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.
— Franklin Markel (@mtneersfootball) October 7, 2018
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:
When mediocre football is your kink pic.twitter.com/ufl51tTlsq
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 7, 2018
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.
That Vikings touchdown came after Michael Bennett was flagged for roughing the passer on THIS... pic.twitter.com/YaSivcWBy8
— Dave Loughran (@Loughy_D) October 7, 2018
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.
— NFL (@NFL) October 7, 2018
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.
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.