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.
New York Jets 6 at Miami Dolphins 13
Bryan Knowles: There are serious concerns about the field quality in this one. Yesterday, Miami and Duke played in heavy rain, and tore up the field something awful. It's something to keep an eye on in this one -- and it's the second year in a row the Jets have to play on a terrible field in Miami.
Dave Bernreuther: As someone who took the first-half under, I'm enjoying the lack of pocket awareness being displayed by Brock Osweiler and Sam Darnold in this one. In just the last five minutes they've each held on to the ball for far too long despite ample opportunity to throw it (and not even throw it away; people are open), looked around, panicked for no reason, and then retreated directly into a defender for an easy sack.
Up 3-0, the Dolphins just chose to attempt a field goal to extend their one score lead to one score. On fourth-and-2 from the 10. And the sad thing is that it might be enough. And it's not even the crappy field that we can blame ... it's just bad football, bad coaching, and bad quarterbacks.
Aaron Schatz: I find it harder to criticize taking the field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-2 because that Miami field goal came with just 1:15 left in the half. You don't get the benefit of going for it and failing, where you trap the other team in their own end and you're probably going to get the ball back for another drive with good field position. And if you go for it and convert, you might just end up with another fourth down, which might end with you taking a field goal anyway.
Dave Bernreuther: That's fair, as it does remove the "still more likely to score next" element. But it still feels wrong to me. Get yourself a first-and-goal and then use the rest of the time in the half.
Then again, Osweiler would probably have just taken a sack, because he's Osweiler.
Zach Binney: By my count in the fourth quarter here, the Dolphins defensive backs are 0-for-2 on possible interceptions. The Dolphins linebackers are 2-for-3.
Bryan Knowles: I've been recounting Nathan Peterman's assault on the interception record books, but let it be noted that he has not thrown the most interceptions today. That goes to Sam Darnold, the league-leader in interceptions, who has just thrown number four to ice this one, and pretty much end any chance of the Jets making noise in 2018.
There was only one touchdown in this game, and it WAS off of a Darnold pass ... just, you know, to Dolphins rookie Jerome Baker, as opposed to someone on his own team. 13-6 Dolphins victory, as they get back into the win column after going 1-4 over the past five games. Playing the Jets fixes a lot of problems, though this was more a game that the Jets lost than one the Dolphins won, per se.
Aaron Schatz: At least the fourth one came on fourth-and-10, so that one is no different from any other incomplete.
Atlanta Falcons 38 at Washington Redskins 14
Derrik Klassen: Washington just surrendered a painful touchdown drive to the Falcons. Atlanta was put into third-and-6 or more on two occasions, but converted them both. Running back Tevin Coleman capped off the drive with a 39-yard touchdown on a screen pass, scooting his way past a handful of Washington defenders on his way to the end zone.
It's going to be a long day for Washington if they can't force Atlanta off the field.
Washington's line being decimated limits what they can do on offense. Left tackle Trent Williams was already out heading into today, and now guard Shawn Lauvao and right tackle Morgan Moses are out. As a result, the run game hasn't been able to get going and Alex Smith can not reliably sit in the pocket for very long. The offense has been reduced almost exclusively to short passes, which doesn't feel like it's going to cut it vs. a speedy Falcons defense.
Calvin Ridley with the catch-and-run touchdown to finish off a Falcons two-minute drill. That score put the Falcons up 21-7 heading into the half and they get the ball to start the third quarter. If the Falcons score following halftime, Washington is almost certainly doomed.
The only thing that has slowed down the Falcons offense so far is themselves, be that penalties or miscommunication. With a smidgeon more discipline in the second half, Atlanta should have no issue keeping a stranglehold on this game.
Tom Gower: Falcons up 21-7 at the half. Only four possessions for Atlanta, with Washington's stop coming on an interception on what was likely a miscommunication between Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley. Ryan is playing very well and distributing the ball around, as five different players have multiple catches and at least 35 receiving yards. They've continued their excellent play on third down, as Washington has been able to get them there only to give up more yards. Tevin Coleman's receiving touchdown lined up as a wide receiver featured outstanding blocking by trips to that side, including Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper, and Sanu played a key role on Ridley's long touchdown that made it 21-7. From the trips set, they ran Ridley at No. 2 on a slant in behind Sanu's seam route from No. 3, and he created a ton of trash to spring the rookie completely free on one of those third-down conversions. Washington's offense has had trouble staying on schedule, with Alex Smith struggling to complete passes early in the game. He was 5-of-11 for 41 yards at some point before reeling off a few completions, the last one Josh Doctson's first touchdown catch of the season (after a couple of drops earlier in the game). But they'll have to do that a few more times, in addition to the defense finding a way off the field on third downs, to get back in the game.
Dave Bernreuther: And now Brandon Scherff is down too. That's Washington offensive line injury number FOUR.
Vince Verhei: A torrent of offensive line injuries is exactly what torpedoed Washington's season last year.
Derrik Klassen: The Falcons only just now failed to convert a third-down attempt ... midway through the third quarter. Before an incompletion on third-and-four on the last drive, Atlanta was a perfect 8-of-8 on third down.
Dave Bernreuther: Josh Norman with an intelligent but annoying play, blatantly reaching out to tackle Julio Jones after he got roasted. A first down at the 11 beats giving up the score...
Washington has given up, by my conservative estimate, a few miles worth of penalty yards today. Most of these are on their offensive line, which is a bit understandable since they're down four linemen and the next man up is a safety. Norman's penalty attached close to 50 more yards on to that total and now has me wondering about record totals for penalty yardage.
Atlanta of course goes straight backwards (in part due to penalties of their own on what looked to be a Mohamed Sanu touchdown) and tries a field goal because as always, #neverJulio.
Tom Gower: Washington avoided third-down failures to start the second half by not even forcing a third down. They managed another touchdown to keep it semi-interesting at 28-14, but never got any closer than that. Great garbage drive at the end of the game down 24, though.
Rivers McCown: Boy was this game ugly. Washington has to fight Alex Smith's inherent desire to take off or check down anyway, and then you rob them of an offensive line and all the sudden the entire offense is balls to Vernon Davis.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 at Carolina Panthers 42
Andrew Potter: The Ryan Fitzpatrick Experience (redux) looks considerably more like the Jameis Winston experience than early-season Fitzpatrick so far. Three throws, all targeting Mike Evans, none complete. Evans at least got his hands on the first one, but James Bradberry's good coverage prevented Evans from hauling in the catch. The second led Evans a little too much. The third sailed 5 yards over his head into the hands of Eric Reid, who returned it to the Tampa Bay 10-yard line. Reid's first interception as a Panthers player was more like fielding a punt than playing defense.
Bryan Knowles: Fitzmagic is fleeting. On his third pass attempt of the game, Ryan Fitzpatrick's deep shot for Mike Evans is intercepted by Eric Reid. Reid nearly returns it for a touchdown himself, and the field position is good enough that the Panthers scored three weeks later. 7-0, Carolina.
Andrew Potter: The Panthers pace on offense hasn't been that slow.
Bryan Knowles: I blame Daylight Savings Time.
Andrew Potter: Norv just lit up this game with back-to-back big plays for the Panthers. On the first, he lined up receiver D.J. Moore at tailback and Christian McCaffrey at fullback. At the snap, Cam Newton faked the handoff to McCaffrey, then faked the screen right to Moore, then came all the way back to the screen left to McCaffrey for 32 yards. McCaffrey made a heck of a move to hurdle Justin Evans, but the rest of the Buccaneers looked like they didn't know what zip code they were meant to be playing in. The very next play, Newton faked a handoff to McCaffrey and handed to Moore on the end around for another 32. The next play was a SHOVeLL to McCaffrey that was well played by the Bucs, but he scored one play later with a counter off right tackle.
The Buccaneers defense struggles enough against offenses that play them straight up. I have no idea how they respond to this.
Vince Verhei: I know we've talked about it before, but man, the Panthers offense is fun to watch. Their second touchdown drive covered 88 yards in eight plays, almost totally without the benefit of downfield passing. It's all options and screens and SHOVeLLs and end-arounds. Christian McCaffrey had the big gain on the drive, a 32-yard gain on a screen where he was hurdling defenders, and then finished things off with a 3-yard touchdown run. It helps, of course, to play a defense like Tampa Bay that can't tackle anyone, but we do need to remember Norv Turner's name when it's time to pick a coordinator of the year.
Andrew Potter: The answer to my earlier question about the Buccaneers: they do not have an answer. Another end-around, another huge play for the Panthers. I can't really describe what happened after Curtis Samuel passed the first-down marker; I'll just say that he passed the marker along the left sideline, 20 yards from the end zone, but scored in the right corner of the end zone. You guys need to see what Samuel did to 11 fully grown football players, including Lavonte David, between those points.
Vince Verhei: Bucs get a touchdown, and the Panthers go back to work. Five-wide formation where the two widest receivers don't even run routes, they just stand there, but the defense has to go wide to cover them, giving up tons of room for easy slants on the inside. Jumbo set, play-action pass to a wide-open Greg Olsen. And then what is almost a true double reverse (only two handoffs, but the ball went left, then right, then left again) to Curtis Samuel, with Cam Newton as a lead blocker. Samuel weaves through traffic all the way across the field for the touchdown. Panthers' leading rushers right now are Samuel (one carry, 33 yards) and D.J. Moore (one carry, 32 yards). This is a fantastic show.
The NextGen diagram of Samuel's touchdown is awesome.
Curtis Samuel covered a total of 103.8 yards on his 33-yard double-reverse TD run against the Buccaneers in the 2nd quarter.
This is the longest distance covered as a ball carrier on a rushing play this season. #TBvsCAR #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/R3Cen6ACep
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 4, 2018
And now McCaffrey just put the game away almost single-handedly. He takes a run outside to the right and breaks four or five tackles for a 35-yard gain and a first-and-goal. (Tampa Bay challenged that he stepped out of bounds near the line of scrimmage, but lost.) With a first-and-goal, the Panthers feed McCaffrey three straight times: sweep left, shotgun handoff up the middle, I-formation plunge for the score. Panthers now up 28-7, with four touchdowns in five possessions.
I kid you not, in the time it took me to write up that McCaffrey drive, the Bucs went three-and-out, and then a fake punt resulted in an incomplete pass. Panthers take over at the 10, their third drive that started in Tampa Bay territory in the first half, and on third down Newton finds Greg Olsen for the touchdown and a 35-7 lead. The Dirk Koetter coaching regime can't have much time left.
Andrew Potter: Here is as clear a sign as anything else of how this game is going for the Buccaneers: they just tried a fake punt pass from Bryan Anger to blocking tight end Alan Cross ... from their own 26-yard line. In the second quarter. The pass was deflected and fell incomplete.
The Panthers scored, of course, and now have touchdowns on five consecutive possessions. They have eclipsed their franchise record for first-half points. There are still four minutes to go until halftime.
Bryan Knowles: So, Cam, how intimidated are you by the Tampa Bay defense?
Cam Newton is playing with thempic.twitter.com/5b12Cd1gX3
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 4, 2018
Aaron Schatz: Carolina with a negative-ALEX special, 2-yard pass to Devin Funchess on a fourth-and-6 in No Man's Land. Wanted to throw a brick through the television.
Vince Verhei: Well this is irritating. Adam Humphries makes an amazing catch-and-run, breaking tackles to set the Bucs up with a first-and-goal at the 1. There's a Panther down, so they take a TV timeout while the player is injured. Koetter has that entire commercial break, but waits until his team is lined up and ready to go to throw the challenge flag. Couldn't we have handled that during the break?
But he wins the challenge, it's a touchdown for Tampa Bay, and now Carolina is clinging to a slim 35-28 lead with almost the entire fourth quarter still to play. Fitzpatrick has thrown three touchdowns on Tampa Bay's last four drives, and has four touchdowns total today.
Bryan Knowles: Don't look now, but Fitzmagic is a thing again. It was a 35-7 Carolina lead late in the second quarter. It is now a 35-28 Carolina lead, as the second half has been all Fitzpatrick, now up to four touchdown passes on the day after a 30-yard catch and run for Adam Humphries was ruled to have just crossed the end zone.
Andrew Potter: The Panthers just got called for a delay of game with more than ten minutes remaining because they were out of timeouts before the fourth quarter even started.
Vince Verhei: Panthers extend the lead as Samuel runs a post route out of a bunch formation. He's isolated against Carlton Davis, the second-round rookie out of Auburn, and Newton hits him to put Carolina up 42-28 with nine minutes to go.
Pittsburgh Steelers 23 at Baltimore Ravens 16
Bryan Knowles: Quick kick alert! Fourth-and-6 from the 38, the Steelers line up to go for it ... but Big Ben pooch-punts it. When you have a quarterback who can do that, it opens up more options for your team on fourth down, so I kind of like it, theoretically -- it's better than lining up for a regular punt when you're that close to the end zone, because you're in theory eliminating the possibility of a long return. Problem is, the Ravens are well-coached, and Eric Weddle was in position to recover it and got a decent return. 27-yard punt; 18-yard return; Ravens were past the punting point one play later. Teams really should go for it more when they're that close to the end zone.
Scott Kacsmar: Hated the Ben Roethlisberger punt because it felt like giving up on the drive twice. A surprise run on third-and-10 when you're going to go for it on fourth down is decent process. But when you do the surprise run and have your quarterback punt after it, well that's just not good when it was fourth-and-makeable. The Ravens should have answered with a touchdown, but Joe Flacco never looked for a wide-open Lamar Jackson. They had Jackson motion across the field and no one on Pittsburgh even bothered to account for him. But Flacco threw it through the middle of the end zone instead. Mike Hilton also had a good pass breakup in the end zone on that drive.
The offensive line helps, but James Conner just looks like a good back on his own. He's fast, decisive, and solid as a receiver too (five catches for 42 yards and a score already today). The Steelers found a good one there. Roethlisberger has had a few funky plays today with the ball getting tipped or just slipping out of his hands. I swear he has a play like that every season, but must have three or four of them this season. The "QB Release Slipped" in the charting file is made for him. He does have a broken finger on his non-throwing hand, but that hasn't seemed to diminish anything today. Antonio Brown scooted into the end zone for yet another touchdown this season. Good chance he'll end up with a career-high in touchdown catches this season, which I never would have imagined after how slow of a start he got off to with Roethlisberger.
Bryan Knowles: The Steelers have had multiple Hall of Fame receivers, so it surprised me to learn that the last Steeler to catch touchdown passes in six consecutive games was Ron Shanklin back in 1973. Brown's touchdown today tied that mark; it's the longest active streak in the NFL.
Scott Kacsmar: What a sloppy ending to the half for the Steelers, who were playing with fire on some near-turnovers. I was probably being too harsh on the "weird" plays earlier, but they just had several in the final 2:30 of the second quarter. First, JuJu Smith-Schuster had a huge drop in the open field that could have led to another touchdown before halftime with the Steelers getting the ball to start the third. Baltimore didn't capitalize. Then Vance McDonald had a tough grab for a yard that was somehow ruled a pick-six even though his knee was down and the ball hit the ground before the defender got it. Ultimately, it was a 1-yard completion. Then Conner tipped a pass that was almost intercepted. McDonald had another drop that was nearly a fumble. At that point, just run the ball and go to halftime, which the Steelers did, leading 14-6.
QB Sneak touchdown for Roethlisberger. The return of the quarterback sneak to Pittsburgh's arsenal after its absence in the later Todd Haley years is nice to see. I believe that's Roethlisberger's fifth sneak of the season, all of which have resulted in a first down or touchdown.
Dave Bernreuther: Ah, the Flacco Special ... a.k.a. the most productive play in the Ravens playbook: the badly underthrown ball bailed out by a defensive pass interference call.
With a freebie to the 1, the Ravens make a game of it again on the next play when an uncovered and untouched Alex Collins waltzes in. Down eight, they choose to kick, but it's still the third quarter, so that's not upsetting.
Bryan Knowles: Big Ben is down. He scrambled out for a nice game, but landed right on his right shoulder as Za'Darius Smith tackled him, with all of that weight coming right down on the joint. It's not looking good.
Aaron Schatz: Big Ben is fine! He came back into the game and immediately hit Jesse James down the right sideline for 51 yards on an out-and-up that totally fooled Brandon Carr.
Bryan Knowles: And, of course, because Big Ben is freaking unbreakable, he comes right back in and throws a bomb to Jesse James. Shaking my head.
Kansas City Chiefs 37 at Cleveland Browns 21
Scott Kacsmar: For people who think we hate screen passes, keep in mind we're usually talking about wide receiver screens. Running back screens are good, and doing them against an aggressive Gregg Williams-coached defense is usually great. The Browns have been victimized by a couple of big screens today. Chiefs converted a third-and-19 to Spencer Ware, and of course the 50-yard touchdown to Kareem Hunt was a screen.
Bryan Knowles: Let me sum up Cleveland's season -- David Njoku and Greg Robinson were arguing, presumably about who was responsible for blocking Jordan Lucas, as Lucas was actively sacking Baker Mayfield.
Njoku and Robinson discussing protections pic.twitter.com/xqUdWR1SMw
— Kevin Cole (@Cole_Kev) November 4, 2018
Aaron Schatz: Trying to explain what just happened in the Chiefs-Browns game ... Kansas City had the ball with 14 seconds left, and there was a penalty on Cleveland which was declined. So the ref is supposed to place the ball down, and then the clock starts, right? Well, the ref puts the ball down, and Patrick Mahomes picks it up and spikes it to stop the clock... and they throw an intentional grounding flag (?!?!). Apparently, they ruled that he tried to spike the ball before the clock started running? The TV replay seemed to show that the clock had started running before the spike ... I'm confused by what that penalty was supposed to achieve. Just let them spike the ball. Surprisingly close at halftime, 21-15.
Vince Verhei: Weirdness at the end of the half here. The Chiefs complete a pass in the field of play. There's a penalty on Cleveland, which Kansas City declines, but they still get a free timeout out of it. But then on first down, Mahomes spikes the ball to kill the clock. However, since the clock wasn't running, that's an intentional grounding penalty. The ref explained this clearly, but the announcers are still baffled and unable to process it. That penalty includes a ten-second runoff, which would end the half, and the Chiefs start to leave, then remember, wait, we have a timeout. So they call it to avoid the runoff. And after all that, Mahomes throws an interception on a quasi-Hail Mary on the last play of the half.
That's the only thing that went wrong for Kansas City's offense in the first half. They scored touchdowns on each of their three possessions before that. We can credit Mahomes and the passing game for that -- he's currently averaging better than 13 yards per pass -- but the Chiefs also have four first downs and 67 yards on only seven running plays. My favorite sequence was when they converted a third-down in the red zone on an old school speed option, then the next play Kareem Hunt scored on a fullback give out of an offset I. They have so many ways to beat you.
Browns are making a game of it thanks in part to, really, an extra possession (both teams had the ball four times in the first half, but Kansas City's last drive started with just 20 second left), and aggression -- they are two-for-two on fourth-down conversions. But that aggression has also hurt them. They have gone for two and missed after both of their first-half touchdowns. Jarvis Landry had a failed reception on a two-point conversion, which is the most Jarvis Landry thing ever.
Dave Bernreuther: I've been wondering this for two hours. The NFL loosened the celebration rules, but are they still fining people for throwing the ball into the stands? And if so, will the fine two Chiefs for it on one score after a fan threw Kareem Hunt's touchdown ball back and another Chief scooped it up and threw it into the stands again?
Chicago Bears 41 at Buffalo Bills 9
Bryan Knowles: Stop me if you've heard this one before: Nathan Peterman threw an interception. For once, it wasn't entirely his fault; it went off of new Buffalo receiver Terrelle Pryor's hands before being picked. Still, Peterman continues his assault on the record books; now with 10 interceptions in 92 pass attempts.
Aaron Schatz: Oh wait, it gets better! Peterman just threw another interception. This one was a pick-six. And this one went off a receiver's Hands too! Good job, Zay Jones.
Bryan Knowles: Stop me if you've heard this one before: Nathan Peterman threw an interception. It looked like Kyle Fuller leveled Zay Jones, but it was ruled not pass interference because it was within a yard of the line of scrimmage. The ball goes right to Leonard Floyd, who returns it into the end zone.
Peterman now has 11 interceptions on 94 pass attempts.
At this exact moment in time, Peterman's career interception percentage is 11.70 percent. That's the worst interception percentage for anyone with at least 94 career passes since 1949; he has just passed Wayne Clark, Chargers and Bengals backup from the '70s, for the post-merger record of 11.67 percent. This is something to keep an eye on going forward, as the Bills continue to be forced to start, uh, their opening-day starter.
Dave Bernreuther: What's funny about this game is that the Bills were willing to sign Derek Anderson and start him on almost no preparation, and now they've signed the best quarterback on their roster, started him on even less prep, and he caused an interception -- while playing receiver.
And yet, even having been responsible for one pick in 20 minutes, he's still more effective than any of the other three quarterbacks on the Bills roster.
For instance: Peterman has thrown another one. And the Bills offense thus far has had seven possessions, ending in five punts and two picks.
Vince Verhei: Terrelle Pryor hasn't caught anything today, but Logan Thomas has a team-high seven catches. Which begs the question: how many pass-catchers does Buffalo have who might be better quarterbacks than Nathan Peterman?
Bryan Knowles: Stop me if you've heard this one before: Nathan Peterman threw an interception. Again, this one may not have been his fault -- Kelvin Benjamin ran a terrible route and Kyle Fuller easily jumped it for Petermans' third interception of the game.
Peterman now has 12 interceptions on 116 career pass attempts, so he's actually improved his interception percentage over the course of the day.
Vince Verhei: Peterman has now thrown as many interceptions in his career as Terrelle Pryor has in his. Pryor still has him beat by about 1,500 passing yards though.
Aaron Schatz: Chris Ivory just had an 18-yard run, and yet Peterman is still the Bills' leading rusher today with 40 yards, over twice as many as any Bills running back. So hey, Peterman can do something right.
Detroit Lions 9 at Minnesota Vikings 24
Andrew Potter: Switched from the NFC South blowout to this game in time to see a rough series for Marvin Jones. On second down, Jones caught a pass short left but Xavier Rhodes ripped the ball out while tackling him. Fortunately for the Lions, the ball bounced out of bounds. On third down, Jones fell down at the top of his route. Matthew Stafford still hit him in the hands with the ball, but all he could do was knock it in the air for another near-turnover to Rhodes.
The biggest problem with the Lions offense, though, is the same as in Washington: injuries have wrecked the offensive line. Stafford has been sacked seven times, tying his career high with the full fourth quarter still ... oops, make that eight.
Bryan Knowles: I wonder how much the absence of Golden Tate has on Stafford taking so many sacks -- he was usually the guy Stafford looked to on hot routes when he was under pressure. With him in Philly, maybe Stafford doesn't have that same security blanket when the pocket collapses.
Andrew Potter: Maybe, but Everson Griffen being back has also made a huge difference to the Vikings. He and Danielle Hunter have combined for four of those sacks. They're getting pressure on pretty much every play.
Alright, that might be the worst play I've ever seen from Matthew Stafford...
Bryan Knowles: Maybe Matthew Stafford shouldn't run the option. Stafford was forced to scramble by yet more Minnesota pressure, and he had the bright idea to flip the ball back to Kerryon Johnson. I'm not entirely sure Johnson was expecting that, and Stafford's toss just falls to the floor. Backwards. Where the aforementioned pressure scoops it up and scores a defensive touchdown; 24-6 Minnesota.
Vince Verhei: Oh, Lions. They're still only down 17-6 in the fourth, and a fake punt gives them a first down, so they're very much in this. But then Stafford is pressured again and he scrambles, but then tries to pitch to Kerryon Johnson like he's Patrick Mahomes or something. But Johnson is caught totally off guard by the pitch and bobbles it, and Danielle Hunter gets the scoop and score to put the Vikings up 24-6 and pretty much ice this one. Hunter also has 2.5 sacks, a monster game for him.
The Lions followed the fumble touchdown with a 17-play drive that ate up nearly six minutes and ended in a field goal. They were down 18 so they needed a field goal anyway, but talk about running yourself out of a game.
And then the game ends when the Vikings punt and the Lions take a knee down 15 points at their own 1. Way to go down fighting, guys.
Houston Texans 19 at Denver Broncos 17
Vince Verhei: Demaryius Thomas makes a big impact on his first drive for Houston and against Denver, with catches for 31 and 18 yards to set up a first down inside the red zone. And Thomas then adds a touchdown catch -- but it's Jordan Thomas, the sixth-round rookie out of Mississippi State who had two touchdowns last week. He's turning into a red zone weapon, with three scores in only nine catches this season.
Bryan Knowles: We should have a 13-10 game at the half, as Houston was unable to capitalize on a short field after Denver missed a 62-yard field goal at the end of the half ... but Vance Joseph iced Ka'imi Fairbairn's missed 46-yard field goal attempt. Fairbairn's second effort went through, so it's a 16-10 Texans lead. Denver's 14.5% DVOA is that of a playoff contender; their 3-5 record is that of a team on the brink of effective elimination. These things usually end up correcting themselves over time; either some of those close losses become victories, or their overall performance falls back in line with their record. Watching the first half today, put me in that second category -- Joseph's play calling and situational game management have both been terrible. It's not just icing the kicker, or attempting the 62-yarder, it's botched challenge flags and weird decisions all over the place. It's their dogged insisting on not using play-action, despite it being very effective whenever Case Keenum gets the opportunity. It's the "failed pass on first, run into a wall on second" play calling that has already popped up on multiple occasions this game. It feels like when Joseph and company get out of the Broncos' way, they can do good things -- they're just not doing that.
This is pretty much a must-win for Denver if they hope to stay in the AFC wild-card race, and so far, not so good.
Bryan Knowles: A Jeff Heuerman catch with 43 seconds left on the clock is enough for Vance Joseph, who settles for a 51-yard field goal attempt to win the game, rather than try to get closer.
The field goal goes wide right. The Broncos fall to 3-6, and it would take a minor miracle for them to get back into the playoff hunt now. I will be shocked if Joseph has a job in February, and not surprised at all if he's let go this week. That was coaching malpractice, today.
Dave Bernreuther: I was wondering if anyone else was watching the Keenum show at the end of the Horses vs. Cows game. I guess the counter to Bryan's observation is that it's Case Keenum, and a turnover is a real possibility. Still, they converted multiple fourth downs and were moving the ball on that drive. I know it's Denver. But you just can't assume that's a sure thing. Ever.
Rivers McCown: Boy was this game ugly. Jeff Heuerman was the main receiver for the Broncos, and the Texans stalled out as an offense after 15 minutes. I'm not sure if that's a situational scripting thing or what, but as soon as O'Brien started calling more traditional run plays, the Texans were easy pickings.
Regardless, a huge win for the Texans, who could go in to Week 10 with a three-game lead on the entire AFC South with games remaining against ... the Browns, Jets, Eagles, Washington, and at home against the entire rest of the AFC South.
Tom Gower: Houston running backs finished with 27 carries for 60 yards. After they got 13 points early in the second, they basically turtled and got away with it, thanks in part to poor end-of-half management in both halves by Vance Joseph.
Rivers McCown: It's impossible to overstate how out-of-date the Houston offense looks on any sort of traditional rushing plays. Like a 1990s team playing in 2018.
Los Angeles Chargers 25 at Seattle Seahawks 17
Dave Bernreuther: I don't have the sound on for this one, but I can only hope that the announcers were tearing into offensive line coach Mike Solari after his charges spent an entire play wandering around like lost children downfield while the Seahawks drove.
It was a first-down screen pass from the 21. Russell Wilson did his job, selling it and placing the ball reasonably well into the hands of Mike Davis, whose first lead blocker (Duane Brown? Not sure) not only didn't block anyone, but got in the way. Davis adapted, though, and ran far enough for the first down down the left sideline, only to decide to change direction, perhaps having been inspired by Samuels' field-crossing heroics earlier. He had plenty of blocking help, but D.J. Fluker -- who also appeared to be ineligible downfield at the time of the pass -- just stood there and got turned around a bit and watched as they finally caught up to Davis and dropped him behind the line to gain. No forward progress when it's a choice like that, so the Seahawks face second-and-1 instead, then lose a yard on the next play as well. They did convert and score, though, so all will be forgotten ... but I found just about everything about that play to be awful. Good results from a bad process.
It's still the Seahawks offensive line though ... so one bad play in a drive is still an upgrade in some ways.
Vince Verhei: I put more blame on Davis for that play. If he just falls forward, it's a first down. Instead he cuts backward, which is part of why guys were standing around -- they thought the play was done! Instead Davis ends up running 5 yards backwards before eventually coming up a yard short of the first down. Seahawks had nine carries for 45 yards and five first downs on the drive, just manhandling the Chargers front. Russell Wilson finishes the drive when he has more time in the pocket on one play than he did in most games last season, and throws a touchdown to Jaron Brown where it wasn't even clear who he was throwing to. Seahawks finish that with a New Edition-style, new jack swing dance number. It was awesome.
Chargers respond with their own touchdown drive, as Tyrell Williams makes a tremendous catch on a comeback route in the end zone on the last play of the first quarter. Biggest play for the Chargers was the jet sweep -- Keenan Allen ran one for 28 yards to get Los Angeles out of the shadow of its own end zone, then Austin Ekeler ran one for 16 yards later in the drive. But the Chargers miss the extra point because CHARGERS KICKERS, and it's 7-6 at the end of one.
Without Earl Thomas, the Seahawks have been playing a lot more Cover-2 and Tampa-2 coverage lately. And ... they suck at it. Both touchdowns they gave up last week came against Cover-2. Today, on third-and-long, Keenan Allen gets wide open for 54 yards when the deep safety to that side (not sure who it was) didn't cover him deep. Next play, Melvin Gordon gets to the second level untouched, Tedric Thompson misses a tackle, and it's a 34-yard touchdown. They go for two and don't get it, but still lead 12-7.
Dave Bernreuther: I agree that the loss of the first down falls on Davis for the decision. I just thought that Fluker just wandering around looking lost was funny. And possibly an indictment of coaching. But again, it still beats their recent history.
On the folllowing series we got to see a world-class hissy fit from Philip Rivers, as they absorbed a delay of game on third-and-long after a horrible non-call on a pass interference foul a play earlier. He caught the snap and just underhand threw it up and over his head, tantrum-style. He was right to be upset, though, and they converted a third-and-15 to prolong a scoring drive. 12-7 after a failed two-point attempt.
Vince Verhei: The refs have been letting defensive backs on both teams get away with a lot. Shaquill Griffin pretty blatantly grabbed Allen's arm on the play Dave's talking about. Later, Los Angeles' Uchenna Nwosu looked like he hit David Moore early on a third-down incompletion, but no flag there either.
Sebastian Janikowski doinks a 50-plus-yard field goal off the upright, no good. Right before that, Doug Baldwin looked to have a third-down conversion, but Seattle was called for offensive pass interference on the play. And I hate it when other people complain about bad calls, but I can't help myself here. David Moore lined up wide and ran a slant, then stopped and curled, planting both feet into the ground and turning back to the quarterback. It was a pick play, but Moore was just a statue on the play. Didn't even lean into the defender. Gene Steratore agrees with me after the break. Guess it's a good day to be a defensive back in this game.
Dave Bernreuther: More tantrum shenanigans: Russell Wilson chucks one deep, and safety Adrian Phillips goes up and tips the errant pass, which causes Derwin James to JUST miss the easy interception, for which he was positioned as if he was a punt returner. James, naturally, flips out...
But it was a free play, as Melvin Ingram had jumped offside. And they had a good laugh about it.
Vince Verhei: Chargers lead 19-10 at halftime. Mike Williams had a 30-yard touchdown where he beat Tre Flowers (who was also beaten on the first touchdown, though he had good coverage on that play) on a comeback, broke a tackle, and dashed into the end zone. It sure looked to me like his heel was out of bounds, but replay upheld the play. Chargers kicked the extra point, which surprised me -- I'd have gone for two and hoped for what would have been a 20-7 lead.
Seahawks then ran an eight-play, 49-yard field goal drive that was entirely runs and short passes up the middle. Even on the last play, with nine seconds left, the Chargers were giving up easy 5-yard gains on out routes on either sideline, but Seattle was content to let the clock run to four seconds and spike it, then let Janikowski try a 44-yard field goal. He bailed them out my making that kick.
Kind of a weird half. Seattle's offense was pretty quiet outside the opening drive. The Chargers had tons of explosive plays on their scoring drives, but did nothing otherwise. So they're averaging almost 10 yards per play, but they also have two three-and-outs in their five drives.
The other story of the half is the Chargers overcoming special teams mistakes. They missed the extra point (which led to another "missed XP" when they went for two and didn't get it); they fumbled a kickoff return in the end zone and ended up starting a drive at their own 6; they lost 2 yards on a punt return; and on another Seattle punt, they had a penalty that worked out to a loss of 8 yards.
It has not been a good day for Russell Wilson. In the first half, he had Tyler Lockett on what should have been a third-down conversion, but threw way behind him. First drive of the second half, Brown is running free in the middle for what might have been a touchdown, but Wilson badly underthrows him and it's incomplete and another failed third-down play. It wasn't even that deep a throw, just 15 or 20 yards downfield. You rarely see him miss easy throws this badly.
More Chargers special teams gaffes. They get more chunk plays -- 22-yard pass, 20-yard run, 13 yards on a dumpoff -- but the drive stalls, and Caleb Sturgis misses a 42-yard field goal.
Still 19-10 at the end of three. It has been more of the same for Los Angeles, with chunk plays (Melvin Gordon busting tackles for 21 yards!) with third-down failures (they're now 2-for-7 on third downs). They're going to punt on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Seattle is running out of time to make something happen.
Carl Yedor: I forget when/where I said this, but the Brian Schottenheimer offense works when the whole "pound the rock over and over" thing is getting you enough yards that you can actually move the ball that way. When you aren't moving the ball well, you end up in at least third-and-medium a ton, which requires your quarterback to convert a lot to sustain drives. Wilson missed a throw that could have been a touchdown, but they're ending up behind the sticks too much because the Chargers know the run is coming and are devoting the appropriate resources to stop it.
Vince Verhei: Carl's point about Seattle's running game is a great one. The difference between a 5-yard gain and a 2-yard gain is just enormous for this team. The absence of Chris Carson (limited to just eight carries) has killed them today.
And then Wilson throws his second pick-six of the season, and the third of his career. No excuses for him, just underthrew an out route and Desmond King took it to the house. Sturgis missed the extra point, because Chargers, but it's a now a 25-10 lead that doesn't feel that close. Like, Seattle is only two possessions and a two-pointer behind? Really?
Dave Bernreuther: That was a really bad pick too. I wasn't as hard on Wilson earlier in the game as Vince was, but damn. King broke on that one well before it was thrown. Wilson had to see him and pull that one down. Had to.
They're moving it well on the next drive, although now Wilson is taking a beating, but time is running out.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks make it 25-17 on a bad touchdown drive. They take over down 15 points with 6:44 left. And it takes them 14 plays and almost five minutes to score. Just short completions and runs in bounds over and over again. By the time a receiver finally caught a ball and went out of bounds, it was at the two-minute warning and didn't make a difference. They convert three fourth downs on the drive, including the Wilson-to-Vannett touchdown that is important to fantasy players and pretty much nobody else.
The good news is they had all three timeouts left. Chargers recovered the onside kick but needed a first down to finish the game. They go run, run, sack, and Seattle is going to get the ball back. Chargers now 2-of-9 on third downs. After the punt, Seattle gets the ball at the 22, 1:24 to go, no timeouts, down eight. Here we go.
Dave Bernreuther: Meanwhile, a defensive pass interference in the end zone gives the Seahawks an untimed final play to try to tie. And they false start. And then one play later, Wilson *may* have been able to run it in himself; but he saw Moore running along the end line and rifled one in there. A really good throw, really ... and maybe it got tipped at the end by the diving Derwin James. Maybe. But it bounced off his hands. And the Chargers win in Seattle.
We often get stuck with late-slot woofers when there are only three games to watch. This week is making up for it.
Vince Verhei: Well that was almost an all-new level of Chargers loss. Seahawks get into the red zone on a roughing the passer call and then a big Wilson scramble. On third-and-10 though, Wilson dumps it off in bounds to Mike Davis to bring up fourth-and-2. They're out of timeouts and can't clock it, so the game hinges on the next play. Wilson desperately lobs the ball to Tyler Lockett in the corner of the end zone. Lockett almost reels it in but can't hang on -- but the Chargers also have a Michael Davis, and he's called for pass interference. Think about how blatant pass interference would have to be to draw a flag on the last play of the game. Well, that's how blatant it was.
So Seattle has an untimed down from the 1, but then a false start moves them back to the 6. (I haven't mentioned this, but there have been tons of penalties on the line today, including a "late hit" on Justin Britt where the whistle never blew.) Wilson scrambles and tries to thread the needle. Two Chargers might have tipped it, but regardless, the ball bounces off Moore's pads, incomplete, game over.
So the Chargers escape and would probably be in first place in at least five other divisions. Special teams aside, they were better at pretty much every position today, and it was only close because of the Chargers' kicking woes. Seahawks are 4-4. Not dead, of course, but it doesn't help their cause that Carolina, Chicago, and Minnesota all won today (and Green Bay might too).
Rob Weintraub: And Atlanta....
Vince Verhei: True. They are tied with Atlanta and Philadelphia, and I guess a Packers win tonight would just add them to the tie as well.
Los Angeles Rams 35 at New Orleans Saints 45
Bryan Knowles: The Saints go for it on fourth-and-1 with both Drew Brees and Taysom Hill in the game. Brees hands the ball off to Hill and, for the first time all season, Hill looks to throw it back to Brees, which would have gone some way to making up for all those "Brees is in the game, stands around" plays from earlier. The Rams sniff it out and stick with Brees even after the handoff, but Hill's able to improvise and run for 9 yards himself. Good effort by both teams there; this promises to be a great matchup between some offensive schemers.
Tom Gower: First drive by New Orleans confirms one of my pregame beliefs, that Alvin Kamara would be a huge problem for Los Angeles defenders. He capped it off with a slippery touchdown but avoided at least one would-be tackler on probably all four of his touches.
Bryan Knowles: One quarter in the books, and we're on pace for 1,100 combined yards in this one. The Saints have 138 yards and two touchdowns; the Rams have 137 yards, one touchdown, and are inside the Saints' 10-yard line. First stop wins, right?
Aaron Schatz: Quick note in response to Tom's comment about Kamara. This surprised me when doing prep for the Off The Charts podcast this week, but the Rams are No. 3 in DVOA against running backs in the receiving game. Obviously Kamara is a very special receiving running back, but that might suggest that the Rams won't have as much trouble with him as you might otherwise expect. Although I notice in the first quarter that he already has caught two passes for 17 yards and a touchdown.
Tom Gower: I'm not that surprised the Rams are better than they think. They're a good enough defense that I think they can do fine against most backs, and I think they'd do fine against Ingram. But you need elite athleticism at linebacker to keep up with an elite athletic back like Kamara, and they don't have that.
Bryan Knowles: We do, in fact, have our first stop! On the first play of New Orleans' drive after the Rams' second touchdown, Mark Ingram gets hit in the arm by Samson Ebukam, the ball comes lose, and the Rams get the ball on the New Orleans' 25. Ingram looked to be hurt on the play, as well.
Aaron Schatz: Interesting decision by the Rams on that next drive. They ended up with fourth-and-4 from the Saints' 16 and they had Johnny Hekker sweep right on a fake field goal. He desperately tried to stretch his arm and the ball over the first-down marker as Craig Robertson took him out of bounds, but no dice, even after a challenge. So that's two straight stops, the Rams will turn the ball over to the Saints at the 13.
Dave Bernreuther: And the Rams run ANOTHER fake with Hekker, which at this point is just something you have to be prepared for, and the officials spot him short, even though he clearly extended his arm beyond the marker while skidding to his knees going out of bounds. And I do mean clearly. Both from the reality of anatomy, given that he doesn't have T-Rex arms, and the camera angle from across the field. Somehow, though, they ruled him short. And (even more) somehow, after McVay is forced to challenge, they uphold it. I have no idea how anyone could watch that and not conclude that he got the ball over the line.
Scott Kacsmar: I think you save the fake field goal for a bigger spot than that. A 14-14 game in the second quarter isn't that spot. Meanwhile, Rams' vertical passing game is looking better with Cooper Kupp back this week. I still think that's the way to attack the Saints like Ryan Fitzpatrick did in Week 1.
Aaron Schatz: Very little pass pressure in the Saints-Rams game. As you probably would expect, these offensive lines are strong but also these offensive schemes are often getting the ball out so fast there really isn't much time for pass pressure. But even on the Rams' vertical throws, there's not a lot of Saints pressure.
Tom Gower: Concur with Aaron on the pass rush. The Saints just got just enough on the first two plays after Ingram's fumble to make Jared Goff get rid of the ball when there wasn't anything open downfield, but aside from that there has been a nice arc around the pocket even on some of those deep throws. But they did get just enough on the third-and-13 to force a short throw and an ensuing punt, so we're at 28-14 late in the first half, or 4-2 as Steve Spurrier might say.
OK, Alex Anzalone makes a great individual play. Jared Goff sees him starting to move away and thinks he has an open throwing lane in the middle of the field. But Anzalone is able to reverse direction and make the pick, giving the Saints an extra possession, so we go into half at 35-17 after Greg Zuerlein hits a long field goal after the Saints touchdown instead of 28-17 or -21. It's going to be tough for the Rams to win if they don't stop the Saints from scoring a touchdown every drive when they don't turn the ball over. #analysis
Bryan Knowles: One day, Joe Buck will realize Malcolm Brown just managed to tip-toe down the sidelines, dive, and reach inside the pylon for a touchdown. Even as the officials were signaling touchdown and the Rams were celebrating, Buck was still working under the impression that Brown had stepped out at the 5. It was close, mind you, but there were slight context clues that maybe points had been scored.
Vince Verhei: There's a lot of announcers who say inane things or have no insightful analysis or get names wrong or whatever. Joe Buck is the only one who seems to go totally blind. Several times a game, what he says happened is very clearly not what actually happened.
Dave Bernreuther: But we're supposed to hero worship him every October when he does double duty.
Sorry, but I'm not impressed just because you took a three-hour plane ride between being bad at calling one sport in Houston and being bad at calling another sport in Milwaukee.
That touchdown was never in any doubt. They didn't huddle up and reluctantly decide to call it a score. The official looked once, confirmed with his colleague, and signaled a touchdown. And everyone in the stadium except for Joe Buck saw it. There was no ambiguity.
Aaron Schatz: We're seeing more of the Rams' tight ends than usual today. 5-of-9, 88 yards through most of the third quarter.
Tom Gower: And less of Cooper Kupp, who has 2 targets on Goff's 29 attempts to this point, in his first game back from injury.
Dave Bernreuther: And right after you say that, the Rams look to Kupp. And after he outraces everyone down the sideline, the Rams convert the two to tie it at 35.
I bet the under. Um ... whoops.
Bryan Knowles: It was a pretty little engineered pick to get Kupp wide open on the touchdown pass; Kupp lined up inline and hesitated just long enough to let the crossing route going the other way clean out enough defensive traffic for him to leak out the other way.
I'm also 90 percent sure the Rams would have gone for it on fourth down there, meaning they felt like they could gamble on the pass rather than just tossing it to Todd Gurley. Love it.
Dave Bernreuther: So we're starting to see plays with Hill lining up at tight end (dropped a checkdown pass) and motioning through the formation as a lead blocker (small gain on a give to Ingram), and all I can think of is that no matter how clever the design, the Saints are taking a more talented athlete off the field to put him out there. And while I appreciate Hill for the fact that he's willing to throw a block as often as he throws a pass, I still want to say that they should probably just keep their base offense on the field. Especially since that drive ended in a field goal, which feels like a failure in this game, and now we're getting close to "whoever has the ball last wins" territory even after they took that commanding lead into the half.
Bryan Knowles: Any thoughts on the Joe Horn throwback celebration on that last Saints touchdown? It probably would have mattered more had the Rams converted the ensuing field position after the 15-yard penalty into something, but as it is, it looks like that 72-yard Michael Thomas touchdown was the dagger.
So instead, I have to wonder -- where did Thomas find a flip phone in 2018?
Dave Bernreuther: He borrowed it from Andrew Luck?
(My thoughts: all these pre-planned celebrations are dumb and need to stop. But no one cares what I think.)
Vince Verhei: Based on what I'm reading on Twitter, I'd have a lot more to say about it if I could hear Joe Buck's commentary.
In other news, I am very happy that I am not hearing Joe Buck's commentary.
Rob Weintraub: The Saints pulling out a hard-fought battle is good for the Bengals, their next opponent. Maybe Cincy can catch them sleeping a bit. But if A.J. Green is out, forget it, of course. Only the Bengals could lose on a bye week...
Bryan Knowles: I'm looking forward to the nigh-inevitable rematch in the NFC championship game.
Aaron Schatz: One of my takeaways from this game is that the Rams really miss Aqib Talib. The secondary is a problem. Obviously, every secondary is a problem against the Saints, but in particular I think Marcus Peters is not the kind of guy who can take a No. 1 receiver out of the game. He certainly got whipped on that last Michael Thomas touchdown. Peters is a route-jumper, not an island-shutdown guy. You want to have safety help behind him so he can jump routes, and so guys don't toast him deep if they get past him.
Green Bay Packers 17 at New England Patriots 31
Aaron Schatz: For the most part the Patriots have Stephon Gilmore matched one-on-one against Davante Adams, and he just slapped away a pass in the end zone on second-and-goal. But they're also mixing in some plays with Gilmore on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and then a double-team of Jason McCourty and a safety (sometimes his brother, sometimes Duron Harmon) on Adams.
And then the Packers run my least favorite play in the universe, wide receiver screen on third-and-long. There were TWO screens -- Aaron Rodgers had his choice of throwing to Adams on the left or Randall Cobb on the right. He went with Cobb. Yay, 3 big yards. Field goal. 7-3 Patriots. I hate the wide receiver screen on third-and-long so much. The point of the wide receiver screen is that it tends to be a steady way to get small gains. It's like a running play on first-and-10, that's the kind of time you run it. The likelihood you're going to break it big on third-and-long is tiny.
Scott Kacsmar: One quarter in the books, and I too am stuck on that wide receiver screen as the difference so far. Defenses stepped up with pressure to end the other drives, but the Packers settled for a screen and field goal, which is the exact opposite of how one should coach in New England. Remember when Mike McCarthy went in there in 2010 with Matt Flynn as his quarterback and tried a surprise onside kick? Almost pulled that game out. That was a time period when McCarthy was considered one of the best young coaches in the game, months before the Packers won a Super Bowl. Now he seems to be one of the most criticized, and I can't say it's not all unjustified.
Aaron Schatz: Packers safety Jermaine Whitehead was ejected for slapping David Andrews across the helmet. It really didn't seem like much more than the usual pushing and shoving after a play. That was weird.
Tom Gower: 17-10 at the half. The Rams and the Saints was the game we expected it to be. This isn't quite the game it was hyped to be, with 27 points on 10 combined possessions a good but not spectacular performance. Green Bay hasn't gotten anything deep, with a long gain of just 19 yards so far, and Rodgers has been throwing, throwing, and throwing some more, with enough misses that his numbers are not very impressive (123 yards on 27 attempts, 4.56 yards per attempt). Brady has done more, including bigger gains to Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, and Cordarrelle Patterson at running back was very effective on the go-ahead scoring drive.
Aaron Schatz: Patrick Chung has definitely had trouble covering Jimmy Graham tonight, with a holding call and a couple catches earlier, and Graham just caught a 15-yard touchdown pass (with Chung in coverage) on Green Bay's first drive of the second half to make it 17-17.
Next drive: Pats make it down to the 1-yard line with a DPI in the end zone and somehow on four plays from the 1, they don't try a single quarterback sneak. James White run, Cordarrelle Patterson run (which looked like it scored and then was reversed), and two passes. I do not know why you don't try a sneak there, especially the Patriots, who use it so well and so often.
Update: Now we're in the fourth quarter, 3:48. The Patriots took advantage of an Aaron Jones fumble and scored two touchdowns in consecutive drives, including a 55-yard pass to Josh Gordon on a fake screen-and-go where Tramon Williams, covering Gordon, basically pulled an "ole" instead of trying to actually tackle Gordon. Meanwhile, the Green Bay offense keeps sending everyone deep on third-and-4 and hoping that Aaron Rodgers can scramble around long enough to make miracles happen. Which he can do, sometimes. But he couldn't do it just now on fourth-and-4.
And didn't Green Bay used to throw slants all the time? It feels like the Patriots have left that route open most of the game and the Packers have thrown a grand total of one of them. Which converted a third-and-8 to Davante Adams, so maybe do it more.
Tom Gower: The 2012 AFC Championship Game was a very even contest decided by a fumble forced by Bernard Pollard. This game likewise turned on a fumble, but it has felt to me like New England has had the majority of the play tonight in a way they didn't have against Baltimore that day. Green Bay has managed a couple explosive plays, both catches by Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but New England still has a lead in that category. Even beyond those, it has felt to me like they've schemed up a lot more yards than Green Bay has. That's probably preaching to the disgruntled Packers fan choir on Twitter right now, but this is just a frustrating team between the lack of free yards, the losses with a great quarterback, and mistakes like the slow pace on offense down 31-17, the timeouts and problems getting plays off, the roughing the punter even if it was a soft call, and auto-benching Aaron Jones after a fumble (contrast Kareem Hunt in Week 1 last year fumbling on his first touch?). But this is New England and this is Green Bay, so the surprise may be more how we got here than that we got to this place.