Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins
Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins
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 Lions 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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 46 at Carolina Panthers 23

Bryan Knowles: If coming off of the shellacking against the Saints wasn't bad enough, the Buccaneers had a terrible Saturday -- stuck on the tarmac for seven hours thanks to a variety of plane issues. This is definitely the sort of preparation you want when trying to bounce back from a terrible performance.

Scott Spratt: I expect a 30-point Tampa Bay win, Bryan! Meanwhile, if that happens, that will make maybe the one somewhat interesting early game (of just five) pretty boring. This could go very well for Masters Sunday!

That said, heavy winds in Green Bay and Cleveland could make for some entertainment.

Scott Spratt: Ronald Jones just fumbled after a catch for the second time in two weeks. If you group those and outright pass drops together, then Jones has I think eight fumbles/drops on catches this season. Why is he still playing so much? They have Leonard Fournette!

Bryan Knowles: The Panthers take advantage of that Ronald Jones fumble -- thanks to Riverboat Rhule. Thanks to some inaccurate passing from Teddy Bridgewater, it looked like the Panthers would go three-and-out, but they opted to try the fourth-and-3, hit Robby Anderson to get into the red zone, and scored a touchdown a couple plays later. Gotta take chances as an underdog! Panthers up 7-0.

Scott Spratt: That touchdown was a delightful play. First, Teddy Bridgewater threw a duck. Then Colin Thompson made his first ever NFL catch for the touchdown. And then, Taylor Moton spiked it right into teammate Trent Scott's face!

By the way, does anyone want to guess where Thompson went to college? You should only need two guesses given head coach Matt Rhule's scouting profile.

Cale Clinton: Thompson was one of the few players who made the transition from the XFL to the NFL. Thompson was a member of the Tampa Bay Vipers, only targeted twice in his entire XFL tenure for one reception and 13 yards. By default, he has already had a more successful NFL career.

Scott Spratt: If you had Colin Thompson and Cameron Brate with the first two touchdowns, cash your ticket.

Bryan Knowles: Tom Brady is definitely looking better today than he did last week, so people hoping he had magically turned into a pumpkin (or turkey, I suppose -- 'tis the season) can hold their horses for another week. I don't know how the Panthers are going to slow down Chris Godwin or Mike Evans, and I'm beginning to get the sense that the Panthers don't know how they're going to do it either.

Bryan Knowles: I know our party line is that screens are terrible, and that's backed up by the data. I'd like to add a caveat, however -- a screen to the side of the field where the cornerback has just blitzed is a fairly solid play. DJ Moore and a set of linemen basically had no one to block on their way to the end zone. Better to be lucky than good, one supposes!

14-7 Panthers late in the first, and we may have our interesting game of the early window,

Scott Spratt: Talk about full circle. The offensive lineman Trent Scott who had the ball spiked into his face just absolutely pancaked a Bucs defensive back on a DJ Moore touchdown. Check the bottom of that video.

Scott Spratt: Leonard Fournette didn't help his case as the more sure-handed Bucs back by dropping an absolute bunny. Maybe if you have two backs fighting over passing-down work, you don't have any?

Bryan Knowles: GRONK SMASH. Rob Gronkowski's biggest play with the Buccaneers: a 44-yard gain into the red zone, which included about 10 yards after smashing through an attempted tackle attempt. Gronk may not be the Gronk of old, but that brought back some memories. It set up a touchdown a few plays later, and we're tied at 17 with 30 seconds left in the half.

Just a comparison of the passing games here. The Buccaneers can't stop the Panthers from completing passes -- Bridgewater is 13-for-14. Brady has been a little bit less accurate, going 16-for-21. But Carolina's averaging just 8.2 yards per completion; the Buccaneers are at 11.3. Lots of dink-and-dunking from Carolina -- though it's working, mind you.

Scott Spratt: Counterpoint on the Panthers' dinking and dunking:

That aggressive downfield look would have gotten the team into field goal range to try to go up 20-17 at halftime. However, a review determined that DJ Moore didn't have control as the ball touched the ground. So this one is tied at intermission.

Vince Verhei: So what has happened to Tampa Bay's defense? First eight games: 66% completion rate allowed, 7.0 yards per throw, 11 TDs, 11 INTs, 27 sacks. Six quarters since then: 83% completion rate, 7.6 yards per throw, 6 TDs, no INTS, just one sack. Obviously, part of what happened was "Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater," but neither of those guys looked this good in their first game against Tampa Bay.

Aaron Schatz: Regarding the Tampa Bay defense, it may be somewhat schematic. The Bucs defense wasn't great in Week 1 against New Orleans either, and remember, Joe Brady worked for the Saints before he went to LSU so there are some similarities between the New Orleans and Carolina offenses. Although Carolina sure throws the ball deep more often than New Orleans does.

Bryan Knowles: My first thought was that the Bucs' defense was at least a little bit being carried by turnovers. 15.2% of their defensive drives in the first half of the season ended with an interception or a fumble; the NFL average was closer to 11%. They were tied with the Browns and Chiefs for most drives ending in turnover. However, they only allowed scores on 39.4% of their drives which didn't end in turnovers; below the NFL average of 48.2%. So that theory isn't explaining everything, though I would imagine getting fewer turnovers isn't precisely helping them over the past six quarters.

Scott Spratt: Has the Bucs defense really been that bad today? The Panthers scored their first touchdown because Ronald Jones fumbled the ball to them in the red zone. Seems like things could go differently in the second half.

Bryan Knowles: They have zero sacks against a very average pass-blocking line (14th in adjusted sack rate) and allowed Bridgewater to start 13-for-13 passing. I'm not going to say they're having a disaster out there, but they haven't really stopped Carolina from doing what they want to do.

Scott Spratt: The Bucs had a sack from Kevin Minter that got turned into a first down by a questionable roughing the passer penalty. The Panthers also extended one drive with a fourth-down conversion. Seems like the Panthers are pretty lucky to be where they are in this one.

Bryan Knowles: The longest offensive touchdown of the year was Derrick Henry's 94-yard romp against Houston. I say "was" because after a punt pinned the Buccaneers back at their own 2-yard line, Ronald Jones just goes straight up the middle. The Panthers get a hand on his shoe about 10 yards downfield, but that's not enough -- 98 yards for the score.

Jones joins Tony Dorsett, Derrick Henry, and Ahman Green as the fourth man to have a 98-plus-yard touchdown run in NFL history.

Aaron Schatz: Link to Jones' 98-yard touchdown:

Tampa Bay misses the extra point to make the score 26-17. First Carolina play on the next drive, Teddy Bridgewater misses Jason Pierre-Paul dropping into coverage on a zone blitz and throws it right to him for the first Carolina turnover of the day.


Scott Spratt: The Panthers just tried their fourth fake punt of the year. And while the first three were successful, the punter draw wasn't quite as effective.

Whatever you thought of the Bucs defense in the first half, they've been excellent in the third quarter. They've limited the Panthers to 34 yards and forced two turnovers, one an interception and the other on downs.

Vince Verhei: I don't have any words strong enough to express my loathing for Carolina's pump-fake-and-draw fake punt that's asking Joseph Charlton to run for a first down on fourth-and-6. Fox had a cool montage prepared of all of Carolina's other fake punts this year ... but that's just all the more reason for Tampa Bay to be prepared for the fake. That's not just a Burn That Play, that's a Set The Whole Building Ablaze to make sure we never draw up anything like that again.

Scott Spratt: It wasn't quite DK Metcalf, but great hustle tackle by Sean Murphy-Bunting.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a kickoff return get that far without scoring. Hate it for Trenton Cannon, but Cannon does at least have one career NFL touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: The Panthers score after the kickoff return as Bridgewater just barely stretches his whole arm with the ball slightly going past the plane of the goal line. Then they make the smart move: down 32-23, they go for two EARLIER rather than later, in order to maximize their chances of "winning the game" instead of just maximizing their chances of "staying within one score." Now they know: They need two more scores.

Scott Spratt: Teddy Bridgewater was blindsided by a sack that took him out at the legs. He's on the sideline being evaluated, and Temple product and XFL star P.J. Walker is in at quarterback.

Scott Spratt: Breaking news! Tom Brady has tied the all-time passing touchdowns record.

Cale Clinton: With the 46-23 final, we've got another Scorigami! Believe it's the sixth of the 2020 season.

Philadelphia Eagles 17 at New York Giants 27

Vince Verhei: Giants get creative to take a 7-0 lead on their first drive. Third-and-3 in Eagles territory, they run a wideout in jet sweep motion left to right at the snap, then fake a handoff to a running back going right to left, and after those two decoys, Daniel Jones flips to Evan Engram on a middle screen. That sets up Jones' own 34-yard touchdown run where he keeps the ball on a zone read with a lead blocker coming across the formation to clear a path. That's a neat wrinkle in the option game that is probably pretty common in college, but I'm seeing it more often in the NFL.

Scott Spratt: So Daniel Jones can run 34 yards without falling down but can't run 85 yards, Vince? I think we're narrowing in on his range.

Vince Verhei: Giants are just rumbling all over the Eagles so far. They're up to 94 yards rushing in two drives. Daniel Jones is their preferred red zone rusher, as he keeps the ball on first and second down inside the Eagles' 20. That sets up Wayne Gallman's 2-yard touchdown plunge on fourth-and-1 from the 2 on the first play of the second quarter. Jones has been sharp through the air too, completing six of seven passes even with Darius Slayton going to the sideline after a catch. Bad Daniel Jones, like we saw against Tampa Bay on Monday night, is real bad. But this good version of Daniel Jones, yeah, this looks like a guy you can build around. Giants lead 14-3.

Scott Spratt: The Eagles entered the week with the No. 10 DVOA run defense, so I think this is a bit of a surprise.

Vince Verhei: Giants still lead 14-3 at the half. It might have been more if Joe Judge were a little more aggressive. He punted on fourth-and-2 from his own 23, which, OK, very few coaches would go for it there, and Riley Dixon boomed a 71-yarder that was downed at the Eagles 6. But next drive, the Giants had a fourth-and-1 across midfield, and instead of going for it they tried a hard count and ended up taking a delay of game and punting. They had one more chance in the first half, a fourth-and-14 at the Eagles 47, but Jones was sacked on his Hail Mary attempt.

Fortunately for them, the Eagles can't get out of their own way. They're 0-for-5 on third downs, they've fumbled a snap, and they've taken seven penalties, most of them presnap on the offense. They're pretty lucky to only be down by 11 points, honestly.

Bryan Knowles: The Best 2-7 Team You'll Ever See (Source: Dave Gettleman, and very much NOT DVOA) just missed Boston Scott, who takes a fairly simple handoff and romps 56 yards for the score. The Giants still lead, 14-11.

Can we pass a rule saying that you have to at least finish .500 to make the playoffs? Please?

Vince Verhei: Some sweet blocks by pulling linemen on that long Scott touchdown run (which was reviewed to see if he stepped out of bounds and upheld):

Vince Verhei: And the Giants quickly answer. Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate beat Nickell Robey-Coleman and Avonte Maddox for a pair of jump-ball big plays, and Gallman punches in a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 1. Giants go back up 21-11 barely five minutes into the third.

Vince Verhei: Suddenly we have a shootout here and a very interesting decision. The Eagles get the third touchdown of the first 10 minutes of the third quarter, this one a 5-yard score by Corey Clement. (The running backs are saving the Eagles' day -- they had another fumbled snap, this one with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, but Miles Sanders scooped up the loose ball and scurried for a first down.

Then things get interesting. Down 21-17, the Eagles go for two. I'd love to know the thinking there -- I guess the upside is that a field goal puts you ahead instead of tying the game, while the downside is that at least you know you need a touchdown instead of a field goal. Unfortunately for them, it's the downside, as Wentz is sacked and the lead stands at 21-17.

Next Giants drive, they again try a hard count on fourth-and-1, and again end up taking a delay-of-game and punting. The announcers point out the Eagles have jumped on the hard count a few times today, but not when it matters most, I guess.

Vince Verhei: EDJ has Philadelphia's Game-Winning Chance at 39% for kicking the extra point, 38% for going for two. So technically a poor decision, but really a coin flip. Interesting.

Aaron Schatz: We should point out that GWC is for Philly's second two-point conversion attempt, after they made it 21-17. The EdjSports model liked them going for two when they made it 21-9 on the previous touchdown.

Vince Verhei: Giants win by a final score of 27-17. Both teams have won three games now, but the Eagles are still in first place -- 3-5-1 beats 3-7. Washington just tied the game against Detroit -- they'll get to 3-6 with a win. Cowboys are on a bye at 2-7. The NFC East, everyone!

Washington Football Team 27 at Detroit Lions 30

Bryan Knowles: Quality NFC East Play alert.

Washington had the ball inside the red zone -- the 14-yard line, specifically. They then lost 10 yards. And then 14 more yards. And then punted. It's great that Alex Smith is back, but that's vintage, 2005-era Alex Smith play.

Carl Yedor: Matthew Stafford seemed to hurt the thumb on his throwing hand at some point on an earlier drive and is now going to be re-entering the game with a tape job. He hasn't had an opportunity to really throw since sustaining the injury, but it's definitely something to monitor now that Detroit has the ball back. Detroit probably isn't going anywhere this season, but if the Lions are forced to turn to Chase Daniel or David Blough for an extended period of time, a late-season playoff charge may not be in the cards.

Stafford doesn't look any worse for the wear on this drive though. He was a little off on a touch throw down the left sideline intended for T.J. Hockenson, but outside of that he's still delivering the ball where it needs to go. Detroit caps off the drive with a touchdown to Marvin Jones to make it 14-3.

Cale Clinton: Washington is doing just enough for me to keep my eyes on this game. Ron Rivera makes the decision to go for it on fourth-and-8 in the red zone, then doubles down to go for it on fourth-and-13 after a false start penalty. Alex Smith converts, and J.D. McKissic punches it in for Washington's first touchdown of the day to make it 24-10.

It's a shame that Aqib Talib's first appearance in the booth has to be this game. From the small amount of time I've spent watching this game, I've really enjoyed his contribution to the coverage. He adds a lot by bringing in a player's perspective, often points out schematic nuances in the secondary I otherwise wouldn't notice, and has done a good job of keeping this game light and entertaining. Not enough to actually make me focus on this game, but enough to make me check back in pretty regularly.

Bryan Knowles: And now, Cale, the Football Team is making a Football Game out of this one. Washington forces a quick three-and-out, and then has maybe their best drive of the season-- an 11-play, 84-yard march, almost all on the arm of Alex Smith. He's up to 30-for-36 for 271 yards; it's the seventh game of his career with 30 completions, and all of those saw him sling it at least 45 times. His personal record is 34; with 11:21 left in the fourth, you'd assume he'd break that.

24-17 Lions still, mind you.

Cale Clinton: Turns out I'm going to be listening to a lot more of Aqib Talib's commentary!

Scott Spratt: After a Lions field goal, Alex Smith has 2:33 to complete a game-winning drive down 27-24. Should the Lions be happy that the Falcons and Chargers exist and draw the bulk of the attention for blowing big leads? Or would the Lions rather at least have that coverage?

Scott Spratt: Now that Aqib Talib is announcing games, should we change his nickname to Call Hawk?

Scott Spratt: Was this defensive pass interference call on Desmont Trufant justified? You be the judge!

If it hadn't been called, the Lions could have taken a knee and won. As it stands, Washington has the ball inside the Lion's 30-yard line with 36 seconds left.

Cale Clinton: Regardless of how this game finishes, this is a prime example of why the recent shift in how NFL teams approach fourth down matters. Down 24-3, on a fourth-and-13 in the red zone, Ron Rivera had two options: send your field goal unit out to take the relatively safe chip-shot field goal, or take a chance and go for the first down. If Washington settles for the field goal, the ball game probably ends there. Detroit spends more time running out the clock, and even if Washington scores on their next two drives like they did, they probably wouldn't have the time to put together this final drive while down 7.

Instead, Rivera chose to take the risk and went for it. Washington erased a 21-point deficit, and now they're in a position to either win this game outright or take it to overtime if they fail to score a touchdown. That's the whole point of being a head coach: putting your team in a position to win football games.

Bryan Knowles: That was not pass interference by any definition of the rule I am aware of. But the Lions' fans rage should be at least a little dampened by the fact that the Lions had a 24-3 lead in the third quarter. And now, barring a dramatic bomb in the last 16 seconds, we're going to overtime. Matt Patricia, what is it you say you do here?

Bryan Knowles: And we're NOT heading to overtime! A roughing the passer call gets the Lions to midfield, and sets up a 59-yard attempt for Matt Prater -- and he wins the game!

The NFC East, everybody!

Aaron Schatz: Holy mackerel. Washington and Detroit were going to overtime but Chase Young committed a roughing the passer penalty with 12 seconds left. That put them one pass from field goal range, and they got that pass 9 yards to Marvin Jones, and then a 59-yard field goal on a knuckler from Matt Prater and the Lions win 30-27.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at Green Bay Packers 24

Andrew Potter: A bit of a surprise after one quarter in Green Bay. Jaguars punter Logan Cooke is the MVP of the first 15 minutes, but the Packers simply haven't had anything going on offense. Outside one very questionable pass interference call against Myles Jack that went for 29 yards, Green Bay's longest gain is just 10 yards and they have only one first down that wasn't by pen--

Scrap that entire email. First play of the second quarter is a 78-yard strike down the right sideline to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, where he weaved across the field to the end zone. 7-3 Green Bay. The Packers have been struggling to get their passing game going against the league-worst DVOA defense in these windy conditions, but normal scheduling appears to have resumed now.

Vince Verhei: For a while there I had this game on upset watch. The Packers were off to a slow start -- their first three drives all ended in punts, with only one first down between them. The fourth drive was much better though. On the first play of the second quarter, Marquez Valdes-Scantling gets one-on-one against Sidney Jones and beats him on a deep post. Aaron Rodgers hits his receiver in stride, the three Jaguars defenders who try to make a tackle all get in each other's way, and Valdes-Scantling zips into the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown. Packers up 7-3.

Cale Clinton: Through one quarter, the fact that we have nothing to talk about is actually something we need to talk about (if that makes sense).

Green Bay, on paper, is much better than this Jacksonville Jaguars team, but they've yet to show it this afternoon. The Packers have posted two three-and-outs already in their first three drives. Their longest drive of the quarter was a penalty-laden mess, with their longest play being a very questionable DPI call against Myles Jack that resulted in a 29-yard gain. That gift from the referees was ruined by a 15-yard chop block penalty, taking them out of field goal range and forcing them to punt.

... and as I write this, Aaron Rodgers launches a 78-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Doesn't erase the fact that the Packers have gotten off to very slow start, but it is a reminder that they're still playing the Jaguars.

Vince Verhei: Dots on the MVS touchdown. I am mainly including this because they are now showing which way each player is facing -- watch the way Jarrod Wilson (26 for Jacksonville) gets turned around trying to make a tackle.

Bryan Knowles: Andrew mentioned punter Logan Cole was the Jags' MVP of the first quarter. Well, give Keelan Cole, punt returner, the award for quarter No. 2, as he pulls off a 91-yard punt return to give the Jaguars the 10-7 lead early in the second.

The Packers came into today ranked 13th in overall special teams, but 25th in punting and, more importantly for today, punt coverage. Came back to hurt 'em today.

Andrew Potter: Not The Game MVP so far is Davante Adams, who has four catches on six targets for 9 (count 'em) yards. The two incompletions were passes that he had in both hands, but dropped on contact from the cornerback.

Andrew Potter: Of course, immediately after that, the Packers get Adams free on a crosser to triple his yardage total and move them into the red zone. Two plays later, Aaron Rodgers scrambles into the end zone to retake the lead. That was by far Green Bay's most impressive drive of the game.

Bryan Knowles: Maybe don't turn that upset alert off just yet. Davante Adams' no-good very-bad day continues, fumbling the ball and giving the Jags possession inside the red zone. It takes 'em a couple cracks at it, but Jake Luton finds Keelan Cole for his second touchdown of the day, and it's 17-all once again.

At the very least, that guy who bet $90,000 to win $9,000 that the Packers would win is not having the best Sunday.

Cale Clinton: The mistakes continue to pile up in Green Bay. Pinned back at their own 2-yard line, a 26-yard completion to Davante Adams ends up coughed up and in the hands of Jacksonville because of some lackadaisical ball control from Adams. The turnover and short field results in Keelan Cole's second touchdown of the afternoon, and just like that the 1-7 Jaguars and 6-2 Packers are currently knotted up at 17.

Vince Verhei: Upset Watch is now officially on for this game as the Jags have taken the lead in the fourth quarter. Sidney Jones redeems himself with this interception of Rodgers:

Which set up Chase McLaughlin's 31-yard field goal for a 20-17 lead. The good news for Green Bay is that it could have been worse -- James Robinson looked liked he had scored a touchdown, but had it called back on penalty for the second time today. The bad news for Green Bay is that Davante Adams has left with an ankle injury and is questionable to return.

Andrew Potter: Sidney Jones has made highlight play after highlight play today, building on his highlight reel from his previous four starts. The young Jaguars pass defense is bad, but the former Eagles second-rounder may well be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Vince Verhei: So the bad news for Green Bay wasn't that bad -- Davante Adams returned to the game and caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to put Green Bay back up 24-20. Biggest plays on that drive were back-to-back plays for Aaron Jones -- the first he fumbled (forced by Sidney Jones), but was fortunate that the ball bounced out of bounds before the Jaguars could recover. Next snap, he ran for 20 yards to the Jacksonville 24.

Vince Verhei: Third-and-1 for Green Bay at their own 23, up by four with 2:37 to go. Announcers are debating the call and Brock Huard says you can't throw the ball here. Um ... why not? The Jaguars still have three timeouts left, so there's not much benefit to running for no gain. But running for no gain is exactly what they do, JK Scott's punt goes only 30 yards, and the Jaguars take over at their own 47, down 24-20, with plenty of time left.

Vince Verhei: Green Bay's pass rush put this one away. They sack Luton on back-to-back plays on first and second down, the latter of which induces giggles as Luton stumbles out of the pile for seven steps before going down. The same thing almost happens on fourth-and-forever, but Luton was at least able to keep his balance and get a pass off ... incomplete out of bounds, way short of the sticks. Alas.

Houston Texans 7 at Cleveland Browns 10

Cale Clinton: The most exciting thing out of this game's first half isn't even that exciting, but it's something I've never seen before. The Houston Texans line up for a 47-yard field goal attempt, but instead direct snap it to kicker Kai Fairbairn, who punts the ball 26 yards and pins Cleveland inside the 5.

Dave Bernreuther: After a penalty, with time winding down in the super-exciting 3-0 first half, the Texans call a bland running play to Duke Johnson instead of taking a knee.

Kevin Stefanski called a timeout. He only had two, so he couldn't possibly be trying to force a punt and gain a possession. I can only assume that he did this to scold them for their foolishness, risking injury to a player.

On second-and-18, the Browns call ANOTHER handoff to Duke Johnson ... and Stefanski again calls timeout.

With six seconds left on third down, the Texans kneel out the half. Which they should've done two plays earlier. I really hope a writer asks Stefanski about this after the game, because I can't see why on earth he'd have called those timeouts if not to humiliate Romeo Crennel.

With the weather involved, his game was the world's most popular "under" bet, to the point where it started to feel like an over just to be contrarian. Halfway through, contrarians are angry. What's interesting is that it really hasn't seemed like the offenses are that hurt by the wetness or wind. Other than Jarvis Landry's shoe flying off his foot on the final Browns play of the half, we haven't seen too much slip-n-slide or awful throws; just two not-so-good teams playing not-so-good football somewhat slowly. Each team has had four possessions thus far, and the Texans left points on the field on one long drive when they failed on fourth-and-goal on a hopeless designed keeper for Watson. The Landry shoe play may have cost the Browns points as well; hard to know for sure if he'd have been in place to catch Baker Mayfield's dart of a pass on the play if not for that.

Tom Gower: First-half recap:

That sums up the feel of 30 minutes of 3-0 scintillating football better than I could. There was much more done offensively in the first 30 real-time minutes of the broadcast, when we got the Bucs and the Panthers while waiting for kickoff in Cleveland, than there was in the following 30 football minutes. Myles Garrett is having an excellent season and made a number of positive plays, most notably stopping Deshaun Watson for a loss when the Texans went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2. The bootleg pass game is virtually gone from the Cleveland pass offense. Even when they try it, it's a sort of half-boot, because they know that defenses know Mayfield is much more effective if you let him get completely outside the pocket, so he only managed it a couple times in the first half.

That boot denial plus the nasty weather of the sort that made Browns-Raiders a couple weeks ago a low-scoring game has let the Texans align more to protect the run. Cleveland has still run the ball effectively at times (there was one Kareem Hunt run that should have gained 4 yards that should have then gained 8 yards that ended up gaining 17 yards thanks to Hunt and some shaky tackling), but it hasn't been overwhelmingly so.

Dave Bernreuther: Just as my smile from Tom's video subsides, Baker Mayfield escapes the grasp of Corey Liuget in the backfield ... and promptly falls down, slips-on-banana-peel style. And the broadcast is zooming in on pigeons on the field. At least they're not Detroit!

(Detroit, of course, has reached the end zone multiple times today.)

Tom Gower: The hero this game wants, the hero this game deserves:

Bryan Knowles: A touchdown! I didn't think those were legal in this matchup!

Bailed out by a pass interference call on third-and-8 (and, to be fair, with plenty of nice running from Nick Chubb), the Browns march down the field to take a 10-0 lead, which seems absolutely insurmountable considering the quality of both teams in this game.

Vince Verhei: Wait a minute, this game is already over? It started 30 minutes late and still finished before WAS-DET, JAX-GB, or TB-CAR!

Bryan Knowles: Small mercies, Vince. Small mercies.

Dave Bernreuther: After the Texans refuse to kneel out the first half, the Browns kneel out the second half and the game, after Nick Chubb intentionally runs out of bounds at the 1 after breaking a big one instead of scoring a touchdown. Texans bettors cover +4.5. That's amazing.

Tom Gower: We made it to the fourth quarter in less than two hours, and to the two-minute warning in two hours, 28 minutes. But both teams used timeouts in the final two minutes of the game, pushing this contest to 2:35. I'm pretty sure 2008 Week 17 Titans-Colts, which took just 2:33, remains the fastest game of the 2000s.

Rivers McCown: Uh, what's there to add besides the pigeon being the star of the show? The Texans ran Deshaun Watson intentionally four times, which was by my count two more times than they've done the last four weeks combined. Watson's completion to Randall Cobb with a guy on his leg is ridiculous and deserves linkage.

My full details for this game are here.

Justin Reid called me an asinine punk on Twitter. Good thing this team fired it's head of PR, folks!

Los Angeles Chargers 21 at Miami Dolphins 29

Cale Clinton: Hot start to this one! Miami forces a three-and-out on the Chargers' opening drive with a 13-yard sack, then blocks the ensuing punt and recovers the ball at the 1. Salvon Ahmed punched in the layup touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: Is Dolphins Throwbacks versus Chargers Powder Blue + Yellow the best-looking matchup of the day?

... is it the best-looking matchup of the season?

Either way, it's Miami who has the early advantage, with a 14-0 lead as we approach the end of the first quarter. The Chargers had actually stopped the Dolphins and forced a field goal, but an offsides penalty gave them a new set of downs from the five, and Tua Tagovailoa eventually found Jakeem Grant to give the Dolphins a big early lead.

Cale Clinton: Miscues by the Chargers in special teams have really put them in a hole early. The Chargers' blocked punt was the result of a mishandling of the snap by punter Ty Long, giving Miami's rush enough time to get in and block the kick. Now, Los Angeles forces Miami to kick a fourth-and-1 field goal in the red zone, but Quenton Meeks is caught offsides and gives Miami a fresh set of downs from the 5-yard line. Both mistakes resulted in Miami touchdowns.

Dave Bernreuther: We should probably not say "forced" a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 10. That's a choice, and it's probably not the right one. They just happened to get lucky and pick up the four extra points. I was also not a fan of the zone defense against trips on the Grant touchdown play, as it created a very easy read for Tua in a three-on-two matchup on that side. As long as they didn't run an in-breaking route, the Phins were guaranteed to have an open receiver there. The Chargers are beating themselves as effectively as any team I can recall.

Reverse jinx alert! Just as I type that, the Dolphins botch a snap in the red zone and Nick Vigil recovers and drags Tua halfway down the field to put the Chargers back in the game.

As for your uniform question, Brian, I prefer the white pants for the Chargers with the powder blues. If this was a teal throwback against the yellow pant/white jersey set, I'd probably agree.

Scott Spratt: The Dolphins entered this week with the No. 29 DVOA run defense but may be on the rise after stopping the Chargers on second- and third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Chargers are lining up to go for fourth down!

Cale Clinton: The duel of two explosive rookie quarterbacks hasn't generated many fireworks from either one. Coming into this game, Justin Herbert had never thrown for fewer than 264 passing yards in a single game. With two minutes left in the third quarter, he has accumulated just 120. Both Chargers touchdown drives consisted of drives that heavily favored rushing (10 of 11 plays and eight of 11 plays, respectively). However, Herbert has accounted for both of L.A.'s touchdowns, one rushing and one passing. As for Miami, Tua Tagovailoa is 14-for-24 for 167 yards. The two touchdowns he has thrown for have gone for a combined 4 yards.

Cale Clinton: In more unexpected irregularities in this game, Miami kicker Jason Sanders has missed his first field goal of the season. Sanders came into this game as the only kicker with at least 12 attempts and zero misses. He was 19-for-19 before the 47-yarder failed to connect.

Cale Clinton: Despite their best efforts, the Chargers have lost another one-score game. Herbert's best drive of the game brought the game within 8 points, but Devante Parker was able to recover the onside kick and ice the game. Los Angeles continues to find new ways to lose close games. This time around, you can find the answer pretty easily: it's tough to win games when you bury yourself in a 14-0 hole less than three minutes into the game.

Buffalo Bills 30 at Arizona Cardinals 32

Bryan Knowles: See, I knew Josh Allen wasn't a good quarterback; he obviously should have been shifted to receiver. Allen catches a throwback from Isiaiah McKenzie to give the Bills a 7-3 lead.

Allen getting a receiving touchdown this early opens the possibility for the rare passing/rushing/receiving trifecta, which has happened 10 times since 1950. Full credit for anyone who can name someone who's pulled that feat off.

Scott Spratt: If this quarterbacking thing doesn't work out, Josh Allen may have a future at wide receiver.

Cale Clinton: Despite just having 5 yards rushing so far this week, Kyler Murray has broken the franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback that he set last season.

On a separate note: for someone who isn't watching this game, what an AWFUL way to phrase this Tweet.

Scott Spratt: I can't figure out if Kliff Kingsbury is an aggressive coach. He just went for a fourth-and-6 from the Bills' 48-yard line, which Kyler Murray converted. But if there is a pattern to his decision-making in those situations, I can't pick it up.

Aaron Schatz: Kingsbury went for it, what, four different times on fourth down last week? Until he decided not to go for it and tried that fateful field goal that Zane Gonzalez missed at the end.

Tom Gower: Yeah, I think "coaches have a (consistent) risk profile" is something we imply as analysts more than is often actually the case. There are exceptions, where we know analytics people are highly involved in the process (Philly, most notably), but I'm not sure it's generally true.

Vince Verhei: To answer Bryan's trivia question from earlier, I'm pretty sure Mark Brunell has pulled off the pass/run/catch TD trifecta. My next guesses would be Walter Payton, LaDainian Tomlinson, and ... Marcus Allen maybe?

Scott Spratt: Should we guess Roger Craig too? He seems to be the answer to a lot of those versatility questions.

Bryan Knowles: LdT and Payton both pulled it off, but Brunell has not; he never caught a pass. Allen would be the first quarterback to pull off the feat.

Tomlinson and David Patten are the two to do it in the 21st century; it has also been done by Hall of Famers Payton, Frank Gifford, and John Henry Johnson, as well as Dan Reeves, oddly enough.

Vince Verhei: Oh, you know what, I think Brunell did it in college at Washington. I think that's what I was thinking of.

Aaron Schatz: And on the subject of Kliff Kingsbury and aggressiveness, he just kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 3 so the score is now Buffalo 13, Arizona 9.

Scott Spratt: He also kicked from fourth-and-goal from the 5 on the Cardinals' opening drive.

Aaron Schatz: It feels like the Bills should be leading this game by more than 16-9, although it's not like everything has gone their way. They've needed three different 50-plus-yard field goals from Tyler Bass and they've gotten a bit lucky that Patrick Peterson has dropped two possible interceptions. But their offense is moving the ball better than Arizona's. Allen is doing a good job against Arizona's blitzes while on the other side, the Bills defenders are keeping everything in front of them and Kyler Murray has had a few plays where he had nothing open and had to try to scramble. Most of those scrambles were surprisingly short until the last one, which led to that last fourth-and-goal field goal from the 3 that I mentioned.

Also interesting to note that the Bills are using a similar game plan to last week even though Arizona doesn't have an unbalanced defense like Seattle does. The Bills have only four running back carries in the first half.

Aaron Schatz: Corey Bojorquez just shanked a punt badly, just 12 yards. Cardinals got the ball at the Buffalo 30 and went three-and-out, getting only a field goal to make the score 23-19.

Aaron Schatz: On the Bills' next drive, Patrick Peterson came off what looked like bracket coverage on Stefon Diggs, drifted back a little bit, and finally picked off a Josh Allen pass. Third time's the charm.

Aaron Schatz: Kyler Murray with 28- and 15-yard runs on zone-read options, the latter one for a touchdown that gives Arizona a 26-23 lead. In between there was a DPI on veteran cornerback Daryl Worley, whom the Cardinals seem to be picking on. He was just activated and the Bills are missing players at the position due to COVID.

Scott Spratt: I think we may need to expand the "show all Lamar Jackson highlight runs" rule to include Kyler Murray. Here is that second touchdown Aaron mentioned.

Aaron Schatz: The Bills get a gift when the ball bounces off the hands of Larry Fitzgerald falling backwards and into the arms of Jordan Poyer.

Scott Spratt: Granted that pass was way behind him, but Larry Fitzgerald still dropped that pass. Sportradar had charted him with just seven drops since 2017. That 2.4% drop rate was third-lowest of 114 wide receivers with 100 or more targets in that time, behind just Phillip Dorsett (1.3%) and Cole Beasley (1.9%).

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, I don't know if I would have charted that as a drop. That was a tough ball to catch.

Aaron Schatz: Bills follow up the interception with a drive that includes four penalties for 35 yards and ended up with third-and-33. They did not convert that, although a screen to Stefon Diggs went for a surprisingly good 21 yards. Still 26-23 Arizona.

Aaron Schatz: Josh Allen threw another pick, but the Cardinals went three-and-out taking almost no time off the clock, so Buffalo gets it back with 3:35 left. Their final drive was heavily dependent on Cole Beasley, covered by Byron Murphy. Two third-down conversions and a second-and-13. And then from the Buffalo 21 with 39 seconds left, Stefon Diggs comes out of the slot and gets a little past Patrick Peterson and angles into the end zone. Allen puts it right on him and the Bills take a 30-26 lead.

Bryan Knowles: Josh Allen just threw a perfect pass to Stefon Diggs -- could not have been placed any better, just a thing of beauty -- and the Bills are up 30-26 with 34 seconds left. That would be a heartbreaking way for Arizona to lose; what a throw.

Tom Gower: [33 seconds of game time later.] I'm sorry, Rivers.

Scott Spratt: DeAndre Hopkins! What an unbelievable grab!

Aaron Schatz: Somehow DeAndre Hopkins just caught a Hail Mary pass in between three different Bills defenders. I have no idea how he did that and how the Cardinals came back to win this game. We have to get some video of this one.

Bryan Knowles: Oh my god. Last shot for the Cardinals; Kyler Murray forced to roll to his right and just heave it up, and DeAndre Hopkins outjumps THREE Bills to come down with the touchdown! Holy...

32-30 after they went for two and failed.

Aaron Schatz: They didn't fail on the two-point conversion, they knelt on the ball to prevent any kind of blocked extra point that could be returned for two by the Bills.

Vince Verhei: Here we see DeAndre Hopkins outjumping every Buffalo defender ever -- I think Nate Odomes and Mark Kelso are in there somewhere -- for the win.

Aaron Schatz: You know you try to watch a game closely and analyze each team's strengths and weaknesses and what they are doing against each other and then you reach a play like that to end the game and all you can say is "jzjkidghsdgkh!!!!"

Cale Clinton: The Cardinals may be my favorite team to check out on Twitter immediately after wins. The first time I noticed it was when Budda Baker hopped on to say "DK HAWKED MY ASS" following the win against Seattle on Sunday Night Football. This week, Kyler gave us some insight into his thought process on the Hail Murray:

Vince Verhei: So, here's a Tweet from ESPN Stats & Info saying that Hail Marys have been completed 9.7% of the time over the past 10 years. That's higher than I would have guessed, and it invites the question ... shouldn't teams be trying Hail Marys a lot more? Shouldn't every team with a third-and-long near midfield just try a Hail Mary before punting? I don't know what the expected touchdown rate is on drives that have a third-and-10 at the 50, but I'd guess it's got to be less than 10%.

Scott Spratt: Just thinking out loud. I'm curious how deep a pass has to be to be considered a Hail Mary.

Second, I'd guess the fear is that Hail Marys can lead to strip sacks and defensive scores.

Tom Gower: We're early in the second half of Sunday Night Football, and I'm still trying to decide what I think of this game. Josh Allen made some critical mistakes. His two near-interceptions to Patrick Peterson that Aaron mentioned earlier didn't appear to be good throws; the one PatPete got was more about him than a mistake by Allen. The second pick to Dre Kirkpatrick could have been a game-ender. Cole Beasley, who has been way more valuable than I would have guessed, had a strong game, really helping Allen out on some not so great throws. And then Allen had an absolutely fantastic throw to Stefon Diggs for what I thought at the time would be the game-winning touchdown.

And then Arizona ... had that Diggs score stood up, I would have written about how this was such an aggravating loss for the Cardinals for the second week in a row after that nonsense against Miami last week, about how Kyler Murray and the run game were working well and the great 10-minute stretch to turn it from 23-9 Buffalo to 26-23 Arizona but maybe the Cardinals should be creating more space in the passing game, and they really squandered the opportunity after the Kirkpatrick interception, and Kingsbury's previously mentioned non-consistent sense of risk, and heck even the way they used their last timeout, on an 8-yard gain with 26 seconds left that had no chance of getting out of bounds or a huge chunk of yardage. But then they hit the Hail Mary, and I'll leave all the details to the fans and just savor the amazement of DeAndre Hopkins just beating three defenders for the football because he's DeAndre Hopkins and they're not.

Seattle Seahawks 16 at Los Angeles Rams 23

Carl Yedor: Seattle's (relative) defensive strength is its run defense, so if the Rams are able to move the ball effectively against them on the ground in addition to what they are likely to accomplish through the air, this could be another long Sunday for Pete Carroll and company. On the Rams' first drive, they saw some success on the ground up until the goal line, where Seattle managed a tackle for loss. Seattle escapes the Rams' opening drive allowing only a field goal, but keep an eye on the ground game today. The Rams' play-action deep shots will likely be lethal, as we already saw from Cooper Kupp, but if they have the rushing attack to complement it, Los Angeles could be in for an explosive day.

Bryan Knowles: Jamal Adams has gone to the locker room, which is not ideal for a Seahawks defense which already is threatening to set records for pass defense futility.

However, the Rams' defense doesn't exactly cover themselves with glory on their first drive of the game. Russell Wilson is capable of breaking down even really good defense; leave people open and, well, the Seahawks are going to shred you. Both Greg Olsen and Freddie Swain make big plays, leading to an Alex Collins touchdown, and I'm not sure how far down the list of Seattle playmakers you would have to go to get to that particular trio. 7-3 Seahawks lead, midway through the first.

Scott Spratt: Alex Collins took all three of the Seahawks' carries on their opening drive and scored a touchdown.

It may seem like forever ago, but Collins averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 212 attempts for the Ravens in 2017. He was sixth in rushing DYAR and eighth in yards after contact per attempt that season. He isn't Marshawn Lynch, but he does seem to me to embody that attitude the Seahawks love at running back.

Bryan Knowles: With eight carries already, I'm fairly sure the Rams have run the ball more times than the Bills did in the first half against Seattle last week. In fact, I think they got there with four rushes on their first drive.

But yes, it's the pass defense that is letting Seattle down; they've already allowed 124 yards and it shows no signs of slowing down, as the Rams jump back to a 10-7 lead. We may have a shootout here today.

Vince Verhei: The Bills had three runs in the first half last week, all in the first quarter. One of those was a Josh Allen scramble. Then they had three more runs in the third quarter -- one of those was an Allen scramble too.

Vince Verhei: So the first four drives of this game:

  • 10 plays, 70 yards, LA field goal
  • Seven plays, 78 yards, SEA touchdown
  • Seven plays, 77 yards, LA touchdown
  • Five plays, 20 yards and counting -- Seattle has a third-and-2 at their 45 at the end of the first quarter.

Yup. That's a 2020 Seahawks game. Even more so because starting corners Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar are both out today. Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde are both out too, but Alex Collins is off to a good start -- five carries for 22 yards and a score.

And now Russell Wilson has converted that third down with a throw over the middle to Tyler Lockett.

Carl Yedor: Seattle had fourth-and-12 on the Rams' side of the field, and they, like most teams in that situation, elected to punt the ball away, hoping that pinning the Rams deep would allow the defense to get them the ball back at some point without allowing a score. Well, so much for that. Ben Baldwin's fourth-down go-for-it/punt model had the decision as a tossup, but with Seattle's defense struggling so much, maybe they should just consider not punting anymore. I'm only half-joking, and I'm not the only one to think that, even with how radical the idea sounds.

This game is far from over, as the Seahawks answer the Rams' most recent touchdown drive with a field goal to cut the lead to 17-10, but it speaks to a broader issue with this year's group. For a team that had designs on making a deep playoff run, the defense is going to be what holds them back in the long run.

Scott Spratt: I guess Jamal Adams is back in because he just strip-sacked Jared Goff and forced a turnover.

Bryan Knowles: And then the Seahawks gave it back with what might be the worst interception of Russell Wilson's career. He had all day ahead of him to run, but he instead tries to force it into the end zone, and he's picked off. What on Earth was he thinking?

Vince Verhei: That's nine interceptions for Wilson this year. His career high is 11, in both 2016 and 2017.

Bryan Knowles: The Dots on the Russ INT. Just ... that's all day to run!

Scott Spratt: Andrew Whitworth just suffered an apparent knee injury and was carted off. He turns 39 in less than a month, so who knows if he'll be able to come back from this one. You hate to see it.

Derrik Klassen: Watching Seattle fall back into "Russ has to be perfect mode" is so frustrating. It looks different now in that the perfection has to manifest in leading a shootout because of the defense rather than scraping out a half-decent offense because the rest of the supporting cast is so bad, but it's still frustrating. Feels like every week it just shrinks the margin for error Russell Wilson is allowed to play with.

Vince Verhei: After 20-some minutes of the kind of game we expected, this game got very weird in the second quarter following that turnover exchange. The Rams punted for the first time following Adams' second sack of the day (he now leads the team with 5.5 sacks this year -- and he missed four games). That sack came on the play Whitworth was hurt -- he got hit on the side of the knee, which bent the way it's not supposed to. Wilson then put together a very clunky two-minute drill, badly mismanaging pressure, taking sacks he didn't need to, and wasting timeouts. He bailed himself out with few miracle completions, and really got bailed out by Jason Myers, who finished the half with a Seahawks-record 61-yard field goal. So the Rams are up 17-13 at halftime in a game that feels like it should have a lot more points than that.

I've got to think the ... let's say vulnerable state of Seattle's defense is affecting Wilson's mindset. He knows he needs to score virtually every drive, so he's pressing the issue and taking more risks than he ever has before. That quarterback styles thing I do every year in Quick Reads, Wilson is always a sure thing to show up in the bottom left as a guy who avoids turnovers but gives up tons of sacks. That's going to flip this year, and he'll probably be up in the Jimmy Garoppolo area.

Whitworth's injury could change everything, but so far the Rams have mostly done what they want to today. Even with the sacks, they're averaging 8.8 yards per passing play. But they're also averaging 5.0 yards per carry against a defense that has been pretty good against the run this year. If they can run when they need to, that's going to help them deal with Seattle's boom-or-bust pass rush.

Carl Yedor: Whitworth going down could be a huge loss for the Rams moving forward, even at his advanced age. We'll see if it has a major impact on this particular game or not because Goff tends to struggle when he doesn't have a clean picture in front of him, but if that's how Whitworth's career potentially ends, it would be a heartbreaker.

After Whitworth's injury, Seattle forced a punt, and the Seahawks were able to drive to the very edge of Jason Myers' field goal range. I say the very edge because Myers set a career high (and franchise record) with a 61-yard field goal to end the half. Seattle gets the ball first in the second half, so we'll see quickly if Wilson can be sharper after the break.

Scott Spratt: Yeah, Carl. We should probably add that the Rams entered today first in adjusted sack rate (3.5%) and second in adjusted line yards (4.99). And Whitworth had blown just four blocks on 519 snaps according to Sports Info Solutions.

Vince Verhei: How not to win a football game in the year 2020: Wilson scrambles on third down but comes up a football length short of the line to gain. With Seattle's quarterback and Seattle's defense, this is a no-brainer decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 at your own 42, right? Wrong! Pete Carroll throws the challenge flag even though there's no evidence for the call to be overturned.

OK, what the hell, you took a shot, NOW you for it on fourth down, right? Wrong! You send the offense out there to bark for 30 seconds, nothing happens, you take a delay of game, and then you punt!

So that's a timeout and 5 yards of field position lost, with no benefit, and you're begging for another miracle (any stop for this defense is a miracle).

Carl Yedor: That fourth-down sequence was hard to watch. Clearly, Carroll understands that he cannot trust his defense, but he doesn't let the offense try to gain what looked to be about a foot.

Bryan Knowles: I wonder how much of the Seahawks' defensive problems are predictability -- the Rams seem to be very good at running screens to the opposite side of blitzes.

It's 23-13 after a pass interference penalty gives the Rams the ball on the 1 -- they do miss the extra point, so it's just a 10-point lead, but the Seahawks are beginning to be in trouble here. You can never count on their defense to get any sort of stop.

Vince Verhei: The Rams offense needs six snaps to get to the point on the field where they would have been has Seattle gone for it on fourth down and failed. Eight snaps later they're in the end zone, Malcolm Brown's second score of the day. That's thanks in part to a DPI on third-and-goal -- that's not technically a third-down conversion, but the Rams had two third-down conversion on that drive, including a wide receiver screen to beat a blitz on third-and-long just like the Bills had against Seattle last week. When you need to blitz to generate pressure, your blitzes become predictable and easy to exploit. Rams have now converted eight of 10 third-down plays today. They miss the extra point (they have been horrible kicking for points this year) but still lead 23-13.

Carl Yedor: This is Sean McVay's fourth year as head coach of the Rams, and for that entire period, the Seahawks have relied on turnovers and Los Angeles mistakes to prevent points. In their first meeting in 2017, the Seahawks held them to 10 points, but they needed five turnovers to do that with a defense still led by the Legion of Boom. For the five games since then, they haven't allowed fewer than 28 points (today is obviously still pending). Seattle's only other win in that time period required a missed field goal in the waning seconds. I'm not sure what changes need to be made as far as personnel/defensive scheme against the Rams, but clearly there need to be some. After the 2017 season (when they missed the playoffs), Seattle made wholesale changes at both coordinator positions as well as reverting to its heavy-run-first philosophy, but it should not take missing out on the playoffs again to spark that on the defensive side of the ball this year.

Vince Verhei: The Rams have always been Russell Wilson's boogeymen, even back to the Jeff Fisher days. Coming into today, he's 7-9 against the Rams, 85-54-1 against everyone else in the regular season.

Ethan Pocic is also out for today's game, and Kyle Fuller has played well today all things considered -- we haven't mentioned Aaron Donald's name yet. But he just botched a shotgun snap and the Rams recovered at midfield. Up 23-13 in the third quarter, Rams have a chance for a killshot here.

Vince Verhei: Rams recover an onside kick and win 23-16. Defenses really dominated after L.A.'s last touchdown -- their last four drives were three punts and some kneeldowns, while Seattle went punt, fumble, interception, field goal. If Wilson just runs the ball instead of throwing a pick in the first half, their last drive is probably a try for a tying touchdown instead of a meaningless field goal.

This was a really confounding loss for Seattle because in a lot of ways they played well in the areas they usually struggle and vice versa. They forced four punts, tied for their season-high. They got sacks, they got a turnover. But their own offense couldn't hang on to the ball, and they really struggled with pass protection. They just had a ton of mental mistakes and bad decisions -- a delay-of-game before Wilson's second pick, the lost challenge and lost timeout on the Wilson play, the punt on fourth-and-inches, the way they let the clock run on L.A.'s last drive without calling timeout (they've still got one -- do they think they can save it for next week?)

This loss and Arizona's win creates a three-team 6-3 logjam atop the NFC West, a tie that will be broken on Thursday night when the Seahawks host the Cardinals. No exaggeration to call that a must-win for Seattle -- a loss would leave them out of the division lead with two losses to Arizona and one to the Rams. Seattle has now lost three out of four; if that streak jumps to four out five, we can pretty much write them off as any kind of playoff threat this year.

Carl Yedor: One thing working in Seattle's favor moving forward is their remaining schedule, but as far as the team's actual quality goes, I agree with Vince's assessment that they likely aren't much of a threat to win the NFC. Seattle still has a game each against Arizona and the Rams, but the other five games are against Philadelphia, Washington, San Francisco, and both New York teams. Although with how they've played lately, the defense might cost them one of those games as well.

Vince Verhei: This Tweet just ran by my timeline and reminded me what a big game Darious Williams had for L.A. -- two interceptions and this play to save a touchdown.

San Francisco 49ers 13 at New Orleans Saints 27

Bryan Knowles: This has been a game of special teams disasters.

The Saints muffed a punt, leading to a 49ers field goal. The 49ers, not to be outdone, allowed a 75-yard kickoff return and muffed a punt of their own, leading to all 10 Saints points.

It's a 10-10 game midway through the second, and both special teams coordinators should be very, very upset right now.

Bryan Knowles: The Saints were also helped by this roughing the passer call. Now, I know I'm somewhat biased, but, uh ... no?

Cale Clinton: Special teams has been the only reason the New Orleans Saints have crossed midfield in this first half. Deonte Harris' 75-yard kick return set up New Orleans' first field goal of the afternoon (on a 3-play, -6-yard drive). The Saints' subsequent offense drive ended in a punt, but the 49ers elect to get out of the way of it and Ken Webster fails to escape. The ball bounces directly into Webster's facemask and the Saints resume their drive at San Francisco's 21-yard line, eventually leading to an Alvin Kamara touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: Scary sight in New Orleans, as Tre'Quan Smith takes a shot to the head and lies motionless on the turf for a few minutes -- he's able to jog off under his own power, but that was a frightening couple moments.

As for the actual football game, the Saints are up 17-10, taking advantage of good field position after the 49ers are stuffed on fourth down at midfield. It feels weird to say, but the 49ers are much better passing than running at the moment; Jerick McKinnon is a pretty clear step down from Raheem Mostert or Tevin Coleman. Still, after their relative performance last week, being down only seven with 1:15 left in the first quarter isn't the worst situation for the 49ers to be in. They've got to start taking advantage of their opportunities, however, or the Saints are going to pull away in the second half.

Cale Clinton: Here's a rare statistical oddity that illustrates just how hard it has been for New Orleans to move the ball on offense.

New Orleans' three scoring drives have started at the San Francisco 25-yard line, the San Francisco 21-yard line, and the New Orleans 43-yard line. The Saints have yet to orchestrate a drive longer than six plays.

Bryan Knowles: Um. Drew Brees was beaten up in the first half, but stayed in. But it's Jameis Winston coming off the bench to start the second half? That's ... interesting.

Brees has his helmet on and is standing on the sideline, so I don't know what the hell is going on.

Bryan Knowles: There have been three muffed punts in this game. I don't recall ever having seen that before! Weird, weird game on special teams, on both sides.

Denver Broncos 12 at Las Vegas Raiders 37

Cale Clinton: As we head into halftime, this game has really been defined thus far by the points left on the board. The Las Vegas Raiders have had multiple scoring opportunities jeopardized by bad penalties. A 60-yard punt return touchdown by Hunter Renfrow was taken off the board by an illegal block in the back, and the subsequent drive ended in a three-and-out. The Raiders also had another opportunity after a Drew Lock interception was returned deep into Denver territory, but the drive died when a fourth-and-1 conversion by Josh Jacobs was nullified by offensive holding, creating a fourth-and-11 that also pulled Las Vegas out of field goal range.

As for Denver, their best opportunity to score a touchdown was dashed away after a Lock rushing touchdown was taken off the board because of a holding call on Noah Fant. The next play, Lock threw an interception in the end zone to end the half. Lock was 13-for-25 in the first half with two interceptions. The Broncos have had nearly every one of their drives end because of third-down plays that end in incompletions, interceptions, and passes completed short of the sticks.

Scott Spratt: Add another missed opportunity to your tally, Cale. Darren Waller just dropped what would have been an easy 55-yard touchdown.

Cale Clinton: The Raiders defense has officially doubled their interception count on the season. Las Vegas entered this game with three interceptions through eight games. They've now picked off Lock three times today, the most recent giving Las Vegas the ball on Denver's own 11-yard line.

Cale Clinton: This one's all but over. Las Vegas won this handily, and they could've won by even more. One interesting note for the Raiders: this will be the third straight game where Las Vegas rushed for more yards than they've passed for. Coincidentally, they'll be on a three-game win streak once the clock hits zero on this one.

It makes sense why the Raiders have relied so heavily on the run. Using today as an example, both Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker averaged more than 5 yards per carry this afternoon, with two touchdowns each. Derek Carr, on the other hand, was 16-for-25 for 154 yards and no scores, a rate of 6.1 yards per attempt. The leading receiver for Las Vegas, Darren Waller, amassed just 37 receiving yards. The passing game looked its worst on third down today. On 14 third downs this afternoon, Las Vegas elected to pass 12 times. They converted on just five of those attempts.

Baltimore Ravens 17 at New England Patriots 23

Scott Spratt: Wow, are Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson really the only two quarterbacks to win Heisman Trophies and NFL MVPs? That seems like it will start changing over the next decade.

Scott Spratt: If defensive tackle Brandon Williams can't make it back into this game, that could be a really big deal. He is the keystone of the Ravens No. 1 DVOA run defense. And as of the two-minute warning of the first half, the Patriots have run 15 times versus eight passes. This is the exact game script that gives the underdog Patriots a chance to pull the big upset.

Aaron Schatz: They're missing Calais Campbell too, and the Patriots are definitely moving the ball on the ground. The big difference between this game and last year's Ravens blowout is the missing players on Baltimore's offensive (Marshal Yanda retiring, Ronnie Stanley injured) and defensive (Williams, Campbell) lines.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots just took a 13-10 lead on a WR option pass, backwards pass to Jakobi Meyers who then launched it high in the air to Rex Burkhead in the end zone who was just past Baltimore's Patrick Queen. Missed the extra point though. I didn't think this game would be close at all, and the Patriots may actually go to halftime with a lead.

Scott Spratt: NC State continues to be an NFL quarterback factory! Slot receiver Jakobi Meyers just threw a bomb worthy of Russell Wilson.

He's Julian Edelman's replacement in more ways than one.

Cale Clinton: The NFL's interception leader J.C. Jackson flexes his ball-tracking skills, icing the Ravens before halftime and picking off his sixth pass of the season. Miami's Xavien Howard briefly shared the INT crown with Jackson after picking off Justin Herbert this afternoon, but that was obviously short-lived.

Scott Spratt: Damien Harris just got to 100 rushing yards in the first two minutes of the second half. Sony Michel may never come off injured reserve at this rate. Harris entered the week with an 18.0% rushing DVOA. Michel finished below average each of the last two seasons.

Aaron Schatz: Why do the Baltimore Ravens run Wildcat when Lamar Jackson is their quarterback?

Scott Spratt: I'm not sure, Aaron, but it sure didn't work on that fourth-and-1 from the Ravens' 48-yard line. Mark Ingram couldn't handle the shotgun snap, and the Patriots are another dominant rushing drive away from maybe putting this game away against a team that historically has struggled overcoming the significant deficits they've faced.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not a big fan of the Patriots' decision to kick a field goal to turn a two-score lead (10) into a two-score lead (13) on fourth-and-goal from the 2.

Scott Spratt: Yeesh, and that looked like a significant injury to tight end Nick Boyle. I think the Ravens would take the loss if they could just end this game right now. Already trailing the Steelers and Chiefs in the standings, they were tracking toward a wild-card berth anyway. But they've lost some critical players tonight that could hurt their chances the rest of this season.

Aaron Schatz: Ravens are on a drive to try to win this game, down 23-17, and the Patriots just rushed two men on third-and-3. It doesn't shock me that Lamar Jackson was able to scramble for a few yards on that.

Scott Spratt: It may not have seemed hard for him, but Lamar still made it look really cool.

Cale Clinton: Back-breaking error by the Ravens that you really can't chalk up to anything but the elements. A botched shotgun snap rolls on the turf past Lamar Jackson and ends up resulting in a 16-yard loss for Baltimore. Not the first time it has happened this game.

It has seemed like the Patriots have been on the ropes for most of the second half, but that certainly helped New England's chances of maintaining this lead.

Aaron Schatz: The Ravens get the ball back one last time with 65 seconds and 83 yards to go in a monsoon. My god is it raining hard.

Carl Yedor: By the end of the game you could barely see some of the players it was raining so hard. Baltimore tried to pick up a first down and get out of bounds so that they could set up for a crazy lateral play, but J.K. Dobbins had the presumably incredibly slippery ball go off his hands, giving it back to New England. Technically that would qualify as a drop, though it's hard to fault anyone for dropping a pass in that tsunami.

Scott Spratt: I assumed a win here would dramatically increase the Patriots' playoff chances, which sat at 6.9% entering today. But they have four of their next five games on the road with their one home game coming against the dangerous Cardinals. If their objective is to avoid a seventh loss -- which would be a second loss from here forward -- the Patriots still face a very difficult challenge.

Cale Clinton: Minutes after the game, Gillette stadium looks like this:

... does Bill Belichick actually have a weather machine?


156 comments, Last at 18 Nov 2020, 9:19pm

1 Missing something?

No one on your staff watched the Bengals-Steelers? Not even Rob Weintraub?

7 Steelers/Bengals

In reply to by Israel P. - Ashkelon

This was a mismatch. And really the Steelers should have put up over 50 if the game plan had been smarter.  There were wind gusts all day but Pittsburgh never really tried running the ball.


Meanwhile the Steelers pass rush was in Burrow's face all game.  It's a testament to his abilities that Pittsburgh did not have double the sack total

28 Steelers not running

There were wind gusts all day but Pittsburgh never really tried running the ball.

Per Mark Kaboly at The Athletic, who is usually good at seeing these kinds of things, the Bengals were stacking the box to stop the run, in the traditional "take away the opponent's weakest weapon and make them beat you with their best" strategy... er, wait...

All I can figure is that Cinci's coaching staff looked at the weather forecasts and decided that the 38-year-old QB with a rebuilt elbow wouldn't be able to throw in the wind.

2 Hail Mary's occurring 10% of the time



Any catholic will tell you that Hail Mary's always come in groups of ten.

We call it a decade of the rosary.

My mum swore by it, that said our family Rugby League team, the Western Suburbs Magpies, never won a Premiership in her lifetime.



3 Packers special teams

were a complete, unmitigated, absolute, tsunami/earthquake/category 5 level tornado disaster today.  


The punter line drived a punt and when GB had 4 guys (4!) all lined up behind one another the Jags return guy had an EASY 91 yard routine with the capper being making Scott (the punter) look incredibly foolish with his non-tackle attempt along the sideline.  Then late in the game Scott shanks a punt to give Jax great field position (which thankfully was for naught).  Even accounting for the wind (which was significant all game) the GB punter was dreadful.


But wait!  There is more.  The punt return team was even worse.  The Jags punter would punt, the GB returner (GB ended up putting 2 guys back late which didn't work either) would then let the ball drop and watch as the ball would bounce toward the end zone only to be covered within the 10 by Jacksonville.  This happened regularly.


Then on a kickoff return late in the game the GB return man decided that playing with the ball like a kitten with a ball of yarn was the route to go only to realize late that this might be bad so finally fell on the ball.  


GB gave up field position all day thanks to this clown car effort.  

4 Fundamental assessment of GB

I know this will read as a Yahoo message board 'hot take'.


But GB's base problem, its core issue, is that this is a soft team.  At least it plays soft.  


There is a lot of talent on this team.  But this team is not keen on teams that want to mix it up.  Jacksonville brought it all game and GB has way too many guys who let the hard hitting impact their quality of play.  


Independently I have heard guys like Mike Holmgren and Barry Alvarez state that football at its essence is kicking the other guy's 8ss.  GB is too often the kicked and not the kicker.  


I don't know how you fix that.  Good luck to the coaching staff.  Assuming this is recognized as an issue.

16 I think "soft" really means …

I think "soft" really means "poor line play" and I'll agree with you on that. The Packers OL stunk up the joint yesterday in run blocking against only an average DL.

Packers DL has been Kenny Clark and a bunch of scrubs for a couple years now. Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, and Kingsley Keke have done basically nothing all year. They often get pushed back multiple yards in run D, and can't provide any pass rush.

Packers OLBs made up for this last year, but teams have figured out that they can be run on. Most especially Preston Smith, who has been exposed this year in run D time and again. Rashan Gary is improving, and is probably better in run D, but is not great. Zadarius Smith has been taking more chances and failing this year. I think Packers should run with Gary and Z. Smith as the starters with Preston coming in as a pass rusher, but whether this would actually do all that much to help is unclear.

19 The bulk of the soft play

is absolutely on the defensive side.  Along with the guys you name Savage is sporadic on his willingness to tackle.  And I wonder if it's somehow coached as Amos has become more passive playing in GB relative to his play in Chicago.


On offense there are multiple position guys who let rougher play bother them. Which is why it was so surprising when Valdez-Scandling took it to a defender to get more yards.  

59 Idk if it's coached; I think…

Idk if it's coached; I think they've been having the secondary and safeties especially play a little less aggressively in recent weeks to try to mitigate the disaster area that is the CB depth with Alexander and King out. Sullivan is nothing wonderful but fine, but Jackson is quite bad and liable to get roasted in single coverage. Hollman the same, maybe a little better but not much.

For the WRs it's hard to distinguish between "soft" and "not very good".

90 I doubt it's a coaching…

I doubt it's a coaching problem; Mike Pettine is in the Rex Ryan coaching tree, and one thing Rex's teams always had was the ability to stop the run.  They just haven't had the hits on drafting D-linemen the Jets did (Pouha, Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Snacks Harrison).

127 It's primarily a coaching…

It's primarily a coaching problem. Pettine is both apathetic towards stopping the run and unable to make in-game adjustments to whatever the opponent is doing. They have a fair amount of talent on defense, but coached by a simpleton that doesn't know how to utilize the talent he has or adapt to the talent the opponent has. They basically fired Dom Capers only to replace him with another Dom Capers. 

5 Not all "scores" are the same

Aaron Schatz: I'm not a big fan of the Patriots' decision to kick a field goal to turn a two-score lead (10) into a two-score lead (13) on fourth-and-goal from the 2.


Turns out a 6-point lead is much better than a 3-point lead, once a TD is conceded.   It really is much easier to score a FG in a limited amount of time than a TD. 

12 Definitely, in that weather,…

Definitely, in that weather, which analytics and game winning odds won't take into account, and the fact that the ravens had only put up 10 points all day, you're better off assuming you can keep them from scoring two TDs. But even in fine weather, once you bank that FG, it's also the case that if they do manage to score two TD's, you only need a FG to beat them.

84 Why the analytics work here--Go for it

As a Ravens fan I was thrilled with the Pats decision to kick a FG to go up 13.  Here is why the analytics work here and the proper decision is to go for it.

1.  You have at least a 40% chance (conservative estimate) of scoring a TD and ending the game.

2.  If the Patriots fail, in all likelihood the Ravens get the ball at the 2 yard line:

a.  The Patriots score a safety and effective win the game on a play of negative 2 yards or a penalty in the end zone.  They score 2 points to go up 12 and get the ball back.  If the Ravens play conservatively to avoid this possibility it limits their chances of getting the initial first down needed for the 98 yard drive.

b.  The Ravens must drive 98 yards to get a TD instead of 75 yards after a kickoff, making a TD extremely difficult, certainly more difficult than a 75 yard drive.

c.  If the Ravens do outplay the Patriots from this point forward by exactly 10 points, then the Patriots can still win in OT.  I consider this unlikely since a tie has little value for the Ravens, and thus the Ravens would likely go for a two point conversion after scoring a TD.  If they fail, they still need another TD, which is what they need by the Patriots kicking a FG.

6 longest KR without a TD

I'm not sure I've ever seen a kickoff return get that far without scoring. 

Percy Harvin once went 104 yds without getting the TD vs the Falcons.   And the Vikings didn't even score after that turning over on downs.

8 Speaking of the wind

Why are coaching staffs insisting on tossing the ball willy-nilly when the conditions for passing are suboptimal?


Saw that all over the league 2 of the last 3 weekends when gusty winds were common in many parts of the country.


Is this supposed to be some 'head fake'?  "You think I will run, but ha/ha I will fool you and throw the ball!"


Because it was kind of dumb.  

11 Why are coaching staffs…

Why are coaching staffs insisting on tossing the ball willy-nilly when the conditions for passing are suboptimal?

Teams, for better or worse, have gone all-in for passing, and there are occasionally consequences of that decision.

Mod Tennessee, the Ravens/Patriots game featured the only two teams happy to play in those conditions.

15 Using GB as an example

You have Aaron Jones.  You have a Jamal Williams (who is not Jones but competent).  There are good run blockers on the O-line.  And yet the gameplan yesterday did not seem to consider run as a first option.  


Just strikes me as odd.............

17 Game plans may have been…

Game plans may have been caught unawares by a high-wind squall line moving east?

It wasn't just GB -- pretty much only teams that mostly just run anyway seemed prepared for it.

18 I guess

but the wind was in the forecast.  Plus the Jax gameplan on both sides was anchored by not worrying about going downfield.  The Jags corners were up close and Jax had a safety playing in the box.  On offense the qb went downfield maybe 2 times?  


Just weird that the Florida team seemed FAR more ready for the conditions/context.  

44 I couldn't disagree more!…

I couldn't disagree more! The Packers came out looking terrified of the wind and kept running the ball into stacked boxes, especially on those first 3 drives where their only first down was a DPI. Now, it is true that they were going into the wind in the first quarter, and while they had a very easy touchdown drive going that direction in the fourth quarter, the conditions may have been worse earlier in the game. Or perhaps Rodgers needed to get a feel for it. But in the end they were way more effective throwing the ball, and while they did throw a lot of WR screens, that was also a way more effective strategy that trying to run into the box.

I guess you can argue that since the Jaguars defense is terrible, in better conditions Rodgers should have averaged more than 9.6 yards per attempt and thus it was obvious that the wind was hurting the passing game. But still - 9 yards versus the 3.2 they got on the ground. After the first quarter it should have been clear that they were going to need to find a way to get the ball down the field more.

67 FWIW here is some play by play data

First drive:  Pass for 5, run for 2, incomplete to Tonyan

Second drive:  Pass for 6 ,penalty for -5, Incomplete but DPI called, run for 1, run for 7, pass, pass

Third drive:  Pass for 1, pass for 6, incomplete


I don't see GB being afraid to pass.  If you go thru the video/data GB was calling a bunch of stupid WR screens that didn't accomplish a d8mn thing all f8cking game. And made worse apparently because several allegedly were audibled into by Rodgers.  Good grief

9 a late-season playoff charge…

a late-season playoff charge may not be in the cards

Regarding Detroit, a "late-season playoff charge" is where they replace the batteries in the remote control so they can watch games from home.

10 That was not pass…

That was not pass interference by any definition of the rule I am aware of. But the Lions' fans rage should be at least a little dampened by the fact that the Lions had a 24-3 lead in the third quarter. 

It's not, really.

One of the reasons the Lions have such a reputation for blowing leads is that they are constantly the victims of one-sided calls. Just the GB series has legion examples, including a five minute referee discussion to turn a Lions fumble recovery in the end zone not into one of two different safeties, but into an incomplete pass by a running back. 

It's sort of like how we give offensive holding a pass, and no one questions how letting one side blatantly cheat explains the point explosion and instead we all wonder what's wrong with defenses.

13 1-1-1 guys - Walter Payton…

1-1-1 guys - Walter Payton had one.

Frank Gifford had one.



37 Hornung?

I have to believe he had one ( and will doubtless be proven wrong...)


Also :

Wow, are Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson really the only two quarterbacks to win Heisman Trophies and NFL MVPs?

 It hasn't been all that long since the Heisman was pretty much the Kiss Of Death to a QB's chances to succeed in the NFL as a QB.

39 Heisman was also a RB…

In reply to by serutan

Heisman was also a RB-centric award for a number of years. Sanders, for instance, has a Heisman/MVP combo.

49 heismans and NFL

In reply to by serutan

For a very long time, no Heisman winners were in the NFL Hall of Fame.  The first two to be inducted were OJ Simpson and Roger Staubach, coincidentally in the same year (1985).  A lot of Heisman winners had poor NFL careers, and some great NFL players were Heisman snubs - most notably Jim Brown. Paul Hornung won the Heisman but was blackballed by the HoF for decades because of his gambling.  (He eventually was inducted after OJ and Staubach.) 

Staubach is still the only Heisman-winning QB in the NFL Hall of Fame.  

58 For a long time, the Heisman…

For a long time, the Heisman went to a quarterback who had gaudy stats after throwing 45 times a game against inferior competition (Andre Ware, Ty Detmer) or led his team to a national title (Gino Torretta, Danny Wuerffel). It's only recently that quarterbacks who were also great pro prospects have started regularly winning the Heisman.

14 Seattle has now lost three…

Seattle has now lost three out of four; if that streak jumps to four out five, we can pretty much write them off as any kind of playoff threat this year.

Why? SF and Detroit aren't catching them, and Seattle has a better offense than Chicago has a defense. I can't think of any #2 seeds really looking forward to seeing Russell Wilson come to town.


78 I'm not sure what he means…

I'm not sure what he means by "playoff threat." I'd give Seattle at least a 70% chance of making the playoffs, since there are now 3 wildcard teams, and they do have a great offense.

And once they're in, well that offense could win against anybody. Get a few bounces and they can beat the best teams in the league.

91 If the secondary gets…

If the secondary gets healthy, Seattle could have a year like the 2006 Colts, with Jamal Adams playing the Bob Sanders' role.  Being a Jets fan, knowing the Jets get Seattle's first pick, I'm assuming that's going to happen (just like T. Law is going to stay in school).  If the Jets are involved, you know the worst will happen.

20 Chubb

I am sorry, I do not get the logic that this was a smart move. He scores CLE is up by 10 with less than 1 minute to go. Not scoring there is still the possibility of a bad snap running out the clock. I don't get it, at all. 

25 Teams have basically perfected the kneeldown

In reply to by apbadogs

If you've got the ball, a first down, and the lead with the other team out of timeouts and less than a minute to go, you aren't losing.  Hasn't happened since the 1970's, and "Victory formations" evolved out of the last disaster.

On the other hand, if the other team has the ball and therefore control of the clock, a quick TD and FG is not completely impossible.  Likely?  No, not at all, but 0.001% is more than 0.0000001%, and the NFL is about reducing every single possible variance when you are in the lead late.

133 Phillip Rivers fumbled on a kneeldown and the Chargers lost

The game was on Monday Night Football.  You can look it up, nothing more Chargeresque (thank you Football Outsiders for creating that word).  It was week 8, 2011 the score was tied at 20 against the Chiefs and there was 1:03 remaining.  The Chargers were at the Chiefs 15 yard line, and had 1st and 10.  The Chargers wanted to run the clock down to 3 seconds and kick the FG.  Rivers fumbled the snap, the Chiefs recovered, and later won the game in OT.

134 A few differences with that…

A few differences with that play are that the Chargers weren't already winning and, probably most importantly, they weren't going to kneel (notice the formation and how the offensive players all react at the snap).  I would guess that you're far less likely to fumble a snap you intend to just hold and kneel with than one you plan on dropping back and handing off.

Even if I'm mistaken and that was victory formation, it's the lone example, as far as I'm aware.  Whereas there are far more instances where a team manages to score twice in a minute (Dallas vs. Atlanta earlier this year).

21 Perfect day in Miami

Not sure a Dolphins fan could have asked for more. The Pats upset the Raven helping Miami in the wild card race, and a fluke TD gets them within 1/2 game of first. The only negative was that botched snap which probably took the game from a 21-0 early knock out punch to 14-7. This game saw the return of Ballage to Miami. When last seen in Miami he was having the worst running back year for a featured back in history. He got heavy use in this game and ran with an attitude. And while he was better than he was in Miami, he still averaged less than 4 yrds a carry. Miami's new running back off the heep ran pretty well, but I'm not sure he gets more than that's in the hole. Miami still couldn't get him over 100 in a game. They also seem to be lacking big plays out of Parker this season, who was targetted often but made few catches in double coverage. Grant had a nice day at receiver and punt returning. Miami is using Perry more too. He had one run where he cut back across the field, which works in college but never works int he pros, but somehow gain 8 yrds on it. He has speed. Like Grant, Miami needs to find ways to get him the ball in space. Miami is using a lot of 2 TE routes like New England used to. Eventually Miami needs to find a way to get Parker the ball. Those 50/50 Fitzpatrick passes are missing from the offense. As for Tua, he's been hard to sack, doesn't scramble for yards well yet, got lucky on a dropped INT, just missed a great scramble toss to Grant in the endzone, needs to work with his center on the exchange. They're 6-3 which is crazy given this team is still one draft removed from last years tank squad. Any win the rest of the season feels like gravy. 

Not sure about the Pats. They can sure run the ball. But they might run their way into a wild card blow out loss and they have draft needs to address. Then again, they never seem to worry about finding people late in the draft. Although that's been hit and miss over the years. Hopefully. post covid, this division might have returned to what it once was. Fun to actually watch because the division race is an actual race and not a coronation. 


24 I enjoyed it. Nothing like…

I enjoyed it. Nothing like perfect, and but watching a disciplined, well-coached team is fun-it's been a while...

Best part of yesterday was watching normal-sized human being (Jackeem Grant) be good at football, and not just as a punt returner.

I wish they could run consistently though; it's hard work watching them try to kill clock with a lead, and I do fear for them against a team that can run the ball, and I've been watching long enough to still expect the wheels to come off at the worst possible time.

AFCE is interesting for the first time since 2008


26 Not only are they 6-3, but…

Not only are they 6-3, but the next three up are the Broncos, Jets and Bengals, so a great chance to be 9-3. A playoff berth looks likely. Terrific job from Flores and his crew thus far. 

35 Kind of amazing Miami feels…

Kind of amazing Miami feels like a non qb dependent team, which is unthinkable considering one year ago they were in the running for worst team ever.

This is one big reason why football is better than the NBA. You don't need LeBron to rescue you to go from zero to really good.

41 This is one big reason why…

This is one big reason why football is better than the NBA. You don't need LeBron to rescue you to go from zero to really good.

But it's hard to do it otherwise in a sustainable way.

Teams that suddenly got good usually got there via acquiring a HOF-caliber QB.

42 It's not that amazing: did…

It's not that amazing: did you notice why DVOA has them so high?

It's their special teams. By a lot. The offense and defense are totally average. The special teams is second in the league. Oh, and guess who's the worst team in the league? The one they played this week and beat.

It checks out if you look at the game, too: the Chargers had a bunch of kickoffs they had to start inside their 20, and only one past the 25. The Chargers' main problem on special teams is actually in punting, and... yeah, that proved prophetic. Not that hard to win a game when you're opponents can't freaking punt. Seriously how is it possible for the Chargers to be that bad at punting?! 

Even the Expected Points metric on PFR noted it, with the Dolphins losing on offense/defense (around -6 points) but dominating on special teams (14 points!). 

47 It's worse than you think…

It's worse than you think.

Chargers had 25 ST snaps on Sunday. The had ten bad plays

Four penalties including and offsides on a FG that turned into a TD

3 punt returns over 15 yds allowed

Let a fair catch bounce at the 20, which Miami downed at the 4

Returned a KO from 9 yds deep in their Ez

Oh, and the blocked punt.

The Chargers stank on ST, and it was all self-inflicted

(H/TDaniel Popper @the Athletic)

87 I feel like the Bears…

I feel like the Bears offense and Chargers' special teams have stunk for as long as I've been watching football.  My favorite Chargers year was 2010 when they had a top offense and top defense, but only finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs because of their horrific special teams.

92 And yet, twice the Chargers…

And yet, twice the Chargers beat the Colts in the playoffs on the back of iron-legged kickers.

2009 was the Robo-Punter game, where Scifres averaged 52.7 yards per punt and stuck the Colts inside their 20 all six times, and inside their 10 five times. Per PFR, he was worth 5.99 points of a 6 point game. The Chargers only got the playoffs that year due to a recovered onside kick, too. 

63 Are you kidding? That's even…

Are you kidding? That's even more amazing! Not only do you not need a superstar QB savior, you can do it with special teams alone!

(Although not really, they might be average on offense and defense, but the defense has been trending up after a slow start to the season. The offense was too, as Aaron pointed out last week, although that's more complicated because of the QB change).

65 "Are you kidding? That's…

"Are you kidding? That's even more amazing! Not only do you not need a superstar QB savior, you can do it with special teams alone!"

In one season, yes. In multiple? Nope. Special teams aren't consistent enough to do that.

71 Chicago Bears formula

for a while was good to great defense, good to great special teams and an offense that didn't kill them.  And they seemed to make it work for what seemed about a decade or so.  I know FO reference is 'right there', but I am going to risk my memory.


Not that Chicago was going to the SB every year, but the team did go to one (with Sexy Rexy as qb no less) and was competitive regularly.

86 You can add the Ravens as…

You can add the Ravens as well. Pre Lamar they followed the above formula to a lot of success + 2 sb wins. And the pre Mahomes Chiefs also had a lot of success with a good enough but hardly dominant QB in Alex Smith


Alternative formulas can work, it's just extremely hard to pull off and appears nearly impossible to imititate.

93 Even the traditional way is…

Even the traditional way is fraught.

Brees has been to one Super Bowl and three conference championship games. Rodgers has 1 and 4 (not counting his benchwarming role in a Favre trip). Rivers made one conference championship game. 

You pretty much had to play for an AFC dynasty to have success with even the QB-centric formula, because the NFC remains a grinder of QBs.

97 Rodgers is a sign that traditional way works

I think we need to recalibrate what 'success' is. No one is successful compared to the Patriots and they've basically skewed what success is.

Rodgers career of making one Super Bowl, four NFC Championship Games (where he really should've won two of them), and five other playoff trips ('09, '11, '12, '13, '15) is a sign of how much success a traditional QB-led team can have.

Prior to Brady, that is a perfectly fine resume for a top QB, with some little 'well, he only has one ring!' shouts

137 Yea, 5 just seems so low and…

Yea, 5 just seems so low and then I have to remind myself of just how easily perspective is lost. SBs are one of those things thats easy to say way after the fact. WOW, how did Rodgers ONLY get to 1 SB. Same with Brees. They have been awesome right? That all works in some grand summary. But look deeper into each individual year and you will realize there was a worthy challenger that was either as good if not better than they were and its easy to understand why.

I would argue its probably harder to find the truly awesome coach than the truly awesome qb. Both are low odds finds. To get both together at the same time is a truly rare feat. 

139 It's not even specifically a…

It's not even specifically a Patriots thing that limited either of these two. Peyton ended up with a winning playoff record against them, and never lost after 2004. Ben only faced them in the playoffs twice. Like you say, it's the playoffs, and there are other worthy teams in any given year. 

Re. QB/coach, it's an area where I'll always hedge my bets, as it's just so tough to quantify a coach's impact. Of course it's tempting to look at Brady's rings and conclude that what is separating him from other great QBs of his era in that regard, is coaching. But equally, Belichick has a reasonably large sample of games coached without Brady, and the record does not leap off the page. So much noise. I dunno. 

141 You need context when…

You need context when judging Belichick without Brady.

Even though they have a losing record I've been pretty impressed with the job he's done thus far. Given all of the defections in free agency and covid, his defense has been much better than expected.


And their losses have some asterisks to them. They could have both Sea and Buffalo games at the end and they played the chiefs tough despite starting Hoyer and then Stidham. Note all of these games were on the road. 

I would be surprised if Pats fans watched this season and left underwhelmed by Belichick's coaching. I think there's even a fair contingent who think Belichick was more valuable to the Patriots success than Brady.


142 Oh I wasn't trying to…

Oh I wasn't trying to detract. My only point was that if all you did was glance at his overall W-L record without Brady, without applying context, you might conclude he was not the most important factor in the Patriots success. Of course it is much more complex that that.

38 Fluke TD?

Hopkins is the best WR in pro football.  That was no fluke.  Miami beating Arizona was a fluke.  The Bills are the best team in the East and it will show up when Tua is forced to do more.

Josh Allen will beat Miami when they play next.

51 don't worry about the Pats

The AFC has 9 teams with 3 or fewer losses and the Pats already have 5.  I think they'll make the playoffs if they can run the table, but they probably won't run the table. 

The Dolphins are playing well right now - I'd say they're playing better than Buffalo.  The division will be decided in the last three weeks when everybody plays each other.  In particular the Week 17 Miami-Buffalo game is begging to be flexed.  

53 Assuming the Dolphins win…

Assuming the Dolphins win the games they're expected to win (and lose to the Chiefs), the Raiders game is huge. The AFC logjam is gong to be sorted out by tie-breakers, and as I still expect Buffalo to win the division that sortt of head-to-head is priceless, especially as Miami don't play any of the other non AFCE contenders this year.

73 yeah

But hopefully Miami-New England, Miami-Bill late in the year will mean more than jobbing New England of home field like the last decade plus. For once three teams are in it for the division title just over mid-season. The Pats are hard to read. They can run in an era of passing and it seems like no one's defense is built to stop that power running attack. As long as they don't go down big and need to pass, they should win games. Maybe. Not sure about them at all, but I think those covid games might be dragging their overall ratings. They squeak out the JETS and beat the Ravens in the rain, but that's how they're going to go the rest of the year. 

107 There's a lot of ball to play

And a lot of those 9 teams have games within that group to play.

With 7 playoff teams, it's almost mathematically impossible for 10-6 to not make the tourney, and 9-7 is not at all inconceivable.

5-1 for the Pats going out gets them there.  And DVOA can't factor in the disruption of losing 2 weeks midseason to COVID issues...this team is stronger than the apparent numbers say...

Doubtful they are worldbeaters, but not at all doubtful they are tournament contenders...barring another round of COVID disruption.

145 Fins RBs

Hey Fins fans, so glad to see TWO University of Washington RBs on your roster and doing well.  Huskies haven't had a great track record with offensive skill players in the NFL since Jake Locker was over-drafted at #8 about a decade ago (and all their WBs were strangely named Jacob???)   Jerome Pathon? Bishop Sankey?  I guess Austin Sefarian-Jenkins had a decent pro career.  Always loved Gaskin in purple and gold and was psyched to see him doing well before his injury, but Ahmed was a bit of a surprise.  I hadn't realized he wasn't even at UW anymore!  I remember watching him in HS just about four years ago where one of our HS players described him as "this monster RB who gets 200 yards every game and is heading to UW next year."  Indeed.   I think Corey Dillon was the last UW RB who had an impact on the NFL and he was a juco transfer who only stayed in Seattle for one year circa 1997. 

Go Gaskin and Ahmed!

22 The second half of the Bills…

The second half of the Bills/Cardinals was actually a pretty ugly game offensively. You can see why DVOA has both offences ranked where they are (above average, but a long way behind the top teams). Both QBs clearly have terrific play-making abilities, rocket arms, and have weapons galore at their disposal, but are still a long way from the most efficient down-to-down passers in the league. Sure makes for exciting football in the end though. 

Kliff Kingsbury needs to examine his late game play-calling and decision making. Two weeks in a row his offence has stalled at the most crucial moments, with seemingly conservative, predictable play calls. Thta would have been a tough defeat to stomach yesterday.

72 Not too mention this appears…

Not too mention this appears to be a statement made entirely after the fact. The offense for the Cardinals is on the whole good. Do we expect it to reach the stratosphere next year solely because he will have a fully armed and operational battle station at that point?

23 Vince Verhei:  Then things…

Vince Verhei: 

Then things get interesting. Down 21-17, the Eagles go for two. I'd love to know the thinking there

The thinking is that Pederson's staff is ludicrously aggressive and cutesy. I love trying to rationalize out the decision as being super-strategic but I'm pretty sure it was just "more points = better" at this point.

I'm also just more confident in my belief that Philly's not much different than past years: I just think the cutesy aggressive crap is finally catching up to them in that other teams are just figuring things out. You don't overthink them. Just focus on edge contain and deep safety discipline and they'll beat themselves trying to go for a big play. Yeah, they'll get rushing plays in here and there, but they won't stick with them because they're just too impatient. I've also got this feeling they're focusing on disrupting Wentz more than actually trying to sack him, but I can't be sure on that.

146 Forget the Irony/sarcasm...

I think we're all missing the BIG story here:  Those bronze busts TALK?!?!

That is so cool!  I wonder what kind of conversations they have?  And they watch weekly games to keep tabs on today's players?  Do they snack and go to the bathroom during commercials?  Wait, I don't think I want to know....  

29 I did not get to watch…

I did not get to watch football this weekend, so I couldn't see the game. I have proclaimed DK as maybe the best receiver in football. And he apparently was shut down by the Rams. Was that because of Jalen Ramsey? Anyone who saw the game care to confirm?

36 Ramsey...

...shadowed DK for most of the game and Wilson stayed away from him.  It was similar to how Peterson blanketed DK in Arizona's win.

I think Carroll just decided to try the other side.

79 Not entirely true

In reply to by DIVISION

Early in the game, yes, Ramsey was playing Metcalf tight but once he realized Wilson wasn't even looking in Metcalf's direction, he started playing him a lot looser. The Rams stopped rolling a safety over as well. Replays were showing Metcalf open but Wilson never glancing that way at all. Wilson finally heard it from the OC or Carroll or Metcalf or all of them because he finally threw that way late in the game.

It looked more like a decision by Wilson, who had a terribly game overall, to just give up on that matchup.

The real question is what happened to Lockett. You know, the guy that caught 15 for 200 yards and three touchdowns while Peterson "blanketed" Metcalf.


108 Lockett.

He kind of got lost in the game, honestly.

I noticed that he checked himself out of a few plays, which may be normal but the announcers mentioned it.

He also missed a couple connections with Wilson, not sure what the deal was there.

80 Yes it was because of Ramsey…

Yes it was because of Ramsey. He covered him on about half the snaps and shut him down. Metcalf only really got open on one play, and he was being covered by Darius Williams then.

I think DK is one of those boom or bust receivers. He's so big and so fast that smaller or slower CB's, but especially smaller, simply cannot cover him. On the other hand, he changes direction about as well as you'd expect of a man his size, so if the DB can stop himself getting bullied, he's not really that much of a threat.

Watching the individual snaps where Ramsey covers him, it doesn't even look that hard for him, and I suspect that it's not. A well rounded, shifty receiver like Mike Evans, or Hopkins will be a much more interesting test of Ramsey.

43 OK, what the hell, you took…

OK, what the hell, you took a shot, NOW you for it on fourth down, right? Wrong! You send the offense out there to bark for 30 seconds, nothing happens, you take a delay of game, and then you punt!

I keep waiting for a team in that situation to fart around for 28 seconds, look like they're content to take the delay of game, then snap the ball with 2 seconds on the clock for a quick QB sneak. Has anyone done that?

48 I remember it happening in…

I remember it happening in the 80s when Dallas-Washington was actually a thing, Danny White ran the play clock down, but then ran the play which got stuffed. It prompted a famous "No, Danny, no!" moment from Tom Landry. 

54 Remember this?

Colts were trying to trick Pats into going offsides.  They weren't supposed to snap the ball.  But they did.

69 Pat McAfee Explains the Worst Play in NFL History

In reply to by RickD

That is not quite what happened with that baffling Colts play.

Pat McAfee explained what happened in detail in the video below.  The Colts were primarily trying to catch the Patriots in a substitution error.  If not, they were going to take the delay of game penalty.  It was a play that they practiced a lot.

Unfortunately for the Colts they had a player who hadn't practiced it as the snapper.  A coach further complicated matters on game day by adding a wrinkle where they were also trying to draw the Patriots offside...however, that coach only told one or two players about that wrinkle.

With so many moving parts and last minute changes in what was already a unfamiliar situation, it's not too surprising it was screwed up.  It's still amazing  video.

147 Colts failed punt

Always clever to have an undersized WR (Griff Whalen) as your center.  That'll make the opponents think you really mean for him to snap and then block.  Even with the originally planned Clayton Geathers (bigger, but still a safety) snapping, I am not sure it would have ever worked as a play.  Catching the opponent in a sub miscue?  Maybe.  Getting them offsides?  Maybe.  But running a play even if the personnel was the right guys fully informed?  face palm.

Exhibit B of why coaching matters.

Exhibit A would be the team across the LOS that night.

50 Analytics Planet

Yesterday Kevin Harlan noted someone on the Raiders D was "ranked 10th in the analytics world." I can only assume Harlan believes that all football analytics sites draw their info from the same moon or something, sort of like Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry. 

52 wild guess

He saw "LAR" in some table and wrongly assumed it was the Raiders.  The Rams are in the top 10.  The Raiders aren't close.  

I am not used to LV or LVR.  It will take some time.  

56 That would be even funnier…

In reply to by RickD

That would be even funnier if that were the case, but in this instance he was referring to a specific player (I forget who). 

62 Well, theoretically all…

In reply to by BroncFan07

Well, theoretically all analytics should come up with the same results, shouldn't they?

Of course how you rank players depends on which combinations of measures you choose for your ranking.

64 Not necessarily. It depends…

Not necessarily. It depends on what metric an analysis wants to measure.

Some are predictive, some are explanatory, some are both.

WPA and EPA and DYAR, for instance, often violently disagree about end-game strategy, because each is actually measuring something different.

76 I disagree. Your second…

I disagree. Your second statement sounded more like method, whereas my comment regarded end-goal.

Not all analytics are trying to answer the same question; let alone trying to get there via equivalent means.

57 FWIW - it's not so odd that…

FWIW - it's not so odd that Dan Reeves would have the pass-rush-receive TD trifecta.

He threw a halfback option TD pass in the Ice Bowl.

So it was obviously in Landry's offensive options.

Only odd because mot of us only remember Dan Reeves as a HC

61 Watching the Pats-Ravens…

Watching the Pats-Ravens game, there were a couple of flags in the last five minutes that got picked up.

One where Lamar Jackson recovered a bad shotgun snap and the Pats defender slid in to try and recover the ball. All the Ravens players call for helmet-to-helmet, unnecessary roughness penalty.   Thankfully the ref said no penalty because it was defender trying to recover the ball.

Later Cam Newton gets hit at the end of a run and you see his head jerk back.  I thought he started the slide late as it was.   But then replay showed it was shoulder-to-shoulder and it was Cam's pads pushing his head back. So nothing really wrong by the defender.

Glad to see what was an unexpectedly, close and enjoyable game wasn't affected by those calls.

83 The one call I thought was…

The one call I thought was missed was the fumble that the Patriots evidently recovered but it was ruled a completion and down before the ball came out.

They showed the replay many times, and the announcing team plus the rules expert saw it one way, but the receiver never caught that ball.  Gravity was keeping the ball balanced on his chest/upper arm, but his arm was never around the ball, nor was the ball ever controlled by any means.  He hit the ground, the ball was lying on top of him, and the Patriots DB took it and ran.  I guess technically, it should have been an interception.

I'm glad to see that BB/JM finally realized that the only way the Patriots are winning this year is running the ball 40 times, popping a few play action plays, and keep the other offense off the field as much as possible.

Their defense sucks too badly to be a Super Bowl contender, but their offense will be effective, if slightly archaic.  Baltimore seemed to do okay with that philosophy last year.

130 On the other hand, that…

On the other hand, that roughing call against SF that was derided by Geoff Schwartz was hardly "the worst call in NFL history". The defender made helmet to helmet contact (or facemask to facemask, which is equivalent), then landed with his weight on Brees' chest. Looked like a pretty legitimate call to me.

68 Officiating Jacksonville/GB

Jacksonville was royally scr8wed out of a TD on a phantom holding call in the 4th quarter.  All of the calls I saw against GB seemed legit even though folks complained about Turner's chop block when he was thrown into the defender.  Technically correct call.  But Jacksonville had several calls assessed that I thought were either ticky tack or just not there.

100 Absolutely agree

Jacksonville used field position, running the ball and beating up GB at the LOS to gain the upper hand.  Jacksonville was the better team yesterday.



105 I'm not a regular Packers…

I'm not a regular Packers watcher but a poor slate of early games led me to watching yesterday's game. A couple of ill-timed turnovers and a punt return TD kept things close, but I never felt the result was in much doubt; even in the poor weather Rodgers vs. the Jags pass defense was an epic mismatch. The Packers weren't impressive outside of that, but DVOA would have told me that anyway, so it didn't come as a surprise.

82 I wrote up some thoughts on…

I wrote up some thoughts on Seattle in the Open Thread, but I've come to realize something else about them. Their offense isn't really good, in the sense of typical offenses being good. The Bucs are a good/great offense because Brady plays the position well, they have good pass blocking, and a bunch of receivers who can get open well. The Rams are a good offense because they're basically the same but worse. The Saints are the same.

The Seahawks aren't a traditional good offense. They have mediocre pass blocking, and not much of note after DK and Lockett as far as receivers go. What they do have is Russel Wilson making plays that shouldn't be there, and DK and Lockett occasionally torching defensive backs. What they really have is Wilson throwing a gorgeous deep ball to those two receivers, who are uncoverable by some secondaries. So sometimes they look absolutely unstoppable, and sometimes they look very stoppable.

So basically:

-Unbelievably great deep passing offense

-Mediocre everything else

If you have the secondary to not just get wrecked by Metcalf and Lockett, then they have a very mediocre offense, reliant on Wilson making something with his legs and a subpar rushing attack. The Rams are a really horrible matchup for them, because they do have the secondary to take away that deep ball, leaving the Seahawks with mediocrity.

However, for many teams the Seahawks are going to be an absolute nightmare to play against. Teams with weak secondaries, so they could be a great spoiler in the playoffs.

88 I might be jumping the gun…

I might be jumping the gun here, but I feel a lot of that is on Wilson. His style of play is just very boom and bust by nature. He takes a lot of sacks but scrambles for a lot of yardage. And I just don't see him as a very down to down efficient player.


All that said, he's capable of scoring a lot of points, but the offense isn't the kind that can protect its defense.


89 Nah. Trust me on this. I've…

Nah. Trust me on this. I've seen those Seahawks time and time again. Their offensive line is no longer a disaster, but it's not good, and I can't even name their TE's. Moore is a serviceable third WR, but they just really do not have any talent other than DK, Lockett, Wilson.

It's rare in the NFL that the those annoying little "keys to the game," are actually true for a team. With the Seahawks, you shut down the deep ball, and you win. Wilson even on a bad day adds value over his supporting cast.

94 To be clear, I regard Wilson…

To be clear, I regard Wilson as the second best QB in the nfl and a hall of famer. There are just some flaws I see within the Seahawks offense that are intrinsic to his weaknesses. That said, his strengths are so superlative that most weekends where his defense isnt getting gored to death, its usually good enough.

I am a firm believed that, "Let Russ wash dishes" helped his defenses because it would discourage aggressive play from the opposing offenses. By going full on, "Let Russ Cook", it had the opposite effect. Now the thing is, a certain type of offense can help the defense by stringing together long play drives which relies on a lot of efficient execution down to down. With Wilson, its quick strike at any time which means they are never out of the game, but its not conducive to your defense which is going to get attacked aggressively every week. 



102 What you are effectively…

What you are effectively saying is that allowing Wilson to play optimally simultaneously encourages/forces opposing offences to play optimally in response. It's an interesting point, and brings up game-theory/strategy issues about how much an offense can theoretically 'shield' a weak defense.

Ultimately it's not apparent enough to me that offensive strategy impacts defensive performance or opposition strategy enough to justify effectively 'hamstringing' yourself. Whether you score quickly or slowly, you still have to stop the opposition at some stage. I could be wrong though, and it's an interesting debate.

103 You know, you've touched on…

You know, you've touched on a topic that has fascinated me for a while now. The first time I stumbled upon this theory was during one of the seasons where Big Ben was suspended and the Steelers were forced to start Charlie Batch. They went 3-1 in those games mostly behind a bunch of close defensive struggles, including the game they lost. Then when Big Ben went back in, the scoring totals allowed by their defense went up.

I don't think Seattle has intentionally embarked upon this strategy, but I do believe that in a way, playing possum with Wilson has some real benefits. The games are close and turn into low scoring, one possession drives where in that instance, you turn to Wilson's houdini talents; especially against defenses that start to become super conservative. 

Like you, I am not entirely sure if the Seahawks would be better off gimping Wilson. I am sure that their defense wouldn't look nearly as bad. In actuality, the real angle from this theory was - we may be mis-measuring defense.



106 Agree with that last point…

Agree with that last point re. measuring defense. I'm reminded of some of the mid-Brady era Patriots defenses, which graded very poorly by DVOA, but ultimately did not concede a lot of points and won lots of games (and created plenty of debate on these boards IIRC). Opposing offenses presumably knew an aggressive approach from the outset was required to keep pace there, so how much of the final outcome was the result of a tailored 'bend don't break' defensive strategy, and how much due to a super efficient offense generating just enough sideline rest time/scoreboard pressure/field position for a bad defense to eventually get the job done?

I've strayed from the original point there, but it comes back to how measure defense under extreme conditions on the other side of the ball.

118 Those defenses looked good…

Those defenses looked good on a points basis because their offense handed their opponents a long field to drive against.

Truly bad defenses might want to just go all-out for turnovers. Unfortunately, the rules and current offensive environment make that really difficult.

There is something to the idea that good teams can adopt David tactics when conditions are not in their favor. This might be at the core of Ewing Theory.

128 It's also possible Belichick…

It's also possible Belichick just intentionally made them play soft until their own redzone. Think about it. If you have a powerhouse offense lead by the GOAT, with a still healthy Welker/Edelman and Gronkowski, it's hard to lose games unless your defense gets torched a bunch of times with deep passes. Getting your defense to play soft and vanilla, and hope for some incompletions/sacks/batted passes is perfectly fine. Tighten up in your red zone and hold them to 3 points and you'll come out ahead.

So I think that DVOA was something of a mirage, where those defenses were better than advertised. 

95 Yeah, nah....

I'm not going to trust the observations of someone that can't name the tight ends of a team that they're making observations about. If you think the Seahawks offense is so one dimensional as to only being about the deep ball then you really don't know what you're talking about here.

116 You must be a miffed Seattle fan...

In reply to by AnonyRuss

The Seahawks are one-dimensional due to injury, the deterioration of their defensive depth and I would argue poor coaching by Pete Carroll and Ken Norton Jr.

I don't even know how they plan to stop the Cardinals on Thursday, but I don't think it matters what they scheme.  They don't have the personnel on the D-Line or back end to stop what the Cardinals present.

Cardinals have beaten the Hawks two of the last three including last year in Seattle.

Not much looking good for Seattle.  

124 I was exaggerating. Yes,…

In reply to by AnonyRuss

I was exaggerating. Yes, they have a 67 year old Greg Olsen, and Will Dissly. Truly a fearsome bunch of game changers.

I'm not saying these aren't NFL players, but the Seahawks offense is one dimensional. It just is. I hate to sound like DIVISION, but it's true. If you can shut down the deep ball against the Seahawks, you are now facing a below average offense.

125 The best part... that I predicted all of this over a month and a half ago.  

If you watch all NFL games, it gives one a sense of perspective about trends and consensus.

The Seahawks are basically a paper tiger.  Russell Wilson has been dragging them to the playoffs for a few years now, but this is not the same team that won a SB.  Not even close.

They don't have the athletes on the defensive side of the ball anymore and their offense is Russ Wilson and his dynamic receiving corps.  If you can half-way decently cover their receivers, they can't do a whole lot.


112 We've known that Seattle's offense...

....was always boom or bust based on Wilson's ability to make impromptu plays on the scramble.

It's not sustainable when you can't run the ball consistently and your defense is worst by yards in the NFL.

When Seattle had a running game and a top 5 defense, Russ could be average and they could still win.

Now, it' way too much pressure to put on him and he can't carry an offense and the defense both.

In a way, it's like a sad tragedy we're seeing in real time.  

The masses demanded to "Let Russ Cook".

Maybe Pete Carroll knew better and only relented when the defense weakened.  Now we know that the Seahawks of yesteryear were as good as they were, not because of Russell Wilson but because he complemented their defense and ST.

This might have been Russ' best year to win MVP, but now it's over because Carroll gave everyone what they asked for.


85 "on the MVS touchdown …

"on the MVS touchdown .... watch the way Jarrod Wilson (26 for Jacksonville) gets turned around trying to make a tackle." On that play the backjudge sets a pick and keeps Wilson from trying to make the tackle.

Next Gen stats said the Hopkins catch had a 16.9% completion likelihood,  that seems way high. My LastGen Intuition (tm) puts it at exactly 5.879%  and since mine has more significant digits it is the correct number.

113 doesn't make it a penalty

A clean hit on a QB who already has broken ribs might well exacerbate the injury.  

That was a clean hit.  He didn't lead with his head.  He didn't go low.  He didn't put his entire body weight on Brees. He hit Brees hard but he didn't land on him.  

Hitting a QB in the rib area is allowed.  The presumption is that the QB doesn't have a prior condition.  

121 Last season, Gerald McCoy…

Last season, Gerald McCoy called for roughing the passer on Aaron Rodgers in the end zone on a 3rd down incompletion where McCoy fell down beside Rodgers, with most of his own body's weight landing on the ground and not on top of the quarterback.

115 He Slammed Brees,

and unnecessary roughness was the correct call; it was unnecessary

117 It was...

...a bit of a slam, baby Z-Roc, but it's still NFL football.

Some of these roughing calls are getting to be ridiculous.

Brees is getting brittle with age, we get it, but he shouldn't get that kind of extra protection!

138 rule book


I can't see anywhere in there to indicate Street tacking Brees qualifies.  It was a clean hit AND it sucks that it exacerbated an injury to Brees.  Street COULD have landed all of his body weight on Brees, he clearly did not. 

120 I am curious what you think…

I am curious what you think the defender should have done instead? He basically got flagged because he is a big dude and Drew Brees isn't + hes a million years old. 

140 Football Team and Alex Smith

The red-zone debacle on the WFT's first drive was typical WFT incompetence but was not Alex Smith's fault. Second down was a horrid play call, and third down the protection broke down early.  I blame Snyder.

148 Advanced Stats for Evaluating... Historical Generals

Had a conversation with my 18 year-old son at lunch today.  "Dad, are you familiar with Wins Above Replacement and Sabermetrics?"  I explained that I was and explained a bit about FO.  Then he unleashed this bomb for history geeks:  Some guys have used the same concept to evaluate and rank the best battle generals of all time--thousands of battles, thousands of years, Napoleon comes in at #1.  Pretty amusing. Maybe best reserved for after football season.

Let the bickering begin.  Brady vs Manning is nothing compared to Napoleon vs Alexander the Great vs Zukhov vs Hannibal.  My view: Napoleon was the Vinny Testaverde of his day, whereas Alexander was the Terrell Davis/Gale Sayers of his.  Rommel and Patton are amateurs by comparison.

149 Nice

Everything after the Civil War though falls into a completely different era due to the changes in weaponry and thus tactics. (And even the Civil War kind of straddles the boundary.)

Sort of like the 1978 passing rules changes. Which is why I still think we underrate Johnny U when we have GOAT discussions...