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

Audibles at the Line: Week 4

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 Seahawks 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.

Washington Redskins 3 at New York Giants 24

Bryan Knowles: I can't wait until we see Daniel Jones against a solid defense, but you play the teams on your schedule. Washington's third play of the game is a Case Keenum interception, setting up the Giants deep in Washington territory. Despite that, it seems like the Giants will go three-and-out, but Washington confusingly accepted an offensive holding call, setting up third-and-17 rather than fourth-and-7 and a 46-yard field goal attempt. The Giants pick up a chunk of it on third down, and then Pat Shurmur goes for, and converts, the fourth down. Given that second life, Jones finds Sterling Shepard inside the red zone and Wayne Gallman in the end zone to take a 7-0 lead. Coaching the difference early in this one.

Aaron Schatz: Nobody covering Gallman on that touchdown. Nobody.

Bryan Knowles: Dwayne Haskins has come in for Case Keenum, so all the first-round rookies are now in charge.

Not entirely sure why this move wasn't made BEFORE the game, mind you.

Dave Bernreuther: Maybe that was the game plan, Bryan. Force the Giants to prepare for Keenum, then throw them the curveball.

The persons immediately show us why their problems run much deeper than quarterback, setting Haskins up for success by lining up incorrectly for a formation penalty.

Los Angeles Chargers 30 at Miami Dolphins 10

Vince Verhei: DeVante Parker gets behind Desmond King, Josh Rosen hits him in stride, Parker holds on, and it's a 34-yard touchdown and Miami's first lead of the season!

Chargers lead 17-10 at the half in a game that has been even more offensive than the point total would indicate. Each team has only had the ball four times, and all eight of those drives have reached scoring range. The Dolphins have scored twice and missed a pair of field goals (both from 50-plus); the Chargers have scored three times and thrown an incompletion on fourth-and-6. Both of L.A.'s touchdowns have come on passes to running backs -- one to Austin Ekeler, one to Troymaine Pope. Pope, by the way, has been bouncing around practice squads for years. That was his first NFL touchdown, in his fourth NFL season, in his seventh NFL game.

Oakland Raiders 31 at Indianapolis Colts 24

Dave Bernreuther: I had a hunch that the Colts might snooze a bit on the Raiders today, but two touchdowns before I even turned on the game was bad even by my pessimistic expectations. Not even halfway into the first, and the Raiders have a 14-0 lead on scores by Darren Waller and Trevor Davis on a jet sweep pitch that fooled everyone. Terrible pursuit by Quincy Wilson, who was really the only one with any chance to catch Davis (others had better lines but were well blocked by great efforts downfield by other Raiders). Lucas Oil Stadium sounds a lot like the 2017 version all of a sudden.

Rob Weintraub: If I said, "An NFL player just got ejected for a helmet-to-helmet shot on a defenseless playe,r" your first guess as to who it was would be Vontaze Burfict, right? Good guess -- he just got tossed for a cheap shot on Jack Doyle.

Carl Yedor: Wacky turn of events at the end of the half in Indianapolis. Colts are in fourth-and-3 just on the other side of midfield with about 1:30 left and all their timeouts. They run the play clock all the way down, trying to draw Oakland offsides, and the Raiders don't bite. Rather than taking the delay of game, they call timeout, which I found a bit odd if the Colts were just going to punt. But they don't! The Colts go for it and convert the fourth down and get an additional 5 yards tacked on thanks to a defensive delay of game penalty on Corey Liuget for preventing the receiver from re-spotting the ball. Unfortunately for Indy, the drive stalls from there, forcing the Colts to have Adam Vinatieri try a 57-yarder that misses just left. So after all that, it's Oakland ball at their 42 with 32 seconds and one timeout remaining.

Derrik Klassen: Pierre Desir's drop off from last year is painful. Our charting billed him as less impressive than other sites/statistics, but he was still solid per our charting. He has unquestionably been a liability this year, though. Should have allowed a touchdown just now if Derek Carr had thrown a better ball.

Dave Bernreuther: The Colts are really in a funk with T.Y. Hilton missing today. Seems like every few passes there's a drop, those that are caught are often failed completions, and they just haven't been able to get anything going at all. Driving in the last half of the fourth quarter, they finally eclipsed 200 total yards, but they still have a long way to go to score, and they'll have to do so twice, which seems like a very tall order with the way things are going.

Bryan Knowles: Jacoby Brissett just threw the game away. The Colts had the ball down seven points -- they've played terribly all day, but had a chance to climb back into this one. Instead, Brissett just blanks on Erik Harris' existence, and bullets it right into his hands for a pick six. It's a 31-17 Raiders lead with 2:09 left to go, and you can write this one off. Nice game for the Raiders all around, even if they let the Colts back into it late.

New England Patriots 16 at Buffalo Bills 10

Dave Bernreuther: Daily Fantasy owners everywhere beefed up on James White when there was news of Rex Burkhead being less than 100%, and three catches for 41 yards already make that strategy seem sound ... but Brandon Bolden leeches the touchdown on the drive following one of those "nice arm, no shot" passes by Josh Allen into coverage for a pick.

Two plays later, Allen leaves the pocket (reasonably, this time) and fumbles, then throws a terrible pass to a covered John Brown, and in the blink of an eye the Pats are up two scores after a blocked punt for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Allen is 0-for-5.

Safe to say there's still a bit of a gap between these two 3-0 (for now) teams.

On third down, Josh Allen left a clean pocket for no reason whatsoever, missed his open conversion, wandered to the right sideline, and took a sack. Sigh. At least this time their punt made it down the field. The Patriots will start their next drive from their own 6.

Aaron Schatz: Allen unthrows Zay Jones and J.C. Jackson comes down with it, second pick of the day. Allen's improved accuracy from the first couple games of the season seems to be gone today. He underthrew Cole Beasley on a short one, has overthrown a couple of guys. Patriots are bringing relentless pressure, he had one pass where I swear he ended up taking a 15-step drop and throwing it off his back foot.

Brady has started only 4-for-9 but right now everything is about how the Patriots' defense (and special teams) have overwhelmed the Bills.

Vince Verhei: Allen just threw his second horrible wounded-duck interception into coverage of the first quarter. I see the clock has struck midnight for the Cinderella quarterback.

Aaron, I think you meant "underthrows," but honestly "unthrows" is an even better description of what Allen is doing today.

It also occurs to me that Tom Brady's career has come full circle. He started as a great quarterback with an even better defense, then spent a decade or so as maybe the best quarterback in the league, and now he's back to being a great quarterback with an even better defense again -- maybe the best defense he has ever had.

Dave Bernreuther: Are they even actually overwhelming them? The pass rush isn't getting home or making things hard on Allen, he's just leaving every pocket for no reason and making terrible throws. That second pick should've been a touchdown to Jones, who was open, if he had put enough on it.

What's the point of having a big arm if you're still going to underthrow balls by 5 yards?

Meanwhile, DeShaun Watson is doing the exact opposite and showing us what real pocket awareness is like. Wow, what a play he just made to avoid a sack and dump one off in the flat. That one deserves its own mention.

Aaron Schatz: Bad interception by Brady ruins a 93-yard drive for the Patriots. I think the play was designed to go to Josh Gordon in the back left corner, but I guess he was covered, so Brady rolls right, and throws to Julian Edelman ... except Jakobi Meyers is in front of him, and Micah Hyde comes off his coverage of Meyers and picks the ball off easily.

Next drive, they allow a 41-yard carry to Frank Gore, but sack Josh Allen on third-and-5 to prevent a touchdown. This game is almost all Patriots defense, with Brady missing a lot of guys, but Josh Allen missing even more guys (and feeling a lot more pass pressure). Bills field goal makes it 13-3 with 1:56 left in second quarter.

By the way, that field goal represents the first points scored on the Patriots defense in the first half of a game since the Chargers in last year's divisional round.

Bryan Knowles: Frank Gore pops a 41-yard run, which ends up leading to nothing, but it's still significant -- he's now the fourth rusher to go for over 15,000 yards in his career. With the run game becoming less and less prominent, and running back committees taking more and more of the load, Gore might be the last 15,000-yard rusher we see for a long, long time.

Dave Bernreuther: In their last 18 quarters of play in 2019, the Patriots defense has allowed the following:

  • Field goal by Greg Zeurlein.
  • That chickensh-t "we didn't get shut out" 19-yard field goal by the Steelers on opening night.
  • A long Stephen Hauschka field goal after a stop just now.

That's it.

Have they gotten some gifts, based on the caliber of their opponents? Absolutely. Josh Allen is currently 3-of-12 with two terrible picks and an awful self-inflicted sack, and that's almost entirely on him. But damn is that impressive. Against any opponent. That's half a point per quarter stretching back into last season.

Vince Verhei: Just to update Dave's stats, the Patriots defense has still only allowed those three field goals as of halftime today. That's because Stephen Hauschka's kick on the last play of the half was just barely wide left. And THAT is because Allen took a horrible sack on third down, standing there and standing there and standing there and standing there and standing there until the pass-rush took him down for a loss of 5. From 5 yards closer, Hauschka's kick might have been good.

Aaron Schatz: And the Patriots have finally given up a touchdown this year, barely. The Bills moved it downfield fairly easily on the first drive after halftime but the Patriots stopped Frank Gore short of the goal line on both second-and-goal from the 6 and third-and-goal from the 1. Bills go for it on fourth down and Josh Allen jumps up and over to just barely get the ball past the plane of the goal line before the Patriots knocked it out. 13-10 Patriots.

Dave Bernreuther: After a half which saw the two quarterbacks go 9-of-22 and 5-of-17 with three picks between them, a fast start out of the gate in the second half sees a 6-of-6 performance ending in a touchdown for ... Josh Allen?

Indeed. And now a game that looked destined to be a laugher would be tied if not for the near-field goal miss. We'll see if Brady can answer.

Josh Allen gets away with another throw right to the Pats, as there wasn't clearly control on the catch ... and then on third-and-8, he takes off scrambling, and Jonathan Jones damn near beheads him. Didn't look intentional, but man was it bad. I can't imagine they'll let him take the next snap. Thankfully he just jogged off.

Vince Verhei: The Patriots were flagged for that hit on Allen, though it was wiped out by offsetting penalties, but I thought that was a terrible call. Allen was running, not sliding, and if anything he was the one who lowered his head and initiated contact.

Aaron Schatz: Matt Barkley came in and hit John Brown down the right sideline on a 28-yard go on the next play, despite defensive pass interference. Great catch by Brown. Bills drive ends at the goal line as the Patriots stuff Frank Gore on third-and-goal and then Barkley can't connect with Zay Jones on fourth-and-goal. Pats will get the ball back, 16-10.

Dave Bernreuther: Penalties everywhere in this one, first on the concussion hit, then on Stephon Gilmore, who was obviously interfering with John Brown, who caught a blooper from Barkley anyway, then a personal foul during a play with another wide receiver pass (Brown I think) that fell incomplete. The Pats are shooting themselves in the foot, allowing the Bills inside the 5-yard line, right?

Nah. They had them right where they wanted them. Not a great ball by Barkley, but it did hit his guy in the hands ... and it ended up in Patrick Chung's instead.

They reviewed it, though, and took away the interception and 17 yards of field position. Pats DST owners can't be too thrilled with that.

Aaron Schatz: It was a fourth-down interception, though, so on the field it didn't change possession of the ball. It only changed field position, Pats got it on the 2 instead of the 20. However, they went three-and-out so the Bills offense is coming out again. Bills defense has been outstanding today. Everyone is covered, and the pass rush has been strong. Philip Dorsett had caught 26 straight targets until an incomplete last week. Today, he's 2-for-9 so far, and the timing between him and Brady seems completely off.

Bryan Knowles: If the Bills had an average offense, they'd be winning this game. The Patriots' last three drives have gained 3, 5 and 20 yards, and the Bills just can't capitalize.

Scott Spratt: Except now the Bills offense is too good because they're already in Pats territory at the 2-minute warning. Barkley needs to slow that down or else Brady will be able to answer with his own drive.

Dave Bernreuther: Man, with the punts going back and forth in this game, the 6-point "worst lead in football" situation may just come into play after all. At the time, I figured it wouldn't matter, since there was so much time left, but now ... the Bills are driving at the two-minute warning and are free from the temptation to play conservatively.

Bryan Knowles: "There's nothing the Bills can do."

The announcers are specifically talking about New England kneeling out the clock after Matt Barkley throws Buffalo's fourth interception of the day to end the game. They could just be describing the Bills' offense in general.

Rob Weintraub: Play of the game for me was John Brown catching a pass inside the 5, but not switching the ball to his outside hand. He thus could not stiff-arm Stephon Gilmore, who dragged him down shy of the goal line. Fourth-down turnover on the next play, and there went Buffalo's best shot at an upset.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 at Detroit Lions 30

Bryan Knowles: Remember the preseason game on the 80-yard field? This game has been the reverse of that, at least for the defenses -- they only seem to play in the red zones. Both Detroit (in their nice classic throwbacks!) and the Chiefs have marched down the field, but both offenses have sputtered in the red zone. The difference, so far, is that Harrison Butker missed a 36-yard field goal. In a dome! It's not usually the Chiefs that end their drives with a whimper! It's also the first sign of mortality we've seen out of Patrick Mahomes this season -- he does have a tendency to get a little happy feet in the pocket, and occasionally runs himself out of a play, when he should stand in and let routes develop. This rarely matters, as his arm is so good and his receivers so fast and Andy Reid's offensive scheme so well-designed, but every now and again ... hey, even the best of us have room to improve from time to time, yeah?

And as I type this, Detroit marches back down the field, where Matthew Stafford finds T.J. Hockenson. 10-0 lead for Detroit early.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs have had almost no answer for Detroit's offense so far -- their first drive only ended on a field goal because Matthew Stafford took a sack on third-and-goal from the 2. That play aside, they are rushing and passing more or less at will.

Bryan Knowles: Uh-oh, Lions. Quandre Diggs has gone into the locker room, and they were already down Darius Slay. You don't need a secondary against Patrick Mahomes, right?

Despite that, Detroit holds on a third down in the red zone, with Justin Coleman punching the ball out of a Chiefs receiver's hand in the end zone. The Chiefs settle for a 23-yard field goal (boo!), and this one DOES go through. 10-3, Lions.

Vince Verhei: Injuries in the secondary can hurt your run defense too -- LeSean McCoy breaks loose up the middle and breaks a pair of tackles en route to a 30-some-yard gain. He finishes the drive with a 1-yard touchdown on third-and-goal.

Bryan Knowles: I'm pretty sure if you told the Lions they'd hold the Chiefs to 10 points on their first three red zone appearances, they'd take it ... but the Chiefs have just tied this one back up. Detroit has now punted on their last two drives, unable to move the ball at all after that explosive first quarter. That's the way you squander a 10-0 lead against the best offense in football.

Vince Verhei: Detroit has a fourth-and-1 at the KC 25. They make the correct decision to go for it and the even more correct decision to run a sneak, but there's an illegal snap penalty that wipes out the play and they settle for the field goal.

Chiefs are driving and putting together their best drive in a while after Mahomes had looked uncharacteristically erratic this afternoon. They complete a pass in Detroit territory with 20 seconds left, but "save their timeout" and waste 15 seconds running up to the line instead. They get one more play and Mahomes throws incomplete, and they kick a field goal to tie the game 13-13. They've still got that timeout though! Had they used it, they could have run at least one play, maybe two.

And now for your mind-blowing stat of the day: On a day when they have often looked off their game, Kansas City still has scored 13 points ... but even that is a disappointment, because it's the fewest points the Chiefs have ever scored in a first half during the regular season with Mahomes at quarterback.

Bryan Knowles: 13-13 at the half. It could have been more either way. After a couple drives of nothin', the Lions snapped out of their conservative play calling and moved the ball well. They faced a fourth-and-1 from the Kansas City 25, and lined up to go for it ... but a false start killed that, and they settled for a field goal. Not only did that remove a potential touchdown, but that also gave Mahomes the ball back with 1:03 left in the half, and two long passes later, they were kicking a field goal of their own. Big, big false start there -- honestly, Kansas City should have come out of that with more than a field goal, but Andy Reid's Patented Clock Management strikes again, as the Chiefs go into halftime with a time-out.

All in all, I'm impressed with the Detroit pass rush -- this is the lowest-scoring regular-season first half of Mahomes' career. They're getting to him, and while he's still playing well, he's playing Normal Human Being well, not 300-yards-in-the-first-half well, and that means Detroit is right in this one. The Lions will need to find that first quarter offense again to stay in this one -- the Chiefs start with the ball after the half, and I expect them to step on the throttle -- but good, good first half from our preseason NFC North favorites...

So, scrap all that about Kansas City's first drive of the second half. Mecole Hardman takes the opening kickoff out of the end zone but Jamal Agnew punches the ball out. Detroit ends up with great field position. Stafford ends up threading the ball through Kendall Fuller to Kenny Golladay ... but Golladay is slightly bobbling it as he falls out of bounds, and the refs rule he loses control. Lions fans know a thing or two about touchdown catches not counting, but I think that one was a bad call.

And on the next play, Stafford fumbles while scrambling, and the Chiefs recover. Wow, wow, wow.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs dodge a major bullet early in the third quarter. Mecole Hardman fumbles away the opening kickoff, and Kerryon Johnson gains 30-plus yards on four straight runs to give Detroit a second-and-5 in the red zone. On second-down, Stamford appears to throw a go-ahead touchdown to Kenny Golladay on what would have been an amazing catch with Kendall Fuller draped all over him, but on replay the call is reversed to incomplete because Golladay was bobbling the ball as he slid out of bounds. On third down, Stamford hangs in the pocket forever before scrambling out to the left. Derrick Nnadi sacks him and forces a fumble, and Chiefs recover to end that scoring threat.

And now it's three straight possessions ending on a lost fumble in the second half. The Chiefs convert a third-and-1 when Mahomes keeps the ball on a read-option. A few snaps later they try an option again, but Mahomes and Damien Williams get stuck at the mesh point, and the ball hits the turf and Lions recover.

Then J.D. McKissic gets a big run and a facemask flag to set up first-and-goal inside the 5. Johnson runs for a short gain on first down. The ball comes out at the end and Bashaud Breeland picks it up and takes it back the other way. He goes the length of the field but nobody thinks it's live ... but it IS live, and for the moment, it's four straight fumbles and a 100-yard return touchdown. They are reviewing the play, and ... oh man. I'm not sure how this is going to go.

Here's the kicker: this is the same crew that blew the fumble play in the Saints-Rams game earlier this year. Oh boy.

Bryan Knowles: Whether it stands or not, someone's gotta stop dunking the footballs in butter in Ford Field.

I THINK the call was right here, but there's no clear view of the play. And there's a significant issue with referees defaulting to letting the play play out on the field, and then deferring to the call on the field on the replay. 20-13 Chiefs.

Vince Verhei: Play stands. Chiefs go up 20-13. So much weirdness on this replay. Breeland was on his knees in the end zone when he picked up the ball. On the return, he had to weave his way through Lions players -- who were totally ignoring him and jogging off the field. Just a bizarre and massive play.

Dave Bernreuther: Wow. Unlike earlier, when I thought Golladay never really had the ball, this one seemed like he was down. Do they swallow that whistle if they hadn't gotten in so much trouble after that Saints play two weeks ago?

That's now three failures inside the 5 for the Lions; a Stafford sack on third-and-goal early isn't a huge sin, but it might've cost them four points. Now to start off this half they've seen a touchdown reversed and now lost two fumbles. That isn't ideal when you're playing the Chiefs.

Vince Verhei: This is becoming an all-time weird game. Lions line up for a 58-yard field goal try. Keep in mind Prater's 64-yarder in Denver is the all-time record, so 58 yards in the dome is not a joke. But they line up and then don't snap the ball, and it's clear they're just trying to get the Chiefs to jump ... and they do! So it's offsides and 5 yards, which is still not a first down, but 5 yards makes a big difference in the field goal, and Prater connects from 53 to make it 20-16.

OH MY GOD. Sammy Watkins catches a short out, falls down, gets up, but Justin Coleman punches it out and Lions get it back. That's five lost fumbles in barely ten minutes of game time. Watkins was also called for OPI on the play, though of course it was declined.

Bryan Knowles: Wait, are the Lions allowed to just throw the ball into the end zone for a score? No reviews, no fumbles, nothing? Huh. You learn something new every week.

Stafford absolutely threads a pass, inches out of the reach of multiple Chiefs, to Kenny Golladay to make it a 23-20 Lions lead.

The drive is dampened by what looks like a big injury to T.J. Hockenson, who tried to hurdle a Chiefs defender and paid the price. There has been a real trend this year of defenders pausing to let the receiver hurdle, and then taking him down when they're hanging in midair; maybe the injury will cause some players to keep their feet on the ground.

Vince Verhei: Stanford hits Golladay for a go-ahead touchdown that counts this time, and the Lions are now up 23-20. It came at a cost though --T.J. Hockenson tried to hurdle a defender for no real reason (a bunch of guys have done that in this game) and as a result was slammed head-first to the turf. He was clearly out cold on contact. The good news is that after a long delay he was able to get up and climb onto the cart, but he's for sure out for the rest of the day and probably longer.

Scott Spratt: Patrick Mahomes hits Travis Kelce for a moderate gain, but Kelce laterals to LeSean McCoy who takes it to within a few yards of a touchdown. Super cool.

Vince Verhei: DUDE.

THIS GAME.

THIS GAME IS MAD.

Mahomes scrambles and tries a throwback pass. He's got LeSean McCoy wide open, but overthrows him ... but the ball lands in the hands of Travis Kelce, who ad-libs a hook-and-lateral and pitches it back to McCoy, who scrambles for two dozen more yards! That may have been the play of the year right there, and a remarkably heads-up play by Kelce. Darrell Williams finishes the drive with an option plunge for the score and Kansas City goes back up 27-23.

Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs-Hook and Ladder here. We can argue about which offense is the best, but no offense is more fun to watch than Kansas City's.

Kansas City still has to work for the touchdown -- took 'em five plays and a penalty in the red zone -- but they grind it out. 27-23, Chiefs in what has been a very strange and entertaining game.

Scott Spratt: That Kenny Golladay touchdown/no touchdown call was incredibly close. We were basically freeze-framing to see if Golladay's left foot scraped turf before his turf landed on the out-of-bounds white. But it stands, so the Lions are back up. Too bad they gave the Chiefs time to answer.

Bryan Knowles: Kenny Golladay is giving a maximum effort day -- he just caught a touchdown which required him to basically brush his toe against the top of the artificial turf while leaping out of bounds. Lions take a 30-27 lead, so Mahomes will have 2:26 to work his magic.

Vince Verhei: For the second time today, Golladay has a go-ahead touchdown reviewed, but this one stands, as it's ruled he barely tapped both feet down in bounds in the end zone. 30-27 Lions, and whatever happens in the next two and a half minutes, this is a huge game for Detroit. With a skeleton secondary, they've outgained Kansas City by 50 yards so far, and after all the breaks Kansas City got they could have folded, but instead they have rallied and rallied again. I'm impressed with this team today.

Scott Spratt: The Lions should just let the Chiefs score immediately so they have a minute-plus for their own game-winning drive.

Bryan Knowles: I do not know why the Lions were playing prevent for much of that drive, but the Chiefs take advantage, including converting a big fourth-and-8 on their way to a touchdown. 34-30.

Announcers are saying like they've won it, but there are 20 seconds left and the Lions have a time-out, and Stafford DOES have an arm, so we're going to get a Hail Mary.

Scott Spratt: Was Charles Davis correct that you have to have two seconds left in order to put time back on the clock? That doesn't make any sense to me.

Vince Verhei: One odd bit at the end of this game: Kansas City ran the ball on first-and-goal at the end, much as the Seahawks did against Matt Patricia's Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Patriots, however, did not use their timeouts; today, Patricia did. It probably would not have mattered, but if there was one coach I was hoping would make a mistake with the final seconds running off, it's Andy Reid.

Derrik Klassen: Excluding Patrick Mahomes' debut start in 2017, this week's game against Detroit is the only time he has ever not earned a touchdown in a game.

The Chiefs still scored 34 points.

Carolina Panthers 16 at Houston Texans 10

Dave Bernreuther: Just a spectacular play by Deshaun Watson deep in his own end to escape what should've been a sure sack. Two linemen are beaten quickly, he's in serious jeopardy from the strong-side rusher, and he calmly moves only as much as is necessary with his eyes downfield. Still, there wasn't time, as he found himself in the grasp of someone else ... but I have no idea how, he spun around and threw to Carlos Hyde behind him in the flat, which let Hyde scamper for 25 yards. Just a great play on third-and-10 to sustain a drive that is now in the red zone.

Scott Spratt: I think I figured out Kyle Allen's weakness, which is awareness of pass rushers. Three players ago, a defender just missed a strip sack as Allen barely unloaded a pass to Christian McCaffrey unaware a hand was just behind the ball. And now, he is sacked and loses his second fumble of the day.

Scott Spratt: Haha, DeAndre Hopkins throws a pass, but turns out he isn't Odell Beckham under center. He tried to go across the field and gave Ross Cockrell the easiest interception of all time. Not sure how the Panthers didn't score on the return.

Rob Weintraub: DeAndre Hopkins is the better wideout, but his passing skills trail Odell Beckham -- he throws the wide receiver pass to Watson but it hangs up there for a while and it gets picked off.

Dave Bernreuther: What an AWFUL design on that wide receiver pass from Hopkins. Coaches try not to even ask their actual quarterbacks to throw too many balls to the far side of the field from the hash; Hopkins threw it clear across the field. By design.

The play was open, but of course the ball took half an hour to get there, so Ross Cockrell had time to react, come off his man, run a ways to track it down, and make the pick. The Texans are lucky that took so long to develop, because otherwise he might've been able to take it all the way back for six.

Rivers McCown: After three quarters, neither team wants their quarterback dropping back for more than three seconds. With the Panthers, the team that has a quarterback making his third start that has lost three fumbles today, I get it. With the Texans, I must simply accede to the wisdom of Bill O'Brien.

Scott Spratt: Kyle Allen throws a third-down pass a bit ahead of Christian McCaffrey, but McCaffrey is able to tip the ball twice before securing the catch. He falls to the ground 2 yards short of a first down, but his momentum slides him head-first for the first down. Play being challenged, but I don't know why.

Rivers McCown: It's being challenged because Bill O'Brien doesn't like this concept of timeouts. He has decided to move beyond the construct.

Scott Spratt: Great call by Rivers because Bill O'Brien just used the last Texans timeout down 10-13 with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter.

LOL, J.J. Watt whiffed on a sack of Kyle Allen, who then hits Jairus Wright for a third-down conversion that will come close to sealing it for the Panthers. I have no idea how he missed the sack.

Rob Weintraub: Boy incredible play by Kyle Allen to duck under J.J. Watt rampaging at him, then flip a stumbling throw for a key late conversion.

Cleveland Browns 40 at Baltimore Ravens 25

Scott Spratt: Browns reverse to Odell Beckham who dodges two pass rushers and airs it out 60 yards in the air! I think Damion Ratley could have caught it.

Bryan Knowles: My disappointment that Cleveland's attempted double-reverse (and an actual double-reverse, with three guys touching the ball and everything) pass didn't work is immeasurable.

Scott Spratt: They are probably disappointed too because Baker Mayfield threw a bad pick a play later.

Dave Bernreuther: The Browns just ran an ACTUAL double reverse. And then it was a pass. By Odell Beckham. Who had to step up to avoid a sack in order to make the throw.

It fell incomplete, due in large part to some blatant defensive holding or DPI that went unflagged. Pretty sure they could've gotten that same result from just letting their quarterback throw the ball.

But maybe not ... Mayfield's next attempt was thrown directly to Maurice Canady for a pick.

Scott Spratt: The refs whistle Mark Ingram dead just before two of his offensive linemen push him forward for another 3 yards that don't count. I know it's a player safety thing, but man, I've seen that happen a lot this year.

Carl Yedor: It looked like Mayfield led Jarvis Landry too far on that in-breaking route, but he appeared to make a business decision as well with the safety flying in to lay a hit.

Dave Bernreuther: Looks like Jarvis Landry may have pulled up and been the reason for the horrible pick that Baker Mayfield threw.

Some serious exchange issues going on in this game; earlier we had this:

And on the drive following the interception, looks like Lamar Jackson tried to pull one back from Mark Ingram in the red zone on a read and the ball ended up on the ground. A good effort gets it back, and a few plays later Jackson zings one in over the middle to Miles Boykin for the tying touchdown.

The Browns are making plenty of their own mistakes, but they're also getting hosed by the refs. Every time I look, OBJ is getting grabbed and held, there was a missed call on the double-reverse pass, and just now there was a terrible spot on a third-and-10 where Landry pretty clearly extended and picked up the first down, but they not only called it fourth-and-1, but upheld it on review too. Kitchens correctly goes for it, and the Baker Mayfield keeper is ... just barely enough.

Three subsequent plays go absolutely nowhere, and so the Browns will settle for a field goal attempt to end the half. Austin Seibert gives them a 10-7 lead.

Scott Spratt: I didn't realize this probably because of his awesome throw, but apparently Odell Beckham was held catchless in the first half, his first time since 2015.

Aaron Schatz: John Harbaugh went for two down eight! Analytics rears its head in Baltimore yet again! And Myles Garrett jumps offside, which moves the conversion attempt to the 1, and Mark Ingram then runs it in to make the score 24-18.

Bryan Knowles: Harbaugh Analytics Alert: Ravens score a touchdown to make it 24-16, and are going for two to make it a six-point game. They even get an offsides call to take it from the 1. John Harbaugh is probably our favorite coach now, isn't he?

Scott Spratt: Wow, I didn't know Nick Chubb was that fast! Untouched for the 88-yard score, I believe his third touchdown of the day.

Rob Weintraub: The two-pointer was literally the last good thing the Ravens did in this game. The Browns score the last 16 points, basically without throwing a pass. The defensive attrition in Baltimore, between injuries and offseason defections (and gearing all the attention toward building the offense up around Lamar Jackson), was very apparent today.

One week after the Browns get written off, they are in first place in a truly horrid division.

Tennessee Titans 24 at Atlanta Falcons 10

Rob Weintraub: It's so bad in Atlanta that even Matt Bryant is missing makeable field goals. He may regret coming off the farm to rejoin this bunch.

24-7 Titans at the half.

Tom Gower: Titans win 24-10. It was a terrific first half on offense for Tennessee. OK, the first drive was four-and-out, but it at least started with a designed target for Corey Davis that netted a first down. After a defensive stop, A.J. Brown on a dig route got Desmond Trufant coming too far inside after him and outran Deion Jones and Atlanta's secondary to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown. After the Falcons matched the score, the Titans got on the board again, featuring a third-and-15 conversion to Davis caught short of the sticks where he beat three Falcons defenders to the necessary yardage, then finished with a nice touch by Marcus Mariota to Brown. Another big pass play to Brown set up a field goal to make it 17-7, and then a couple of 20-plus-yard gains to Davis set up and finished the score that made it 24-7 before the two-minute warning. OK, they did not do that much in the second half -- they made it to the edge of field goal range with a clock-killing fourth-quarter drive before punting from the 36, after Vrabel oddly (very oddly) opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 10 up 24-10 with 13 minutes to play.

Tennessee looked vastly improved on offense, though I suspect they really weren't hyper-efficient. Derrick Henry slogged his way to 100 yards on 27 carries, and Marcus was 4-for-8 for 38 yards in the second half. Most importantly, though, the Falcons did not sack Mariota at all after the Jaguars got to him nine times last Thursday, and Tennessee has still yet to commit a turnover. Marcus played with much better rhythm and was more aggressive as a passer. I thought part of what ailed him may have been playing too tentatively, instigated by underneath defenders in his passing lanes and clouding his reads. Those did not seem to be a feature of Atlanta's defense today.

Atlanta's offense after the first-quarter touchdown drive was maybe three-quarters of the way to being good. They drove the ball inside the Titans 40 seven different times and only scored the 10 points. The failures included Bryant missing the 32-yard-field goal Rob mentioned; Matt Ryan fumbling on a sack (the Titans' first of what would be five on the day); and three failures on downs. Tennessee did a better job on Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley than I feared (combined 13 targets, 82 yards), while Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu had the bigger games on Ryan's 53 attempts as early struggles and getting behind led Atlanta to throw often. I thought Ryan had some nice throws in between second- and third-level defenders in zone voids and also did a good job of finding his checkdown option, much better at both than Mariota had been the last couple weeks, but had to work for everything he got as the Falcons started on their half of the field all game (best field position own 27), didn't find explosive plays (longest a 32-yard DPI penalty on the touchdown drive, nothing else over 28), and just didn't seem to find many easy yards.

Minnesota Vikings 6 at Chicago Bears 16

Bryan Knowles: Chicago wearing their fantastic 1936 throwbacks today, looking really sharp. Also interesting, and rarely talked about: the Bears made a whole video talking about the legacy of segregation in the NFL, and how this will be the first time African-American players get to wear these jerseys. A really interesting watch.

Scott Spratt: Mitchell Trubisky is out. Is Chase Daniel their backup? Because that may make the Bears fans regret what they wished for.

Bryan Knowles: Chase Daniel did just fine, as the Bears just stomp all over the Vikings defense -- a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ends with a Tarik Cohen touchdown pass. That was ... surprising. 7-0 Bears.

Trubisky has already been ruled out for the rest of the game with a shoulder injury. When it happens that quickly, that's usually not good news for the long term...

Scott Spratt: Bryan, could you tell if it was his left or right shoulder?

Tom Gower: I didn't see it, but it was announced as a left shoulder injury for Trubisky.

Aaron Schatz: It has been announced as left shoulder.

Bryan Knowles: It's his left, so I suppose that's the less worrisome of the two.

Eddy Pi√Īeiro is nursing a plant-leg injury, so the Bears opt to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Vikings 34. But then, Mike Zimmer calls a timeout, and Matt Nagy changes his mind, brings the offense back on the field, and picks up the first down. Never interrupt your enemy when he's making a mistake!

Vince Verhei: Both of those coaches should be fired for that.

Tom Gower: Tony Romo noted after we returned from commercial and the Bears converted that Minnesota actually had 12 on the field, and that's why they called timeout. Oh well.

Bryan Knowles: The punt-wait-no ends up just with a field goal for Chicago after some, shall we say, interesting time management, but points are points, and the Bears take a 10-0 lead into the half. Frankly, it feels like more of Chicago dominance than the score indicates; seven Chicago penalties for 50 yards kept the ball in Minnesota hands for far longer than it had any right to be. We had just five drives in the first half! Three for Chicago, two for Minnesota. The shortest drive took 4:42 off the clock. That's kind of nuts.

Minnesota does not appear to trust Kirk Cousins' arm at all. He has attempted one deep pass, which fell incomplete. So yeah, he's completing 70% of his passes, but he's at just 7-for-10 for 49 yards. The Bears seem to trust Highly Paid Career Backup Chase Daniel far more than the Vikings trust their $84 million man.

Just like you draw it up. Facing second-and-16, Kirk Cousins is sacked and fumbles. The Bears pick it up and stagger down field a little bit, before fumbling it right BACK. Vikings recover, and because it was a change of possession, it's a first down for the Vikings despite an effective loss of 15 or 20 yards. I mean, a first down is a first down, right?

Aaron Schatz: Nope. Got overturned. Third-and-35 instead. They ruled that the Bears never had possession in the middle of the play.

I would like to congratulate the Chicago Bears defense for fighting off regression to the mean. They've been outstanding this year and just insane today. Despite the fact that two of their most important players (Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith) are missing today, the Bears have allowed Minnesota a grand total of 2.6 yards per play. They've also forced three fumbles, recovering two (with the third being that weird one that just happened where their recovery was overturned).

Fourth quarter, all of a sudden the Vikings find their offense. The Bears aren't exactly playing prevent here, but the Vikings have marched all the way down the field after starting on their own 8. The Vikings had 95 yards of offense in the entire game up until this drive, not counting penalties. They just put up 92 yards of offense on one drive, ending with a Dalvin Cook touchdown run. 16-6 Bears pending the two-point conversion.

Sorry, I mistyped. Because of penalties, that 92-yard touchdown drive actually had 109 yards of offense for Minnesota. More than the rest of the game combined. But the Bears sniff out a pass to Stefon Diggs on the two-pointer, so it's going to stay 16-6.

Vince Verhei: And what a hysterical two-point conversion attempt that was.

For the record, the hysterical part is when Diggs desperately threw back to Cousins to try to salvage a flea-flicker out of that, though I guess the play was blown dead by that point.

Tom Gower: The Vikings just tried to run a wide receiver screen, except they motioned Stefon Diggs into stacked receivers. The covering defender followed him, and the play design didn't eliminate the man who followed him by putting him into a blocker. Maybe the Bears did something contrary to their tendency there, because if their tendency is to follow like that I don't understand how that play is supposed to work.

Rob Weintraub: Further to the Bears, if no one has mentioned the stretch that linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski turned in over a five-minute stretch in the middle of the second half, it should be acknowledged. First he split two blockers to nail Dalvin Cook on a screen. Then he swam right past Cook to force a strip-sack that should have been a touchdown for Leonard Floyd, who bobbled it back to Minny. Next possession, he bull-rushed Cook right into Cousins to force yet another sack -- I mean blocking sled stuff. Cook is going to have No. 44 in his nightmares.

Seattle Seahawks 27 at Arizona Cardinals 10

Vince Verhei: Seahawks lead 10-0 at the end of one on a field goal and a Jadeveon Clowney pick-six. They have been so aggressive and effective in the red zone that this was their first field goal of the year -- their only other try was a missed 58-yarder.

Cardinals have unleashed a bazillion short passes -- even the pick-six was a quick 1-yard out that Clowney jumped and snagged. That may have been partly on Kyler Murray's height, which brings up a fun bit of trivia -- this is the first NFL game in 50 years with two starting quarterbacks under feet tall. It has been effective at times though. They missed a field goal on their first drive, and on the last play of the quarter. David Johnson takes a middle screen for a good gain to set up a red zone possession.

The drive stalls there, and Arizona tacks on a field goal to make it 10-3 early in the second.

After Jaron Brown has a big third-down catch-and-run to put Seattle in the red zone, Will Dissly becomes the latest tight end to score against Arizona. Tight ends have scored at least one touchdown in every game against Arizona so far this season, and Dissly now has six touchdowns in eight NFL games. I wonder if Arizona's problems covering tight ends are related to their own offense, which goes four-wide all the time -- do they not get practice covering tight ends? Is this a problem that plagued the run-n-shoot offenses of the 1990s, or those recent Jets teams that rarely used tight ends?

Carl Yedor: 17-3 Seattle in the desert, but they're frankly pretty fortunate to be up that much. Zane Gonzalez has now missed two field goals to go along with the pick-six. Arizona has marched the ball down the field consistently, with David Johnson in particular making a huge impact in the passing game.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks get a field goal to go up 20-3 at the half. They put up a graphic showing that Seattle had way more passes than runs (15 to eight, as I recall), so of course Seattle then rattled off six straight runs for 35 yards. The Cardinals broke up passes to D.K. Metcalf and Dissly, though, leading to the field goal. The only time the Seahawks have failed to score was when Terrell Suggs beat Duane Brown for a strip-sack; Russell Wilson recovered the ball, but it still put Seattle behind the sticks and set up a punt.

Cardinals have run for 73 yards, somehow -- it doesn't feel like they've been nearly that effective, and it's mostly Chase Edmonds, not Murray scrambling. But most of their offense is David Johnson gaining yards after the catch. He has six catches for 80-some yards -- nobody else on the team has more than one catch.

Seattle still leads 20-3 at the end of three. Most of the past 15 minutes were just the two teams trading sacks and short gains. Seahawks will start the fourth quarter with a second-and-20 following a penalty on a wide receiver screen (drink!) and then a run on first-and-20 (drink again!).

It's the fourth quarter, which means fourth-quarter Kyler Murray is threatening to make a game out of this. They finally start throwing downfield (which may be one of the reasons he's getting better results) and pick up three or four big completions, plus a horrible flag on Tedric Thompson for a hit on a defenseless receiver to bail Murray out on an overthrow. In the red zone, it's a quarterback draw, and Murray gets the first rushing touchdown of his career. Seahawks still up 20-10, but there is still time for the Hot Rotten Garbage Seahawks of 2019 to arrive and screw things up.

Seahawks, by the way, are still sticking with their 4-3 base personnel way more often than not, even against the Air Raid.

Seattle responds to the Murray touchdown with their best drive of the year: 15 plays, 75 yards that eats up more than 8 minutes of clock and also kills Arizona's last two timeouts. Both teams make the penalty flags rain in the red zone for a while, and finally C.J. Prosise takes the shotgun sweep for the score. Seattle up 27-10 with less than three minutes to go and this one's done barring some unprecedented shenanigans.

One final bit of trivia today: Larry Fitzgerald had a couple of catches on Arizona's last drive to move past Tony Gonzalez in career receptions. Only Jerry Rice has more catches than Fitzgerald now (by 200-plus still).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55 at Los Angeles Rams 40

Bryan Knowles: I haven't been watching this one. It's 21-0 Buccaneers? Um. What? Two interceptions for Jared Goff. Three rushes for 4 yards, halfway through the second. Maybe they need to find someone who knows Sean McVay to run the offense.

I am now watching this one, and Todd Gurley might have had his best run since early December of last year. He was hit at the 5 and then decided, you know what? I don't feel like being tackled today. He dragged two different players into the end zone on his way to a score.

Still 21-7 Buccaneers.

What is Jameis Winston's single-game DYAR record? Because he might top it today. 45-27 over the Rams; Winston has four touchdown passes and is up over 348 yards. He just hit Mike Evans for a 67-yard touchdown where the Rams secondary just completely lost the plot.

Don't put this game in the loss column just yet, as Bad Jameis Winston has hit the field. Goff hit Cooper Kupp for a touchdown to make it 45-34, and then three plays later, Winston hits Marcus Peters for a pick-six. We have a 45-40 game with 8:11 left.

Goff is knocking on the door of Norm Van Brocklin's single-game passing record; he's up to 454 yards passing.

Ndamukong Suh revenge game? Well, maybe not -- but he just scooped up a fumble, caused by a Shaq Barrett sack, and returned it to the end zone. 55-40 (or fight) Buccaneers.

Jacksonville Jaguars 26 at Denver Broncos 24

Bryan Knowles: After three sackless weeks, Denver's defense arrives to the 2019 season. They have four today, and have already spent more time leading this game than their first three games combined.

If it wasn't for a terrible Joe Flacco pick, we may be in blowout territory. Instead, it's 17-6 Broncos, and now Gardner Minshew is beginning to deal...

And, indeed, Minshew finds the end zone with fantastic pocket movement. He dodged what would have been the fifth, sixth, and seventh sacks of the day, staying alive long enough for Ryquell Armstead to get open. 17-13, Denver in the closest game of the afternoon...

Lead change! Denver's next drive after the Minshew touchdown is a three-and-out, but at least they punt and pin Jacksonville inside the 10. The very next play, however, is an 81-yard run by Leonard Fournette, which leads to a James O'Shaughnessy touchdown two plays later. 20-17 Jaguars, as the Broncos' offense has just gotten nothing going since halfway through the second quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Jaguars with the field goal to go up six. I hate the field goal to go up six. Denver will get a chance to come back and win the game with 2:54 left.

Vince Verhei: At least they tried on third down with the pass into the end zone. I had flashbacks of Mark Brunell's playoff win in Denver, when the Jaguars had a three-point lead and third-and-long, and rather than run and then kick for the six-point lead (against John Elway, mind you), Brunell threw a touchdown to ice the game.

Bryan Knowles: After allowing the Jaguars to score 23 unanswered points, the Broncos have come back, and so the question must be asked: is Joe Flacco eli... OK, I won't finish that statement, not even tongue in cheek, but Flacco actually looked pretty good on that last drive, hitting three big passes leading up to the touchdown. 24-23 Broncos lead, but there's still 1:32 left -- too much time for Gardner Minshew?

Aaron Schatz: Of course, the Broncos make it up the field easily to score a touchdown after the Jaguars tempt fate with the "kick the field goal to go up six" move. Emmanuel Sanders for 27 yards and then Courtland Sutton for 8 and the touchdown. Touchdown is against the coverage of Trevor Herndon, replacing Jalen Ramsey today. According to the announcers, the Broncos have been picking on Herndon all day.

Vince Verhei: But they scored way too quick, and Jacksonville very quickly moves into the red zone. Now they're trying to run clock so the Broncos won't get the ball back.

Bryan Knowles: And, indeed, they pull it off. The Broncos had a 17-0 lead at one point, and end up falling 26-24. This has been a very painful start to Vic Fangio's coaching career.

Dallas Cowboys 10 at New Orleans Saints 12

Aaron Schatz: 9-3 Saints at halftime. Is this kind of defensive battle a surprise? I guess not, since the game between these teams last year was 13-10, and that was with Drew Brees healthy and playing. The Saints offense is hamstrung by the fact that Teddy Bridgewater can't seem to throw downfield with accuracy. Almost everything he throws is short. The Cowboys offense is hamstrung by the fact that they seem to be intent on establishing the run. Ezekiel Elliott has seven carries on first downs for 15 yards. The fumble when he would have converted fourth-and-1 didn't help either.

Bryan Knowles: 9-3 Saints at halftime, and the lack of comments in here does a good job of describing just how exciting this game has been to this point. Both offenses have struggled to get anything going, but it's the Cowboys' issues holding on to the ball that have been the difference. Von Bell has two fumble recoveries, which have led to a grand total of three points. New Orleans has left a lot of points on the board, as they're being uncharacteristically conservative with Bridgewater back there rather than Brees.

The end of the first half was interesting. The Saints kinda botched the clock, and ended up with the ball on the goal line with four seconds left. Enough time for one play, surely, and Bridgewater's pass was incomplete. But somehow, that only took two seconds off the clock, and they got the field goal anyway. Running the quick play there, to save time for the figgie, was a good play call ... but surely, that play took longer than two seconds, didn't it? Some hometown cooking on the clock, I think, which is why we have a six-point lead rather than three.

Tom Gower: I'd say New Orleans was held back by a combination of Bridgewater's lack of downfield aggressiveness and a habit of getting penalized. They had five possessions, including the one at the end of the half, and three of the other four had a 10-yard penalty push them back on first or second down.

On the other side of the ball, this looks like last year's Dallas offense, with Jason Witten's 16-yard gain that ended in a fumble the Cowboys' longest play of the first 30 minutes. Heck, Witten is the only Cowboys player with a play longer than 9 yards.

Aaron Schatz: Even without Brees to throw him the ball, Michael Thomas has caught nine of nine targets tonight for 95 yards.

Marshon Lattimore has done a fantastic job on Amari Cooper tonight, and just defensed a third-down pass to him, Saints get the ball back up 12-10 with 5:29 left.

Bryan Knowles: Love the Saints sending pressure against the Hail Mary. Don't just let Dak Prescott scramble around -- he had to force the throw, which was way short of the end zone. Great play call. Saints win!

Three undefeated teams remain: the Patriots, Chiefs, and 49ers. Just as we all predicted.

Tom Gower: On their final drive, Dak Prescott completed passes to Amari Cooper for 14 yards and Randall Cobb for 32 yards. Those were the Cowboys' only gains of at least 10 yards that were not pass completions to a tight end tonight. Elliott and Cooper were almost completely shut down, and outside of the one pass to Blake Jarwin that set up the game's lone touchdown, there were just no explosive plays to be found.

Comments

120 comments, Last at 01 Oct 2019, 10:10pm

1 Sunday Night Football

I feel like the FO Message Board curse is alive and well. I will be more careful with my wording next time.

2 Vikings and Teddy B

The Bears game was the inverse apotheosis for Kirk Cousins. The Vikings are finished in 2019. With three Chicago defensive starters out the Vikings managed to allow six sacks and only scored a garbage time TD in the fourth quarter. I am officially announcing the Cousins decision an error. Watching Teddy B today against the Cowboys made things even more depressing. It feels that the team is carrying the weight of failure on its shoulders. This is a very good roster that cannot deliver at key moments. the Bridgewater situation is an archetype of what the Vikings have experienced since Favre left. Under Zimmer and Spielman a lot of good picks and FA signings but the loss of Teddy B has been crushing. Like a Greek tragedy the seeds of the teams destruction are rooted in there evaluation of risk between Teddy's knee and Cousins mental makeup. Unfortunately the Vikings made the wrong decision. The latent frustration in the locker room must be enormous. The defence remains an enigma. While only allowing 16 points against a backup QB looks reasonable the D never seemed to be able to completely intimidate the Bears in the same way the Bears did to the Vikings. The Bears D were able to put the team on their shoulders and carry them to victory. For all the excellence of the Viking ZD under Zimmer, and it is excellent, when it comes down to some crucial games they can play well but not at a 1985 Bears level. It is hard to see the ownership putting up with this next year. My call is that they will eat the Cousins contract if the playoffs are missed as it it clear he isn't able to get the job done in the big moments. It dawned on me today that a team with great potential versus a middling team is much worse to support. My Australian Rugby League team is ordinary, but when they win it its a nice surprise. The Vikings have great potential and so the disappointment of failure is so much worse. In years to come I think the Cousins decision will be seen as a boundary condition for team decision making. The risk/reward with that contract is too large for the cap. He isn't a clearly better option than Keenum or Bridgewater on a cap based comparison. It isn't that the Vikings were crazy, their decision at the time made sense, But in hindsight it meant that Cousins was priced to perfection, and he clearly isn't perfect.

4 I'm not going to defend…

I'm not going to defend Cousins, but their bigger problem is the same they have had for a decade, except for the first half of the 2017 season. They just don't block well enough to score points against a good defense. I'm kind of bored with them at this point, because it's just tedious to watch their offensive line get bullied whenever they get in front of an excellent defensive front.

The loss to the Packers was the costly one, because they actually blocked decently in that game, at least while running. Cousins really killed them in that game.

10 I read online that the…

I read online that the Vikings under Zimmer are 13-28 in games against teams with a winning record. Don't know if it's true but it sure seems like they can beat up on the weak teams but most often get dominated when they play good ones. Zimmer's playoff record as a DC and HC is very bad as well. His defences have played far worse in playoff games than they did in regular season games. 

Cheering for the Vikings is like cheering for Matt Kuchar in golf, nice enough player, but almost zero chance to win the big ones. 

Must say I was a little hopeful that the line play had improved this year, but it looked as bad as ever yesterday. Bradbury and Elflein look horrendous and while Reiff is OK most the time, once he gets beat badly in a game he tends to completely fall apart. O'neil seems to be pretty good and Kline has played well. So I guess all hope is not lost.

29 If they think their odds of…

If they think their odds of hiring somebody better than Zimmer are decent, they don't know a damned thing. This is the best coached team they have had since Denny Green had Dungy, Billick, and Kiffin on his staff.

Zimmer and Spielman have their faults but they have also had some bad luck, especially with injuries to 1st and 2nd round draft picks. They looked liked they were making progress on the offensive line in 2017, and then Sparano's sudden death really set them back. I just get tired of watching them get pushed around.

43 Zimmer...

The difference in our level of play from the defense with Zimmer and before is night and day, I don't want to lose that.    But I doubt he would accept a drop to being a DC, this feels like his last job.  

I don't know how to mesh that with how the teams seem so lackluster at the start of games.   Nagy has owned him repeatedly over the last 3 meetings, they always seem to have someone wide open or a well designed run play... and otoh we don't seem to be able to adjust, saw many wonder why we waited until the waning minutes of the game to go up tempo, and once we did Cousins produced a 92 yard drive.   Zimmer has hounded the offensive coordinators for higher run/pass ratios, at one point yesterday the Vikings had 12 runs and 13 passes, for 26 yards rushing and 27 yards passing, perfect balance.  From that point onwards they had a 7:1 pass to run ratio.  

 

49 If a coach has strong…

In reply to by andrew

If a coach has strong tendencies, it's easier for the opposing coach to dictate how the game will be played.  If the team's strengths match the coach's tendencies, they may be able to win, regardless, but it gets tougher and tougher the more equal the talent on the two teams.

Rightly or wrongly, I view Zimmer and the Vikings this way.  They have enough talent and are coached well enough to win a lot of games each year, but they'll almost always be underdogs against other top-tier teams due to a lack of flexibility.

Mind you, on offense there's something to be said about "flexibility" = good QB + good OL.  But it is a bit more complicated than that, and philosophy and game-by-game scheme do come into it.  It seems to me that the Vikings are predictable.  But maybe it's just that their QB sucks.

Has anybody created any meaningful stats that look at predictability in team offensive schemes?  Possiblly a combination of run-pass mix with formation mix, measured on game-by-game variability?  So, say two teams both end up with 60-40 pass-run mixes for the full season, but team A gets there by never being more than 65-35 or less than 55-45, while team B gets there going as much as 80-20 and 40-60?

60 Zimmer has had very…

Zimmer has had very different offenses in his time in Minnesota, from year to year. The constant has been poor offensive line performance, except for the first half of 2017.

Absent a very few HOF qbs, and perhaps a few hypermobile qbs,  terrible blocking is really hard to scheme around, against a good defense.

53 The Vikings have had trouble…

In reply to by andrew

The Vikings have had trouble winning at Soldier Field, even when they have had a pronounced talent advantage, for about 35 years. Right now, the Bears defensive front just has the Vikings offensive line so overmatched that it'll be a tough game back in Minneapolis as well.

I know I'm tired of writing about bad blocking in Minnesota for a decade. I really think my favorite Vikings team since the Grant era, even more than some good teams that should have won conference championship games, was the 2008 team. They were terrible at qb and receiver, but were really, really, good on both lines of scrimmage, with HOF and near HOF players at several spots, a HOF running back, and finally some depth and talent in the defensive backfield. Even when they lost they were fun to watch, because they were so physical. They actually weren't as good on either line of scrimmage in 2009, with Favre.

I've mostly hated watching the Vikings offense since 2010, although I have some hope that Kubiak's scheme will make Dalvin Cook a fun watch for many of the remaining games.

5 I've nothing to add about…

I've nothing to add about Cousins, but I'm unsure what can have impressed you about Bridgewater last night. The best you could say was that he threw some 5-10 yard passes accurately and didn't turn it over. But he seems wholly unwilling or unable to throw the ball remotely downfield. I struggle to imagine how he would have prospered against the Bears' defense, behind the Vikings' blocking. 

14 Bridgewater doesn't look…

Bridgewater doesn't look like the same guy he was before the injury. He was never a good deep passer but he was an excellent intermediate and short passer. And as bad as the oline was yesterday vs the Bears, it was even worse for Bridgewater in 2015. That line was probably the worst the Vikings ever produced (maybe late 2016 after the injuries).

He looks gun shy to me now. I hope he improves and plays well in his starts while Brees is out. I've always liked him.  

 

38 Yeah, lamenting the fact the…

Yeah, lamenting the fact the Vikings (probably) way overpaid for Cousins is totally understandable.  Finding the loss of Bridgewater "crushing" and comparing it to a Greek tragedy isn't understandable at all.  I think the verdict is in on Teddy B at this point: serviceable backup. 

116 teddy B

So if he never hurt his knee and the Vikes has more  cap space then do you think that might throw them over the top?

A key element of a Greek tragedy is the harmatia which is the key error that the core characters make.

the Vikings situation mirrors this quite closely.

3 The refs have become…

The refs have become understandably nervous about whistling any play dead, but it's leading to some really frustrating and pointless delays where the play is allowed to carry on, and subsequently reviewed after a player is obviously down or a pass is obviously incomplete. They need to be reminded that they have a job to do on the field, and to not be paranoid about a once-in-a-blue-moon blunder, at the expense of dragging out the game ever longer.

Equally, the challenging of pass interference is certainly failing to add anything to my enjoyment. What the game really didn't need was more long delays to pore over the details of slow-mo video of what are inherently subjective decisions anyway. Better, IMO, to just accept that the rules are basically impossible to enforce in any strict and consistent manner, accept the occasional injustice, and get the game moving along. <end rant>

33 Disagree on both counts

Average game length is barely being impacted, and getting plays right matters when when can all see what "right" is thanks to super HD slo mo and 5 camera angles on every play. The only problem with PI replay so far has been unwillingness to reverse enough plays. The Pats won their game on the most flagrant pick play I've evevr seen (and they've run a million flagrant picks in the BB era) that the refs refused to call PI.

36 I completely agree on pass…

I completely agree on pass interference, but if you're referencing the Chiefs game regarding whistling the play dead, I thought that was clearly the right call upon review. It was the damnedest thing because the only reason the runner wasn't down was because a defender had his hand under the runner's knee. 

42 Disagree on both accounts. I…

Disagree on both accounts.

I like it when the refs let the play finish before making a ruling.  It's best option in that situation. *Much* better than blowing a play dead prematurely, in my opinion.  A perfect example of this was last night's Cowboys-Saints game when Prescott pretty clearly thew an incomplete pass, but the refs let the Saints player recover it and run it into the end zone before calling it incomplete.  If the refs had done this in the Saints-Rams game, NO wouldn't have been screwed out of a touchdown.

I'm also fine with pass interference challenges.  I think when people complain about PI challenges what they really don't like is the subjectivity of human perception.  That fact of the matter is that two reasonable, sane people can see the exact same thing, in super slow motion, and come to a different conclusion about what happened.  That's never going to change, so we should just get used to it.  Review makes things better in this regard, but not at all perfect.

51 I'm with you on both of…

I'm with you on both of these.

re Pass Interference though, this has been reviewable in the CFL for some time now, and the one learning coming out that should be DON'T use slow motion on pass interference replay.  Use slo-mo on fumbles, checks to see if the receiver has their feet down in bounds, those sorts of things.  But review PI plays in real time, and if it's not clear and obvious in real time, let the play stand as called.

76 Sure. My preference is…

Sure. My preference is slanted towards the fluidity of the game, over absolute precision in rules decisions. I'd like to see refs recruited and trained to the highest standard possible (I'm not convinced this currently goes on), but then left (mostly) to just get on with it.

But it is a matter of preference; I don't expect everybody to agree. 

66 Yup

 agreed on both counts.  I am interested in watching the play,  not watching someone else watch the play. I'd  remove replay entirely from the game. I'm more interested in fun than in being right 

86 Agree about removing replay,…

In reply to by David

Agree about removing replay, it seems like replays/challenges are obviously right a bit more than 50% of the time and they take so damn long.

117 The Doyen of The Stump!

In reply to by andrew

54'40" or fight!  (55'40" would have a chunk of Canada in the US.)

That Tampa Bay game was quite something.  There were competent points and they looked like a real team.

 

7 Play of the BUFF-NE Game

The play of the Buff-NE game was the INT Brady threw at the goalline when he could have walked in to make it 20-0.
BTW, that Buffalo D is for real. As good as the Pats D is (and its real good), there I saw some excellent D yesterday from some real talented teams.
Buffalo
NE
DAL
NO
CHI
And Detroit ain't no joke either.

11 Buf-NE Game

"The play of the Buff-NE game was the INT Brady threw at the goalline..." - I agree that this play was huge in this game. If NE gets the 7 (or even 3) there with the way this game was going it was basically over. Insted it became a nail biter. As you illuded too it was a really poor decision by Brady to make that throw, though I'm not sure the old man can run that in as it looked like at least Hyde was in zone coverage there and could come up to make the takle (in the same way he came off "his man" right as the ball was thrown to make the INT.

"that Buffalo D is for real. As good as the Pats D is (and its real good)" - I don't really agree with this (at least the second clause). The Pats are badly banged up right now and struggling with the transitions that went on around AB (two of there starting OL have gone down in the last two weeks, Edlemen played, but wasn't himself and obviously AB is gone, Devlin went to IR this week and Burkhead was out). On the road in what was going to be the biggest game of the first half of the season for Buf you could see a tough day offensively coming. The Bills on the other hand were really quite fortunate to get what they got on offense (they recovered both there own fumbles, were very fortunate to get the TD that they did considering it was a fumble within 4 inches or so of breaking the plane of the endzone, and managed a 50% 4th down conversion rate (1-2) on a day where that was signifcantly above expecations (2-13 on 3rd down for reference)). 

I think this game says more about the poor state of NE's offense in tough circumstances then it does about the Bills D (though they are definately pretty good). it's also a reminder that the reason NE & KC are thought of different;y from the other good teams in the league (e.g. Cowboys) is that they have recently repeatedly won tough games on the road when circumstances arn't very favourable the way they both did this weekend (put in statistical terms they are good enough to have margin for error when things go wrong). It doesn't look to me like any of the other good teams this year are in that position (Cowboys, Ravens, Packers etc...), we'll see.

16 Buffalo D is a terrible…

In reply to by sbond101

Buffalo D is a terrible match-up for the Pats.

Last year they were the only ones having a positive TD-Int ratio against TB12. 

Offensive injuries are not helping too (O-line is down 2 starters + the Almighty Develin... a FB from the Stuttgart Skorpions was starting, every other skill player was nagging maladies), but it was enough against Bills' O. 

 

35 It's probably just me, but I…

It's probably just me, but I feel like Tom Brady gets away with intentional grounding more than any QB in the league. Yesterday in the 4th quarter the Patriots were setting up a play action screen pass and Brady had someone in his face the second he turned around, so he just chucked the ball towards the line of scrimmage with nobody nearby. In the Miami game, he was under duress in the pocket near the goal line and threw the ball into the stands.No call either time, and those are just 2 instances where he spins around and just chucks the ball into no man's land. I'm sure other QBs get protected like this, it just seems like he does it more. And all it does is punish the defense for making a good play. 

39 I didn't see the Miami game,…

I didn't see the Miami game, but I thought that was the right no-call on intentional grounding yesterday - Brady was outside the pocket, and is allowed to chuck it anywhere.

https://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/nfl-video-rulebook/intentional-grounding/

Item 1. Passer or Ball Outside Tackle Position. Intentional grounding will not be called when a passer, who is outside, or has been outside, the tackle position,throws a forward pass that lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player(s) have a realistic chance to catch the ball (including when the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or endline). If the ball crosses the line of scrimmage (extended) beyond the sideline, there is no intentional grounding. If a loose ball leaves the area bordered by the tackles, this area no longer exists; if the ball is recovered, all intentional grounding rules apply as if the passer is outside this area.

 

61 Unless we're thinking of 2…

Unless we're thinking of 2 different plays, I didn't think he was out of the pocket. He turned for the fake hand off and when he pivoted to throw there was a defender in his face, and it was pretty close as to whether the ball got to the line of scrimmage. 

48 Intentional Grounding

"I think he gets called a lot, and sometimes he is able to get away with it. It is probably a tactic to at least avoid the punishment of a sack and the risk of a turnover." - I agree with this, the IG penalty is not nearly severe enough to serious curtail it. If in a position where sack, IG, or questionable throw are the options, the correct choice is almost always IG. 10 yards vs. either the risk of fumble/injury on the sack on the one hand, or risk of INT on the other. According to Football Perspective sacks result in fumbles 32% of the time, defensive recovery about 18% of the time; Based on the assumption that a fumble is worth ~50 yards in FP, the trade is about even between sack & IG before you factor in the probability of a no call or the probability of injury. I hope it's intentional, because if it is it's the right decision.

115 Pump Fake

In reply to by sbond101

Brady can't run that in. The space in front of him was an illusion and would get closed much quicker than he could cross it. What he should have done while rolling out was pump fake. He had lots of room to the sideline, and a pump at that close range causes one defender to move, now the opening is there for a pass. 

But Brady was rushing decisions all game. One of those games where the clock in his head was way, way too fast. (Though some blown blocks in the second half retroactively justified his fears) But in the first half he rushed throws and decisions. Like forcing the slant to Dorsett with an LB in the lane. If he waits a split second and hits Dorsett on the other side of the LB, that's a house call if the trail defender is left in the dust.

8 Conclusions from Week Four:…

Conclusions from Week Four: Chiefs and Pats still fat and away the best teams in the AFC (leaning chiefs because O>D), despite the scares they had today. I can’t see anything that would stop either team from reaching the championship game, it’s just a matter of who gets home field. Ravens look ordinary, the Browns are inconsistent, the Chargers are the Chargers, the AFC South is an 8-8 morass, and the Bills would be contenders and 4-0 if they didn’t employ the Pillsbury Doughboy at QB.

NFC is so, so up in the air and so deep as well. Even perceived bottom dwellers like the Bucs can take out the perceived favorite in the Rams, on the road no less. I can think of 10 teams that could potentially make the championship game if things break right. I’m picking Philly and New Orleans right now, but really anything could happen. I mean, the Lions should be 4-0 and be the favorites, but some witch hates them and cursed them with a cuddly lion voodoo doll to choke for all eternity. What a crazy, entertaining conference.

13 "Should be 4-0"?!? Also are…

"Should be 4-0"?!? Also are a little lucky not to be 0-4. Arizone dropped a gift INT in OT in week 1, LAC missed FGs and threw a game ending INT in the endzone when in FG range to tie at the end in week 2 and Philly dropped a ton of passes, including a late go-ahead TD pass in week 3.

28 Yeah, good point. They can…

Yeah, good point. They can play with anyone, though. The Eagles, Chargers, and Chiefs are all good to elite teams and the Lions damn well near won every one of them. I actually think they're the best team in the NFC North, just because they don't have any glaring weaknesses (besides in-game coaching?). The Bears have no QB, the Packers run D is garbage and the O has no other playmakers besides Adams, the Vikings offensive line is again a huge problem. The Lions have a solid and balanced offense and a great pass D when Slay is healthy. I doubt they'll end up winning the division, because they're the Lions (and that Arizona tie is exceptionally ugly), but I do like their team.

111 All of their position groups…

All of their position groups are above average or better with the exception of off ball linebackers, who are extremely vulnerable in pass coverage (the Chiefs took full advantage of that).  They will have trouble with any team that has good pass-catching RB’s.

110 That’s fair, and there’s no…

That’s fair, and there’s no excuse for blowing the 18 point lead against a bad Arizona team, but their next three games  were a murderer’s row of playoff teams from last year (and likely to be playoff teams from this year)....so playing all three teams tough (never mind stealing two of three victories) was something previous Lions teams never would have done.  They would have been extremely lucky to be 4-0, and extremely unlucky to be 0-4, so I’ll say there were lucky bounces both ways, and I’ll take 2-1-1 (I was expecting 1-3 heading into the bye).

12 Being able to see references…

Being able to see references to 19th century political slogans is (non-sarcastically) why I continue to stick with FO. Never change, guys!

15 As for the Allen hit ‚ÄĒ I am‚Ķ

As for the Allen hit ‚ÄĒ I am obviously biased but I agree with Vince‚Äôs take. I don‚Äôt blame the refs for throwing the flag - it looked awful in real time. But in replay the defender is clearly beginning to drop into a tackle stance and then Allen lowers his head into the defender to try to pick up the first down.

18 Should have been an ejection…

Should have been an ejection. No place for that kind of deliberate hit in this league.  Would have been an ejection if that had been a Bills player making such a hit on 12, but Bills players aren't in such an environment that encourages that type of behavior and attitude, an overall disregard for sportsmanship to win any way possible.

 

Refs also blew Josh Allen's last INT.  Before the Pats player's second foot came down, an out of bounds Bills player touched the ball, making it out of bounds and incomplete.

20 Apart from the fact that 12…

Apart from the fact that 12 would never run in that way and in that situation, Jones wasn't targeting the head.

It was a combination of three different players interacting and randomly positioning the QB's head in the worst possible spot for the collision. S*it happens. 

You can make an argument that if Allen were a RB/WR/TE, that wouldn't even be a penalty. 

 

59 Uh, no, no ejection. Flag's…

Uh, no, no ejection. Flag's gonna happen every time, because QB, but it wasn't ejection-worthy. (Although it would have been an ejection if this was Brady/Brees/etc., but they're not usually runners - the NFL protects its stars.)

So cool off about it. It sucks, but maybe Josh will learn he should back off on Hero Ball.

(Edit - this should obviously be in reply to unreasonable Bills fan up there - as a reasonable Bills fan, I hate that crap.)

24 Allen is 7" taller than the…

1) HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

2) Allen is 7" taller than the defender.  Care to explain to us how a 7" shorter defender supposedly lowered his head and still managed to hit Allen in the head without Allen lowering and leading with his head when the defender never left his feet?

90 How Slow It Goes

Slow motion affects the way we perceive player intention. After watching that play from several different angles in slooooow motion and freeze frame, I let it run in real time again. Both hits happen within some modest fraction of a second of each other. The initial Harmon hit changes Allen's trajectory to make him more vulnerable. Would Jones have hit helmet to helmet without the Harmon tackle? I don't think so but it's hard to say. Still, Jones had no time to react to the shift in Allen's position. It happens within a snap of the fingers.

The height differential is a good point as well.

65 Merely touching the ball in…

Merely touching the ball in that situation is not enough for the play to be oob.  The player has to possess it. 

If it were, everytime a ballcarrier was along the sideline, all a defender would have to do would be step on the sideline and touch the ball, instead of making the tackle.  We would see these oob plays virtually every game, on every play along the sideline.

89 The ball was not yet…

The ball was not yet possessed by the player so the touch by the OOB player should have ended the play. It would be the same call as a fumble (non-possessed ball) touched by a player that is OOB. In your example the player inbounds already has possession.

118 Nonsense.  Jackson had…

Nonsense.  Jackson had complete possession and control of the ball with two feet in bounds.  Jones, who was standing out of bounds, then stripped the ball loose, and Jackson re-caught it -- while still in bounds.  I'm not a rules expert, but I think it's hard to make a case that the interception should be nullified.  The only time Jones's hands touched the ball was when Jackson had control standing in bounds.

In fact, and I don't know either way what the actual rule is, if Jackson had lost control of the ball and the Bills recovered, New England could have challenged the fumble, because the player who caused it was standing out of bounds, at which point I believe is illegal to make a play on the ball.

19 Allen Hit

"it looked awful in real time." It also looked incredibly stupid in real time; every time I see a QB or small wideout try to fight for yards after contact like that, especially lowering there head, I cringe for the forthcoming potential forced fumble or injury. Some players just don't seem to have the "I better get down before something awful happens" clock in their head and it's tough to watch at times.

27 the Allen hit

I've seen a lot of helmet-to-helmet hits go unflagged.  This one looked exactly like such a hit: the runner lowered his head and was tackled by a player not using the crown of his helmet.

Josh Allen was a runner and hadn't given himself up, so no special protections applied.  And we see RBs take hits like that all the time.  I think the flag was thrown because Allen is the QB.

I don't have a major problem with the flag, though it shows the inconsistency of the penalty.

I have a problem with Dan Fouts inventing a new rule - the "defenseless runner"  - to excoriate the Patriots.  I'm worried that this will be yet another situation where fans don't notice something is relatively commonplace and decide the Pats are Teh Worst Team Evah for committing a penalty.  

I understand the NFL changed the helmet-to-helmet rule in 2018, and then when they first implemented it, people were being called all the time.  So basically the NFL dialed it back.  It's still a rule, but they're deliberately not calling it all the time.  That makes for a great state of affairs.  BTW, they could also have flagged Allen, since he lowered his helmet to try to get the first.  

The lesson to learn here is that the NFL will continue to do a poor job writing rules and enforcing them, Dan Fouts will always be negative about the Patriots, and some fans will always think that Foxboro is a den of immorality, even though they will never really be able to articulate their reasons for feeling that way.

31 I really hate the NFL's…

In reply to by RickD

I really hate the NFL's consistently wishy-washy approach to stuff like this when fans complain. It ends up with games being called in a really arbitrary manner, which does more damage long term than just toughing through a bunch of games where you have a ton of penalities. (and it means that teams don't bother adjusting to a lot of these rules changes because they get rolled back). 

 

Teams will adjust quickly if you actually start suspending players (defense AND offense - and frankly I think fining the offensive players will have a greater effect). 

56 My literal only issue with…

In reply to by RickD

My literal only issue with it is that if Brady is hit that way it's an ejection for the player involved, when it shouldn't be. I don't think it was a dirty play, but watching in real time it's pretty easy to see it through those goggles.

 

64 It's speculative that Brady…

It's speculative that Brady being hit that way would result in an ejection.  That's really just another way to express a "the refs are biased in favour of Brady" belief.  

You only have to go back to last Monday night to find evidence of this type of hit not being deemed worthy of an ejection.  Or look at the hit on Peters scoring his Pick 6 in the Bucs game.

What we're in the middle of is an evolution in rules regarding what hits will be penalized.  It started with QBs when they aren't being runners, but that's just making the hits on runners stand out more.  When it's a QB running, the juxtaposition is even greater.

 

83 "...if Brady is hit that way…

"...if Brady is hit that way it's an ejection for the player involved..."

If you can actually point to a comparable play, where Brady got hit like that and the defender was ejected, please do so.

Otherwise, this is just a guess, and a whine...

84 Oh cut it out with the…

Oh cut it out with the excuses.  Belichick, the dirty cheating scum he is, is probably disciplining the defender for not tearing Allen's head from his body and spiking it in McDermott's face.  Because that's the kind of immoral team New England is.  

It's so ridiculous that Goodell lets them get away with this stuff and I'm (yet again, until next week) going to stop watching these obviously rigged games.

81 It's absurd what Patriot…

It's absurd what Patriot fans think are penalties and what aren't. Brady got away with grounding, yet again. It's called against most QB's, but it is so rarely called against Brady that Patriot fans don't even realize its a penalty when they see it. 

As for that hit on Josh Allen, that is exactly what the league is trying to legislate away. That should have been an immediate expulsion. If that had been Brady on the receiving end, the NFL would have Burficted the culprit. 
Yet here are the Patriot fans are debating whether it was even a penalty.

Yes, it is a penalty. Yes, it should have been an immediate ejection. Yes, that is how the game is officiated for the rest of the league.

 

21 Don't think the Allen hit…

Don't think the Allen hit was intentional but it was a bad hit on a quarterback, even if he's running. Something like five years ago James Harrison had a brutal hit like that on Colt McCoy, and it wasn't called a penalty. Nowadays, they're calling it a penalty.

Irony is, the Bills might be a better team with Barkley. Watching the highlights this morning, he played well, didn't throw into double coverage. But New England was able to get free rushers at him, and it cost him on that last interception.

It's too early to say that the Patriots and Chiefs are locks for the AFC championship game. Still 12 regular season games left, plenty of time for teams to get hot (Cleveland), or for injuries to happen to the Pats or the Chiefs. I also think Buffalo showed yesterday that the division isn't a lock for New England yet, just that the Pats should be favored at this point.

85 Biased Jets fan here.  1…

Biased Jets fan here.  1. Barkley came in as a back-up, he didn't get the reps this week, and still had better stats than Allen.  2. It's not a given Allen wins that game either, because of how dominant the Pats defense is right now. 3.  With this point, my Jets bias will show.  Last year, Barkley started for Allen against the Jets, and all we heard was how the Jets had the game in the bag, disappointment that Allen wasn't going up against Darnold, etc.  Barkley went 15 of 25 for a 9.3 average and 2 touchdowns, in a 41-10 rout.  The only Buffalo qb to look competent in the last year and a half is Barkley, and that Bills team with competent quarterbacking screams playoff contender to me.

104 I think that's a pretty good…

I think that's a pretty good take.  I didn't see any of the Bills-Pats game, so I'm going only on post-game stats (of which we'll have a better sense once the DVOA for this week is released).  But it seems to me that the Bills' D is good enough for them to win a fair number of games with middling offensive results.  Allen seems high variance, which is good in some circumstances, but not necessarily what the Bills need right now.

I was pretty sceptical on the Bills coming into this year.  I wish I'd seen Sunday's game to have a better sense of how they played, but the scoreboard suggests they're better than I expected them to be.

112 Bears fan here

Barkley starting for us for a few games in the year before we drafted Trubisky...I remember him being willing to throw almost anything, and getting some results from that, but also some problems. Sort of a mini-Fitzmagic.

I'd think of him as a reasonable backup. Certainly, I was very annoyed that they decided to give Glennon a ton of money with the apparent goal of holding the fort for four games rather than let Barkley do that; he could have done as good of a job and cost less, too.

25 Prescott had a horrible…

Prescott had a horrible throw on the cowboys last drive - threw it to cooper who was quadruple covered. Could have easily been an interception.

72 Right.  That was actually a…

Right.  That was actually a good throw.  If it's intercepted, Cowboys win percentage moves from like 0.5% to 0.0% percent.  If Cooper catches it (conceivable, at least) and they spike the ball, which they probably had enough time to do, then the Cowboys win percentage goes up to like 50%.

You pretty much have to throw a Hail Mary type play in that situation.

26 Even as a Bills fan and…

Even as a Bills fan and someone who thinks the Patriots are filthy, cheating, and unscrupulous team that employs rapists and murderers without qualm, I did not think that hit was intentional or that dirty. I understand the flag, but the calls for ejection seem a little much. Gronk's criminal act against White last year was way, way worse and he should have been suspended more than one game for endangering a player unnecessarily like that. And while in the moment it was stomach-churning and I hope Allen is ok, I was secretly happy he wouldn't play another down in that game to throw more gift interceptions to the Patriots,

Barkley is a better fit considering their D and running game, but his upside is pretty limited. I think having him at QB will make the creampuffs on the Bills schedule become less sweaty, though, that's for sure, and that bodes well for the Bills playoff chances if Allen is to miss extended action. The good thing about Allen is that he adds enough value with his legs if he caught the right side of variance long enough (a la Joe Flacco or Cam Newton's super bowl) it's within the realm of possibility they could make a deep run. With Barkley, I don't really see that happening, unless there's some secret Rich Gannon late-career blossom sauce in his veins.

You may be right about New England not being a lock for the AFC championship game, as their offense is pretty banged up, and without Brown or Gronk lacks explosiveness. But I think for the division they're pretty much golden, this game was such a huge tie break, they have an easy schedule too, and I just can't see Buffalo winning in Gillete to even the score.

30 If Belichick is 'dirty', it…

If Belichick is 'dirty', it's not the 1970 Raiders dirtiness of vicious hits.  He benches guys when they cheapshot players; examples are Gronkowski and Brandon Merriweather.  The other stuff, I think it's overblown, basically I'm just jealous of their success, as you probably are.

My only point is that it's too early.  Brady goes down, the Pats aren't a lock for the playoffs.  Go watch their back-up qb playing catch with Jamal Adams, it's my favorite play this year.  Yeah, I'm a Jets fan, it's my only favorite play this year.  But if the Pats got stuck playing Stidham against the Bills in Gillette this year, I'm pretty confident in the Bills picking up the win.

57 Cody Kessler

The Pats signed Cody Kessler to their squad last week.

Belichick also watched Stidham play catch with Adams. At the time, I figured that was the last Q4 garbage time for Stidham for a while.  With the Kessler signing, I'm wondering if it's his last garbage time, period?

87 Meh, maybe Kessler could be…

In reply to by Lost Ti-Cats Fan

Meh, maybe Kessler could be competent in a dire situation, but I'd have more faith in Barkley (or someone like Geno Smith) in that situation.  Usually, if you are down to the third guy, you're out of luck anyway.  Whatever happened to Hoyer?

32 The difference in quality…

The difference in quality between conferences has not been so glaring in recent years. AFC has always been more top heavy but this year takes it to a whole new level. The inter-conference record is now 12-5 in favour of the NFC, and the AFC actually took 2 of 3 yesterday.

70 I think its still too early…

I think its still too early to assess which conference is better. I

Right now, we know KC, NE, and NO with Brees are all great while the dolphins are a black hole. But we still aren't sure how good a bunch of the other teams are. Seattle, GB, Baltimore, Houston, San Diego, etc etc

People perceive a conference imbalance, but I haven't felt like there has been one largely since the mid 2000s when the nfc was largely trash and the afc was king. 

 

34 I was pretty bullish on the…

I was pretty bullish on the falcons this year and seeing them this bad has me scratching my head. I haven't watched any of their games this year, but I'm curious if anyone can offer an explanation. The offense should not be this bad.

94 I'm not sure they are all…

I'm not sure they are all that bad. I watched the Eagles-Falcons game and the Falcons looked just as good as the Eagles. Full value for that win. You have to keep in mind the small sample size effect, and how a few bounces really change the rating of a team in a four game stretch. I mean, they complete that fourth and 1 against the Titans on their 40 and that game changes, to use one example. Or the fourth and 4 late in the game.

I personally had them as a 10-6 type team, and I think they might be more of a 6-10 team, but they're not horrible by any means. I guess it depends on what you meant by "this bad".

37 The Brunell Play

"I had flashbacks of Mark Brunell's playoff win in Denver, when the Jaguars had a three-point lead and third-and-long, and rather than run and then kick for the six-point lead (against John Elway, mind you), Brunell threw a touchdown to ice the game."

Uh, you didn't have a flashback, Vince, they literally showed that play late in the game (which I thought was very cruel of the network to remind us of the worst loss in Denver history). So maybe it was a flashback from seeing the flashback.

50 Worst Broncos loss

In reply to by BroncFan07

Your comment about the worst Broncos loss in history reminds me of something I noticed a few years ago. The first Broncos season I was old enough to remember was 1986. Since that season, the Broncos have made the playoffs 17 times. A full 16 out of 17 these playoff runs have ended in one of three ways:

  1. A crushing home loss to an inferior opponent (like the 1996 Jaguars game you mentioned)
  2. A hide-the-children blowout loss
  3. A Super Bowl victory

It's uncanny how all but one of them fit this pattern. The only exception is the 1992 10-7 loss to the Bills in the AFC championship.

62 This is very true. And…

This is very true. And judging by your comment, you were not old enough to remember their home loss to Pittsburgh in the divisional round in 1984 which, you guessed it, fits into Category #1!

41 Chase Daniel

Is anyone else a bit sad that Chase Daniel is actually getting playing time? I really enjoyed being able to hold him up as the guy who managed to beat the system, netting tens of millions of dollars without having to get beat up every week. I could write off last season as a fluke, but now I'm worried he's actually going to get regular playing time, and possibly earn a starting job somewhere terrible next season.

45 I probably already wrote…

In reply to by Independent George

I probably already wrote this: he is the real-life epitome of the protagonist of Blue Mountain State series, which the life-dream was to be the backup QB of the team (so he enjoyed the status and the partying, without any physical or mental effort). Therefore he had to fend off the 3rd string competition, without being too good to beat out the starter. 

54 It was so promising when he…

It was so promising when he signed with the Bears, too. They had just drafted a highly-touted first round quarterback. Historically, the franchise is all about grinding it out with defense and a running game. It was the perfect match.

Damn your brittle bones, Trubisky. 

46 Tragic, really. Until last…

In reply to by Independent George

Tragic, really. Until last year, I had hope that my favorite player would get to 40 million in earnings, on less than 100 career pass atempts. Now he has earned a mere 34 million, and has absolutely worn himself to a frazzle, with 184 career attempts. 

It was beautiful dream, while it lasted....(sigh)

52 A Chase Daniel who sits on…

A Chase Daniel who sits on the sidelines glancing at his clipboard while collecting paychecks is a hero to us all. A Chase Daniel who plays a few games every year before getting benched may as well be another McCown brother.

Bring back our old Chase Daniel!

55 "Run the ball more"

Rams fan here. So the Rams absolutely crapped themselves, especially on defense, and were trailing by 7 points or more the entire game before briefly trailing by only 5 points at the end of the fourth. Here are some quotes from my fellow Rams fans.

"Running the ball only 11 times is unacceptable"
"No excuse for not giving Gurley more touches"
"McVay needs to commit to the running game"
"Hey McVay, RUN THE BALL UP THE GUT"

It goes on and on. Again, this is in a game against a defense weak against the pass and strong against the run, where the Rams are trailing by as many as 21 points for the entirety of the game, and trailed by 11 at the half. It's so absurd that it almost feels like a parody or something. I have no idea who could possibly look at the game, where the Rams threw for 500+ yards and scored 33 offensive points and say, "well the real problem was too few runs up the middle". Especially when the RB's combined for 30 yards on 10 carries. If anything, McVay ran too often.

In terms of actual mistakes, I saw the Rams come out in a hurry up offense a few times, and every time they did it worked to perfection. No idea why McVay got away from that, considering they were also always down and fighting against the clock.

EDIT: Should also mention that Gurley had 7 catches for 54 yards, so it wasn't even like he was standing on the sidelines.

63 They should move to…

They should move to Minnesota.  Or the Vikings should move to LA.

If the Vikings did move to LA, then the league could let the Raiders in, too, and have an all-LA division.  Guaranteed LA participation in the playoffs every year!  It's win-win-win, really.  Except for Minnesota fans, of course, who'd be stuck commuting to Blue Bomber games until they get a new franchise.

68 It sounds weird to say this…

It sounds weird to say this in a game where the rams offense scored so many points, but I didn't think they played particularly well in any aspect. I thought the wide receivers dropped too many passes, I thought the offensive line stunk, and I thought Goff had shaky decision making and poor accuracy. And yet, they scored so many points because they fell behind early and the Rams were forced to pass over and over.

 

I think, as long as there is competence in your personnel, passing a bunch against an otherwise bad defense will get you points even if its done inefficiently. 

 

As for running more...i detest that as much as I hear coaches say...just dont turn the ball over and we will win. If you really took that strategy seriously, then every play call would be conservative and on defense you would be preaching for your dbs to gamble on every play. 

88 I would agree except that I…

I would agree except that I thought the receivers were great. Other than that, the offense overall didn't look all that great. Goff wasn't as bad as 3 picks would have you believe, but he wasn't nearly as good as 517 yards would have you believe either. He displayed inconsistent accuracy and decision making, and the line was mediocre at best. It just goes to show that, if you pass the ball a lot, you're going to score a lot of points, especially if you're going against a mediocre pass defense. 

Despite the horrendous defensive performance and the (then) three turnovers, the rams were in position to tie the game, down by 8 with 1:30 left, and were only in that position because they essentially abandoned running the ball, to air it out. That this somehow gets translated into: "OMFG we lost because we threw the ball too much," is just to much idiocy for me to take.

69 Bears D

The Bears defense is a joy to watch. No matter what the team as a whole does this year, I am grateful for the chance to watch a unit perform at this high a level.

75 Oh, I can totally defend it…

Oh, I can totally defend it. They weren't going to pay him, so get something for the guy you're not paying.

 

I cannot defend Whaley taking Watkins over him in the draft, though - if you had put Mack with the D the Bills had at the time, Whaley might still have a job.

91 I think there needs to be a…

I think there needs to be a distinction between blaming the owners/organization for being unable or unwilling to pay Mack (which is 100% valid), and between blaming a GM whose hands are tied by team budgets and/or the wishes of ownership. I mean, if you want to argue that people shouldn't be willing to work for such a poorly run organization, but as there are only 32 GM jobs and they pay millions of dollars per year, I don't think that's all that reasonable either.

In a vacuum, given the constraint that the Raiders were definitely not going to sign him to an extension, I think it was reasonable for the decision makers to trade him for what they could get. There is no question that a well-run organization would not refuse to (or be unable to) give him that extension, though.

96 I phrased it poorly. I coudn…

I phrased it poorly. I coudn't believe how many people thought it defensible that Raiders ownership didn't get Mack paid. There were people saying that since the Raiders defense was bad with Mack, not being willing to pay him made sense. Good grief.

98 I will double down and say I…

I will double down and say I found it incredible that the analytics community came down with a favorable view of the trade. I agree, accumulating draft capital makes a lot of sense but the whole point of that strategy is to have a chance to land a player of Mack's quality. Once you get him you don't trade him. As I mentioned in my RAP article, the Raiders finished at the bottom of the pressure rate. That sure doesn't look like a victory to me. 

102 I thought the best thing I…

I thought the best thing I saw on social media last year regarding the Mack trade was a meme referencing the episode of Family Guy where Peter chooses the mystery prize over the boat he really wants because the mystery prize could be anything, including a boat. "Sure, we have Kahlil Mack, but those picks could turn into somebody really good. Maybe even Kahlil Mack."

78 It's super impressive how…

In reply to by TomC

It's super impressive how they built this defense. When Fox took over for trestman, I thought the bears defense had entered the dark ages and it would take a long time for them to recover. Instead, the recovery pas pretty rapid. 

82 second-order Mack effects

In reply to by TomC

Among the blathering about Trubisky and Daniel on Chicago sports radio this morning was a small but interesting conversation about why it is that on a great unit, guys who would be marginal players on other teams seem to step up their game (with the obvious examples from yesterday being Nick Kwiatkowski playing for Roquan Smith and Nick Williams playing for Akiem Hicks). One theory was that when your best player also has a high motor and a crazy work ethic, no one else on the squad dares loaf off. Not sure I buy it completely, because it's not like guys are regularly loafing off anywhere in the NFL, especially second-stringers. But I don't have a better explanation.

92 Before the game I had no…

Before the game I had no idea that "Nick Kwiatkowski" existed, but he sure played well. I think some of it is due to coaching and some due playing next to better guys and being somewhat ignored/discounted.

95 I hope it's that but

I suspect the great plays of Williams were due to Klein, the good, starting RG being out. I don't follow the Vikings closely but from the comments above, I suspect that their OL depth is poor. Kwiatkowski has show exactly those moves before, he splits blockers and shows fine pass rush moves.  Perhaps Cook is not much of a pass blocker?

113 Really looking forward to…

In reply to by TomC

Really looking forward to Chiefs game, and that's a weird thing to say, as a fan of the Bears. But it will be an awesome game to watch (like the Rams game last year, I hope).

93 At the risk of being a Bears Monday caller to 670 The Score...

am I crazy to have observed that Chase Daniel looked more comfortable going through his progressions than Mitch Trubisky ever has?

Obviously, I agree that Daniel is not the long-term answer at QB, and that his ceiling is much lower than Trubisky's. But I really don't think that they would be significantly less likely to win the Super Bowl this season with Daniel than with Trubisky as he is right now. They are obviously built on defense, and provided that Daniel + the run game is enough to provide a mediocre offense rather than one incapable of moving the ball, it seems like it could even be an advantage to have Daniel if he turns the ball over less than Mitch.

Long-term, there's no question that an extended absence for Mitch would be bad, if for no other reason than it moves the goalposts on figuring out if he's worth resigning at a market-rate contract. And I'm having post-traumatic visions of a Cutlerian conversation where we're still debating in year 5, 6, 7 if he just needs a new X or a better Y to unleash his potential.

Also, I'm really concerned about Roquan Smith. Nagy was apparently very mysterious in the press conference today, and noticeably did not state that Smith's absence for "personal reasons" was not disciplinary. When I first heard he was going to miss the game, I assumed some kind of family situation, but the fact that he turned out to be on the sidelines for the game seemed ominous. If it's not disciplinary, I can't think of one good reason why Nagy would refuse to dispel that rumor. I can certainly imagine any number of issues that are Smith's own business and not for public consumption, but why not say "it's a personal issue, but he's not in any trouble with the team, and that's all I'm going to say"?

100 Long-time listener, first-time caller

Love the post subject. As I alluded to in my last comment, this was indeed the prevailing sentiment among callers to said sports radio station this morning. And I don't think they (or you) are necessarily wrong, nor was the discussion as meat-headed as I implied. Most people agreed with the notion that Trubisky's ceiling is clearly higher and Daniel is not a long-term solution. But yeah, Daniel clearly understands Nagy's offense much better than Trubisky does, at least right now, and that doesn't speak well of some combination of Trubisky's intelligence and work ethic, because he's had a full season and off-season to pick it up. But do you think you can get through at least two playoff games and a Super Bowl without your QB putting the game on his back at least once? And, if not, do you think Daniel is capable of doing that.

Completely agree on Roquan Smith. 

108 My answer to your first…

My answer to your first question is probably not, although if there is a defense in the NFL right now that could do it I’d pick the Bears to be that defense. My answer to your second question is also probably not, but comparing Daniel vs Trubisky, I would need to see significant improvement from Trubisky to feel strongly that he’d probably give them a better chance. (You could definitely argue that with his higher ceiling, there’s a better chance of him putting together the best couple of games of his career and hitting that height).

106 The issue I have is, Chase…

The issue I have is, Chase Daniel as your starting qb basically gives you a hard ceiling. You can win the sb, but you aren't the favorite. And the day your defense suffers a decline, he's not going to be able to overcome that with better offense. I agree, him on that deal is far less prohibitive than Trubisky on at 30 million, but neither is a real solution. 

 

109 I think with the Bears not…

I think with the Bears not having a first round pick as a complicating factor, there is basically no path to starting 2020 with a starter other than Mitch. Even if he comes back and looks bad through the end of this season, I think then the move would be to have him play out the final year of his rookie deal and see what happens. I don’t see a realistic option for them to get someone better for 2020 and they have to try to make the most out of the window their defense has afforded them.

Paying him $30M per year and having him turn out to be the 20th best starter in the league is my nightmare scenario.

114 You're not crazy

Even the announcers were talking during the game about how Chase was able to call protections better than Trubisky, IIRC. I think he just understands how to play the position better than Trubisky does. Although I do want to pump the brakes a bit; they only had 1 drive out 7 in the second half that got more than 10 yards. It was a good game, but I don't know how much staying power Daniel has.

That said, I'm fully on board with Daniel being a viable option for the rest of this season. He just looked smoother; I didn't see receivers wide open that had throws being sailed over their heads. When the plays were there, he made them, and that might be enough for this team. Later on in the game, though, the coverage seemed tighter, and he didn't seem good enough to work around that. I don't know, is Daniel known for not having a deep ball? It wouldn't surprise me if the Vikings took to playing closer.

Anyway, at this point I don't worry about a long-term question about Mitch, because for me there is no question: you don't resign him. The kind of play he's given you, you can't lock yourself in at a market-rate contract. I think you're way better off going to the market and seeing what you could get at a lower price point. The Bears just don't have the cap room and/or picks to overpay as much as it would be if you extended Mitch.

To me, the relevant example isn't Jay Cutler, but Ryan Tannehill. Sure, the current Bears are better than those Dolphins were, but did he ever make anything happen on his second contract? And I think he had shown more promise than Mitch has. Besides, who can you think of that has made a giant leap on their second contract, who wasn't already showing signs of being great on their rookie deal? I really can't think of an example. Unless and until Trubisky actually shows that he can play at an above-average level, I wouldn't give him a deal.