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

Audibles at the Line: Week 2

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

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Atlanta Falcons 39 at Dallas Cowboys 40

Scott Spratt: I shouldn't complain given where we were two months ago, but it's going to be difficult to keep up with nine early games and a golf major. If I accidentally call Matt Ryan Matt Wolff, you'll know why.

Aaron Schatz: Atlanta-Dallas? Scott! I figured I could trust you to be watching Tom Brady against Carolina! Now I may have to watch that instead of Denver-Pittsburgh.

Scott Spratt: Haha no, I have the Panthers-Bucs game on. But that comment was Falcons-related.

Derrik Klassen: First major "who the hell is that" for me this year: who the hell is Brandon Knight?

Scott Spratt: Brandon Knight was a pretty good Kentucky point guard. Hope that helps, Derrik.

Derrik Klassen: Scott, I think that's a better answer than I'm going to get anywhere else so I'll take it.

Bryan Knowles: I'm watching this one on a smaller screen, but it looks like Dallas is really struggling with Tyron Smith, Cam Erving, and La'El Collins all out; Atlanta has been getting fairly consistent pressure. The last time the Cowboys played a game without Smith, I believe Prescott was sacked eight times and it knocked them out of the postseason. They're struggling without their starters out there.

And, thanks to a Prescott fumble on his first sack of the day, the Falcons jump out to an early lead. Some nifty athleticism from Calvin Ridley to snag the pass and tiptoe into the end zone for the 7-0 Atlanta advantage.

Bryan Knowles: The Cowboys can't hold on to the ball! This time it's Ezekiel Elliott who gets the ball jarred loose, giving the Falcons the ball back very quickly. And then, Hayden Hurst just leaks out into the flat and zero Dallas defenders come with him, leading to one of the easier 40-plus-yard touchdowns you will ever see. 14-0 Falcons midway through the first quarter, as the Cowboys' new Crisco sponsorship seems to be backfiring.

Rob Weintraub: Not sure if you are referencing a couple years back when the Falcons clubbed the Smith-less Cowboys. That was the famous Adrian Clayborn six-sack performance.

Meanwhile no one covers Hayden Hurst and he has a simple walk-in score. 14-0 Falcs.

Cale Clinton: Dallas really can't be making it much easier for the Falcons. Two straight lost fumbles and a poorly executed fake punt has resulted in three straight Falcons drives starting at the Dallas 22-yard-line, Atlanta 48-yard-line, and Dallas 29-yard-line. The result: two touchdowns and a field goal.

Now, Dallas' fourth (!!!) fumble of the half sets up Atlanta at the Dallas 40-yard-line.

Rob Weintraub: Note to the TV crew ... in Falcons-Cowboys Zeke met Damontae Kazee at the goal line, and guess who won? Elliott by KO.

20-7 Falcs, still very early second quarter.

Bryan Knowles: Second touchdown of the day by an uncovered receiver. I would think covering Calvin Ridley would be my second-highest priority when defending the Falcons, but I suppose that's why I'm not a defensive coordinator. Two-point conversion fails, but it's a 26-7 Falcons lead midway through the second, as the Cowboys risk being blown out of the building.

Is the Football Team going to have a two-game lead on the division after two weeks?

Scott Spratt: Calvin Ridley's 9.6% touchdown rate since the start of 2018 is the highest by a wide receiver with 100 or more targets. Maybe cover him?

Bryan Knowles: Well, things might not QUITE be over in JerryWorld. Dallas comes out of the locker room on fire. CeeDee Lamb has been getting open against what we thought would be a questionable Atlanta secondary -- a big 37-yard reception on third down kept the drive alive. The touchdown came on a zone read keeper by Dak Prescott, and it's 29-17 early in the second half. Cowboys NEEDED that.

Rob Weintraub: Julio Jones flat-out drops a touchdown bomb thrown by fellow wideout Russell Gage, leading to a punt. Circle that if the Boys pull out a comeback.

Clearly, only Mo Sanu is allowed to complete wide receiver passes...

Cale Clinton: In the lead-up to this week, a lot of people pointed at one statistic when citing potential success for the Cowboys offense: on 35 pass attempts, Russell Wilson threw into zero tight windows against the Atlanta secondary.

So far in this game, the lackluster coverage has come from Dallas' defense. Calvin Ridley (six catches, 95 yards, two touchdowns) and Hayden Hurst (3-46-1) have averaged 3.44 and 3.83 yards of separation, respectively, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Rob Weintraub: Andy D. sighting! Dak knocked out, Dalton throws on first-and-goal, throwaway. Wisely he hands off to Elliott on the next snap, 29-24 Atlanta.

Rob Weintraub: Check that, Zeke may have been short...

Rob Weintraub: Indeed, he was short, so Dak comes back in and plunges for the score. Of course Dalton screws up the big day for the 2015 Bengals!

Bryan Knowles: Zeke was, in fact short. It was set up by a bomb out to Amari Cooper, who found plenty of room to work against Atlanta's "secondary." Smart to take the shot after the failed trick play by the Falcons -- and if the pass was better, it's probably a touchdown, not just a 58-yard reception.

After an incomplete Dalton pass, Dak comes back in, concussion protocol or no concussion protocol, and sneaks in to pick up the score. The extra point makes it 29-24, as Dallas has been looking better ever since they realized you have to hold on to footballs.

Dave Bernreuther: Andy Dalton's helmet is noticeably newer and shinier than any of his teammates. It looks like they just took it out of the packaging.

Bryan Knowles: Score answered. I think it's really notable that the Falcons have kept going for it on fourth downs. I believe they were 0-for-4 last week, and that's enough to make most coaches never try it again. But today they're 2-for-2, including a 19-yard reception for Julio Jones on this drive, and a few plays later, Russell Gage makes this a two-score game once again, 36-24 early in the fourth quarter.

Bryan Knowles: Dallas tries their second fake punt OF THE DAY. It's also their second failure of the day, and it probably ends the game for the Cowboys.

Mike McCarthy, your offense is allowed to try things on fourth down! That's a legal strategy!

Aaron Schatz: Dallas ran two fake punts today and both failed?

Bryan Knowles: Yup -- an underthrow in the first quarter, and then a run up the gut on fourth-and-5 with the game more or less on the line just now.

Dave Bernreuther: It's a two-score game so it's not nearly as consequential as last week's call against Gallup, but CeeDee Lamb just blocked Keanu Neal downfield, shoulder to chest, and they called a blind-side block and brought back a nice catch-and-run play for the Cowboys.

What happened to only calling the clear and obvious ones?


It took forever but they got it and can win with a field goal!

Bryan Knowles: Dallas recovers an onside kick, without a tee, that somehow, someway rolled 10 yards. The Falcons didn't dive on the ball because it looked like it was going to die at 8 yards, but the weird spin kept it going, and the Cowboys pick it up without any contest! 39-37 Atlanta with 1:49 left, so a field goal wins it...

Rob Weintraub: Scott Hanson rightly compared that bizarro onside kick to a ball that starts foul and rolls fair at the last second.

No excuse for Atlanta not jumping on it though I suppose the spin was off-putting.

And here's Legatron for the win … good!!!!

Cannot wait for the local reaction tomorrow...

Dave Bernreuther: McCarthy played for the field goal there and deserved to lose for it, but Greg the Leg wins it. And my prediction at the end of the first somehow comes true.

Aaron Schatz: And that, my friends, is why you go for two early. By not getting the two-point conversion, the Cowboys knew that they had to score twice, which gave them the opportunity to try the onside kick, which they recovered, and they kick the field goal to win the game. If they kick an extra point after the earlier touchdown to go down 39-31 and *then* miss the two-point conversion, the Cowboys lose this 39-37.

Vince Verhei: Here's the nucking futs onside kick recovery:

So after that, the Cowboys get a first down at the 30 with no timeouts and more than a minute to go ... and they settle for the long field goal, with two short runs and a spike on third down to stop the clock. That's terminably conservative coaching, but McCarthy gets away with it as Greg Zuerlein hits a 46-yarder to win.

Dak Prescott: first player in NFL history with 400 yards passing and three touchdowns rushing in a game.

San Francisco 49ers 31 at New York Jets 13

Bryan Knowles: The starting pass-catchers in this game will be Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Brandon Aiyuk, Jordan Reed, Breshad Perriman, Chris Hogan, Braxton Berrios, and Christopher Herndon. I could probably put together a worse group of receivers, but I'd really have to try.

Bryan Knowles: But who needs pass-catchers? First play from scrimmage is a simple pitch to Raheem Mostert who runs up the sidelines 80 yards for the score. He had a 76-yard touchdown last week too, so apparently, scoring range is the entire field for him.

Scott Spratt: The 49ers also led the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns from at least 10 yards away from the end zone. That's a nice benefit of having only backs with sub-4.40 speed.

Vince Verhei: Guys, I'm starting to suspect this Adam Gase fella may not be a particularly good football coach.

Bryan Knowles: So, in the first 10 minutes of this game, Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas have been carted off the field, and Jimmy Garoppolo is having his leg examined. They're already missing George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, and Weston Richburg.

Vince Verhei: It might not show up in the numbers, but this has been one of Garoppolo's best games in a while. He's out there with all his best receivers out, hobbling around on one leg, but he's evading the pass rush and finding guys and converting third downs. Just hit a touchdown to Jordan Reed to go up 14-3.

Bryan Knowles: Something to watch for future 49ers games. George Kittle can do everything, and with Kittle out, the 49ers are being pretty predictable with their tight end usage -- Ross Dwelley is in on most running plays; Jordan Reed is in on most passing plays.

The 49ers most recent drive started with ANOTHER 70-yard touchdown run for Raheem Mostert, but that got called back for holding. Fine, they say, we'll do this the hard way, and put together their most complete drive of the season -- 15 plays, 67 yards, with Reed scoring his first touchdown since 2018 to cap it off. The hobbled Garoppolo is 8-for-8 for 77 yards and a touchdown so far; nothing spectacular, but on target and letting his (remaining) playmakers make plays.

14-3 49ers lead, midway through the second quarter.

Bryan Knowles: And now Breshad Perriman is down for our third injury stoppage of the game. This is being played by Battle Royale rules, right? Last team with any players standing wins?

Bryan Knowles: A late hit give the 49ers new life -- and it's about the fifth serious hit Jimmy Garoppolo has absorbed today. The 49ers turn that late hit into Jordan Reed's second touchdown of the day, as Garoppolo is up to 14-for-16 for 131 yards and a pair of scores. Reed stepping up in a huge way with George Kittle ailing on the sidelines.

I would not be stunned at all if Nick Mullens comes into this game early, maybe even in the third quarter if the 49ers get another score/stop combo. Garoppolo is gimpy, and with everyone else getting hurt, there's no need to risk him out there much more. Raheem Mostert just walked into the locker room before halftime, too -- you gotta have SOMEONE healthy left for next week!

21-3 lead with 11 seconds left in the first half, and I don't much fancy the Jets chances to make this one interesting.

Vince Verhei: Nick Mullens has indeed taken the field for San Francisco to open the second half.

Bryan Knowles: And Mostert has been ruled out, too.

I do wonder how much of this is "it's 21-3 and everyone's hurt" versus "can't continue," but both were banged up quite badly in that first half.

Vince Verhei: Jerick McKinnon just ran for a 55-yard gain to convert a third-and-31.

I'm getting more and more convinced that this Adam Gase fella may not be a particularly good football coach.

Bryan Knowles: After a Nick Mullens interception sets them up in the red zone, the Jets kick a field goal to turn a three-score game into a different three-score game.

When is Adam Gase fired? Is 5 p.m. too early? Do we wait until Monday?

Dave Bernreuther: In a small window, the colors of these two teams' jerseys are reminding me of growing up watching New York feeds in the '80s, back when I sort of liked both New York teams and the 49ers. And I love it.

The game, otherwise, well ... not so much. The 49ers have lost half their roster to injury already. The Jets are the Jets. While I'm actually sort of happy to see Berrios taking snaps, since he goes to my gym, I do agree with the notion that they aren't exactly sending a murderer's row of skill position players out there (and now Hogan is apparently out too).

But have no fear, guys, because they have Adam Gase and his genius offensive mind in charge. So when they face fourth-and-goal at the 6, down 24-3 with more than half the third quarter gone, they've got a good play in mind to close the gap, right?

Of course they do. A field goal. The gap has been closed. It's now 24-6.

Bryan Knowles: Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas did, in fact, tear their ACLs. Jimmy Garoppolo has a high-ankle sprain; that should cost him at least a month, I'd assume.

It may be worth noting that the artificial turf in New York has been in place for two weeks, and the 49ers have to play there again next week.

Rob Weintraub: That Meadowlands turf is a bigger risk to the players than Coronavirus. Worse, incredibly, than the old cement at Giants Stadium. San Francisco should refuse to play there next week.

Vince Verhei: Dear God. That's just crushing for San Francisco.

Carolina Panthers 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

Scott Spratt: The Bucs went three-and-out on their first drive, so the only excitement in Tampa so far is that one of the goalposts looks like it's about to fall over. Maybe that will help Joey Slye there. His leg is bigger than it is accurate.

Scott Spratt: Wow, you don't see that every Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater was trying to set up a screen pass to Christian McCaffrey, but he sailed it, and it was intercepted by Jordan Whitehead. Anyone ever seen a running back screen interception before?

Scott Spratt: Phew, after Ryan Jensen's block in the back erased a decent LeSean McCoy gain, Tom Brady threw a couple of line-drive passes. The first was a 50-yard completion (half in the air) to Mike Evans in a hole in the zone in the middle of the field. The second should have been a touchdown, but Brady's beloved Scotty Miller couldn't squeeze the pass in the end zone. Brady is looking physically strong.

Also, there's Ronald Jones' first touchdown. I'm not sure he's going to score three today since the team's other backs are involved, but I wouldn't want to bet against him either. He's certainly in my DFS lineups.

Vince Verhei: That Jones touchdown was set up by some curious play calling. On third-and-9 in the red zone, the Bucs went with a give-up screen to LeSean McCoy. The play was predictably stopped to set up fourth-and-3, but the Panthers got called for a personal foul to give the Bucs new life, and they capitalized.

And as I finish typing that, I look up and there's Mike Evans getting a touchdown on a deep curl. What happened? How did they even get the ball back?

Cale Clinton: On the Brady-to-Evans connection Scott just referenced, Evans ran the same skinny post that resulted in Brady's first interception as a Buccaneer. Didn't ease up on the route, found space, and ended up with a big gain. Seems like the two finally worked out some much-needed timing.

Scott Spratt: Turnover No. 2 for Teddy Bridgewater, this time on an Antoine Winfield strip-sack. This looks like a mismatch with last year's fourth-worst pass-blocking line (8.6% adjusted sack rate) and last year's No. 6 DVOA defense. Brady immediately capitalizes on the turnover with a touchdown pass to Mike Evans. 14-0 Bucs, Week 1 forgotten.

Vince Verhei: Just saw a replay and I'm not sure what you'd call that route Evans ran on his touchdown. A deep back-shoulder fade?

Scott Spratt: Ronald Jones just flat-out dropped a handoff on the exchange with no Panthers player near him. With most teams on track to win a game by multiple scores, that might not be a big deal. But the Bucs have already used a lot of McCoy and Leonard Fournette today. We'll see if Jones comes back out there when the Bucs get their next offensive possession.

Dave Bernreuther: Just run a play, Matt Rhule. Come on.

(The Panthers line up in a punt formation, down 14-0, from the Bucs' 34 with just shy of 2 yards to go. As I'm yelling "way to wave the white flag," they run a fake ... perhaps one of the most predictable punt fakes I've ever seen. Predictably, it fails. I thought the point of that whole front office transformation in Carolina was to get rid of thinking like that.)

Scott Spratt: The Panthers just tried a fake punt from the Bucs' 36-yard line. The Bucs were not fooled. Safety Jeremy Chinn took the direct snap and got stuffed in the backfield. Technically speaking, that's the Panthers' third turnover on four possessions.

In contrast, Bruce Arians just called a flea-flicker that Brady aired out for 36 yards to Justin Watson.

Aaron Schatz: At some point I'm going to have to go back and look at numbers on how often fake punts and field goals are successful compared to regular plays from the same down-and-distances. Anecdotally, it certainly seems that a regular pass with your regular quarterback is going to have a better chance of being successful. But I know that fake punts are based on seeing something on film where you think you have an advantage, it's not really based on any kind of cost-benefit analysis.

Bryan Knowles: The dots on that flea-flicker are good. Platonic definition of wide open.

Dave Bernreuther: A few plays later, the Bucs run a flea-flicker, and the Panthers are totally fooled. Brady has looked great overall, but that throw cost them a touchdown on the play, as he underthrew Justin Watson (who?) by enough that Watson had to stop, wait, and go to his knee to bring it in.

No matter, as Uncle Lenny takes it in soon after to put the Bucs up 21-0. This one is about to lose my interest fairly soon if the Panthers don't put it together on this drive before the half.

Scott Spratt: Fournette with a short touchdown, rushing score No. 2 for the Bucs against the Panthers today. That's five in six quarters allowed by last year's No. 32 DVOA run defense.

Vince Verhei: Those dots confirm what my eyes saw live: that was a dreadfully underthrown ball by Brady. Should have been a walk-in touchdown. Instead Watson had to go 60-to-0 just to catch the ball on his knees and get tackled. Obviously didn't matter in the long run, but not ideal.

Scott Spratt: Robby Anderson fumbled away the Panthers' fourth turnover at the start of the second half, but Brady immediately threw an interception on a route miscommunication with Gronk. Maybe reps aren't all of the issues there? Either way, that was Gronk's first target today.

Scott Spratt: I think Cyril Grayson may be off the Bucs' hands team.

Vince Verhei: Well, hey now. I spent most of the third quarter working on improving my viewing experience...

... and in that time, the Panthers have rallied to at least make this a game. Tom Brady threw an interception on the first play of a drive, and Christian McCaffrey has since run for a pair of touchdowns. The latter came on fourth-and-2 -- hardly a bold call to go for it there, given the score, but they had a nice play called, a speed option out of a shotgun set, and McCaffrey took the pitch and scored from 7 yards out. That was a 13-play, 93-yard drive. Still more than 13 minutes to go, Bucs still lead 21-14.

Scott Spratt: I didn't think anything of Christian McCaffrey limping off the field after his previous touchdown, but Mike Davis is on the field. Meanwhile, Bridgewater just found a wide-open Robby Anderson down the left sideline. The Panthers just crossed midfield driving with a chance to tie. What are the Bucs doing?

Scott Spratt: Nope, there is the Panthers' fifth turnover. False alarm.

Dave Bernreuther: I was thinking the same thing, and then after that play, I started to say "the Panthers have a chance here, how funny would that be -- " just as Bridgewater threw one behind his guy that ended up intercepted.

I really like Teddy but if he can't make that throw on time, they're going to end up regretting that contract.

Scott Spratt: Some Panthers fans regretted the contract the moment it was signed, Dave!

Cale Clinton: Interesting note for Carolina's receiving corps. With 10 minutes left to play in this game, the Panthers' current leader in receiving yards is Robby Anderson with 199 yards on 13 receptions. Take away his longest catches of each game (75 yards vs. Las Vegas, 39 yards vs. Tampa Bay), and his yards per catch shrinks from 15.3 to 7.7.

Scott Spratt: And LeSean McCoy joins Grayson and Scotty Miller on the Bucs' all-hands team:

That was the second dropped Brady touchdown today. This one resulted in a field goal, but the Bucs are still up 10.

Scott Spratt: After all my dumb hands team jokes, Gronk was the Bucs player who fielded the Panthers' onside kick attempt. He made it look easy. Which it was because onside kicks are pointless now.

Long Leonard Fournette run will seal this. And seal the second straight game with three opposing rushing touchdowns for the Panthers.

Vince Verhei: That's notable, Scott, because everyone on earth knew Tampa Bay was running, and the Panthers STILL gave up a 46-yard touchdown run. That run defense may be worse than last year's.

Scott Spratt: Mike Davis has six catches for 59 yards. Christian McCaffrey, system running back.

Scott Spratt: The NFL should retroactively give Kawann Short a couple of defensive player of the year awards.

Jacksonville Jaguars 30 at Tennessee Titans 33

Rivers McCown: Hot fire from Jonnu Smith and the Titans offense on the first drive. Smith is uncovered off a play-action where he kinda snuck through the trash for a huge gainer. Second-and-9 after a Derrick Henry carry, Ryan Tannehill gets a lot of time in the pocket and Smith adjusts to a ball thrown high for the touchdown over Andrew Wingard in man.

Rivers McCown: Jaguars drive past midfield, convert a fourth-and-3 on a nifty little Gardner Minshew play where he ducked inside to get the contain player to bite, then went back outside. Minshew gets picked off on a deflected catch attempt by Collin Johnson. Titans drive again and punch it in to Corey Davis, 14-0. Tennessee's run game hasn't even looked that good. And now we see what the game script territory holds for the Jags.

Rivers McCown: Arthur Smith's offense has been humming. Derrick Henry hasn't been providing the top-top rush game so far, but Tannehill is getting plenty of clean pockets to laser into tight windows. Way too early to regression-watch and it's the Jaguars defense but, no A.J. Brown either and they haven't missed a beat. Jags tried to squib a kick at the end of the half and wound up accidentally onside-kicking it to the Titans, and so naturally after last week's struggles Gostkowski nails a 50-plus-yarder at the gun to put the Titans out front 24-10.

I like a lot of the little pieces the Jags have on offense. Minshew's scrambling, DJ Chark's route-running, Laviska Shenault's game is really impressive. But I don't trust that defense at all.

Cale Clinton: Just a headache-inducing series of events to close the half in Tennessee. 21-7 Titans with less than a minute to go. Gardner Minshew fails to connect on three straight passes inside the red zone, settling for a field goal on the Titans 17-yard-line. Josh Lambo then goes with a poorly kicked squib and gives Tennessee possession at midfield. One Tannehill pass and a 51-yard Gostkowski field goal later and the Titans go into the locker room up 24-10. A missed fourth-and-10 results in the same point differential.

Derrik Klassen: Did Chris Thompson just score a touchdown on a wheel route under playcaller Jay Gruden? What year are we in?

Vince Verhei: Turning this game on late. The Jaguars scored touchdowns on three straight drives to tie the score 30-30. Titans had a third-and-8 at the Jaguars' 42. Announcers are pointing out this is no man's land and likely four-down territory. But Tannehill tries a running back screen to a target surrounded by defenders, and the pass is incomplete. Titans punt, and Jaguars start at their 11 and about five and half minutes to go, needing a field goal to go ahead.

Rob Weintraub: Crucial "eye of the beholder" pass interference call on Myles Jack has the Titans on the edge of winning field goal range late in a 30-30 thrilla.

Rob Weintraub: Spoke to soon on the "winning" part. Gostkowski hits a 50-yarder but still 1:36 left (with no timeouts) for Minshew Magic.

Vince Verhei: The Titans fail to get another first down following the Jack penalty. The game is only tied because Stephen Gostkowski, who missed approximately 20 kicks on Monday night, missed an extra point earlier. But Gostkowski comes in here and connects from 49 to put Tennessee up 33-30 with 1:36 to go, Jaguars out of timeouts.

(I should note that Gostkowski also hit a 51-yarder at the end of the first half.)

Bryan Knowles: Ooh, tip ball from Minshew falls into Harold Landry's hands, and the game will end.

The Jaguars are going to be Red Zone favorites all season long -- their offense is sparkier than most were predicting, and their defense isn't going to slow anyone down. Entertaining bad team alert!

Rob Weintraub: No magic from Minshew -- deflected pass is picked at the line by my favorite "wish he was a Bengal," Harold Landry, to ice it for Tennessee.

Denver Broncos 21 at Pittsburgh Steelers 26

Aaron Schatz: Quick update: Drew Lock questionable to return with a right shoulder injury. Jeff Driskel in.

Carl Yedor: Pittsburgh takes advantage of a Drew Lock fumble to drive down the field and open up the scoring with a short James Conner touchdown. After missing most of last Monday's game against the Giants due to an ankle injury, Conner has taken every running back carry for the Steelers so far. So much for Benny Snell forcing his way into the lineup (even though he did impress in relief of Conner last week).

On that fumble, Lock sustained some sort of injury, so Jeff Driskel is now in for the Broncos. Against a fearsome Steelers defense, that seems less than ideal, but Driskel did complete his first attempt to Jerry Jeudy for a healthy gain.

Rob Weintraub: Roethlisberger has a sure end zone picked dropped and two plays later the Steelers score. Then, as mentioned, Lock is knocked out and old Bengal Jeff Driskel comes in.

Speaking of former Stars in Stripes, both Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones score touchdowns within moments of each other. Nice afternoon for the 2015 Bengals so far.

Scott Spratt:

Aaron Schatz: Scott, think you're about five years too late on your Bengals history there.

Scott Spratt: T.J. is forever, Aaron. Championship.

Rob Weintraub: I half expect Bob Trumpy to have a touchdown grab today...

Scott Spratt: Not that JuJu Smith-Schuster is bad by any stretch, but are the Steelers going to let him walk in free agency anyway? They just hit on receivers every time they draft one. The latest is Chase Claypool, who is enjoying his NFL breakout today with an 84-yard touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Halftime, Steelers up 17-3. I've spent most of this game trying to watch the offensive lines. Elijah Wilkinson at right tackle is getting killed for Denver. Has been beaten on a couple of sacks, and a pressure by T.J. Watt that forced Drew Lock out of the pocket and led to another sack. So far, Jeff Driskel doesn't look much different than Lock looked in his limited time before his injury. On the other side, I expected the right side of the Steelers' line, both backups today, to give up a lot of pressure but not that I've noticed. Ben Roethlisberger looks good so far. Yes, he has had a couple of passes knocked down, and a couple of overthrows, but he's managing the offense well and isn't responsible for a couple of drops. He aired it out almost 50 yards on a deep pass to Chase Claypool that went for 84-yard touchdown, his deep arm looked great.

Aaron Schatz: So much for the nice things I said about Roethlisberger, TERRIBLE pass for an interception. He had all day to throw but everyone was covered, and instead of throwing it away on third-and-16 he tried to make something happen and underthrew a floater to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Justin Simmons came down with it easily.

Scott Spratt: I saw that out of the corner of my eye, Aaron, and I just assumed it was a free play. Not so much.

Rob Weintraub: Roethlisberger has all day to throw, finally tosses, and Justin Simmons makes a tremendous interception. On the return, Roethlisberger is about to get clocked by a blocker but at the last second turns his back and flops like my son off the high dive. Natch, he gets rewarded with an illegal block penalty. Must've worked on his acting chops while out last season...

Rob Weintraub: Jeff Driskel was not, in fact, on the 2015 Bengals, but he tosses a touchdown pass to Noah Fant, and then goes right back to Fant for the octopod.

17-14 Pitt, and Denver is riding missed opportunities from earlier.

Aaron Schatz: According to the announcers, the momentum in this game switched at halftime, but the Pittsburgh defense did not receive the memo. Yes, Driskel managed to lead a touchdown drive for Denver, but on the last drive the Steelers stuffed the Broncos: incomplete, loss of -2 pass, gain of 1 pass, and then a botched snap on a punt out of the end zone for a safety. But maybe the Broncos have gotten that momentum back! Benny Snell just fumbled the ball away, so Denver will get it back down 26-14 with 9:40 left.

Rob Weintraub: Jeff Driskel is still money: he leads a touchdown drive for Denver to get within five at 26-21.

Aaron Schatz: Maybe I spoke too soon. Broncos move the ball well in the drive after the Snell fumble. Nice of Driskel to find an open KJ Hamler for 18, a couple of smaller gains, then Melvin Gordon on the right side of the end zone for the touchdown. The Denver offensive line has also played better protecting Driskel in the second half. 26-21 Steelers.

Aaron Schatz: Roethlisberger with a bad series after the Steelers get the ball back. Second-down pass is batted down, third-down pass is behind and too low to Dionte Johnson. Steelers punt, Broncos take ball back with 6:08 left.

Aaron Schatz: Something goes wrong for Denver and the back does not block a safety blitz on fourth-and-2, and that's a sack. Not game yet, Denver has three timeouts and can get the ball back here if the Steelers can't get a first down.

Aaron Schatz: Never mind, James Conner first down and more, and this game is over. Credit to Jeff Driskel. The Broncos offensive line played better in the second half of this game, and Driskel took the opportunity to play reasonably well. He found a lot of Noah Fant, four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown today including a 22-yarder where he got his feet in on the sidelines and that got the Broncos halfway to a touchdown that they never scored because of the fourth-and-2 sack.

Rob Weintraub: Just as I'm starting to believe in Jeff Driskel and Denver, they leave a totally unblocked blitzer (Terrell Edmunds, of the footballing Edmunds) for a free run and sack on fourth-and-2. Now THAT was Bengals-esque...

Detroit Lions 21 at Green Bay Packers 42

Rob Weintraub: Aaron Jones just caught a short touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers and did the most profoundly sad Lambeau Leap of all time, with no fans. Not sure if they played the "bang on the drum all day" song in the empty stadium...

14-10 Lions.

Rob Weintraub: Great route by Pack tight end Robert Tonyan (I think a former Lion?) as he runs a corner route which he suddenly breaks off and turns in front of the defender to grab an on-time throw by Rodgers. 17-14 Pack right at the end of the half, which is the first lead with time on the clock for Green Bay over the Lions since 2018, even though they swept Detroit last year.

Rob Weintraub: Long touchdown run for Aaron Jones and the Pack are up 10. This time, the Lambeau PA does blast the bang on the drum song, but it is drowned out by an artillery barrage straight out of the Battle of the Bulge.

Bryan Knowles: I've been grousing about my fantasy running backs all day, as the Jones boys (Aaron and Ronald); Ronald fumbling and being replaced by Leonard Fournette, and Aaron held to eight carries for 35 yards against the Lions. But Aaron just went completely untouched through the Lions defense for a 75-yard score. Did someone forget to tell the Lions defense the second half had started?

The Lions were once leading this game 14-3. It's now 24-14 Packers early in the third quarter.

Rivers McCown: Obviously a Jump To Conclusions statement, but I think the thing I've been most surprised with early is how much better Green Bay's offense looks this year. With almost no offseason additions of note that are playing.

Buffalo Bills 31 at Miami Dolphins 28

Scott Spratt: The Dolphins-Bills feeds on my Sunday Ticket switched the Steelers-Broncos like 20 minutes ago, and I've been trying repeatedly to get the former back on. Turns out the power is out in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Huh. That also doesn't happen every day. The 49ers-Ravens Super Bowl is the only example I can think of.

Aaron Schatz: I believe power just went out in the truck, the game continued.

Scott Spratt: Ohh, that makes more sense. And is much funnier.

Bryan Knowles: We're in a lightning delay now, so this game is going to take a while. Funny -- we had issues with a lack of electricity early, and now we have too MUCH electricity.

Scott Spratt: And now there's a lightning delay in Miami. Clearly we were not meant to watch this game.

Scott Spratt: Don't look now, but this game is happening, and the Dolphins just took the lead 20-17 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter!

Vince Verhei: Guys, I ... I'm starting to believe Josh Allen may actually be A Thing. On the two drives after Miami took the lead, he went 6-of-8 for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He did have a bad overthrow on a deep ball that could have been intercepted, but otherwise was just dropping dime after dime, the prettiest a rainbow to Stefon Diggs on the sideline. Obvious "Dude, it's Miami" caveats apply, but that was a bunch of pretty throws in a short time.

Bryan Knowles: Allen took a significant step in accuracy and decision-making between his rookie year and Year 2, and looks to have done the same in Year 3. That's all you can really ask from your starter!

Cale Clinton: Last week, Josh Allen recorded his first 300-yard game against the New York Jets. With that 46-yard touchdown to John Brown, Allen currently sits at 417 passing yards. No better way to follow up your first 300-yard game than putting up your first 400-yard game.

Minnesota Vikings 11 at Indianapolis Colts 28

Cale Clinton: After Kirk Cousins is sacked in the end zone by DeForest Buckner, the Vikings have officially made it three straight regular-season games where they have taken a safety.

Dave Bernreuther: I thought the line on this one should've been MIN -3, not +3, and thought that was one of the easier bets I've seen. Instead, Cousins took another safety (right after I joked about how fun it'd be if he did, and boy what a horrible result for analytics after Frank Reich chose to punt on fourth-and-7 in positive territory and that ended up being the result) and the Vikings have really done almost nothing, even as the Colts struggle badly, for the second week in a row, to finish. Seems like every drive crosses midfield easily, but ends in a field goal.

Still, when you score two or three points every time and the other team does nothing, you can build an insurmountable lead. And finally they break through with a touchdown pass to Zach Pascal, which makes it a 25-3 game in the fourth quarter, which makes this a bet badly lost for me. But in a good way. 1-1 is what I expected for this Colts team, just not this way, and I'm quite OK with losing the bet.

Los Angeles Rams 37 at Philadelphia Eagles 19

Dave Bernreuther: I give Jared Goff a lot of guff -- a LOT -- but right now he's the better of the two quarterbacks from that draft on this field. Carson Wentz's accuracy is really starting to concern me. Driving -- finally -- down 21-9 as the half nears an end, on third-and-5, Wentz has an open Zach Ertz in the flat (ish) and just plain throws it over his head, Josh Allen-style. That's inexcusable.

So the Eagles decide to punt ... which works to their advantage anyway as Cooper Kupp muffs it, and the Eagles have a shot to end the half with points after all.

Dave Bernreuther: Just as it's starting to look like the Eagles could turn the tide, Jared Goff throws one of those perfect passes to a very open Tyler Higbee, and the Rams pull way ahead again. Higbee, who I have rostered in countless DFS showdown contests in the past and been disappointed, now has three touchdowns in a week when I am not playing. Sounds about right.

Rob Weintraub: I always want to write Kyler Higbe, the great old Brooklyn Dodger, when Higbee does something good...

New York Giants 13 at Chicago Bears 17

Vince Verhei: Haven't seen much of this game, but the first half was not a good one for the Giants. Saquon Barkley has left with a knee injury. Daniel Jones has passed for 73 yards and an interception. Mitchell Trubisky has thrown touchdowns to Darnell Mooney (who?) and David Montgomery, and the Bears lead 17-0.

Scott Spratt: I think Mooney was a power forward for Texas Tech, Vince...

Scott Spratt: A little Carolina-adjacent on Carolina-adjacent crime as former Panthers cornerback James Bradberry makes an amazing sideline interception of former Tar Heels quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Maybe he should have been a receiver!

Rob Weintraub: The Bears, up four late, go for it on fourth-and-1. Trubisky's throw is deflected by a Giants defender, right to Bears lineman Bobby Massie for the key conversion.

Bryan Knowles: I, too, enjoy to draw up the "deflect the ball and complete the pass to my offensive tackle" call on fourth-and-1.

Rob Weintraub: Trubisky can't move them much further, however, and the Bears miss a long field goal at the two-minute warning. Somehow the Giants can pull this one out.

Rob Weintraub: Jones' last ditch pass from the Bears 10 with four ticks left ... incomplete! But late flag as fake crowd goes wild ... OPI! Bears escape!

Bryan Knowles: Rather than taking two shots at the end zone, the Giants ran a 3-yard out with eight seconds left. Just one throw into the end zone, and you have to question the play calling from Joe Judge and Jason Garrett.

Washington Football Team 15 at Arizona Cardinals 30

Scott Spratt: Are we still doing the "sorry, Rivers" thing? Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins, 7-0 Cardinals.

Vince Verhei: Somebody should alert Washington that DeAndre Hopkins is a major part of Arizona's offense. He had 14 catches in Week 1, yet somehow, on Arizona's first drive today, he's all alone in the end zone on third-and-goal, and Kyler Murray hits him for an easy touchdown. That was Arizona's third third-down conversion on that drive.

Rivers McCown: I would like an apology, but from Bill O'Brien.

Vince Verhei: Dots on the Hopkins score. Nobody on the Football Team ever even acknowledged him.

Rob Weintraub: Can I change my Super Bowl prediction to Baltimore-Arizona? Because no one can stop Kyler Murray -- an insanely slick touchdown run and the Cards are up 14-0. Murray is like a mini-me Lamar, with much better deep passing. Good lord.

Vince Verhei: Sure, Rob, nobody can stop him ... if you ignore the interception and three-and-out he had on Arizona's last two drives. But yes, Chandler Jones bailed him out by sacking Dwayne Haskins and forcing a fumble on first-and-goal, and then Stephen Sims fumbled another ball back to the Cardinals on a punt return, and Murray did scamper for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Cards up 14-0 on the last play of the first quarter.

And, to your point, on Arizona's next drive Murray hits a bomb to Andy Isabella for 54 yards. The drive stalls there, but Zane Gonzalez hits a 49-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.

Vince Verhei: We're in a bit of deja vu here. Murray hits another deep pass (a 49-yarder to Christian Kirk, who made a great play to get his second foot down in bounds) but then a red zone penalty turfs the drive and leads to another field goal. But 20-0 should be plenty against a Washington offense that can barely function -- Haskins has been sacked four times so far.

Scott Spratt: Friendly reminder that Dwayne Haskins easily led football with a 12.5% sack rate in his rookie season. No other regular starter was over 10%.

Vince Verhei: Washington, down 20-0, just punted on fourth-and-2 from their own 44. This will likely be my last report from this game -- if they're giving up, I am too.

Scott Spratt: Washington may be the one team whose offense is bad enough relative to their defense to make that punt make sense. Too bad there probably isn't any defense that can stop Murray.

Vince Verhei: OK, I was wrong. I had to come back to point out that after that punt, Kliff Kingsbury -- whose team is ahead by three touchdowns -- went for it on fourth-and-1 ***at his own 27***. And then called THIS:

Most entertaining playcaller in the NFL and I don't think it's close.

Unfortunately Murray was called for intentional grounding on the next play and the Cardinals ended up punting anyway. But still.

Bryan Knowles: I'm fairly sure the Cardinals are cheating. Kyler Murray has Noclip on. That, or the Football Team just can't make a tackle to save their lives.

Rob Weintraub: Another Kyler trot-in score from 21 yards out, and I reiterate -- CANNOT be stopped!

Contained for a spell? Sure. But not stopped.

Carl Yedor: I guess it's a good thing that the Arizona chapter where we (I) mentioned that we (I) didn't feel like they were a playoff team yet mentioned that Murray making a leap was possible and would likely be the driving force behind that sort of a run. Granted, it's Washington, but Washington gave Philly all kinds of problems last week.

Vince Verhei: This is bad defense at least as much as it's good offense, but either way, yes, it's a lot of fun to watch.

Carl Yedor: Ron Rivera challenged something that I don't think I've ever actually seen before. After a checkdown on third-and-medium to set up fourth-and-5, Rivera throws a challenge flag to see if Arizona had too many men on the field, which they did! This gives Washington a short third down instead. Haskins then converts the new third down, leading to a touchdown for Antonio Gibson. Two-pointer fails, so it's 27-15 now.

Kansas City Chiefs 23 at Los Angeles Chargers 20 (OT)

Bryan Knowles: Woah, Justin Herbert is starting! I heard nothing about that leading up to this game!

Vince Verhei: Starting at quarterback for your Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert.

Bryan Knowles: Word is that Tyrod Taylor has a chest injury and was questionable to play in this one. I wonder how real that injury is, but one way or another, Herbert is the starter. And he already has his first NFL touchdown, running the ball in to give the Chargers an early 7-0 lead. Big passes to Joshua Kelley and Austin Ekeler as he, like Philip Rivers before him, leans on his running backs in the passing game.

Aaron Schatz: Chargers are eating the Chiefs' offensive line alive early on, especially Joey Bosa against Eric Fisher.

Rob Weintraub: Three funny moments in this one:

  • On the field -- Herbert bootlegs, plants, and his shoe explodes. He still manages to get the throw away, though it sails out of bounds.
  • In the truck -- A pre-produced piece going on about Kansas Ciyt's great offense has a fogged window effect to emphasize how Andy Reid's face shield provides less than optimal visibility.
  • In the booth -- On second-and-10 in Kansas City territory, L.A. runs for 5 yards. "That gets them into field goal range!!" Jim Nantz yells like it was the final, dying moments of the Super Bowl. "What a great call -- that gets you points with a field goal!!" Tony Romo yells, nonsensically. Sure enough, L.A. goes for it on fourth-and-5, eschewing those Romo points, and throws incomplete.

Meanwhile, Joey Bosa and Co. are dominating Kansas City so far.

Vince Verhei: Chargers still lead 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. Chiefs just punted for the third time. As Aaron noted, Mahomes' protection has been overwhelmed, and he's currently 2-of-8 for 14 yards. Might this be the first bad game of his career?

Bryan Knowles: A Patrick Mahomes scramble might help dull the Chargers pass rush some -- a lot tougher to pin your ears and try to flatten the quarterback when he can dash 15 yards downfield.

The Chiefs get on the board on a nice play design. Three different routes attacking the left side of the Chargers defense; someone was going to slip free. Turns out it was Travis Kelce, but if it wasn't him, Mahomes had Clyde Edwards-Helaire open in the flat, as Sammy Watkins (I think) cleared out the coverage. Harrison Butker misses the PAT(!) so it's 7-6 Chargers midway through the second quarter.

Dave Bernreuther: It would be very Tyrod Taylor to be usurped early -- again -- in an even more ridiculous manner than the last; this time, apparently an injury during warmups. What amuses me is that while setting up the TVs for my in-home sports bar this morning, I mentioned (out loud, of course, because dogs know English) to Herbert the Pervert -- the lazy old man pictured in last week's Audibles -- that he had a namesake in the league, but that it wasn't quite his time yet. (And then I had the Seinfeld Herbert-Hebert scene stuck in my brain for a solid half hour.)

I'm not that high on him as a prospect, honestly, but I am rooting for him, if only for the stupidest of reasons. So far, he looks pretty good for a first start. Nothing amazing, but I like what he has done so far, and more importantly, I like what they're doing with him, including going for a fourth down in no man's land, where sure, Michael Badgley had a perfectly good chance since it's indoors. The lack of reaction to his shoe falling off was also a point in his favor.

The possible touchdown pass that he underthrew and allowed to be broken up, though, was a point against him. It's the back of the end zone; miss high.

Bryan Knowles: This is the kind of day we were promised from Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley. They have combined for 171 yards already as we approach the two-minute warning. The Chiefs have not helped their own cause out, whiffing tackles -- and getting trucked when they do make tackling attempts, good lord, do not attempt to bring down Justin Herbert without a tank.

I wonder how much of the Chiefs' early defensive struggles come from the sudden quarterback change, but Herbert's looked ... OK. Not great, but he's operating the offense well, and just threw his first NFL touchdown pass to give the Chargers a 14-6 lead.

Vince Verhei: Herbert hits Jalen Guyton in the corner of the end zone for a 14-6 lead. Key play of that drive was Joshua Kelley running for a first down on fourth-and-1 just across midfield. Savvy by Anthony Lynn to play aggressive against the Chiefs and Mahomes, who are scary as ever despite their struggles so far today. On the play before that, Herbert scrambled but took a big hit a yard short of the conversion. I thought that was a foolish play, considering Taylor's also out today, but Herbert popped right up while Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens was the one who stayed down and left the game. Chiefs can hardly afford to lose any talent at that position.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs just punted for the fourth time in the first half. They only punted three times against Houston last week. They averaged exactly three punts per game in 2019.

Aaron Schatz: Some of the defensive problem for Kansas City comes from injuries; they're down to three healthy cornerbacks. But the offense is clearly a bigger issue than the defense right now and the issue is the offensive line getting completely overwhelmed and Mahomes not having the time to set up to pass accurately.

Bryan Knowles: It's 14-6 going into the half. 14-6 Chargers. That's a surprise, but the Chiefs offense hasn't really gotten into a groove all game long. Yes, the Kansas City offensive line is having problems but, as Geoff Schwartz pointed out on Twitter, this isn't all the offensive line. Mahomes is holding onto the ball and drifting out of the back of the pocket rather than stepping up into clean air. That was something he struggled with during his first few starts, and it has raised its head again today as the Chiefs' many, many weapons haven't been as open as perhaps he's used to. I mean, you never count the Chiefs out; they could score 35 points in the third quarter without breaking a sweat. But the Chargers holding on would probably be the upset of the week for most people.

Cale Clinton: In games that Pat Mahomes has started, the Chiefs have only punted five-plus times in a game five times. Two of those games have come against the Chargers.

Aaron Schatz: Given that Philadelphia (+1.5) was the only favorite to lose in the early games, Chargers winning would be the upset of the week for ALL people.

Vince Verhei: The Chargers' deep-completion-and-lateral on the last play of the first half goes nowhere, and it's still 14-6 at halftime. Mahomes has not been sacked, but the pressure is clearly affecting him. He's 8-of-19 for 60 yards. Even on their one scoring drive, it was mostly Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darwin Thompson running (plus Mahomes' own scramble) that got them there.

I'm not sure what to say about Herbert. I mean, he's clearly playing well and hasn't made any bad mistakes, but there's something about him that still looks ... well, like a rookie quarterback making his first start who is still very much figuring out how this works.

Scott Spratt: Woah, CBS showed a graphic that this is the first time the Chiefs have trailed at half in 15 games. That's crazy. It seemed like they were down multiple scores every playoff game.

Vince Verhei: Scott, I don't know if you're being sarcastic, but they WERE down multiple scores in all three playoff games. But they were ahead or tied at halftime in all three of them.

Scott Spratt: Yeah, I'm not sure my brain fully processed how quickly they erased all of those deficits. I guess the Chargers should try to keep scoring.

Aaron Schatz: I think Herbert has been better than maybe we're giving him credit for. He just zipped one downfield to Keenan Allen, with a pass-rusher in his face, that was just past the outstretched arm of Tyrann Mathieu and came down perfectly in Allen's hands. And that was the second pass of two that turned second-and-24 (after a sack) into a new set of downs.

Aaron Schatz: There's a rookie decision by Herbert, throwing into traffic across his body instead of taking an easy scramble for a first down.

Rob Weintraub: Just moments after Tony Romo goes and compares Herbert to Kyler Murray, based on three quarters of decent but hardly scintillating play, the rookie rolls left, blows off an easy first-down run, and heaves one across his body deep, which gets picked by L'Jarius Sneed. Herbert will learn from that, but will ($10 million per year) Romo?

Cale Clinton: The Herbert interception changes things, but headed into the fourth quarter, I just wanted to share something I found. If this eight-point margin holds, it will be the largest loss of Patrick Mahomes' career. The biggest loss in a Mahomes start was Week 16 of 2018, when the Chiefs lost to the Seahawks 38-31.

Patrick Mahomes has never lost a game by more than one score

Bryan Knowles: And he still might not! It took all day, but Mahomes finally hit a big shot, a 50-yard laser to Tyreek Hill to make this a two-point game. Even during his worst game as a pro, Mahomes is capable of magic.

Bryan Knowles: Similarly incredible jump-pass bomb from Mahomes to Tyreek!

Vince Verhei: Yup. This was also a jump pass. No feet on the ground, 54 yards, touchdown. It was reviewed, confirmed as a score, and then Chiefs got the two-pointer to tie the game at 17.

Vince Verhei: Tell you what, Herbert sure has no fear of contact. Third-and-1 scramble, two defenders waiting at the line of scrimmage? No problem, just hit them harder than they hit you and move the sticks.

Dave Bernreuther: Third-and-goal nearing the end of the game, and Herbert just didn't see the wide-open throw to Hunter Henry in the back of the end zone at the top of the screen. Not horrible in a first start, and he didn't make a horrible decision instead, but a three-point lead with three minutes left against Mahomes is not nearly the same thing as a full touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: The Chargers drain 10 minutes off the clock but only get a field goal out of their trip to the red zone. Some gutty running by Herbert to keep things moving, and he's over 300 yards passing now, but the Chiefs tighten up at the end. You have to kick the field goal there to take the lead with less than three minutes left, but that can't feel good with Patrick Mahomes coming back onto the field.

Bryan Knowles: Going to overtime has to feel like a win for the Chargers. Mahomes was in full-on Mahomes mode on that last drive -- hitting long passes, converting a third-and-20 with his legs -- but a couple of penalties on the Chiefs' offensive line nullified some big plays and, more importantly, drained some clock. It means the Chiefs ran out of time in the red zone, and had to kick the game-tying field goal.

Overtime in SoFi. This should be fun.

Bryan Knowles: Fourth-and-inches from the 34-yard line, and the Chargers punt it.

No, no, no, no, no. Don't give the ball back to Mahomes.

Aaron Schatz: Chargers made a mistake by punting.

Cale Clinton: Obviously it's his first start, so I don't completely blame them, but I've seen Justin Herbert muscle for extra yards on enough runs today to trust his ability to pick up the fourth down.

Aaron Schatz: Chiefs, on the other hand, go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Chargers 46.

Vince Verhei: But then, apparently, are about to kick a 52-yard field goal on fourth-and-1. I'd go for it.

Bryan Knowles: And instead, they false start! Oh no, Chiefs...

Vince Verhei: I'd definitely go for it on fourth-and-6 instead of a 58-yarder.

Vince Verhei: Well, what do I know?

Bryan Knowles: Butker nails the 53-yarder, but it's nullified by a false start. He nails a 58-yarder, but he's iced. And then he nails ANOTHER 58-yarder, and the Chiefs escape by the hair of their chinny-chin-chins.

Wowza. I am glad I didn't have to make the decision to kick or go for it there; that was SUCH a hard call.

Carl Yedor: ... but Butker still hits the 58-yard attempt (twice because of an Anthony Lynn icing timeout) to seal the win for the Chiefs.

Rob Weintraub: Fun game but the fake crowd noise was horribly produced and modulated but the truck. Interfered with the game, in my opinion. And Romo was pretty poor, again in my view.

Baltimore Ravens 33 at Houston Texans 16

Bryan Knowles: Bill O'Brien with a bit of an uncharacteristic head-scratcher, going for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 34-yard line, trying to complete a little screen pass and failing. That leads to a couple of big grabs from Mark Ingram and a touchdown catch for Patrick Ricard and a 10-0 lead for the Ravens early in the second quarter.

I'd love to see the decision tree O'Brien uses for making his go-or-punt decisions.

Aaron Schatz: I think the problem with O'Brien is more the inconsistency in when he goes for it. Because that was definitely the right move by the numbers, even if it did not work.

Bryan Knowles: That's it exactly. I know that when it's a fourth-and-go for it, John Harbaugh probably will. Kyle Shanahan probably won't. Bill O'Brien? It seems to vary from game to game, and even quarter to quarter.

All I really ask for is a consistent philosophy.

Rob Weintraub: It's Richard Nixon's Madman Theory brought to the NFL sideline.

Scott Spratt: Really sneaky Marcus Peters pick.

The Texans couldn't afford to turn the ball over multiple times against the Ravens, but they've done that and now trail 20-7.

Vince Verhei: Rivers is apparently too busy putting these Tweets together to share them here, but this throw by Deshaun Watson is unreal. Jumping backwards and puts this right where it needs to be 30-some yards downfield. If this happened in a video game people would call this a glitch.

Rivers McCown: I think the Texans defense played ... really well against Lamar Jackson for three quarters. They sacked him four times, he looked uncomfortable in the pocket. They held the Ravens to 10 carries for 44 yards in the first half. Jackson uncharacteristically missed an open Marquise Brown in the end zone. All the elements to an upset were brewing on that side of the ball. But then they called a horrific defense against the Mark Ingram fourth-and-1 where to the left of the center there were five other linemen, and a fullback. They for some reason decided to play just six players on the play side. It was a back-breaking touchdown. The offense is just completely busted. They can't deal with blitzes and not having Hopkins has somehow made them worse in that regard. They have no deep balls. They can't afford to give away 14 points on that fourth-down try and the Keke Coutee fumble-six. I wrote about 1,500 more words about this game on my website, but that's the tl;dr of it:

New England Patriots 30 at Seattle Seahawks 35

Scott Spratt: Oh, man, this is terrible. James White's father was killed in a car accident that also has his mother in critical condition. White is obviously inactive tonight.

Bryan Knowles: Russell Wilson's second pass attempt of the game is tipped, intercepted, and returned for a touchdown. Somewhere, Pete Carroll quietly turns off the burner; cooking is clearly very dangerous.

And let me be the first to say how much better the Patriots' new uniforms look in white than they do in blue.

Scott Spratt: Greg Olsen, who dropped the pass that became the interception return, had dropped just 15 of 286 catchable targets since 2015. That was tied for the ninth-lowest drop rate of the 45 tight ends with 100 or more catchable targets in that time.

Scott Spratt: I think Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley is too slow to be the Wilson spy. Wilson juked him out of his shoes on that 21-yard carry.

Carl Yedor: Before that play, I was thinking aloud about why New England was opting for zone over man. They may not think they have a good enough athlete to spy Wilson at linebacker, but I'll defer to the Patriots experts in this thread for comment on the athleticism of the linebacker corps here.

Vince Verhei: The pick-six was really a shame, because otherwise Seattle has been moving the ball with great success considering the opposition. Seven first downs in their first 16 snaps, six-plus yards per play, overcame a first-and-25 to get that touchdown. I'd still call that a great start.

Cale Clinton: Damiere Byrd played in 88% of snaps in Week 1 and wasn't targeted once. This week, he has hauled in the first two completions tonight, both for first downs.

Carl Yedor: At a macro level, these teams have almost stylistically swapped since the first time the Wilson-led Seahawks faced off with New England. In 2012, the Patriots had a high-flying offense and a fairly unexciting defense while the Seahawks were run-heavy and had an excellent defense anchored by its defensive backs. Now, the tables have essentially turned, though New England isn't working with a rookie quarterback, and to be clear, it isn't a perfect match.

Bryan Knowles: I don't think I've ever seen three flags on the same hit before, but Quandre Diggs' helmet-to-helmet shot was about as clear as I've ever seen.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, I'm absolutely fine with Diggs being ejected for that. He and Harry both could have been hurt on that hit.

Scott Spratt: Part of that lack of Byrd targeting in Week 1 was probably just lack of targeting anyone. Newton only needed 19 pass attempts and only 15 that targeted wide receivers or tight ends.

Dave Bernreuther: I loved the decisiveness on the fourth-and-3 there. Both in deciding to leave the offense on the field and in the play call and pass. Great job by N'Keal Harry to hang on to that while being concussed.

Pretty sure Cam Newton just scored twice there. I'm also starting to wonder if he could score 15-plus this year if they want him to.

That's an amazing stat: Cam Newton now has as many rushing touchdowns as O.J. Simpson or Herschel Walker. Wow.

Cale Clinton: The Pre-Designated Celebration Zone is new this week, right? I mean it gave us this really cool moment following the pick-six, where Devin McCourty honored James White...

...but I really don't like the concept in general. There's something really unnatural about it. I think the McCourty celebration was the best-possible first celebration it could've gotten.

Vince Verhei: As Mike Reiss pointed out, New England's personnel on that touchdown (the one that counted) was seven offensive linemen, two tight ends, a fullback, and Cam. They're not even disguising what they're doing and I love it.

Vince Verhei: Chase Winovich obliterated Carlos Hyde so badly on that third-down sack I thought he was unblocked. Only on replay did I realize that Winovich turned Hyde to dust like Thanos before chasing Wilson into his teammate's arms.

Scott Spratt:

Bryan Knowles: Uh-oh. Losing Diggs was bad enough, but if Marquise Blair is out, too, that's a pretty big hole that Belichick will definitely attack. Who's the next man up at free safety, Neiko Thorpe?

Scott Spratt: Could the Seahawks play first-rounder Jordyn Brooks at safety? I know he's 240 pounds, but he's a great athlete, and the Patriots are going full jumbo on offense.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots just ran QB power on third-and-9. They're going to do some weird rushing things this year.

Vince Verhei: Lano Hill is not a very good safety -- if he was, they wouldn't have traded for Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams -- but he is a safety. Now, if he gets hurt, I have no idea what they do. Full-time goal-line defense?

Bryan Knowles: I believe Bill Belichick said that Wilson was the best deep-ball passer in the league this week. Well, add a point to that column, as he just found DK Metcalf, beating Stephon Gilmore, for a 54-yard bomb. You won't see a prettier pass today.

Vince Verhei: The ball was actually a hair underthrown, and as a result, Stephon Gilmore actually hit Metcalf early ... but Metcalf did my favorite thing a wide receiver can do: shrug off interference and catch the ball anyway.

Vince Verhei: Third-and-8, Patriots try a SHOVeLL sweep to Burkhead. Play loses yards and then Nick Folk misses from 51. But to Aaron's point earlier, the Patriots really don't have any third-and-long options in their playbook, do they?

Carl Yedor: New England starts the second half with a field goal drive featuring multiple third-down conversions. On one, Jamal Adams had Newton dead to rights, but Newton managed to shake him off and find Edelman.

Seattle responds with a drive featuring some chippiness with a shoving match on the sideline between Stephon Gilmore and DK Metcalf. Those two have been locked up when the Patriots have been in man coverage. Seattle caps the drive with another touchdown on a deep ball from Wilson, this time to David Moore. Moore had to toe-tap while running backwards into the end zone, kicking the pylon as he got his second foot down in bounds.

Aaron Schatz: We can throw this in when we talk about the David Moore touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots have been throwing the ball a lot more in the second half. Possibly trying to pick on an injured Seattle secondary? Just paid for it when Newton threw an interception to Quinton Dunbar.

Vince Verhei: Part of it is the injuries in Seattle's secondary. Part of it is also that they can't run for crap. 2.2 yards per carry at the point of the Quinton Dunbar interception (including Cam's sneak and kneel at the end of the first half).

New England's offense really feels unique in the NFL. It's the closest thing the league will ever see to the flexbone. It's not just run- and option-heavy, but all the passing plays are built off play-action and slow-developing routes. It really shouldn't work as well as it has, but Newton is still very good and making it go.

Cale Clinton: Cam Newton has definitely been testing the passing game further downfield, and he has had success doing so. Up until the interception, Cam was 7-of-8 for 110 yards on passes beyond 10 yards from the LOS according to Next Gen Stats. That number makes up 33% of Cam's passing attempts, but 61% of his production through the air.

In Week 1, Cam was 3-of-4 for 54 yards, representing just 21% of total attempts and 34% of production.

Cale Clinton: With that touchdown pass to Freddie Swain, Russell Wilson currently has more touchdowns this season (eight) than he does incompletions (seven).

Something tells me that streak of zero MVP votes ends this season.

Vince Verhei: New England's jumbo personnel is just about unstoppable in short yardage, man. It worked on third-and-1, and it worked on first-and-goal for the "play-action" touchdown pass to Jakob Johnson. But on the two-point try they bring in all these wide receivers (bah!) and still run Newton, and the Seahawks aren't fooled and Adams stuffs Newton for no gain. Patriots got too cute there. They were doing great just muscling Seattle around.

Tom Gower: After the touchdown pass to Chris Carson made it 35-23, Russell Wilson has thrown 10 incompletions this season. Three of them, tonight, were pure throwaways with no intended receiver listed. One of them was the pick-6 to Gregg Olsen. The other six incompletions with an intended receiver have all been thrown in the direction of DK Metcalf.

Vince Verhei: That's a nine-play, 65-yard touchdown drive for Seattle that eats up nearly four and a half minutes of clock. They're now up 35-23 with less than five minutes to go and this one should be on ice. Wilson twice making masterpiece throws to beat the blitz -- once on the third-down conversion to Lockett, then on the touchdown to Chris Carson. His anticipation is just otherworldly -- so many times he releases the ball before his man is even open, and then when it's eventually caught it's right in the bucket with no defender in sight.

Cale Clinton: Cam Newton's fourth rushing touchdown this season has officially eclipsed all but one of Tom Brady's season rushing touchdown totals, tying Brady's career high of rushing touchdowns set in 2012.

Newton is on pace for 32 rushing touchdowns this season. Brady's career total as a Patriot is 22.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I love the Seahawks letting Russ cook but what was the point of a deep shot when you basically needed 1 yard to ice the game?

Vince Verhei: Well damn. Wilson incomplete on third down and Newton's getting the ball back with 1:42 and two timeouts left and a chance to drive 80 yards and win.

Sure would be great to have a pass-rusher right now.

Aaron Schatz: Cam Newton is great but Seattle finally figured out how to stop QB power from the 1.

Carl Yedor: L.J. Collier failed to make much of an impact at all in his rookie season last year, so that stop he came up with (along with Lano Hill) is probably the biggest play of his career thus far.

Bryan Knowles: You can't blame the Patriots for the call; the Seahawks just made the better play.

Hell of a game.

Vince Verhei: And the answer is "have third-string safety Lano Hill submarine the fullback in the backfield and cut off the path to the outside."

I'm happy Seattle is 2-0. But good god in heaven do they need to find some kind of pass rush. Newton probably had an easier time in the pocket tonight than he did in Carolina's Super Bowl year.

Tom Gower: Lano Hill diving in and Collier beating Michael Onwenu (I think) made the play. Pats have counters off what you do to that play, as we saw earlier, but they went with the base version and the Seahawks beat it. Fantastic ending to a great game.

Carl Yedor: I wouldn't be surprised if the Seahawks and Cowboys combine for 80 next week (though that's obviously a lot).

Vince Verhei: For the second week in a row, Jamal Adams leads Seattle in both tackles and sacks. Tonight, he was their box safety, their edge rusher, and sometimes their centerfielder. They really are using him like a combination of Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Jadeveon Clowney. It's something to behold, man.


159 comments, Last at 22 Sep 2020, 2:12pm

1 Josh Allen didn’t overthrow it late

Vince said, “He did have a bad overthrow on a deep ball that could have been intercepted, but otherwise was just dropping dime after dime, the prettiest a rainbow to Stefon Diggs on the sideline.”


It’s not that Allen overthrew it; it’s that he expected the receiver to cut upfield, and the receiver decided to keep cutting across the field. Allen clearly signaled as much to the receiver (Brown, IIRC) after the miss. 

Allen had some misses this game, but 68% for 427 yards, four touchdowns, and no turnovers is what it is! And what it is, is really good. 

4 The comment on Allen looking…

The comment on Allen looking like the best player on the field was the truth. Even when Miami took the lead I had zero fear they were going to keep it - and I cannot think of a time I felt that way about the Bills that Kelly wasn't involved. It's a little early to say he's got it figured out, but he's looked damn good so far.

38 Whoa whoa whoa - when Josh…

Whoa whoa whoa - when Josh Allen misses a pass, it's because he's inaccurate.  Only good QBs can blame their receivers for running the wrong route, or losing their grip on the ball, or poor pass protection.  For Allen, every miss is due to his scattershot arm.

104 True fact!

When I watch other games with my friends, I routinely point out bad throws by other quarterbacks—Ben Roethlisberger's terrible interception against Denver is the most recent example—and say, "If Josh Allen did that, I would probably kill him for it. And so would everyone else."

2 NFC West.

Without a pass rush, Seattle is in big doo-doo in the West with Zona and those Ramlets waiting in the wings.

Defense will end up winning the West, not shootouts.  I would put Zona's D ahead of Seattle's and L.A.'s right now.

I don't see the 49ers doing much this year with the injuries.  Maybe a WC.

I see Kliffsbury in his desert mansion scheming ways to score 60 points against the Lions and possibly send Matt Patricia back to NE as an assistant.

64 every year, every year

In reply to by DIVISION

Every year some people are down on the Seahawks for something that’s going to wreck them (usually the offensive line). Almost every year they make the playoffs.  Shrug.  I’m pretty sure, barring injury to Wilson, they will make the playoffs this year, even with the very strong division.  The Seahawks aren’t the best in the NFL, but they are contenders.  DVOA sees the whole picture, and I’m comfortable with that.

116 Chicken Hawks!

I didn't say they wouldn't make the playoffs.  I think they're pretty much going to get in, but it's going to be difficult to win the division without a pass rush.

They aren't beating the Cards and Rams without an upgrade on their line.  No idea why they thought they were good there going in to the year.  The Rams have Donald.  The Cards have Chandler Jones.

3 And that, my friends, is why…

And that, my friends, is why you go for two early.

On the other hand, Atlanta lost because they chased points too early.

7 Atlanta lost

Atlanta lost because they were too dumb to fall on a slowly moving kickoff when they had ample time to do so - evidently thinking that they, too, had to wait for the ball to go 10 yards before it they touched it.

11 Look, if we base the…

In reply to by RickD

Look, if we base the analytics of all decisions based upon how the Falcons would react, it's all pointless. 'Comically losing large leads late in the most inept way possible' is hardly a typical opponent strategy.

Although assuming this is the case works surprisingly often for the Cowboys.

13 OK, am I missing something?…

In reply to by RickD

OK, am I missing something? I've seen people criticize the Falcons for this, and it makes no sense to me.

If the ball isn't going to go 10 yards, Atlanta shouldn't touch it at all, because the *only* way they can lose the ball then is if they do. If they dive on it and it squirts out, the Cowboys can recover it perfectly fine.

So why is there so much chatter about the Falcons thinking that they had to wait for the ball (which is wrong) when they could've just been thinking that the ball would settle down within 10 yards (which it could've), and they were just avoiding the risk?

I don't get why this wasn't just a really, really good onsides kick. Yes, maybe the Falcons should've jumped on it early, but that ball was spinning *ludicrously* fast and it was on the ground after like *3 yards*. I don't really blame them that much for being torn between trying to field a difficult ball and just counting on it spinning out before 10 yards.

A football spinning that fast is really, really dangerous for a receiving team - it could easily wobble down and kick up unexpectedly, bouncing off an Atlanta player and suddenly the ball's live for anyone. I've never seen a football spin that stably for that long. It's spinning like 10 times/second even near the end.

If you're going to criticize anyone, I'd say the Falcon's #87 backed the wrong way instead of staying ahead of the ball. But I sure as heck would've been worried about jumping on a ball spinning that fast.

21 That'd be worse than waiting…

That'd be worse than waiting for a Cowboy player to jump on the ball?

It may be right that the Falcons players' thought the ball wouldn't travel 10 yards, I don't know, I'm not in their heads.  It looked to me like they were getting ready to pounce on it, but were waiting to do so.  And maybe that was because they were afraid of muffing it and hoping it wouldn't travel the full 10 yards.  But it sure looked to me like they were waiting until the ball was free for both teams to grab before they were willing to make a play on it.

At five yards out, sure, maybe there's a case for "wait and see if the ball stops".  By the time it's travelled 8 yards plus and is still moving, the smart play is to grab the ball, spinning or not, before the Cowboys are allowed to interfere.  Otherwise, you'll still be trying to grab the ball, but in competition with the Cowboys.

I'll freely admit, however, that these things are a lot easier to analyze after the fact than in the moment.  Which is where coaching comes in, so that players are better able to make good snap decisions.

31 The best play's to make a…

The best play's to make a dive for it just a bit before it hits 10 yards, yeah, which they almost did. I'd say the bigger problem was their positioning, not the fact that they waited to dive on it.

But again, look at the spin on that ball. It's wacko. To me it looked far, far more like they were afraid to touch it early and were afraid of it bouncing up at them. Which is a totally valid worry, mind you.

I'm just still baffled by the physics of it. It's freaking spinning like a top. 

143 Because it's a penalty, it's…

Because it's a penalty, it's called an "illegal bat" for a reason. Now if you make it look like an accident, then it's probably okay, which it why the Falcon that eventually dove for the ball probably should have clumsily poked that ball as hard as he could rather than cover it up. 

148 Nope

It's only an illegal bat if (a) the player bats the ball towards the opponent's end zone or (b) the ball is in either end zone and is batted in any direction.  (Or if an offensive player bats a backward pass in flight toward his opponent’s goal line, but that's not applicable in this case.)  Rule 12-5-1.

If a Falcons player would have batted the ball towards the sideline - or, hell, batted it 20 yards towards his own end zone where the only players around were Falcons - it would have been a perfectly legal bat.

59 Pat - 31I don't think it's…

Pat - 31

I don't think it's positioning, just a blown assignment.

The Falcons had four guys lined up to block the Cowboys players with #11 (Julio Jones) behind them whose job it is to fall on the ball when it's travelled ten yards. No Falcon should be touching it inside ten yards for the reason we say.  Everybody has a specific job to do.

Falcons #41 & #87 are lined up against Cowboys #11 & #29.    #41 gets #11 but  #87 whiffs at #29 who then gets a clean route to follow the ball and dive on as it reaches ten yards.  #87 is left flailing around doing pretty much nothing

40 To play my previous comment from the other direction

Considering there are documented instances of NFL players not realizing a game can end in a tie, it seems to me that the simplest explanation is not that the hands team was evaluating the spin and path of the ball and the likelihood that it would stop before ten yards versus the likelihood that they would flub the recovery before ten yards, but rather that they just had in their heads "Onside kick has to travel 10 yards", not thinking that the receiving team can come forward from the 10-yard restraining line and recover it anywhere.

Which, yep, comes back to coaching.

57 DGL - I'm not making sense…

DGL - I'm not making sense of your reply.

"the receiving team can come forward from the 10-yard restraining line and recover it anywhere."

But if they recover it in the first ten yards, they don't get possession. It's automatically awarded to the receiving team at that spot.


So yes, I'd say it's down to coaching. But the coach will emphasise "DO NOT TOUCH THE BALL UNTIL IT'S TRAVELLED TEN YARDS" because there's no benefit to either team to do that. And you have to keep some distance to avoid an accidental touch from a weird bounce.  Second rule "IF ANYONE DOES TOUCH IT, PILE TO GET IT OR PROTECT IT"

70 It's Schroedinger's Kick

An onside kick that travels less than ten yards and stops will go to the receiving team without them touching it - so they should stay away from it because touching it makes it live for the kicking team to try to recover it.

An onside kick that travels more than ten yards is live, so they should aggressively try to recover it.

But you don't know when the ball is spinning around at the 40 yard line whether it's going to go 10 yards or not.

And no matter how much the ball is spinning, it's easier to recover if you're the only guy going for it than if you have a member of the kicking team jumping on it at the same time.  So if the receiving team can be certain that the ball is going to travel 10 yards, they should try to field it before it goes the 10 yards if their chance of fielding it cleanly (without it being contested) is high enough.  Like, if the ball has taken its first bounce and is floating down straight into the arms of one of the up-men on the hands team, so that if he steps away from it it will hit right on the 45 and bounce who-knows-which way, it's almost certainly a higher-probability play for him to try to catch it in the air than to wait for it to bounce.

(If he fields it cleanly, the announcers will talk about what a heads-up play it was for him to grab it before the kicking team could contest the catch.  If he muffs it and the kicking team recovers, the announcers will talk about what a bonehead play it was for him to try to grab it before it went ten yards.  But that's a different topic.)

So "DO NOT TOUCH THE BALL UNTIL IT'S TRAVELLED TEN YARDS" is not necessarily the right thing for the coaches to emphasize.  Maybe it's the simplest thing for the coaches to emphasize, and maybe onside kick defense is an infrequent enough event that you can't do more than that.  And maybe "wait for the ball to go ten yards" is to the hands team like "punt on fourth down unless you're in field goal range" is to head coaches - if you wait for the ball to cross the 45, you're just doing what everyone always does, but if you step forward and try to field it and muff it, you're getting cut.

But in the case where you can't tell whether the ball has gone ten yards until you open the box, it might not be the best approach.

Anyway, I think my basic point was in line with what you're saying - the Falcons weren't standing there trying to make probabilistic decisions about the likelihood of a successful recovery before the ball went ten yards versus the likelihood of a successful recovery after the ball went ten yards conditioned on the probability that the ball didn't die before reaching the 45; they were told that you stay away from the kick until it's gone ten yards (possibly with the caveat "unless it's heading right for you and you can't get out of the way"), and that's what they were doing.

81 "it's easier to recover if…

"it's easier to recover if you're the only guy going for it than if you have a member of the kicking team jumping on it at the same time."

Why? Literally the instant you dive for the ball, the other guy's going to dive for it too. He's not going to sit there like "oh, we can't touch it yet." It's like a game of chicken - whoever dives first, the other guy's going to go after it too. If you go after it early, good chance he'll be able to pull the ball away from you with you having touched it first.

"they were told that you stay away from the kick until it's gone ten yards (possibly with the caveat "unless it's heading right for you and you can't get out of the way"), and that's what they were doing."

Yeah, I agree. And they weren't *all* blindly doing that, really. One guy (#87) really backed away, and that was really dumb. The closest Atlanta player waited just a bit too long to go after it, but it *did* take a Cowboys hop at the last moment (just watch its spin rate). One of the Falcons players was going almost full-tilt for the ball from a ways back, he just was too far away.

90 Basically a great job by the Cowboys special teams coach

It worked because the coach (and kicker?) came up with an onside attempt that no one had ever seen before, and that took deliberate advantage of standard opponent coaching rules ("don't touch until it goes 10").  I'm not going to blame any Falcons player for hesitating in the moment, just congratulate the Cowboys on coming up with something that caused the hesitation.

109 It's worth noting that even…

It's worth noting that even if the Falcons *had* gone for it early, with the Cowboys around it, it basically would've turned into something like jumping on a fumble, because the Cowboys player could've just dove on it as well, hoping the ball would just touch the Falcons player first. And *that* recovery percentage is *way* higher than an onsides kick recovery.

Also kudos to the Cowboys kicker. That thing was basically going to slow down and die after like, 11-12 yards. Just crazy.

120 standard?

"standard opponent coaching rules ("don't touch until it goes 10")"

I'm not aware of this being "standard".  It's only standard for the kicking team.  I've seen numerous onside kicks where players on the receiving team step forward to secure the ball without worrying at all about their position.  

There is literally no reason to tell players on the receiving team to not touch the ball.  If they are worrying about muffing the ball, that's not a problem that will go away after ten yards, when players from the kicking team will be entering the scrum.

122 I've never seen this.


Why? Literally the instant you dive for the ball, the other guy's going to dive for it too.

He's not going to sit there like "oh, we can't touch it yet." It's like a game of chicken - whoever dives first, the other guy's going to go after it too.

I've never seen this "game of chicken" you are talking about.  

If you go after it early, good chance he'll be able to pull the ball away from you with you having touched it first.


I've literally never seen such a thing.  What is a "good chance" here?  

By your logic, nobody should be going after loose balls.  

In the reality governed by Newtonian physics, the player who first goes after the ball has the much greater chance of recovering it.  Consider that a player cannot physically wrest a football away from a player that is already on the ground without touching him and thereby ending the play.   

18 This is Football Outsiders

We need a 5000-word article with a decision analysis taking into consideration the probability of the ball stopping before ten yards, the probability of the Falcons successfully recovering it if they attempt to do so before it travels ten yards, and the probability of the Falcons successfully recovering it if they wait for it to travel ten yards.  It would have to include the velocity and spin rate of the ball, the coefficient of friction between the ball and the turf, and an analysis of all fumble recoveries when the ball was spinning on its short axis, with a linear regression between spin rate and probability of the first player touching the ball successfully recovering it.

117 probability

Probability should not come into play here.  It's really not that hard to see a object in motion and make an estimate of how far it will go.  Given the salaries that these men receive, they should be able to tell the difference between a ball that is going to stop 8 yards downfield and one that will go at least 10 yards.  

Also, they should all be aware of the rule that allows them to pick up the ball before it goes 10 yards.  It seems to me that the Falcons were actively backing away from the ball out of fear.  Why even be on the field?!?  

In a kickoff situation, you have a ten yard area in which a receiving team has free rein to go after the ball unmolested, after which it's a free for all.  Why not use the advantage that space gives you to fall on a slow-moving ball?  

The only justification for not going after the ball is "I thought it wouldn't go 10 yards".  And, really, that's something that almost never happens.  I don't think it's happened 3 times in my 45 years of watching the NFL.  And even if it looks like it's going to happen, the receiving team can position themselves at the point 10 yards downfield, just to make sure they're ready should the ball reach that point.  These Falcons neither tried to get the ball before it went 10 yards, nor did they ensure they'd be the people ready to get it after it reached 10 yards.  They literally executed no strategy at all.

108 It's likely that they'd…

It's likely that the Falcons had never practiced handling that type of kick. I don't blame them- I'd never seen anything like it. It's hard to process and react to something you've never seen before. I bet the other teams' special teams units will add the sideways rolling ball kick to their repertoires, so no one else will be caught unawares by it, and it won't work in the future. Kudos to the Cowboys for innovation, and managing to induce a team-wide brain-fart from their opponents!

113 I dunno! What do you do? You…

I dunno! What do you do? You jump on it early if you're the Falcons, and if there's a Cowboys player around, they can try to disrupt it/pull it away the *instant* you hit it. If I were the Cowboys, I'd tell my guys "if they dive, you dive too. Don't worry about being second to touch it, it'll happen normally often enough." Plus because it's closer than 10 yards, you've just guaranteed there's a Cowboys player near the ball, too. If their kicker's able to do that repeatedly, that's going to be really interesting.

The Cowboys themselves were quoted talking about the problem with this, too: 

"I asked our punter, Chris Jones, why [the Falcons] wouldn't just dive on it," Prescott said, "and he said the way it spins makes it really hard to do that. They were probably afraid that if they jumped on it, it might get loose and we'd recover."

I don't think that's a crazy worry. Especially when you remember that current onsides kicks have like, ~5% success rates normally, and continuing to drop. If a team jumps on the ball early and it squirts out and the other team ends up recovering it 10% of the time, the Cowboys just improved onsides kicking by a factor of 2.

115 yes, you're missing something

The ball went 10 yards.  It was clearly going to go ten yards long before it actually did go ten yards.  Because physics. For several seconds the Falcons had ample opportunity to fall on the ball without having to worry about competing with any Cowboys.  They waived that right, instead being content to watch the ball obey the laws of physics, pass the 10 yard point, and be collected by the Cowboys.

Why were they even on the field?  

If you're afraid of collecting the ball before it reaches 10 yards, you're going to be hopeless when it actually reaches that point!  

This is a friggin' football game.  If you're afraid of falling on a slow-moving football, if you doubt your ability to safely land on a ball that is moving on the ground, I don't see why you're on the field at all.  This is part of the job.  And, as parts of the job go, it's an incredibly easy one.  It's much easier to do than most of the things these professional athletes are asked to do.  

118 Atlanta lost...

...because or poor coaching.  How does your hands team not understand that they can possess the ball before 10 yards?

Just horrible.

It's an indictment of the coaching staff as a whole that this kind of detail was missed.

Atlanta deserved the loss as much as Dallas deserved the win.  Should have been a tie.

5 Green Bay/player development

Only two games but multiple young players on Green Bay look to have improved.  MVS still drops some passes but his qb keeps throwing him the ball, and MVS is making some big plays. Jenkins who was really good last season has basically become a shutdown linemen no matter where he plays. His ability to get to the second level is astounding. Chandon Sullivan is intolerant of passes thrown in his area.  Robert Tonyan is blocking REALLY well.  And Packer fan whipping boy Rashan Gary continues to collapse the pocket with regularity.


GB had a lot of negative elements working against them in 2020.  Having young players improve was the one antidote.  And so far things are looking good.

8 Regarding the Lions head coach

The Lions are a poorly coached team.  I am setting aside the defensive holding calls as the Lions defensive backs were overmatched and clutching/grabbing for a young defender is a natural reaction.


But blocking after calling a fair catch.  Falling on a player's legs after the whistle has clearly blown and action has stopped. And I could continue but I think the reader gets the gist.  Either the Lions are being coach to play dirty which I do think is very unlikely or these guys are not being given good instruction which I do think is very likely.  


Matt Stafford is a very fine qb who is definitely playing coach on the field for the offense.  That is the only thing keeping the Lions competitive.  That's it.

12 The Lions would improve by 3…

The Lions would improve by 3 wins by just making Matt Stafford the actual coach.

So I just checked, Dan Reeves was the last player-coach of any form (under Landry). Tom Landry was the last player-coordinator, and Jimmy Conzelman was the last player-HC and I think the last player-owner. He went 8-2-2 in Detroit in that role.

I saw we make Stafford the owner and the let him coach all the positions. That's still better than whatever the hell Ford, Quinn, and Patricia are doing.

36 Martha seems like a very…

Martha seems like a very nice lady.  Let me know when I can introduce you to her.

You'll be in for a bit of a power struggle with Sheila, I'm sure.  Best route would likely be to get her to name her champion to coach the team in a winner-takes-all inter-squad game, and you name your champion.   

44 The Edsel line of the Fords…

The Edsel line of the Fords were generally nice people. This was both why they were shunted towards the inept football team and not the titular car company, and why they never could get around to firing any of the morons running about the place.

68 Kind of like the Jets. …

Kind of like the Jets.  Woody and Chris Johnson were judged to not be smart enough to run Johnson & Johnson, which is why they're not being sued over putting carcinogens in baby powder.

15 Regarding what can make a team better

I remember an interview that Bob McGinn, then working for the Milwaukee Journal (now JSonline), where Wolf said a team can see immediate improvement by just not doing dumb stuff (he used a different word).  That a coach who comes in who can recognize what is dumb and stop the dumb stuff can make a huge difference right away.  That just doing common sense things can help a team make a jump.


The Lions have talent. Quite a fair amount actually.  

42 It's why I've always…

It's why I've always favoured political deadlocks and minority governments.

Political parties of all stripes are superbly capable of doing asinine things when left alone to do them unchecked.

The DET football organization isn't a government, but I think the point applies to them, too.

45 Jim Caldwell was never going…

Jim Caldwell was never going to win a championship with the Lions, but he was a competent, professional football coach.  Sure, he was way too conservative, and his teams only rarely upset the top-notch teams, but his teams showed up prepared, didn't do stupid shit, and took care of weaker competition.  There would have been value in putting together a series of 9 to 11 win seasons to change the perception of the franchise.

Mike Sando pointed out that Caldwell is the only Lions coach to have a winning record since Joe Schmidt resigned in 1972.

50 I totally understand firing…

I totally understand firing Caldwell. Totally get it for all of the reasons you said. In a way, moving on from Caldwell is a bit like tanking - the upside is tantalizing but the downside is real - you could easily end up with a much worse coach. I won't fault the Lions too much except for this one fact and it's the same criticism I levied on the Dolphins and then the Jets.


1) Offensive coordinator for Peyton Manning

2) Coordinator for Bill Belichick. 

Its the laziest type of hire in my opinion. 

55 The Lions wanted a higher…

The Lions wanted a higher-variance coach. What they really wanted was a right-skewed high-variance coach, not a left-skewed one.

This is why you hire from the Reid tree, not the Belichick tree.

Jesus. I wouldn't have been in favor of hiring Malcolm Butler, much less the guy whose claim to fame is once knowing Malcolm Butler.

62 Speaking of the Reid tree, I…

Speaking of the Reid tree, I keep hearing that Chiefs players were shocked and angry that Eric Bienemy didn't get a head coaching job.  Of course, hiring from the hottest new team could be considered lazy, but you can't argue with the track record of the Reid tree.  I just don't know how much of the Chiefs offense Bienemy is actually involved with (I always assumed Reid was the de facto OC).

63 Based on how the NFL hires,…

Based on how the NFL hires, Bienemy absolutely should have been hired. The coordinator of the best offense in football should be the hottest head coaching candidate.

OTOH - like you, I wonder just how much the offensive success goes at all to Bienemy. If they lost him, I would not expect any drop whatsoever. So in that sense...

66 Bienemy has some skeletons…

Bienemy has some skeletons in the closet from his past at Colorado (being banned from the campus for harassing a parking attendant, and the rape allegation scandal occurred while he was involved with their recruiting process).  The parking attendant incident happened while Bienemy was an alumni and not a student-athlete, but any NFL team hiring him as a head coach will receive negative publicity because of his past.  It may not be deserved, but that team will definitely get some ugly scrutiny.

121 Vance Joseph had some…

Vance Joseph had some skeletons from Colorado too, but no one mentions them now either.  Wasn't the Patricia stuff a surprise to the Lions and the NFL?  I thought it was a story that was uncovered instead of something already widely known.  Obviously, the Lions bought a lemon with that guy.

156 Similarly, Gus Bradley and…

Similarly, Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn were given head coaching jobs by virtue of having coordinated the probably most talented group of defensive players assembled in the past 30 years. Needless to say, neither was a success on their own (although Quinn somehow clings on, in spite of incidents such as those discussed above).

123 reminds me of the Squiirrels

Week One they improved dramatically just by not doing dumb stuff.  Then yesterday they reverted to form in just the first fifteen minutes.  Sacks, turnovers, bad play...

Like you say, they could improve a lot just by getting past the bad habits.  The team is not without talent, esp. on the defense.  

128 Apparently.. was Bruce Arians who first coached Peyton in the pros and who he credits much of his success.

Of course, Peyton did lead the NFL in INT's his rookie year as well.

Cognitive Dissonance?

39 "Either the Lions are being…

"Either the Lions are being coach to play dirty which I do think is very unlikely or these guys are not being given good instruction which I do think is very likely."

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

"Matt Stafford is a very fine qb who is definitely playing coach on the field for the offense.  That is the only thing keeping the Lions competitive.  That's it."

When Patricia gets fired, the defense will be stocked with the bloated contracts of ex-Patriots that won't easily fit into somebody else's system, which will likely mean a salary-cap purge and prolonged rebuild.  Stafford really deserves to be traded to a competently-run organization during that time.

43 How many draft picks would…

How many draft picks would you guess Stafford would be worth in the offseason?  You can't really trade QBs mid-season, as they're not slot-and-play like a lot of positions.

But say Roethlisberger hangs up the cleats at the end of this season, or Rivers or Brady do, what would it be worth to PIT, IND or TB to get a 33-year old Stafford as their starting QB next season?

48 If the Lions were fully…

If the Lions were fully invested in immediate tank mode, Stafford is an enormous upgrade at QB for the following teams with similarly-compensated QBs already on the roster who are plausibly in win-now mode: Rams, 49ers, Vikings, Clots, Buccaneers

I could actually see Patricia and Quinn offering a straight-swap for Brady because of Former Patriot-Related Ineptness. They seem determined to collect the rest of the cast-off Patriots. (This trait is in play for the 49ers and Clots, too, although less-disastrously)

Next year? Vikings and Rams are still in play, and you can potentially add the Eagles, Steelers, or hilariously, the Saints. 

73 Wut?

Wut? How is Matt Stafford an "enormous upgrade," for the:

Rams: Goff

9ers: Garropolo

Vikings: Cousins

Colts: Rivers

Bucs: Brady

You could make the argument that he's the best of that bunch. You could make the argument he's the worst of that bunch. For what it's worth, he's got the lowest career QB rating of them.

Look, I think Stafford is great, and he could well be the best QB of that list, but I think Lions fans have a way of overrating Stafford constantly. I've seen him make plenty of dumb decisions and bad throws.

76 FWIW I think he'd be an…

In reply to by theTDC

FWIW I think he'd be an enormous upgrade over Rivers. The rest I agree with you. For whatever reason, people treat Goff like he's Josh Rosen

91 Maybe not Rosen

...but Goff has had 2 good years and 2 bad years.   So it's no wonder people are split on him.  So far this season he looks decent, but who knows what you are going to get from him over 16 games.

100 This is a common…

This is a common misconception that non-rams fans have, and I can see why. It's more like:

Goff had one horrible rookie season under Fisher.

Goff showed massive improvements under McVay in 2017, and the team was much better. Goff then got better in 2018, and he in fact even got slightly better in 2019.

The reason that Goff looked worse in 2019 is because his weaknesses (poor play under pressure, slow to progress through his reads) were magnified by the collapsing offensive line and the receivers being less wide open. Goff himself actually seemed slightly better on those fronts in 2019.

Now I'm not saying that Goff is a top tier elite QB, but he didn't regress in 2019, his surrounding talent did. He's a very talent dependent QB right now.

129 Goff.

It's because he's heavily dependent on the O-Line and has the mobility of a statue which is troubling for someone so young.  He's a downgrade in the NFC West against Murray or Wilson.  

If given time, he can hurt you, but he'll struggle much worse than a mobile QB would because he can't run or complete passes under duress.

Not too hard to understand why people are down on Goff when compared to other QB's.  

85 "I think Lions fans have a…

In reply to by theTDC

"I think Lions fans have a way of overrating Stafford constantly"

Judging from message boards and social media, my estimation is that a little over half of Lions fans think Stafford is the problem, and that moving on from him will fix everything.

I generally agree with your take on him.  He's in the Philip Rivers mold of being able to make great plays mixed with occasional head-scratching decisions (his INT% usually hovers around league average).  With a competent defense to sometimes backstop the mistakes, that's someone you could still go far with.

86 He's in a crowded tier of…

He's in a crowded tier of qbs like the one's mentioned. They can definitely win you a SB but they are flawed enough to need proper roster construction and coaching. 

Last year's 49ers and a typical Lion's team show the range of outcomes you get with such quarterbacks. 


Philip Rivers in his prime was in a tier above, somewhere with a typical Wilson year, though this current version of Wilson might change my mind about what kind of tier he belongs in.

I am curious, do people think Wilson is better than in his prime Roethlisberger? Just how far do people think Wilson is as a Qb? Drew Brees level? Higher?

88 By a number of per play metrics

like NY/A and ANY/A Wilson has been comparable to Drew Brees on a per play basis for quite awhile.  That being said, I've already thought that Wilson is a better version of Roethlisburger.  Basically, Roethlisburger with worse offensive weapons and a lower interception rate.

95 Wilson's numbers are better …

Wilson's numbers are better -- his INTs are way lower in count than Roethlisberger and mostly lower in rate -- but it needs to be acknowledged that Roethlisberger's 8 year career head-start almost means they played in different eras. Roethlisberger has played almost as many games contemporaneous with Favre as he has after Favre -- Wilson was still at NC State in Favre's last year.

It's also tricky, due to that Favreian year-to-year yoyo, to identify which stretch was Roethlisberger's prime.

97 Is your question only about…

Is your question only about pure passing? Because one thing Wilson has over Roethlisberger and Brees is the running aspect, and he's more durable than Roethlisberger as well.

As far as Wilson this year, it isn't a coincidence that his numbers have skyrocketed playing behind what looks to be the best pass protection he's had in his career, surpassing the OL in his rookie year and the second half of 2015. And even then, he still got hit immediately after he threw on his last 4 TDs last night.

105 Include everything. Wilson…

Include everything. Wilson to me is a very problematic player to judge because his offenses, save for a stretch here and there, have never truly featured Wilson as the primary engine. There are several ways to interpret this, but whatever that's a different topic.

Prior to this year and half of last year, my impression of Wilson is he brings a lot of contrasting styles to him. He doesn't throw interceptions, but he takes a lot of sacks(and not all of that is because of his offensive lines). He throws a very good deep ball but struggles on routine down to down plays, often requiring hoodini stuff on third and long. He's basically anti Drew Brees I would say - whos more prone to throw an INT, but far more likely to convert down to down with laser efficiency.

As Aaron Brooks mentioned above, comparing across eras complicates things and Big Ben himself as always been a bit of up and down player - one reason I have preferred Philip Rivers in his prime to Big Ben. In any case, if Wilson keeps this up - he might belong in the elite tier of Brees, Manning, Brady, Rodgers, and now Mahomes(Lamar might be included in there as well if he keeps it up), but over the bulk of Wilson's career, I think he's been right around Big Ben level or maybe a tad worse depending on how you adjust for era. 

127 The coaching chains that Wilson has always played through

Have, as a constant fan/watch of the Seahawks, appeared unrelated to Wilson as a passer and what he brings to the offense.  The most extreme example was in 2017 when the Seahawks would still spend 2 to 3 quarters attempting to establish a pretty traditional power running game.  Yet in 2017, Seattle's running game was lucky to average 2 yards per carry.  It was so bad that Russel Wilson was the teams leading rusher with apx. 450 yards earned primarily on QB scrambles.

Additionally, on a subjective basis, from year one it seamed like there were two Russel Wilsons... Seahawks playing an intentional game planned offense and Seattle needing to score on this possession or they would lose the game.  Russel put on ridiculously good play in the second situation. 

This subjective view was on some level objectively supported by the amount of the total passing game that was being done in game script forced situation - 2 minute drill or trailing in the 2nd half.  Russel Wilson got a reputation as a 4th quarter god because his aggregate production, and sometimes his per play production, increased when Seattle was forced into passing situations.  When by all analytical measures used to evaluate every other QBs in the NFL said he should be getting worse as the play calls became predictable.

Either one of two things was true (1) either he was a much better QB then he was being allowed to be by throwing primarily in poor game scripts; or (2) he was unlike any QB in the entire history of the NFL who was better at his job in poor game scripts when the play calling becomes predictable by necessity. 

94 Rivers and Brady are toast…

In reply to by theTDC

Rivers and Brady are toast. Brissett is either a really good backup or a subpar starter, but Rivers and Brissett are basically making Stafford money this year. Stafford is Rivers seven years ago.

Cousins isn't trusted with the keys to his dad's car. Stafford can do anything Cousins can, but the reverse isn't true. 

Goff is a really great QB so long as the cover is what he expected and the pocket is clean. But this is his ceiling. We've seen he's if you give him a good defense and a great line and rushing attack, he's good enough to put up 3 points in a Super Bowl.

Garoppolo is good for hitting the wide open linebacker once a game. He's all of Stafford's occasional bone-headed plays, with none of his other physical gifts or experience. I like Handsome Jim, but he seems to top out at pretty good, and he seems injury-prone, despite playing for essentially only very good offenses.

Basically, if Detroit traded Stafford for any of these guys straight up, I'd be pissed.

99 I don't think we can say…

I don't think we can say that either Rivers or Brady are toast, especially with how Brady has started this season, to the eye-test if not statistically. 

As far as Cousins goes, I think talking about what a QB can do, as opposed to what we will expect them to do on a down to down basis is an extreme error. Gardner Minshew is such a pleasant surprise because he consistently plays the position so well. Also, I just don't agree that Cousins can't do everything that Stafford can do.

Goff putting up 3 points in the superbowl is a non-sequitur. He's got a clearly more accurate arm than Stafford, and he may be slow to progress through his reads often, but he seems to make less bone-headed decisions than Stafford. He's also 8 years younger.

Garoppolo has a tremendously quick release. Injury prone sure, but he is also very accurate.

Frankly if my team traded away Goff or Garoppolo for Stafford, I'd be the one who would be pissed. I think he's better than Cousins, better than Rivers, and worse than Brady now, but who knows with a man born in the late Jurassic.

112 Goff is great, if he has a…

Goff is great, if he has a clean pocket and a pre-chewed pre-snap read. He's worse than useless if he's moved off his launch point or the called play breaks down. Stafford has had success for the Lions, so he's clearly not susceptible to this. He may be unaware an offensive line is supposed to have 5 players, because none of his ever have. Stafford has played for sub-Fisherian teams, and he looked a ton better than Goff in doing so.

Cousins in Washington had similarities to Stafford (and really, his Minnesota seasons aren't that different from the years where Detroit actually had a defense). 


131 Agree.

Goff basically seems to require a perfect storm in order to thrive as a QB whereas these other guys can muck through a bad situation.

One thing stats can't accurately gage is adaptability to extraneous variables.  I downgrade Goff compared to many QB's because he's not a guy who can actually adapt to poor situations.  I see Jimmy G in much the same way.  He hasn't proven he can endure without a great supporting cast.

These young crop of mobile QB's can at the very least run to daylight and score if need be on their own.

We're getting to a tipping point in the NFL where the old head pocket passers are dying out.  Brees and Brady are on their last leg.

What you have is Mahomes, Jackson, Wilson, Watson and Murray.  

137 Stafford has, quite simply,…

Stafford has, quite simply, never played for an offense that was as bad as the 2016 Rams, fourth worst by DVOA of all time. Even with Keenum in there they were something like -30+ by DVOA. And no, Goff is not "worse than useless if moved off his launch point or the called play breaks down." An accurate statement might be "worse than average." 

There's something irritating about people finally in the year 2020 stumbling onto the accurate description of Goff 2017-2018 and repeating it ad naseum constantly about how HE CAN LITERALLY ONLY THROW TO HIS FIRST READ WITHOUT BEING PRESSURED AND NEVER DO ANYTHING ELSE WHEEEEE! 

I think this must be how Bills fans feel about people constantly talking about Josh Allen's "scattershot accuracy," despite his clear and obvious improvement in that area.

144 The 2008-2009 Lions were as…

The 2008-2009 Lions were as bad an offense as the 2016 Rams, but unlike StL, they weren’t tanking for a #1 pick as they tried to play so badly their home city would let them break their lease early and leave.

They were also non-ept on defense.

151 ?

Neither were the rams. In fact, they didn't have a #1 pick, because they had traded that pick for Goff himself. 

How good the rams were on defense (about average) is totally irrelevant to Matthew Stafford's play. 

52 Yeah, this Lions team as…

Yeah, this Lions team as constructed is in the worst situation of all. Stafford and those overpaid veterans keeps the floor of the team from getting bad enough to do a full rebuild. But then the ceiling is not even at wildcard level - topping out at 8 wins. 

Stafford is still young enough that its worth holding onto him through a rebuild. Gut the veterans next year, get embarrassingly bad the following year as you flush all that dead money down the toilet and then hope your picks pan out.

Its sad that Patricia has managed to light four years of Lions football on fire. 

53 More than that; they were…

More than that; they were actually decent under Caldwell. They basically played exactly to their level of talent; give him a talented roster and Caldwell can get you to the Super Bowl.

67 Caldwell is a perfectly…

Caldwell is a perfectly cromulent NFL coach. He won’t make a team better then the sum of its parts. However, as has been stated in this thread, he can be depended on to make a team equal to the sum of its parts. 

As a Colts fan, I know that can seem aggravating if you feel your team is close to being a Super Bowl contender. However, for the organizations that seem to be endlessly mismanaged, reliable competence should be hugely appealing.

Though, I guess that’s why those organizations are endlessly mismanaged...

87 Well, kindof. I mean, people…

Well, kindof. I mean, people forget that while QBs, head coaches, GMs tend to come and go on teams, for some wacko reason on many teams, the majority of the front office never really turns over. So if you get a guy who looks at a team and says "man, we need to fire tons of these guys and rebuild things entirely," the team might even know that that guy's competent and right, but they're not going to want all of their guys fired. So he never gets hired in the first place.

So I guess it's more like "those organizations don't realize how screwed up they are." Although even that I'd change to "they don't care how screwed up they are, because acknowledging that would cost them their jobs."

92 On his podcast, Chris Long…

On his podcast, Chris Long has talked about how many incompetent/checked out assistant/position coaches he's come across during his NFL career, who never get held accountable for being bad at their jobs, because they were essentially hired by their buddies.  The same dynamic probably holds true in front offices.  Players, on the other hand, get cut instantly for even a transient dip in performance.

96 As in Chris Long the former…

As in Chris Long the former Rams DE?

Not surprised to hear him say that. The same was absolutely 100% true for me in high level junior hockey up here in Canada, where theoretically you'd have excellent coaching. I think some NHL player once said something along the lines of "they never taught me anything in jr hockey, and then when I got to the NHL they expected me to know everything." I am routinely amazed by how little value most of my coaches added, with one coach in particular standing out the opposite end as being a great coach in all aspects. 

I never got even a sniff of the NHL, but I would be genuinely shocked if those coaches, on average, actually knew what they were doing, let alone had the work ethic to really get the most out of their teams. Considering that they mostly compete against other incompetent/lazy coaches, with a talented enough roster they can stick around for decades if they're lucky.

157 The trouble with assistant…

The trouble with assistant coaches is how do you measure their performance?  Other than subjectively.  As per many middle managers they say "Yes" to their bosses and blame the people below them when it doesn't come off.


I cannot remember where I heard it, but I recall a decent player saying he spent a year playing for Jerry Glanville at the Falcons in 1992 and basically trashed the level of the coaching (it wasn't Brett Favre).  Think the player ended up with the Patriots under Belichick hence the notable difference. Considering Glanville took both the Oilers and Falcons to the playoffs it's not a stretch to think that organisations can get away with terrible coaching. 

106 Head coaches typically turn…

Head coaches typically turn over almost all of a coaching staff, though, so it's hard to argue that if an organization's been bad through like, 5-6 coaches, that it's the assistant/position coaches that are the issue. But front offices are weird.

I mean, as an example, both the Director of Pro Scouting and College Scouting for the Lions have basically *never* worked anywhere in football other than the Lions, and they've been there for 14+ years. When the Browns "overhauled" their staff this year, 75% of them were just internal shuffling/promotions.

New coaches/GMs come in and basically just fire the head guys and promote. It's really kinda weird. You could argue "well, that's just proof those positions don't matter" but again, coaches turn over typically 70-80% of the entire coaching staff, and *those* guys are pretty far down in importance, too. And if those positions aren't important, why would firing the top guys to change things up do anything?

9 Granted, it's Washington,…

Granted, it's Washington, but Washington gave Philly all kinds of problems last week.

When he wasn't being instantly buried into the turf like a new rose bush, Wentz was tearing apart the Skins with deep bombs. As Arizona has a functioning offensive line, you just get the "tearing them apart with deep bombs" part.

17 The Cyril Grayson ball-off…

The Cyril Grayson ball-off-the-helmet ... reminds me of an old NFL Films Football Folly clip.   I'm sure that was a Bucs player in the orange strip.

19 I missed the beginning of…

I missed the beginning of the Seahawks-Patriots game, so I first saw McCourty's touchdown celebration here, and it almost moved me to tears.  And I am a Jets fan, but I've always liked McCourty and felt he was underrated.  It was a great tribute to a teammate.

As far as Jamal Adams' usage in Seattle, it's the same as last year in New York.  If he keeps it up and stays healthy, that trade will end up being a win for Seattle (the trade should be a win for the Jets unless they blow the picks).

As far as the team that I supposedly care about, I don't.  All that matters to me is whether Becton is doing a good job blocking, and according to PFF he is doing ok.  I care more about whether Matt Barzal signs an offer sheet in a month than anything the New York Non-Football Team does this year.


20 Jamal Adams

Adam’s versatility is definitely something to behold, but he got absolutely roasted in coverage. 4 catches on 5 targets, for 128 yards. 

71 Yeah, but some of those were…

In reply to by takeleavebelieve

Yeah, but some of those were just great offense -- Edelman making diving catches or Cam putting it on his spot.  I couldn't believe how accurate Cam was last night.  I guess if you give him 10 seconds to throw, that's what happens.

Stephon Gilmore is arguably the best cover-man in football and he got burned too by Russ's dimes and DK size.

93 My point is that in 2020, a…

My point is that in 2020, a safety needs to have coverage skills. A safety that’s good at ancillary stuff like rushing off the edge is fun to watch, but that player isn’t worth 2 first rounders plus a top-end salary. 

I’m not really sure what Gilmore has to do with anything. 

98 The point of bringing up…

The point of bringing up Gilmore is likely that even the best can have off days. Adams was great at coverage in game 1, and generally great throughout his career, so one bad game doesn't mean he wasn't worth it, especially when it was more about Cam playing well than Adams playing badly.

154 Jamal Adams

In reply to by takeleavebelieve

I feel like there is this extra hype with everything Jamal Adams does, which straddles reality. He gets labelled an 'edge rusher', but from watching the game (and film) he is more of a really effective blitzer, than actually playing like and OLB or DE. Perhaps I'm being pedantic with terms, but i would consider those different roles. He's awesome in the box in blowing up run plays and Seattle ran some great 'games' to occupy the RB in pass pro and give him an unabated route to the QB, but I'm not sure the coverage weakness really was an exception.


People keep pointing to the fact it was Julian Edelman but he's a 34, which is ancient in WR years, and has never been a burner. Between playing in Seattle, the amount of noise he makes on and off the field, and the general liking for him in the NFL media, I think even him being exploitable in coverage, this trade will be seen as a Seattle win.

155 Adams = Polamolu

In reply to by stoste

Does everything great for a strong safety but "meh" in coverage.  On pace for 16 sacks.

23 Waiting for DVOA to tell me how much better Lions were than Pack

But seriously folks, we have a two team AFC... And-- what?-- 7 teams that could be the best in the NFC?  Saints Packers Sunday night might offer some clarity. But clearly virtually the entire NFC West is the conversation-- and I guess you have to figure either TB or Dallas might live up to expectations and make a run. A whole bunch of interesting teams-- looks like a fun season. Packers are very dependent on the health of their troika of offensive stars, though. Would you rather have Rodgers-Jones-Adams now than Brees-Kamara-Thomas? Prescott-Ellliot-Cooper?  All the smart guys would have said something different two weeks ago than they might say now.

26 I would be hesitant to call…

I would be hesitant to call the first month fully predictive in this weird-ass season, although the injury monster will likely have a say at some point, too.

At this point, I think Philadelphia and San Francisco may want to simply declare a war-time emergency and form the San Philadelphia Eagle 3-4ers.

147 Has Arizona even played that…

In reply to by LyleNM

Has Arizona even played that well over these first two weeks? The Murray highlight runs I've seen on red zone have been awesome, but entering MNF they were 19th in both offensive yds/play and points/drive, and on the other side of the ball they're 15th in defensive yds/play and 11th in points allowed/drive. Not that two games is a representative sample, but I would have thought there was more to get excited about.

Hey, look! DVOA is updated pending MNF too. And the Cards are 18th.

The one thing you can say for Arizona is that they have a very clear path to 5-0, and even if they are merely average or just good, that would be pretty huge for their playoff chances.

152 I didn't watch the…

I didn't watch the Washington game, but just looking at the box score it seems like Arizona played pretty well on offense, especially against what DVOA considers to be the best defensive team in week 1, so I decided to look deeper.

First off, they had 17 third down attempts, which tells me they weren't successful enough on the first two downs. Second, they had a fumble that rolled out of bounds, which is harmless in the game but DVOA will penalize. And finally, the offense lost 73 yards on penalties (building on the 60 yards of offensive penalties from the previous game), which was a major reason for their difficulties on first and second downs.

24 Sam improving?

It will get lost because the stats are horrible, but Sam only has one turnover and four sacks in two weeks (despite feeling like he's been under duress just about every play).  He can only run the plays called for him (which are ungodly terrible), and so far he's showing me he is a viable NFL franchise QB.  

And while noobs laugh at the buttfumble, that 3rd and 31 was the most embarrassing play in Jets history. Completely unacceptable  

29 The buttfumble is going to…

In reply to by Jetspete

The buttfumble is going to remain the most embarrassing play, just because it aired on a national game and no one else has done it.  The Giants allowed a 50 yard touchdown on a 3rd and forever screen pass.  I feel the Bills not covering the ball on a kickoff in Anthony Lynn's only game for them is more embarrassing than either of those conversions.

30 Although, the Texans almost…

Although, the Texans almost did the same thing against the Bills in the playoffs last year:


The Suzy Kolber moment may be the most embarrassing, but it wasn't a play.  Buttfumble for the win.  I'm still waiting for the team to pull out of it the way the Giants did after the Miracle in the Meadowlands.

33 Let's accept the following:…

In reply to by Jetspete

Let's accept the following:


The Jets offensive line, while improved from last year, is still not good. The skill position talent might be the worst in the league. And the head coach is, to put it charitably, a disaster. 

And yet...I thought Darnold was mostly awful this game. He didn't turn the ball over, but the passing offense was so anemic that the 49ers entered garbage time by the third quarter. And remember, the Jets were at home facing a 49ers team missing all of its best players. And the Jets offense still stunk.


I get the temptation to give Darnold a pass, but look what's happening in Carolina and jacksonville. Minshew is on a team most people felt was tanking. And he's good! Teddy is similarly on a team devoid of talent and they are still doing ok on offense, while the jets remain an eyesore.

Darnold has not been good since he's entered the league which is now two years plus. It might be time to accept that he is not a good qb.

65 Maybe draft Lawrence next…

Maybe draft Lawrence next year.  Unless he stays (to avoid the Jets) or tells the Jets he won't play for them.  In which case the Jests are stuck picking another guy who only played a year or two in college, like two of the last three busts they had (Geno Smith actually had three years or more starting).

77 i'm not trying to give Sam a…

i'm not trying to give Sam a pass, it's just the reason for the anemic passing game is Gase way more than Darnold. You bring up Carolina and Jacksonville, well those offenses are run by Joe Brady (probably the next Jets coach) and Jay Gruden.  I can't imagine Sam wouldnt be lighting it up if either was his coach.  

There isnt a lot of history of highly drafted quarterbacks who finally figure it out after 3 or 4 years and make the leap.  But the most recent is probably the most apt comparison: Ryan Tannehill.  If the Jets have someone as good as Tannehill in their building, pay him and use the picks to build around him.  

28 Bills game loses power

Not even the first time it's happened this century where the TV feed to a Bills game went out because of power loss. Happened in 2008 during a Bills/Chargers game in Buffalo because a mylar balloon hit the power lines delivering power to the stadium.

The difference is that in 2008 Bills fan were all glad for an excuse to not have to watch the game. This time we were mad at what we were missing!

34 The 2008 Bills/Chargers game…

The 2008 Bills/Chargers game was Trent Edwards' return game after being nearly decapitated two weeks prior by the Adrian Wilson.  The Bills won that game to start 5-1 on the season but it was all downhill for Edwards from that point on (probably due to the aforementioned massive head trauma - the A/B on Edwards' performance was stark), the Bills finished the season 7-9 and fired Dick Jauron months after signing him to a contract extension.

But that game in particular - yeah, everybody in Buffalo wanted to watch that one.

35 Watching the Chargers Chiefs…

Watching the Chargers Chiefs left me with the following thoughts:


Todd Mcshay was so pessimistic on Herbert, basically calling him mentally weak, that I had already predetermined him to be a likely bust. But Herbert was good. I was very impressed with his performance.


The Chargers defense was also very impressive. Top to bottom. Joey Bosa and Ingram nearly won the game with hero play after hero play.


Death taxes and at least one back breaking deep bomb from Patty Mahomes.


Anthony Lynn is the reason the Chargers lost. Conservative game plans were there even before he had to start a rookie QB. They had so many opportunities to win this game but kept it conservative, expecting his defense to bail them out time after time. He might be a good coach, but this style of coaching usually leaves you susceptible to getting beat.

41 I was impressed by Herbert,…

I was impressed by Herbert, too.  The only really bad play he made was throwing crossfield, over the middle, and late on his interception when he could have just run for the first down.  However, I really do like him trying to be aggressive (Derek Carr learn a thing or two about that).

46 There was a good TV replay…

There was a good TV replay that showed what Herbert could see on that pass.  With a little more loft and distance, that pass probably was there.  The way the game was going, I'd have preferred he take the sure first down and let's keep driving option, but an instinct to go for the big play isn't necessarily a bad thing in a young QB, as long as you can coach him to recognize the high probability vs low probability situations.

146 Herbert made a terrible…

Herbert made a terrible decision on that INT.  He may have seen an opportunity, that doesn't mean he has the ability to make the throw.

He may have made a 2nd mistake on the 3rd-and-goal at the end of the 10-minute 4th qtr drive.  It's not clear if he turned the wrong way on the fake hand-off or the RB went the wrong way.  Romo seemed to blame Herbert.  But the play calling on 1st and 2nd down was very unimaginative.

Overall, I thought Herbert looked good, but he was helped by the Chiefs not game-planning for him or having any film on him, plus the facts that the Chiefs top 2 corners (Ward and Breeland) were out and one of the depth guys (Hamilton) got hurt on ST.  Additionally, Clark went out with an illness and Okafor was inactive, so the d-line was short-handed too - the D improvement last year came when Clark got fully healthy and offenses had to account for him and Jones.  The Chargers handled Jones fairly well and I think some of that was not having to account for Clark.

It was interesting the the Chargers D appeared more gassed in OT than the Chiefs D despite LA having a significant edge in ToP.

Lynn deserves criticism for not going for it on 4th-and-1 in OT, especially since he should have known what shape his D was in physically.  I wasn't happy with Reid opting for the initial 53-yard FGA on 4th-and-1 either, despite Butker having already made a 58-yard FG.  The Chargers also blocked a a long EP (after a holding penalty earlier), so it wasn't a gimme (Romo acted like it has in fact a tap-in). 

What I didn't know until the post-game was that Butker was good from 67 in warm-ups and 70 at halftime, so the coaches felt very comfortable with the distance.  Also, Butker says he takes 8-10 55+ yard tries consecutively in practice, so he and the coaches weren't worried about him being fatigued on the 3rd OT kick.

134 You know it slothooker!

Anthony Lynn lost the game in the fourth quarter when he decided to punt on 4th & 1.

You either win it or lose it there by being aggressive.

All he did was delay the inevitable by giving the ball back to Mahomes with time on the clock.

How many times in history have we seen this scenario played out the same way by the Schottenheimer school of conservative play calls?


51 Notes on young QBs...

I went to some undergrad at WSU, Grad school at U of O.  Have been a die hard Pac 10/12 fan since at least 1996.  Attended many Herbert and Minshew games in person as well as a couple Darnold games.

That Minshew has become what he has surprises me because in college he seemed reckless with his INT risks.

Herbert, I thought the QB coaching since the Ducks fired Mark Helfrich ruined him.

And I thought Darnold was the most polished of the passers but with B- arm strength for the NFL.

Shows what I know.

80 I thought the Chiefs…

I thought the Chiefs decision to trade a future first for Patrick Mahomes was the kind of move that might get Reid fired. Mahomes was considered a fringe first round prospect - toolsy like Kaepernick. I thought it was a gut reaction move to Alex Smith's cromulence. Clearly, I was mistaken...

58 SoFi Stadium

My main question this week is... did one of the announcers really say SoFi Stadium cost $5 billion?

I'm in real estate and pretty fair with basic math:  I was under the impression that the Jets/Giants stadium cost about $1.6 B just ten years ago.  I know the Seahawks' stadium cost in the range of $700 M about 20 years ago.


That implies either solid gold fixtures in the toilets or inflation of 10% annually (keeping mind the Great Recession more or less cancelled inflation for this type of thing for a solid five years).  Yeah, yeah, the roof and the scoreboard, blah blah.  It's insane.

61 The big missing factor here…

In reply to by Bobman

The big missing factor here is the sheer amount of red tape that exists when trying to get building construction through. California is notorious for its building impediments. 

I don't live in LA, but San Francisco is one of the absolute worst places to try and build anything. It is no accident that housing costs in the Bay Area are the nation's most expensive. It is no accident that the middle and lower middle class in California are fleeing the state because of insane housing costs. It is no accident that it takes a two engineer salary to be able to afford a two to three bedroom house. My wife is from Portland and I was stunned to see the stark differences in quality and affordability of housing in Portland. A 3 million dollar house in Portland buys you a mansion. A similarly priced house in the bay area buys you a 50 year old fixer upper. 

To put it charitably, building construction is as much a political game with lots of wheels needing to be greased. 

69 To add here..

The cities in California wouldn't let anyone build anything were that legal...

since it's not, they try and tie the projects in so much red tape as to make almost any building unaffordable.

78 One more thing to add. It's…

In reply to by gomer_rs

One more thing to add. It's infuriating because a lot of the supporters are bleeding heart liberals who decry income inequality and fairness while basically saying, "Welcome to California. If you don't have a couple million, don't bother coming"


San Francisco supports generous homeless shelters and services while putting up every kind of barrier to building as possible in the name of affordable housing. Its just insane

83 As one of those bleeding hear liberals...

I couldn't agree more.

On the organized left there is a big split between Boomer enviromentalists and younger enviromentalists.  The Boomer enviromentalists tend to take a position of "any development is bad;" the younger enviromentalists generally say "the only solution to community wide enviromental impacts is to concenterate impacts in urban areas."

102 Zoning is a huge predictor…

Zoning is a huge predictor of housing costs- probably the #1 factor. The more building regulations a city imposes, the further upward housing costs are driven, which makes sense. Many academic studies confirm this. California has the wonderful double whammy of huge amounts of red tape + rent control. Shockingly, more mandates and rules, wrapped in a blanket of bleeding-heart good intentions, don't create affordable housing for all, but rather produce the opposite result. Whoda thunkit?

But hey... free housing under your local park bench!

111 I mean, this is sadly a…

I mean, this is sadly a misfortune of economic illiteracy, a fact that I think economists don't emphasize enough. Contrary to what most people think, academic economists devote so much of their energy trying to show why the basic economic model is wrong. And yes, at the most basic level it is wrong!

However, 99% of the profession would agree that most of our policies are not geared towards plugging the holes in the basic free market vision. 

I really wish economic literacy was more widely taught because unlike Physics, you cannot pass government policies to mandate that things don't fall due to gravity. However, with economics, you can pass lots of policies that will deliver unintended consequences. 

114 you cannot pass government…

you cannot pass government policies to mandate that things don't fall due to gravity.

Sure you can. It's just futile.

King Canute, standing in the surf, demanding the tide to recede, was a demonstration to his advisors that he could pass whatever laws he wanted, but some things are outside the jurisdiction of a king.

145 I believe SoFi "stadium" is…

In reply to by Bobman

I believe SoFi "stadium" is more than a stadium but a redevelopment that includes retail and entertainment, for example NFL Media studios.  I'm not sure if the $5B number is just for the stadium edifice or the entire project, so it may not be an apples-to-apples comparison with other "pure" stadium developments

150 It's not that clear that the…

In reply to by Bobman

It's not that clear that the stadium itself cost $5 billion. It's part of a larger development including a planned community, commercial development, and a casino that has already completed. The $5 billion was an increase in the debt ceiling for the project. Could be incompetent management, could also be a fudge to extract tax breaks from Inglewood and LA County. Never underestimate the ability of an NFL owner to screw taxpayer.

159 As others have mentioned, it…

In reply to by Bobman

As others have mentioned, it's a huge development, not just a stadium. There were also the floods that delayed construction by a year - they were reportedly downright catastrophic and essentially reset the early work on the project.

$5B still seems nutty though.

79 As a Seahawks fan, I didn't…

As a Seahawks fan, I didn't love the Wilson kill shot on 3rd-and-1 -- the Seahawks were running the ball very well -- but if that's what Russ felt comfortable doing, you roll with it.

The bigger head-scratcher to me was Chris Carson flopping inbounds instead of fighting for extra yards, which looked very gettable, especially given his power running abilities.

With over two-minutes left, and the Patriots holding all their timeouts, it's too early to start milking the clock like that.  You should be focused only on getting a first down or two, in my opinion.

I mean, even if he goes out of bounds short, I'd rather have 2nd-and-1 and have the Patriots not use a timeout, than 2nd-and-4 and have them use one.  I think the 'Hawks outsmarted themselves on that one.

84 That play was killed by a bad snap.

The snap would probably have killed any running play.  Because of the snap, Russ threw the ball to the only WR on the side of the field of the snap and without setting his feet.

It was just bad luck.

Seattle almost sailed the snap on the punt as well.