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

Audibles at the Line: Week 6

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 e-mails 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.

Chicago Bears 28 at Miami Dolphins 31 (OT)

Bryan Knowles: Bit of a surprise here -- Ryan Tannehill can't go, meaning Khalil Mack and the Bears, coming off a bye, get ... Brock Osweiler.

We may not have to worry about DVOA overrating Miami for that much longer.

Brock Osweiler just threw a terrible, terrible interception, staring down Kyle Fuller and just tossing him the ball. Then again, what else is new? Very next play, Mitchell Trubisky hits Allen Robinson for a score, making it 14-7 as Chicago has finally woken up.

Zach Binney: Chicago just got hit with MAYBE the worst roughing the passer flag of the season, and that's saying something. Six minutes left in the third, Leonard Floyd comes in with his hand up high trying to block an Osweiler pass. He's a second late and swipes Osweiler's arm, but his hand is up high enough that I *guess* the official thought he hit Osweiler in the head? Or was trying to? Either way 15 yards and a Dolphins first down.

Aaron Schatz: Twitter link on the Floyd play.

Vince Verhei: I've had an eye on this one as Brock Osweiler was threatening to post another Osweiler (40 or more passes, 200 or fewer yards), but his receivers just took that off the table. On the game-tying drive, they had three catches of 25 yards or more, most of those yards coming after the catch. The last was a 43-yard touchdown on a wide receiver screen to Albert Wilson where he broke a ton of tackles on his way to the end zone.

Taylor Gabriel's wide open for a 29-yard touchdown to put Chicago back on top, but then on the next play from scrimmage Albert Wilson takes a shallow cross, slips some tackles, and finishes with a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game. Osweiler, who has done nothing today but watch as his receivers have broken tackles to make big plays, just shrugs as he runs down the field. I LOL'd.

Bryan Knowles: Miami punts rather than trying a 58-yard game winning field goal, and we're going to have overtime. Yes, Osweiler has made some Osweiler-esque bad throws, and his stats have been padded by some insane YAC, but credit where credit is due; for an unexpected backup quarterback against a defense that has been as good as Chicago's this year, he has done alright. Dolphins have a chance to pull off the upset, as DVOA's Darlings continue to perform well.

Andrew Potter: If you're wondering where all of Andrew Luck's tipped ball luck went, Brock Osweiler is cackling with glee in Miami today.

The third-and-11 conversion on the opening drive of overtime was simply ridiculous good fortune.

Aaron Schatz: And then Frank Gore gets a 32-yard run to put the Dolphins near the goal line. And it looks like DVOA's Darlings are going to pull this one out despite having to start Brock Osweiler ... until on third-and-goal from the 1, Kenyan Drake loses the handle on the handoff and fumbles the ball right before he gets to the goal line. It looks like it will be Chicago's ball. They get it on the 20 after recovering the fumble in the end zone.

Bryan Knowles: Oh my! Kenyan Drake fumbles the ball as he heads into the end zone. Chicago picks it up, and we are still. Tied.

Second time today that a team has fumbled going across the goal line; Chicago did that earlier. Amazing. After Frank Gore got you all the way down here, I'm not sure why you hand the ball to Drake there, but maybe that's second-guessing it.

Vince Verhei: Dolphins get the ball first in overtime and have a third-and-inches at the goal line. Touchdown wins the game. I'm letting my 6-foot-7 quarterback sneak for the score and calling it a day. Instead the Dolphins line up in shotgun and run read-option. Kenyan Drake gets the ball and bounces off the pile and falls across the goal line ... but in the process he drops the ball and the Bears recover. They're reviewing to see if it's a touchback or Chicago's ball at the 1, but either way the Bears are getting the ball needing a field goal to win.

Aaron Schatz: Dolphins totally shut down Jordan Howard for most of the game. He was at 11 carries for 35 yards through regulation. Overtime, after the Drake fumble, all of a sudden, they are getting completely blasted off the ball by the Chicago offensive line. Howard gets runs of 19 and 15 yards. Then other Chicago running backs get 6 yards. On third-and-four, Bears get conservative, hand off again to Howard, he gets no yards. It's going to be a field goal try for 53 yards from the Miami 35 after the two-minute warning.

And Cody Parkey misses the field goal. So we've got about two minutes for the Dolphins to come back and keep us from TIE NUMBER THREE.

Andrew Potter: Stop. Settling. For Long. Field Goals.

Bryan Knowles: I blame the Bears' orange jerseys. OK, yes, the holder had a hard time getting the ball down, but I'm still blaming the pumpkin patch look.

Vince Verhei: Bears reach the edge of field goal range but then John Fox gets predictably conservative, running three times and settling for the long field goal.

Wait. Matt who now? Well, whatever, Cody Parkey pushes it wide right, and the Dolphins take over at their own 47. Time is limited, but they only need a field goal to win.

Aaron Schatz: If we want to give Matt Nagy the benefit of the doubt, like I said, the Bears were blowing the Dolphins defensive line off the ball for much of that overtime drive. Maybe he didn't think of a third-and-4 handoff as conservative, he thought of it as a good way to try to convert for a new set of downs.

Dave Bernreuther: The Fins have gotten all sorts of lucky in this one -- which has turned out to be fabulously entertaining, even for a person stuck in a Miami sports bar -- with their backup quarterback and a throwback game from a 384-year-old Frank Gore ... only to fumble on the goal line when calling a play other than "let your 8-foot tall quarterback just stand there and reach the ball over the line."

The Bears might've gotten a bit lucky on the touchback call, but doesn't matter, as the drive ends in a long missed field goal. And once again, because I'm a jerk, I'm furiously and gleefully rooting for a tie.

Which, just by typing about it, I'm sure I just doomed not to happen.

Aaron Schatz: It's good. Jason Sanders from 47. Miami wins.

Bryan Knowles: DVOA can't account for BROCKTOBER.

Vince Verhei: Final note on this game: Chicago's defense has of course been great this season, but their tackling was awful today. That's the biggest reason they blew that lead and lost.

Bryan Knowles: Brock Osweiler is now 3-0 as a starting quarterback against Chicago, and 11-12 against the rest of the NFL.

Seattle Seahawks 27 'at' Oakland Raiders 3 (London)

Bryan Knowles: In news out of London, it turns out the Raiders are shopping Amari Cooper. I don't think an entire tear-down and re-build was in the plans when the Raiders hired Jon Gruden, but he needs his Grinders and ThatGuys, I suppose.

Seattle takes the opening drive 14 plays for 82 yards, punching the ball into the end zone. The Seahawks' offensive line actually looked ... well, pretty darn good, keeping Russell Wilson upright and opening holes. That's what happens, I suppose, when you trade your top pass-rusher days before the season starts.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks go up 14-0 when Russell Wilson drops the snap, recovers the fumble, and finds David Moore in the back of the end zone for the score. (The fumbled touchdown pass has a long history in Seattle -- I think Dave Krieg did it a lot back in the day.) That was set up by a Frank Clark sack-fumble when Kolton Miller was beaten badly for the sack, then failed to recover the ball even though he seemed to have an easy recovery, but he somehow let the ball slip under his body.

Seattle's first score was also a Wilson touchdown pass, that one to Jaron Brown, but it has been a run-heavy Seattle attack today -- 14 runs and seven passes to start the game. That includes runs on each of their first seven plays, then a nifty screen on the eighth. Two receivers lined up in a slot formation to the left, then both ran slants to the right. Wilson play-faked and rolled right, but then threw the screen back to the left. Unusual, but nice to see the Seahawks using intent in play design to manipulate the defense and get guys out of position or in bad matchups. They've been run-heavy even with the injuries at tight end -- no Nick Vannett today, which means a lot of six-lineman sets with George Fant and a start for Tyrone Swoopes, just signed this week. He even got a target on the first drive.

Raiders offense has done nothing so far. First drive was a three-and-out on three straight runs, including a run on third-and-6. Second possession gained 12 yards and ended in the fumble on third-and-5. Now on their third drive, Amari Cooper is trying to catch a pass off his shoes when Bradley McDougald hits him helmet-to-helmet and knocks him out. He eventually recovers and walks off the field. No penalty on the play -- Cooper took about four steps after the ball first arrived, so I don't think he counts as a defenseless receiver. A better pass there and Cooper is probably still in the game.

That looks to end the drive, but Derek Carr finds Rishard Matthews on a catch-and-run to convert a third-and-20, and the drive continues. The Raiders end up holding the ball for 15 plays but gain less than 50 yards in the process, and Matt McCrane ends up missing a 48-yard field goal to leave the score at 14-0.

The other story of the game is penalties -- midway through the second quarter, we're at five for 44 yards on Seattle, three for 20 yards on Oakland, one of which wiped out a long Jared Cook completion.

Bryan Knowles: Both teams in this game may end up ruing travel plans in the first third of the season. Seattle Analytics Twitter (led by Ben Baldwin in a Tweet I can't find right now to save my life) ripped Seattle for not travelling to Denver early in Week 1, adapting to the high climate and negating some of the Broncos' innate home field advantage. They may be getting their travel-plan win back today, as they scheduled their trip to London to arrive a full day before the Raiders, who only showed up on Friday afternoon. That means that the Seahawks had 24 hours more time to acclimate to the massive time difference. It usually takes me 24 to 30 hours to get back on my feet when flying over the Atlantic, and while I'm not a Professional Football Player, there's only so fast the human body can acclimate. Most teams arrive in London WELL before the Friday before their games, but the Raiders are bucking that trend! Gruden swore that they were "here in plenty of time to acclimate ourselves," and that they'll be ready to "play their best football."

Vince Verhei: Sebastian Janikowski hits a 44-yard field goal on the last play of the half to put Seattle up 17-0. Not much else to report here. Wilson almost had another long touchdown but overthrew Doug Baldwin by a yard. The Raiders' last drive ended on a fourth-and-1 in Seattle territory where they tried to hurry a sneak and catch Seattle sleeping, but this week Seattle stuffs the sneak to end the drive.

It has been a bit of the Tom Cable revenge game -- or rather the Seahawks' revenge on Tom Cable game. Carr has been sacked twice and hit a few other times; the Raiders have hardly sniffed Wilson. The Seahawks have 66 yards on 17 carries, which is nothing special, but the Raiders have only 25 yards on 11 runs -- and if you take away Carr scrambles, it's 15 yards on nine carries. Seattle just crushing in the trenches today. It took a few games to get going, but Seattle's offensive line in recent weeks has looked better than it has in years. The additions of D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy have been huge.

One other big-picture note: last week was the first time in his career that Russell Wilson had no official rushing attempts in a game. He has no attempts again here at halftime. He was averaging 8.4 yards per game rushing coming into the day, compared to a career average of more than 30. He has been listed with a hamstring injury every week, and it doesn't seem to have affected his passing, but at this point we have to assume it's going to be something to worry about all year.

Raiders' first possession: Marshawn Lynch run for 1, sack on second down, and then sack-fumble and Seahawks recovery on third down. Seahawks only used a three-man rush on third-and-long, but Clark knocked Miller flat on his back, and Miller's helmet actually knocked the ball out of Carr's hand. Seattle fails to get a first down after that but kicks a short field goal to go up 20-0.

One thing to watch for: feels like Seattle has a lot more delay of game penalties and early timeouts this year than they have in the past. They lost a timeout on that field goal drive, their first possession of the second half. The offense has frequently struggled to get plays in on time.

Carl Yedor: They seriously need to extend Clark. He's making himself a lot of money this season.

One odd thing I've been paying attention to since the pick-six against Chicago is what the offense does when it sends a running back out wide as the outside wide receiver. Prince Amukamara was able to jump a hitch route for that pick a few weeks back, and it seems like, more often than not, Seattle backs either stand still as an outlet or run a short hitch slightly further down the field. This could be a schematic necessity based on where the other receivers in the play are headed, but it does seem pretty predictable. Something I'm going to keep watching while I grumble about Schotty.

Vince Verhei: Score is still 20-0 at the end of the third quarter, but the first play of the fourth is going to be a third down for Seattle in the red zone. They had another red zone drive in the third, but Wilson had a very bad interception at the goal line, forcing the ball into double coverage from a clean pocket on first down.

Wilson makes that third down pay off, as he scrambles up in the pocket and finds Tyler Lockett for the score. It's 27-0 and hasn't felt that close.

There are 84,922 people in Wembley today, a London record, and most of them are cheering for Seattle. This trip to the U.K. could become an annual thing.

Carl Yedor: Not a whole lot interesting going in this one, but Oakland got on the board with a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks, who have not done the greatest job getting after the quarterback this season, have had Carr under siege the whole game thanks to the Raiders' injuries up front. Carr went off injured after the most recent sack, but hopefully it isn't serious. If I'm Gruden, I don't let Carr back out there given the time and score.

Vince Verhei: We'll never know whether Carr would have returned -- Seattle got the ball back with 6:30 to go and never gave it back.

Weird how things have turned around for this team -- they're not catching the Rams in the division, but at .500 they're right in the heart of a wild-card race in an NFC that doesn't look as deep as we thought it would be.

The Raiders are simply awful. They have some backs and receivers who can break some tackles, but otherwise it's hard to think of anything they do well.

Scott Kacsmar: Did we even bother to point out that Jon Gruden kicked a field goal down 27-0 in the fourth quarter to avoid a shutout? I remember cursing him up for doing that with the Buccaneers in 2006 against Pittsburgh. That one was actually worse, because it was a 27-yard field goal on third down as the last play of the game (lost 20-3). I mean if the Raiders were even close to being in the playoff race, he might get away with a tie-breaker justification (points), but that's just shameless shutout avoidance, and it's not like we won't still make fun of the Raiders for losing 27-3 there. I'm just glad that was a London game with a rare 1 p.m. EST start time. It would be a shame if people got up that early to watch something so one-sided.

Bryan Knowles: We present Derek Carr's pass chart.

Only one pass attempt more than 10 yards downfield. Only two completions more than 5 yards downfield. London, we're sorry we export some of our worst games to you.

Vince Verhei: We should just remove the Raiders from our statistics entirely. That is not an NFL offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers 28 at Cincinnati Bengals 21

Scott Kacsmar: There are nine games going on right now and they all have at least one touchdown except this game, which is scoreless. Good receivers are dropping balls in the rain, though I think hearing footsteps had more to do with most of these plays. Joe Haden just dropped an easy interception, which might cost the Steelers dearly after a high grab by A.J. Green sets up first-and-goal. About the most interesting thing so far is that Ben Roethlisberger tried a quarterback sneak on third-and-2 and got it with his length, but the play didn't even count because the Steelers called timeout.

Bryan Knowles: That dropped Haden interception did end up leading to a Cincinnati touchdown. Forget Joe Haden (though that was a bad dropped INT), what is Pittsburgh doing having Vince Williams covering A.J. Green on a third-and-long? Or Anthony Chickillo covering Tyler Boyd, like, at all?

Pittsburgh finally gets on the board on the next series, with James Conner plunging into the end zone. Conner had a 25-yard run on the drive, meaning he has as many 20-yard runs this season (3) as Le'Veon Bell had all last year. Bell's absence is kind of proving the "running backs are fungible" concept.

Scott Kacsmar: This is the second time in six weeks the Steelers are playing a road divisional game where the rain is bothering both teams. Cody Core just had a horrible drop on third down that would have been a big gain for the Bengals. I guess that's why he doesn't have a catch this season. But the ball is bouncing around a lot too for both quarterbacks. Someone's dying to throw a pick here and that could be the difference in what has been a low-scoring contest so far.

What a wild play before halftime. It looked like Darqueze Dennard had an interception, but JuJu Smith-Schuster gained simultaneous possession and actually ripped the ball away from Dennard as he flipped over him. But his helmet was down on the ground with the ball short of the goal line, so they marked it at the 1-yard line. Conner added another short rushing touchdown and the Steelers lead 14-7.

Bryan Knowles: I take back my criticism of Pittsburgh's odd coverage choices. Having Vince Williams on A.J. Green is probably a better situation than having absolutely no one at all on Tyler Boyd. It looked like -- I think it was Artie Burns -- was expecting a post route, while Boyd just went to the outside and had a good four yards of empty space in the end zone. and a very simple pitch-and-catch score. 14-14 as we go into the half.

Aaron Schatz: Oh boy did Artie Burns just get burned right before halftime. Almost like it's in his name. Clearly thought Tyler Boyd was going inside so he gave home plenty of space right on the goal line. Boyd went outside instead. I don't think Burns was even in the picture when Boyd caught the touchdown.

Scott Kacsmar: The kick return is rarely a weapon anymore for teams given all the rule changes this decade. But the Bengals had a big one with an extra 5 yards tacked on from a penalty to start at the Pittsburgh 44 in the final minute. That led to an all-too-easy touchdown drive to tie this one. Tyler Boyd came into this game with just as many targets as A.J. Green this season, but only 16 fewer yards. He has been good, and he might be great if he could play against Artie Burns every week.

I'll let out all my Mike Tomlin frustration on one drive. He challenged a spot earlier even though there was no evidence whatsoever that Ryan Switzer had a first down. So now Conner gets a run to the 1-yard line that may have been a touchdown. That definitely could have been worth a challenge if he had not already wasted one earlier. That makes you want to save one for the final quarter and a half, not to mention you still feel OK if you have first down inches away from the goal line. But the Steelers didn't get it. They tried to run on third down and Conner was stuffed in the backfield. Should have just let the 6-foot-5 quarterback knife it in there, but again, they don't really do that in Pittsburgh. So now it's 17-14 and neither coach is showing anything on fourth-and-1 this half. Marvin Lewis punted on a situation to start the half after another great kick return gave the Bengals nice field position.

Aaron Schatz: CBS just showed a graphic that they've tracked no hurries, pass disruptions, or quarterback hits for the Cincinnati defense today. Yikes.

And the Steelers kick a field goal to go up by six, 20-14, instead of going for it on fourth-and-2 from the 6. Total Tomlin move. I hate it. Forces your opponent to play aggressive and they can now beat you with a touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: A six-point deficit, rather than a three-point deficit, means Cincinnati has to open up the offense to get down the field in a hurry. Aided by a defensive pass interference call, they march down the field 75 yards in just over two minutes to take the lead. The Steelers defense is turrible. Pittsburgh does have 1:18 left to try to get a score, so this one isn't over, but man, I'd rather have that shot on fourth down.

Aaron Schatz: Dammit, Steelers, what did I tell you about going for it on that fourth-and-2? Bengals march up the field, 75 yards in 2:14, take a 21-20 lead. Steelers have had problems covering all day. Artie Burns was reasonable in 2017. He has seriously taken a step back this year.

Dave Bernreuther: I didn't watch the drive, so I don't know how much was a result of forced aggressiveness, but Aaron was exactly right, and the Joe Mixon touchdown gives the Steelers what they deserve after those last two field goal sequences. Which I find especially egregious given that Tomlin is coaching against Marvin Lewis, who never met a 40-plus-yard field goal attempt he wasn't thrilled to settle for.

There's still plenty of time here, though, and if the no-pressure thing is to believed, the Steelers will be decent bets to get into field-goal range.

Where, if there's any justice in the world, Tomlin will play for a long uncertain one (outdoors in the wet) and they'll miss and lose.

I don't know how you do it, Scott. I really don't.

Aaron Schatz: Well, it turns out my gnashing of teeth and rending of garments has been rendered moot as the Steelers get into field goal range with 15 seconds left ... and then score a touchdown to win. Cincinnati blitzed and the Steelers threw a quick pick route to Antonio Brown and with the blitz, there weren't defenders behind his guy to stop him from going all the way to the end zone. It looked like they could have maybe called OPI on Justin Hunter, but they didn't, I guess they decided that was within the 1-yard boundary where you're allowed to set a pick. Steelers pick up the two-point conversion after a hold on Cincinnati nullifies the first attempt. 28-21 Pittsburgh.

Vince Verhei: Not just the blitz for Cincinnati, but the safeties were split wide to guard the sideline routes. Which ... the Steelers had two timeouts left. In a spot where even a 10-yard gain would have been a big deal, making a winning field goal almost a sure thing. That's quite the odd situational play-call. It was the defensive equivalent of settling for the long field goal, a desperate call to get a sack and prevent a long field goal. And they gave up a touchdown instead.

Dave Bernreuther: For all that the Bengals did wrong on that final play, I'm still going to stick to my guns and say that the Steelers were playing for the uncertain long field goal, even in victory. That was a quick slant. There was no aggression involved. Good results, but bad process.

Rob Weintraub: Everything sucks.

That is all.

Tom Gower (After the Titans are shut out at home by the Ravens): Yeah, what Rob said.

Indianapolis Colts 34 at New York Jets 42

Dave Bernreuther: The Colts have taken the ball away from the Jets twice in fivrmmintes but come away with only two field goal attempts because nobody on the team can catch a football. Luck has looked great despite being victimized by a pick-six on the first pass of the game, but two short fields leading to only a three-point lead is how you let teams hang around and beat you. Even when Sam Darnold is making your defense look like a good team.

They also tried to get a bit too cute on the first field-goal drive on second down, for some reason putting Eric Ebron in the backfield and passing it to him there. I'm not entirely sure what that was meant to accomplish, but it didn't have a prayer of working.

Derrik Klassen: Would anyone care to explain the voodoo that must have been cast on Andrew Luck today? These interceptions are so, so unfortunate.

Vince Verhei: Somehow, "fivrmmintes" perfectly summarizes both of these teams this season.

Dave Bernreuther: The hands I used to type that comment are more reliable than the hands of the Colts receivers so far this year.

I'm far less attached to this team than I once was, and I'm still furious at how bad they are. Luck has looked pretty close to perfect and it doesn't matter. Great throws end up batted, picked, or dropped. And they're down two scores in a game where I wouldn't even say the Jets have actually done anything well yet.

In other news, Frank Reich legitimately looks to have aged twenty years in the last three weeks.

Andrew Luck's third pick today is not one we can blame on bad luck. Looking for Chester Rogers on a crosser (I'm sure he'd have dropped it anyway), Luck failed to see linebacker Darron Lee dropping into the zone behind the blitz (which completely ate up the blocker; I didn't notice if it was Anthony Castonzo or No. 6 overall pick spent on a guard Quentin Nelson, but either way, yeesh) and threw it right to him.

Awesome hands for a linebacker, for what it's worth, as that was a dart ... but now it's a two-score game and the Jets have the ball, and absent a miracle I'm about to jump behind Bill Barnwell's crazy "trade Vinatieri to Telesco and the Chargers" idea from his ESPN column the other day.

Los Angeles Chargers 38 at Cleveland Browns 14

Derrik Klassen: The Chargers disastrously botched a trick pass play. Philip Rivers pitched the ball out wide, then trotted back the other way to receive the backwards pass from the back, but the pass was well behind Rivers and ended in a massive loss. The Chargers are lucky they even recovered. Very easily could have given up the ball in their own red zone.

Following the drive, Cleveland returned Los Angeles' punt out to the Los Angeles 39-yard line. Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense are in striking distance already.

Los Angeles Chargers offense is operating in chunk plays right now. Game is boom-or-bust for them, but they are showing they have enough boom to overcome a talented, yet young and developing Cleveland defense. Tyrell Williams just Moss'd three Cleveland defenders on a deep pass from Rivers in the end zone, extending Los Angeles' lead to 14-3.

Dave Bernreuther: I made Baker Mayfield a semi-contrarian play today in hopes of bathing in money later, while a friend of mine predicted a big fat goose egg for him. We made a side bet. Thus far, on the board... well, he was very very right. I won't be winning that one.

Still, there really is a lot to like about Baker. His bad plays still show a good thought process. He hasn't really forced anything, and that earned them a field goal at half when they ran a play with eight seconds left that a LOT of quarterbacks, and not just rookies, might've botched. It was an incomplete pass, but a smart one. I see him trying to throw guys open rather than throwing into tiny windows or racing away from pockets for no reason and into sacks. When he tries to throw into tight windows, he's accurate. Basically, he's the opposite of Josh Allen. And the Browns really are looking good. They're just not *quite* there yet.

Carolina Panthers 17 at Washington Redskins 20

Andrew Potter: At halftime in Washington, the hosts have been rather poor ... but still lead by 11 because the visitors have been awful. Rookie receiver and returner D.J. Moore has lost two fumbles already – one on a punt return, and the other on what would otherwise have been the first play the Panthers finished in Washington territory. Cam Newton threw an interception to Josh Norman on a deep pass that never had a chance of being completed. Christian McCaffrey had some success running basic dive plays in the first half, but the more creative stuff since has gone nowhere. The game can be summarized by the sequence right before the half: Carolina took possession at their own 3 and went three-and-out, so Washington got possession at the Panthers 33. One 10-yard intentional grounding, one 4-yard scramble, and one incomplete pass under pressure later, Washington somehow ended up punting from the Panthers 39. Alex Smith has only completed 50 percent of his passes for under 100 yards, but ten points off turnovers and a Graham Gano missed extra point are the difference.

Dave Bernreuther: The Panthers look terrible today. Whether that statement applies more to their play or the horrible layer cake look (teal, black, white, silver stacked on top of each other) is a matter of opinion.

I suppose none of us should be surprised that always-interesting Josh Norman has managed to make a name for himself against his former team.

Buffalo Bills 13 at Houston Texans 20

Dave Bernreuther: In the last seven quarters, the Bills have thrown fewer passes than Andrew Luck threw in a half a week ago, and at roughly 4 yards per attempt. It is the perfect strategy for hiding your terrible quarterback...

(On whom they spent a high draft pick and several other valuable assets.)

Bryan Knowles: Ah, but which terrible quarterback? Josh Allen is out (with an elbow injury), Nathan Peterman is in, and Peterman immediately throws a touchdown to give Buffalo the lead!

Dave Bernreuther: Wow, really? Please tell me it's a concussion protocol from the one play where he rolled right on third down and took one of the hardest legal hits I've seen this week for no good reason whatsoever.

Aaron Schatz: Looked like a post-corner by Zay Jones on Shareece Wright and Wright got lost on the cut. Houston secondary has been an issue this year. Good for Zay Jones to do an actual good thing which we don't get to see much.

Bryan Knowles: The Texans do not deserve to win this football game. Facing first-and-goal from the one, we get:

  • Run by Alfred Blue into a huge pile, for a loss of 1.
  • An attempted SHOVeLL screen, end around … thing, that ends with another 1-yard loss.
  • A false start on both tackles simultaneously.
  • A near instant-sack of Deshaun Watson, who scrambles out of trouble, sees daylight between him and the end zone ... and throws an incomplete pass.

Field goal, 13-13 game, good lord.

The Bills do not deserve to win this football game. After getting the ball back after the Texans field goal, Nathan Peterman's second pass goes right to Jonathan Joseph for the pick-six.

Rivers McCown: It was not a pretty game, but the Texans prevailed by inserting Nathan Peterman in to provide a spark to their beleaguered offense.

Neither team should feel good about this one. Deshaun Watson looked completely out of sync in the offense after the first ~20 minutes of the game. Two long missed touchdowns, and the offensive line was dominated by Buffalo's front seven. They couldn't go three plays in the second half without Watson getting off his first read, getting sacked, or both.

The Bills offense is a spectacle. Pure and simple.

Arizona Cardinals 17 at Minnesota Vikings 27

Dave Bernreuther: Every time I look up at this one, the Cardinals are getting pressure. The Vikings' tackles are just getting abused, and one pressure led to Budda Baker fielding a loose ball like a third baseman charging a weak grounder and scoring the easiest touchdown of his life.

Still, the Cardinals aren't good, and even a rookie quarterback with many encouraging signs is still a rookie, so the Vikings have this one pretty well in hand after Josh Rosen throws one directly into the gut of a Vikings lineman. 27-10 as we near the close of the third.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29 at Atlanta Falcons 34

Dave Bernreuther: Oh my god what if Atlanta now scores 34 at home and loses this one too?

Bryan Knowles: I don't think we've said a darn thing about this game, but I've kept an eye on it, as it was a must-must-MUST win game for Atlanta if they were going to salvage anything of their season. It looked like they were going to roll to an easy victory in the first half, taking a 21-6 lead into the locker room, but the second half proved more of an uphill climb. Atlanta was bailed out a bit by Tampa Bay throwing two interceptions inside the 10-yard line, and hung on for a 34-29 victory. 2-4 isn't exactly where Atlanta wanted to be at this point, but you can recover from 2-4. 1-5 would have been the final nail in the coffin.

Vince Verhei: I didn't watch a snap of this game, but I do want to note that Matt Ryan finished 31-of-41 for 354 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions ... and as a result of this, the passer rating allowed by the Tampa Bay defense this year is going to go DOWN.

Aaron Schatz: We'll need to find video of the play that Tampa tried to run at the end of the game. With one play left, on the Atlanta 21, the Bucs didn't run a pass play. Instead, Jameis Winston ran a quarterback draw and then LATERALLED when he was going to get tackled. Unfortunately, the ball bounced along the ground, Mike Evans picked it up, tried to lateral to DeSean Jackson ... which was a terrible lateral attempt but honestly, if it had been right in Jackson's stomach, he might have been able to run it in for the touchdown, he had about 6 or 7 yards left to go. What an interesting play design and would have been one of the more memorable finishes of recent years if it had worked.

Bryan Knowles: Here's the video for those who missed it:

I still think I just throw a fade to Mike Evans, but that would have been an all-timer had it made.

Tom Gower: The last play of this game is a great excuse to bring up my favorite play nobody remembers -- an amazing end-of-game multi-lateral play by the Panthers against the Eagles in 2003. It's completely forgotten because (1) it didn't count, as one of the laterals was slightly forward, and (2) the game was 25-16, so it wouldn't have changed the game outcome even if it had counted.

Los Angeles Rams 23 at Denver Broncos 20

Bryan Knowles: Denver scores a touchdown to tie the game at six, but Emmanuel Sanders gets called for taunting. That's a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff, which is annoying...

...but wait! Replay shows that no, Sanders was stopped just before the goal line. But the taunting penalty still counts. So rather than first-and-goal from the one, they get moved all the way back to the 16. The Rams defense stiffens up, and it's 6-3, instead.

Vince Verhei: Rams are up 6-3 early in the second, with a fourth-and-inches at the Denver 10. Because they are good, smart team, they go for it, and Todd Gurley goes into the end zone virtually untouched for a 13-3 lead that feels like 30-3.

Does anyone out there think Sean McVay is anything other than the best coach in the league? Not looking to start an argument. Just wondering if it's unanimous.

Cooper Kupp gains 12 yards on an end-around, and Denver is called for a horsecollar tackle and 15 more yards to boot. But there's a reason the horsecollar tackle is illegal -- Kupp's down after the play after his legs folded underneath him. Forgive me for speculating, and I'm no doctor, but there was a definite snap at his ankle as he went down. He's carted off and it does not look good.

Dave Bernreuther: I'll still put Belichick in that [best coach] conversation, just because his organization top-to-bottom thinks of everything and is ruthless in their quest for an edge, and that's just miles ahead of so many other teams that are still acting like it's the '70s and information doesn't matter.

But then again, you could say the same about McVay and his offense. As opposed to the jumbo set "hat on a hat grrrrr football!" mentality that still prevails and is every bit as '70s if not more ...

As I type this, the Rams are punting. And I'm surprised. Even against a good defense and without even thinking that highly of Jared Goff. Because that offense and the wide-open opportunities it creates is a thing of beauty.

Vince Verhei: Rams punt with 18 seconds left in the half. Broncos kneel to end the half, which would not be news, but it's Chad Kelly taking the knee, not Case Keenum. I have to assume Keenum is injured, because if you don't trust a guy to TAKE A KNEE, then how could you possibly trust him to do anything else ever again?

Bryan Knowles: Keenum is being checked for a concussion, though it looks like he's cleared those tests and will come back for the second half.

Vince Verhei: Indeed, it's Keenum taking snaps in the second half -- and on his first possession, he's backed up inside his own 5, but gets the ball out to midfield on one deep pass to Demaryius Thomas. But the drive stalls there, Keenum takes a sack on third down, and the Broncos will punt.

Bryan Knowles: Cooper Kupp is back in. That injury looked so scary, I'm shocked he's able to come back at all, much less just after halftime.

Vince Verhei: What's this? Competition? Intrigue? Tramaine Brock tips a pass and it bounces off Josh Reynolds' facemask into Darian Stewart's hands, and it's Denver's ball inside the 20. A penalty moves them back, but then Keenum finds Emmanuel Sanders wide open on the seam route for the 22-yard touchdown, and L.A.'s lead is cut to 20-10.

The Rams had been backed up deep because Keenum had thrown a tip-drill interception of his own. That's Keenum's eighth interception of the year -- or, one more than he threw in all of 2017 -- and he is the only player to throw an interception every week this season.

Scott Kacsmar: The 2018 Rams are making me wonder if we should be including kickers in adjusted games lost. Greg Zuerlein's injury is about the only flaw with this team so far. Cairo Santos missed another field goal in the fourth quarter, but at least he made the last one to put the Rams up 23-13. But have to think the Rams are even better with more range for scoring when Zuerlein returns.

Vince Verhei: Broncos actually made this a one-score game after a deep catch by Courtland Sutton set up a field goal, but the Rams responded with a 13-play, 72-yard field goal drive to take a 23-13 lead that probably makes this a done deal. What's notable is that Todd Gurley has set a career-high with 200-plus rushing yards, but Jared Goff is only completing half his passes with the interception and five sacks. It looks like the Rams are going to be held below 30 points for the first time this season. Maybe this is the blueprint for slowing down the Rams -- let Gurley have whatever he wants, but do whatever it takes to shut down Goff. Easier said than done, of course.

Scott Kacsmar: Didn't we look into something with Denver's defense after 2016 about the run defense falling off? They were incredible to start 2017, then that Orleans Darkwa game happened. Now the Broncos have allowed 593 rushing yards in the last two weeks, the most since 1960 in any two-game stretch by my calculations.

Aaron Schatz: I don't remember something specific with Denver's defense, but we get this weird effect where run defense is a better predictor of defense in Y+1 than pass defense, yet run defense DVOA itself is fairly difficult to predict. The Broncos were 21st in run defense DVOA in 2016, despite being No. 1 against the pass. Then last year, they were up to third in run defense DVOA (second in the first half of the season, eighth in the second half). This year, 26th in run defense DVOA before today, and probably lower after today.

Baltimore Ravens 21 at Tennessee Titans 0

Dave Bernreuther: I'm having a hard time telling who is who in this one, as the Ravens' purple pants look navy in this weather/TV screen, and the Titans are going monochrome in navy as well. In fact, five of the six uniforms in the late games are hideous (with Jacksonville taking the cake), as the NFL seems determined, between the bad penalties, bad coaching, and bad uniforms, to make me go home and take up gardening instead.

Anyway, I'll stop short of calling Joe Flacco new and improved, but he did fire a safe one to Michael Crabtree (who kind of looked like the turned the wrong way on a back-shoulder throw) for the score near the end of the first to put the Ravens on the board first in an ugly game thus far. Down 7-0, these Titans already look to be in trouble, given the difficulty they've had with touchdowns on offense of late.

Vince Verhei: I had the same thought about the uniforms in the Ravens-Titans game. It's on the worst TV in this bar and it very much looks like an intrasquad scrimmage. (I actually kind of like Jacksonville's black jerseys with the teal pants. It's definitely a unique look.)

Dave Bernreuther: It's worth noting that I'm considering going home in order to type out a proper response about Jacksonville's attire with my computer instead of my phone.

I'll keep it brief though: it's not the worst thing I've seen this weekend. It makes more logical (according to my unwritten rules) sense than Carolina's and Baltimore's looks today. And yet ... still awful.

(In football news, the Cowboys, who aren't good, are kicking the crap out of the Jaguars.)

Bryan Knowles: Tennessee just saved this game from being essentially over the half, as Kevin Byard intercepts a tip-drill pass from Flacco as the Titans were threatening to score yet again before halftime. Baltimore hadn't scored a touchdown in 25 drives coming into this one, so of course their first two drives ended up in the end zone. That includes a crazy 17-play, 94-yard, 9:22 drive to start the first quarter, as Tennessee just couldn't do a dang thing to stop the methodical march. 14-0 at the half.

The Ravens already have six sacks. The Titans have only called 17 passing plays (and 24 total offensive plays), so that's an insane rate. The Titans look ... terrible. On both sides of the ball. This is the same Titans team that just lost to the Bills, and it looks less and less like that was a fluke.

Vince Verhei: Justin Tucker is out to try a 60-yard field goal at the end of the first half, but there's a penalty on Baltimore that moves them 5 yards back. So the offense comes back on and Joe Flacco throws a worm-burner incompletion to Michael Crabtree, and that's it. 14-0 Baltimore. The Ravens have just looked OK -- they had a chance for one more score, but Flacco threw a tip-drill interception.

Anyway, here's why Baltimore is winning: the Titans offense has produced seven completions for 81 yards -- but surrendered six sacks for 37 yards. Tennessee had only given up nine sacks coming into the game. It's a team effort -- nobody has more than two sacks -- but when you get six sacks in 16 dropbacks, you win. That should be a rule.

Bryan Knowles: 21-0, as the Ravens score again. Lamar Jackson's 22-yard scramble set it up, but it was just another gashing and bleeding. The Ravens had 78 yards on that drive. The Titans have 69 yards all day long.

All three of these games are over. I'm going to spend most of the last hour of these games looking up the last time the afternoon slate was this bad. Because, wow, it's been a while.

Vince Verhei: Ravens open the second half with a 12-play, 78-yard drive that eats up more than seven minutes. Lamar Jackson takes a quarterback sweep 22 yards down to the 2, and Alex Collins plunges in from there. Baltimore converted a pair of third downs on the drive and is now 10-of-11 on third-down conversions today.

Ravens now lead 21-0, as the Rams are up 20-3 and the Cowboys lead 24-0. That's a combined margin of 65-3 and I'm wondering if there's anything else I could be doing today.

Bryan Knowles: A quick search through PFR's database suggests the last time we had this boring of an afternoon slate was Week 3 of 2015.

  • The Cardinals beat the 49ers 47-7 with Colin Kaepernick throwing four interceptions.
  • The Seahawks beat the Bears 26-0, highlighted by Tyler Lockett's 106-yard kickoff return
  • The Bills beat the Dolphins 41-14, with Tyrod Taylor throwing a trio of touchdowns in his first road start.

That week at least had more scoring.

Dave Bernreuther: Someday maybe they'll figure out that it'd make for better TV to divide it a bit more evenly than leaving only three games in the late slot.

Bryan Knowles: Even just four, which they do most weeks, is generally enough to make sure at least *one* game is competitive. About 48 percent of games last season were one-score games -- not an ideal metric of excitement or closeness, but hey, good enough for a quick check. That means there's about a 14 percent chance that none of your three games will be one-score affairs, and a 7 percent chance that none of four games would end up out of that range. Add in the odds of a game that becomes two-scores late, and a four-game slate should essentially never go 0-for-4 for exciting games. Statistically speaking, at least.

Vince Verhei: Scary scene as Ravens guard Alex Lewis looks to be engaged in a routine block, then steps away, lowers himself to the ground, and stops moving. A long delay as he is tended to, strapped to a board, and put onto a cart. They're taking him straight to an ambulance. I'm seeing reports that he grabbed at his shoulder, where he has had an existing injury, but I don't think they cart you to the ambulance for shoulder injuries.

Bryan Knowles: Marcus Mariota has completed ten forward passes.

He has been sacked 11 times. That's a franchise record for the Ravens.

Vince Verhei: Just the third time this century a team has given up 11 sacks in a game. The other two were quarterbacked by Donovan McNabb and Greg McElroy.

As a group, the AFC South offenses today completed 57 percent of their passes with six touchdowns, six interceptions, 21 sacks, and 4.8 yards per dropback. They went 1-3, and might well have gone 0-4 if Josh Allen had stayed healthy (think about THAT).

Tom Gower: The way the Titans lost to the Bills was a sign they might not be a very good team and might, in fact, be a very not good offense. Today was further evidence in favor of them being a very not good offense. Marcus Mariota looked like he didn't understand what defense he was getting, and consequently refused to throw the ball, which is how you take 11 sacks on 28 dropbacks. No, the offensive line wasn't great, but quarterbacks do a lot to control how much they're sacked, and Marcus didn't do much to not get sacked today. Coverage was undoubtedly part of that, and no, the offensive line did not seem to have a great day, but an imperfect block is not in my mind an excuse to take a sack.

Defensively, eh. The Ravens were 12-for 17 on third down, and all three of their touchdown drives featured multiple third-down conversions, including at least one third-and-long. Baltimore was 4-for-16 against Cleveland last week. Putting teams in third-and-medium/-long repeatedly will normally work out a lot better than that. But it don't matter unless Tennessee finds something they can do on offense, preferably something they can do repeatedly. Right now, they don't know what it is, and they're not committed enough to anything to keep trying to make it work even if they're failing at it. This sort of transition cost to the new scheme wasn't unexpected, nor the trouble this cast of receivers sans Delanie Walker has making plays on its own, but that doesn't make it any more enjoyable to watch. I hope everybody's excited to get them against the Chargers in the early London game next week!

Jacksonville Jaguars 7 at Dallas Cowboys 40

Bryan Knowles: Hey, this week, the Cowboys decide to go for it on fourth-and-1. Better late than never, I suppose.

Ezekiel Elliott easily converts, because yes, that's what happens when you have a star running back and need to gain 1 yard. They should remember that for more critical situations.

Andrew Potter: The Cowboys are dominating the Jaguars up and down the field today. Having their way with them. With a minute to go in the first half, the Cowboys are in the red zone, and Dak Prescott has more yards rushing than the Jaguars have total yards. The only time the Cowboys punted, the Jaguars had too many men on the field and the penalty was enough for the first. That fourth-and-1, on the edge of field-goal range, was a true no-brainer.

The drive ends with another touchdown to Cole Beasley. 24 points on four drives for Dallas. This is a mauling.

Vince Verhei: Halftime here. As Andrew said, Dallas has 24 point (and 251 total yards) on four drives. Meanwhile, Jacksonville's five possessions have resulted in three three-and-outs, one 35-yard drive that also ended in a punt, and a 12-yard "drive" to end the half. Blake Bortles hasn't had the horrible turnovers he had last week, because they're not letting him do anything -- he only threw eight passes in the half, and three of them were at the end there.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm surprised Jacksonville kicked an extra point after finally getting a touchdown. Sure, I just want to see 8+8+8 happen one day, but when your team is getting destroyed on both sides, I think maximizing each possession would definitely be worth it.

Just putting this one out there: the Jaguars have allowed 40 points three times since Week 16 last year (including playoffs). That's the most in the NFL in that span, and tied for the most since the start of 2017. Maybe the league just isn't constructed for a consistently great defense anymore. But I am pretty shocked that Dak Prescott and Dallas had this kind of game against them. A lot of the second-half scoring has been boosted by field position, but it was 24-0 at halftime and that was a legitimate shredding. Prescott has 82 yards rushing, a career high. It's one thing for Bortles to struggle on the road, but you don't expect to see the defense do this too.

Kansas City Chiefs 40 at New England Patriots 43

Aaron Schatz: Patriots get aggressive on their first drive, go for it on fourth-and-3 at the Kansas City 40. Don't get it because of miscommunication between Tom Brady and Josh Gordon. Gordon is playing almost every snap tonight, clearly a big part of the offense, but weird to go with the new guy on a fourth down. Patriots keep the Chiefs to a field goal on the ensuing drive, then get a field goal of their own. And then on Kansas City's second offensive drive, Patrick Mahomes throws only his third pick of the season. The Chiefs look like they want to pick on Donta' Hightower in coverage, he has slowed down a bit this year since coming back from last year's injury. But on this play, he goes like he's going to blitz, then immediately drops back in coverage. Mahomes never saw him, threw the ball right to him. The return gave the Patriots the ball on the Kansas City 4 and Sony Michel ran it in on the first play. Man, the Chiefs' run defense is awful. Michel seven carries, 47 yards so far.

Dave Bernreuther: I'm not a football coach, and I am sick of hearing announcers throw around the term RPO every play in an attempt to sound smart ...

But it looked to me like on that interception, Mahomes had the option, was reading Dont'a Hightower, pulled it because Hightower sold the man coverage on the back ... and then threw it straight to him because the read was wrong.

Which actually makes me empathize with the announcers a bit, because with the newer college style of handoffs from the front, it's a lot harder to know if a play such as that one is just a run of the mill play-action or an option. And thus I'm not sure if that was a great play by Hightower to trick Mahomes into making the wrong read, or just a hell of a reaction to the fact that it wasn't a run play and good hands when the ball was thrown straight into his zone.

Either way ... great play by the guy who's supposed to be a liability in pass defense.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots go into the half 24-9 after another interception at the end of the half, this time in the red zone. Pats had two guys on Travis Kelce and so Mahomes, rolling right, went to his wide receivers in the right corner of the end zone. Tip drill, and Duron Harmon comes down with it. Aaron Nagler on Twitter called this Mahomes' "first bad Favre game" and I think that's accurate. He's hyped up, overthrowing balls early, and he's also throwing into coverage more than we're used to, trying to make things happen that aren't necessarily available.

Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs come out of halftime on fire, hitting a 67-yard touchdown to Kareem Hunt on third-and-short, after Hunt slips behind the defense. That's the other part of even the Bad Favre games -- no matter how bad things got, no matter how many interceptions he threw, Brett Favre would always be right back out there slinging it, without any loss of confidence. That's an important part of the Favre formula, and one Mahomes seems to have.

Aaron Schatz: Looked like a really nice Chiefs play design. It was Cover-2, and they ran a route that drew that right-side safety away from the sideline, which then allowed Hunt to speed up the sideline on the wheel route, speed past Jason McCourty, and that was all she wrote.

And in fact, here's one of those neat Next Gen Stats diagrams. The Tyreek Hill route took Devin McCourty out of the play, which meant there was nobody behind Jason McCourty when Hunt sped past him.

Scott Kacsmar: Down 11, I think the Chiefs should have gone for it on fourth-and-2 at the Patriots' 12 late third quarter. The defense just hasn't been good enough to trust a stop. Even then, you're talking about having to get a touchdown and two-point conversion just to tie. I'd take my chances with 2 yards to go and hope to get a touchdown now and build some confidence from that. Field goal just feels like another battle lost tonight.

Aaron Schatz: Andy Reid historically one of the most conservative coaches in the league according to Aggressiveness Index. I know, you wouldn't think so, given that he's fairly open to analytics, but he's almost always below 1.0 and even below 0.9.

Reid's career AI is 0.82. Last year he was at 0.83.

Tom Gower: I think the Chiefs going for it in that situation would definitely win a staff vote of what to do. But we don't get a vote, and Andy Reid does.

Bryan Knowles: I'd love to see one of those Next Gen play diagrams on that sack-fumble. Brady had all day to throw the ball, but the coverage was so good that there was just nowhere to go. That was one of the longest coverage sacks I've seen in a while -- and I'd expect a quarterback of Brady's caliber to have thrown the ball away a good two or three seconds before the Chiefs finally got to him. Could be a huge turning point here.

Dave Bernreuther: Yeah. When you haven't stopped them all night, getting three to pull within eight, especially on fourth-and-2 after easily converting a fourth down earlier in the drive, doesn't do you any good.

And so naturally, on a play where the Chiefs rush three guys and Brady has time to do his taxes in the pocket, the Chiefs do eventually get to him and recover a fumble at the 30 a few plays later.

Four more field goals and they'll have the lead!

Aaron Schatz: I realize that there are more points left to be scored in this game, but do we all agree it was really strange for Andy Reid not to go for two-point conversion when the Chiefs made it 27-25?

Tom Gower: Yes, that was very strange. And do we believe it would have made a difference if K.C. had scored the touchdown a minute later, when it was the fourth quarter?

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, that should be an automatic go-for-two, no ifs, and or buts. I get that, yeah, if you go for it and fail, and New England scores a touchdown, now you're suddenly down nine ... but, no. Gotta tie it up there.

Dave Bernreuther: I get that the "chart" makes little sense with a quarter left to play, and that playing for a tie is pointless this early...

… but if you can move the ball that well AND it's a two-point game, why the hell wouldn't you try to tally an extra point that you're highly likely to get?

Aaron Schatz:

Dave Bernreuther: What if the real reason he took the single was that he's playing chess, thinking several moves ahead...

  • Patriots kick the field goal to go up four.
  • Chiefs score a touchdown to go up three.
  • With time running low, Patriots can then only tie with a field goal.

In this scenario, if he goes for two and misses, a Patriots field goal wins, and if he goes for two and makes it, the Pats are forced to play from down four instead of down three, which we all agreed earlier in the Steelers game is an advantage.

What Andy Reid thought of all of that and just out-thought us all?

(Typed as he gets a kick return inside the ten and accelerates that timeline by approximately 5 minutes, which more or less chucks that hare-brained theory right out the window and brings us back to: just score more points whenever you have the chance.)

Aaron Schatz: Dave Toub and the No. 1 DVOA special teams really came through there. Chiefs have now made up a 24-9 lead. Big collapse by the Patriots, between the Brady sack-fumble and the huge kick return they just gave up.

Patriots go down the field, score. Chiefs stall out and kick the first punt of the game. Patriots go down the field again, mostly on one big throw to Gronk (finally!), but have to settle for a field goal. 40-33.

Dave Bernreuther: Brilliant footage from NBC capturing Breeland Speaks' dejected reaction after Brady ran that one in. Collinsworth is right. He 100 percent let him go because he thought Brady had thrown the ball and he didn't want to be penalized.

Collinsworth is unlikable, but he's right a lot. Such as when he expertly showed us what happened when Mahomes made a tremendously reckless throw off of his back foot and was lucky not to be intercepted; The Patriots needed to be 100 percent sure that blitz was going to hit home, because if it hadn't, Tyreek Hill was behind the entire defense. By a lot. That was a pretty big gamble by Belichick against a quarterback with a penchant for slipping out of collapsing pockets.

Aaron Schatz: Hill just got behind the entire defense without actually getting behind the entire defense. Duron Harmon was supposed to be back there deep and he got weirdly turned around and took a bad angle to get Hill and Hill was gone for a 75-yard touchdown. 40-40.

Bryan Knowles: I keep trying to set up a "here's the final drive" thing, but this game is just too dang explosive.

This has been a fantastic second half. The first half not so much, but this second half is why I watch football. Let's play two.

Dave Bernreuther: So just as I'm about to type something snarky about the odds of winning in overtime in New England after a tying touchdown vs. the odds of converting a two-point conversion when you had them on their heels...

Mahomes rifles one deep downfield to a wide open (but decidedly NOT behind the defense this time) Tyreek Hill, who hit the nitrous button or something and just blew by everyone on his way to the end zone to complete a scoring drive that took all of 12 seconds, which at this rate leaves us plenty of time for each team to score three more times. Which is exactly the reason why there's at least some logic to not following a chart about conversions when there's plenty of game to be played. (Note: I'd still have gone for two.)

Bryan Knowles: What a game. Do it again in January?

Tom Gower: Kansas City got one defensive play, the sack-fumble, and it wasn't enough with the four field goals.

Aaron Schatz: I still like Kansas City's chances to get the rematch back in their building in January. Losing by three points in Foxborough is nothing to feel ashamed of.

Dave Bernreuther: I'm not entirely sure how you leave Gronk free to beat a guy one-on-one in a situation like that. But I'm not surprised.

For as exciting and explosive as the Chiefs offense (and special teams) can be ... let us never forget that they're also the 28th ranked defense.

Patriots penalties: zero, for zero yards.

There wasn't a single play I can think of that made me think this stat is BS, which makes it all the more impressive.

Aaron Schatz: They did have one declined and one offsetting penalty.

Comments

150 comments, Last at 17 Oct 2018, 7:37am

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'm pretty sure that if I dug through the archives looking for your comments over the last three years, I could find you praising Jack Del Rio. Especially in 2016, when they finally made the playoffs again. So I'm pretty sure that if anything, Del Rio is who taught them how to win again.

*remembers I'm a Broncos fan*

*realizes that Gruden probably has a better chance of turning things around than Elway does of finding a good QB*

*grumpily eats plum*

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Elway was at the Oregon/Washington game, probably scouting Justin Herbert. The Broncos keep losing, they may get Herbert, and he looks good (he didn't do that well against Washington, but made enough plays to win). Giants fans on Big Blue View were griping, Elway, get away from our quarterback.
Besides, MacCagnan got Darnold. MacCagnan came from an organization that had never drafted a decent quarterback in their history until Watson. And that was after MacCagnan left. A lot of it is luck.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I will readily admit that I don't know how to scout QBs and Elway is almost certainly better at scouting than I am. Add into that the fact that QB drafting is by and large a clusterbleep, and it's entirely possible that the Keenum signing was intended to act as a stopgap (because NOBODY wants to admit they're rebuilding), and it's entirely possible that Elway may do his due diligence and still not get a good QB (see also: JaMarcus Russell, Sam Bradford [both #1 picks]) or he may mess up and fall into a good QB anyway (see also: Tom Brady, Tony Romo). Granted, the former is more likely than the latter, but they're both possible.

Point is, watching Case Keenum throw stupid interceptions and the defense fail to make tackles is a ghastly experience, and the Raiders could have a good coach rather than a ten-year albatross.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If you haven't been around here for long... or if you just haven't noticed... Raiderjoe has praised anyone and everyone that has played or coached for the Raiders (but only when they are employed by the Radiers).

It's his thing, God love 'im... his unwavering homerism and optimism that NOW is when the Raiders are on the path to being good, no matter what anyone else thinks.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Mia-Chi I guess the good thing about having a replacement level starting quarterback is that he's easily replaced. The oline kept Brock clean most of the day. Today seemed to show what Gase's 5 yrd pass offense is suppose to look like, but it seem unlikely Miami will break tackles for 70 yrd every week. The Bears had killer turnovers in this one, but were up 21-7 at one point and it sure felt like with Brock at QB the game was over. The real story of the game was the play of Miami's street free agents. With big production from TEs and DEs (the position Miami invested heavily in and yet is reduced to street free agents anyway). The bad news is former first round picks Parker, Harris weren't around much as usual. It's also a head scratcher that this year's two TEs drafted were out played by a street free agent in this one. Miami has/had will continue to have draft issues. Word in Miami is quarterback controversy, but honestly neither Tannehill or Brock are likely to pan out long term. This team needs a quarterback that isn't replacement level to build around. Still Brock seemed to demonstrate Miami's oline problems might be more on Tannehill as he stayed clean against a tough line. AFC least update 1) New England Meh 2) Miami-Does feel like a matter of time before the Jets move passed them. 3) Jets-they're starting to roll. 4) Bills-top 5 pick seems likely if Allen is out as without him (and he's not good) they have worse than no QB.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That's the other part of even the Bad Favre games -- no matter how bad things got, no matter how many interceptions he threw, Brett Favre would always be right back out there slinging it, without any loss of confidence.

To be completely impartial, that's also a critical aspect of Bad Peterman games.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

>That means that the Seahawks had 24 hours more time to acclimate to the massive time difference. It usually takes me 24 to 30 hours to get back on my feet when flying over the Atlantic, and while I'm not a Professional Football Player, there's only so fast the human body can acclimate

Wouldn't the best strategy for an NFL team in London be to just not adapt to the local timezone? It's not like a typical business trip where you have to adapt to local business hours. With this game being played in the 1PM EST slot instead of the early morning, there's not any more adaptation necessary than for a west coast team playing an away game on the east coast. NFL teams are such massive and self-sufficient operations that they could totally keep their practices, meals, curfews, etc on Pacific time and try to avoid jetlag altogether.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Can't make the sun not come up or go down on London time, though, and that's a big part of the biological response to time zone changes.

Or, at least, can't do so without some sort of isolation tank / artificial sun hotel complex for the players to stay at. Which even the NFL probably can't afford (yet).

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Jets really need to just unleash Darnold. They seemed to waver back and forth between the screens-and-runs-to-hide-the-QB gameplan and just letting him rip--wavering back and forth between different team identities without ever picking one seems to be the trademark of Todd Bowles' head coaching style. Darnold really shined when they gave him the opportunities. He had one bad INT, where he lobbed up a lame duck to a covered receiver on a deep fade, but besides that he made a lot of great throws, like rifling a TD to Pryor in a very tight window. I think he'll be pretty awesome if the team ever commits to making him the true centerpiece of the offense.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It seems to me that they've done that the last two weeks. I mean, I expected, no, I wanted the Jets to just down the ball with 30 seconds left in the half. Not with Darnold, they didn't. Quick drive, field goal. I realize they didn't do anything special, but they played the way the Pats have played the last ten to fifteen years; let the other team make mistakes, take advantage. Yes, they kicked 7 field goals, so the offense sputtered more than you would expect in a forty point game, but it does seem to be getting better.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"We present Derek Carr's pass chart"
"Osweiler, who has done nothing today but watch as his receivers have broken tackles to make big plays, just shrugs as he runs down the field."

One of these QBs has the "benefit" of having a busload of Gruden Grinders as his teammates.

"Gruden swore that they were "here in plenty of time to acclimate ourselves," and that they'll be ready to "play their best football.""

In fairness to Gruden, it's possible that was, in fact, the best football this team can play.

"Collinsworth is unlikable, but he's right a lot."

It would help if Michaels would stop throwing in references to Collinsworth's wife and home life, and ask him football questions instead. Even stupid ones. Maybe especially stupid ones, so Collingsworth can fill in the broadcast with basic football knowledge. Then there'd be less time for Michaels to take lonely meanders down memory lane.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Despite the close losses, Carr looked good in the first 4 games but has been terrible the last two - that might be something to do with having the strength of the team (OL) decimated by injury - Penn on IR, Osemele has missed the last 2 & of course Miller was already learning the position with Osemele on his right shoulder. Against Seattle there were 2 rookie tackles and a third string LG (Feliciano left the game early) who I've never heard of. So whilst I despaired when Cable was brought back, its a tough unit to work with, and Carr is back to his post-leg-break happy feet ways. At least he ran for a few 1st downs this week, something I've not seen him even try for a couple of years.

It was also a Seattle home game as far as the crowd was concerned - There's a UK soccer chant directed at fans of newly-minted teams like Chelsea which goes "Where were you- When you were shit?" - I tried it a couple of times, but there were too many nouveau-Hawks fans around me for it to catch on. Not sure I saw more than 10 Seahawks jersey's for the first 10 years of London games! Oh well, thats what 20 years of futility will do for Raider Nation support....!

Amongst all the heartbreak of realising that the 2016 team will be the one good Raiders team in 25 years (at best!) I'll get to see, and the silver & black tears I weep whenever I wear my Mack jersey, the most frustrating thing is Gruden/Guenther deciding to throw the babies out with the bathwater - Conley had a pick 6 two weeks ago - he didn't play a snap on Sunday. Karl Joseph hadn't played like a 1st rounder in previous seasons, but he wasn't Terrible - don't you want to see what he has and whether as a hyped-coaching pair you can fix it? You can't fix Reggie Nelson's old legs, that's for sure. You've already traded the only in-his-prime All-Pro quality player that the team has had since 2002, and now you are shopping Amari Cooper? You dont want to try to fix him either? With Bryant clearly not trying, Jordy Nelson & Cook good in certain gameplans but old and Seth Roberts being Seth Roberts? Lynch clearly won't be back next year with the team in this state. We'll probably trade Cooper & the 2 Bears first round picks for LeVeon Bell next week. I think this locker-room disintegrates over the bye week and they go 3-13. Al would have found a way to not pay the $100m and fired Gruden by now.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I really don't know what to think about Gruden's Raiders.

From what I've seen they've generally been competitive until the last quarter of games. This isn't the Art Shell season playing out again. OMG that was the most depressing year ever. Hope less.

But I'm not sure I've ever see a worse YPA with such a high completion rate than Carr's 21 of 29 for 140ish this week. And that pass chart is damning. It reminds me of what the Dolphins were doing with Tannehill a couple of seasons ago. On the other hand, I could argue that only throwing short routes when you've got a makeshift offensive line is a smart thing to do. Slow-developing routes will get your QB killed ...

I will say the BBC guys pointed out that given what Mack was demanding and with Carr having just been paid like an elite, they reckoned it wasn't going to be feasible to rebuild the defense while paying two players 20-30% of the salary cap. I think that's a reasonable point although I'm not sure how other teams seem to manage it. Obviously Chicago have Trubisky on a rookie deal and the Rams paying Donald & Suh have Goff on a rookie deal. Denver extended Von Miller when they had no QB. Cousins is getting paid in Minnesota but I don't think anyone get paid on the defensive side of the ball.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Thanks Will ... useful to get that info for perspective.

I just looked it up ... Carr is getting $25million per year, the Bears are paying Mack $23.5m ... the salary cap is $184M - that's 26% if the Raiders had resigned Mack.

The Rams are paying Donald $22.5M per year ... Suh is getting $14M and it's 1-year only.

Just look at Vikings ... there's a lot of money invested in that defense ... you've also got Hunter $14.4M, Joseph $12.5M, Kendricks $10M, Richardson $8M - that's about $80M for seven players but a damn good defense. And about $12M average for each of those guys. Which is double what Mack wanted.

I still always think of Beane's quote from Moneyball. To paraphrase "make the right signing at the right price. You can always recover from the trade/signing you don't make but not the wrong signing at the wrong price". The Raiders played by that rule I'd say - so for all the criticism they're getting, I'm not sure it's valid. Maybe they would have been better trading Carr and keeping Mack ?

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

This just in.....personnel/cap evaluations are HARD to do well consistently, over a multi-year span. My biggest issue with trading Mack was how little they got for him, especially once you consider that the Raidahs are sending a 2nd rounder to the Bears. 2nd round picks are really, really, valuable, one you consider what they are paid, so getting rid of a cap problem in Mack, while also sending a 2nd round pick away, seems really counterproductive.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If you think "there were too many nouveau-Hawks fans around", check this article: https://theathletic.com/584572/2018/10/12/for-legion-of-uk-fans-seahawks-london-trip-is-a-long-awaited-homecoming/

The UK Seahawkers* fan club has been around since the 80's, has over 2400 members on FB, organizes multiple tips to CenturyLink annually, and counts Walter Jones as a frequent guest/host, depending on who's visiting whom.

*yeah, that how you say 'Twelves' in Brit-speak.

de gustibus non disputandem est

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"Smith is credited with dramatically growing the chapter. “He took the chapter from nothing to something,” Peppard said. Before Smith’s enthusiastic recruiting and planning, which began around 2008"

I mean, sure I knew Hawks fans in the 80s and it was good to see some Warner jerseys around - would have been fun to see a Bosworth! I even saw a Jim Zorn though surely that was a tourist. But the idea that Hawks were one of the UK's most followed teams before the recent success - no way.

I contrast this with the Raiders -Dolphins game - the Dolphins are probably a Top 3 UK supported team (strong in the 80s + people vacation in Florida) and I didn't feel anything like this outnumbered then. I've only missed 1 London game and seldom does it feel as one-sided (except Pats games probably) At other London games, sure you'll see some Hawks jerseys but they are not one of the more frequent. Maybe a lot of 12s travelled over. Anyway Iets see how many Titans or Chargers I see this week!

Must be like this for Chargers fans in LA when the Raiders visit!

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

re Raiders travelling later to London. For some reason the Bronco's this year decided to travel a day later than normal to their east coast games (only arriving in town on the Saturday before the game), and both times seemed to start OK and then fade badly. Surely someone somewhere has done some research on athletic performance after travel (be very surprised if somewhere in tennis, road cycling, or even golf) there has not been something done to see how physical and mental endurance and recovery times are affected by long distance flights. It certainly seems that an extra day of recovery time is a good thing, but it would be interesting to have some real data on this.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

After some competence last year, the Vikings are back to where they have been for nearly a decade now, just really awful at blocking anyone. Thank goodness Cousins handles pressure well, and Thielen and Diggs get seperation quickly.

Spielman has done a good job for the Vikings, and he has had some bad injury luck with his 1st round picks, but having 1 1st round, one 2nd round, and one 3rd round pick, used on o-linemen, in 9 years, is just a bad mistake.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Watching the Chi-Mia game, I kept thinking that if the Bears' receivers were all 10 feet tall, Trubisky would be the best QB in the NFL.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I keep feeling like I'm in bizarro world today, because so much of the Bears analysis I'm reading from Chicago boils down to "sure, it sucks that they lost, and the defense definitely sucked, but at least Trubisky had a good game." I keep fixating on those awful overthrows of wide-open receivers in the first half. He overthrew Howard on a checkdown, for God's sake!

I feel like I have a pretty good idea of which personalities have a pro-Mitch bias vs an anti-Mitch bias, but what most of them were saying to temper excitement over his 6 TDs against Tampa was that it should have been easy to make those throws because the receivers were schemed to be so open. Well, it seems to me like continually missing open receivers like he did yesterday is very, very bad. I went ballistic at the interception he threw (and still maintain that it was a terrible, terrible decision), but at least you can argue that it was a poor decision that he can learn from. Some of those throws he missed early in the game, though...I feel like those were throws you'd expect a marginal starter/backup QB to make.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Look, I'm disappointed too, and I get that "Nagy is the new Trestman" is your schtick, but lots of QBs miss open passes downfield. Mahomes missed guys who had defenders beat at least twice on Sunday night.

Do I hope Trubisky's deep accuracy gets better? Absolutely. Will it need to for him to be a top tier QB? Definitely. But a QB that misses open WRs downfield once per game is pretty much a normal QB, and nitpicking all his misses is just getting tiresome.

(Overthrows in the flat are a different story, though I do think you're also overstating how automatic those are for QBs. Again, I recall at least one that Mahomes missed to Hill, and Rodgers also missed throw in the flat (that looked like it came out of his hand funny) on Monday night.)

I would be much more concerned with Trubisky having problems with reads or throwing multiple bad interceptions (or near interceptions), which so far has not been a significant problem (though he could also improve there, too).

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

For some reason I was thinking about comparing the QBs in the 2017 1st round to the QBs in the 2004 NFL Draft in order.

I don't know if Patrick Mahomes will be Phillip Rivers (wildly talented but ultimately discounted in the broader discourse due to a lack of playoff success) or DeShaun Watson will be Ben Roethlisberger (very talented, if sometimes overrated due to RINGZ).

But at this point I could definitely see Mitchell Trubisky as Eli Manning (erratic, but good enough to occasionally guide a good team to the promised land).

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That was what Carolina thought with Cam Newton. They had a fun couple of years of a goofy feedback loop. Cam overthrows receivers->draft bigger receivers->Cam overthrows bigger receivers->DRAFT EVEN BIGGER RECEIVERS->Cam overthrows even bigger receivers.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Outside a of bad decision resulting in an INT on 3rd and goal in the 4th quarter, Trubisky played well in the second half (in large part because the Bears O-Line was dominating the line of scrimmage).
In the first half though, at times it seemed like there were bulleyes floating 3 feet over his receivers heads that only he could see.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Let's put the brakes on a little here. Trubisky completed 71% of his passes for 3 TDs, 1 pick, and ~15 yards per completion. So it's hardly like he was spraying the ball all over the place. (For example, the two long completions to Gabriel were dropped perfectly in the bucket.) But he does literally every week throw the ball over the head of a wide-open receiver downfield. The difference between the last two games and the previous three is that after the early overthrow he got much, much more accurate. That doesn't sound like an unfixable problem to me, but I am a Bears fan wearing Bear goggles, and I desperately want him to be good.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

This is the really boggling thing to me. It's clearly not true that he HAS no accuracy, because he completes a fair amount of passes. As you said, he had a few passes in this game that were absolutely perfect throws, and not easy ones at that. And the same has happened in other games, too--sometimes he puts in the exact right place where only his guy can get it.

But then, there are those throws that are just...awful. Where he doesn't seem to be pressured, and the guy is wide open, and he just misses them. And it's like...how is the same person capable of one play but not the other?

My admittedly unscientific, unchecked impression is, as you said, that he seems to get more accurate as the game goes on. I have a feeling, then, that he has trouble getting into the rhythm of the game and finding the touch on his passes early. Even against Tampa Bay I remember him badly missing a few throws early (they just did so well otherwise that it didn't matter). It seems like as the game goes on, he settles down and is able to get in the groove. I don't know if that is fixable or not.

But again, this is just an impression from a Bears fan, not a serious study.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

This could be as easy as a mechanical thing. If his feet aren't in the right place, elbow not in the right position, etc., that might cause him to float the ball on a particular type of throw.

If that's what it is, an offseason of work with the right coach might almost eliminate it from his game.

32 Holy Roller

So, regardless of how it played out with DeSean Jackson dropping the ball, shouldn't it have been moot? Only the fumbling player can advance the ball in the last two minutes, so either that would kick in with the lateral itself, or once it hit the ground?

54 Re: Holy Roller

I'm unclear on this rule as well. I know you can't advance it by fumbling it forward, but if the fumble goes backward and is picked up by somebody other than the fumbler -- is he allowed to run with it? The distinction is the fumble isn't what advances the ball, the runner is. I don't know the rules well enough to answer this.