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

Audibles at the Line: Week 1

New England Patriots QB Cam Newton
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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 Raiders 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.

Miami Dolphins 11 at New England Patriots 21

Cale Clinton: Run, run, pass, punt to kick off the Dolphins' season. Folks, Football is BACK!

Scott Spratt: I was really curious to see how the revamped Dolphins offensive line, including a pair of top draft picks and free-agent additions Ted Karras and Ereck Flowers, fared against the depleted Patriots front seven today. So far so good for the Pats. Jordan Howard made little hay on his first two carries, and then Stephon Gilmore tackled DeVante Parker short of a first down for a first-drive three-and-out.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, in general Miami needs to stay away from the 2-yard route on third-and-3.

Scott Spratt: No word on Cam Newton's shoulder yet, but his legs look mighty fresh. He has taken a pair of zone-read carries for about 20 yards.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots just went down the field 80 yards with mostly runs, including a third-down QB draw and Cam Newton scoring a touchdown with a QB sweep and then throwing up the Wakanda Forever sign. We are living in a different world, kids.

Cale Clinton: New England's new-look offense has finally been unveiled. Newton adds an element that the Patriots have never had the luxury of having with Brady. A quarterback run used to mean a quick dive or a leap on fourth-and-short. Cam Newton has near the total of Tom Brady's 2019 rushing yards (34) in just four attempts.

One play that stood out to me was the play that closed the first quarter. The Patriots had used a number of read-option runs on their first two drives. Now, on second-and-11, with Newton in shotgun and Rex Burkhead to his right, N'Keal Harry came in motion wide behind the two. Newton faked the handoff to Burkhead and threw to Harry in the flats for a 6-yard pickup. The play set up a third-and-5, which Newton picked up with his feet. The drive ended in the first score of the game.

Without a punched-out pass by Miami's Jerome Baker, Newton would be perfect on his passing while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. The shortest run of Newton's day thus far has been his 4-yard touchdown run.

Dave Bernreuther: Sort of strange to have my own sports bar in Miami and still end up putting the main screen, with sound, on a Dolphins game, but there is nothing more interesting to me early on this season than watching the Patriots offense with Cam Newton. For 20 years, the Pats have dominated when still playing 10-on-11 in the running game (and it was their defense that was first exposed in the Ronnie Brown game in 2008 as an example of the advantages of 11-on-11). And while it's easy to lament the loss of a Hall of Fame Quarterback, I instead have chosen to be very excited by the prospect of watching how an extremely clever offensive mind, the best coach of all time, and a behind-the-curtain genius (or three, probably) decide to play offense when they get to play more 11-on-11. Especially after watching how easy they made it look on a short week with Jacoby Brissett back in 2016. I have every expectation that they'll figure out a way to have an offense that's 20% better this year, although watch as that means they're 10-6 or so with tons of points allowed (since they lost half their damn defense), lose in the playoffs, and half the country shouts about how Bill Belichick was a fraud and it was all Tom Brady's doing. (Sigh.)

What I have enjoyed so far, while distracted and waiting for my heart rate to descend, is that even in their first game, when it's pretty obvious that they're going to be run-heavy, they're doing really well even against a pretty decent defense. Right on cue, Cam scores on a keeper, and it feels an awful lot like they're in full command of this game, even if they're not on pace for 30-plus points.

Scott Spratt: I know it has just been a half, but I think Myles Gaskin might be the Dolphins' best running back. The team's beat reporters sang his praises this offseason, and he has 59 of the team's running backs' 79 yards so far.

Scott Spratt: Ryan Fitzpatrick sabotaged a Dolphins two-minute drill with his second interception of the day. The first was bad luck with Preston Williams falling down, but nevertheless, Tua Tagovailoa could be playing much sooner this season than I would have expected.

Aaron Schatz: That second Fitzpatrick interception was a Cover-1 robber with Adrian Phillips in a linebacker position then dropping into coverage. Fitzpatrick had no idea he was even there and threw it right to him.

But with a missed field goal, the Patriots will go into halftime leading by only 7-3, and it is worth pointing out that the Dolphins are actually leading in yards per play, 5.2 to 4.8.

Cale Clinton: The defense that led the league with a -25.5% DVOA, then subsequently lost three starters to free agency and two to COVID opt-outs, hasn't dropped off too drastically. One place they've appeared to be lacking the most thus far has been linebacker, which is without last season's three snap leaders at the position.

The defense has allowed 5.0 yards per play in the first half. The last substantial drive Miami had in the first half, Miami had runs of 8, 10, and 8 (brought back by holding) before Fitzpatrick turned it over. If the run isn't stopped at the line of scrimmage, guys like Myles Gaskin have had space to move. Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins were great for most of last season fitting runs and mitigating longer gains, with Collins able to lead the team in tackles because of it.

Back to live play, Cam Newton takes a long-striding run to the outside for 11 yards, muscling through a big blow at the goal line for what may or may not have been a touchdown. That run gives him 41 yards with 10 minutes left in the third, officially surpassing Brady's 2019 rushing total of 34. Nice moment during the celebration when Cam gave the ball to center David Andrews, TV mics picking up Cam telling him, "Cmon, you gotta spike this. You gotta spike this one."

Aaron Schatz: N'Keal Harry just fumbled the ball out of the end zone from the 1. Unless they review this and call him down, the Patriots got bit by the well-known "Worst Rule in Football." Bad end to an otherwise successful 78-yard drive.

Cale Clinton: Miami linebacker Jerome Baker has shown out in the red zone thus far. On back-to-back drives, Baker met Newton at the goal line, seemingly forcing him out despite the booth review allowing the touchdown, following that up by stripping N'Keal Harry inside the 5.

Cale Clinton: Brutal 15-point swing. The fumble-touchback leads to a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. While the 28 yards in DPI penalties certainly helped, Miami seemed to have real success going big. The second pass interference call came against a three-tight end Miami offensive set. The Dolphins then ran three straight run plays out of 23 personnel, cracking the goal line on a third-down run by Jordan Howard. Fitzpatrick scrambled around and couldn't be contained, allowing him to squeak out from underneath the pocket and convert for two points.

Bryan Knowles: Tom Brady started 324 games for the Patriots, including the postseason. He topped 30 yards rushing once; a 2006 game against Jacksonville.

Cam Newton has started one game for the Patriots. He has 65 rushing yards and two touchdowns with five minutes left.

O brave new world, with such rushing in it.

Cale Clinton: For all the praise I gave Jerome Baker earlier, he had two stupid, preventable penalties on New England's fourth-quarter touchdown drive. The drive started with Julian Edelman's 23-yard run being extended an extra 15 due to a late hit out of bounds by Baker. Fourth-and-1 at the Miami 5, as Newton picked up the first down with a 4-yard run, Baker picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct after pushing the pile. While that one was more or less inconsequential, it's a shame to see a guy who stood out well early is now standing out for other reasons.

Dave Bernreuther: Just checking -- have we not mentioned Steve Belichick's mullet yet?

It is SPECTACULAR.

Scott Spratt: Yikes, there's the third Fitzpatrick pick, this one in the end zone where the Dolphins could have pulled within a field goal. Tua time?

Dave Bernreuther: At first I thought he sailed that pass terribly, but coming out of commercial the replays show pretty clearly that there was some serious interference on the play (Jim Nantz called it Illegal contact even when the ball was clearly visible in the air even in the tightly zoomed shot), so that's not so optimal.

A Newton first down rush puts this one in the books. There'll certainly be some growing pains, but the new era in New England is off to a 1-0 start. I'm pretty excited to see what they come up with for this offense by December.

Indianapolis Colts 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 27

Bryan Knowles: I've started on Colts-Jaguars, because, c'mon, the Jags can't be as bad as advertised, right?

Well, on their first drive, Philip Rivers completed all three passes, all of them successful; both Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines break tackles on a pair of carries, and the Colts jump ahead 7-0. No sign of Jonathan Taylor just yet; we'll see how those snaps get divvied up over the course of the game.

Scott Spratt: The play-by-play says Nyheim Hines went for an 88-yard carry. Was that more Hines excellence or Jaguars incompetence, Bryan?

Bryan Knowles: It's play-by-play incompetence; Hines had two runs for 12 and 6 yards, both in the red zone.

Scott Spratt: Well, none of us had a preseason, so I get it!

Interesting on the red zone usage of Hines, though. I suspected he might become a real weapon for Rivers, who has turned players such as Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead, and Austin Ekeler into fantasy forces. But the Colts are completely loaded at running back with Marlon Mack and rookie Jonathan Taylor, who led the class in BackCAST score.

Rivers McCown: Also important to note that the Colts ran hurry-up a LOT on that first drive.

Anyway, Jacksonville's defense isn't great. Yeah.

Bryan Knowles: If you're watching the Indy backfeld, it's all Mack. Mack has 29 rushing yards and 27 receiving yards before the first quarter is over. The Colts march right back down into the red zone behind two big Mack plays, and then they turn to Hines, who has a three-yard rush on third-and-4 and is stuffed on fourth down inside the 5. Love the aggression, and it's really interesting to see Hines getting all the red zone work, but no result for the Colts.

Rivers McCown: "Interesting" is definitely one word for making Nyheim Hines your red zone back. I would probably go with "cute."

The first-quarter takeaway for the Jaguars offense is that they appear to be an offense making a feature back out of UDFA James Robinson.

Bryan Knowles: Welcome to the NFL, C.J. Henderson! The ninth overall pick stepped in front of a Philip Rivers pass to give the Jaguars the ball over midfield for the first time in 2020. It was double-coverage; I'm not entirely sure what Rivers thought he saw there, but still, good play by Henderson to come down with the ball. Rivers had some interceptions issues last year, and that can't be what the Colts wanted to see today.

From there, it's three straight runs for Leonard Four... err, James Robinson, and then a toss to D.J. Chark, and we have a 7-7 tie early in the second quarter.

Scott Spratt: Philip Rivers subscribes to the Brett Favre school of thought that completions are way more awesome when you force them through triple-coverage, Bryan.

Man that game could blow up half of America's eliminator leagues!

Andrew Potter: Jacoby Brissett takes the field for a single red zone snap, immediately gets sacked. The more things change…

Bryan Knowles: Marlon Mack comes limping off the field, so Jonathan Taylor gets to see the field for the first time -- and it's a 35-yard reception to him, as Rivers never saw a running back he wouldn't throw to. Taylor gets stuffed at the goal line on the next play, but hey, it's fun.

And after goofing around with Brissett for one play, Rivers comes back in and hits Nyheim Hines (two touchdowns already!), and the Colts jump back to a 14-7 lead.

Take ALL the Colts running backs in PPR leagues.

Dave Bernreuther: For all the talk of high expectations for Taylor and the past success of Marlon Mack, it's now Nyheim Hines with two touchdowns. The Colts have been moving the ball easily, although they went for a fourth-and-1 close to the goal line and missed, which means the game stayed close despite their dominance.

I still have no idea why they decided to pay and keep Jacoby Brissett. I have far less faith in Rivers than the coaching staff does, but even if I'm right, that made no sense. As if to justify it, they put him in for an option play, which was immediately blown up in the backfield for a loss. I'll say the same thing here to one of my favorite coaches as I would to Sean Payton: stop taking a Hall of Famer off the field to run stupid gadget plays. It's dumb. Even when it works it's dumb.

Rivers McCown: Just dropping some Jacoby Brissett weird red zone video here.

Bryan Knowles: This last Jaguars touchdown drive brought to you by Laviska Shenault. Yes, he caught a little drag route and ran 15 yards to tie the game at 14; that's all well and good. But he also had an 18-yard reception to open the drive and played a snap at Wildcat quarterback, picking up 5 yards on a run, too. The Jags said that Shenault would play multiple positions this season; I was not expecting quarterback to be one!

14-14 as we approach the end of the first half and, you know? The Jaguars aren't looking good, but they're not looking tanky. At this point in Week 1 last year, the Dolphins were down 42-10. The Jaguars are a little lucky to be tied 14-14, but they are hanging in there. Credit where credit is due!

Rivers McCown: I think the surprise of this game so far is that the Colts defense has just not been good. Way too many open receivers, James Robinson is getting big holes, DeForest Buckner has not impacted a lot of change. Laviska Shenault scores in the two-minute warning to tie the game.

Dave Bernreuther: After a field goal gives the Colts the lead headed into the half, 17-14, I'm not full of things to say. This is strange. Rivers is 20-of 24 for 227 in the first half and they seem to be moving the ball at will, but unlike the Packers, they didn't benefit from their failed fourth-down attempt, and they're letting Minshew be comfortable and look confident and composed, so they're stuck in a game that shouldn't be one. Shades of the late-2006 Colts defense, back when they managed to make even Cleo Lemon-led teams competitive despite an excellent offense. I love me some Minshew, but the Jags are terrible. This game shouldn't be close; it should be more like what's happening in Buffalo.

Rivers McCown: Frank Reich goes for it on fourth-and-1 in Colts territory, play-action to Jack Doyle for a big gain. Aggression paid off there at least.

Bryan Knowles: It ends up for naught, as it's a Doinkenship. A Blankendoink? We'll workshop that one.

Dave Bernreuther: Have I mentioned that I love Frank Reich? I love Frank Reich. Fourth down on their own side of the field. Love it.

So of course then Rodrigo Blankenship misses the field goal. I guess last year prepared us for this, but ugh. I still have no idea why Blankenship won the job after missing more kicks in the public parts of camp. It wasn't even a money thing. But I didn't like him at Georgia, and already I don't like him now. The fact that this is still a game is ridiculous.

Bryan Knowles: Update on that "pick up all Colts running backs" take:

Marlon Mack, who went down without contact in the first half, appears to have a torn Achilles, which I'm assuming would cost him the year. We wanted some clarity in the Colts backfield, but not like this. Bleh.

Rivers McCown: Colts go for it on yet another fourth down, this time in Jaguars territory, and Rivers responds by throwing a pick ... but defensive holding negates it and gives them a first down.

Rivers' pick-prone persona does not appear to have abated as hoped.

Scott Spratt: Aided by Marlon Mack's ankle injury, Jonathan Taylor is already making me look stupid with five receptions in his NFL debut. That's more than 10% of his catch total from his three-year career at Wisconsin. He could be a fantasy star if Mack misses extended time.

Dave Bernreuther: This Colts defense looks terrible. Nobody ever even covered Keelan Cole, and Minshew -- who again, looks three or four times more comfortable in pockets, although that's partly because of a lack of pressure -- had all day to lazily float one to him wide open for a touchdown. The Colts are now in serious danger of losing to the team that is trying to lose. This is infuriating.

Bryan Knowles: And the Jaguars, the consensus worst team in football, take the lead! The Colts forgot to cover Keelan Cole, making a pretty easy pitch and catch for Gardner Minshew for the touchdown.

Minshew is 19-for-20 today. Only 173 yards, so there are a ton of failed completions, but that includes three touchdown passes and a four-point lead with six minutes left in the game. Long live the mustache.

Bryan Knowles: And the Philip Rivers interception issues continue, with Andrew Wingard coming down with it this time. Another throw into coverage for Rivers. Jags have the ball on the Colts side of the field with four minutes left; a touchdown likely ends the game, a field goal probably at least prevents a loss in regulation.

Jaguars were +8 coming into today, which always felt too high to me.

Dave Bernreuther: Rivers just showed us all why I had no faith in the Colts this season ... but even I expected his decline to come in the fourth quarter of the SEASON, not the first game. Ugh. That was a terrible pick.

Minshew, meanwhile, is 19-of-20 against a toothless defense, and this really does remind me of the late Tony Dungy years, making it easy on opposing quarterbacks.

Rivers McCown: Philip Rivers in a one-score game, driving late. What could go wrong?

It's quickly fourth-and-4 on the 27 and a ball to T.Y. Hilton is broken up and ... the Jaguars have the ball with the lead and 44 seconds left.

Bryan Knowles: Philip Rivers tries to hit T.Y. Hilton twice on the last desperation drive, but a pair of drops (!) is going to end this one. Hell of a debut for C.J. Henderson, love the "tanking" Jaguars showing up on game day.

The Colts defense has a lot to figure out, very quickly.

Carl Yedor: One of the incredibly important burning questions entering this season was whether Philip Rivers or the Chargers themselves were more preordained to be down one score late in the fourth quarter furiously trying to make a comeback. Through the first full broadcast slate of the season, edge Rivers. T.Y. Hilton can't haul in a Rivers pass on fourth down to extend the Colts' final drive, and Jacksonville (!) kneels out the clock to ice the win.

Scott Spratt: On ESPN's Eliminator Challenge, 20% of entries picked the Colts this week. And 10% picked the Eagles.

Dave Bernreuther: Rivers' last two passes were an interesting contrast. To the left boundary, he threw a perfect pass to T.Y. Hilton, but he couldn't hold on on his way out of bounds. But on fourth-and-ballgame he plain and simple didn't have the arm for the out route to the far side of the field. That ball took forever to get there, giving [the DB] a ton of time to recover and break up the pass to Hilton. Ballgame. That was NOT the way the Colts were hoping to start the season, and wastes a huge opportunity, given the Texans' loss last week and opponent coming up this week.

Scott Spratt: Since 2015, T.Y. Hilton has dropped just 6.9% of his catchable targets. That's 16th-lowest of the 44 wide receivers with 100-plus catchable targets and at least a 12.0-yard average depth of target.

Seattle Seahawks 38 at Atlanta Falcons 25

Vince Verhei: Early reactions from Georgia: Atlanta's all-black uniforms, with the new matte-finish helmets, are sharp.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks take a 14-3 lead late in the first quarter, and as we all expected, their most dangerous receiver is Chris Carson, who's up to four catches for 37 yards and both scores. Russell Wilson hasn't thrown an incompletion yet, completing all eight of his first-quarter passes for 81 yards. He also picked up 40-some yards on a DPI (Ricardo Allen in coverage against Tyler Lockett) to convert a third-and-23.

L.J. Collier, who was a first-round pick just one year ago before vanishing off the face of the earth, had a first-quarter pressure to force an intentional grounding. The Falcons still got a field goal on that drive, but their second ended when Brian Hill was stuffed for a loss on third-and-1, and then an unblocked Benson Mayowa batted down Matt Ryan's pass on the ensuing fourth-down attempt.

Dave Bernreuther: Vince, I know we normally agree, but not on this one. Those Falcons uniforms are terrible. They look half-finished. And the red stripe down the side not lining up once anyone moves or gets tackled infuriates me.

Of course, I hate all the unitard looks. Detroit's, with all-blue and a silver helmet, is awful. The new Patriots set is awful. Etc. No need to repeat myself. We all know where I stand on this stuff from our award-winning article series...

Todd Gurley with the leap makes it 14-9, by the way. First thing I notice about him in the Falcons gear is actually the bright red hair thingy (is there a name for that?) that he has chosen to use to avoid being tackled by his dreads. Smart. I'm surprised more offensive players with long hair don't do that. (In the post-score sideline shot of him, it bounced around in such a way that makes me think that his hair is actually substantially weighty. That can't be good for the neck ... or even the jumping. But it didn't hurt him there. I have no expectation that he'll regain his earlier L.A. Rams form, but it'd be nice to see him have a nice bounceback year.)

Vince Verhei: Seahawks still lead 14-12 at halftime, but their offense has fizzled after that hot start -- three straight punts, including two three-and-outs. Wilson is up to 14-of-15 passing, but for only 106 yards. The Falcons have erased Lockett and DK Metcalf, who have less than 50 yards between them. They also have three sacks, because Russell Wilson.

The story on defense is the immediate impact of the new defensive backs. Jamal Adams has a team-high eight tackles, including a sack and a tackle for loss on a completed pass. And Quinton Dunbar has been the most visible player in coverage, as the Falcons are picking on him and mostly avoiding Shaquill Griffin. Seattle has been playing Legion of Boom-style coverage where you give up a completion for a chance to hit receivers really hard, and Adams and Bobby Wagner are sorta making it work in a bend-but-don't-break fashion -- the Falcons have outgained Seattle by 100 yards but can't get into the end zone. The defensive front has been effective when they have been able to mix up looks and schemes and keep Atlanta off balance. When the Falcons moved to their two-minute hurry-up, the Seahawks stuck to a vanilla four-man rush and Ryan had plenty of time to throw.

Scott Spratt: That's surprising about Lockett and Metcalf, Vince. With Kendall Sheffield out, the Falcons are thin at cornerback and starting rookie A.J. Terrell. Have the corners held up, or is it more pressure-related?

Carl Yedor: General observations:

I'm watching the games today on RedZone, and after a long layoff of no football, the pace of swapping back and forth feels really frenetic. I'm sure it's just an adjustment period, but there are a ton of games in this broadcast window. I read somewhere on Twitter that defenses struggled in the early going during the post-lockout season with a truncated offseason. Haven't had a chance to verify that, but I'm curious to see if that's true this year.

Dave Bernreuther: Carl -- I'm with you. I am only just now, as first quarter's end, settling in to a point where I can actually pay attention. Part of that is because things got extra frenetic just trying to set up all my TVs and boxes and streams -- which was a nightmare because the Sunday Ticket app is rejecting logins, likely because the DirecTV website seems to be down -- so I can "only" run six screens, as opposed to the eight I intended:

Dave's Living Room

 

Dave's Living Room

(Hooray for symmetry!)

But yes, even aside from that, I think there's definitely an adjustment period. We fans need preseasons too!

Vince Verhei: Well Dave, you've got me beat. This is the first time in a decade I've been watching Sunday Ticket at home. It appears the Game Mix feature does not work on an Amazon Firestick, or I'd have four games on the big screen.

Dave Bernreuther: I'll put this comment under this game because of the conversation I just had, in which we complained, loudly, about how there are TEN games running simultaneously, and for some reason the NFL couldn't be bothered to even stagger the starts like they do in the 4 p.m. slot, so they're all at halftime at the same time.

WHY does the NFL do this? Why on earth would you split the games up 10-3 (I know we've had this conversation here a hundred times), but even if you do, why on earth wouldn't you stagger the 1 p.m. starts? Wouldn't everyone be better off if you let the West Coast teams playing in the east still start later? If not at 4, at least at 1:25 instead of 1:05-ish. I know they don't make business decisions based on people running multiple screens, or bars, but who loses if we give everyone more options?

Especially in the early weeks of the season. Not only because there are more games without byes yet, but also because it's hot outside. Wouldn't Atlanta be a lot cooler and more comfortable at 4 than it is at 1?

Bryan Knowles: They don't stagger the 1 p.m. starts so that they'll all end in time for the national game in the late window.

Aaron Schatz: The reason why the league stuffs all these games in the 1 p.m. slot with only three games in the 4 p.m. slot is because that's what the TV networks want them to do. The TV networks want to have one specific featured "game of the week" in the 4 p.m. slot. Yes, they stick a couple of other games in there, including one on the singleheader network so they've got one game in markets where the local team played early on the other network. But the networks want that one featured game.

Dave Bernreuther: Yeah, I get the whole feature game thing (even though I hate that it often just ends up being the Cowboys, regardless of the quality of the game), but these days they could easily push that one back another 15 minutes without impinging on the late night game or even the NBC pregame show (any more than a slow 4:25 game already does, anyway). Regular-season halftimes aren't that long. Even just making one or two 1 p.m. starts into 1:15s would solve this problem.

Maybe this is just a first-world problem, though, given my current setup.

Vince Verhei: Hard to tell exactly what Atlanta is doing from TV footage, Scott, but it's definitely more coverage than pass rush. Wilson has usually had time to throw before checking down, and even his sacks came because he held on to the ball too long.

Carl Yedor: DK Metcalf atones for a bad drop on a deep shot earlier on the drive by hauling in a touchdown on a bomb down the left sideline on fourth-and-5 from the Atlanta 38. Aggressiveness from Pete Carroll! Credit where credit is due, and it results in a 21-12 lead for the Seahawks.

Vince Verhei: Metcalf opens the first drive of the second half with a terrible drop that would have been a first down. No matter -- after two failed runs leave Seattle with fourth-and-5, they leave the offense on the field, and Metcalf scorches Isaiah Oliver on a go route for a 38-yard touchdown and a 21-12 lead.

But this brings up a larger point: I've been so focused on Wilson's accuracy, it hadn't even occurred to me how rarely they were running. We're now up to 24 dropbacks and nine handoffs (or pitches). Wilson is the leading rusher with 30 yards on two carries, including a 28-yard gain on a triple-option keeper (!) in the first half.

Lots of passes. Using the quarterback's mobility. Going for it on fourth down. Are they...

Letting...

Russ...

Cook?

Dave Bernreuther: Nothing about that 3D camera switching-view thingy that FOX just did there aided my appreciation of that Russell Wilson throw. It was quite obviously great even on just one camera.

Vince Verhei: So after months and months wondering whether it would be Tre Flowers or Marquise Blair playing nickelback, it's Lano Hill out there making a tough third-down tackle on Hayden Hurst to bring up fourth down. Falcons go with a fake punt, and it appears Sharrod Neasman (a safety) has run for a first down, but Blair is there to put his helmet on the ball and knock it out. Seahawks recover in Falcons territory, looking to finish this one off.

Vince Verhei: And Wilson has his fourth touchdown pass of the day, this one to Greg Olsen, and a 28-12 lead.

Vince Verhei: More wasted yards for Atlanta. Julio Jones single-handedly carries them into the red zone with three catches for 62 yards. (That includes a 44-yard gain when he got isolated against Hill in coverage; Hill was injured on the tackle and went to the locker room, with Flowers taking his place.) But there's Adams with his latest monster play, stuffing a run on third-and-short, and on fourth down Mayowa runs down Ryan from behind and makes the diving tackle for a sack and a turnover on downs.

Vince Verhei: The Falcons threatened to make this interesting late -- Matt Ryan caught fire for a while, and Calvin Ridley got an easy touchdown when Griffin collided with a teammate and fell down -- but were undone by yet another incompletion on fourth down. There were five fourth-down plays in this game -- four by Atlanta, one by Seattle -- and every one of them went Seattle's way, especially the Metcalf touchdown. Flip two or three of those and this game could look a lot different.

Instead we have, literally, a laugher. At the goal line, Greg Olsen and WIll Dissly both go in motion and collide head-on into each other. Wilson laughs at them, then hands off to Carlos Hyde, who dives in for a touchdown and a 38-18 lead late in the fourth.

New York Jets 17 at Buffalo Bills 27

Bryan Knowles: The Bills offense is, uh, noteworthy on their first drive. Three straight passes, two of them short (!) passes to Stefon Diggs, and then three straight rushes by Josh Allen. The third saw Allen hit, fumble, and turn the ball over to the Jets. It wasn't a super-hard hit, either; ball security has never exactly been Allen's modus operandi.

Dave Bernreuther: Josh Allen looks pretty good. There. I said it.

Bryan Knowles: The Jets just had a delay of game. On first down. After a kickoff.

This is just a hunch, but the Jets may in fact be terrible.

Bills up 21-0; this game is already over.

Dave Bernreuther: Remember when the Jets, no matter how bad elsewhere, always had good line play and a pass rush?

Yeesh. Josh Allen has had 7-plus seconds to throw more than once. If you're so bad at the pass rush that the quarterback who loves to leave the pocket just stands there bouncing and patting the ball, you might as well just stay home.

Dave Bernreuther: Now there's the Josh Allen I know and love. Not that it matters at this point in the game, of course. First he rolls left, has no pressure in his face, with two wide open guys in both the front and the back of the end zone ... and throws it into the front row. Then on the next play, he leaves a pocket for no real reason, runs straight backward, and then chucks it straight at a defender, who drops it.

Those are the first two bad plays I've seen him make all day, though.

Las Vegas Raiders 34 at Carolina Panthers 30

Scott Spratt: Josh Jacobs just scored his first touchdown of the day. I'm expecting at least three against the Panthers' 15.9% DVOA run defense.

Bryan Knowles: I'm sure it will eventually stop feeling weird to type "LV," but it is not today.

Carolina's offense: unstoppable! Teddy is 5-for-7 so far as the Panthers have scored on both of their first drives, aided on this last one by a nice laser on the run from Bridgewater to DJ Moore. The Raiders are getting roughly zero pressure, and the Panthers jump to a 9-7 lead.

Scott Spratt: The lack of Raiders pressure is interesting, Bryan, because the Panthers had a big discrepancy between their offensive pressure rate (30.0%, 20th) and adjusted sack rate (8.6%, 29th) last season. Based on other FO research that suggests quarterbacks have more to do with sacks than the conventional wisdom, I suspect Bridgewater will dramatically reduce the Panthers' sack rate just by getting the ball out more quickly than inexperienced passers Kyle Allen and Will Grier last year.

Bryan Knowles: Henry Ruggs has gone to the locker room with a leg/ankle injury. Something to watch, as he was all over the field in the first half.

Scott Spratt: Rushing touchdown No. 2 for Jacobs. The team is over 100 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry with more than five minutes left in the third quarter.

Scott Spratt: And there's Jacobs' third touchdown. Glad to see my Panthers are in midseason form.

Vince Verhei: Did the Panthers, with two seconds left down by four, just run a deep out to ensure the clock would run and they would not win? Did I see that right?

Aaron Schatz: I think that the goal here was to run the deep out and then get laterals, and they just didn't have the time.

Cleveland Browns 6 at Baltimore Ravens 38

Bryan Knowles: I approve, theoretically, of teams running fake punts against strongly superior teams, like the Browns just tried to do backed up in their own end. It didn't work -- Jamie Gillan fumbled, but he wasn't going to pick up the first down anyway; the Ravens had it perfectly diagnosed, blowing up the gunner and forcing the punter to try to make a guy miss himself. That's not an ideal situation; the old special teams coach has his men ready in Baltimore. It ends up just turning into a field goal, so the Ravens are only up 10-0.

Scott Spratt: It's still pretty jarring for me to see all these empty stadiums, but the Ravens did something really cool with their empty seats today. Fourteen-year-old superfan Mo Gaba died from cancer over the summer, and the team filled a full section with 575 cutouts of him and painted "MO" in one of their end zones.

Scott Spratt: A pair of penalties and a Baker Mayfield sack land the Browns in a third-and-41. That's a tough convert!

Tom Gower: Remember last year's Baltimore offense, which was a machine that churned up yards and scored points until they got behind in the postseason? It's like it never left, with 24 first-half points on five possessions and the only stop coming on a fumble inside the 5 by fullback Patrick Ricard. That included a 69-yard touchdown drive that began with 41 seconds to go in the half. Did Lamar Jackson show great progress on hitting deep outside throws? Who knows? Who cares? He didn't need to. Sure, the Browns are shorthanded in the secondary, but what worked for large chunks of last year worked for the first 30 minutes today.

On the other side of the ball, my early reaction to the Browns offense is to remember the great NFL Films clip from mid-2015 when the Falcons were struggling on offense and clearly needed pieces and Matt Ryan says something to Kyle Shanahan about how the offense will really start to click next year. Baker Mayfield's a little too deliberate and doesn't seem to have a grasp of what's going on outside his line of sight. Odell Beckham Jr. has only been noticeable in a bad way, with a face mask penalty and a drop on third-and-2 followed by a missed field goal by Austin Siebert (who doinked the extra point earlier, thus the 24-6 score). Cleveland has had some really good runs by both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (six carries each through 30 minutes), mostly running right, but if Kevin Stefanski's routes have been creating separation in the passing game (aside from the Ravens not covering David Njoku on the touchdown), Baker's not finding it.

With the Ravens getting the second-half kickoff, I'm thinking about what else I could be watching, but I'm at home and my only other option is Eagles-WFT, so...

Scott Spratt: Do we think Freddie Kitchens would take a delay of game on fourth-and-inches? Or is that something Kevin Stefanski is bringing to the Browns this year?

Chicago Bears 27 at Detroit Lions 23

Bryan Knowles: Jamie Collins was trying to complain to the refs that the Bears were leading with their helmet.

While doing so, he ended up headbutting the referee, and is immediately tossed from the game. Welcome to Detroit, Jamie.

Bryan Knowles: Without Kenny Golladay, the Lions' offense isn't exactly firing on all cylinders, but they came out of the locker room for the second half ready to go -- Matthew Stafford hitting three passes of at least 14 yards before finding T.J. Hockenson in the end zone to give the Lions a 20-6 lead early in the third.

Meanwhile, Mitch Trubisky is 8-for-20 for 110 yards and a carry for bupkiss. Not a great start if you're looking for the Exceptionally Rare Fourth-Year Breakout.

Bryan Knowles: Hey, remember how the Lions were leading in 10 different fourth quarters last season, and still finished 3-12-1? Don't look now, but Matt Stafford just threw a tip-drill interception, and the Bears have the ball down three...

Bryan Knowles: And, indeed, the Lions open up 2020 by blowing a fourth-quarter lead, with Trubisky hitting a well-covered Anthony Miller; put it exactly where it needed to be. Bears jump out to a four-point lead with 1:54 left in the game.

Oh, Detroit.

Andrew Potter: A home loss to a bad Bears team after leading 23-6 at the start of the fourth quarter would be a heck of a way to start a "must win" season.

Scott Spratt: Woof, that D'Andre Swift touchdown drop. That will probably swing the game.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, no! Stafford hits D'Andre Swift, wide open, easy touchdown ... and Swift drops it. Just flat-out drops. That was the ballgame, there.

Lions lose, 27-23, and how is this happening again to Detroit?

Vince Verhei: Oh, that poor guy. What a terrible way to end your debut.

But that game goes a long way in reinforcing our view of the NFC North: four mediocre teams. (Green Bay could protest this, of course.)

Aaron Schatz: According to the EdjSports model, the Bears were down to 3.4% Game-Winning Chance when the Lions kicked off after going up 23-6 in the fourth quarter.

Oof.

Bryan Knowles: Here's the D'Andre Swift drop, just to further break Lions' fans hearts.

Green Bay Packers 43 at Minnesota Vikings 34

Scott Spratt: Cornerback Jaire Alexander just sacked Kirk Cousins in his own end zone for a safety. It's 7-5 Minnesota. Major scorigami potential.

Vince Verhei: That safety was set up by an incomplete Aaron Rodgers pass on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Again showing why going for it can benefit you even when it doesn't work.

Bryan Knowles: I do not understand how Kirk Cousins has four pass attempts with 14 seconds left in the half. Gary Kubiak is run-heavy, but not that run-heavy.

And Aaron Rodgers has just thrown his second deep touchdown of the day. He's not consistent on every snap anymore, but he absolutely has the highlight reel arm still in his bag. It's 22-7 Green Bay; Davante Adams is up over 100 yards already, and after some early red zone struggles for the Pack, they seem to be rolling.

Vince Verhei: The VIkings aren't passing because they never have the ball! At halftime Cousins is up to seven pass plays including two sacks, but the Vikings only have 10 runs. That's 17 plays to the 44 of Green Bay. The Packers are up 22-10, so I'm guessing we'll see a lot more Cousins passes in the second half.

Bryan Knowles: We're approaching all she wrote in Green Bay. Marquez Valdes-Scantling now has two receptions of 30 yards or more, setting up Davante Adams' second touchdown of the day and a 29-10 lead for the Pack. The Vikings need to wake up in the fourth quarter; they've been sluggish and ineffective all day long on offense.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, Minnesota woke up -- 29-yard pass to Bisi Johnson, 37-yard bomb of a touchdown to Adam Thielen, 29-16 Packers early in the fourth. They gotta get a stop or two here, but, hey, welcome to double-digits, Vikings!

Bryan Knowles: Green Bay had some struggles in the red zone early in this one, but you wouldn't realize that from the scoreline. I wonder when the last time a team with a first-round draft pick quarterback saw their incumbent starter go over 300 yards with four touchdowns? Rodgers just hit Allen Lazard for another score, 36-18 Packers.

Another field goal for Green Bay would be Scorigami, looping around to the earlier discussion.

Cale Clinton: Not sure if anyone caught it after Scott mentioned the possibility early, but GB-MIN's 43-34 finish was, in fact, a Scorigami! The 1,055th unique final score in NFL history.

Philadelphia Eagles 17 at Washington Football Team 27

Bryan Knowles: Anyone have this one being close? Carson Wentz is picked off by a charging Jimmy Moreland, Haskins fires a bullet through a tight window to Sims, and we have a 17-14 Eagles lead midway through the third quarter. Hail to the Football Team?

Dave Bernreuther: I did, Bryan. With the offensive line shuffling on the Eagles and the pass rush talent on the other side, I had a hunch this would be one of those upsets.

Washington has a way of playing the Eagles close even when they're terrible, but then letting it slip away. Anyone remember the opener -- may have been as recent as last year -- where they jumped out to a huge lead, but then still managed to let the Eagles cover a -10 spread? (I do ... I got the miracle cover.)

I haven't been watching at all, though, other than to see Wentz take one sack. Is the defensive line getting home and wreaking havoc?

Bryan Knowles: Pretty much, Dave -- five sacks, including one on that last drive which lost 6 yards, leading to the ensuing field goal being about a yard short. Maybe a hint of San Francisco-esque "if we just overload the defensive line with first-round picks, something's bound to work"?

Aaron Schatz: It helps also that the Eagles have two guys on the right side of their offensive line making their first-ever NFL starts.

Tom Gower: I didn't see any of the first 30 minutes, but I wonder how much the offensive line issues and Washington's talented defensive line are really affecting what Wentz is seeing and doing. I don't know if he's not seeing the field well, if his internal clock is just all out of whack, or what. His final plays on the last two drives have just been atrocious, first turning a sack on third-and-6 into a bad sack on third-and-6, losing an extra 6 or so yards, enough to knock the Eagles out of field goal range with Jake Elliott's kick coming up a foot short. The next one, Washington blitzed and he just didn't account for the linebacker coming up the middle. That's still Jason Kelce at center, and he needed to be aware he had to throw hot if everybody came, because an offensive lineman picked up everybody else. Just not good.

Dwayne Haskins lacks the precise accuracy to all the throws he wants to hit. But we're still tied after Dustin Hopkins hits the field goal.

Dave Bernreuther: The Football Team's EIGHTH sack produces a turnover, and that'll do it in Washington. Not going to lie, that one made me some money.

Hm. Looks like an incomplete pass. Even so. I had both the DST and the points, so I'm good either way. Almost makes up for the Disappointment in Duval.

Los Angeles Chargers 16 at Cincinnati Bengals 13

Vince Verhei: The Chargers-Bengals game just came on after the early games ended.

1) Oh my word, those Chargers uniforms. Just gorgeous.

2) First thing I saw was a tearful Drue Tranquill being carted off the field. Apparently his foot got caught in the turf. Another blow to the Chargers defense.

Derrik Klassen: OK, who had "20-plus-yard draw play" as Joe Burrow's first NFL score?

Vince Verhei: 23-yard touchdown run for Joe Burrow! He ran the draw and had an easy short gain, then showed remarkable patience letting his center get leverage on a defender before reading the block and scooting into the end zone. There are NFL running backs who don't have that kind of vision and reaction ability.

Cale Clinton: Joe Burrow capped off a six-play, 44-yard touchdown drive with a 23-yard scramble up the middle for his first career NFL touchdown. Burrow has looked solid in his rookie debut, currently 6-of-10 for 39 yards through the air, two runs for 18 yards and a touchdown with a sack and a fumble lost. To me, the most standout player thus far has been A.J. Green. After missing 23 of the last 24 games, the receiver has looked great. He has caught all three of his targets, gaining 28 yards and picking up two first downs along the way.

Cale Clinton: Joey Bosa flies off the edge for his first sack of the season with 11:30 to play in the second quarter. Burrow has been sacked three times today. He has felt the pressure all game so far, making most of his completions thus far on short-yardage balls.

Bryan Knowles: "This 50-yard field goal is well within Michael Badgley's range," the CBS announcers say, arguing for not going for it on fourth-and-2. "You've got to take the lead here."

And, of course, Badgley's kick is awful, wide right and a bit short.

Bryan Knowles: We've got a new ballgame in Cincinnati. A solid kickoff return sets up the Chargers offense at midfield, and it's death by a thousand papercuts as the Chargers take 10 plays to go 55 yards before Joshua Kelly finds the end zone. 3-yard gain after 3-yard gain as Cincinnati is pushed back. D.J .Reader going to the sideline might have something to do with that, and the Chargers took advantage. 13-all early in the fourth.

Cale Clinton: The Bengals turn it over with just over 12 minutes left in the fourth. The CBS commentators made a point to mention that Joe Mixon never fumbles, but they're right to. This is the fourth fumble of his career -- his first since Week 17 of the 2017 season.

Cale Clinton: Highs and lows for Joe Burrow on their most recent drive. Made multiple drive-saving scrambles to continue marching down the field. Also had back-to-back passes of 15 and 19 yards respectively. However, the drive died when Burrow tried to keep a blown-up screen play alive, throwing a shovel pass directly to Melvin Ingram III. Just something he's going to learn with more experience.

Dave Bernreuther: I've been wanting to watch this game all afternoon but have been glued to the national broadcast (yeah yeah yeah, which is exactly why they limit the 4 p.m. window ... shut it, all of you). I saw the replays on Burrow's touchdown run and was happy for him, and like many of us I'm a Tyrod Taylor fan.

So finally I consciously make an effort to set everything down and watch that game ... just in time for Joe Burrow to do this:

He would've been more successful keeping it than he would've even if that ball was caught.

Vince Verhei: Chargers lead 16-13 with just over three minutes to play, and they punt on fourth-and-1 from their own 33. Anyone motivated enough to argue that one? Neither offense has been sharp (Burrow had an ugly interception on a shovel pass earlier), but I think I'd take my chances with Tyrod Taylor and some kind of option play.

Bryan Knowles: Maybe Rivers WAS the cursed one! Joe Burrow leads the Bengals down on a great drive, setting up a 31-yard chip-shot to tie ... and Randy Bullock misses! Looks like he pulled a calf or something, and the Chargers hold on, 16-13!

Aaron Schatz: It's even worse because Burrow hit A.J. Green on the right side of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown but Green pushed off Casey Heyward and was called for OPI to take the touchdown off the board leading to the field goal attempt.

Dave Bernreuther: Joe Burrow is calmly bringing the Bengals into position to win or tie here, and while he might actually be a bit TOO calm -- throwing a bit inside of the boundary to keep the clock running, and then taking a safe first down, but inbounds -- they at least have the field goal to fall back on after what should be two shots at the end zone.

I'm not going to anoint him or anything, but just on this drive he has shown me more than hundreds of other young/rookie quarterbacks. I've seen his age used against him, but this drive has made me think that that extra age has prepared him really well.

Oh, and wow. So as I type that, he calmly takes another short gain, which gets out of bounds, before throwing a nice safe ball to A.J. Green at the pylon, which wasn't perfect, but also isn't bad for a rookie in his first game. Green pushed off, though, although I've certainly seen a lot worse go uncalled. So they go from getting two safe shots at the win before a kick to backed way up ... and Zac Taylor sends out the field goal unit with 7 seconds left without running another play! It's first down!

Missed kick. Chargers win. Man, that's unfair.

(Sorry, Rob)

Vince Verhei: Well, the Chargers dodged a bullet. Burrow threw for six first downs to set up first-and-goal from the 3, and it appeared that he threw a game-winning touchdown on a comeback to A.J. Green, but Green was flagged for offensive pass interference. With no timeouts and only seven seconds left, the Bengals opted to kick the field goal -- but Randy Bullock misses from 31 yards and the Chargers win 16-13.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 at New Orleans Saints 34

Cale Clinton: Tom Brady's first pass as a Buccaneer is a 29-yard strike to Chris Godwin into Saints territory. I've watched Brady play in a Patriots uniform since I was 3 years old, but I'm embracing the weird.

Scott Spratt: Wow, the Bucs offense looked unstoppable on their opening drive. Remember the Saints were the No. 8 DVOA defense last season. They weren't your vintage all-offense Saints.

Dave Bernreuther: After a bunch of complaining about uniforms in the 1 p.m.. slot, I can't tell you how nice it is to see the new/old Bucs uniform set, even in the least interesting (all-white) combination. And for all I said earlier about the scheduling, who wouldn't want to see Brees-Brady matchup as a national broadcast?

On the first Bucs drive, Brady is a bit off on three of his first four throws. Two came back for penalties, though, and bear in mind that I'm measuring his accuracy on the Tom Brady scale, not the Josh Allen scale. The offense and the penalties moved the chains, though, and apparently inspired by his replacement, Brady takes one in himself -- apparently, much like the Rivers-or-Chargers bad luck question, the Brady-or-Pats sneak question has an early leader as well. His spike also compared favorably to Cam's. 7-0 Bucs.

Vince Verhei: Per PFR, Brady is now the oldest player since at least 1920 to score a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Drew Brees with 0.8 ALEX on third downs last year, and today he has thrown his first two third-down passes each 3 yards short of the sticks. Frustrating.

Dave Bernreuther: I'm not entirely sure what the upside is in designing a pass play for third-and-3 wherein your big tight end is running back toward the line of scrimmage surrounded by unblocked defenders and the pass is thrown only to the aforementioned LOS, not to the line to gain, but I'll give Sean Payton the benefit of the doubt. Still, it didn't work, and now the Bucs have the ball again and look, thus far, to be the far better team. Of course, one need only look to Detroit to see an example of why it's more than a little too early to make any kind of declaration like that.

Dave Bernreuther: Oh man, on the play before the third-down conversion to Jared Cook, Drew Brees flat-out missed a touchdown. Tre'Quan Smith, lined up tight to the left side of the formation, ran completely uncovered to the right seam and was several steps behind the dropping defender and Brees didn't see him. I hate that moving spider cam (or whatever it's called) but it showed that one plain as day in this case. Brees could easily have let that one fly right as Smith crossed the midline of the field and with a well-placed ball he would've been gone. I can't help but wonder if maybe at his advanced age he just wasn't willing to take that shot.

Bryan Knowles: Getting Alvin Kamara on a screen against Vita Vea seems like a plus matchup for the Saints, AND it doesn't require throwing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage. No wonder Drew Brees loves it!

Scott Spratt: Bruce Arians has been true to his word so far. Ronald Jones has nine touches to Leonard Fournette's zero.

Tom Gower: Vea was the guy who read the screen on the Kamara screen touchdown to tie the game at 7. The real question for me is why there weren't more Bucs defenders at the second level, and whether the opposite side of the field was flooded or New Orleans just blocked it up extraordinarily effectively. Either way, a much easier gain and score than I was expecting when the ball was thrown.

Aaron Schatz: Brady threw his first pick on what looked like miscommunication with Mike Evans. Evans ran a very skinny post and Brady threw more inside, intercepted by Marcus Williams when it went way past where Evans was. I think Brady would have had Gronk open up the seam on the other side of the field, too, but he was looking for Evans.

Dave Bernreuther: Troy Aikman is going out of his way to make excuses for a quarterback. He's absolutely right that Mike Evans pulled up, but Brady threw that pass straight to the safety. Even if Evans ran straight to the spot, it would've been over his head.

Brees almost just gave it right back on a deep ball over the middle ... into great coverage toward Emmanuel Sanders, and they bail him out with a DPI call. I don't agree with that one at all.

Derrik Klassen: Looks like some miscommunication on that Tom Brady interception. Mike Evans was moving down the seam, but looked like he settled up in a soft spot, while Brady assumed he would keep getting vertical. Obviously resulted in an overthrow; Marcus Williams was in great position to take advantage. Guess some of that stuff is to be expected whenever you put a new quarterback in an offense, even Tom Brady.

Vince Verhei: I also thought that DPI was terrible at first, but on replay the defender Had a grip on Sanders' jersey. It didn't help that the referee called the wrong number -- 33 had the grab, but 23 was called out.

Dave Bernreuther: ...and yet Vea grabbed Kamara by the neck too and it went uncalled...

(He scored on the play, of course, but that doesn't change the fact that nobody threw a flag.)

Dave Bernreuther: Did they really just only penalize Marcus Lattimore for retaliating against Mike Evans, and not Evans at all for then re-retaliating against him for the shove and knocking his helmet completely off his head?

That seems wrong. And the booing is quite loud. Which is interesting, since, you know, the building is empty. I mentioned this the other night too, but they're really doing a great job with the fake noise, to the point where I am often surprised to remember that the stadiums are empty. This is an order of magnitude better than the NHL, which is also quite watchable (and listenable), but also makes really dumb mistakes like still blowing the horn, pumping the noise, and playing the celebration songs of even the road team when they score. Not that I minded all the extra times I got to hear the Golden Retriever of songs during the Blackhawks games, but still ... the NFL is doing a far, far better job with the fake noise so far.

Scott Spratt: I think Margus Hunt blocked that field goal attempt with his chest. Not the greatest protection by the Bucs special teams line.

Andrew Potter: Death, taxes, and the Buccaneers field goal unit.

Aaron Schatz: Saints-Bucs go to halftime at 17-7. A couple of things that have stood out. One, Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith is having a bad day. Whether it's Cam Jordan or Trey Hendrickson, he's getting blown back a lot. Two, Drew Brees may be 13-of-19 but he doesn't look that great. It's a ton of short stuff. He got lucky that the one deep pass to Sanders was called as DPI. He missed a totally open Kamara at one point and then underthrew Tre'Quan Smith which led to Smith having to come back to the ball short of the sticks on third down. We need to see the Saints stretch the field a little more, whether it is Sanders or Jared Cook or even Michael Thomas. I feel like Brady looks a little better though Brees has better raw stats so far. Brees hasn't had a throw anywhere near as good as the dime Brady dropped in to Chris Godwin for 29 yards on the first drive. But he hasn't had a throw as bad as Brady's interception.

Carl Yedor: The fake crowd noise definitely made me do a double take when I heard it for this game. As in, "I thought only Jacksonville had fans in the stands this week." It isn't overwhelming, but I do think it gives the game a more normal feel compared to the sparsely attended high school/college game vibe from some of the other games.

Vince Verhei: Bucs trail 17-7 at the half. I know it's the Saints, but I do want to point out that for all of Jamie's Winston's struggles, they only trailed by 10 points at the half twice last season: a Week 6 loss to Carolina and a Week 11 loss to the Saints.

Scott Spratt: Aaron, was the Bucs' original plan for Round 1 pick Tristan Wirfs to play left tackle? Would a lineup switch maybe provide an answer there with Donovan Smith's blocking troubles?

Aaron Schatz: I think the plan was always to play Wirfs on the right side. I think these days it doesn't matter much which side you put the better tackle on, but yeah, Smith has been a problem.

Tom Gower: I think because Smith's used to playing the left side, just play him there and you can choose which side to give help. Speaking of that, Rob Gronkowski was a complete non-factor as a receiver in the first half. Not that Brady had many attempts, but one catch, 2 yards, went down easily, and didn't look anything like the threat he was when he was younger. If you were hoping the year off had rejuvenated him, it sure doesn't look like that to me.

Aaron Schatz: They used Gronk to block a lot and it looked like he was blocking well. But yeah, he didn't do much as a receiver although I think he was open on that interception play, as I noted earlier.

Rivers McCown: Donovan Smith signed a three-year, $41.25-million deal last offseason. SIS has never charted him with fewer than 20 blown blocks and he has allowed 30 sacks over the last four years.

Certainly an eye-opening statement on the value of an "average" tackle.

Vince Verhei: Brady's first touchdown pass for the Bucs goes to the wrong team. Oops.

Scott Spratt: Brady is on pace to break Jameis Winston's Bucs' single-season interception record by two, haha.

Bryan Knowles: Brady throws the ball behind his receiver, and Janoris Jenkins is all over it for the Pick-6. It's jump-to-conclusions week, I know, but that was bad...

Dave Bernreuther: Brady's pick-six wasn't as egregiously bad a throw as the one that Philip Rivers threw to end the game earlier, but that was bad. Even if he had a Brett Favre arm, that was a bad decision that wasn't going to succeed. He does not have Brett Favre's arm, however, and he also missed high and deep. And that gives the Saints a commanding lead in a game that, if we're really being honest, has not featured amazing quarterback play by either side.

Aaron Schatz: Should point out that the intended receiver on the pick-six was Justin Watson, who isn't exactly one of Brady's prime weapons in Tampa.

Carl Yedor: New Orleans wasn't going to be the easiest matchup for the Bucs in Week 1 while breaking in a new quarterback (even if it is Tom Brady). However, it ain't over yet. Right after the pick-six, Brady goes deep to Mike Evans and draws a long DPI, setting them up in Saints territory. A slashing Ronald Jones run gets them inside the 10, and then Brady hits O.J. Howard for an easy score off play-action to make it 24-14.

Aaron Schatz: Brady comes back from the pick-six with a beautiful deep ball to Mike Evans that Marcus Williams was forced to get a DPI on rather than let Evans possibly score, then a wide-open O.J. Howard in the end zone to make it 24-14.

Bryan Knowles: O.J. Howard might well be one of Brady's prime weapons, especially if he ends up covered by zero people! Howard gets lost running a crossing route, and Brady gets one of the easier touchdown passes you'll ever see to cut the lead to 24-14.

Tom Gower: The big DPI to Evans is an interesting type of play, one where the defense schemes something up based on the idea they're going to get a big schematic win, but they don't so it ends up as a big schematic win for the offense instead. Cover-0 blitzes are of a similar flavor of high-risk, high-reward, but my conception is this is just slightly but interestingly different.

Thomas Bassinger: So, the first touchdown passes of Jameis Winston's and Tom Brady's Bucs careers were ... pick-sixes.

Scott Spratt: Not that the calls are incorrect, but both quarterbacks should just chuck the ball downfield. Pretty much every incompletion is a pass interference penalty.

Dave Bernreuther: There's a part of me that's now rooting for the Bucs to come back and win this one after that nonsense: Third-and-2, the Saints take the Hall of Fame quarterback off the field and bring in Taysom Hill to run a telegraphed run to the short side. It lost 7 yards and didn't have a prayer. I get that Brees isn't what he used to be, and I've been at the front of the line of people to point that out, but if there's anything he still does well it's throw accurately short. Leave him on the field.

Tom Gower: These guys can't drive throws into tight windows, but Brady on the touchdown drive after the pick-6 and Brees on the big pass to Cook showed they still have the timing and anticipation abilities to hit touch downfield throws. Those bug me more, because it feels like they're easier for the defense to disrupt (nickel-dimer DPI on the Saints, L.J. Fort falling asleep on Cook completion), but the placement on both throws was spot on.

Scott Spratt: Prescient comment by Andrew about death, taxes, and the Bucs' special teams unit. No idea what Mike Edwards was thinking as he retreated into normal returner Jaydon Mickens on the short Saints kickoff. The Bucs have been bottom-seven in special teams DVOA each of the last two seasons.

Vince Verhei: My favorite thing about this game is how Lavonte David is shining in front of one of his biggest audiences. A team-high 10 tackles, officially two for a loss, feels like he has made more big plays than that.

Bryan Knowles: I find it hard to believe that Mike Evans was held without a catch until the last three minutes of the game. Wild stuff.

Scott Spratt: Joe Buck has been the MVP of this game making fun of Troy Aikman for his weird football terminology and miscommunication with his production team.

Arizona Cardinals 24 at San Francisco 49ers 20

Bryan Knowles: Raheem Mostert demanded a trade this offseason, before he and the 49ers came together on a new contract. It was touch-and-go there for a bit, but running backs are fungible in a Shanahan system, right? Well, so far, Mostert has a run for 14 yards and just caught a short pass from Jimmy Garoppolo, burned the cornerback who was not paying ANY attention, and romped 76 yards into the end zone for the score. The 49ers only have four receivers in uniform, so getting passes to running backs split out wide seems like a useful thing to do! 10-0 midway through the first quarter for the 49ers.

Scott Spratt: The 49ers are loaded with running backs with sub-4.40 speed and led the NFL with 13 carries for touchdowns from 10 or more yards away from the end zone. Well, one of those speedy backs Raheem Mostert just took a short catch 76 yards for a score. 10-0 San Francisco early.

Vince Verhei: 76-yard touchdown catch for Raheem Mostert. 49ers came out in split backs and he just ran a circle route out of the backfield. Totally fooled the linebacker and turned on the jets.

Aaron Schatz: That was Isaiah Simmons, the eighth overall pick, who was fooled on the Mostert touchdown.

Tom Gower: Angle routes are the best. Rookie linebackers in coverage are vulnerable, as Isaiah Simmons showed on that play.

Bryan Knowles: Turns out, special teams are important! The Cardinals force a three-and-out and break through the line to block the ensuing punt. It looked like it was Dontae Johnson, just picked up, who let the pressure through, and Ezekiel Turner blocks it. Very next play is a Chase Edmonds touchdown, and the game is joined; 10-7.

Scott Spratt: I don't think I've ever seen a back show the body control Edmonds did on that touchdown dive. He looked down four different ways on the right sideline but stayed up and just nicked the right pylon.

Vince Verhei: Lots of excitement in this one early. Cardinals get a blocked punt, and Kliff Kingsbury takes advantage with the most fun offense in the league. Arizona comes out in a diamond backfield, and Kyler Murray fakes a couple of times to different guys running across the formation, and next thing you know he's rolling out and finding Chase Edmonds for a 10-yard score. 49ers still up 10-7.

Derrik Klassen: San Francisco offense has been in a fair amount of split backs shotgun today. At least a handful of plays so far through the first quarter. I'd imagine that has to do with Kyle Shanahan believing Arizona's linebackers are the most exploitable part of the defense, so keeping splitbacks in (even if just with Kyle Juszczyk) is a good way to do that. Interested to see how that develops as this game rolls on, especially out of the half.

Vince Verhei: 49ers march pretty easily down to the goal line, but then mistakes set in. A penalty and a sack lead to third-and-long. Jericho McKinnon was stopped just short of the end zone, and on fourth down from the 1, Raheem Mostert is stopped for no gain. 49ers lead in total yardage 180 to 44, but just 10-7 on the scoreboard.

49ers are challenging the play and ... call stands. Arizona's ball at their own 1.

Bryan Knowles: It's worth noting the 49ers are without their starting center, which is explaining some of that interior pressure today, as well as the failed push at the goal line.

Bryan Knowles: 13-10 at the half, though the scoreline belies how the actual game has gone. San Francisco had a 6.9 to 4.3 yards per play advantage over Arizona, but Kyler Murray put together a pretty impressive drive with 20 seconds left in the half to set up a 56-yard field goal to close out the scoring.

The 49ers have gotten into the red zone twice; they were stopped on the 1-inch line once and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal the second time. That's concerning, though you could at least make the argument that if the offense was healthy, results may be different. Plus, there was the blocked punt that set up Arizona up for an easy touchdown. So, instead of being a comfortable 49ers lead, the Cardinals are down just three points, and get the ball to start the second half.

The one thing to watch out for is George Kittle. Garoppolo overthrew him near the end of the half, and Kittle ended up taking a shot, limping to the locker room before the end of the half. It looked just like a hyperextension, but considering Kittle just received a hyper-extension, it's worth watching going forward.

Rivers McCown: Through one half, appears that regression has not yet snuck up on the 49ers defense. 2.38 seconds average to throw for Kyler Murray, 3.9 average target distance, nobody but DeAndre Hopkins and Chase Edmonds doing much.

Vince Verhei: I would add that Zane Gonzalez missed a 52-yard field goal for Arizona. So as bad as the breaks for San Francisco have been this game, it could still actually be worse.

Vince Verhei: Murray is trying to keep Arizona in this with his legs -- he scrambled for a first down on third-and-17, then scrambled again to get into field goal range after a penalty on first down. But then Gonzalez missed again, this time from 49 yards.

Scott Spratt: DeAndre Hopkins' 12th catch just took him over 100 yards for the day. I'm sorry, Rivers.

Bryan Knowles: Penalties beginning to pile up for the 49ers defense, and it leads to an Arizona touchdown:

  • Holding on third-and-10 with the Cardinals backed up in their own end zone.
  • A late hit on a sliding Murray on second-and-21.
  • Pass interference on an incomplete pass on second-and-11.

The first one was ticky-tack, but right according to the rules. The second was one of those "what was the defender supposed to do?" flags that get thrown all the time. The third was holding, not pass interference.

The end result is Kyler Murray on a 22-yard scamper for a score to give the Cardinals a 17-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. Remember, Murray ran wild over the 49ers in both 2019 matchups; he was going to get his yards in at some point. Now, for the first time all day, the 49ers have to operate from a deficit.

Vince Verhei: I'm so happy you used the word "scamper" for Murray's touchdown run, because that's exactly what that run was.

scamp·er
/?skamp?r/
verb
1. (especially of a small animal or child) run with quick light steps, especially through fear or excitement. "he scampered in like an overgrown puppy"

Bryan Knowles: That's how he runs! He Fred Flintstone twinkle-toes it, and it works!

Dave Bernreuther: No joke, the word "scamper" was also used here a series or two earlier to describe Murray. I'm still not sold on him as a quarterback, but he's fun. And I'm glad they're winning.

They almost just put themselves in position to win even more decisively, because Garoppolo just threw poorly into extreme traffic and was picked, but even though that ball was terrible and would've been picked anyway, he was saved by a DPI on an underthrown pass. The 49ers are inside the 10 and about to take the lead back.

Which they would have on second-and-goal, had Garoppolo not overthrown a reasonably open guy by 5 yards in the end zone. That was 2018 Josh Allen-level bad.

Bryan Knowles: The worse sin on that missed touchdown, Dave, was missing Mostert all by himself in the end zone on the other side of the field.

They make up for it on the next play, finding Jerick McKinnon wide open in the flat for the touchdown to retake the lead, 20-17.

Seeing McKinnon and Jordan Reed back on the field is a weird feeling after so many years of injuries.

Rivers McCown: Jerick McKinnon's contract is finally paying off, baby!

I have not been encouraged by this Garoppolo start, feel like he has missed people all over the place.

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, he has not been good so far. The overthrow of Kittle that had everyone in 49ers country holding their breaths through halftime might be the worst, though you have a decent selection to choose from!

Vince Verhei: Biggest play on that drive was a 41-yarder to Kyle Juszczyk on, I think, a wheel route. All the wideouts are hurt and I don't think Kittle has returned, so it's up to the 49ers armada of running backs to make things happen.

Bryan Knowles: Kittle has come back, Vince, but he hasn't been targeted, I believe -- he may be in quasi-decoy mode. And one of the four 49ers receivers dressed, Trent Taylor, is out for the game as well.

Bryan Knowles: Kyler Murray is up to 100 rushing yards, as Kwon Alexander is having a hell of a day trying to keep him boxed in. And now, Murray finds Hopkins on a short little pass route, and he romps 34 yards into the end zone, as we go back and forth, back and forth -- Cardinals 24, 49ers 20 with 5:18 left. Great play by the Cardinals; Hopkins drags across the coverage. Three 49ers go left, Hopkins goes right and was wide, wide open.

Dave Bernreuther: The Cardinals managed (somehow) to hide Nuk Hopkins in a tight stacked formation, so the 49ers decided not to cover him at all. Even if they take the touchdown off the board, because he was hit at about the 5 and fell short of the end zone, at worst it's a big gainer that puts the Cardinals in position to re-take the lead.

Still plenty of time left, though.

Hopkins is up to 151 yards already.

Sorry, Rivers.

Bryan Knowles: Hopkins has 14 receptions, a career high.

Sorry, Rivers.

Vince Verhei: Nothing happened in this game for what felt like hours, and suddenly: fireworks! Murray scrambles for another first down -- he's up to 100 yards now -- and then finds Hopkins wide open on a shallow drag. Hopkins goes 34 yards into the end zone. They're reviewing to see if he was down short of the goal line ... and he was. Cards still trail 20-17, first-and-goal at the 1, about five minutes to go. That's a career-high 14 catches for Hopkins for 151 yards for Hopkins.

And Kenyan Drake scores on a dive on first down and NOW the Cards lead 24-20.

Scott Spratt: Although Hopkins now has 10 career games with 10-plus receptions. That's pretty nuts.

Rivers McCown: I think you guys are sleeping on Randall Cobb, he could top 161 yards this season.

Scott Spratt: I'm not sure I'd throw a jump ball in the end zone to 5-foot-8 Trent Taylor...

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, the jump ball to Taylor isn't exactly the best play in the book, there.

49ers do have all three timeouts left, but it looks like the Cardinals will hold on to what's a great win for them. They were pretty clearly the better team in the second half, and the Murray-to-Hopkins connection looks like something that's going to cause a ton of problems the rest of the season.

Vince Verhei: In defense of the 49ers and Garoppolo, who else are you going to throw to? Taylor and Kendrick Bourne were their wideouts today; Dante Pettis was the only other wide receiver to get a target. That doesn't explain every problem they had today, but let's not pretend they were at full strength.

Bryan Knowles: True, Vince, but Taylor was open on fourth down, if Garoppolo had thrown the ball on time. Jimmy G is going to get flack for this one, and he absolutely should. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk coming back will help make things easier for him, but he had a chance here, and couldn't pull it off. This was a below-average game for him, and not one that's going to quiet any doubters!

Dallas Cowboys 17 at Los Angeles Rams 20

Vince Verhei: I'm looking at the wide shots and thinking, hey, these Rams uniforms aren't so bad, the greyish-bone color really makes the blues pop out -- and then they cut to close-up, and the whites and bones and yellows all overlap, and ... blerg.

Scott Spratt: Really cool observation from Cris Collinsworth that the Rams sometimes huddle but then snap the ball very quickly after lining up so the defense can't react to their formations. That feels kind of like the opposite of what the Patriots did to them in the Super Bowl when they switched defensive formations on single plays with 15 or fewer seconds left on the play clock, after the communication was cut off between Sean McVay and Jared Goff.

Dave Bernreuther: I haven't watched Hard Knocks yet, so this is the first I've seen of the new set in action ... and wow. That's is a very bright blue. And a bright yellow.

Even ignoring how bad everything else about the set is, just the color combination alone is lower contrast and worse than the previous set. I can't believe someone got paid to make these. I further can't believe that someone saw them and thought they looked good.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys are wearing one of the best uniform sets in sports. (Screw Stan Kroenke too, but man ... that's a nice-looking stadium complex.)

The quality of play on that first drive, however ... was the opposite of their attire. The Cowboys offered no resistance whatsoever as the Rams marched down the field.

Cale Clinton: Rams started a lot of their plays this quarter with a mixed snap count, even going with a hard count on some plays. Noticed the Bengals using a hard count pretty frequently during their game as well. L.A. has already forced two neutral zone infractions in the first 11 minutes of the game. Collinsworth pointed it out on the broadcast, saying the jumpiness is a mix of first-game energy and the effect of a quiet stadium. Wonder how long into the season this will persist.

Cale Clinton: Speaking of quiet stadium, that missed field goal by Sloman sounded less like a "doink" and more like a "BOOONG."

Dave Bernreuther: The Rams offense finally stalls out ... but it shouldn't have. Jared Goff left a clean pocket for no reason whatsoever, choosing to roll right when the Rams didn't even have any receivers on that side of the field. Throwing it away was his only option, and the Cowboys, who absolutely deserve to be down by two scores right now, catch a break there, and then again on the next play as the field goal is doinked.

Scott Spratt: From 2009 to 2019, kickers missed just three of 248 field goal attempts from less than 30 yards. Welcome to the league, Sam Sloman.

Dave Bernreuther: Anyone who thinks I'm being unnecessarily harsh on Goff need only look at Dak Prescott on the following drive before hitting the crosser to Lamb. With more pressure than Goff faced, he calmly shuffled slightly right, eyes up, stepped out, and led the rookie with a dart down the field.

I can't even imagine what would be possible if these two coaches got to trade quarterbacks.

Cale Clinton: CeeDee Lamb's first catch in the NFL comes off a beautiful route, finding a seam between Troy Hill and John Johnson to pick up 33 yards. The Cowboys passing game looks really fun so far. Dak Prescott has three quality passing targets, and the Cowboys have gotten their backs involved in the passing game early.

Aaron Schatz: Ignore Mina Kimes' funny meme joke here and just look at this photo and wonder at the fact that this somehow turned into a touchdown for Ezekiel Elliott.

Here's the same play with dots and NGS' expected YAC formula.

Carl Yedor: That Dallas passing game better be fun because the defense has not been holding up its end of the bargain to this point. The Rams have been marching up and down the field at will, and with Leighton Vander Esch now out, it could be a long night for the visiting Cowboys. The Rams are sitting on 10 points, but it could be more if not for some unforced errors.

Tom Gower: Yeah, my dominant memory of the playoff game is how McVay had Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith completely lost and confused, and we've definitely seen that tonight. Losing LVE only exacerbates the problem.

Aaron Schatz: I don't understand the Rams running on a third-and-4 if they weren't willing to go for it on fourth down. They got 2 yards and kicked a field goal on fourth-and-2 from the Dallas 11 to go up 13-7.

Vince Verhei: Handing off on third-and-4 so you can kick a 31-yard field goal on fourth-and-2, when you're already ahead, is a special level of timid.

Tom Gower: Not only that they were already ahead, they were up by three points. With the field goal, you go from behind if Dallas scores a touchdown to ... behind if Dallas scores a touchdown and hits an extra point. And he has two timeouts, so they have the chance to get the ball back with a stop. And he had the two-minute warning to think it over, or for somebody on his staff to get in his ear and as "you know..." It's like the opposite of Ron Rivera going for it on fourth-and-1 inside the 5 at 17-17 earlier.

Tom Gower: 14-13 at the half, as the Cowboys follow up that Rams field goal with a touchdown drive before the half. They looked fluid and efficient, with Dak Prescott finding five different players on the two-minute drill. And Dallas gets the ball first to start the second half. Los Angeles is moving the ball well, making it to the red zone on all four possessions, but attempted three field goals.

Scott Spratt: Aaron Donald blew up that second run play of the second half. Do any of you guys who watch the Rams a lot have any thoughts on ESPN's new run blocking metrics from Brian Burke's research using Next Gen Stats? They asserted that Donald's pass-rushing instincts sometimes put him in bad positions to stop the run. Do you think that passes the eye test?

Vince Verhei: Having watched every Rams play of 2019 for the Almanac, I think it's definitely true that Donald's aggressive penetration will sometimes open holes in the fits behind him. The notion that it happens so frequently as to offset the big plays he makes and render him an average run defender is lunacy. This is a case where you, as an analyst, should look at your data and determine that something is wrong with your process.

Aaron Schatz: Woo, did Aldon Smith get away with a hit to the head on Jared Goff on that interception near the end of the third quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Dallas makes it down the field, goes for it on fourth-and-3 instead of trying a game-tying field goal and ... throws a route short of the sticks. How do you throw a route short of the sticks on fourth freakin' down?

Dave Bernreuther: Maybe Mike McCarthy DID learn some new things during his year off. There is NO WAY Packers coach McCarthy goes for a fourth-and-3 like he did just there.

So naturally, it comes up a bit short, and now he'll revert to his painfully conservative ways...

Aaron Schatz: McCarthy is not historically conservative. I know he has been conservative in the playoffs but in the regular season he has been one of the most aggressive coaches in the league on fourth downs.

Tom Gower: We can't mention that fourth down, and the route short of the sticks, without mentioning the draw play on third-and-6 that preceded it.

Vince Verhei: Cris Collinsworth just made a point about how the performance in this game was better than he expected. And really, nobody was perfect today, but there was nothing outrageously embarrassing like we saw during the referee strike in 2012. I think we've learned that preseason games are, in fact, an enormous waste of time and money.

Cale Clinton: NBC just showed an ad for next week's Sunday Night Football matchup between the Seahawks and Patriots, advertising it as a "Super Bowl XLIX Rematch." I can't speak on the Seahawks' roster, but if my count is right, the Patriots currently only have four players on their roster that were also on the Super Bowl XLIX roster: Julian Edelman, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, and David Andrews.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, going for the fourth down instead of kicking a game-tying field goal increased the Cowboys' Game-Winning Chance by 3.7%.

Here's a good look at the fourth-down play and a great tackle by Jordan Fuller.

Dave Bernreuther: I've been sitting here since the second quarter (when I couldn't type because I had BBQ sauce all over myself) wondering how to properly and eloquently express my thoughts about how Jared Goff throws the ball extremely well -- and reliably too -- but does so little else well that he's not valuable or worth his contract.

Just now I saw Ben's tweet. Very well stated, sir:

Rivers McCown: Sure feels like the Cowboys have given away a lot of points with failed first-down runs.

Carl Yedor: To Cale's point, the Seahawks still have Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, and Luke Willson (though Irvin and Willson have come and gone over the years).

Vince Verhei: It was an astonishing ad. I don't think they showed any player on either team's current roster ... and if they did, it was Russell Wilson throwing an interception. Seems a strange way to promote a game to me.

Scott Spratt: Ugh, I hate the fourth-and-1 punt from the 49-yard line with two and a half minutes left. If you pick that up with a carry, you almost definitely win.

Vince Verhei: Right before the two-minute warning, Collinsworth notes Donald lining up across from Terence Steele, and it occurs to me that Steele has basically been invisible all night. Which is a very good thing for an undrafted rookie making a surprise start at right tackle in Week 1.

Rivers McCown: Either the Cowboys are terrified of getting sacked or they have no deep pass plays.

Ah, they were terrified of getting sacked.

Tom Gower:

Vince Verhei: And of course it's Steele surrendering the sack. I jinxed him.

Aaron Schatz: I can't believe Dallas used a play fake on third-and-10 with 30 seconds left (the play where Gallup was called for OPI).

And that OPI call was kind of weaksauce.

Dave Bernreuther: I'm not saying that wasn't OPI, but I can't believe they threw that flag on Gallup.

Bryan Knowles: As it stands this second, not only is the Washington Football Team atop the NFC East, but they are technically atop the entire NFC, going down to the weird points scored/allowed tiebreakers.

Week 1 football!

Tom Gower: The Cowboys really didn't do much in the second half on offense after a good first half. Their only real positive drive was the one that ended with the fourth-down route short of the sticks.

I'm glad football is back and we had this day (and tomorrow, when the team I root for will presumably actually play).

Comments

167 comments, Last at 17 Sep 2020, 2:56pm

1 "I get that Brees isn't what…

"I get that Brees isn't what he used to be, and I've been at the front of the line of people to point that out, but if there's anything he still does well it's throw accurately short."

Drew Brees 2018: DVOA 36.7% (#2), DYAR 1631 (#2)

Drew Brees 2019: DVOA 39.8% (#1), DYAR 1316 (#3)

I don't understand where this narrative of permanent decline is coming from. Yes, some drop-off now from Brees, at his age, should be expected. But it really hasn't been noticeable to this point. He's been as efficient as ever the past couple of years (although without the extreme volume we have sometimes seen). Another example of how undervalued his career has been, in the main.

Speaking of QBs who might actually be washed up, Rivers looked that way on the occasions I watched him last season. Didn't look closely yesterday, but that would worry me if I were a Colts fan. 

 

5 Fair. My wording was a lot…

Fair. My wording was a lot harsher than I meant to be. He has certainly started to show signs of not being willing to make certain throws (which sure beats still trying them and failing miserably) and late-season fatigue, but that's expected. 

As for Rivers, yes, it does worry me, as well as a great number of vocal Colts fans. Anything we've said, rightly or wrongly about late-year dropoffs or expected dropoffs for Brees goes doubly-triply so for Rivers. For all the lip service coming out of the building, they know it there too, which is why they've made all the investments elsewhere. Of course, that didn't work out exactly as intended yesterday...

9 Thanks for the reply, and…

Thanks for the reply, and sorry, I wasn't meaning to call you out in particular. Just that I've heard narrative from various sources this off-season about Brees being some way washed up, and the Saints needing build a team to mask his deficiencies. Of course at his age it may happen soon, but it clearly hasn't to this point. 

I don't watch the Colts closely, but I was somewhat surprised by the optimism the Rivers signing generated (gambling markets had them rated ahead of Tennessee, for example). I do watch the Chargers where possible, and there was a whiff of 2015 Zombie Peyton Manning about his play at times last season, where the previously elite mental processing skills seemed to have deserted him (although not quite as extreme as Manning, obviously). 

 

55 Yeah regarding Rivers there…

Yeah regarding Rivers there were comments here about him not having the arm strength, but to be honest it just seemed like the ball was coming out late because he decided to throw it a couple beats late. Didn't have preseason, but still being slow to pick up the offense isn't something you expect from someone with his level of experience.

2 Tough assignment for Brady…

Tough assignment for Brady and co. first up, I'm prepared to let that one pass, given the context. Mike Evans was listed as doubtful coming in, and judging by his performance, probably shouldn't have played. The Bucs defense looked fast and aggressive. White and David are superb at LB, refreshing to see when so many teams now go bargain basement at that position (although understandably). Some dreadfully indisciplined play in the secondary, however. Refs tend to be flag happy in week 1, but most of the PI penalties here were blatant, if anything there might have been more.

43 There are clearly a lot of…

There are clearly a lot of question marks about how the Bucs are yet the latest team to win the offseason Super Bowl with building a roster and whether they can gel, with the complexity of passing offenses and reliance on timing and reading defenses the same, I think there's even less to learn from week 1 than usual with Brady's struggles.  No preseason and a far more limited offseason experience than expected means I'd expect QBs new to teams to have more struggles than normal (oh, hi, Philip, how was Indy yesterday), just because there have been so few opportunities to play together against an unexpected defense at real speed.  

53 Gelling may take time, but…

Gelling may take time, but there might be some alarm bells ringing if they can't get it together against Carolina next weekend, who might very well be the worst defense in the league. 

You must be optimistic about the Bucs defense though? Ok penalties, but still, holding Brees to 60% comp and 5.3 YPA in the Superdome is a job well done. 

60 Well, yeah, the defense has…

Well, yeah, the defense has been a focus with extending Shaq Barrett, drafting Devin White and Vita Vea, and there are a couple of younger CBs who show a lot of promise.  Safety's eternally the weak spot, though.  It's been a steadily improving unit in recent years, and not having to play on an endless series of 25-yard fields when Winston throws yet another pick deep in Bucs territory will undoubtedly help.

One would hope they'd paste the Panthers; the Bucs offensive line didn't look great yesterday, and having a bit of time to throw would clearly not hurt.  I mean, it's not like I'm exactly a hardcore Bucs fan again, but lack of Jameis Winston and no more @#$#$@!!! alarm clock uniforms doesn't exactly hurt their watchability.

3 No preseason

Preseason games are quite vanilla, but they are useful (joint practices even better).

And even with those, you hear that "the real preseason are the first four regular season games".

In this weird season this "preseason window" could be a little bit longer.

Pats came out as expected: smart offensive playbook with no WR, solid defense, bad opponent (which will be obviously great in week 15). 

As long as Cam is healthy (risky proposition), they can smoothly get to the tournament.

Then, there will be way better teams to overcome (including Seattle next week).

 

---

Any suggestions for the Football Team name?

 

My preferences:

1) Squirrels 

2) Human Beings

3) United

4 Scott Spratt: Brady is on…

Scott Spratt: Brady is on pace to break Jameis Winston's Bucs' single-season interception record by two, haha.

He's on pace to be three behind Vinny Testaverde's team-record 35.

6 I can't believe 10% picked…

I can't believe 10% picked the Eagles. That's super-nuts. I mean, really, really nuts. Even before Johnson couldn't start, you still had a thin line, and it's Week 1. Guys get nicked, even for a few plays. This was always a terrible matchup.

Peterson went for it on 4th and 4 near midfield. I *hated* that. Just a bad idea. Washington's offense was struggling, and Philly's offense was too. Just play ball control and give your coaches a bit of time. Still had the lead at that point: put your defense in a plus situation and give them a chance to make a play. A punt doesn't do much for you, sure, but be realistic: Washington wasn't going to drive the full field.

Hated the second 4th down attempt, too. Just too much to risk on one play, given the way the line was playing. Better to hope for a series of small wins to put yourself in a better situation.

Those are the kinds of plays I'm positive an analytics type would insist going for it's the right decision, but it's just not. When your line's a shambles like that, you need to give them time, not risk it all and hope the rookie tackle doesn't screw up.

40 Without the benefit of…

Without the benefit of hindsight, I am beyond stunned that the Eagles lost. I had them as a superbowl contender and the Football Team was coming off an absolute disaster of a season. I know this is the nfl and team quality changes drastically season to season, but I didn't think there was anything in the tea leaves to suggest the Football Team was going to win.

56 You're kidding, right? They…

You're kidding, right? They had 2 guys making their absolute first NFL start on the right side of the offensive line. Going up against a team that was 4th in adjusted sack rate last year? Who just added *another* 1st round defensive line pick? And you think there was *nothing* to predict this?

I seriously wish I had posted my pre-game thoughts somewhere because anyone who *has* talked to me about this game in the past week would know I was effing *terrified* of this game. Washington had a disaster of a season last year, but not on the defensive line.

I have no idea how you had the Eagles as a Super Bowl contender with the O-line they've currently got. With Lane Johnson they might be serviceable enough as long as Peters stays healthy. With Lane, maybe division champ. That's pretty much my opinion on their ceiling. Without Lane, they'll be struggling to hit 8-8.

67 Does anyone else see WFT and…

Does anyone else see WFT and mentally swap the T and F?  Which kind of described my reaction to the game's outcome.  I expected the WFT d-line to give the PHI o-line and Wentz fits.  But I figured the WFT offense would be so bad that it wouldn't matter...  There might have been a little "win one for Ron" in there, if I can throw in some non-stat based analysis. 

103 I wasn’t shocked. Used…

I wasn’t shocked. Used Washington’s cheap defense in my DFS lineup. Now I was shocked they won down 17-0 mind you. It does seem that that should have called for a conservative Philly game plan.

7 On looking back at the drive…

On looking back at the drive charts, Packers D looks better than I thought yesterday. Forced two punts, a safety, a turnover on downs, and an interception on ten drives. Doesn't mean they were actually good though, I just thought they were atrocious yesterday. The problem was that on the drives where they gave up points looked they looked very bad indeed.

Packers actually lost the yards per play battle 6.9 to 7.8, part of which can be chalked up to the Vikes playing down by three scores most of the second half but giving up TDs in 1:16, 2:07, and 1:58 in the fourth quarter is no one's idea of good defense.

17 The whole second half was basically garbage time

And they didn't get any pressure on Cousins in the second half, after being in his face early. I put some of that on the refs, who allowed a lot of grabbing outside of the pads by the O-line. It's been frustrating watching GB build leads and having the D give up scores late to make games look close - it happened a lot last year - but it doesn't matter except to DVOA, and the GB D is at bottom pretty average anyway.

101 They were behind on yards per play at the half too

If I remember the box score they were actually about 1.5 yards per play worse at the half and not all of that was from the 3 play 58 yard FG drive to end that half either they were still over 5 ypp even after the negative yardage safety and punt drives. The D only made like 4 plays, they just made them all in like an 8 play stretch in the 2nd quarter.

With the Packers having more than double the plays it got, but yards per play difference wasn't just from the 3 scores down play. The Packers yards per play actually increased in the second half, the Vikings stayed about the same. Remember that their first FG and the turnover on downs at the 1 were 13 and 12 play drives that only went 63, and 74 yards. The Packers weren't getting the huge plays until late in the first half and then during the touchdown parade at the end of the game. 

I had a tiny worry that there would be something like an MVS tipped int and the game would completely swing around. After Clark went out there was zero pressure.  No I still don't trust MVS. Wish I could, but the drops were still horrendous and I could easily see a great throw being alligator armed into the hands of a defender. There was even a great shot of Rodgers, I think was after Minny scored to make it 36 - 26, that just screamed, "Really we let them score a TD again?"

 

 

8 and a behind-the-curtain…

and a behind-the-curtain genius (or three, probably)

History tells us it cannot be a Patriots coordinator, and Scarnecchia is retired, so who are the other two?

11 BB's Secret

It was clearly Scar, or the ball boys, or before that the spy-gate film crews, or Josh McDaniels unique genius, at a certain point it was Scott Pioli, for a while it was hilariously Matt Patricia, maybe next it will be Steve Belichick  - safeties coach and mullet behind the throne.

It is a deep human tendency to assume that others cannot be much smarter/harder working/more effective then they are, and to hate them if they are. It doesn't detract from the simple truth that there are a small number of head coaches in the recent history of the NFL that are an order of magnitude better than all the others, and BB might be an order of magnitude better than them.

36 It's also a deep human…

In reply to by sbond101

It's also a deep human tendency to believe that "intelligence" is some weird, innate thing like a freaking stat in a video game, and someone who's highly intelligent at one thing must magically be great at everything (Movie Scientists!).

I have no idea why people assume that because McDaniels didn't succeed as a head coach, he's just some interchangeable cog in the Bill Belichick Machine. Or with any of the other ones, either. The one thing people always say about Belichick is that he takes players and asks them to do what they do best, and nothing else. So when you take those players *out* of New England, hey, suddenly they don't do as well in many cases, because they're not being asked to play to their strengths. Why should the coaches be any different?

The other thing to realize is that just because someone *leaves* doesn't mean their genius necessarily leaves *with* them. They are coaches, with assistants, after all, and the assistants can, y'know, learn.

Whenever someone points to a Belichick assistant that failed on their own and says "ha, you thought he was responsible for their success? Clearly not, he can't succeed on his own!" it cracks me up, because you could also say "man, that Belichick just chews through people. He takes whatever good ideas they have, and doesn't teach them anything about how to run a team or lead on their own."

39 Josh McDaniels might be a…

Josh McDaniels might be a very good OC, but there are two pieces of evidence that sort of undercut that viewpoint.

1) He flamed out in St. Louis

2) The Pats have had a good offense with two completely different coordinators.

47 Being an OC anywhere else…

Being an OC anywhere else doesn't have to be the same as being an OC in New England. Imagine if McDaniels has 50% super-dumb ideas and 50% super-brilliant ideas. Other head coaches just take all of them, but suppose Belichick can tell the difference. Poof, he's brilliant at New England, mediocre everywhere else. How do you actually evaluate whether or not McDaniels is a "genius" then? I don't, I just say it's the whole system. At this point that's the only thing that makes sense.

"The Pats have had a good offense with two completely different coordinators."

They've also had good offenses with totally different QBs, too, but that doesn't mean that the QBs are like, interchangeable and actually crap. It means they're good at identifying QBs. Same can be true with coordinators as well.

51 All of them not named Tom…

Cassel was a replaceable cog. So was Hoyer. So was Brissett. I think the evidence, limited as it is, suggests McDaniels is too. Brady has won superbowls and an MVP with different coordinators.

Every D coordinator who has left hasn't affected the Pats at all. Sometimes it really is as simple as BB and that is all.

54 You're putting way too low…

You're putting way too low value on Cassel/Hoyer/Brissett. Normal teams can't even find *those* QBs regularly, and New England does.

Either New England's the luckiest team on the planet, or they're better-than-average at finding quarterbacks and extracting value from them. It's the same with coordinators. You're assuming because they're easily replaced, they don't have value, rather than concluding that New England is really good at finding and developing them in the first place.

69 Yeah, and to me, I treat the…

Yeah, and to me, I treat the coordinators pretty much like the QBs. Both Reid and Belichick are really, really good at identifying guys who are really good at implementing the coaching style they want. Those coordinators aren't interchangeable, they've definitely got value. But it's not surprising that they can just replace them and move on because, well, they found them in the first place.

The interesting difference between Belichick and Reid is that Reid's coaching tree is *way* more successful than Belichick's is, and it's not even particularly close. Which, in my mind, just suggests that Reid's better at *teaching* head coaching than Belichick is. Big difference between being able to do something and teaching it.

72 Teaching

"Which, in my mind, just suggests that Reid's better at *teaching* head coaching than Belichick is. Big difference between being able to do something and teaching it."

I'd also like to offer that it seems likely that BB doesn't see it as part of his job to teach other coaches to do things he doesn't want/need them to do. It would not be out of charector for BB to tell his coordinators something like "do the job in front of you, if you want to learn to be a head coach do it on your own time", implicitly or explicitly.

73 The point I am making is -…

The point I am making is - nearly everyone who leaves NE never brings anything close to the quality they brought in NE. The big notable exception appears to be Chandler Jones, but he is the only one I can remember(I did not watch Seymore in Oakland). Maybe Asante Samuel was good in Philly(you will definitely know more than I). Also, the Pats do not develop all qbs. Mallet and O'Connel both did nothing in NE or outside. And lots of teams are able to churn replaceable QBs. That's not really a testament of anything. 

The league has given us a large enough sample of coaches who have left New England. The only one with any kind of success is BOB, who I don't think is a good coach. He has won thanks to a terrible division and then getting lucky with Deshaun Watson. This is the same wunderkind who paid Brock Osweiler a fortune, started Tom Savage ahead of Deshaun Watson. 

When people keep changing but the results stay the same, you start to realize the one big constant that remains. 

87 "This is the same wunderkind…

"This is the same wunderkind who paid Brock Osweiler a fortune."

I don't think he was the GM back then. Also, he won before he had Watson. He went 9-7 in each of the three seasons before Watson arrived, going to the playoffs twice and winning one wild card game. Since drafting Watson the Texans have gone to the playoffs twice and won one wild card game, so results haven't really improved.

119 I'm not sure the idea that…

I'm not sure the idea that he inherited a talented roster holds water... That talented roster won all of two games the year before O'Brien was hired. I certainly don't remember the details of who was on those teams but that doesn't sound very talented.

124 "The point I am making is -…

"The point I am making is - nearly everyone who leaves NE never brings anything close to the quality they brought in NE."

Yes. Exactly. I completely agree.

The problem is that you're equating those results to the idea that those coaches are nothing special. This isn't linear. If you pull out coach X from team Y and plug him into team Z, you don't transfer "coaching %" from team Y to team Z. Coaches work in a system just like players do.

If McDaniels isn't anything special and Belichick is so smart... why isn't Belichick swapping out McDaniels for someone better? Is Belichick running some kind of coach's charity up in New England or something? McDaniels has been in New England for quite a long time now. It'd be insane to suggest he's Just Some Guy.

"When people keep changing but the results stay the same, you start to realize the one big constant that remains. "

Again, it's *not linear*. McDaniels can be really, really good at what he does for New England and that doesn't take *anything* away from Belichick. Belichick's the guy who brought him in and found the appropriate things for him to do.

137 If McDaniels isn't anything…

If McDaniels isn't anything special and Belichick is so smart... why isn't Belichick swapping out McDaniels for someone better?

Because he doesn't have to?

Now, it's possible McDaniels is like the offensive equivalent of Dick LeBeau -- a stellar coordinator who is badly outmatched in the big chair. Some people are destined to be really great assistants, but not a leader.

I was going to also include the Phillips Bum and Wade and Buddy Ryan, but they were actually decent HCs, if not quite the HOF-level they were at coordinator.

One tendency I see from former Pats coaches and administrators is an arrogant tendency to immediately spite their players -- McDaniels did this, Quinn and Patricia did this, Pioli did this. It's not universal; Crennel really didn't, Dimitroff hasn't, and Weis and Mangini flamed out so spectacularly that it's hard to evaluate. It's telling that even the University of Kansas was happy to see the (ample) back of him, though. If you want to get lower than fired by Kansas, you need to start digging.

But it's interesting that Vrabel hasn't followed that model, either. Perhaps a Belichick role is ego management and dispute oversight, because it's something his coaching tree is terrible at, but his players can manage.

163 "Because he doesn't have to?…

"Because he doesn't have to?"

This is New England - if they have the opportunity to get better at a position for no cost, they do it. They don't hold onto a guy for sentimentality. They aren't swapping out McDaniels for someone better because there isn't anyone clearly better, because McDaniels is good at what he does.

"Now, it's possible McDaniels is like the offensive equivalent of Dick LeBeau -- a stellar coordinator who is badly outmatched in the big chair. Some people are destined to be really great assistants, but not a leader."

I think it's better said that it's just that being a coordinator in New England doesn't teach you to be a head coach, and I think that's just a consequence of the way Belichick runs things. It's his team, the coordinators don't need to understand why he does what he does, they just need to do their job.

I think very, very few head coaches in the league work like that, which is why it's so foreign.

"But it's interesting that Vrabel hasn't followed that model, either."

Possibly because he was never actually a coach under Belichick, just a player.

76 Was Reid with the Packer's…

Was Reid with the Packer's when Brunell and Hasselback were drafted and developed there? The league seems clueless at QB development for a good while now and I'm not sure why. Reid seems better at handling/developing QB's than anyone in the league for years now.

61 McDaniels

The Pats' offense has been much better under McDaniels that it ever was under any other OC.  

Apparently only Pats' fans remember Ernie Zampese's brief stay.

He failed in Denver because he was given too much power and used that poorly.  Not because he was a bad OCon.

He was only with the Rams for one season.  Was hired by a head coach who was fired at the end of the season, at which point McD was allowed to go back to the Patriots (an appealing prospect compared to the 2-14 Rams).

There really isn't  a strong case against McDaniels' ability as offensive coordinator.  It's not like Belichick has any influence on the offense at all.  

 

64 The past second best…

In reply to by RickD

The pats second best offensive dvoa and one of the best offenses of all time was not coordinated by Josh McDaniels. I believe the third best offensive dvoa the Pats have ever had was also not coordinated by Josh McDaniels.

70 Bill O'Brian

This is right - in the rush to credit McDaniels with offensive genius Bill O'Brian is blithely ignored.

On the broader point; I don't have an all-encompassing perspective as to in what way BB has created the Pats success at the coaching level (whether it's coaching personal management, personal micromanagement, pairing of player-personal with coaching, or something else). I'm simply making the case that every effort to suggest that BB is just marginally better than other coaches/GM's and the results come from some "perfect storm" of factors seems to fail badly to stand up to the available evidence.

78 That said, BB's weirdly…

In reply to by sbond101

That said, BB's weirdly withered coaching tree is noteworthy in itself. Does any other even remotely as-successful coach have such an approximately impotent legacy? He's like Secretariat!

127 " I'm simply making the case…

In reply to by sbond101

" I'm simply making the case that every effort to suggest that BB is just marginally better than other coaches/GM's and the results come from some "perfect storm" of factors seems to fail badly to stand up to the available evidence."

Why do you think people are suggesting that? Just because you suggest, say, the OC is brilliant, there's no reason to believe that means that the HC isn't *also* brilliant.

If I'm working on a 2-person project, and I do my part brilliantly and my partner *also* does his part brilliantly... why does that imply that I couldn't *also* do his part brilliantly?

129 I'll address both points…

I'll address both points here. Ok maybe it's not linear as you said and each is bringing in a specialized skillset that apparently can only function in NE. This fact does not then suggest McDaniels is a good OC in the traditional sense. Greg Roman has succeeded everywhere. Wade Philips has succeeded everywhere. Those are examples of good coordinators. They can bring their talents to different places and work. If McDaniels cannot replicate his success elsewhere, then what's the point of calling him a genius?

 

Secondly, your example is misleading. If I chart your two man work over multiple years and I notice the results are excellent whenever you specifically are on the project irrespective of your partner, why then would I assume that your partner and you are equally responsible? 

136 "If McDaniels cannot…

"If McDaniels cannot replicate his success elsewhere, then what's the point of calling him a genius?"

... Because he's really, really good at his current job? As evidenced by the smartest coach of our generation allowing him to *keep* that job for 12 years in total?

"Secondly, your example is misleading. If I chart your two man work over multiple years and I notice the results are excellent whenever you specifically are on the project irrespective of your partner, why then would I assume that your partner and you are equally responsible? "

I didn't say *equally* responsible. I'm not claiming McDaniels is as good as Belichick is at running a team. I'm saying McDaniels is really good at being the OC for the Patriots. As evidenced by the fact that, well, he hasn't been fired, all the players praise him, and they get good results.

Just follow the example through again. Suppose I'm brilliant at part A *and* part B. My partner's only brilliant at part B. You, the manager, notice that the results when I'm working on part A and part B are the same as when my partner's working on part B, and conclude he's not important, and fire him.

I then say screw you, I quit. Yeah, he's not as good as me, but I still *needed* him because when he was working on B, *I didn't have to do his job too*.

This is what I mean by "not linear." If McDaniels can do job A at 90% of what Belichick can, that's *super* valuable to Belichick, because it frees up his time for other things. It also means that if you take McDaniels away, there might not be a huge drop-off, because Belichick can do what McDaniels did, too, and depending on what the demands are, he might be capable of doing it.

But Belichick hired the guy and keeps him around for a reason. I don't understand the point of insisting he's just some cog when he's clearly valued by New England. It's weird because somehow people think I'm *diminishing* Belichick, but I'm actually *trusting his judgement*.

150 "If he is such a genius, why…

"If he is such a genius, why did the Patriots do just fine without him? "

If he's not needed, then why did the Patriots bring him back?

From the previous post: "It also means that if you take McDaniels away, there might not be a huge drop-off, because Belichick can do what McDaniels did, too, and depending on what the demands are, he might be capable of doing it."

Just because they're *capable* of managing without him doesn't mean that they want to.

13 The 100-year war

The struggle to build the Browns into a competitive team is sometimes jokingly (or maybe not so jokingly) referred to in the press as the 100-year war.  Considering the Browns' "progress" the last 20 years, I think more than 100 years is going to be needed.  My goodness, they're awful, and the incredible thing is that they STAY awful, no matter what they try.  It's like the whole organization is under a curse.  They even tried the blow-it-all-up, get-the-#1-pick-for-two-straight-years strategy, which is about as radical a reset as possible, and even that didn't help.  They still have no offense, no defense, no special teams, and oh yeah, the new coach isn't exactly off to a flying start.  The new uniforms look better; that pretty much completes the list of positives.  How can any NFL team stay this bad this long?

 

14 Your post gave me a chuckle,…

Your post gave me a chuckle, thanks. Jokes aside, you shouldn't despair just yet; it sucks to be stuck in a division with Lamar Jackson, but there's still enough talent on the Browns' roster to be competing for a wildcard in a conference that looks decidedly mediocre outside of those Ravens and Chiefs.

21 The Lions are like the Ph.D…

In reply to by OldFox

The Lions are like the Ph.D program version of the Browns. They've wandered in the wilderness so long even Moses is wondering what's up. And unlike the Browns, whenever they show signs of getting close, the NFL changes the rules in order to screw over only the Lions.

30 The Browns stink because…

In reply to by OldFox

The Browns stink because they have missed at quarterback every single time. And Mayfield looks like yet another miss. They really aren't that different from other teams who have kept missing over the same 20 year period. 

I don't think tanking works because it means convincing your owner that losing a decade is a real possibility as you sift between busts at QB.

41 You're acting like the…

You're acting like the Browns have never had decent quarterbacking, or that "missing" is just a die roll. They're not 'missing' at random. They're missing because they've sucked at player evaluation for forever (and I think they're only a tiny bit better now).

In 2004, they got Jeff Garcia from the 49ers. He stunk. They tossed him. Went to the Lions (see above: re Lions/Browns similarity). Stunk there too. Then went to Philly as a backup, forced into action, and did great. Went to Tampa. Played great, ended up in the Pro Bowl, they went 9-7 and went to the playoffs.

The Browns didn't "miss" there. Garcia was a totally viable quarterback. The team just sucked. They could've had a borderline Pro Bowl QB for 5-6 years, but they didn't see it.

They've also had a few other "servicable" QBs over the years, too. But since 2009, they've just churned through QB draft picks as if they have a clue what the hell they're doing. They don't.

The problem isn't that they're "missing" at QB. It's that they suck at evaluating them, which is *why* they're missing. Their 1st/2nd day QB draft picks frequently end up out of the league after the Browns cut them, and that's *not* normal. The Patriots, in Belichick's entire tenure, have 5 4th round or better QBs. 4/5 of them had at least a 5+ year NFL career. Even the Jaguars, who've been searching for a decent QB for 10 years, found 2 QBs (Gabbert and Bortles) that the rest of the NFL at least thought should probably be on a team (assuming Bortles finds a backup job this year, which he probably will).

45 If the question was why is…

If the question was why is this team not a perennial playoff contender, then yes I agree they've had organizational failures on top of being unlucky.

 

But the question was why has this team been abjectly horrible for 20 years, especially in a league with so much parity. Can I submit the reason the browns have turned parity into parody is because they keep missing at quarterback. Jeff Garcia with Andy Reid is going to look way better than having Jeff Garcia alone. The fact that he sucked in Detroit is more evidence that Jeff Garcia was an over-the-hill veteran, rather than some valuable veteran gem that the browns discarded.

If Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, or Baker Mayfield were good players, we're not having this conversation. They'd look a lot like the Lions and less like the Browns. Quarterbacks alone keep you out of the cellar. 

52 I don't agree with this,…

I don't agree with this, because a good QB isn't an inert mechanical piece that you pluck off a shelf, with the possible exception of Peyton Manning. In that case, since you were also getting the OC, then sure, put him on any team and they get 8+ wins and are fun to watch. Everyone else needs training and scheming, and I was blown away by Baker Mayfield in college, how accurate he was, how much pocket presence he had, and then he came into the league as a rookie and blew me away, at least for a rookie. He has since regressed, and I put 100% of the blame on the coaching staff. 

As a former BCHL hockey player I can tell you that bad practices are worse than no practices. It would not surprise me if slowspeed, not realistic practices can take the sharpness off of almost any quarterback, including Mayfield. Send him over to Belichick, Reid, McVay, Sean Payton, and a few others, and I think we're talking about him as a superstar. Sam Darnold has also regressed since the last half of his rookie year. 

I just think the Goff experience as a rams fan where he went from being horrible under Fisher, to great under McVay really put perspective in that the coach is probably 10x more important than any individual player, Manning aside. Troy Aikman said the same thing, that he was on his way to busting out of the league before getting a new, better coach. Bad Coach + Great QB == Bad QB. Great Coach + avg QB == Great QB. Good luck playing well under Freddie Kitchens.

59 HCs might be like LBs --…

HCs might be like LBs -- good ones don't really make a good team great, but a terrible one can make a good team bad.

I also like the analogy of computer fans -- a really great fan won't make a slow computer fast, but a broken one will ruin even the best computer.

66 The Lions in 2005 were just…

The Lions in 2005 were just as bad as the Browns were. That's the period at which they signed a first-round WR for like, 3 years in a row.

"Jeff Garcia with Andy Reid is going to look way better than having Jeff Garcia alone."

Yes! In other words, Garcia would've been a perfectly viable QB if they had a good team around him, but they didn't. I don't know why you think the Browns could somehow hit at QB and magically fix the fact that the rest of the team is horrible and they have no coaching.

"They'd look a lot like the Lions and less like the Browns. Quarterbacks alone keep you out of the cellar."

Look at the results the drafted QBs have gotten for the Browns prior to Mayfield. The Browns haven't been drafting QBs that don't work out as starters. They've been drafting *abject failures*. That's not bad luck, that's bad evaluation. Literally Jacksonville's drafted better QBs than them, and people use them as examples of total disasters.

Mayfield's not *that* kind of a miss, and I don't even know if he *can* be called a miss yet.

The Browns with Mayfield are 12-18, a 40% win percentage. The Lions with Stafford and without Megatron are 27-29, a 48% win percentage. This is not a giant difference.

71 I am going to respond to you…

I am going to respond to you and theTDC in this post.

Let me be clear - a bad supporting cast will hurt your qb. That is unquestionable. The point I was making is - Blaine Gabbert is a bad quarterback. He would be bad even if he went to all 32 teams and tried his hand at qb. That is true for lots of busts. I think a bust is a bust. He might look a little better with a better supporting cast, but he's never going to become a good player. 

The Patriots churned out Cassel, Hoyer, and Brisette. They also drafted O'Connel and Ryan Mallet who have done nothing, so there's no sense that they are excellent at drafting qbs. What made those QBs look better was the supporting casts and offensive scheme.

Now to the Browns. I am discussing why this team has lived in the toilet for so long - they have drafted poorly at qb. Sure, maybe if they had surrounded Garcia with talent, they'd top out as a middling playoff team at best. But they rightly knew that there was no point in going that route. So they tried to draft a qb. They failed. You can argue that maybe Brady Quinn, Tim Couch, Brandon Weeden, and Baker Mayfield would be successful picks had they gone to a different organization. Maybe, we'll never know. I know the opposite has been true - qbs have gone to awful franchises and been good so I don't ascribe to that theory. 

 

90 There are two reasons why this isn't true

I'm replying a little bit to multiple people here, first trying to explain why some teams can draft very well at QB. First, probably a great reason why the Patriots draft QB so well, is that they are never desperate for a QB, at least for a 20 year period when they had Brady. If you aren't desperate for a QB, then the only ones you draft are ones you deem to be high value at that position. The same would be true for every other position. If you have a stud LB corps, then the LBs you draft are going to be the "OMFG this guy is still available, damn. We just simply have to draft him," and not the "well I guess he's the best guy at LB and we desperately need one".

Second, I can think of precious few QB's who have actually gone to bad teams, or more importantly bad coaches, and flourished. Andrew Luck comes to mind, although he was noticeably better under Reich at the end. DeShaun Watson under Bill O'Brian is another. Who else? After that the cupboard runneth dry, or whatever the saying is. To stick with the Rams, I strongly believe that if Jared Goff was stuck with Fisher for three years, he would be making "top 10 biggest NFL busts" lists. Look at Sam Darnold with Adam Gase. Do you think he has a chance to make it with that idiot? Or Baker Mayfield with Freddie Kitchens and that guy who went 1-31 who's name I forgot. 

92 I should have made it very…

I should have made it very clear that the part of your statement I was responding to was this here: 

"You can argue that maybe Brady Quinn, Tim Couch, Brandon Weeden, and Baker Mayfield would be successful picks had they gone to a different organization. Maybe, we'll never know. I know the opposite has been true - qbs have gone to awful franchises and been good so I don't ascribe to that theory. "

Specifically, that I can think of one, Deshaun Watson, QB who has gone to what I deem to be an idiot coach and still succeeded. In fact, we have tons of examples of QB's struggling with one coach, then succeeding with another. Alex Smith was hot garbage under Singletary, but then played well under Harbaugh and Reid. Drew Brees was solid in SD, but is HOF material under Payton. Jeff Garcia is another. Andrew Luck was average under that old coach, but elite under Reich. Jared Goff was horrific under Fisher, great under McVay. Bridgewater was okay in MIN, excellent last year under Payton. Andy Reid turned all QB's ever into about a tier higher than they previously were. The list goes on.

The most important "surrounding talent" is the coaching staff. This is what I mean when I talk about QB's not being inert mechanical pieces ready to be plucked off a shelf and inserted into your team.

Again, only exception being Peyton Manning because he was his own coach. 

98 Decent case that Tim Couch…

Decent case that Tim Couch would've succeeded elsewhere (although Browns still should've drafted Donovan McNabb,) and I still have faith in Baker.

 

Brady Quinn and Weeden, absolutely not (the 2013 system was completely geared to him, with 4 pro bowlers on offense, along with Chud's vertical system, and he still flopped.)

99 In addition to the examples…

In addition to the examples you gave, there is Matt Ryan who came in to resurrect the franchise after the Bobby Petrino fiasco. There's also Carson Palmer coming to the Bengals after a decade plus of ineptitude. Plus there's Matthew Stafford for the Lions. 

131 To be honest Palmer's career…

To be honest Palmer's career really took a hit from injuries. First the knee which took him a couple seasons of gunshyness to get over. Then a shoulder injury that sapped a chunk of his arm strength. During his early years he had a stacked receiving core in Ochocinco, Housh, and Chris Henry ( RIP)

104 But Marino was drafted by…

But Marino was drafted by Don Shula! And he was 17th overall! That's very much the opposite of a bad coach. What I'm saying is if Marino had been drafted by some idiot coach you'd be saying "great arm talent, nothing else, huge bust," or at least something closer to that than our current opinion of him.

Matt Ryan seems like a much better example of a legitimate quarterback who came in and turned a franchise around without having a good coach, but these examples are few and far between.

114 Marino was drafted 27th,…

Marino was drafted 27th, next to last in the 1983 draft.  The Dolphins beat the Jets in the Mud Bowl the year before so John Riggins could run them over in the Super Bowl.  So Marino didn't improve that team's standing at all.  If the Jets had drafted him to replace Richard Todd, with his 5 interceptions in the Mud Bowl, it's quite possible Marino would have been more interception prone like he was his last year of college (one of the main reasons Marino didn't get picked earlier), but even then the guy the Jets drafted (Ken O'Brien) didn't turn out that badly, so maybe Marino would still have had his Hall of Fame career.

Mike Smith won 50 out of his first 71 games, which is only surpassed by Chuck Knox and George Seifert.  He got fired after the Falcons finally had two losing seasons in a row, and he did not do well as defensive coordinator in Tampa, but he wasn't a bad coach at all.

93 The problem with your theory…

The problem with your theory is that Baker Mayfield was actually a solid quarterback his rookie year.  He ranked 12th in DYAR and 14th in DVOA, ahead of Kirk Cousins.  He was also better than Lamar Jackson was that year.  He's fallen apart within the last year or so, and perhaps the Browns are ruining him (constantly changing coaches isn't a good idea).  There are some issues that he had in college that are lingering though; he moved around the pocket too much in college, and it seems like he's doing that now too.

Also, it's not like the Lions are looking that awesome right now either.  If Jeff Garcia looks way better with Andy Reid, maybe the problem is not having an Andy Reid for a coach, and if the Browns did have Andy Reid, they'd just fire him after a year.  I also might add that the Jets have had a terrible string of quarterbacks the last fifteen years since they jettisoned Pennington, with only one good year from Fitzpatrick.  Still they were able to make two playoff runs with Mark Sanchez during that time.

105 Agreed

Yeah, I think teams and fanbases would be a lot better off looking for a coach to become their saviour than a QB, since a good QB prospect will most likely simply be ruined by an idiot coach anyway. Problem is, unless your coach gets fired there's not much reason for optimism. 

And I personally do see Mayfield as an excellent QB prospect in the process of being absolutely destroyed by the Cleveland Browns. Just completely and utterly destroyed. But I suppose we're expected to believe that one of the best College Prospects of the past 10 years is going to come into the league and be 14th in DVOA, easily pass the eye test, and then regress to being replacement level no matter who's coaching him? Like that was just in the cards or something. Written in the stars, Baker Mayfield is going to be great his rookie year then out of the NFL in 4 years. It's just so absurd that it must be parody. 

117 How are the Browns failing…

In reply to by theTDC

How are the Browns failing Mayfield? They have landry and OBJ. They brought in Hooper. Gardner Minshew is in a worse situation and has outplayed him.

156 You're seriously comparing…

You're seriously comparing Mike Smith, Dan Quinn, Jim Schwartz, Jim Caldwell, Chuck Pagano, and Frank Reich to Hue Jackson, Gregg Williams, Freddie Kitchens, and Kevin Stefanski? *Really*?

I'm leaving off Matt Patricia because, uh... it's not like Stafford's actually "succeeding."

Freddie Kitchens and Kevin Stefanski had a grand total of *one year* at the coordinator level before they were hired as head coach. Hue Jackson and Gregg Williams obviously had more, but Jackson clearly wasn't able to run the team (the team *despised* him after he left), and Williams had literally the only success of the bunch.

Yes, teams have succeeded hiring guys early on in their careers. You may note that those are teams who've had long-term success. This is not a coincidence: hiring a guy with limited experience means you need to be good at identifying (and acquiring!) coaching talent.

The Browns are not good at identifying/acquiring *any* talent, player or coaching. This is flamingly obvious. Stefanski might even succeed over time, I have no idea. But it'll likely take some time, and the Browns ownership is not patient.

Remember, teams can't forcibly acquire talent at coach like they can players. Coaches actively avoid the Browns. By default the Browns coaching staff should be considered "bad" just because a talented coach would not go there.

160 Pat. The browns have failed…

Pat. I am not sure we disagree as much as you think. I agree...bad coaches hurt your qb and the offense. That is not the source of the disagreement. Its also worth pointint out, the browns have failed with a litany of different coaches, not all have been Freddie Kitchens or Hue Jackson. They have failed with seasoned coordinators and they have failed with former head coaches. They have failed with offensive guys and they have failed with defensive guys. They have failed with hot candidates and failed with lower tier candidates.

The argument we seem to be stuck on is this - If only they had the right head coach, then Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Baker Mayfield, or Tim Couch might have ended up a success(we need to be clear about what success here means. Finding some replaceable qb is not a success to me). This is the heart of the disagreement. Would those aforementioned QBS look better with talent and good coaching around them? No question. Would they be good qbs? IMO no. 

To that extent, are Chuck Pagano, Jim Schwartz, Mike Smith, or BOB better coaches than Pat Shurmer, Romeo Crennel, Rob Chudzinsky, Eric Mangini, or Butch Davis? You can point to those coaches having more success than the Browns' coaches, but then I'd argue that is because the qbs they drafted weren't busts. 

To drive home the point further, if the Browns had Chuck Pagano as the coach and then drafted any of the previous QB busts, would they have been less busty?

164 "To drive home the point…

"To drive home the point further, if the Browns had Chuck Pagano as the coach and then drafted any of the previous QB busts, would they have been less busty?"

These things don't mix. If Pagano's the coach, and they drafted those previous QB busts, then Pagano's not the head coach. Not really, as in he has absolutely no say in the personnel. *No* reasonable head coach would've tossed the QBs they had and went with DeShone Kizer, for instance.

But you're still missing what I'm saying. It's not the head coach. It's not the QBs. Those are *symptoms*. They've had "usable" quarterbacks at times. They've had "okay" coaches at times. They don't keep them. They toss them, and go for the new, shiny toy. What's the common factor?

The common factor's the front office, structure, and ownership. That's the problem. Nothing is ever going to work in Cleveland until that's gutted and replaced. I mean, jeez, John Dorsey was there for 3 years, and they actually did a pretty darn good job building up talent. Enough so that people realized "hey, Cleveland's actually building a talented team." 

So Cleveland fired him.

"They have failed with hot candidates and failed with lower tier candidates."

Cleveland's never had a 'hot candidate' coach. Last year they were the last team left searching for a coach. They didn't even have someone with *any* football experience on the search committee.

McDaniels, for instance, never got an interview last year, and wasn't offered a contract this year. He was also reported to want big, sweeping changes to the whole organization. The Browns didn't want him.

This is the point. The Browns aren't going to win because the *real* Browns - the owners, the guys in the front office, the ones who've been there forever - aren't interested in winning, they're interested in keeping their jobs. And they're the ones who keep saying "oh, we just need to find the right coach, just need to find the right QB."

The people who say "oh, QB X would've succeeded anywhere" or "coach Y would've had success anywhere" have sorely underestimated the Browns.

158 Slothook. You have this…

Slothook. You have this bizarre and completely misplaced arrogance to you that is irritating and contemptible. Nobody ever said that coaches are 100% of a QB's success, and I specifically pointed out Manning as a QB that is as close to "buy off the shelf and start" as it gets. But your position that coaching is this totally irrelevant sideshow to QB play is so bizarre and absurd that it borders on satire. Who was Andrew Luck's coach? Oh well that would be two mediocrities and then Frank Reich. And guess what, he was average under the mediocrities and then elite under Reich. Who, oh by the way, was responsible for Carson Wentz's successful introduction into the league. Who were Matt Ryan's coaches? Well let's see, he has a career QB rating of 94.6, and under Shanahan he had his best year by far, reaching 117.1, and averaging at about 103.5 in that two year tenure. 

And Matt Stafford? Really? Stafford has been the definition of above-average his entire career, despite having a great arm. His career QB rating is 89.3. Alex Smith had a QB rating of 104.5 the year that Andy Reid decided to move on from him, because he didn't think he was all that great. Hell, Smith had an average QB rating of about 94.75 his entire tenure under Reid, despite having a career rating of 87.3, which would be drastically lower without those years, and his QB rating had a clear progression upwards under Reid. 

So in the entire league we have two middle tier QB's, Matt Stafford and Deshaun Watson, who have succeeded at being top 20 QB's with idiot coaches. We have a third, Matt Ryan, who has become arguably a top 10 QB with occasionally great coaching, but overall mediocre coaching. We have a fourth, Andrew Luck, who also got into that top 20 list, then became a top 5 QB under Frank Reich. Wow, I am genuinely amazed that quarterbacks with the natural ability to be top 5 QB's manage to be passable some of the time under bad coaching. Wow, who could possibly see that coming. Yes we can therefore explain Baker Mayfields regression under Freddie Kitchens and that other ultra-idiot as being completely his fault. Written in the stars. If a player plays worse in year 3 than his rookie season, make sure you blame the player and not the coaching staff. 

That's like saying that Calvin Johnson managed to put up a shitload of yards under bad coaching, therefore good coaches are irrelevant. Instead, imagine if Sean Payton had gotten his hands on a 6'6 athletic freak like Calvin Johnson, and he'd be talked about like the hands down greatest WR of all time not even close. Oh but I guess you don't need good coaching to be successful at WR because Johnson did it. 

Baker Mayfield is obviously being ruined by the Browns. This is bordering on not even being up for discussion, since everybody knows that the Browns are a clown organization which manages to get the worst out of whatever they have. Stop strawmanning people and take the L.

159 I think you are reading way…

I think you are reading way too much into my arguments and coming away with personal beliefs about what I am doing.

There is a piece of subtlety that is missing here. The question is not, do coaches help or are they irrelevant. That is not my argument. Of course they help. I made a different argument. Does a coach by himself ensure that a qb will be horrible if the coach is sufficiently terrible. I don't think that's true and I offered the examples above to show that the QBS in question managed to carve out some competency even while saddled with the coaches they had. 

 

I subscribe to the view that Ryan Leaf would be a bust no matter where he went. He might look a little less like a bust with Andy Reid, but he'd still be a bust. The same is true for nearly every qb that flopped spectacularly. 

 

The point I am trying to make in all of this is - I don't view qbs all as lumps of clay ready to be molded into successful(or unsuccessful qbs). Sure, it might be true but the examples I offered lead me to suspect its the opposite - that qbs are what they are and successful coaches can elevate that baseline level of play or they can hinder it, but not make a bad qb into a good one. 

Kyle Shanahan did not turn Nick Mullens or CJ Beathard into moderate successes and he's considered the ultimate play designer. 

 

As an aside...Id be curious to see what I said you found so arrogant and contemptible. I mean, contemptible??? Did I personally call you out on something or dismiss your arguments as garbage? Remember, this thread started with me saying - the reason the Browns have been horrible for 20 years is mostly the result of missing on their quarterbacks. Somewhere, that was taken up as a kind of defense for all the bungling they have done since.  No! They have indeed made a ham of just about everything. However, to really sink to the ultimate depths of NFL hell, it takes more than organizational incompetence. I argued had they just landed even one above average qb in the draft, they'd look like the Lions. Instead they missed and so you pair Lions organizational incompetence with bust after bust and you get the Cleveland Browns. 

135 Yeah, I think teams and…

In reply to by theTDC

Yeah, I think teams and fanbases would be a lot better off looking for a coach to become their saviour than a QB, since a good QB prospect will most likely simply be ruined by an idiot coach anyway.

 As a Chiefs fan, I heartily agree with the sentiment about getting a good coach.  But until the current QB, we never knew much about this idea of "QB prospect." 

143 You're correct, they didn't…

You're correct, they didn't even draft Len Dawson.  He was drafted by the Steelers, and then traded to the Browns, who released him because he couldn't beat out Milt Plum.  Then the Texans/Chiefs picked him up.

Before Mahommes, Chiefs fans would think of Todd Blackledge when hearing the words "quaterback prospect".  You know, the one guy from the 1983 QB draft who actually busted (Eason went to the Super Bowl, O'Brien led the league in passer rating one year).  Seriously, Chiefs fans will say the team should have drafted O'Brien in 1983.

108 “Also, it's not like the…

“Also, it's not like the Lions are looking that awesome right now either“

You have to grade the Lions franchise on a curve.  Stafford brought the Lions out of the nuclear winter of the Matt Millen era to 4 winning seasons and 3 playoff appearances (one with Jim Schwartz, who was not a good head coach).  That wouldn’t be impressive for most franchises, but for the Lions, it’s their second most successful post-merger stretch of seasons after the Barry Sanders era.

154 For all of his faults,…

For all of his faults, Schwartz built the fearsome defense that lead the Lions toward their first playoff appearance since the Barry Sanders era. I don't believe all of the subsequent failures can be laid at his feet, although letting the division slip away in 2013 when 9 wins would have won it is not excusable. He left enough for Caldwell to work with toward another playoff appearance, to be screwed over by the refs in the playoff loss to the Cowturds. That's all gone now since the defense backbone has disintegrated.

49 I completely agree, but...

I completely agree with the gist of this comment, but Gabbert and Bortles were hot garbage. PFF has Gabbert as a meme, as in, look how unbelievably awful this guy was and yet he kept starting. That kind of meme. He's the benchmark for horribleness over multiple years. Frankly, Bortles isn't far behind, and it's not hard to see why. I got a chance to see him in preseason last year for my Rams, and he's both inaccurate and slow to make decisions. He makes up for this with, quite frankly, absolutely nothing.

However, I've said before and I'll say again, the offense around the QB is so much more important than people realize, mostly because the camera just focuses on the QB and the line when the play is going. Alex Smith of all people led the league in QB rating the year before Mahomes took over, with a 104.7 QB rating. Mahomes last year was... 105.3. The year before it was 113.8. Now I'm not saying that's truly indicative, and that Mahomes is interchangeable with Smith. God no. But what I am saying is that if Mahomes had been drafted to some awful team with an idiot OC and head coach, there's a good chance we'd be saying right now: "that Mahomes kid, total waste of a pick. Had obvious accuracy issues in college. Makes some plays, but seems lost." Etcetera. When Alex Smith went to Washington his rating dropped down to 85.7, which I think is a decent ballpark for how good the coaching/surrounding talent on the Chiefs is.

I don't even know if the Patriots really draft all that much better, but somewhere along the line of drafting better, training better, having more surrounding talent, and calling plays/designs to suit that player better they manage to get a whole lot more value than most everybody else.

58 The reason they're the…

The reason they're the benchmark of horribleness is that they're good enough to *actually occasionally play*.

The guys the Browns draft are not. This is the bias you run into: the worst QB still in the NFL is still one of the top football players in the world.

120 Teams *chose* him over the…

Teams *chose* him over the guys Cleveland released. Blaine Gabbert is on the Buccaneers. He was on San Francisco after Jacksonville, and Arizona and Tennessee. Those teams could've gone after DeShone Kizer. They didn't. The Browns in 2017 had Brock Osweiler, Robert Griffin, and Josh McCown. They let all of them go, and kept DeShone Kizer.

Brock Osweiler was immediately picked up by the Broncos. He started that year after a spate of injuries.
Robert Griffin was picked up the next year by the Ravens. He's still on the team as their primary backup.
Josh McCown was picked up by the Jets and started the majority of the season.

Kizer was traded next year by the Browns, and Green Bay dropped him after that, and he's out of the league.

This is what I'm talking about. I'm not saying Gabbert, Osweiler, Griffin, or McCown are good QBs. I'm saying the rest of the league thought they had value enough to be on the team. Not necessarily as a starter, obviously. But still value.

The guys that Cleveland's been drafting? *No one* thinks they have any value to add to a team anymore. That's how bad they are. And it's not just Kizer. They also drafted Manziel as well, to similarly awful results.

If you look at Cleveland's first-day draft results, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden are their *successes*.

112 I agree with your larger…

I agree with your larger points, but I don't think your statements about the Browns' QB picks hold water, especially if the benchmark is "keeps getting hired to hold clipboards". Luke McCown and Colt McCoy of course both lasted forever as uber-backups, and Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden both lingered on rosters long after their starting days were done. And people like Charlie Frye and Cody Kessler kept bouncing around the League for years. DeShone Kizer's still in the Raiders organization, after getting tabbed to backup Aaron Rodgers the year after he missed half the season with an injury (and so the backup might have been expected to see substantial playing time). It's really only Couch and Manziel who never got second chances; Couch had a scragged rotator cuff, and Manziel of course is Manziel. On the balance, the Browns are practically a backup QB factory.

(In fact, by my count, the only QB's the Browns Reborn have drafted who didn't last 5 years and aren't currently rostered, per your benchmark, are Spergon Wynn, who hung around the CFL for a long time, and Kessler, who might not be done - he was working out with the Texans in August.)

No, if anything, they've been remarkably adept at identifying amateur QB's with at least a base level of competence.

It is problem is that they've never been able to find anyone, with the possible but unlikely exception of Mayfield, who surpasses that level - only Colt McCoy seems to have ever been even semi-seriously considered to be the full-time starter for anyone else (and he's Colt McCoy). Of course some of that's just bad luck (even over 20 years, it's a small sample): Couch maybe could've been something if he'd stayed healthy, Manziel maybe could've been something if he'd kept his nose clean. And Kizer maybe could've been something if he hadn't been tossed to the wolves completely unprepared - but that is what speaks to the fundamental problem, which is complete organizational dysfunction.

They can't develop or support any QB because their coaches and GM's are all bad and put bad players and personnel around them, like you said. At the end of the day, that's because the owner(s) can't identify coaching or front office talent, plain and simple. That is the fundamental issue that has and will continue to cripple the franchise; you can't draft your way out of that problem, no matter which QB you take.

(An aside: a fun game is figuring out who the best coach in the history of the Browns Reborn is. It might actually be Gregg Williams's half season. Besides him, it's probably between Romeo Crennel, who led the franchise to its best ever record [10-6] and had the longest tenure [4 years], and Butch Davis, who led them to their only playoff appearance. Again, best.)

115 As much as I despise Gregg…

As much as I despise Gregg Williams for bountygate, I really want Gase to get fired soon so Williams can take over in New York.  It's obviously the defense plays hard for him.

116 Fun Browns QB factoid

IIRC, Roethlisberger still has more wins in Cleveland than any New Browns QB. Talk about impressive testaments to the Browns' instability and futility. I do expect that Mayfield will surpass him this season (if he hasn't already done so), if only because the Browns can't be as futile as they looked against a loaded Ravens squad.

125 "if only because the Browns…

"if only because the Browns can't be as futile as they looked against a loaded Ravens squad"

At which point we finally circle back to the week 1 overreaction meme.

"can't be" is a little strong, of course, because they could be, but:

a) it's only one game, and

b) BAL is probably, really, really good 

So I'd tap the brakes on CLE's season being doomed.  We should at least wait until they get blown out by the Bengals, too.

165 "(In fact, by my count, the…

"(In fact, by my count, the only QB's the Browns Reborn have drafted who didn't last 5 years and aren't currently rostered, per your benchmark, are Spergon Wynn, who hung around the CFL for a long time, and Kessler, who might not be done - he was working out with the Texans in August.)"

There are 3 tiers of quarterbacking: starter, backup, and guy that a team holds on to dreams that they might turn into something.

When you draft a QB in the first 3-4 rounds, you hope he'll turn into tier 1 (starter), but if you've done your job, his floor should be tier 2 (backup).

The Browns have had a *number* of drafted QBs in the first 3-4 rounds who've ended up at "tier 3" - Manziel, Brady Quinn, and DeShone Kizer, and probably Kessler too. Their success rate since 2007 is 50%. That's abysmal, and considering 3/4 of those are rounds 1-2, that's *really* abysmal. If you look at the Dolphins, for instance, since 2007 only Pat White *really* didn't pan out.

Quinn lingered on rosters at the 3rd string level. He managed to barely grab a backup spot in 2012, but other than that, after he left the Browns he was always at the "bad backup" level. Ditto with Kizer, and likely Kessler. That's not like McCoy, for instance.

48 Yes, I don't like the way…

Yes, I don't like the way that the immediate costs of tanking are often dismissed when it is being justified. Aside from any arguments about building a winning culture, pissing off your fans, etc. - every season is an opportunity to win, and the value of winning now is always greater than the value of (hypothetically) winning in the future. Plenty of recent teams have contended with 'makeshift' solutions at QB, if the rest of their roster is soundly built (e.g. 2019 Titans, 2017 Vikings). 

And note that 'winning the Super Bowl' is not a good measure of success. Titans fans will surely remember last year's playoff victories with fondness for years to come, even though they eventually lost. 

83 This is a very good point. …

This is a very good point.  I have very little positives to hang on to as a Lions fan, but I fondly remember 2011, 2014, and 2016 as fun seasons to watch football (10-6, 11-5, 9-7 with playoff berths with WC losses....heck even 9-7 with no playoffs in 2017 was alright).   I would definitely take that over a couple of 3 win seasons that will get you a top-5 pick that’s not even guaranteed to be difference makers.  

18 Let. Russ. Cook.

The Seahawks decided to Let Russ Cook and for his first dish he elected to flambe.

75 We-el-el-el-el-ell!

According to Mike Florio, which, well, I want backup before I fully believe:

Apparently Russ not only wanted a change of offensive gameplan this year, he informed the Seahawk brass that if he wasn’t allowed to cook, he’d consider playing elsewhere.

Hmm hmmmm hmmmmmm!

19 The guy you want on 3rd-40+…

The guy you want on 3rd-40+ is Carson Palmer, who faced faced two-such situations and gained at least 15 yards each time. One time was on goal-to-go, and it resulted in a missed FG. Where there was a declined offensive holding. Because the Bengals can't have nice things. That said, he did convert a 3rd-32.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader which QC turned lemons into ever fouler lemons. Maybe a big-ass sour grapefruit or something.

The list of longest conversions is fascinating. Leroy Hoard ran for 53 yards on 3rd-37. Trent Dilfer (!) threw for 38 on 3rd-35 (longest pass conversion). He also threw a 58 yards TD on 3rd-29. DeForest Buckner, last year, gifted GB a 3rd-35 conversion via a spearing penalty. Not the only forest to be burned in SF in the last year.

22 Lions lose, 27-23, and how…

Lions lose, 27-23, and how is this happening again to Detroit?

They still play games on days ending in "y", right? That's how.

Detroit is Bizarro-Pittsburgh. It's almost a Dorian Gray-type situation, where one of them is execrable and the other great, and they hand off which is which. Clearly one must be the sin-eater for the other, and I think the Rooneys demanded it as the price for approving Ford's purchase of the team.

81 If the Chargers and Lions…

If the Chargers and Lions were to duel it out for the most cursed franchise, would both end up with guns that malfunctioned?

Seriously, I don't which franchise is more cursed. Sure, the Chargers have had more success than the Lions have had - but they've also squandered more opportunities. How else can a team draft Lt, Rivers, and Brees and still end up with one afc championship game appearance to show for it?

24 I wonder when the last time…

I wonder when the last time a team with a first-round draft pick quarterback saw their incumbent starter go over 300 yards with four touchdowns?

2017. Alex Smith did it to New England and NYJ, while Mahomes sat behind him.

25 I didn't see any of the…

I didn't see any of the first 30 minutes, but I wonder how much the offensive line issues and Washington's talented defensive line are really affecting what Wentz is seeing and doing. I don't know if he's not seeing the field well, if his internal clock is just all out of whack, or what.

It was mostly the line. In the first half, if Washington didn't get immediate pressure on Wentz (and I mean turning an LB or DE free immediately), he was ripping off 20 yards per pass. It was all feast or famine -- huge chucks or immediate sacks. I think Wentz started to get happy feet after about 30 minutes of the David Carr Experience. The line was awful, especially the right side -- note the fore-mentioned DE who was just turned free. I think if they had thrown me onto the field, I could have gotten at least half a sack.

26 Draw Play Dave FTW

The Draw Play is right on, as usual:

http://www.thedrawplay.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/2020-09-14-ComfortFootball.png

27  but still ... the NFL is…

 but still ... the NFL is doing a far, far better job with the fake noise so far.

Sort of? They are doing a poor job of simulating fan reaction to penalties, and which team it's on, and you don't get any of the noise eruption when a guy gets interfered with before the ref flags it.

33 I was never expecting the…

I was never expecting the NFL to get into that sort of stuff.  They're not going to throw the refs under the bus like that.  I was expecting fairly baseline background noise, just the hum of the game.  They varied it a little in the Falcons-Seahawks game, and when they did it was always appropriate.

Honestly, it just faded into the background for me, which is just fine.  It makes it seem like a somewhat normal game.

29 GB-MN game

While at times the lack of offensive (and defensive) holding calls was a bit annoying overall I prefer this type of officiating approach.  I know the line of demarcation for when a crew should step in for when things would get 'out of hand' is tough to define.  But I think this restrained approach makes for a better game experience.

I did not notice too many of the players griping.  

It was amusing that the one o-holding made was against MVS who blocks like a dance teacher trying to show a 5 year old how to waltz.  That his extended arms lightly placed on his opponent while watching his feet for no good reason qualified as a 'hold' relative to the maulings taking place on the interior was worth a good chuckle

31 I really wanted to watch the…

I really wanted to watch the Bucs and Saints(plus my colts), but the NFL nuked the reddit nfl livestreams thread.

 

So...I watched 49ers Cardinals. My thoughts:

Cardinals: The only reliable sources of offense the entire game were Murray scrambles(which were great), Hopkins completions (Sorry Texans fans), and bad RP penalties. Yes they missed two fgs but I thought the 49ers defense held its own well.

49ers: Ok, the 49ers were already thin at receiver and then lost Deebo, the rookie Ayuik, and Kittle was injured. I get all of that. But to me the story of the game was Jimmy G was bad. Really bad. Awful pocket presence and terrible throws. I am not a Jimmy G hater and it is week 1, but he is the reason the 49ers basically lost this game.

I also find it hilarious that everyone just assumes Jimmy G is better than Goff. More than a few FO posters and writers believe this. Its amazing what one year will do. 

34 You are right that he was terrible

The game was a perfect storm, and he played poorly in the second half.

You can make an argument that SF should have been up 20-3 at halftime. Don't get a punt blocked while scoring on the goal line makes that the score. That means Garoppolo's bad second half doesn't matter.

Re: Jimmy G, his decision making, pocket awareness, and pass accuracy all seemed off. He used to be a fast decision maker with a tight spiral so I don't know what happened. I wonder if they tried to rework his pocket presence / footwork in the offseason and that just threw everything off. 

I definitely used to think that Goff is worse. I still do, but we'll see what happens this year.

32 Can someone provide…

Can someone provide commentary on Matt Ryan? He underwhelmed last year( I bet on the falcons to be really good) and I am curious if hes experiencing an early decline.

37 He's 35; it wouldn't be that…

He's 35; it wouldn't be that early.

He's the same age as Rodgers, but has 14 more games played, because he's healthier. There are a few guys older than him kicking around - Smith, Fitzpatrick, Schaub, McCown, Flacco - but none have Ryan's miles. He's only 27 games behind Roethlisberger and 36 behind Rivers, and both of those guys might be toast.

Arguably, of active QBs, he might be the oldest who still has something like his full arm strength.

38 I'm a Seahawks Fan

So I watched the game yesterday through those glasses.  But I thought Ryan looked fine.  He was fitting balls into windows and going to Julio Jones whenever it was appropriate (read: early and often.)  He found the open man reliably and his ball placement was good.

You never know when a QB is going to fall off a cliff, but I thought Ryan had a fine game.  He certainly wasn't the reason the Falcons lost.  You go 0-for-4 on 4th down that can happen to you.

44 Surprised at relative cleaness of games

Sure, Tompa had some penalty problems, fair bit of hard count induced NZ infractions, but overall, the games looked as good as most, if not all, recent opening games. Also a few injuries, but nothing that seemed dramatically out of line with recent history (not sure how to measure that, stoppages, out of game, to IR, what have you) 

 

And Lion, Browns, Jets, Bengals, Jason Garrett Cowboys (that was Garrett in a McCarthy mask, right?) made me think the sun will come up tomorrow and 2020 will be a memory soon.

62 Bears/Lions

I was texting murderous thoughts to a fellow Bear fan during the part of the game where Trubisky was throwing ten feet behind guys and Stafford was making the Bears' D look silly (i.e., about 80% of the game). When it went to 23-6, my fellow fan predicted Trubisky would have two good drives at the end, the Bears would lose 23-20, and the narrative would be "he was coming around at the end, he just needs a little more time." He was off by one drive and a few tons of narrative hype. 

I feel so bad for Lions fans. Stafford is so good when he's in the groove, and with a healthy Golladay that passing attack is fearsome. But the decision to jettison a perfectly cromulent coaching staff in favor of New England Flavor of the Month is going to waste the rest of Stafford's decent years.

65 It really smells of the…

In reply to by TomC

It really smells of the Denver Broncos decision to hire Josh McDaniels. You had a perfectly decent team with a good enough coaching staff that you decided wasn't good enough and went all in on the Bill Belichick osmosis theory.

79 The difference is the Lions…

The difference is the Lions will in no way luck into Angry Peyton Manning + all-world defense.

Although I sort of like the idea of Barry Sanders coming back to take the reins from a comatose Ford member who has titular control of the team and free-wheeling his way into a title. Hell, a playoff win.

82 Pretty much. Dumars' tenure…

Pretty much.

Dumars' tenure with the Pistons was like this; early on he fleeced Atlanta for Rasheed Wallace and rode that to a title. Afterwards, they were basically a Manning-Colts type disappointment; perennial bridesmaids. He will still drink for free in Detroit because of that title. (And his first two as a player, but still)

86 To get waaay off-topic here,…

To get waaay off-topic here, Dumars' 2004 Pistons team was an extraordinary accomplishment: It was one of two NBA title teams since at least the ABA merger that did not have a current or former MVP on the roster (the other was the 1989 Pistons team Dumars played for).  It was a wild outlier in the same way that winning a Super Bowl with an atrocious QB is an outlier (and I guess that makes the Ravens the NFL-Pistons?)

The 2015 Broncos were far more conventional - even if Manning had the physical abilities of a corpse by that point in his career he still brought enough to that offense in other ways to make it decent.

94 Dumars made plenty of…

Dumars made plenty of mistakes in Detroit (Darko over Carmelo and Bosh), but that team lost the finals in 7 the next year, and kept making it to the Conference Finals several years after.  They were a well built team that lost to the Heat and Cavs because the stars (Wade and LeBron) came out, and then eventually fell apart like everything does.  No one's criticizing the Mavericks front office even though they only pulled one championship off with Dirk.

85 Stafford really needs to…

In reply to by TomC

Stafford really needs to pull a Carson Palmer and demand to be traded to a decent organization.  He’s in danger of being a very good quarterback with a decent career who will be forgotten by all except NFL history buffs.  Neil Lomax, Dave Krieg, Bert Jones, etc. come immediately to mind.

88 Although if he plays and…

Although if he plays and remains a starter until 40 or later he will likely be remembered simply because it's hard to forget a guy who's top five all time in passing yards. It he lasts another ten years and averages 4000 yards a season he would likely be number one. Relatively unlikely, I suppose, but not out of the question.

91 Funny you mention all time…

Funny you mention all time passing yards.  Football Perspective gives Stafford about a 7% chance to own the all-time passing record using a football version of Bill James Favorite Toy model:

http://www.footballperspective.com/history-of-the-career-passing-yards-record/#commentform

111 I'm confident that if…

I'm confident that if Buffalo's front office believes Josh Allen is not the answer at quarterback at season's end, they will be aggressively pursuing Stafford or Rodgers. The surrounding talent is too good, and the team would be considered on par with Baltimore and Kansas City--i.e., a Super Bowl favorite--if it had either of those quarterbacks. Since a crash-and-burn in the Motor City would likely lead to a new head coach, a new front office, and a high draft pick, I think there's a solid chance the Lions would be willing to move on from Stafford and press the reset button.

122 Stafford and his wife are…

Stafford and his wife are likeable people, so I would actually root for this to happen.  Also, winning multiple AFC East titles would get those fans that blame him for the Lions problems will shut up for once.