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

Audibles at the Line: Week 5

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.

Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Kansas City Chiefs 30

Bryan Knowles: It's pouring rain in Kansas City, and the Chiefs are facing the toughest defense they've seen to this point in the season. Neither seems to be slowing Patrick Mahomes and the gang down at all; they march down the field in ten plays and punch it into the end zone. To add injury to insult, Jalen Ramsey came out, a play after "return specialist" Tyreek Hill dashed right by him. Well, that's the danger you have with trash talk...

Aaron Schatz: Chiefs offensive game plan is built to use Jacksonville's aggressiveness against them. I mean, not like this is very different from the Chiefs game plan on other days, but we've got a ton of screens, fakes, and reverses. The Jaguars pass-rushers keep getting near Mahomes ... because it's actually a screen pass and it was planned that way. Then the one play that the Chiefs run a regular pass, the protection holds up forever and somehow the Jaguars leave Sammy Watkins wide open. Chiefs score on their first two drives, 10-0.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs are driving again as the first quarter ends, and I can't stress enough how easy they are making this look. Two possessions, 12 passes, and already eight different players have a reception. They already have nine first downs, and only had to convert third down twice. They get their third third-down conversion in the first minutes of the second quarter -- Jaguars rush four, Mahomes has all day in the pocket, and finds a wide-open Sammy Watkins for a first down in the red zone. The drive stalls there as a drop and a false start put them in third-and-long, and Mahomes' scramble sets up a field goal to put Kansas City up 10-0.

Jacksonville hasn't had the ball much, but they're testing Kansas City's secondary deep -- three deep balls in six passes so far, completing one to DJ Chark for 38 yards.

Kansas City's defense rears its incompetent head, as the Jaguars put together a 13-play, 72-yard drive, including seven runs (five in a row for one point) for 51 yards. But when they get to the red zone, they go run for 4, pass for 5, and incomplete on third-and-1. They go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 3, but they pass again, and Bortles throws incomplete again. I mean ... it's Blake Bortles. Neither of the passes was close to being complete. He's not good at much, and precision passing in short-yardage is not on the list. Just keep running. Run a sneak if you want. But just keep doing what Kansas City can't stop.

Bryan Knowles: It didn't work out, but full credit to the Jaguars for going for it on fourth-and-2 from the 4-yard line. The Chiefs' offense is good enough that you're not going to win with field goals; the Chiefs' defense is bad enough you'll have more cracks at the end zone later. It very nearly worked out, too, but Austin Seferian-Jenkins can't hold on to the ball, so it's still 10-0, Chiefs. But good plan, and we give credit for good plans here.

Scott Kacsmar: Haven't been watching this one, but I think after a long third drive of the game, I'd have just kicked the field goal to make it 10-3. It's not like Bortles is trustworthy in that regard to throw for it. The defense also didn't get the quick stop to help with the field advantage, but I see Mahomes did have his first interception of the season so the Jaguars are back in opponent territory.

Vince Verhei: Mahomes is human! Third-and-long, he has a clean pocket against a four-man rush. He throws a fastball to Tyreek Hill over the middle, but it's a wild pitch, high and to the right, and Tashaun Gipson gets the interception, Mahomes' first of the year. Jaguars take over at the Kansas City 41.

Bryan Knowles: Not just Mahomes' first of the year, but the first of the year from the Jaguars' defensive backs; their only interception coming into today was from Myles Jack.

Vince Verhei: The Jaguars taketh, but Bortles giveth away. First down after the interception, Dee Ford beats the right tackle cleanly, swipes the ball out of Bortles' hand, and the Chiefs recover.

Chris Jones is 6-foot-6 and and 310 pounds. He was in Bortles' face. Somehow Bortles did not see him and threw a pass that traveled 3 feet in the air and landed in Jones' hands, and Jones returned it for the biggest big-man touchdown in some time. Chiefs now up 20-0 largely because Bortles has been unwatchably bad. What happened to the Bortles who played against New England? These can't possibly be the same people.

Dave Bernreuther: I liked the call to go for the fourth down as well, but I found the play design to be lacking. The receivers all ran lazy routes that didn't really open up any space, there wasn't a credible run threat, and so it was remarkably easy for them to cover ASJ and give Bortles nowhere to throw. It was fourth down, so he still tried to jam it in there, but he wasn't set up to succeed, so I can't put that one on him.

The pass he threw for the TD (by the Chiefs), however... good lord. That was one of the worst plays I've ever seen. I get that he was looking left as part of the cake before the screen. But on screens you're supposed to throw it over the unblocked defenders. Not gently toss it DIRECTLY TO THEM.

I always celebrate the Fat Guy TDs, but that one was just an outright gift. 20-0 KC now. And Bortles almost just threw another pick, which was bailed out because the defender fell down.

Aaron Schatz: As far as the Jaguars' fourth-and-2 ... at least he ran the route past the sticks. I'm sick of fourth downs where teams don't even throw to the sticks.

Bryan Knowles: Bortles is the NFL leader in pick-sixes since he came into the league in 2014, though this may have been his absolute worst one; it was the first time he's thrown an interception on a pass behind the line of scrimmage, per ESPN Stats & Info.

... You're kidding me. Bortles throws ANOTHER interception, in the end zone? Good lord, we joke about how there is Good Bortles and Bad Bortles, but we've passed Bad Bortles and gone right into Terrible Bortles today. 20-0 Chiefs, and the "Game of the Week" is turning into a hell of a blowout.

Vince Verhei: Bortles' second interception might have been worse than his first. Jaguars reach the red zone, trying frantically to make a game of this before halftime. But on second-and-goal from the 3, with no pressure, he rifles a pass off the back of the head of one of his offensive linemen. Check that guy for a concussion. Pass goes up and into the arms of Steven Nelson for the interception. What the hell am I watching?

Aaron Schatz: One of the elements of the 20-0 Chiefs lead on the Jaguars is the trouble the Jaguars' offensive tackles are having today. First it was backup Josh Wells with Justin Houston on the left side, although then Houston went out, and then Wells went out, so now the Jags are down to their third-string left tackle. Then on the right side, Jermey Parnell keeps getting passed by Dee Ford. It's like he's not even kicking out wide to really block him some of the time, I wonder if the tight end over there is supposed to be blocking and just goes right into a pass pattern instead, or if there's some other sort of miscommunication going on. Ford gets right to Bortles and Parnell looks like he's not even sure if he's supposed to be blocking him or not.

Rivers McCown: Jacksonville's collection of wideouts puzzle me. It's like they're never quite sure who should be the go-to guy.

They're also really going in on deep balls in the first half, and between Bortles being under pressure and some decent Chiefs defense, they're not getting a whole lot out of that asides from DJ Chark's 2 catches.

Vince Verhei: Bortles' meltdown has masked how Jacksonville's defense has really contained Kansas City's offense today. The Chiefs offense has only six points since the opening drive, and early in the third quarter, they just punted for the first time today. Mahomes is barely completing half his passes (14-of-27) and hasn't thrown a touchdown (though he did run for K.C.'s only touchdown so far today).

On the verge of scoring range (just outside the red zone), Bortles throws high and behind his receiver and it's another interception. Everyone drink!

Dave Bernreuther: Oh my God, Bortles, who on earth were you even throwing that one to?

(Interception No. 3, in the red zone, and a pretty incredible spiraling return all the way out to midfield.)

Maybe he saw the highlights of Ryan Tannehill one-upping him and decided to re-take the throne of ugliest quarterback play, non-Josh-Allen division? I have no idea what he saw or to whom he was throwing. Did someone fall down?

After a Bortles pinball rushing touchdown stands to make it 30-13 with 6-ish minutes left, the Jags, who need two 2-pointers, kick the extra point, which annoys me to no end. When you need to make two pointers, and they're not sure things, you should always attempt them earlier than later to leave yourself options if you miss.

After the rare kicker-recovered inside kick and a roughing the passer call, they're already on the doorstep again with 4:41 left. Maybe we'll end up with a game here after all.

Green Bay Packers 23 at Detroit Lions 31

Bryan Knowles: Weird, weird play. Detroit punts to Green Bay, and the ball apparently just grazes a Packers returner, in the sort of contact which means the path of the ball isn't actually altered in any notable way. The Lions down the ball at the 1, thinking they'll pin the Packers deep ... but because of the earlier contact, they've actually managed to recover a fumble, without anyone on the field or in the stands realizing it except for one ref. A little confusion later, it's Lions ball, LeGarrette Blount smashes it into the end zone, and Lions take an early 7-0 lead. Just like you drew it up.

Derrik Klassen: Perhaps the weirdest development with one-legged Aaron Rodgers is not just that he is playing well, it is that he has still been effective on the move. Rodgers just outran linebacker Christian Jones to the edge, stiff-armed him, then dove over the first-down marker for the conversion. Rodgers is playing like a mad man despite not being fully healthy. Granted, the Packers likely don't even make it to 2-1-1 without him trying to make plays like that.

Bryan Knowles: Green Bay is discombobulated. Yes, the punt-fumble was a fluky play, but nothing has been going right for them so far. For the second time today, the Lions are starting deep in Green Bay territory after a Packers fumble, this time thanks to a Romeo Okwara strip-sack. Special teams are killing them -- in addition to the weird punt thing, they had a holding call that wiped out a 64-yard kick return and Mason Crosby hooked a field goal wide left. 17-0 Lions, and Green Bay's gotta get out of this funk sooner rather than later.

Derrik Klassen: Field position has been a killer for Green Bay thus far. Their only two possessions started at their own 12- and 14-yard lines. Meanwhile the Lions have started drives at their own 29-yard line, own 31-yard line, Green Bay's 22-yard line (off a strip sack), and the weird punt situation that Bryan mentioned earlier that gave them the ball at Green Bay's 1-yard line. Between the gap in field position advantage and Detroit simply playing well -- especially the offensive skill players -- the Packers have fallen behind 17-0 at the start of the second quarter.

Packers start another drive inside their own 15-yard line and Aaron Rodgers immediately bails them out with two great throws past the sticks. Still no points to show for it (thanks, Mason Crosby), but Rodgers has done fairly well today considering the poor field position. Have to imagine the Packers will manage a score sooner or later, hopefully on this drive.

Bryan Knowles: "Thanks, Mason Crosby" might be the only line needed in the game recap here. That drive Derrik mentioned? Ends in Crosby's third missed field goal of the day. We're not even at the half yet!

Dave Bernreuther: Mason Crosby is now 0-for-3 on field goals. Which almost certainly means that this game will come down to one possession later and Mike McCarthy will still play for the field goal.

Derrik Klassen: Uh-oh. Another Aaron Rodgers strip-sack that sets up Detroit's offense to start a drive in Green Bay territory.

In just a few plays, the Lions punch in the touchdown and extend their lead to 24-0 heading into the halftime. I guess with Rodgers, no lead is insurmountable, but it's going to take a special kind of implosion for the Lions to lose this one.

Bryan Knowles: I did a bunch of "what would Bad Team X need to make a playoff run?" stuff this week, and nearly all the NFC scenarios included something along the lines of "it would really help if Detroit could hang on against a motivated Packers team this week." So, uh, good news for terrible teams across the conference!

Derrik Klassen: Well, I said it would take a special kind of implosion for Detroit to blow a 24-0 halftime lead, but Green Bay just closed the gap to make the game 24-14. Green Bay's offense is getting much better opportunities and capitalizing on them in the second half.

Scott Kacsmar: I thought the Packers may have had a shot at the first ever 8+8+8 comeback in NFL history, down 24-0. They got the first eight points, but the second two-point conversion failed and they are down 24-14. Still more than a quarter left, and it's not like the Lions have had consistent offense today. Feasted on short fields to build that lead. Stafford is going to have to make some plays to put this one away if they don't want a repeat of the 2015 Hail Mary blown lead.

Dave Bernreuther: Mason Crosby just missed an extra point.

He has missed three field goals and an extra point now. In a 31-20 game.

Bryan Knowles: Make it five missed kicks for Crosby. It was a 56-yard attempt, but it was FAR enough ... just pushed it wide left. My God, it just hurts to watch so much.

Atlanta Falcons 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers 41

Scott Kacsmar: Big opening drive by the Steelers that featured James Conner (72 yards and a touchdown). He had a 30-yard run, which is something Le'Veon Bell hasn't done since December 2016. I missed the coin toss specifics, but good of the Steelers to get the ball first. Needed to make sure they weren't opening the game down 7-0 again. Definitely a focus on the run on that drive, and why not with the injuries the Falcons have at defensive tackle, linebacker, and safety?

Matt Ryan was about to answer that opening drive, but an illegal formation penalty brought up a third-and-6 and he was sacked. Any little amount of defense is appreciated for these teams today. Even if it's just a third-down stop at midfield.

Not only is the Atlanta defense injured and bad, but you can add unlucky to the mix. Ben Roethlisberger just threw up a pass on third-and-10 that was nearly intercepted with two defenders in the area of Jesse James. However, the refs flagged it for pass interference and the drive led to a nice touchdown grab by JuJu Smith-Schuster. I think it's the type of flag you let go. There wasn't any obvious obstruction of James to make the catch, and it was basically rewarding a bad pass.

Good throw by Ryan in stride to Mohamed Sanu for a 43-yard touchdown with a lot of YAC to make it 13-7. That's right, it's 13-7 because Chris Boswell missed yet another extra point today. As for the Atlanta defense, finally it gets a stop after getting some pressure. The Roethlisberger-to-Brown connection once again looks broken today with the quarterback being the bigger problem so far. But on that last third down, it was a good pressure by the Falcons, but usually Roethlisberger can get that ball off to the open receiver. Brown had a ton of open field ahead of him too, so that would have been a big play if Ben hit it. Now the Falcons have a shot at taking the lead.

Ben can talk about not forcing the ball to Brown, but he absolutely did in the red zone to end the half. Desmond Trufant almost came away with a pick on a bad decision, then he did come up with one on a terrible decision by Roethlisberger. Should have just thrown the ball away after extending the play.

Andrew Potter: Ben Roethlisberger ended the first half with a truly stupid interception. On second-and-goal from the 7, about 30 seconds left, Roethlisberger scrambled around for an age before throwing a horrible lob toward Antonio Brown, in the middle of the end zone amid a crowd of Falcons defenders. Damontae Kazee outjumped Brown and wrestled the ball away for the interception. I understand asking your guy to make a play, but even basic situational awareness tells you to throw it away there and try again on third down. Instead of an almost-guaranteed six-point lead, and possibly more, the Steelers go in up three with the Falcons getting the ball first in the second half.

I'm not accustomed to seeing Matt Ryan under pressure this constantly. T.J. Watt in particular is continually in Ryan's face, though it does not help that the Falcons have frequently tried to block him with a running back who spends the first second of the play pretending to take a handoff. In case you aren't sure, that is a terrible idea. The Steelers are both selecting and timing blitzes well, and Ryan is often under pressure very quickly.

Scott Kacsmar: Even going back to that 2016 MVP season, Ryan has been under pressure and taken too many sacks for a guy who used to routinely have a sack rate under 5.0 percent. As we know, that's one of the most consistent stats for a quarterback from season to season. Ryan's sack rate was 6.5 percent in 2016 and he's there again in 2018 to match a career worst. Steelers have been getting to him with ease today.

Conner started the third quarter much like he started the game with a heavy workload on a productive touchdown drive. This time he fumbled but was fortunate the ball went out of bounds. Pretty crazy that the Falcons couldn't snag that ball with a group of them there, but again, unlucky in addition to being bad. Roethlisberger finally has a strong connection with Brown on third down for a touchdown, and Boswell didn't miss the extra point this time. Steelers lead 20-10 late third quarter. We should actually hit the under here (58 points).

Steelers block a punt to set up a short field for a Conner touchdown run. They now lead 27-10 and it's going to be awfully hard for the Falcons to blow a fourth-quarter lead this week. Also, Julio Jones doesn't have a catch and it's almost the fourth quarter. The defense, largely thanks to the pass rush, has been much better today.

Falcons get a touchdown to cut it to 27-17, but Roethlisberger finds Brown deep against Robert Alford for a touchdown that should put this one away at 34-17. Maybe that gets them back on track. It put Brown over 100 yards with two touchdowns today.

New York Giants 31 at Carolina Panthers 33

Vince Verhei: I would support a rule that says the Panthers must call an end-around or reverse every game, because every time it happens, I get to see Cam Newton as a lead blocker putting a linebacker on his ass. It happened again here on an 18-yard gain by D.J. Moore. That set up a 25-yard Newton touchdown pass on a play-action wide receiver screen. Panthers lead 7-3 early.

Dave Bernreuther: We thought the Packers-Lions punt return turnover was strange, but it had nothing on the comedy routine in Carolina. One play after a lazy telegraphed jumbo set third-down failure near midfield, the Panthers punt (kick No. 1) hits Odell Beckham in the leg (kick No. 2), followed by Janoris Jenkins attempting -- badly -- to recover it, which led to kick No. 3 sending the ball skittering into the end zone, where the Panthers recovered for the touchdown. If ever there was a play that needed Yakety Sax dubbed over it...

Vince Verhei: Giants get back on the board on a double pass -- Eli Manning to Odell Beckham to the left, Beckham throwing deep across the field to an uncovered Saquon Barkley for a 57-yard touchdown. Beckham is New York's best passer AND receiver.

Dave Bernreuther: There's no sound here but did someone just see that apparent defenseless receiver call in Carolina? There wasn't even contact! Landon Collins pulled up and never hit him. He extended his arms against him. And the Panthers apparently got 15 free yards out of that after a terrible pass.

Aaron Schatz: The explanation from the announcers was "Um, I'm not sure what that flag was about." Just two guys going after the same pass and they inadvertently hit heads a little bit. Again, not sure how Collins can avoid that, it's the NFL legislating against the laws of physics.

Vince Verhei: Not agreeing or disagreeing with the call, but there was definitely a collision.

Dave Bernreuther: Ah OK, I thought 31 -- who extended the arms and didn't make contact -- was Collins. Didn't realize that the shoulder to head side was actually Collins.

Bryan Knowles: I ... I ...

Carolina runs an inside run to drain most of their clock on their game-winning drive, meaning they have to settle for a 63-yard field goal attempt to try to win the game...and Graham Gano makes it. Holy cow. Ties the record for longest field goal not in Denver. On a day when Carolina introduced their special teams rather than offense or defense in player introductions, they come up huge. I'm flabbergasted.

Scott Kacsmar: Talk about the outcome covering up a terrible process. Panthers seem to impress less each week this season. Good effort by the Giants' skill players on the road, but beat by one of the best field goals in NFL history.

Tennessee Titans 12 at Buffalo Bills 13

Bryan Knowles: The Bills win over Minnesota was sparked, in part, by a significant advantage in turnovers; they recovered a couple of fumbles and had an interception in that one, as well as not turning the ball over for the only time this season. Well, they haven't turned it over at all yet today, and they've already forced a Marcus Mariota interception and a Taywan Taylor fumble. 7-3 Buffalo, midway through the second quarter, and the Bills are driving again.

Tom Gower: Halftime, and the Bills hold a 7-6 lead. It has been largely an offense-challenged game, with Buffalo's score and one of Tennessee's field goals coming off short fields. Neither team has been able to sustain much. The Titans run game remains inconsistent at best, and an injury to Taylor Lewan hasn't helped, and the pass game is not what it was last week, while Buffalo is Buffalo.

Vince Verhei: I need somebody to explain the Titans to me. They lose a close game in Week 1 to a good Miami team in a hurricane. They win three in a row, including Jacksonville's only loss of the year (coming into today) and a win over Carson Wentz and the Eagles. Then they go into Buffalo ... and they are losing 7-6 at halftime to the worst team in the league. I have no idea what's going on. Also, I've decided their new uniforms are ugly. Doesn't matter which combo they go with, the pants, jersey, and helmet never seem to match.

Dave Bernreuther: I feel like I end up talking about uniforms with Vince every week, but if he's going to keep bringing it up, I'm going to keep agreeing. I agree. These new ones are a bit better than the old ones, but still ugly. And the number font is weird.

Uglier, though, has been the quarterback play for most of the game so far. We're now through three quarters, and Mariota has finally topped 100 yards passing, while Josh Allen is Josh Allen, and is not sniffing 4 yards per attempt. For a while, the two quarterbacks combined had less than 100 yards passing. In a league where passing and scoring records are being obliterated. This is now Game 5 for the Mike Vrabel Titans, and as mentioned, we have no idea what they are yet. They've lost ugly and won ugly, and now this game might be the ugliest one yet. And yet, an hour from now, there's a decent chance that they'll be the 2 seed in the AFC (now that the Bengals seem to be making a game of it).

Bryan Knowles: An interesting incomplete pass for Tennessee (if such a thing can be said to exist). The Bills burst through the line and wrapped Mariota up ... but didn't bring him to the ground, apparently expecting a ref's whistle. No said whistle came and Mariota broke free and fired to the end zone.

The reason Mariota wasn't actually tackled was very likely the Bills trying to avoid a roughing the passer penalty. If the league is going to throw those flags, they need to give defenders credit when they have the quarterback wrapped up.

Dave Bernreuther: Well, scratch what I said about the Titans having the No. 2 seed. Buffalo maddeningly plays for the 40-plus-yard field goal in the end (which is more forgivable when your quarterback is Allen, but is still infuriating), which Stephen Hauschka hits, so the Titans do NOT win their second zero-TD game of this young season. The Bills now have two wins, putting them in great position to be the worst team in the league and still not even get the No. 1 pick, which would just be so Buffalo. Josh Allen gets the win with a Sterling 10-of-19, 82-yard stat line.

AFC football, ladies and gentlemen.

Bryan Knowles: Josh Allen: 10-for-19 for 82 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception … and a fourth-quarter comeback win over the Tennessee Titans.

It appears that when Buffalo's defense can generate turnovers, the Bills can get ~just~ enough going on offense to win football games. Dion Lewis and Taywan Taylor fumbled and Marcus Mariota threw a pick, leading to 10 of Buffalo's 13 points. Can't do that! The Titans remain an enigma.

Tom Gower: This week felt a lot more to me like a nominally superior team blowing a road game to a lesser opponent than the lesser opponent playing a particularly good team, so my comments will take the perspective of what Tennessee is.

The wins against Houston and Jacksonville in Weeks 2 and 3 were what I described as baling-wire wins, featuring only occasional and brief moments of offensive competence. Last week's win against Philadelphia was a good win, but likely to be overrated -- the Eagles don't seem as good as they were last year, it was an overtime win that required three fourth-down conversions on the game-winning drive, and not an overwhelming victory.

One of the things that seems more clear after this week is last week's success throwing the ball may have been more about an Eagles secondary still being rebuilt after the loss of Rodney McLeod, a crucial role in a Jim Schwartz defense (and other secondary mistakes like Corey Graham screwing up his coverage on fourth-and-15 on the final drive). But a lot of those wins looked like schemed wins, because outside of maybe Corey Davis the Titans don't have receivers who will win often on their own. Buffalo's coverage was much more consistently effective, or at least if there were open receivers that Marcus Mariota missed or didn't throw the ball to, I didn't see them on the TV. It's not a real surprise that Buffalo only had two drives that gained at least 30 yards, and that their scores came off short fields, but the same was true of Tennessee.

I'd love to get a quarterback velocity comparison for Marcus Mariota, relative to last week and before his arm injury, because there was at least one bad throw today where he looked at his hand afterward like "what happened?" The Bills had one decent field goal drive at the end of the game, and their other three scoring or potential scoring drives (y'know, the one where Bojorquez tried to run a fake where everybody else was trying to kick a field goal) started in Titans territory after turnovers. But this Buffalo defense may not be too bad after an awful six quarters to start the season.

Miami Dolphins 17 at Cincinnati Bengals 27

Zach Binney: Jakeem Grant looked to injure himself on the opening kickoff, spending some time on the turf with the trainers then coming off with a lame left arm. But not only is he back, with about 40 seconds left in the first half he returns a Bengals punt for a touchdown, eluding a couple of tacklers in the middle of the field before blazing just enough down the sideline for a leap into the end zone. It took an official review to count, but it puts Miami up 14-0 at the half.

Reshad Jones being back has also been a game-changer on defense, even with Cameron Wake out. The Dolphins are back to their old absurd red zone defense, coming up with a pick and a deflected field goal on two Bengals red zone trips.

Are the Dolphins good? I don't think so, but every play just confuses me more. Maybe?

Well the second half is an absolute yo-yo for Miami. Late in the third they appeared to stop the Bengals with a 14-point lead, but the Bengals are bailed out on a borderline personal foul in the secondary. A few plays later Andy Dalton, while being taken down, hits Joe Mixon for an 18-yard touchdown.

Then on the next drive Kenyan Drake single-handedly decleated a defensive end and turned a short pass into a first down on third-and-16, but then the Dolphins turn it over as Ryan Tannehill tries to bring it down while he's being sacked. It popped right into Michael Johnson's hand and is returned for an easy score. 17-17 early in the fourth.

Also, left tackle Laremy Tunsil is out with a concussion for Miami.

Bryan Knowles: We have a challenger for Bortles' pick-six. Ryan Tannehill combines the "throw an interception behind the line" and the "throw an interception off your lineman's head" aspects of Bortles' two picks into one disastrous play, bouncing a pass off Durham Smythe into Michael Johnson's hands. Touchdown, and we have a tie game!

Vince Verhei: Ryan Tannehill just took both of Blake Bortles' terrible interceptions and did them both at once: a pass off a lineman's helmet that was caught by a pass-rusher and returned for a touchdown. Is the whole damn league drunk today?

Bryan Knowles: Cincinnati-Miami update:

OK, slightly more important Cincinnati-Miami update. After being up 17-0, the Dolphins are now down, as the Bengals have fought all the way back. One major factor? The Bengals have moved A.J. Green to the slot quite a bit, avoiding Xavien Howard; long passes to Green on Minkah Fitzpatrick have set up 10 of Cincinnati's 20 second-half points.

The Dolphins did tighten up in the red zone, so they're just down three with 3:30 left, and they have the ball...

... scratch that "Miami has the ball" thing. Facing third-and-17, Tannehill scrambles out, and Carlos Dunlap chases him down from behind, forcing a strip sack. Rookie Sam Hubbard grabs it out of the air and takes it all the way back to the end zone. Whelp.

Baltimore Ravens 9 at Cleveland Browns 12 (OT)

Bryan Knowles: All tied at nine (what a barn-burner!), Baker Mayfield is tasked with performing a game-winning drive. He hits Jarvis Landry for a big 16-yard gainer; but Landry cuts it back inside rather than getting out of bounds! That wastes a good 15 seconds off the clock and costs the Browns a down because they have to spike it, and a couple of incomplete shots later, the Browns have to settle for a 55-yard attempt for a game-winning field goal, which of course goes wide left. Five seconds left on the clock for the Ravens, but they just run it out. We get bonus football in this one. Wh ... whee.

Vince Verhei: Tie game. Browns have a third-and-2 at their own 46, less than a minute to go. Baker Mayfield hits Jarvis Landry on a wheel route for a 17-yard gain ... but he doesn't get out of bounds! And the Browns don't call timeout! They spike the ball on first down, throw two incomplete passes, and try a 55-yard field goal with the timeout still in their pocket. It's missed, of course, and Cleveland is going to overtime for the third time in five games. It would be unbelievable if it weren't the Browns.

Carl Yedor: I for one would be OK with this game ending in a tie because neither team's offense has been good enough today to really get the job done. Neither particularly deserves to win the game. A booming Dustin Colquitt punt pins Baltimore inside their own 10, and at the rate these two are running plays, there may be only one or two possessions left in this game.

Bryan Knowles: Someone who knows the letter of the rule more than I do might want to correct me here, but I think the Ravens just killed Jarvis Landry on a legal play. Fourth-and-5, Baker Mayfield launches the ball deep, deep, DEEP, a good 20 yards past everyone. One of the reasons it was that deep, was the fact that Landry was just tackled in his route. The tackle happened after the ball was thrown, so it can't be illegal contact, right? And since the pass was so deep, it was uncatchable, and thus not pass interference. Weird, weird gap in the rules ... I think.

Aaron Schatz: Right. There could have been defensive holding, maybe, on Brandon Carr, but I think the contact was within 5 yards. And then Tavon Young basically tackled Landry, but after the ball was in the air, and that was really uncatchable, way past the receiver. If Mayfield throws it shorter, I think you get a DPI there.

Dave Bernreuther: I think people overuse the "uncatchable" assumption because they forget just how much ground a professional athlete can cover.

Mayfield is an accurate thrower. If he threw that ball there, it was with good reason. Twenty yards at full speed happens in the blink of an eye. Jarvis Landry could absolutely have gotten there, and the Browns got hosed AGAIN.

Prior to that play, which was an applause-worthy decision to go for it on fourth down in no man's land, Hue Jackson waved his offense back onto the field in the least enthusiastic way imaginable. It looked like he just shrugged and said "F it, you might as well."

Browns win. Another possible tie is foiled. And while I'm happy for the Browns, I'm still annoyed. Because ties are funny.

Bryan Knowles: The Browns get a shot at a game-winning field goal as time expires. I thought the kick was blocked, but no, it's just a terrible kick, that knuckles and soars through the air and somehow barely, barely, gets over the crossbar. Browns win! First division win in three years for the Browns.

Denver Broncos 16 at New York Jets 34

Bryan Knowles: We just had the longest non-touchdown in NFL history in New York! Last play of the game, Case Keenum throws into the middle of the end zone, picked off by Marcus Maye. The clock's at 0:00, so all Maye has to do is fall down, but he decides heck with it, let's go for it, and takes off for a return. He goes 103 yards across the field ... but rookie Courtland Sutton chases him down and tackles him at the 1. So it's a 34-16 win rather than a 41-16 win. I suppose the Jets will survive.

Los Angeles Rams 33 at Seattle Seahawks 31

Vince Verhei: Seattle is going to need turnovers to have any prayer today. First drive of the game, they force a three-and-out. On third down, Frank Clark zips around Andrew Whitworth (no mean feat) for the strip-sack, but Jared Goff is able to recover the fumble and even throw an incompletion. Seahawks needed that one.

Seahawks go three-and-out, and Rams block the Michael Dickson punt. But then Seattle get the turnover they needed. On second-and-goal from the 2, Tre Flowers tips the pass to Todd Gurley, and Clark reels in the tip-drill interception and runs it out to the 26. That's a sack, fumble, and INT for Clark in the first five minutes.

Um, the Seahawks are ahead. Of the Rams. With a touchdown. Russell Wilson, under pressure, turns a sack into a pitch to Nick Vannett, who gets a 32-yard gain. And then the Seahawks just run and run and run. Five straight plays to finish the drive. Chris Carson has five carries for 32 yards (including the first drive) and Mike Davis has a 6-yard touchdown run. D.J. Fluker and company are just pushing Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh around. It's only one drive and there's a whole lot of football left, but aside from the blocked punt it's hard to imagine this game going any better for Seattle so far.

Well that didn't last long. Cooper Kupp gets wide open on a play-action crosser for a 27-yard gain, and then Todd Gurley takes over from there. In four straight plays, he loses 6 yards when the Seahawks blow up a screen pass, but then he converts the ensuing second-and-long on a checkdown caught behind the line of scrimmage, which he follows with two runs that gain 16 yards and then a 2-yard touchdown, and we're tied at 7.

Carl Yedor: Seahawks respond to L.A.'s touchdown by giving up an absolutely immediate sack to Aaron Donald, and I mean immediate. Wilson barely had time to pull the ball out of the running back's stomach on the fake before he was on his butt. A personal foul gives Seattle a first down, but they punt in short order from there. The third-down play had second-year receiver David Moore isolated on one side, where they ran a whip route short of the sticks. Sam Shields nearly picks it off, but he can't bring it in.

Vince Verhei: The thing about that Donald sack is that he was not unblocked. J.R. Sweezy had him and got beat that quickly.

And yes, Sam Shields is back in the NFL.

Rams now up 14-7 on Gurley's second touchdown, this one a red zone SHOVeLL play. Wait -- the play is reviewed and ruled short, and then Gurley is stuffed on third-and-inches, and the Rams kick the shortest field goal possible to go up 10-7. For real this time. That's an oddly conservative call for McVay, isn't it?

Pretty much everything is working for L.A. now, but in particular Kupp over the middle on play-action. Seahawks just can't cover it, and the one time it didn't work, he was wide open but the pass-rush got to Goff and forced an incompletion.

Play-action remains Seattle's most deadly weapon that they don't use nearly enough. This time, play fake freezes Marcus Peters, Tyler Lockett zips right by him on a post, and Wilson hits him just about perfectly in the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown, and Seattle is back on top 14-10.

Rams again make a score look easy, as Goff play-fakes and bootlegs and finds Kupp for a 6-yard score and they lead 17-14. The one time it looked like they might be stopped, Goff scrambled for a first down on third-and-10. They're averaging 8.0 yards per play with 13 first downs on five drives, and the only reason the game is close is because of red-zone struggles.

Clark's goal-line pick was not an anomaly -- he has been dropping back in coverage on more than one occasion. Seems an odd use of your best pass-rusher to me.

Quite a bit happened in the final minutes of the first half here. We had Seattle with the Schottenheimer special, the completion for a loss on third down to set up a long field goal, but Sebastian Janikowski bailed them out with a 52-yarder.

Then we get something unusual on the kickoff. Blake Countess returned Janikowski's first two kickoffs for 40 and 35 yards, so since then Dickson has been doing dropkicks on the kickoffs to limit return opportunities. The first had a short return that ended at the L.A. 30, but the second squibbed and bounced around and was eventually fielded at about the 5, and the returner was tackled at about the 15. That turned out to be a big deal by the end of the drive.

Then Brandin Cooks had a catch-and-fumble on a nasty hit and Seattle recovered, but the play was wiped out by a holding penalty on Seattle before the ball was thrown. Cooks left the game and I'd be stunned if he returned. He had the stiff-arm knockout reaction on the field.

The Rams got to the edge of field goal territory, but then a false start and a fumble by Goff left the ball around midfield. They almost tried a 60-plus-yard field goal, but went for a Hail Mary instead, and Seattle intercepted the pass. If not for Dickson's kickoff, that's probably a field goal for Cairo Santos.

So we're tied at 17 at the half, and given the competition, it's hard to say this isn't the best Seattle has looked all year. They've had a lot of success running the ball, they've had success on play-action, and Wilson has had a couple of his wizardry plays that have been common throughout his career but rare so far in 2018. An amazing turnaround from the funk the whole team was in at the end of the game last week.

Seahawks score on the opening drive of the second half to go back up 24-17. Lots of six-lineman running sets with former starting tackle George Fant as a motion tight end. Mike Davis had a 37-yarder, and Chris Carson broke a bunch of tackles to turn a hit for a loss into a third-and-1 conversion. On second-and-goal, we get more Wilson magic, as he scrambles and scrambles and finds David Moore in the end zone for the score. They reviewed it, and it sure looked to me like he stepped out of bounds, but they let it stand.

Rivers McCown: Cooper Kupp now apparently also out with a concussion so it is all on the Rams depth at receiver. Josh Reynolds has some tantalizing tools, this might be his chance to make an impression.

Vince Verhei: And just like that we're tied again. Big passes to a wide-open Reynolds gain 22 and 17 yards. It looks like Seattle might make a goal-line stand, but after getting stuffed on first and second down, Gurley plunges in for the score to make it 24-24.

Bryan Knowles: Man, weird things seem to happen all the time in these Seahawks-Rams games. For years, it was Jeff Fisher's team being a thorn in the Legion of Boom's side. Maybe now that the fates of the two franchises have flipped, it's time for Seattle to pester Los Angeles?

Vince Verhei: Back and forth we go! Seattle keeps on running. Now up to 168 yards rushing. Oh, and Marcus Peters is having a terrible day. Once again, he bites on a play fake and leaves a man wide open. This time it's Moore, who is so open he turns around and is actually running backwards into the end zone, and Seattle is up 31-24.

Rams can't stop Seattle's running and play-action. Seahawks can't stop Rams passing. The best news for Seattle right now is that as long as they keep scoring, they'll have the ball last.

It's funny you mention Fisher -- no penalties yet, but lots of pushing and shoving, and on the last drive Justin Britt had a very violent, very late block that was very much in the back and somehow not called for a penalty. It's like Fisher never left! (Well, except the Rams are scoring points, that part is new.)

Bryan Knowles: Defense is a suggestion in this game. Gurley to the bank after a fourth-and-2 penalty conversion as we edge into the fourth quarter. Neither team has punted since the first quarter.

Vince Verhei: Robert Woods gains 56 yards on a jet sweep. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Rams convert a fourth-and-2 on a DPI on Shaquill Griffin (an obvious call despite the booing in Seattle). Gurley gets his third touchdown, but Santos misses the extra point and Seattle still leads 31-30.

I'm going to eat my lunch now. I apologize if I miss four scores.

On third-and-long, Ndamukong Suh moves out to a wide-nine position. Vannett attempts to block him one-on-one. This, obviously, leads to a sack and a punt. But hey, it's a Michael Dickson punt, so worth watching. And it leads to a fair catch inside the 20.

Rams moving again, but Clark's massive day continues as he blows up a jet sweep on second-and-long. Ram then get conservative again and run on third-and-long, but Santos connects from 39 and the Rams go up 33-31. It's not all good news for L.A. though -- they used their last timeout of the half with more than nine minutes to go on that drive. That could be an issue as Seattle is about to get the ball, down two, with six minutes and change to go.

Bryan Knowles: Sean McVay -- official favorite coach of Football Outsiders? With Seattle out of timeouts, facing a fourth-and-inches at their own 40, the Rams line up to go for it and just end the game. I think Seattle was expecting the old "try to draw them offsides" play, but instead, they quick-snap it, Goff plows forward and gets the first down, and they win. Oh, I love every bit of that play call.

Tom Gower: Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, Doug Pederson went for two after scoring when down 14 today, we have to give him at least a day in the spotlight even if his team still lost so nobody other than the people who already talked about how coaches should go for two after scoring when down 14 will remember it.

Vince Verhei: Welp. Seahawks got within range to try a go-ahead field goal but then moved backwards on penalties. Dickson had the worst punt of his career, a 24-yarder that didn't even cross the 20. Rams get one Gurley first down, but then he gets stuffed on third-and-inches. The punt team comes on, and it looks like Seattle is going to get one more try -- but after Seattle calls timeout, Sean McVay changes his mind, and Goff converts fourth-and-inches with a sneak to win the game.

A letdown for Seattle, obviously. If you can beat the Rams, no matter how many breaks go your way, that means you can beat anyone. Playing them close and then making more mistakes at the end? That's not so inspiring. Well, on to London and the Raiders.

Carl Yedor: Smart call by McVay to go for the win. On fourth-and-inches, they run a quarterback sneak with Goff, who converts easily. Wilson does not get an opportunity for a game-winning drive. All told, an encouraging performance by the Seattle offense in a game they definitely were not expected to win, but it's still a missed opportunity. L.A. moves to 5-0 and overcomes concussions to their top two receivers in the process. Seattle drops to 2-3 before their trip to London next weekend.

Arizona Cardinals 28 at San Francisco 49ers 18

Bryan Knowles: Well, there are two ways to have a scoring drive, as the 49ers and Cardinals show off. The 49ers open the game with a methodical, efficient, eight-play 75-yard drive for a score, facing only one third down as they ease their way through a banged-up Cardinals defense.

The Cardinals respond with Josh Rosen just throwing a 75-yard bomb to Christian Kirk for a touchdown of his own. Who needs a long drive when you have an uncovered receiver 50 yards downfield? 7-6 Cardinals, as the 49ers missed the extra point.

C.J. Beathard has three interceptions now this season. Each and every one has been off of a deflection. The latest comes off of Pierre Garcon's hands; Garcon looks washed to this point in the season, as he's done nothing beneficial whatsoever. With Marquise Goodwin out, the 49ers are really short on pass catchers.

Garcon has left with a shoulder injury, and is questionable to return. Matt Breida has just left with a leg injury, having to be helped off the field by multiple trainers. My friend Peter is in the press box today; he might have to start getting loose because the 49ers are just out of skill position players.

14-6 Arizona at the half. The Worst Game of the Week is living up to its reputation!

On a more serious note, I'm impressed by Josh Rosen's arm. Most of the yardage has come on one 75-yard touchdown pass early, but he has also been victimized by a couple of drops (so what else is new in Arizona). We keep saying Rosen is doing better than his statline indicates; it would be nice if one day his stats reflected his performance, but I think Cardinals fans have to be happy with the performance of their rookie so far, and just really, really mad at the rest of their skill position players.

The 49ers, on the other hand, look terrible on offense. I don't know what you can do when you're down QB1, RBs 1 and 2, and WRs 1 and 2, but Kyle Shanahan and crew need to come up with some answers, and quick. After the first impressive drive of the game -- which still had Breida in -- the 49ers have seen every drive sputter out. They're moving it decently -- they have 12 first downs to Arizona's six -- but they keep shooting themselves in the foot. Sometimes it's fourth-string running back Raheem Mostert fumbling his one carry of the game to kill a drive, other times it's Beathard taking 15-yard sacks due to a lack of pocket awareness, and other times it's just penalties. The 49ers are not good enough to overcome even a single mistake on any given drive.

If the 49ers get out of their own way, they could win this. If the Cardinals get out of Josh Rosen's way, they're going to win this easily. Not exactly the most thrilling football game I've ever watched -- I'm flippin' to that 17-17 Rams-Seahawks tussle.

Rivers McCown: Bryan, this is AMERICA'S GAME OF THE WEEK.

I just got in to the press box here for the third quarter so call this a SSS observation but Rosen has looked poised in this game. Just hit a third-down conversion on a reset where he had to escape the pocket and throw into tight coverage. The Arizona pass-catchers and his tendency to overthrow balls will make this offense look maddening at times, but you can see the promise.

Aaron Schatz: Technically I think that Eagles-Vikings is AMERICA'S GAME OF THE WEEK.
That's the game with Buck and Aikman.

Bryan Knowles: Fox calls ALL the afternoon games AMERICA'S GAME OF THE WEEK during double-header weeks. All games are equal, though some games are more equal than others.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks-Rams is also AMERICA'S GAME OF THE WEEK.

That's the thing about Fox broadcasting, [COMMENT REDACTED AND WILL NEVER EVER EVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY].

Rivers McCown: AMERICA'S GAME OF THE WEEK is whatever you want it to be, baby!

Bryan Knowles: The 49ers finally, FINALLY get into the end zone again. Since their first drive, they've had an 8-play drive ended by a fumble, a 9-play drive ended by a fumble and a 13-play drive ended by a missed field goal. This time, they finally get out of their own way and, on fourth-and-goal, punch it in.

And then Chandler Jones makes a great play to tip the two-point conversion pass before it gets within 3 yards of a receiver, so it's still 14-12, Arizona.

C.J. Beathard has no pocket awareness. For the second game in a row, trying to complete a fourth-quarter comeback, Beathard turns it over thanks to pressure and gives the other team a touchdown. This time, it's Haason Reddick, coming in basically unblocked and just grabbing the ball from Beathard's hands. He wasn't even hit, per se, he was just holding the ball out and Reddick swatted it, then Josh Bynes scooped it and ran in for the score. 21-12, and that should be all she wrote here.

Minnesota Vikings 23 at Philadelphia Eagles 21

Aaron Schatz: I was going to point out that one of the big obvious things in this game was better play by the Eagles offensive line, especially the tackles. The Vikings are down Everson Griffen because of Griffen's mental health issues, and then on offense, they lost Riley Rieff at left tackle so they've got their right tackle playing left tackle and a rookie on the right side. Except ... it's the Eagles offensive line that has the big failure, as defensive end Stephen Weatherly swims past Lane Johnson at right tackle and tips the ball out of Carson Wentz's hand and into the arms of Linval Joseph who rumbles for a big man touchdown, 10-3 Vikings.

So, there will probably be a lot of discussion of a roughing the passer call on Michael Bennett near the end of the first half in Minnesota-Philadelphia. He beat Kyle Rudolph around the edge and dove at Kirk Cousins, landing with his arms around Cousins' thighs... but then his arms slid down Cousins' body, below his knees.

And you know, hitting the quarterback below the knees is a no-no. I'm not really sure what else he could do, he's falling down after he hits the thigh. He's not hitting below the knees, he's hitting above the thighs and then sliding below the knees. But it's a penalty. Cousins follows it up by dropping it perfectly over Adam Thielen's shoulder in the corner of the end zone, touchdown, 17-3 Vikings going into halftime.

Tom Gower: Yeah, I'm with Mike Pereira that that shouldn't have been a penalty on Bennett. But it was a gorgeous throw afterward by Cousins for the score. But the bigger story of the first half is the Eagles going three-and-out three times in five possessions and only scoring three points against a defense that didn't look like it had many answers last week against the Rams, while Cousins is completing 83 percent of his passes even if not for many yards per completion.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles start up their offense, finally, to start the third quarter. They go 68 yards in nine plays and finally have a bit of a running game... until Jay Ajayi fumbles the ball on the 5-yard line. And then the Vikings match them on one play, a 68-yard catch-and-run for Adam Thielen. Cousins launched it with Fletcher Cox in his face, Thielen raced past Jalen Mills and then around the 50 put a move on rookie Avonte Maddox to get him turned around, so Thielen gained another 23 yards. Hell of a play.

Carl Yedor: Been keeping an eye on the box score of this one for fantasy purposes, and I noticed that Philly went for two after scoring a touchdown that put them down 20-12. Almost all coaches would just kick the extra point to make it a 7-point game, but I've seen research that shows teams should do what the Eagles did right there.

Tom Gower: Down 20-6, the Eagles score a touchdown to cut it to 20-12. Doug Pederson then goes for two with 12:05 to play in the game, and gets it. Any simple math model, which I can go through if people want to, says this is a no-brainer move and some of the lowest-hanging fruit available with anything close to league-average two-point conversion rates, but I'm not sure any NFL coach had ever done it. And the Eagles got it, so there's a chance somebody might copy it! Maybe! (Bill Belchick taking the wind against the Broncos in 2013 didn't lead to a spate of other coaches taking the wind, though it has happened three times since then (albeit one of them also Belichick).)

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles get up field and Carson Wentz hits Wendell Smallwood on the right side of the end zone for the touchdown. A little bit of a catch rule discussion on this one since Smallwood lost the ball, but he already had possession and his knee down and was "making a football move" and under the new catch rule, that touchdown is confirmed.

And then Doug Pederson does the analytical thing we thought no head coach would ever have the balls to do. He goes for two, down eight in the fourth quarter. That makes the game 20-14, and it means that if the Eagles score a game-tying touchdown, they just need the extra point to take the lead.

Pederson passes up a shot at a 58-yard field goal, and chooses to punt instead. Which I certainly understand, that's a pretty tough field goal and you would still need another score after that. Vikings are moving up the field on the ensuing drive even though their offensive line keeps folding under pressure. Play after play, Cousins has made some fantastic throws while under pressure in this game. And you've got to cover guys better, you can't let Kyle Rudolph go 17 yards down the sideline on third-and-1, almost all in yards after the catch.

Dan Bailey hits from 52 yards to make it 23-14, Vikings. The difference between 52 and 58 yards on a field goal is pretty sizeable. This isn't exact because the baselines change a little each year but right now in the FO special teams metrics, before adjusting for weather/altitude, expected points on a 52-yard field goal is 2.00 and on a 58-yard field goal it's 1.05.

Oakland Raiders 10 at Los Angeles Chargers 26

Derrik Klassen: Oakland's offense showed some signs of life in the first half, but have been largely terrible on third down. In five attempts (not including a spike play), their only third-down conversion came on a checkdown to Jared Cook just before the half, which I'm sure the Chargers were fine with as all it did was set up a long field goal as time expired in the half.

The Chargers front has done a decent job of forcing Derek Carr into uncomfortable situations on third down. Carr, being the pressure-averse player he is, has been happy to check down or force a wonky pass just to get the ball out of his hands. If the Chargers can keep up the pressure, Carr won't prove much of a threat to make big plays in the second half.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders defense is struggling (perpetually) to tackle and minimize gains. Chargers running back Austin Ekeler duped nearly the entire Raiders defense on a checkdown pass that he took 44 yards to the house. That may have been the most glaring example of Oakland's defensive troubles, but it sums up what most of their afternoon has looked like. They are getting killed after the catch.

Dallas Cowboys 16 at Houston Texans 19 (OT)

Aaron Schatz: Cris Collinsworth thinks the Houston offensive line is doing a good job of withstanding the Dallas pressure, considering that Houston is starting its fifth offensive line combination in five games. I guess with that asterisk it's a pretty good job, but overall I do think Dallas is bringing a good amount of pressure tonight and Deshaun Watson is pulling it down a lot. Good thing he's efficient at running for yardage.

Tom Gower: I think that was a couple plays before Daniel Ross, I believe, pancaked Senio Kelemete. Alfred Blue had a good run and Watson hasn't been sacked, but that's a bit like Adam Archuleta's praise for Josh Allen today, a bit too much puffery and supporting caveats for my taste.

Aaron Schatz: Houston gets a pick and gets all the way down to the goal line but on third-and-goal, DeAndre Hopkins' elbow goes down a foot short of the goal line. So the Texans go for it on fourth-and-goal and ... what was that play call? No sneak, no handoff, Watson in the shotgun with three receivers and Alfred Blue in the backfield, and it looked like the play was designed to go to Blue on a very basic swing pass -- with no alternative if Blue was covered other than Watson just running for it. And so a Cowboys defender comes over to cover Blue, and Watson runs for it, and he doesn't even come close. That play call was weak.

Rivers McCown: The Texans have yet to punt and have taken the ball to first-and-goal three times. They have 10 points.

I agree that the offensive line has looked better, though Kendall Lamm did get upended on at least one play I saw. Julie'n Davenport at left tackle has been downright OK.

Scott Kacsmar: The quarterback sneak is great and should be used more. The Cowboys used it well, but after that, Tavon Austin isn't a great option and a pass to him was tipped and intercepted. It looked like the Texans would turn that into points before the half, but great call by the refs to call Hopkins down at the 1-inch line. I'm really surprised Hopkins didn't just stretch his arm out knowing he was that close. They still had a timeout too. On fourth down, I like going for it, but just do the sneak where the quarterback extends the ball to break the plane. What Houston actually did stunk, and that goes down as the first sack of the game.

Aaron Schatz: Well maybe we learned why the Texans didn't try a quarterback sneak in the first half, because in the second half they just got it down to the 1 again, this time on a DPI in the end zone, and they went handoff, sneak, pass, and none of those plays got in. The sneak in particular was telegraphed to the Cowboys pretty strongly so the defensive tackles easily filled the gaps. They kick the field goal this time on fourth-and-goal from the 1, so it is now 16-13 Texans.

Make that 16-16 Texans and we're going to go to overtime. My god has Deshaun Watson taken a beating in this game.

Scott Kacsmar: We need to start holding "invest in offensive line and star running back" teams more accountable when they do something like punt on fourth-and-1 in opponent territory in overtime. Jason Garrett did that and the Texans should get the win after a big YAC play by Hopkins.

Rivers McCown: I'm glad Bill O'Brien got to show his red zone prowess to the entire nation tonight. I hope you learned what I have to put up with on a weekly basis.

Comments

171 comments, Last at 09 Oct 2018, 8:08pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The Browns have a regulation win and loss, an overtime win and loss, and a tie, in the first five games. That is remarkable. Has that ever happened? And each of those losses (and the tie) were pretty competitive and could have been wins.

They’re not a good team, but they’ve been an entertaining one. I’d love to see how they’d be with a better coach - I still think Jackson is holding them back.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Only three other teams have had 3 overtime games out of their first 5, regardless of the results: 2002 Bills, 1995 Colts, and 1987 Packers. Of those, only the Packers had a tie, and in fact they filled the round robin perfectly, just like the Browns. They went L-T-W-OTL-OTW, where the last three of those were strike games.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

"They’re not a good team, but they’ve been an entertaining one."

So true. They're only a few lucky/unlucky bounces from being 5-0, 0-5, or 1-0-4 (credit to The Ringer). A different Ringer article had a great quote, calling the 2018 Browns a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial come to life.

Like you, I wonder how good they could be with actual competent coaching.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Watching the Seahawks game I was furious at Pete Carroll for calling a timeout on 4th down at the end of the game. I knew McVay wanted to go for it, but he hesitated and then played it "safe" since he didn't have any timeouts. Once I saw the punting unit on the field, I was willing to forego the 30 seconds (and save the timeout) to ensure it stayed out. At that moment getting the ball back felt way more important to me than time.

But in retrospect it is totally defensible. The time was nontrivial, and a 4th-and-inches conversion is not a done-deal. It only seems that way after a successful QB lunge. And if it failed, the Seahawks were like 10 yards away from a reasonable FG attempt. The odds are stacked against Seattle at that moment no matter what. A fourth-down stop probably isn't that much more unlikely than driving into field goal range and making a kick with no timeouts and 1:30 left.

It felt at the time like old-school Pete Carroll not understanding the mentality of a younger less traditional coach and making the wrong move because of it. But maybe that's not they case.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think you had it right the first time. Getting the ball back was way more important than time, and giving McVay a chance to reconsider (if that's what actually happened) was a grave mistake. Seems like Carroll maybe didn't realize going for it was the obvious right decision for the Rams?

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Unmentioned in the jax/kc game - the 5+ personal fouls by the chiefs, including a headbutt by Hill in retaliation for getting tackled (!), an elbow to the back of a downed OL after an extra point by Jones, and another DL ejected for multiple tauntings.

Taunting ejection is stupid (let them play) but Jones and Hill should be fined and suspended for intent to injure after the play.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

>I would support a rule that says the Panthers must call an end-around or reverse every game, because every time it happens, I get to see Cam Newton as a lead blocker putting a linebacker on his ass.

That block was awesome, my whole family was going nuts over it and they're mostly Giants fans. He threw a better than pretty much any Giants lineman besides Soldier has had all year. Cam Newton for Giants right tackle!

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

'They lose a close game in Week 1 to a good Miami team in a hurricane.'
Depends, I suppose, on one's definition of 'good.' Although less of an issue if written before the second half of the Miami game.
What will Miami's record be at year end? My money is on a 7-9 Jeff Fisher Special although I suppose 8-8 is within reach.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The roughing call on Bennett wasn't good, but it wasn't egregiously bad in real time.He isn't really pushed into the qb by the tackle; it is his own momentum which causes the contact, and it was close enough to the knee or below that watching in real time it becomes like many other calls which are just really hard to be consistently accurate with, without aid of replay.

The Vikings special teams, kicker again, did their level best to give the game away, missing two shortish field goals, before hitting the long one deep in the 4th. Any more injuries on the o-line, and they may be in danger of having street free agents again taking snaps, although Cousins, if he doesn't get hurt (I think he will), may be able to compensate, given how well he is earning his cap space. He has a lost fumble credited to him yesterday which really belongs to the running back who turned a forward pass into a lateral, and I wonder how much that play will reduce Cousins' DYAR.

The Vikings d-line was really primed to have deep pass rush rotation before Griffin had his mental health crisis, which really was a depressing thing to observe from afar, and I wonder if it had a significant effect on players and coaches, especially with it happening in the immediate wake of Sparano's death. It just has not been a lot of entertainment following this team this year, for reasons unrelated to performance. I just feel bad for the families affected.

That last Eagles td was interesting because Zimmer, with the Eagles out of timeouts, just conceded the middle of the field, and let Eagles move down to get a short shot at the end zone, as long as it came after the two minute warning. What's the success rate for an onside kick in that situation, about 8%? That is before this years change in kickoff team alignment rules, which may well reduce that percentage to 4% or less. Something to watch as the season progresses. A significant decline in success rate for expected onside kicks really might change a lot of strategy.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The roughing call on Bennett wasn't good, but it wasn't egregiously bad in real time.

If we can reasonably expect players to follow the rules in real time, we can expect officials to correctly officiate in real time.

If they cannot, they should not be professionally employed.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

This is true. But officials don't perform in the context of large fast men attempting to commit violence against their person every second they are on the field.

For players, it's more like playing chess where if you take more than 3 seconds a man hits you with a bat. It leads to sub-optimal decision processes. Refs don't have this burden.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I suspect the error rate in shooting and motorsports is fairly low.

In terms of collision sports, I would suggest hockey and baseball are right more often, or for baseball specifically, much more balanced in its error application. Baseball does have some high-profile counter examples, though.

Basketball is probably worse than football. It's easier to call and commits predictable errors with, if anything, higher frequency and less balance between offense and defense. Soccer is... well soccer has so many house rules it's hard to keep track of what is supposed to be enforced and what isn't, and it's managing organization is comically corrupt.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Good grief, the observational errors on balls and strikes are so frequent that I can scarcely believe that humans are still making the calls. In comparison to the calls that have to be made in football, the number of close calls on the bases is just miniscule, so it is hard to compare. Basketball has just a huge amount of randomness. Another thing to keep in mind is how the error rate increases with 22 players to watch, spread over a much larger surface, compared to the 10 or 12 in basketball and hockey. I think a lot of refereeing issues in football arise from old farts trying run with world class athletes on a big field. Soccer, with it's even larger field, at least seems to have fewer geriatrics enforcing the rules.

I just don't think firing refs who make observational errors works in any sport. Yes, the Triplettes are given way too much slack, but that isn't the same thing.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

>I suspect the error rate in shooting and motorsports is fairly low.

As a Formula 1 fan, I can tell you that this season has been maddeningly inconsistent in terms of penalties--check out what the fans are saying on F1 forums about last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix for instance. They'll give two different rulings on two similar incidents during the same race, and they've typically declined to penalize drivers whose actions end up harming their own race chances, which is a bit like if a football referee picked up a roughing flag because the defender injured himself while committing the foul. And this is in a sport where officials can take as long as they like to scrutinize every possible replay angle, including onboard views from the individual cars.

So never underestimate the abilities of sports officials to hand down rulings that leave the fans baffled and dissatisfied.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Rugby officials seem to do a good job and there's only three of them (plus video ref). They do a good job of implementing video review where they video ref can also initiate a review, they are on average a lot faster than NFL reviews and they mic the refs so you can hear them discussing the call and then telling the teams of the results. Talk about un-NFL like transparency. But then again I do not have a ton of experience watching rugby, so I'd be interested in hearing from someone who grew up watching/playing rugby.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I've watched a bit of international rugby over the years and the first thing is that players have the utmost respect for referee's decisions. Only the captain talks to the referee and any hint of dissent is immediately dealt with by walking off 10-yds against the offending team.

The second thing is that I don't believe rugby (like soccer) tries to define it's rules down to the nth degree of accuracy. It has some laws that cover the game and those are generally enough. Football, like golf, tries to dictate what the rule is for numerous situations. The main effect of all this is that referees are trusted with decisions in soccer/rugby (even when players/teams/fans disagree) whereas NFL officials are micro-managed.

Thirdly remember that until 1995 rugby was still amateur. So no-one cared then quite as much about results as professional teams do. Obviously that's changing but a lot of the amateur ethos is still part of the game. I've known rugby players who talk about it being a good hard fight on the pitch and then going for a drink with the opposing team in the bar after the game.

In terms of video reviews being quick ... at the last World Cup the reviews were really slow in the opening group games. As I recall every scoring play was reviewed and this became tedious. Within a few games, this slowness had been eliminated which was clearly an instruction from the IRB to get games moving. So I'd guess accuracy, or more specifically overanalysis and over-scrutinisation were sacrificed in favour of viewing.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

We will have to have NFL games without referees, then. They make observational errors just like players do. If every QB who made observational errors could no longer be professionally employed, they would have to play the game without qbs.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

After seeing further replays, it was a bad call, but like you say, in real time, it's very hard to see it and not think Bennett hit him in the knees (and refs are generally going to err on the side of protecting QBs).

I also think the "what else could he do?" line of thinking (EDIT: that I've heard a lot, but not from you, Will) is often misguided. Yes, there are some legitimate instances where a player's momentum makes what had been a clean, under control play into one where he's inevitably going to hit a QB illegally, but the same thing was said when horsecollar tackles became a penalty and when helmet-to-helmet hits were under so much scrutiny a few years back. And for the most part, we've seen a dip in the plays that are no longer legal in both those cases. And there are clear pass interference penalties where the DBs has "no choice" but to interfere to prevent a catch, and we don't all get up in arms that such plays are unfair to the defense.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

What Bennett could have done is adhere to the number one rule in the vast majority of football plays, for most players; stay on your feet. The blocker did not cause him to fall, he just lost his balance and fell. Bad things tend to happen when a football player falls down, and this time it caused a ref to miss a pretty hard call at full speed, in the context of the emphasis of protecting qbs in the pocket.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

What Bennett could have done is adhere to the number one rule in the vast majority of football plays, for most players; stay on your feet.

That would tend to make tripping, clipping, and chop block penalties awkward, as the injured party is the one knocked off their feet.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Huh? I'm referring to players who lose their feet due to their own motion, not to guys getting knocked off their feet due to the infractions or blocks you mention. The tackle in this instance had nothing to do with Bennett losing his balance.

(edit) tightend, not tackle

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

"What Bennett could have done is adhere to the number one rule in the vast majority of football plays, for most players; stay on your feet. The blocker did not cause him to fall, he just lost his balance and fell."

I mean, yeah, he was going to the ground already, but the blocker literally shoved him downward. He wouldn't have been that low except for the block. He would've wrapped right around the QB's waist.

In fact, you could actually argue that with the rules as they are, there's huge incentive for a lineman who's been beaten on a play to just shove the rusher *downward*, hoping to get a roughing call.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

And even if it did, an offensive lineman (legally) blocking a defender to the ground is a good play by that offensive lineman! Why should we give a defender who was beaten soundly by his blocker more leeway with how he can hit the QB?

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think you're right that asking "what else can he do?" is probably the wrong way to approach the problem. Better might be to ask, "how much burden can fairly be placed on defensive players for things that are out of their control?" A couple of comments here are debating the extent to which Bennett was pushed down by the tackle vs. he was going down on his own accord. But outside of a situation where a pass rusher runs cleanly by/between linemen, they have to get through the blocker to get to the QB. Asking the pass rusher to be responsible for remaining sufficiently upright after fighting through a block—potentially limiting the amount of ways they can win in the trenches—places a much greater burden in my opinion than asking defenders to change angles or body positions in open field situations against defenseless receivers or to not attempt a horse collar tackle, etc. I mean, it would be awesome if every pass rusher could throw offensive linemen clean off of them a la Reggie White...

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I agree that that's a much better question to ask.

I actually come down on the side that QBs are overly-protected, but also that defenders are not entitled to hitting the QB. Not everyone needs to be a top-five pass rusher to get a hit on a QB, but defenders also need to come around to the fact that "I didn't get through the blockers quickly or cleanly enough, I better avoid hitting the QB" is something they need to think about.

EDIT: We ask this of defenders in pass coverage all the time. If they didn't stay with a receiver closely enough to make a clean deflection, we call fouls on them if they make too much contact when they do go for the ball.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Oh, absolutely. We really are at this point asking all but the elite of the elite, in terms of pass rusher body control, to dial it back once they get into the vicinity of the qb, lest they lose their balnce and have contact with the qb that draws the attention of a hypervigilant ref, because at game speed the refs really can't measure force or inches in areas of contact, in a meaningfully consistent way. It certainly is unfortunate, in my view.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

It just bananas that this new emphasis on game altering penalties isn't subject to review. There is no reason they couldn't make every roughing the passer call reviewable, a la turnovers and scores.

It's just crazy that all those college games can review every single play, but the NFL can't.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

"The roughing call on Bennett wasn't good, but it wasn't egregiously bad in real time.He isn't really pushed into the qb by the tackle; it is his own momentum which causes the contact, and it was close enough to the knee or below that watching in real time it becomes like many other calls which are just really hard to be consistently accurate with, without aid of replay."

Yeah, um, you may want to add the "full disclosure, I'm a Vikings fan", there, Will. From an Eagles fan perspective, it was ludicrously bad. I don't have a better adjective for that. Maybe just "wrong bad." So I'm guessing from the neutral fan perspective it was probably egregiously bad.

Is he pushed into the QB by the tackle? No, but he was *shoved down* by the tackle. The reason it's close to the knee is because of the Vikings offensive lineman, not the defensive end. And the rule isn't "contact below the knee is verboten!" It's "contact below the knee *with force*" is a penalty.

And there's no force there. C'mon. Cousins's knee and lower leg doesn't even *move*. He just sits down on Bennett. Even in real time, you can see that there's no real force there. It's just wrong.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Again, I really disagree the the push from the tackle significantly accelerated his fall, or direction. It seems to me that the fall was an absolute given, and the tackle's contact may have just lowered the point of contact slightly. Again, it appeared to me that, at game speed, it was a call that will be missed a nontrivial amount of time, due to the emphasis on staying away from the qb's knees in the pocket. Would I prefer allowing more contact? Yes, I would, but I'll stick with my observation that falling down close to the qb in the pocket carries significant penalty risk.

(edit) Oh, and I agree that there was a lack of force, but I expect refs are going to misjudge force at gamespeed not infrequently, given the current rules environment. I also agree this hinders pass rushing in ways I don't like.

(2nd edit) tight end, not tackle

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Side note, it's the tight end, not the tackle.

I really have no idea how you can think that. In the clip here, it's cut a little late (after the shove) but if you find a full replay and look at the beginning of that angle, you can clearly see his speed change due to the shove. I mean, *clearly* clearly. Heck, you could measure the force that Rudolph's exerting on him using the video.

" and the tackle's contact may have just lowered the point of contact slightly."

Which... is what Bennett got flagged for.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Yes and I have no idea how you can think what you think. Funny how human perception works, and actually I do know how you and I arrived at our points of view. We're subject to confirmation bias, and absent a survey of 5000 non Eagles and non Vikings fans, we really have no idea which of us is more under that influence, if any significant difference exists, which I kind of doubt.

With regard to your last two sentences, that's kind of my point. If your expectation is that slight influences are going to be consistently detected at game speed, in an environment where the refs have had it hammered into them to protect qbs, I think you are pretty overoptimistic. Losing your balance on your own, and falling near a qb in the pocket, carries significant penalty risk. I wish it wasn't that way, my homerism of yesterday notwithstanding, but that is where we are.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think it's obvious because you could *measure* the acceleration. One speed before, one speed after, take the difference, divide by time taken, poof, acceleration. Multiply by Bennett's mass and you've got force exerted.

And I think you're misunderstanding my last point: I'm saying the current rules are so bad that there's just going to be screwups all the time, and this was one. There's literally no way to avoid this stuff happening without just not playing. Saying "stay on your feet" isn't a viable option when people are allowed to shove you down from behind and cut your legs out. Right now, roughing penalties are just "things that happen randomly," like fumble bounces.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I'll agree that the rules protecting QBs have moved at least a step too far, but "stay on your feet, even though players are trying to knock you down" is literally the rules that ball carriers have to follow. I don't think asking defensive players to do the same is some sort of obvious argument.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think players should only be fined if the play was "dirty" (meaning intent to injure, not merely being against the rules), but that's not really relevant to this discussion. I'm talking about on-field play; once Bennett was blocked to the ground, he does not and should not have the same leeway to hit the QB as if he had stayed upright.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I'm not saying they should have to stop playing; I'm saying we don't give them any special leeway - like allowing them to hit the QB near the knees - once they have gone to the ground. If a CB is stumbling after hitting a legal pick, and as he falls, grabs the ankle of a receiver he's covering to slow him down, we don't argue, "It's unfair to call defensive holding/illegal contact there, because he was going to the ground due to contact with an opponent."

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Yes, Pat, we could provide instrumentation, and people to man it, and confirm or overrule a ref's estimate of force. That really doesn't have anything to do with what I was writing about, which is refs eyeballing such a thing with consistency, which I think means you and I are in large agreement, because I think it is an impossible task.

Yes, sometimes players lose their feet because an opponent forces it. That wasn't the case with this play. The pass rusher fell on his own accord, and because of the rules environment we are in, which we agree is suboptimal, losing your feet, of your own accord, in the vicinity of a qb in the pocket carries with it a risk of penalty, because we ask these refs to make all kinds of judgemenyts that really can't be applied well. It is thus yet another reason why losing your feet, of your own accord, is inadvisable.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

"Yes, Pat, we could provide instrumentation, and people to man it, and confirm or overrule a ref's estimate of force."

Uh, that's not what I was saying - I'm saying that *I* could do it in this specific case, which is why I don't understand how you don't see it as obvious. But again, we're viewing this from opposite biases, so I don't believe your opinion is fair just like I don't believe my opinion is fair.

"It is thus yet another reason why losing your feet, of your own accord, is inadvisable."

I don't understand why you're not understanding the issue here:

1) I'd like to think that we both agree that calling a penalty (and possibly a fine!) on a player for something that happens solely due to a player on the *other team's* actions is not a sane application of the rules. It's obviously unfair and game-able.

2) We also both seem to agree that it's impossible for refs to gauge that with consistency as it is now.

3) Therefore, the only remaining conclusion is that calls like this (which *required* the ref to make that judgement) are inherently unfair.

The fact that you think that the ref got it right in this case is immaterial, especially considering the bias: it doesn't change the fact that calls like this are inherently unfair to the players.

Saying "stay on your feet" is nice and all, but it doesn't mean they *won't* get burned by the rule, it just means that they'll get screwed less often. Which means if a defensive lineman asks "what can I do so that I won't get called for this" the *proper* answer is "nothing." If they ask "what can I do to lower my *chances* of getting called for this," then you could say "stay on your feet."

That might sound like it's semantics, but it's not, because it makes it clear that there's no behavioral change that's going to make this rule fair. It's just going to be unfair, period, and until it gets changed, people have to accept that.

165 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Um, Pat, in my first post I wrote that the call was wrong. My point was that in the current unreasonable rules environment, it is a not an unexpected wrong call, and that losing your balance of your own accord, and falling down, near a qb in the pocket, now carries significant penalty risk. In other words, getting screwed less often is a very worthy thing to strive for in a football game.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Let me be clear: the thing I'm pushing back against is the idea that you can rationalize the current rules environment at all. So it's a degree thing - you're calling it "unreasonable", I'm calling it "irrational." You say it's not unexpected, I'm saying they're all just random. Had Bennett been slightly on his feet more the shove would've taken him off balance, and he still would've been called. It's all just random penalties at this point.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Pete Carroll made the dumbest decision I've witnessed in 30 years of fanhood, a call that dwarfs eschewing Marshawn in SB 49.

A minute and change to go in the 4th, down by 2 points and you just made a critical 3rd down stop by mere inches. You have one remaining TO, so a conversion would have ended the game. The clock stopped for a measurement, so whatever your opponent decides on 4th, they can only run off 25 seconds before snapping rather than the usual 45. By some miracle, you get exactly what you want; the punt unit trots onto the field.

What does Petey do? Calls a TO, of course.

It's hard to explain how stupid this is. It's literally something that would be embarrassing if done in a peewee league. Given the reduced run off, the TO is at least as valuable to your offense as it was there, and there is nothing you could possibly need to say to the punt unit, you had plenty of time during the measurement and they should be playing the fake either way. No, the only material change a TO offers is for the opponent to reconsider their decision and avoid making such an obvious tactical error. Which is exactly what happened.

Simply astounding.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think it's the wrong call, but it is a rock/hard place type of decision.

Unless he wanted to cajole the go-for-it, because a stop was really the one situation where the Seahawks would have a solid chance to win.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Granted, but given the way those teams were playing that game, I view scoring with nearly a minute with a TO to be orders of magnitude more likely than stopping the Rams from getting a couple inches.

I also suspect that Carroll didn't even consider that McVay might change his mind as a result of the TO, he seemed oblivious to that as a potential cost of taking the TO then. Had the Rams put their offense on the field, a TO is the obvious choice... you see the formation, get a chance to coach the guys up for a second and a TO preserved after a conversion serves no purpose. As is, though, you take your gift horse and let the clock force them into sticking with the decision.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

But letting the clock bleed and then getting the ball on your 10-yard-line or so with a one-minute left and a single timeout is not such a great "gift". There was no guarantee McVay was going to go for it after the timeout (though I figured he probably would) and there was no guarantee it would be successful even if he did (though the odds are high). I just don't see how somebody could say there was a definitive right or wrong decision in this situation.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The fact that you are are playing a good defense, and your offense is not good, while your defense is, is Seattle's best argument for taking the timeout. Generally speaking, giving by far your best unit a chance to win the game, as opposed to your worst unit, is reasonable, especially against an opponent which is excellent on offense and defense. I think keeping the time out makes sense, but I agree that it isn't as clear cut as some may think.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think the error in taking the time out is that it gave McVay a chance to be swayed into calling the dagger play, that's what, a 50/50 to convert on 4th and inches? But there was a lot of dysfunction down the stretch for the Hawks, so while this wasn't maybe the most important factor, it ultimately was the final factor.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

But if the dagger play fails, against Seattle's good defense, then even Seattle's terrible offense has a decent chance to win the game. Again, I think I keep the timeout, but it is a closer call than might be imagined, and I don't know Seattle's offense as well as Carroll. If he's thinking "My offense blows chunks, no way I want them to get the ball with 50 seconds left on our 10", I can't say he's nuts.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

FWIW, I don't think the Hawks defense was that good during the game, nor have they been all that good in aggregate over the season. Better than expected, sure, but not objectively good. Basically this came down to "make the opponent roll the dice and if they succeed we're donezo and if we succeed then we gotta roll our own dice and maybe fail anyway but we have a shot at least." I get it and given all the other factors in play it's super murky on whats right. I just hate giving a game player a chance to consider their options and take the backbreaker. FWIW, I think McVay should have gone for it regardless of the timeout or not.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Everything's relative. Yes, Seattle's defense is not what is was, but Seattle's offense is worse, too, meaning Seattle's defense has better chance of flipping the game, in terms of win probability, especially against an opponent which is excellent on both sides.

The argument against this is that pass rushing is often harder at the end of games, due to fatigue, especially against Wilson. but I didn't see the game, so I don't have a feel for it.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

FWIW, I don't think the Hawks defense was that good during the game, nor have they been all that good in aggregate over the season. Better than expected, sure, but not objectively good. Basically this came down to "make the opponent roll the dice and if they succeed we're donezo and if we succeed then we gotta roll our own dice and maybe fail anyway but we have a shot at least." I get it and given all the other factors in play it's super murky on whats right. I just hate giving a game player a chance to consider their options and take the backbreaker. FWIW, I think McVay should have gone for it regardless of the timeout or not.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

My wild assed guess is that Seattle's offense successfully gets into field goal range, against the Rams, from their own 10, 50 seconds left, one timeout, maybe 1 or 2 in 10 times, before we factor the probability of a good kick.

The more I think about it, the more I agree with Carroll, but to be fair, I'm not factoring the odds of a bad punt.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

But letting the clock bleed and then getting the ball on your 10-yard-line or so with a one-minute left and a single timeout is not such a great "gift".

Sure, but that's because they were in a desperate situation either way, but it was pretty clear which option was preferable.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

GB was about as sloppy as a team could be in the first half. Things improved some in the second half, but this is multiple games where the team comes out slow especially on offense. The penalty thing is spiraling out of control as the Packers are routinely committing dumb penalties. No blaming the refs in today's game.

Doesn't help that 12 is missing some easy throws. And not by the Rodgers standard but by the ordinary NFL qb standard which means these misses are just weird.

GB is like the Wisconsin Badgers in that with the well below average defense the offense and special teams have to win ballgames most days. When one or both of those units throws up the team will lose

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Agreed that GB was all around sloppy in the first half. Crosby's misses were definitely a major problem, but he didn't lose this game by himself. Rodgers has to take full responsibility for both of his fumbles. He had terrible awareness in both of those circumstances. And there was another play in which he was hit from behind while throwing that demonstrated similar lack of awareness of the pass rush by Rodgers. It was strange seeing him consistently be so unaware. I wonder if he just is still struggling with the knee, and not actually moving as fast as he thinks he is in his mind.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Greg Cosell generally talks about Rodgers with half praise - saying he's an unstructured savant but doesn't play in any kind of passing rhythm(his criticism is doubled down with Wilson fyi).

I've watched the Packers offense twice this season and I came away with the same conclusions(at least for this season). The offense can make big explosive plays and can execute quick touchdowns with brutal efficiency, they just don't do it consistently. Everything feels a bit herky jerky andf I've been trying to figure out why. The announcers in the game(who were awful btw) - kept saying it was the packers young receiving core, while neglecting to mention they had Graham and Adams.

Maybe it is. I know lots of posters on this thread suggest its McCarthy, but then this was the same coaching staff that were helming the offense when it was sublime in 2011, 2012 etc.

I don't watch the packers offense every week that closely, but from an outsiders perspective, I suspect the talent ebbing has led to Rodgers developing some bad habits where he either doesn't trust his receivers to run the right routes or he himself just loses patience in the route tree itself.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Versus peak Packers (and I lump Favre in as an unstructured savant)?

The current iteration has a shaky line, no running backs (their last good RB was Ryan Grant) and no vertical threats. The ideal GB offense is at least a solid workhorse RB, preferably a breakaway threat (Grant, Green), combined with a solid line, a receiving TE (Chmura, Finley), a good #1 or #2 vertical receiver (A Driver, but a Nelson can work here), and a decent slot guy. It definitely requires a great player in one or the other, and favors the deep guy, but could survive with a Welker.

Adams is good. They have no RBs of note. Graham has a name, but I think he's done. He peaked in 2013 and his last good season was 2016. They've got two of the four parts they need.

This offense is Rodgers and Davante Adams and then *smokebomb*. It's not 2011 anymore when they had Starks and Grant and Nelson and Cobb and Jennings and Jones and Driver and Finley. The line was still shaky (and very young) in 2011, but I'd take Newhouse-Lang-Wells-Sitton-Bulaga over Bakhtiari-Taylor-Linsley-McCray-Bulaga.

Rodgers is turning shit into shinola, but this is an offense that will have great difficulty structuring explosive plays, so they have to do it via improvisation and extension.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

This all seems fairly accurate, and I think it probably ties back to what the previous poster was saying about Rodgers being so incredibly skilled and phenomenal at improvising, but not as great at things like reading defenses. (Obviously, Rodgers is far from bad at making reads, but when compared to other top ten QBs, that seems to be his relative weakness.) Having a few great players he can rely on maximizes his skillset better than having a great offensive system around him.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Aaron Jones is fully qualified to be a featured back but apparently made a pass at McCarthy's wife because MM refuses to let him become a significant part of the offense. And GB needs to get past having 'veterans' on the field. Cobb is too frail while the young guys are fast and run decent enough routes to get open with Rodgers at qb.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think a very real problem with the offense is that because Rodgers is so gifted at holding onto the ball and waiting for something to come open downfield that they have a bunch of play designs that essentially demand he plays that way. They can't establish rhythm because they are mixing in some amount of structured offense with what are essentially designed sandlot plays.

Two microcosms from yesterday. Apologize for being vague on some details, but these were exactly the types of plays they rely on way too often that so often accomplish nothing:

-3rd and 10 or so just outside of the red zone. They send 3 or 4 receivers on vertical routes that don't have any stems or breaks until well beyond the first down line—I can't recall what play this was or look back to confirm, but I think they were all routes all the way into the end zone. A single receiver runs a drag underneath toward the sideline that's short of the sticks. Rodgers holds the ball, rolls right, rolls right, no one was ever open, throws incomplete toward that single receiver who wasn't open anyway.

-Goal to go situation. Packers have five receivers running routes. All they do is basically divide the end zone into fifths and run into their space and turn around and look for the ball and drift around. None of them run any type of route combination or try to attack a certain part of the coverage, just play one-on-one, turn around and look for the ball. I think Rodgers got pressured quickly and didn't have time to do his 'hold onto the ball and find a receiver' thing and either threw away or got sacked—maybe that was the intentional grounding play.

These plays basically amount to 'see if someone has a favorable matchup and/or gets open right away, and if they don't (increasingly the case since they no longer have a legitimate deep threat at receiver and their overall receiver quality has declined) it's up to Aaron to make something happen. Some part of how they got into this mess is probably Rodgers' responsibility. That's why I think they need to bring in an outside mind to re-evaluate what they're trying to do and how to better integrate Rodgers' improvisational abilities into a functional offense

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

If true, there's a lot if irony in McCarthy getting the job in good measure because it was thought he'd coach the qbs, Favre and Rodgers, really, really, hard, and successfully doing so for years. I' m no expert on what their issue has been. I tend to think their receivers have been significantly overrated, but perhaps too simplistic a scheme is at play.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

It's always seemed to me that Green Bay has banked on Rodgers' accuracy by prioritizing receivers who can make contested catches rather than guys who actually just get open. We see several plays every game where Rodgers puts the ball in an inch-perfect spot where only his guy can get it, so Green Bay picks up guys who can catch that inch-perfect ball rather than (more expensive) guys who can give Rodgers more than an inch to throw it into. The result is that nobody gets open early in the play, so Rodgers HAS to either force the ball into a very tight window or scramble around until the coverage breaks down. Graham is another guy in that mold, he's always been a jump-ball specialist, and he's going to have less and less ability to get separation now that he's on the wrong side of 30.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I wish I had a context for the Vikings debacle against the Bills. Maybe a fluke, maybe residue from observing one of their leaders' mental disintegration over several weeks, maybe they just aren't deep enough to hold up under their injuries. Losing closely to the Rams in LA., and tying in Lambeau is nothing to get pessimistic about. I just think the protection for Cousins is going to suffer all year, resulting in him getting hit enough to have performance deteriorate, and losing Griffin for the year really hurts pass defense. Ya' got me....

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I feel like if you put Mariotta on the chiefs, they'd have a pretty damn good offense. Maybe not the heights that Mahomes has, but a good acid test on just how much supporting cast can lift a qb.

There are only a handful of qbs I've seen that can transcend coaching staffs and supporting casts enough to field consistently above average offenses. Of course, give those players some competence and good to great casts and you get transcendent seasons. But that list is really really small.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Off the top of my head, the only qbs I've actually seen play on terrible teams and deliver clearly superior offensive results are (too young to see Tarkenton 50 years ago, in '69) are Manning in 2010, which at least was well coached. That Patriots team with Reche Caldwell as a prominent receiver still had clearly superior o-line play. Next? Some Elway teams were a little sparse, but I don't remember Charlie Effin Johnson level blocking. I'd have to research this to come up with some examples.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

there is no one on the bears offense that has the same level of talent as Travis Kelce or Tyreke Hill. And just because you are a disciple of a great coach, doesn't mean you can replicate the same results of the great coach.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Cohen is a good, versatile back, but nowhere near as good as Tyreek Hill.

Up until the Tampa Bay game, the Bears were actually using Taylor Gabriel in the Hill role (and he's also nowhere near as good). Against the Buccaneers, they used both similarly.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I was actually thinking about the Mariota/Trubisky comparison earlier this year, and it's not a bad one, at least in terms of overall production / quality. (I don't think they are similar in style, though.)

I loved Mariota coming out of college, but he's been far, far worse than I ever expected. A good amount of it is due to injuries and a bad supporting cast, but even when you watch good, or even potentially good, QBs with poor casts, anecdotally, I see more flashes of greatness than I do when I watch Mariota, who looks a lot like a lesser version of Alex Smith to me.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I need somebody to explain the Titans to me. They lose a close game in Week 1 to a good Miami team in a hurricane. They win three in a row, including Jacksonville's only loss of the year (coming into today) and a win over Carson Wentz and the Eagles. Then they go into Buffalo ... and they are losing 7-6 at halftime to the worst team in the league. I have no idea what's going on.

What's going on is that the Titans have a solid defense and a dumpster fire of an offense. This is the team who beat Jacksonville without completing a pass thrown by a QB and beat the Eagles on a drive that consisted of failed runs, incompletions, DPIs, mismanaged clock, and one hole-in-zone. They've been squeaking past by the skin of their teeth all year, and the law of averages reverted to the mean with brutality.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I was going to reply with this, so thanks for saving me the trouble.

The Bills-Titans score was about the least surprising score of the week. When you have a terrible QB (yes, Mariota is terrible) and a solid defense, you end up in a lot of high variance games where a handful of exceptional plays decide the outcome nearly every week.