be in the lead. So it seemed like it'd only be a matter of time ... and it was. A long, long time. The Eagles cap a drive that took the better part of an hour -- featuring several drive-extending penalties (some of which were actually deserved) -- with a Wendell Smallwood touchdown dive, and the better team is winning again.
That said, Leonard and Hunt are playing their hearts out for the Colts defense. And this shift back to a Tampa-2 with an unknown defensive coordinator and all new personnel has led to a significant improvement over the past few years. They don't look GOOD ... but they no longer look like a laughingstock either.
To clarify: 2 drives -- against the colts -- longer than that one. Poorly phrased.
— Garrison Carr (@GarrisonCarr) September 23, 2018
I'll just come right out and say it: Andrew Luck looks terrible right now.
He just missed Eric Ebron -- badly -- for what should've been an easy touchdown. Running right to left, he had a step on the defender, and Luck was both slow/late and just flat out inaccurate, throwing way behind him. After a short throw over the middle to get them closer on the next play, he then overthrew Hilton (I think -- the feed went out) on a fade, leaving the Colts with a decisive fourth-and-goal. Which I now can't watch.
OK, I saw the replay. Ugh. That was a hideous combination of ugly and unlucky. Luck falls down at the 20 after contact, and it looks like the Eagles will escape.
Bryan Knowles: The Colts pulled Andrew Luck for the Hail Mary, turning to Jacoby Brissett. Brissett gets it into the end zone, but it's batted down and the Eagles win.
How bad is Luck's shoulder if you pull him there? Wow. Can't throw the ball 50 yards in the air?
Scott Kacsmar: Luck would have needed about a 60-yard throw to do the Hail Mary justice. That's not the biggest ask of any starting quarterback in the NFL, so I do find that to be concerning that they had to put Brissett in off the bench for that one. This offense just looks bad so far. I can see changing the scheme in an order to get the ball out more quickly to keep Luck healthier, but after three games of this, I'm really wondering if this is just how he's going to be post-surgery. It's a sad thought really.
Dave Bernreuther: After a fun punt return wherein Colts defender George Odum managed to commit TWO penalties (though the block in the back looked like it was in the side to me), Luck throws way behind an open Eric Ebron AGAIN, leading to a double bobble and only one foot in for the incompletion, and then for a short completion before ... being relieved by Brissett for the final play.
To be fair, Brissett's Hail Mary throw was pretty close to perfect.
But yeah, that does speak volumes about Luck and Reich's trust in that right shoulder.
The final line today for Andrew Luck showed 6.6 yards per completion. Not per attempt, but per COMPLETION.
Yes, this was a road game in the elements against last year's Super Bowl winner. But the Eagles didn't win because of their defense. And while Luck floated several balls and missed on others, he's still smart and he's still accurate. Some of that stat line is from some very timid play calling, which popped up throughout the game as well. It wasn't Pep Hamilton-like combinations of multiple routes with no chance of success, but it was certainly a lot of quick-release short passes, which to my eyes today came to covered guys without much hope for YAC. They're either afraid of the offensive line (justified, I guess, but their offensive line woes have always been overstated due to the sacks that were Luck's or Brissett's fault) or they're still hiding something about Luck's arm. And after today, every defensive coordinator in the league should start cheating up and daring Luck to beat them deep.
Hopefully it's just growing pains. And maybe in a month this will all be in the past. But right now, the common opinion is that Luck's arm strength is poor ... and as much as it pains this contrarian Colts fan to admit, they're right.
Vince Verhei: Chase Stuart on Andrew Luck:
Andrew Luck averaged 6.6 yards per completion today, the lowest of his career.
Three of his five lowest Yd/Cmp games have come in his three starts in 2018.
Here is his Yd/Cmp for every game of his career. Don't tell me Luck is back. pic.twitter.com/hAlvnSD3GX
— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) September 23, 2018
New Orleans Saints 43 at Atlanta Falcons 37 (OT)
Bryan Knowles: Speaking of scoring first, the Saints got out of their Week 2 funk fairly quickly. They open the game with three successive first downs, finding the end zone to take an early 7-0 lead. There was tons of concern in New Orleans this week, wondering why the Saints had so much trouble against the Browns; they appear to be fine.
The Saints made a change at corner this week, benching the struggling Ken Crawley and replacing him with P.J. Williams. It hasn't quite worked so far; Calvin Ridley has been beating Williams fairly consistently. On Atlanta's last drive, Ridley converted a third-and-10 and then immediately caught an 18-yard touchdown against Williams to tie the game.
"18-yard" touchdown is the key bit here. The Falcons have now scored on five consecutive trips to the red zone, which is a relief after their opening-game (and all of last season) struggles.
Dave Bernreuther: What happened to the aggressive and confident Sean Payton? After a long drive and with the ball on the 3, at home, with that defense, he sends out the field goal unit? I am not amused.
Vince Verhei: Big news at halftime is that Drew Brees has 20 completions and has broken Brett Favre's career record of 6,300. He tied the record on what was technically a failed completion, a 10-yard gain on third-and-14, but it set up Will Lutz for a 49-yard field goal attempt. Lutz's boot hit the upright but doinked through, and that has been the difference in the game so far as New Orleans leads 16-14.
Otherwise, not a ton to say. Two good team are both playing well. Calvin Ridley has been Atlanta's star -- after his early success, he beat the formerly good Marshon Lattimore for a 75-yard touchdown. I don't know this, but it feels like Lattimore has given up more long touchdowns in the first ten quarters of 2018 than he did in all of 2017.
Bryan Knowles: Another touchdown for Calvin Ridley, and the Saints' secondary is just swiss cheese at this point. Patrick Robinson was carted off the field with a leg injury on the previous play, so the already undermanned and underpeforming Saints are in serious trouble. Marcus Williams was the closest defender on the Ridley touchdown, and he wasn't really that close.
The Falcons still have no idea how to use Julio in the red zone, but at least they've figured out other options. 21-16 Falcons.
Special teams coming up huge for the Saints. Alex Okafor blocks a Falcons punt, giving the Saints the ball inside the red zone. Five plays later, Cameron Meredith finds the end zone, and the Saints regain the lead, 23-21.
Calvin Ridley may be having a day, but Michael Thomas is trying to match him on the other side. No, he's not finding the end zone, but he has been targeted six times, and has six catches, including a clutch third-down conversion there to make sure that it was a touchdown, not a field goal, on the short field.
Make it seven straight trips to the red zone ending in scores for the Falcons. We slammed on Steve Sarkisian tons during the opening night game, so credit where credit is due; the Falcons offense looks a lot better close to the goal line now. Fewer utterly baffling play calls and more just letting the exceptionally talented skill positions, you know, do football things. Two-point conversion is good, and it's 29-23 Falcons. This has been a fun second half.
We asked where the aggressive and confident Sean Payton went earlier in this game. At least he made the right call when the situation was most dire -- Saints go for it on fourth-and-1, and Drew Brees hits Zach Line for the go-ahead touchdown. Seventh lead change of the game!
Special teams saved the Saints earlier, and now they kill them. The Saints finally manage to stop the Falcons in the red zone, forcing a field goal -- but they get called for leaping. Very next play, Matt Ryan throws his fifth touchdown of the day, hitting the two-point conversion as well, and it's 37-30, Falcons.
This is a classic 2016 (and 2015, and 2014, and 2013...) Saints/Falcons game, here.
Dave Bernreuther: I believe it was contact with the long snapper, not leaping, in Atlanta.
Either way, that's pretty terrible.
Vince Verhei: I can't keep track of everything happening in this game, but as you read this, it's safe to assume somebody just blocked a punt or scored a touchdown.
Bryan Knowles: Michael Thomas, targeted 10 times. Ten receptions, 129 yards. He cannot be covered.
And, hey, no missed field goal in overtime! The Saints take the overtime kickoff and march down the field. Fourteen plays, 77 yards, capped off by a game-winning touchdown dive from Drew Brees. Don't settle for field goals; let your stars win the game. Send this game film to Minnesota, Green Bay, Baltimore, and Cleveland.
San Francisco 49ers 27 at Kansas City Chiefs 38
Converting is so important. On a fourth-and-1 later in the drive, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs ran an option to convert, rather than settling for a field goal. That extends the drive, and they end up cashing in for a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
Derrik Klassen: Chiefs got into a fourth-and-1 just outside the red zone and wasted no time in keeping the offense onto the field. Initially came out in a tight under-center formation, but Patrick Mahomes made a switch at the line and shifted into a shotgun look with the running back away from the formation. True to Andy Reid's spread form, the Chiefs ran speed option to the boundary and Mahomes was able to scoot past the marker. The Chiefs punched it into the end zone a few players later.
I know going for that fourth-and-1 should be common sense, but to see no hesitation in going for it there from Reid and Mahomes was nice. That is the type of play calling you want to see from a winning team.
Aaron Schatz: Pet peeve: play-by-play guy in this game called it a "read option." Announcers, please know the difference between speed option and read option.
Derrik Klassen: Chiefs just got bailed out on third-and-16 by a defensive pass interference that could have and should have been avoided by the 49ers. Since the penalty was in the end zone, Chiefs got the ball right near the goal line and punched in another score on the ground.
Chiefs also evaded a third-and-15 or so with a good screen play to set up the fourth-and-1 earlier. If the 49ers are going to just keep gifting the Chiefs conversions on third-and-long after stiffing them the first two plays, they are going to be in for a long, long day.
Bryan Knowles: Patrick Mahomes is insane. San Francisco finally gets some pressure on him, but Mahomes scrambles around and unleashes a heck of a sidearm dart to the end zone. 21-7, and the Chiefs haven't missed an offensive beat. Even with that defense, I'm finding it hard to not think that they're the second-best team in the AFC.
Derrik Klassen: Mahomes just ran at least 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage to escape the 49ers pass rush and ... delivered a strike in the back corner of the end zone on the run. Myself and many others expected Mahomes to be good and exciting, but this good, this early? Mahomes feels nearly unprecedented. This is 1984 Dan Marino stuff.
Bryan Knowles: The question now is not "if" Mahomes will pass Peyton Manning's record for passing touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season, but by how many. He has two today, bringing his total for the year to 12, tying Manning's rate the year he threw 55 touchdowns. He's just finding everyone, everywhere all the time. The 49ers' defense hasn't been great this year, but Mahomes just is not in any way, shape, or form bothered by either the coverage or the pass rush. He's exceptional, and having another exceptional day.
It doesn't help that the 49ers have seven penalties for 91 yards already in the first half; the Chiefs don't really need so many extra chances, but they're certainly taking advantage of them. Oh, and Matt Breida, the league's leading rusher, just went down on a non-contact injury, meaning the 49ers will be down to their third running back, Alfred Morris.
28-7, and this one feels over before halftime.
Derrik Klassen: So uhh ... how many passes is Chad Henne going to throw today?
Bryan Knowles: I love watching Patrick Mahomes, and I love the new NextGen Stats play visualizations. With their power combined, I present you to diagram of the amazing, sidearmed scrambling touchdown from earlier in the first half.
— Nick Shook (@TheNickShook) September 23, 2018
Derrik Klassen: It's amazing how much better San Francisco's offense looks in the second half now that they are not committing as many penalties and dropping passes. Still a couple scores down to Kansas City, but after just having scored to make the game 35-24, it is refreshing to see the offense with some life now. Also worth noting that Kansas City's offense is 0-for-2 on their drives in the second half thus far. We have a game again!
Bryan Knowles: The 49ers have been fighting back furiously in the second half ... but Jimmy Garoppolo's knee just buckled, and he has been carted into the locker room. C.J. Beathard comes in and throws a touchdown pass ... but it's called back by a (fairly ticky-tack, if I can give a biased opinion) OPI, and the 49ers have to settle for a field goal.
38-27 Chiefs, but no 49ers fan is looking at the scoreboard right now; they're all worried about Jimmy G's knee.
Andrew Potter: Ticky-tack is the biased opinion ... in favor of the Chiefs. Appalling is the unbiased one. It should never in a million years have been a penalty. Kyle Juszczyk was jammed on his route by, I believe, Anthony Hitchens, and waved a hand in the air as the pass fluttered by him to George Kittle in the back corner of the end zone. Somehow, that resulted in Juszczyk being called for offensive pass interference, despite him doing absolutely nothing to block Kittle open.
Bryan Knowles: They say it's an ACL for Jimmy Garoppolo, with an MRI tomorrow to confirm.
Scott Kacsmar: Mahomes and Garoppolo were two of the biggest wild cards coming into 2018. I didn't think either of these teams was Super Bowl-ready, but if those quarterbacks could live up to the potential, then all bets were off. Garoppolo didn't start out as a stud this year, but it's terrible that he likely tore his ACL. You just lose so much interest in that team if C.J. Beathard is the quarterback the rest of the way. At least it has happened early enough that he should be fine by Week 1 of next season, but still hate to see another major quarterback injury.
As for the Chiefs, what a dynamite start on offense again. Hard to feel bad about what the Chargers and Steelers did against this unit when it started the game today with five touchdown drives. Mahomes has been magnificent and most of the games I can't wait to see on the 2018 schedule involve the Chiefs now. They're the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 after allowing more than 24 points in each game. That's not going to be sustainable, and there will come a day when Mahomes is clearly off or rattled by a defense. But if that only happens twice a season, doesn't happen in the playoffs, or the defense can finally step up the day it happens, then the Chiefs should be just fine.
Tennessee Titans 9 at Jacksonville Jaguars 6
Bryan Knowles: Troubles in Tennessee. Marcus Mariota started the game on the bench, as his elbow injury hadn't healed enough to start the game today. He was active, though, and that becomes critical now, as Blaine Gabbert has left after getting clobbered; he's in the medical tent in what looks like the concussion protocol.
So, Mariota can't grip the ball, but he's in at quarterback now. That may be less than ideal.
Dave Bernreuther: Still probably better than Gabbert, though. Either way, the Jaguars defense is probably going to have some fun.
Scott Kacsmar: Must be opposite day in the NFL. Remember when the Jaguars looked so good last week against New England in what may have been the best game Blake Bortles ever played? They're in a 3-3 tie at halftime at home with the Titans, who have 1 net passing yard from Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert. The Titans would be up 6-3, but Ryan Succop missed a 48-yard field goal to end the half. Titans swept the Jaguars last year, but with the quarterback situation and a rookie head coach, you would think the Jaguars would be doing much better than this.
Tom Gower: Halftime in Jacksonville with the Titans and Jaguars level at 3. The score accurately reflects the level of offensive competence displayed by the teams through two quarters. Blake Bortles, not good for seven of eight quarters against Tennessee last year, is back to missing easy throws after last week's fine performance, with drops an issue when he has gotten the ball close. The Titans can't run with consistency, Gabbert is hurt, Marcus has no grip, and T.J. Yates is sitting on his couch.
Vince Verhei: The stats, the result, the winner, the loser, these are all secondary as far as I am concerned. This game is historic just because the Jaguars are wearing white shirts and teal pants together for the first time even though that combo has been available in pretty much every NFL video game since they joined the league a couple of decades ago.
Dave Bernreuther: Do you like that look, though, Vince? I think it looks awful. And I like teal. Maybe it's partly the clash with the Titans' light blue on the field at the same time, but my eyes are really not happy, and I'm not talking about the quality of play.
Bryan Knowles: The teal pants look good, but Dave is right; the clash with the Titans' light blue makes the game annoying to watch. Well, more annoying than it otherwise would be.
Dave Bernreuther: After a laugher of a last-ditch lateral play, the home crowd boos the Jags off the field, and after that woofer, we may have seen the last of the teal pants.
The good news for the Jags is that even the Super Bowl winning/contending Seahawks teams were good for a 9-6 game every once in a while, so it's still possible to be a great team despite laying the occasional egg.
Meanwhile, by the stats, Blaine Gabbert is now 2-0 as a starting quarterback. In 2018.
Vince Verhei: Wait, what?! Tennessee WON? I actually hadn't seen any of that game since halftime. That's ... wow. Blake Bortles was so good last week.
Tom Gower: Tennessee's offense worked a bit better in the second half. There was still very little explosive element to it. Their longest gain of the day was 22 yards, where Corey Davis eluded A.J. Bouye and Telvin Smith for maybe 15 yards after catch. Their second-longest pass gained 12 yards. But Jacksonville didn't have a play longer than 19 yards on their own and there were no big special teams plays or turnovers (until the Jaguars lateralfest at the end of the game failed), so that the Titans managed to cadge together two drives versus just one for the Jaguars in a pretty fast-moving second half was the difference in the game.
Takeaways from this game? I mentioned Bortles' struggles at halftime, and they continued into the second half. No big plays, and not even a steady diet of intermediate plays. For the Titans, they're just trying to stay alive offensively with baling wire and string and hope it's enough. It has been for two division games, surprisingly. Hopefully, one day, eventually Marcus Mariota's nerve will heal and he'll be able to throw the ball again and do what they spent all offseason planning to do instead of going extremely run-heavy even if they're only getting 3 yards per carry (Dion Lewis/Derrick Henry a combined 27 carries for 83 yards today).
Buffalo Bills 27 at Minnesota Vikings 6
Scott Kacsmar: Rare to see a 17-point favorite in Week 3, but Buffalo going to Minnesota did look like a big mismatch. However, it's hard to account for a pair of strip-sacks like Kirk Cousins gave up in the game's first 10 minutes. That led to two short fields and 10 easy points for the Bills, who already had a long touchdown drive led by Josh Allen. This looks pretty bad and completely blows up the idea that Latavius Murray was going to be a good fantasy play with Dalvin Cook out. Vikings can't totally abandon the run yet, but Cousins will have to throw a lot here.
A 17-point underdog hasn't won outright in the NFL since Washington shocked Dallas in 1995 in a game I honestly don't think has ever come up in anything I've cared to research over the years. This could be a huge blow to a team that tied in Green Bay and was expecting to coast to an easy win over a team that had 0-16 potential.
Vince Verhei: Not just the strip-sacks, but also totally blown coverage where nobody was within 20 yards of Jason Croom on his touchdown. Vikings look awful at home early today.
I think the Bills, Raiders, and Giants were the only teams to get picked to win the first draft pick in our preseason predictions. Right now, all three teams are ahead, by a combined score of 31-3.
Dave Bernreuther: Just as we all expected, the Bills are up 17-0 and knocking on the door with first-and-goal to open the second quarter. In Minnesota. The Vikings thus far seem surprised that Josh Allen is able to run and throw accurately. Of course, I'm a little surprised Allen can throw accurately too...
Bryan Knowles: PFR's database has exactly four times when a 17-point or greater dog managed to win outright:
- The aforementioned 1995 Washington game, when Norv Turner's 4-9 squad finished a season sweep against the dynasty Cowboys.
- The 1992 Jets, 4-9 at the time, upsetting the Super Bowl-bound Bills the week after Dennis Byrd was paralyzed.
- The 1978 Colts (1-2) beating the Patriots on Monday Night Football, when Joe Washington had a passing, rushing, and return touchdown in the fourth quarter.
- Super Bowl III.
That's it. That's the list.
Vince Verhei: I didn't see a lot of this game, but every time I saw Cousins drop back, his left tackle was giving up a pass pressure. And I mean every time. The two early strip-sacks dug them in a giant hole and made them almost totally one-dimensional -- their running backs, with a few minutes left in the game, have four carries for 12 yards. The Bills offense honestly hasn't done a ton -- they had two good touchdown drives in the first half but otherwise have just killed clock and capitalized on good field position. The story here is how Minnesota and their $84 million quarterback looked so helpless against what had been a dreadful defense.
Scott Kacsmar: I had to look and it has been an unusual season with three double-digit favorites already losing straight up in the first three weeks. It happened three times total from 2009 to 2017.
#NFL Double-digit favorites to lose in Weeks 1-3
2018 -- 3 (NO vs. TB, JAX vs. TEN, MIN vs. BUF)
2017 -- 0
2016 -- 0
2015 -- 1 (also NO vs. TB)
2014 -- 0
2013 -- 1 (SF vs. IND)
2012 -- 1 (NE vs. ARI)
2009-11 -- 0
That's as many this season than last 9 years combined.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 23, 2018
Truly the definition of Any Given Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals 21 at Carolina Panthers 31
Scott Kacsmar: Christian McCaffrey rushed for 99 yards in the first half on the way to a 21-14 lead for Carolina. McCaffrey had never rushed for 70 yards in a game before today.
New York Giants 27 at Houston Texans 22
Rivers McCown: This was truly the game where we saw the impact of Houston's offensive line. Right tackle Julie'n Davenport committed five penalties all by himself, including one to take a touchdown off the board. The Giants sacked Deshaun Watson four times and hit him 11. Of the players that got sacks, three of them had less than six career sacks coming into the game. Two of them got their first career sack. The other one was by Connor Barwin, basically a journeyman at this point of his career.
The non-Watt Texans just didn't show up. Saquon Barkley had clear running lanes. They bit on the first action on a vast majority of New York's misdirection plays. I can't remember Whitney Mercilus or Jadeveon Clowney laying a hand on Eli Manning despite a depleted line. In fact, often in the first quarter, Romeo Crennel was having Clowney stand up.
This is the most maddening Texans team I can remember in a while. And that's saying something.
Dallas Cowboys 13 at Seattle Seahawks 24
Carl Yedor: Cowboys and Seahawks look like they should trade three-and-outs on their opening drives, but the bodyweight rule extends Seattle's first drive. Not going to talk about the bodyweight rule for the rest of this game, even though it seems likely to come up again. A holding penalty on a second-down run that went nowhere kills the drive a few first downs later, so all it ends up costing Dallas is some field position. Seahawks made a concerted effort to run the ball more on the opening drive, and Wilson was under duress multiple times.
So not a huge surprise to start in Seattle.
Derrik Klassen: Dak Prescott just put a slant pass on the money, but the wide receiver bobbled it and the ball popped right into Earl Thomas' grasps for an interception. Unfortunate turnover on a Dallas drive that was looking nice.
Dave Bernreuther: Another running into the punter call today extends a drive out west in what is quickly shaping up to be another ugly game. Right after I make a comment about those 9-6 thrillers that the Seahawks seem to always get into once a year. Odd, though, that it's against Dallas and not the Rams...
Vince Verhei: No score in the first quarter in Seattle. As noted, best play for either team in the first quarter was a drive-extending penalty -- roughing the passer on Dallas, running into the kicker on Seattle. Otherwise, offenses have been limited to spotty runs and impotent pass attacks -- Dallas has two completions for 4 yards, Seattle three for 15.
When Michael Dickson came in for his first punt, I swear I heard "MVP" chants. He's averaging less than 40 yards on his first three kicks, but has pinned the Cowboys inside the 20 twice.
Carl Yedor: Points! It's a miracle. Seattle puts together a 10-play drive and they go in for a touchdown.
On a side note, once they got into Dallas territory, Seattle tried to take a deep shot downfield which fell incomplete. They then followed that up with a run on second-and-10 that predictably went nowhere. This could just be a case of specific examples sticking out in my head, but I feel like that happens a lot due in part to the fear of trying to stay out of third-and-long.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks get on the board first. They have a third-and-10, but Dallas has to call timeout on defense, their second timeout already midway through the second quarter. Afterwards they come with a blitz, but Russell Wilson finds Chris Carson wide open in the flat, and Carson scampers for a first down. Seahawks run hurry-up and Jaron Brown splits the safeties on a seam route for the touchdown.
That's all great, but a few plays earlier Wilson missed a wide-open Nick Vannett for what should have been a 30-some-yard touchdown. He was under pressure, but I am used to seeing Wilson complete passes to open guys under pressure. This year, it seems like he's missing them more than he used to.
Huge break for Seattle. Prescott scrambles on third down. Earl Thomas is covering Ezekiel Elliott but leaves him to pressure Prescott. Prescott pulls up and flips it to Elliott, who slips a tackle and goes into the end zone. However, before he caught the ball he stepped out of bounds, rendering himself ineligible and wiping out the play. It leads to a 50-yard field goal for Dallas, and Brett Maher's kick leans left just inside the upright to make it 7-3. Afterwards, Thomas, Pete Carroll, and convicted felon Mychal Kendricks (who was just signed a few weeks ago) had a chat on the sideline, apparently trying to determine who was supposed to cover Elliott on the play.
Forgot to mention that earlier, Angry Doug Baldwin (who is in street clothes today) had a major one-sided shouting match with a Seahawks assistant coach. They bumped fists afterwards, but there's a lot of discord in Seattle these days.
For the second time in the first half, Dallas calls a timeout on defense and then gives up a first down on the next play anyway. They are now out of timeouts with more than four minutes to go in the half.
Short while later, Kavon Frazier is supposed to be the deep safety on the offense's right side of the field, but he crowds the line to disguise the coverage. The cornerback to that side releases Tyler Lockett down the sideline (as he should in a Cover-2), Frazier can't get back nearly in time, and it's a 52-yard touchdown for Lockett. 14-3 Seattle.
Carl Yedor: Dallas gives Seattle another drive-extending break via penalty. After Wilson is forced to throw it away with 5 seconds left outside of field goal range, Dallas gets called for a personal foul after the play. This puts Seattle in range for Janikowski to connect for 3 before the half. Seahawks up 17-3 and will start the second half with the ball.
Vince Verhei: Your Keep Choppin' Wood nominee: after bumbling around in the final seconds of the first half, the Seahawks are lining up for a 60-plus-yard field goal try. However, as players are milling around, Randy Gregory hits a palmstrike right to the face of Seattle center Joey Hunt. To say the ref was right there would be an understatement -- he was almost between them and Gregory had to be careful not to hit the ref in the head. That's an easy 15-yard penalty, and Sebastian Janikowski connects from 47 for a 17-3 halftime lead.
That's about the only impact the Dallas defensive line has made -- shockingly, Wilson has not been sacked, and the Cowboys only have three hits. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have sacked Prescott twice, and the Cowboys have only 23 net passing yards at halftime.
Bryan Knowles: 17-3 at half for Seattle, who woke up in the second quarter and make a couple big plays, helped by Dallas apparently not knowing how to play defense anymore.
This has been a sloppy, sloppy day for Dallas. They have just 92 yards of offense. They've yet to sack Russell Wilson, the most-sacked quarterback of the first two weeks. They've made baffling decisions in coverage and in clock management. Randy Gregory committed a terrible unnecessary roughness penalty to put Seattle into range for the end-of-half football.
Why did I pick this game to be the main one I'm watching this afternoon?
Vince Verhei: Cowboys finally get a sack as Sean Lee gets pressure around the edge and pushes Wilson up into the pocket, where Demarcus Lawrence is blocked by THREE MEN and still fights through them to pull Wilson down.
Cowboys kick a field goal to make it 17-6. Elliott got things going with a 21-yard run, Dallas' second-longest play of the year. The drive reached the 21, but stalled there after Tavon Austin caught a pass 4 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and turned it into no gain. That set up third-and-long, where Frank Clark took Prescott down for Seattle's fourth sack of the day.
The Seahawks respond to the field goal with probably their best drive of the year, a 10-play, 72-yard march that eats up nearly six minutes of clock and ends with Carson rumbling over defenders for a 5-yard touchdown. Seattle never even got to third down on the drive. There's still almost 13 minutes left, but 24-6 feels like way too steep a mountain for these Cowboys to climb.
Carl Yedor: Chris Carson punches it in inside the red zone. It's Seattle's first offensive touchdown not involving Russell Wilson since Week 4 against the Colts last season. Carson is now up to 81 rushing yards for the game, as of now the most for a Seahawks runner since Week 2 against the 49ers last year. That probably speaks more to how bad the Seahawks have been at running the ball over the last year.
Tom Gower: Zeke busts out for a 26-yard gain, but gets a bit loose with the ball. Bradley McDougald punches it out and the Seahawks fall on it. Down 24-6 in the fourth quarter, Dallas offense still looking broken.
Vince Verhei: We're not done yet here. Cowboys get a touchdown pass to Tavon Austin on one of those jet sweep forward pitches that are all the rage these days. Elliott had another big run on that drive. Seattle takes over up 24-13 with seven minutes remaining.
Bryan Knowles: Oooh, bad luck for Dallas here. Prescott's pass is batted up in to the air three different times -- once by the defender, twice by the intended receiver -- and ends up in Earl Thomas' arms. Thomas gets flagged 15-yards for taunting after the play, bowing to the Dallas sideline, but that might be the clincher for the Hawks.
Vince Verhei: Bowing is now unsportsmanlike? Taking a bow? I'm as upset by that as I am by these roughing the passer calls. Congrats to Earl for acknowledging the team that did not feel he was worth a second-round pick.
Earl (and Bobby Wagner, who initially tipped the pass) really bailed the offense out there -- Seattle had gone three-and-out on four of its second-half drives up to that point.
Carl Yedor: Seattle avoids dropping to 0-3. Chris Carson eclipsed the 100-yard mark (although not particularly efficiently), though that may be a bad thing because it will probably encourage Brian Schottenheimer to keep calling caveman-like offense. Once Seattle went up 24-6, they seriously turtled up on offense, and if not for some fortuitously timed turnovers, Dallas might have made the comeback. Seattle's season stays alive for now.
Vince Verhei: Time finally runs out on the Cowboys and Seattle wins 24-13. One more note on this game: Seattle had a second-and-14 with the clock stopped at 2:01. They had to run a play, but then the two-minute warning would hit either way. Dallas had no timeouts, so you couldn't risk a pass after the two-minute warning. But on second down? Why not try a pass for the first down that would have iced the game? Instead they ran on second and third down and then punted. They had a two-score margin and obviously they won anyway, but I see no point to that second-down run.
With that said, some big-picture thoughts on the Seahawks through three games:
- Earl Thomas is awesome, and I don't know why Seattle won't extend him and nobody else will trade for him.
- Defense as a whole is still pretty good, if not the dominant unit of years past. Plenty of pass-rushers, stars at linebacker and safety, and other good players in the secondary in Bradley McDougald and Shaquill Griffin.
- Running game is a hundred million billion trillion times better than last year. It's still not very good. Everyone's going crazy about Chris Carson's hundred-yard day and ignoring that it took him 30-plus carries to get there (though he did have a nice tackle-busting run to convert a third-and-11 late in the game there).
- Tyler Lockett can make defenses pay for mistakes but can't consistently get open on his own. Brandon Marshall is big and strong and has value as a possession receiver in traffic but is completely incapable of getting any kind of separation from defenders. The offense can scheme tight ends open, but neither Will Dissly nor Nick Vannett is going to do much on his own. Doug Baldwin will help when (if?) he returns, but Seattle still needs lots of help here. Baldwin is also 30 years old and won't last forever. Long-term, this looks like a bigger weakness than even the offensive line.
Chicago Bears 16 at Arizona Cardinals 14
Bryan Knowles: The Cardinals were one of only 22 post-merger teams to have 350 or fewer yards in their first two games combined, as the offense was dead, dead, dead through two weeks.
So, of course, they're up 14-0 on the Bears early, with completions of 35, 30, and 21 yards before the first quarter's even over.
This has been a very surprising week.
As a counterpoint to the Chargers kicking a scaredy-cat field goal, the Bears could have kicked a field goal to make it a one score game at 14-6. Instead, they went for it on fourth-and-1, converted, and ended up in the end zone three plays later. An interception on the next drive, and they're moving again.
I wonder if more defenders are going to start playing like Mack, or trying to, with the increased emphasis on touching quarterbacks being illegal. Mack has a key forced fumble in each of Chicago's first three games, if I'm keeping track correctly, and it seems like he's going for the ball more than the quarterback every time I've seen him.
Bears kick the field goal to take their first lead of the game, 16-14.
Aaron Schatz: Third-and-2, two minutes left, desperately trying to come back, why is David Johnson on the sidelines while you hand the ball to Chase Edmunds?
Bryan Knowles: The play calling and decisions in this game have been terrible for the most part, but I give credit to the Bears for this: on the last play of the game, with a rookie with less than a quarter of experience getting ready to throw a Hail Mary, the Bears blitzed. Overwhelmed the line, overwhelmed the rookie, got the sack, won the game.
Dave Bernreuther: I realize that Bradford had been pretty bad, but man was that an odd time to decide to throw Rosen out there for his debut. He was completely overmatched. That blitz in the non-blitz situation reminded me of the Ravens just throwing caution to the wind and going after Kaepernick in the final series in the Super Bowl in 2013. With time running out, and everything on the line, even the really talented ones are going to show their inexperience when there's that much pressure. In cases like that, the old TMQ "stop me before I blitz again" rules go out the window.
That said, pressure or no pressure, Rosen just wasn't ready for that yet. The offsides-negated Pick-6 was just an awful throw, and on his reprieve he foolishly and slowly scrambled for an insignificant amount of yards and very nearly didn't make it out of bounds. Those were with three-man rushes too.
I like Rosen (sort of), but man ... that's just not setting a kid up to succeed. Let him make his debut after a week of practice reps with the 1s and a game plan, not in the two-minute drill down two against Khalil Mack.
Los Angeles Chargers 23 at Los Angeles Rams 35
Bryan Knowles: Speaking of roughing punters, in the Battle of Los Angeles…
The Rams were driving, but threw a pick just outside the end zone. The Chargers can't do anything from the 1-yard line, and line up to punt. However, Corey Littleton breaks through the line, blocks the punt ,and clobbers Drew Kaser. The Rams jump on the ball in the end zone, and it's 21-6 Rams early.
To add injury to insult, Kaser had to be helped off the field. That won't help the Chargers in the field position battle.
Dave Bernreuther: The Chargers are down two scores (plus a two-point conversion) against a high-powered offense on the road, and are now without a punter.
It's time for the four-down Kevin Kelley offense. If not now, when? DO IT, CHARGERS!
Bryan Knowles: And, speaking of potentially season-ending injuries in the NFC West, Marcus Peters just got helped to the sideline, and he's putting ZERO weight on his injured leg.
Dave Bernreuther: Dear Ian Eagle,
When you are down by 15 in the second half on the road against a Super Bowl contender and it is fourth-and-a-short-1 on the good side of the field, it is not "taking a risk" to go for it.
Touchdown, Mike Williams. L.A. leads L.A. 28-20, and hopefully this means that the 6 p.m. hour is a good one.
It's the fourth quarter, you're still down 15, as you have been all game, and you're in a goal-to-go situation.
I realize that it's the 8-yard line ... but what on earth do you think a field goal is going to accomplish?
You need two touchdowns. After you kick the gimme field goal, you ... still need two touchdowns. Against a team you haven't exactly stopped all game. Why, in 2018, is this still the default behavior?
Bryan Knowles: Chargers need two touchdowns and are a bit pressed for time. Cue two passes short of the sticks on third and fourth down? That's not going to get the job done, and Austin Ekeler fumbled at the end of an effort where he needed to be Superman to get the first down. That should wrap this one up with 4:23 left.
Dave Bernreuther: I'll admit that I wasn't paying full attention to this game, but to my eyes, I didn't see a giant talent gap between these two teams. The Chargers have an exceptional quarterback, loads of skill position talent, and playmakers on defense, even with Joey Bosa out. The Rams have Jared Goff, who has never impressed me but does seem to still be improving and not in need of being hidden like last year, a load of skill position talent, and playmakers on defense (two of whom were injured in this game) ... but the Rams have a young rising star of a coach in McVay, plus possibly the best coordinator the game has ever seen, while the Chargers have ... well, another JAG in the parade of underperforming coaches since firing a 14-2 Marty Schottenheimer. And one team is 3-0 while the other is 1-2.
Of course, 1-2 in the AFC is not at all a bad place to be. And it'd be dishonest to blame this entire loss on coaching. Also, it's September, and this was an out-of-conference road game. But still ... it has been a decade and a half of underperforming both expectations and statistics for the Chargers. Will it ever end?
New England Patriots 10 at Detroit Lions 26
Scott Kacsmar: Bill Belichick is going to destroy Matt Patricia. The Patriots don't lose two in a row. The Lions don't beat good teams. Detroit also is missing its best pass-rusher (Ezekiel Ansah) and Marvin Jones and Darius Slay were questionable coming in. I think these are all logical points coming into tonight.
Not that Week 3 is built on logic, but let's stick with that. On the flip side, Patricia should know the strengths and weaknesses of New England's defense better than he knows anything else about this team. His most realistic paths to victory tonight are all highlighted by his offense playing lights-out. So I want to see if this talented receiving corps can put up big numbers on the defense tonight and maybe add another interesting upset to the week.
Bryan Knowles: Does one of those "realistic paths to victory" include a field goal on fourth-and-inches just outside the red zone?
Scott Kacsmar: You'll have to forgive Patricia. He only had 14 seasons with the Patriots to learn that kicking that kind of field goal is a bad strategy to beat them.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots getting completely pushed around in the running game tonight. Lions easily commanding the line of scrimmage.
Patriots finally get an offensive drive going right before the half by almost entirely giving up on the run. This is a game for the Patriots to pass. There's no pass rush from either team. But they eventually get to third-and-1 and audible to a stretch run and ... the Lions stop it easily. So now it's Detroit 13-3.
Scott Kacsmar: Patriots haven't trailed by double digits at halftime in consecutive weeks since 2013 against Houston and Cleveland. They came back to win both of those games, though I think Detroit has a good chance to continue having offensive success tonight.
Rob Weintraub: 20-10 Lions after three. If by some miracle this holds up Miami will lead the AFC East by two games after Week 3.
Dave Bernreuther: I can do without the greener graphic on the screen, but NBC's overhead camera is really showing the extent to which Detroit's line is dominating and opening up big holes for their running game. This drive spanning the end of the third and into the fourth especially; it seems like they're getting an easy 10 or 15 yards per play (until these last two at the edge of the red zone as I've been typing this).
I can't remember a time I've ever seen a team use the Belichick vs. K-Gun or '08 Dolphins vs. Peyton game plan even remotely this effectively against these Patriots. The Lions have controlled the lines and controlled the clock. The Patriots have run only 31 plays and had the ball for less than a third of the game.
They did stiffen up (bend but don't break!) and hold the Lions to another field goal, so they're still within two scores. At this rate, though, they'll have a hard time even getting two more possessions in in these last 12 minutes of game time.
Aaron Schatz: What matters is less controlling the clock and more controlling the line of scrimmage when the Patriots had the ball. The Patriots keep trying to run, it's mostly going nowhere, and then they can't complete the passes on third down. Lions are winning here on both sides of the ball.
I'll also point out that it's coverage, not pass rush. There's not much Lions pass rush but Tom Brady just doesn't find anyone open. He just took a coverage sack on a third-and-8 where he had all kinds of time and just ... nobody.
Dave Bernreuther: It's not as if the Lions have ever been noted for their pass coverage either. Maybe Patricia wasn't just a coattail rider after all.
That third-and-8 followed what I thought was a preposterous intentional grounding call. I enjoy seeing Brady not having everything go his way as much as anyone, but man ... he's the only guy I've ever seen take a grounding call on a deep ball, and this is the third time I've seen it. And in that case, to suggest he got nervous about one single edge rusher -- who wasn't even near him at the time when he began the throw -- is absurd.
That said, it was a very odd play. He threw it far enough that it didn't seem to be a case where a receiver broke off a route, or at least not at the time of the throw ... it almost looked to me like he chucked it out of frustration; either due to the coverage you mention, or with a guy who made an incorrect read/decision right off the snap.
The defense did get them the ball right back after that punt, though, and two Sony Michel runs later they're already in business close to midfield. Still plenty of game left. They've erased two score leads in less time than this against much better defenses than -- oh ... interception by Darius Slay, undercutting Phillip Dorsett (who wasn't even turned around yet) on a deep ball. Never mind.
Bryan Knowles: I thought the Lions would cover; I did not, by any means, expect them to actually win this thing.
They even got that 100-yard rusher they've been waiting years for.
I'm not buying the "Patriots dynasty is over!" talk I'm seeing over social media, because the September Swoon is a Patriots tradition now ... but boy. I would not be resting easy if I was a Patriots fan.
Rob Weintraub: More likely to occur: Brady puts two touchdowns up in final 4:30 to steal the game, or Kerryon Johnson loses 2 yards to dip under 100 when the Lions are on the cusp of finally getting a rusher over the century mark?
Bryan Knowles: Oh, it's Johnson pulling the Dave Hampton by a landslide.
Dave Bernreuther: Better question: if at noon today, someone had asked if it was more likely that the Bills win outright in Minnesota or the Patriots score only ten against the Lions, which would you have chosen?
I'm as down on these Bills as anyone, but I'd have chosen that win over this result (assuming the Lions run out this clock here). Even with that receiving corps and their former coach on the opposite sideline. Ten points? That's almost unheard of. It's not like this Lions team has the frightening pass rush that the Dolphins did the last time it happened.
Aaron Schatz: If they win next week against Miami, then it's just another one of those Patriots 2-2 starts, just in a different order than usual. If they lose next week, at home, and go to 1-3, three games behind the Dolphins ... oof.
Tom Gower: New England scores 10 points against the defense that came into the game 29th in (D)VOA and 30th in DAVE. Incredible. Something I never would have expected. And it didn't feel like a fluke. I missed the first quarter, but the Patriots offense was lousy. No big plays, no consistent run game, and Brady couldn't consistently move the chains in the passing game. We've seen him look a bit like this before, early in 2014 and then late in 2015 when Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski were both out. When Edelman comes back, they'll get a sustaining element they need that desperately seemed to be missing tonight. But that defense, with everybody knowing the game plan will be to attack the linebackers in space with crossing routes, looks like a continuing issue. They've been so good for so long that it's a mistake to bury them until they're completely dead. But last year I did a radio hit after Week 1 and said I still expected New England to be fine and get home-field advantage and Kansas City's win was more about an edge in a competitive AFC West. This week, yeah, not quite the same take on things.
Aaron Schatz: The Patriots certainly have a lot of problems right now. The defense looks terrible, although they'll look better with guys like Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung back. The offense needs receivers who can create separation other than Gronk, although two might be on the way in Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman. Still, this is two weeks of looking bad.
What becomes of it? I really doubt that this is "the end" where they suddenly go 6-10. It's more likely they have a sub-Patriots year that any other franchise would be happy with, something like 2009 where they went 10-6 and won the AFC East. But they don't look like any kind of Super Bowl favorite right now.
Scott Kacsmar: Awfully hard to beat the Patriots without a fight, but that was a pretty weak finish for New England. Before Week 2, the Patriots had three losses since 2011 where they didn't have a fourth-quarter lead or at least a game-winning drive opportunity (2013 AFC Championship Game in Denver, 2014 at Arrowhead, 2017 at Miami). Now that's two weeks in a row where they didn't have one and were outplayed significantly by the Jaguars and Lions. They won't have many tougher road tests this year than those, but this feels a little more troublesome than any other slow start you want to point to in recent years.