Audibles at the Line: Week 7
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.
Tennessee Titans 19 'at' Los Angeles Chargers 20 (London)
Dave Bernreuther: I've been watching this entire game, largely because I'm curious after reading Mike Tanier's article this week about Marcus Mariota, and we're halfway through it and I really haven't come up with much of anything to say. I want Mariota not to be broken. I think he has the tools and the mind, and he was totally screwed over by being miscast in EXOTIC SMASHMOUTH, which meant that this new regime should've meant big things for him. Whether it's the injuries or the design ... thus far it hasn't. And Mike is definitely right to point out that some of it is on him.
They seem to have been moving the ball well, with some nice, accurate passes in an offense that doesn't look TOO much like it's putting handcuffs on him ... but every time they have gotten into the red zone, they sputter and lock up. As if they expect something bad to happen, almost. And, as the first half drew to a close, it did, with a tipped ball interception leading to a 10-6 Chargers game when the Titans could absolutely have taken the lead.
I'm really not sure what made him decide to throw that. There were two defenders between him and the receiver. That play didn't have a prayer of success, and it took points off the board.
Still, he's at 14-of-18 and it's not all Eli/Carr length no-air yards stuff (although there has definitely been plenty of short stuff, including one goofy attempted lateral/pass to Dion Lewis from beyond the line), and they're controlling the ball and keeping Rivers on the sideline ... but thus far they have six points and a deficit to show for it.
Tom Gower: Halftime, with the Chargers leading 10-6. Tennessee's offense has looked ... functional at times. They've driven for two field goals and made it to the red zone a third time, a big improvement after last week. There's still almost no manufactured or natural explosiveness to their offense, but only one sack. The Chargers have only had the ball three times, and one of those possessions lasted all of 12 seconds, a 75-yard touchdown from Phillip Rivers to Tyrell Williams. The play itself was a nice wrinkle on the Eagles' long touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. I never know if I should go into details on individual plays like that one, or concentrate more on FO staples like yelling about how the Titans insist on handing off the ball on first down and keep not gaining any yards by doing so (running backs have six carries for 5 yards).
Dave Bernreuther: Has there ever been a coach with more varied results/levels of apparent competence than Ken Whisenhunt?
It's easy to forget, but he's on the L.A. sidelines today coaching against his former team, a team whose offense he contributed to being terrible (and yeah, we can put some of that on having Zach Mettenberger et al. ... but then again, he had a hand in choosing him, as I recall, if not Clipboard Jesus and Jake Locker), and it's not all Philip Rivers that is making this Chargers offense look great. Nor was it in his last tour with the Chargers, or with Kurt Warner or even Pittsburgh in the gig that got him the Cardinals job. I'll give him a pass for the post-Warner years in Arizona.
Sure, everyone looks like a great coordinator when they have a star quarterback, but his time in Tennessee was just ... bad. Really very bad. I guess Tom could speak more to his actual strengths and weaknesses and how much of that we can pin on the talent they had left over from Munchak.
Anyway, he and Rivers haven't had many possessions to work with today, but that's been just fine by them. He got the other Williams -- Mike, this time -- open and a dime by Rivers made for another long touchdown strike, giving the Chargers a very secure-feeling two-score lead.
That said, the Titans mounted another long drive to move into scoring position, and after one of the most fantastic individual efforts that didn't lead to a first down or score that you'll ever see by Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry punched one in and the Titans are right back in it.
I think that if I owned an NFL team and my coach ever ran the "send the offense out to obviously just try a hard count before I punt" time-wasting fools-nobody stunt, I'd walk down to the sideline and fire him on the spot.
Yes, I know I'm being irrational.
But only slightly.
Tom Gower: Whisenhunt's tenure in Tennessee could be most simply expressed as the apparent belief that what he was trying was so good, if his players couldn't execute it properly, his team didn't deserve to win the game. Adjustments are for people who don't know what they're doing, even when what you're doing means your quarterback keeps getting hurt (five times in 23 games, his starting quarterback was injured and did not finish the game).
Dave Bernreuther: Well we finally gave London an interesting game ...
And this may sound odd, coming from the same person that applauded Frank Reich a few weeks back, but at 3-3, tied for first, with an overtime period coming, and most importantly, with plenty of time still left on the clock ... I'd have kicked that extra point too.
Not that I didn't appreciate the balls on Vrabel for going for two there, of course. I did.
I didn't think either of the two plays they ran were marvelous, nor was Mariota's throw on the decisive play. And so the Chargers move to 5-2, and the Titans drop out of a tie for the first-place slot they didn't exactly deserve anyway.
Andrew Potter: I find it strange that such a run-heavy team didn't even have the threat of a handoff on their two-point play. It was obvious that the Chargers defensive line was playing the sneak as the only viable run threat, whereas simply adding Dion Lewis to the backfield provides a much greater range of possibilities. Then, if you aren't going to threaten a handoff anyway, put the quarterback in the shotgun to give him the clearest possible view of things. I'd definitely have gone for two, especially on the 1-yard line after the penalty, but I think Matt LaFleur will want that playcall back.
Aaron Schatz: Quarterback sneak is the most successful way to get 1 yard. You also have a quarterback who can run option. Twice you need 1 yard and twice you pass. (Actually, three times, including the play that drew the defensive holding penalty.) I appreciate that the first one worked but it's one of the rare times when running is MORE efficient.
New England Patriots 38 at Chicago Bears 31
Bryan Knowles: This is one of the games I'm watching most closely this week; the absence of Gronk and the presence of Khalil Mack (questionable all week) makes this a very, very interesting matchup. Not that you'd get that from the Patriots' first series, as they march down the field without much trouble -- each of their first three plays went for at least 13 yards, and they had only one failed play on their way to taking a 7-0 lead. Chris Hogan did go down on the touchdown and had to go into the dreaded Blue Medical Tent, but he's moving around on the sideline just fine.
Andrew Potter: I've only seen the touchdown highlight, but I see the Bears are continuing to tackle like they did against the Dolphins.
Aaron Schatz: So far, the Bears' two biggest plays are "Mitchell Trubisky scramble" and "Patriots fumble the kickoff." They just took a 10-7 lead on an 8-yard Trubisky scramble for a touchdown, and he now has four carries for 35 yards. The scrambles are going to continue to be a problem with the amount of man coverage the Patriots play. On the first Bears drive, the Patriots were blitzing cornerback Jonathan Jones repeatedly but that has gone away on the last two drives.
Bryan Knowles: "Eight-yard scramble for a touchdown" somewhat undersells it; pressure by Adrian Clayborn chased Trubisky all the way back to the 30 before he was able to hook back upfield. That's not going to be sustainable on offense, but Trubisky has shown some wheels this season in general. Patriots are going to have to figure out a way to keep him from darting downfield; I don't think he's dangerous enough you want to devote a spy to him, but ...
Vince Verhei: That Trubisky touchdown needs more detail. He dropped back from the 8, and under pressure scrambled all the way back to his own 30 before spinning away and cutting back to the left. His own linemen were beckoning for him to follow them, and he ran all the way into the end zone basically untouched except for a hard hit as he crossed the goal line. There really aren't many quarterbacks in the league who can run like Trubisky can.
Dave Bernreuther: That Trubisky scramble was awe-inspiring. It had all the "you're going the wrong way!" And "stop spinning in the blind direction!" elements of a Russell Wilson play-extender, but without any of the speed. That was the slowest and least elusive successful long-distance scramble I can remember seeing. Yet ... once he brought it back to the opposite side, it was mostly uncontested. And somehow the Patriots are trailing.
Meanwhile, after we saw Hogan tested for ACL and pass and LeSean McCoy tested for ACL (and remain out despite it being open chain and not too terrifying overall), we see Sony Michel add injury to insult by limping off the field in BAD shape after losing a fumble.
Bryan Knowles: They just announced that Trubisky ran for 71 yards on that 8-yard scramble, which is all well and good and impressive and whatnot, good job NextGen stats, but it made me think ...
... these NextGen stats mean that the data exists to finally update our seminal horizontal yards research from 2009. Real life is catching up to our jokes.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots are running straight into the bullets. They allowed a fourth-and-4 conversion on that drive, then extended it twice with defensive penalties including on third-and-goal from the 5.
Bryan Knowles: Well, hey, at least the kickoffs in this game have been bizarrely exciting. Cordarelle Paterson follows up his fumble that set up the Bears first touchdown by returning this most recent one for 95 yards and a score. Kickoffs are supposed to be boring with the new rules!
Aaron Schatz: Actually, kickoffs aren't supposed to be quite as boring with the new rules. The goal of the rule changes this year was to figure out a way to make it safer while also encouraging more returns by not allowing the coverage team to get a running start.
Scott Kacsmar: Honestly, Trubisky looks like Josh Allen today to me. He couldn't hit the side of a barn, but his scrambles have been good. That's not to say that is drastically different from most Trubisky games, but he's extra erratic today. Should have been picked in the end zone for sure. Have to expect the Patriots to get back in the lead shortly here, and we'll see if Trubisky can ever start engineering drives that don't start in great field position after fumbles.
Aaron Schatz: One impressive thing about Josh Gordon is how many catches he makes with his hands instead of needing to bring the ball in to his body. He has amazing hands. Just picked the ball out of the air over Kyle Fuller to convert a fourth-and-1.
Scott Kacsmar: The best pass rushers in Chicago are Mack and Leonard Floyd, right? So it makes no sense why neither would be rushing Brady on a big third down in the red zone. They were in coverage, and after having time, Brady found James White on Floyd for an easy touchdown to regain the lead. I don't understand why we aren't seeing the best pass-rushers doing their main job on money downs.
Carl Yedor: Strange end to the half in Chicago. With eight seconds left, the Bears are just outside of Cody Parkey's field goal range, so they try to get a little closer. Trubisky slides to his right and hits Cohen for a short gain that almost runs out the clock but doesn't get into field goal range. This leads to what should be a Hail Mary. Chicago is slow getting on the field and calls timeout before the play (not the end of the world), but they end up throwing a deep crosser to Tarik Cohen rather than getting the ball into the end zone. Good for Cohen fantasy owners, bad for the goal of actually scoring points.
Scott Kacsmar: Nagy passed on a 58-yard field goal to end the half. That usually means a Hail Mary instead, but the Bears threw a short pass with no laterals set up and gained the most meaningless 20 yards you'll see today. I don't get that strategy one bit. You either kick the field goal or throw a Hail Mary to the end zone.
Bryan Knowles: Especially in a game against the Patriots. Especially when you're in a good position in large part because of New England mistakes. I could back a Hail Mary into the end zone; I could back a field goal to try to make it a one-point game by halftime. But I don't get the dumpoff to Cohen at all.
That meaningless play is more than 20 percent of Trubisky's passing yards so far this game, so that hasn't gone well.
Dave Bernreuther: "Especially in a game against the Patriots. Especially when you're in a good position in large part because of New England mistakes."
You've gotten two short fields because of mistakes against the least mistake prone team in the league, and you're at home. And you're still losing.
Maybe you should at least try to score some points. Even when they're really unlikely. It's the last play of the half. Try.
Or, if the Bears didn't want to attempt a long half-ending field goal from the 40 but also weren't willing to throw a Hail Mary, why didn't they just take a knee? Trubisky threw a short pass over the middle to end the half. That was it. It wasn't a hook and lateral, it wasn't designed to be a "Larry Fitzgerald splits the safeties for the long touchdown catch-and-run," it was just a routine pass over the middle. Why?
Aaron Schatz: Trubisky again with the scramble. Looked like he was going out of bounds at the 24; instead he reversed at the sideline, avoided tackles, and ended up at the 1. He's a great scrambler.
Dave Bernreuther: That was another slow-motion scramble, but at the end it worked to his advantage as he slowed from slow to stop and juked two defenders to gain a few more yards to get to first-and-goal. They nearly blew it after a penalty and what could've been a pick, but a score on a screen puts them back in front.
Bryan Knowles: K-thunk. The second special-teams touchdown of the day gives the Patriots the lead once again, this time after a blocked punt. New England takes the lead, 31-24. It's apparently the first Patriots blocked punt touchdown since 1996. I would have assumed that was the longest gap in the NFL -- after all, blocked punts aren't THAT rare; the Jets and Ravens have both had six blocked punt touchdowns since New England last pulled one off. But no, actually -- Detroit hasn't had one since 1992, and Atlanta hasn't had one since 1990, the longest gap in the NFL.
And, while I'm doing all that research, the Patriots intercept Mitch Trubisky, with rookie J.C. Jackson coming down with a 50-50 ball. Really good play on his part. Patriots with the ball and a touchdown lead.
Aaron Schatz: And another pick by Trubisky on the next drive, one-handed catch by Jonathan Jones on an underthrown ball to Anthony Miller. Inaccurate passes in a well-designed offense, great scrambling ability ... Trubisky is Blake Bortles!
Bryan Knowles: Looks like the Patriots will get out of Chicago with their first road win of the season. A 55-yard pass to Josh Gordon sets up a SHOVeLL to James White and the Patriots have a 14-point lead. The Bears' last three drives have been the blocked-punt touchdown and then two straight interceptions. All that good luck from the first half has evened out juuuust a tad.
Aaron Schatz: I think Khalil Mack's ankle injury is clearly a problem. Bears are getting very little pressure on Tom Brady today. Although rookie 5-tech end Bilal Nichols has had a couple of nice pass rushes.
Vince Verhei: Well there's a finish I don't think I've ever seen before. Bears are down seven and trying a Hail Mary and Kevin White actually catches it, but he's short of the end zone. A rugby scrum breaks out with everyone trying to push him in or out. It's ruled his forward progress was stopped, and eventually he goes down anyway.
Bryan Knowles: Chicago gets one final shot, 55 yards from the end zone, to throw a game-tying touchdown. Pressure (!) from Kyle Van Noy means Trubisky can't step into the throw ... and it ends up just 1 yard short of the end zone. Kevin White pulls in the catch, but can't stretch the ball out over the line as New England gang-tackles him. If Trubisky can step into that pass ...
New England gets their first road victory of the season.
Buffalo Bills 5 at Indianapolis Colts 37
Bryan Knowles: LeSean McCoy went down hard on the sidelines on Buffalo's second play from scrimmage, smashing his helmet into the ground and twisting his ankle in awkward directions. He's out of the game at the moment, and that's exactly what the struggling Buffalo offense needs. For what it's worth, Derek Anderson looked relatively sharp on his first series. It's probably not a good sign when your street free agent outperforms your first-round draft pick and planned starter, but such is the situation in Buffalo.
Vince Verhei: Colts have a fourth-and-1 at their own 47, no score in the first quarter. I don't know how many coaches would go for it there, especially against the Bills, but Frank Reich does, and he does it the basic way: I-formation, six linemen, let Marlon Mack muscle up the middle, and he gets 10 yards out of it. The drive lasts into the second quarter, when Andrew Luck finishes it with a 17-yard touchdown to Erik Swoope to put the Colts up 7-0.
Correction: 6-0 Colts. Adam Vinatieri missed the XP.
Dave Bernreuther: Several really bad third-down calls/plays by the Colts are bailed out by a nice fourth-down play, as already mentioned, and then a nice pass and catch to Swoope for the score. Adam Vinatieri apparently can't handle the pressure of contending for the all-time points lead, though, the choker, and honks the extra point. One play later, a Colts drive features a big catch (a catch!) by Chester Rogers, who at this point should probably not be posing and celebrating these things, and then a score on a swing pass to Marlon Mack. A play during which the most interesting thing was that No. 6 draft pick (on a guard!) Quenton Nelson just flat-out BURIED the edge rusher (Former Colt Jerry Hughes? Not sure who) after he spun inside of Anthony Castonzo.
Pretty sure that Luck would've gotten that easy pass away either way, but that was fun to watch. Nelson came off his guy and just mauled him.
Vince Verhei: Hey! Scramble guys! We need to make sure Kelvin Benjamin makes All-Keep Choppin' Wood this year. He did have a nice catch in traffic earlier (since Buffalo finally has a quarterback capable of putting the ball where he can do that), but negated that with an unnecessary roughness call for a stupid retaliatory shot at the end of a first-down run. That put Buffalo in second-and-23, and needless to say a punt followed shortly thereafter. Benjamin's drops and penalties have to outnumber his big catches this year.
Bryan Knowles: The Colts, sitting at 1-5, basically have to win today if they're going to make any noise this season. The only reason they weren't dead coming in is the poor state of the AFC South, with the leader going to be sitting at just 4-3 after the Houston-Jacksonville game. Turns out, playing the Bills seems to be a great way to get off of any sort of schneid. Derek Anderson is 11-for-14 but for just 90 yards with an interception. That would be the 14th-fewest yards per completion for any quarterback this year, and that's before he'll have to start throwing it deep to try to comeback from this 24-0 deficit in the second half.
Yes, Nathan Peterman has one of the 13 games with fewer yards per completion; his 5-for-18 for 24 yards day against Baltimore back in Week 1, so Anderson may still have been Buffalo's best option. If that isn't damning with faint praise... (The leader in the clubhouse to this point is Tyrod Taylor's 4-for-14, 19-yard day against the Jets, for the record).
Nathan Peterman is warming up, and is going to start the second half. Anderson is not injured; they've just decided to pull him for the second half because I suppose he is not living up to the level of quarterback play the Buffalo Bills have come to expect.
Can anyone explain to me, in 100 words or fewer, what the Bills' quarterback philosophy is?
Whoops, Peterman had his helmet on ... and then he took it off, and Anderson is, in fact, starting the second half. This has only been a test of the emergency Nathan Peterman warning system.
Dave Bernreuther: They ended up sending Anderson out. I guess it was just deception, an attempt to psyche out the Colts defense.
(Bear in mind, of course, that Peterman actually beat the Colts last December...)
This one is reaching the change the channel point. No. 6 pick (on a guard!) Quenton Nelson takes a penalty to kill a drive in Bills territory, and one field flip later they snap one over Luck's head for a safety. So I guess the Bills didn't need the pointless 24-0 field goal (at least it wasn't the fourth quarter) to avoid the shutout after all. I don't know why I'm still watching this game.
After another Derek Anderson turnover at the Bills' 20 with 5:23 to play, the Colts pull Luck ... and promptly induce boos by not kneeling to immediately kick a field goal to get Vinatieri within one kick of Morton Andersen's record. Marlon Mack takes one around left end on the first snap for perhaps the least appreciated home team touchdown in history.
Vince Verhei: Anderson is up to three picks and a lost fumble, so I guess he's officially a Bills quarterback now. The last interception really should have counted twice -- he hit Quincy Wilson right in the chest, but Wilson tipped the ball up and out of screen. The live shot missed it, Franco Harris-style, but Corey Moore reeled it in before going out of bounds.
Carolina Panthers 21 at Philadelphia Eagles 17
Andrew Potter: Unusual subplot to this Eagles-Panthers game is Panthers safety Eric Reid, who publicly criticized Malcolm Jenkins and the "Players Coalition" last year. Reid and Jenkins had an altercation before the game, Reid has gesticulated to the Eagles sideline already after making a play, and now Reid gets a personal foul after tackling Carson Wentz when Wentz had already handed the ball off. On replay, Reid initially appeared to track the handoff, but he then pursued Wentz and tackled him instead of the running back. Zach Ertz took umbrage and got into a wrestling match with Reid, so the penalties ultimately offset.
Second unusual subplot: the wind is alternating between dead still and nasty swirls, causing trouble for the kickers. Jake Elliott just missed from 36 yards for the Eagles.
We're in the first quarter and Doug Pederson has already had his team go for it, and convert, on two fourth-downs in Panthers territory. Both were in punt range, not field-goal range, so the wind is probably not the cause of that, but if Elliott's going to miss 36-yarders, we might somehow see the Eagles be even more aggressive than usual in this one.
Derrik Klassen: The Carolina Panthers have no answers for Alshon Jeffrey right now. Their cornerback play has been suspect all year and that still rings true today.
Jeffrey just shook James Bradberry to the front corner of the end zone and gave Carson Wentz an easy target for a touchdown. Jeffrey was also Wentz's target on a fourth-down conversion earlier in the game.
Lucky for Carolina, that score only put Philadelphia up 7-0, for now.
Andrew Potter: In the second example of the wind affecting field-goal kickers: the Panthers punted on fourth-and-15 from the Eagles 31, which would normally be a routine 49-yarder for a kicker who kicked a 63-yard game-winner just two short weeks ago. The kick was a 49-yarder because of a false start on the previous attempt from 44, which was capital-U Ugly, wobbling and flopping to the turf both wide and short. It was obvious that the Panthers couldn't risk an even longer kick giving the Eagles time to drive before the half, and a good punt was downed at the 4.
Bryan Knowles: Full, full credit for the Panthers going for it on fourth-and-10 from their own 31 with 2:06 left in the game. They have two timeouts left, so punting was still a theoretical option, but the punt would have surely eaten up the two-minute warning. Riverboat Ron is rewarded with a first down, and Carolina's driving in a three-point game...
Andrew Potter: Somehow, the Panthers have dredged up two touchdowns in two fourth-quarter drives to pull this game within three. I'm at a loss to figure out how this has ended up close; for the vast majority of the game, it has barely been competitive. Cam Newton hasn't been accurate; the receivers haven't been good; and the running game has been Newton scrambles and not much else save one 34-yarder for Jarius Wright.
The Eagles responded with their first three-and-out since the first quarter, so now the Panthers have the ball, grab a big fourth-and-10 conversion with added YAC from Torrey Smith, and are in Eagles territory driving for the win. This has to come down to a wind-impaired field goal, right?
Guess not. The Panthers drive for their third touchdown in three possessions, this time to Greg Olsen.
Cam Newton had 68 yards passing in the first three quarters, and has 201 and two touchdowns in the fourth. It was 17-0 at the start of the fourth, and now it's 17-21. Completely out of the blue.
Hah! Alshon Jeffery just got MUGGED on a deep ball by James Bradberry. Bradberry was roasted, and simply tackled Jeffery with the ball in the air to prevent the score. As blatant as you will ever see.
Bryan Knowles: That big pass interference call set the Eagles up on the Carolina 22-yard line. On first down, it looked like Eric Reid had a game-ending interception, but the refs overturned it. It may have scraped the ground as he was tumbling down; I felt it was inconclusive but I guess that's why I'm not a ref. It ends up not mattering, however -- Mike Adams breaks up a pass in the end zone, and then Wentz gets hit on fourth down, fumbling the ball. It's recovered by Carolina, game over. The Eagles were up 17-0 at one point; they lose 21-17 after a ferocious fourth-quarter comeback by Carolina. One of these weeks, they may want to try taking a big lead before the fourth quarter, but it does appear to be working for them so far.
Houston Texans 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 7
Bryan Knowles: Per Jay Glazer, the Texans were so concerned about the effect air pressure could have on Deshaun Watson's bruised lung that they bussed him to Jacksonville rather than risk him taking a flight. If his lungs are in so much trouble that a 12-hour bus ride makes the most sense ... should he really be playing football? I'm not a doctor by any stretch of the imagination, but I would guess that standing behind Houston's 30th-ranked offensive line would not be great for your lungs, either. I'm sure Houston's medical staff has given this move the OK, but it just feels ... very, very strange.
Tom Gower: Texans up 13-0 at the half. Blake Bortles' inability to throw the ball accurately with any consistency feels like an overdone storyline at this point, but there's no avoiding it. Jacksonville can't do anything on offense, and the defense has to be absolutely perfect to win games this way, and they're not. In particular, Houston has had success in the run game. Lamar Miller has 13 carries for 75 yards at the half with his first touchdown of the season.
Tom Gower: After Bortles fumbles on a scramble and the Texans score to go up 20-0, the Jaguars benched Blake Bortles. For Cody Kessler. I don't think much of Kessler's potential, but it's something and Jacksonville needed something. And he gets a first down! (After a Houston penalty takes third-and-8 to third-and-3.)
Andrew Potter: Kessler leads the Jaguars to their first points of the game, but most of the credit for the touchdown has to go to T.J. Yeldon's stunning one-handed catch. Kessler was flushed out to his right and fired inside and away from Yeldon, but the diving back made a spectacular grab to get the Jaguars on the board.
Tom Gower: We're now two possessions into the Kessler era, with a three-and-out following the initial touchdown. My book on him coming out of USC and when he played in Cleveland was he doesn't have the arm strength to be a functional NFL quarterback, and I haven't seen anything today to make me change my mind about that. His conventional stats are 10-of-15 for 57 yards and the score at this point, and all of his completions have either been within 5 yards or right in front of him, and his non-completed downfield throws haven't been close to completions. It's tough to make a living in the NFL that way. But at least the benching does seem to have woken up the Jaguars defense, which has looked fine in the second half other than when the Texans started in the red zone.
Detroit Lions 32 at Miami Dolphins 21
Scott Kacsmar: Remember when the Lions couldn't find a 100-yard rusher for years? Kerryon Johnson has four carries for 102 yards today, including a 71-yard run. I could understand him needing a breather after that carry, but the Lions' drive stalled in the red zone after LeGarrette Blount failed on two short-yardage runs. It has been a while since I've looked at the numbers, but Blount has been pretty inept in those power situations despite his physical running style. The Lions need to start utilizing Johnson more. Also, the Dolphins probably need to ditch the runs on third-and-10 when they're just out of field goal range. Miami trails 10-0 at home.
Cleveland Browns 23 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26
Scott Kacsmar: Granted, the Browns have been struggling offensively again, but good to see the Buccaneers pitch a first-half shutout in the first game after coordinator Mike Smith was fired. The only points Cleveland scored came on a safety. Baker Mayfield had a fourth-down scramble before halftime, but the Buccaneers stopped him short to preserve the quasi-shutout. Also, I see Jarvis Landry is up to his old tricks of failed completions on third down. He has 23 yards on seven targets today and came into the week next to last in receiving DYAR.
Vince Verhei: Maybe Mike Smith wasn't the only problem. The Browns get a pair of second-half touchdowns, and then they have a second-and-goal from the 2 and can tie the game with one more score. But there's an incomplete fade on second down and then Nick Chubb fails to score on third down. On fourth down they make the right call and try for the sneak, but the Bucs stuff it and take over at the 1. Really, the bad call there was the second-down fade -- even a short gain on that play might have meant the sneak would have scored.
But then the Bucs go three-and-out, and Jabrill Peppers returns the punt inside the red zone! Browns have a first down at the 16 -- and Baker Mayfield immediately hits a diving Jarvis Landry at the 2. Landry slides to the turf and the ball comes out, but he gets it back and crosses the goal line untouched, and we have a tied game with 2:28 to go.
Andrew Potter: Buccaneers kicker in missed game-winning kick shocker!
Bryan Knowles: When was the last time Tampa Bay had a reliable kicker? Chandler Catanzaro missed a 40-yard game winning field goal, which was only necessary because he missed an extra point earlier in the day. Cleveland has their fourth overtime game of the year, the most for a full season since Arizona had four in 2011.
The all-time record is five, set by the '83 Packers.
Vince Verhei: The last two and half minutes of regulation took more than ten minutes of real time to play, but the Buccaneers eventually get Chandler Catanzaro into position for a 40-yard field goal ... but he misses it (his second miss of the day) and the Browns are going to overtime for the fourth time in seven games. The clock had been running with 45 seconds left, but Hue Jackson did not call timeout. Instead he used his timeout to ice the kicker, and sadly, it worked.
Andrew Potter: The bigger ... I would say head-scratcher, but it doesn't confuse me so much as infuriate me, is WHY are the Buccaneers settling for a field goal instead of still trying to advance the ball and score with 45 seconds left? It's not like they have a long history of truly putrid kicking performance. Yes, it has been slightly better this year, but these are not remotely smart coaching decisions.
Tom Gower: The Bucs got to the Browns 24 with 45 seconds left and all 3 timeouts, ran once into the line, had Jameis Winston slide to the preferred side and kicked a 40-yard field goal rather than, say, gaining more yards and trying for an easier field goal for a kicker who had already missed an extra point today. Not a sermon, just a thought.
Vince Verhei: Speaking of settling for long field goals, in overtime Fox has the "field goal target" line at the Cleveland 42. So a chance to try a 59-yard field goal is now considered field goal range? Regardless, Tampa Bay has a first down on the good side of that line, but Jameis Winston holds the ball forever before getting sacked on the bad side of it, and then gets sacked again on second down. On third-and-29, Winston finds DeSean Jackson right at the 42, and we're going to get a 59-yard try after all -- and Catanzaro slips it through for the win. Touche, Fox. Touche.
Bryan Knowles: Tampa Bay just blew its last timeout of the half, as they threw the challenge flag in overtime. There are no coach's challenges in overtime.
They have now iced their own kicker ... though it doesn't matter! Of course, after missing an extra point and a game-winning field goal, Catanzaro hooks in a 59-yard field goal. Of course.
Vince Verhei: One more amazing Cleveland note: Not only have they played four overtime games, but all four overtimes have reached the two-minute warning. That's a whole half of extra football this season.
Scott Kacsmar: I was looking at Cleveland's stats last night and saw really high rankings in rush and pass attempts, which is unusual. Then I remembered all the (long) overtime games, and here they go with another one today to add to it. Still a very poor offense on a per-play efficiency basis.
Minnesota Vikings 37 at New York Jets 17
Vince Verhei: Vikings lead 10-7 at the half in a game that has been every bit as sloppy as that sounds. We've had 18 total drives, a dozen of which have lasted three plays or less, including seven in a row at one point. The teams are a combined 0-for-16 on third down. The Jets have had at least three bad snaps, including one on a punt. The Vikings have missed their league-high sixth field goal. The wind is likely having an effect on the quarterbacks and the kickers.
Dave Bernreuther: Nobody is talking about this game so I just want to point out that the Jets are dressed as Christmas trees today and the only reason I hate it is that it's not Halloween yet.
Also, somehow every time I look up the Vikings are moving and Kirk Cousins completes a pass, but I just saw a graphic of his halftime stats and they're terrible, and it's 10-7, so apparently I'm just the Vikings' good luck charm and they tread water except for when I'm watching.
Vince Verhei: We have a drive! The Vikings march 64 yards in nine plays, including the game's first third-down conversion. Most of the big plays came on Cousins finding receivers running sideways at the second level between the linebackers and safeties, then Latavius Murray runs it in from 11 yards out to put the Vikings up 17-7.
Man, Kirk Cousins is prone to some dumb mistakes. Everyone's covered, so he turfs the ball at the feet of Stefon Diggs to avoid an intentional grounding -- but Diggs is behind him, so it's a lateral, a fumble, and a live ball! He's very lucky that the Jets didn't realize it and Diggs was able to cover the ball, but it leads to a punt. Jets are still down 20-10, but they have the ball and there's still plenty of time left, as we're about to hit the fourth quarter.
Well that glimmer of hope didn't last long. Jets go three-and-out and then Roc Thomas runs for a gain of 23, followed by a 38-yard Murray touchdown scamper that puts the Vikings up 27-10 for what feels like the death blow. Still more than 13 minutes left so we can't just assume it's over, but it's definitely not looking good.
Sam Darnold tried a deep ball to Robbie Anderson, but Anderson's feet get tangled with Xavier Rhodes' and the pass is incomplete. Worse, both men stay down. Anderson eventually walks off on his own power, but Rhodes needs help to limp back to the sideline and can barely put weight on his ankle. Somebody named Holton Hill comes in to take Rhodes' place -- and Darnold promptly throws an interception right to him.
Hill is an undrafted rookie out of Texas who had only 20 defensive snaps coming into today. That 21st snap was a good one.
Scott Kacsmar: Congratulations to Adam Thielen for becoming the second player in NFL history to start a season with seven 100-yard receiving games. The first was Charley Hennigan for the prolific 1961 Houston Oilers in the AFL. It's pretty amazing that after all these seasons and all the great receivers in history, that these are the only two to start a season with so much consistent production.
Los Angeles Rams 39 at San Francisco 49ers 10
Bryan Knowles: I would like to say, in our weekly Uniform Chat, that the 49ers '94 throwbacks, in all-white, look much, much, much better than the Ram's mustard Color Rush jerseys today. Much better.
With both starting cornerbacks out for San Francisco, this is probably the only way the 49ers will outdo the Rams today, so I figured I'd get it in early.
Dave Bernreuther: At 4:30, the screens in this bar look like a Crayola crayon advertisement. The Ravens are dressed like Grimace, the Niners are in all-white, the Jets look like Christmas trees (still! This game is dragging because of the 25 Darnold incompletions stopping the clock), and the Rams look like old highlighters in mustard yellow from head to toe.
Which is an especially interesting choice given how desperate they are to distance themselves from that third color and go back to just blue and white...
Somehow we just saw a short-yardage conversion attempt fail when Todd Gurley dropped the ball, and so the yellow highlighters hold only a 3-0 lead, despite what thus far seems to be an unstoppable pass rush and the fact that their opponent is starting C.J. Beathard at quarterback.
Bryan Knowles: The 49ers have already turned the ball over twice, as we've just started the second quarter. That means they have a -13 turnover differential, by far the worst in the league. They're on pace for a -29 turnover differential; that would be the worst in the post-merger era. So that's something to track going forward.
Fun fact addendum: 55 percent of the points San Francisco has given up this season, entering today, came off of turnovers. I'm going to have to do a deep dive at some point to figure out what the all-time record is there.
Rob Weintraub: Another turnover, as Beathard throws it late and is picked. Previous play he fumbled untouched as he dove, but as the ref helpfully explained, "effective this year" that is a dead ball. Either way, looks like we traveled 2:40 from downtown San Francisco for a rout. (Yeah, Levi's Stadium is hell and gone from the city -- totally built for Silicon Valley, though there are plenty of hardscrabble old school Niners fans here, at least in our section. One crusty old gent screamed at the mascot, Sourdough Sam, to "get the hell outta here! There's a game going on goddammit!!" Love that guy.)
Bryan Knowles: Remember: this was supposed to be the Sunday Night game this week. Thank goodness for the Sunday Night Flex.
Rob Weintraub: Yep, Rams blow down the field with contemptuous ease and score another touchdown off a turnover. Now 22-0 Rams. On the bright side the in-stadium presentation has gone bad three or four times. All around I'd rather be at Candlestick...
Bryan Knowles: You'd freeze in Candlestick. You roast in Levi's. I suppose it's a matter of personal preference, there.
Rob Weintraub: Football is for cold weather, so gimme the Stick. Actually Kezar would have been my ideal ...
Bryan Knowles: C.J. Beathard's bakery is pretty amazing. It has fantastic turnovers.
Beathard was averaging 2.7 turnovers coming into today, and he just had his third of the day. At least this week, none of them will come on a potential game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
And, re: that earlier Saints receiver note: Only two of Beathard's passes have gone to wide receivers. He has four to tight ends, five to running backs, four to the ground and two to the Rams.
Rob Weintraub: Hey look, yet another Niners turnover! Up to four plus a blocked punt. Semi-miraculous it's only 25-7.
Remember, this was supposed to be the Sunday night game so consider yourselves fortunate you get to watch Cincy give up 88 points instead.
And in the time it took to type that second paragraph the Rams score again. 32-7 and this one is in the refrigerator.
Vince Verhei: As the other games are winding down, I see this one is a final at 32-10, and ... wait, there's a still an entire quarter of this garbage left?!
Robert Weintraub: Fortunately for those of us broiling in the sun, Sean McVay will order his punt team to deliberately false start on consecutive plays, only to have it declined twice. And the refs will have a lengthy discussion about it each time.
And now McVay challenges a fumble/incomplete pass ruling in the end zone. I mean it's a 22-point game dude ... loses it thankfully.
Haven't seen tons of Mike McGlinchy this season but today has been rough for the first-rounder. Getting his lunch eaten on the regular.
I've attended two games this season. One was a 38-37 thrilla with my team getting the game-winning score with seconds to play. The other was this dreck. Somewhere in between lies the true NFL experience...
New Orleans Saints 24 at Baltimore Ravens 23
Vince Verhei: For at least the second time today, a team went for it on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter in their own territory. This time it was the Saints, and Drew Brees converted with a sneak.
And then they for it again on fourth-and-1 in the red zone, but they try an option pitch and it goes horribly wrong. Brees pitches to Alvin Kamara, and the ball ends up balanced on top of Kamara's head for a bit before bouncing to the earth, where the Ravens recover. It's not all bad news for New Orleans though. Baltimore burned both of its challenges on that drive -- once on a third-down spot foul that set up the first fourth-down play, then again on what might have been a Kamara fumble, but it looked like he still had the ball pinned to his shoulder pad as he hit the ground.
Bryan Knowles: Wrapping back around for a moment -- the Saints' opening drive was 20 plays, and failed to score. That has only happened five times since 2000. Three, including the Saints' drive, ended up turning it over on downs. Once -- the Saints again, back in 2007 -- a field goal attempt was blocked. And then you have the 2016 Panthers, who had a 20-play drive against Kansas City which somehow, someway ended in a punt. I'm not sure how you run 20 plays without getting into field goal range, but there you have it.
Andrew Potter: I watched that game. The answer to this question is "end it with two sacks for a loss of NINETEEN YARDS and have your kicker punt from the 40."
Aaron Schatz: The Ravens just went for it on fourth-and-8 from the Saints 35, despite having Justin Tucker. And they converted! Maybe last year's Eagles championship really has changed things. I mean, that's more aggressive than I would be, especially with Tucker able to hit field goals in the 50s.
Aha, apparently it's another one of those games with swirling winds which explains not letting Tucker try a 53-yarder. He eventually hit from 31 after the Ravens gained another 21 yards.
Andrew Potter: And even the 31-yarder, he barely scraped in over the post.
Vince Verhei: That Ravens fourth-down play led to a field goal. The third down before the kick was a Lamar Jackson pass play. Joe Flacco lined up wide and, as always, just stood there. The Saints did have a guy lined up over him, so it wasn't totally 10-on-11, but I don't get the point of this. Just throw any wide receiver out there instead of Flacco. At least have the possibility of a throw to that guy instead of telegraphing that you won't.
Dave Bernreuther: A few plays after that, Joe Flacco just underthrew a ball to the end zone and looks like he may have concussed two Saints defenders on the play. They hit helmet-to-helmet trying to intercept that terrible throw.
Perhaps as punishment, Harbaugh put Jackson in on the next play and actually had him throw (for the first time?). It was complete but short, and this time they had Tucker kick. 3-0 Grimace.
Aaron Schatz: Drew Brees just completed a slot wheel to Michael Thomas over Jimmy Smith, with 5:22 left in the second quarter. That was the first complete pass to a Saints wide receiver all day. The Ravens cornerbacks are very good, even with Marlon Humphrey out for this game.
A John Brown 56-yard reception brings the Ravens down near the goal line. Eventually we get to third-and-goal from the 1 with 8 seconds left. Lamar Jackson comes in, read option from the 1, Baltimore touchdown. I love read option on short yardage. Please someone show this play to the Titans, thanks. 10-7 Ravens at halftime.
Bryan Knowles: I still find what both these teams are doing with their backup quarterbacks to be both interesting and weird. Baltimore brings in Lamar Jackson at the 1, and he runs a really, really easy read-option to give Baltimore a 10-7 lead.
Dave Bernreuther: The Ravens bring Jackson in for another 10-on-10 play with Flacco on the field doing nothing, and the rookie runs in a relatively easy touchdown, after which Flacco the receiver pretends he's excited.
At halftime in a game about as ugly as we expected, it's 10-7.
Dave Bernreuther: Its actually starting to look a lot like the CFL, Bryan. (Not that I am a degenerate that gambles on the CFL, of course, but ...) They have a habit of pulling their main quarterbacks in first-and-goal situations in order to run lame and predictable but somehow successful option plays with running running quarterbacks like James Franklin in Toronto, Chris Streveler in Winnipeg, Jonathan Jennings in B.C., or even that former Browns quarterback of high notoriety...)
Still, leaving Flacco on the field to just stand there and barely occupy a defender just seems pointless. Jackson can throw. Putting him on the field means you're substituting anyway ... why not put a receiver there and make the other team defend that? I don't get it.
Aaron Schatz: What is the point of keeping Joe Flacco on the field on the Lamar Jackson plays? Are they going to throw to him one of these times? If they were, you would think he would act more like he cared on the plays where they don't throw to him.
Bryan Knowles: I assume the idea is to hint that they could motion Flacco back under center, except I'm not sure why defenses should be particularly afraid of Flacco motioning back under center.
Then again, Flacco has been much better than he has been in years so far this season. The Flacco-and-Jackson duo drive the Ravens down the field for another score and a 17-7 lead. I was expecting more points in this one, considering New Orleans' offense and, uh, New Orleans' defense, but not at all surprised at the current leader.
Aaron Schatz: 2:50 left in the third quarter, Michael Thomas just got only his second catch of the day, on a short crossing route with C.J. Mosley near him in zone coverage. Tre'Quan Smith has a 7-yard catch, and that's it for the Saints wide receivers. Three catches in nearly three quarters.
And as soon as I write that, Thomas and Smith catch the next two passes. Ha.
Scott Kacsmar: Hard to ever say a game turned on the first possession, but this one kind of did. By having such a long (10:03) possession without any points, the Saints are now down 17-7, it's the fourth quarter, and they're only on their fifth drive of the game. Maybe they can finish this one off with a touchdown to make it 17-14, but that early-game failure really has made it difficult to put up big numbers today with so few opportunities. Baltimore does a good job of long drives this year, so it's critical that the Saints finish this red zone chance with a touchdown.
Vince Verhei: I'm trying to think of what kind of matchup advantage the Ravens would have with Jackson and Flacco vs. Jackson and Wide Receiver X. Are they worried the defense would go jumbo with extra linemen and linebackers? But then, if they did, just audible to a pass -- I don't think Jackson is a good quarterback yet, but he is a quarterback, and he should be able to do something with man coverage across the board.
Aaron Schatz: And they did finish it off with a touchdown to make it 17-14. That was a 12-play, 75-yard drive. The Ravens haven't given the Saints any big plays. They've really had to earn their two touchdowns with long drives.
Fourth-and-1 and the Saints eschew a game-tying field goal on the Baltimore 18 to let Drew Brees sneak it over the line for a first down. Love the aggression.
Bryan Knowles: Including the fake punt, that was the fifth time the Saints have gone for it on fourth down today, and I'm glad they finally got rewarded for it.
Aaron Schatz: Ravens finally fail on one of their fourth-down attempts, fourth-and-6 on New Orleans 36 with 3:25 left. Another play with good pressure from the Saints defense and a bit of a duck from Flacco. He wasn't exactly bringing the tight spirals on this drive. Another play was underthrown to tight end Hayden Hurst which allowed Ken Crawley to hit it out of his hands.
Bryan Knowles: Flacco drives the Ravens down the field for the game tying touchdown, of course, pending the automatic Justin Tucker extra po....WHAT?!
Tucker MISSES the extra point. Good snap, good hold ... and the most accurate kicker in NFL history misses his first-ever extra point, after over 220 tries.
Aaron Schatz: Ravens get the ball back with 2:03 left and suddenly they're going up the field easily. Didn't even need to use one of their two remaining timeouts. Finally Flacco hits a wide-open John Brown in the right corner of the end zone after the Saints leave him wide open in a blown coverage. Looks like Marshon Lattimore thought the safety was coming over, and Vonn Bell thought Lattimore was carrying the route all the way. So tie game, right? Justin Tucker has hit 222 straight extra points, right? With the swirling winds, he just missed his first. Shocker. Saints win 24-23.
Carl Yedor: Unbelievable. Part of me wanted Baltimore to put Jackson in and go read-option to win the game, but that was with the assumption that they were going to still go to overtime. New Orleans escapes.
Aaron Schatz: Apparently, Tucker had hit 243 straight extra points if you include the playoffs. He had never missed one in the NFL until today. What a tough loss for the Ravens.
Dallas Cowboys 17 at Washington Redskins 20
Vince Verhei: For the THIRD time today, a team goes for it on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter in their own territory. Unfortunately for Dallas, Dak Prescott is stuffed on the sneak. He also fumbles and Washington recovers, but that's academic; it would have been Washington's ball either way.
Prescott scrambles on third down and takes a clean but violent shoulder to the head. Tony Romo immediately says it's a concussion and he'll have to leave. Prescott is on the ground a bit before the punt team comes out, then gets examined on the bench, then gets examined in the tent. He comes back out for Dallas' next drive, but he's actually getting a hit of smelling salts as he's coming off the sideilne. That can't be a good sign.
Aaron Schatz: Whoa, did Michael Gallup just do Washington cornerback Greg Stroman dirty. Battle of two rookies, and Gallup killed Stroman, making him jump on a double move and then speeding WAY past him for an easy, completely wide-open touchdown to make it 7-7.
Vince Verhei: 7-7 at half. Neither offense has done much, obviously. Dallas actually leads in yards, but it feels like they have been more quiet except for two plays: a third-and-1 conversion by Ezekiel Elliott at midfield, and then on the next play, a 49-yard touchdown from Prescott to Michael Gallup. Seventh-round rookie Greg Stroman was lined up across from Gallup. He bit hard on a fake hitch and got badly left in the dirt.
Washington's only score came on what has been their best weapon for a while now: the running back screen, this one a 23-yarder to Kapri Bibbs. They had a chance to score again at the end of the half, but needed probably 10 more yards to try a field goal, and Alex Smith's Hail Mary try fell incomplete.
Not much to report here as the third quarter ends. Dallas only had the ball twice that period and went three-and-out both times. Washington had one field goal drive and is marching again at the end of the quarter. I was surprised to see Washington ranked 30th in run defense DVOA coming into today -- we thought that would be a strength for them this season. But they have played much better today, limiting Elliott to 19 yards on 12 carries. Washington's front has totally outplayed Dallas' offensive line. Ryan Kerrigan had a tremendous bull rush for a sack, almost throwing La'el Collins into Prescott.
— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) October 21, 2018
Washington adds another field goal to take a 13-7 lead, but Dallas is hanging around with more than 12 minutes to go.
The Cowboys get a field goal and force a punt, and they take over deep in their own end but only needing a field goal to tie. On third down, Prescott hits Cole Beasley for a gain of 16, but the play is wiped out by a holding penalty on Connor Williams. Next snap, third-and-long, Prescott hangs in the pocket, turns his back on the defense, and then gets the ball knocked out of his hands by Kerrigan. Smith recovers for the Washington touchdown, and at 20-10 that should be the nail in the coffin. Washington's defensive front was just outrageously good today.
Tom Gower: Remember when it looked like the Cowboys offense had turned the corner? Dak Prescott hits Cole Beasley on a nice crossing route to convert third-and-4. But, no, Connor Williams holds on the play, and the ensuing third-and-14 sees Prescott hold the ball, almost get safetied, then stripped by Ryan Kerrigan. Preston Smith picks up the ball at the 1 and has one of the easiest touchdowns you'll see for a 20-10 lead that should see this game out.
Vince Verhei: Just watched that Kerrigan strip sack again. Either that was the biggest loop on an inside stunt ever, or he had actually dropped back in coverage on the play. Either way, he was 5 yards downfield and realized the center of the line was wide open, and just zoomed in and swallowed Prescott whole.
It ain't over till it's over. Dallas makes it 20-17 on a 12-play, 79-yard dive. Prescott had runs of 14 and 10 yards on the drive, then scrambled 1 yard for the score. Also had a 16-yard completion to Blake Jarwin on fourth-and-13. Only 1:37 left, but with all three timeouts left, they can kick deep. And they get the three-and-out, and on third down Smith scrambles out of bounds. So Dallas gets the ball back at its own 36, 1:09 to go, one timeout left, needing a field goal to tie.
Driving for a tying field goal, Dallas gets a first down, then kills 15 seconds to run up and spike the ball. Meanwhile, THEY HAVE A TIMEOUT. What the hell? What do you think timeouts are FOR? Why do teams do this?
Bryan Knowles: Dallas lines up for a 47-yard field goal ... but commits a snap infraction, moving the ball back five yards.
Dallas lines up for a 53-yard field goal … and it fades and hits the upright. That's good from 47. As it is, however, it's a 20-17 Washington victory.
Dave Bernreuther: They were playing for the field goal as if it was a sure thing. No sense of urgency, taking a 40-plus-yarder for granted.
And then, after a penalty makes it a 52-yarder, the kick clangs off the upright. And that's what you get. And deserve.
I've been in Jason Garrett's corner for the most part (since roster construction isn't on him) but wow. That's another of those things where I'd fire a coach on the spot. That was atrocious.
Vince Verhei: And they run it, then call timeout. They line up for the kick, but a snap infraction penalty moves them back 5 yards, making it a kick of 50-plus ... and the kick goes off the upright and out. Had they called timeout on first down, they could have run another play before the kick and gotten closer. Just terrible.
So here's the reality: Washington is 4-2 alone in first place in the division, and with a game and a half lead over both Dallas and Philadelphia, they're going to be alone in first place after next week too. There's only one team left on their schedule that currently has a winning record: the 4-3 Texans. This is a heavy playoff favorite now, and an awful lot of dominoes would have to fall to knock them out of the postseason race.
Cincinnati Bengals 10 at Kansas City Chiefs 45
Bryan Knowles: I've been stuck trying to get into touch with tech support for most of the first half of this one, and it seems every time I turn around, Kansas City has scored again. I mean, this is still more competitive than the game they flexed out of this slot, but only just.
Aaron Schatz: Chiefs had given up 5.4 yards per carry coming into this game. On eight carries by Joe Mixon, the Bengals have 6 yards once, and everything else is under the Chiefs' season average.
Scott Kacsmar: A.J. Green has 110 of Andy Dalton's 118 passing yards at halftime. I'm not sure what's happened to Tyler Boyd, but this isn't working. Chiefs can do pretty much anything they want on offense. I can't imagine a good second half comes out of this one, but the Bengals have been keeping it close this year.
Tom Gower: Cincinnati's defense was guaranteed to have problems with Kansas City's offense given their lack of speed most notably at linebacker and especially with Nick Vigil, their fastest player out. It's not a surprise they've given up a zillion points (38 through three quarters as I write this). The surprise is the defense, where Joe Mixon hasn't found much room and nobody other than A.J. Green has done much in the pass game. Kudos to Bob Sutton and company for that, though it's something I'll need to see repeatedly before I start believing it.
Rob Weintraub: The usual post-Steelers malaise strikes again! Except thanks to Jimmy Garoppolo's injury the whole country gets to witness this craptastic effort.
Cincy goes from +16 to -19 in point differential in one night, which overall is a more realistic Pythagorean number for them. That said, I highly expect them to play well next Sunday in a boring 1 p.m. game. That's their jam.