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

Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Deon Cain
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

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

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

Pittsburgh Steelers 28 at Baltimore Ravens 24

Scott Spratt: It seems silly to say, but the Ravens could use a win against the Steelers today to stop the narrative that they can't handle the best teams in the NFL. Well, they are off to a poor start with it as Lamar Jackson didn't see linebacker (and Devin Bush replacement) Robert Spillane and threw a pick-six on the third play of the game.

Bryan Knowles: The only time Lamar Jackson has started against the Steelers, he threw three interceptions, back in Week 5, 2019. Well, he's on pace to break that mark today.

Bryan Knowles: The thing that got Baltimore's offense going is a somewhat questionable unnecessary roughness call giving the Ravens a first down on a third-and-7. The flag got thrown because Jackson's a quarterback; I really am not sure that a similar hit on a running back would have been flagged, and Jackson was beyond the line of scrimmage and running. Given new life, Jackson hits Willie Snead on a little short route that Snead breaks for 34 yards, setting up a Miles Boykin touchdown a few plays later.

Jackson has had to dance in the pocket a ton, as the Steelers are getting consistent pressure. I mean, Jackson's not the type to stay stationary in the backfield anyway, but it's especially notable today. Sometimes, that generates picks, like the first drive. Other times, Jackson makes something happen on plays that would have been disasters for 95% of quarterbacks out there. Love watching him.

Scott Spratt: Steelers tight end Eric Ebron dropped a bunny catchable pass.

I would give him the benefit of the doubt since it has been raining. There is bad weather all over the northeast for today's games. But Ebron also has 21 drops since 2017 according to Sportradar, third-most among tight ends.

Scott Spratt: Two days after the Ravens extended him for nearly $100 million, offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley is being carted off the field after T.J. Watt rolled up on him.

Bryan Knowles: This one has slowed down a bit after the teams exchanged touchdowns early on. Remember, Pittsburgh's score came on a pick-six; they only have 41 yards of offense. Ben Roethlisberger doesn't look accurate, and his receivers are dropping the ball -- and fumbling, too. Both teams exchanged fumbles, and I'd take a swing and guess the weather conditions are hindering them there -- it's slick, if not pouring, with rain.

So, if passing isn't working, you run. The Ravens finally put it together with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive featuring eight runs, including pickups of 25, 12, and 14. The only pass of the drive gets the Ravens down inside the 10, and a couple of plays later, Gus Edwards finds the end zone. THAT was a drive that reminds you of last year's Ravens; the running options and just general imposing of their will on a very good defense. We haven't seen as much of that this year -- yes, they're 5-1, but a slightly shakier 5-1. That drive, however, was a clinic.

14-7 Ravens midway through the second quarter.

Bryan Knowles: At halftime, the Ravens are up to 179 yards rushing against the No. 1 rushing defense by DVOA. The Steelers are very, very fortunate to be down just 10 points; they are getting chewed up and spat out by an offensive line that's missing Ronnie Stanley.

Vince Verhei: Bryan, that's stunning. Pittsburgh wasn't just No. 1 in run defense DVOA, they were threatening to break the record for adjusted line yards. How much of that production has been Lamar Jackson? Have there been a few long runs that have inflated those numbers?

Bryan Knowles: Jackson has 54 yards, so that's not helping Pittsburgh -- but Gus Edwards has 56 yards on 10 carries, and J.K. Dobbins has 69 yards on just eight. All three of them have runs of at least 14 yards; Dobbins and Edwards have runs of 25 or more. So, yeah, those numbers might be a little inflated, but it's not like they're getting stuffed on a regular basis, either. That nine-play scoring drive I referenced earlier had runs of 25, 6, 12, 3, 14, 3, 5, and 1 for a touchdown. Their ensuing drive had runs of 4, 2, 9, 4, 8, 4 and 8 -- they're having successful runs on almost every play.

Scott Spratt: Maybe the Ravens should have stuck with the running. Lamar Jackson threw another really bad interception, this one to Alex Highsmith.

A couple of plays later, Ben Roethlisberger found Eric Ebron for a touchdown, and this game is close again at 17-14 Ravens.

Bryan Knowles: Pittsburgh's offense has come at the hands of Lamar Jackson, who just threw his second interception of the day, joining a fumble earlier today -- remember, he had three turnovers in his only other start against Pittsburgh, too. I think there was a miscommunication issue there. Jackson lofted the ball over Patrick Ricard; he may have thought Ricard was going to go deeper downfield rather than cut it off on the screen. Either way, easy INT for Alex Highsmith, and that results in a Roethlisberger touchdown to a wide-open Eric Ebron a couple of plays later.

17-14 Ravens, and the Steelers are somehow still in this game, early in the third quarter.

Bryan Knowles: And the Steelers take the lead!

The Ravens go three-and-out on their ensuing drive after the touchdown and have to punt it right back. That results in the longest drive of the day for either team -- a 77-yard march to paydirt, with lots of short, accurate passes from Big Ben, who has woken up here in the second half. Lots of Chase Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster's second and third catches of the day, capped off by a James Conner touchdown plunge.

The Steelers are being outgained 260-166 and have yet to show they can even slow down the Ravens' running game, but Jackson's interceptions and general poor passing day have helped Pittsburgh build to a 21-17 lead midway through the third quarter. Wow.

Scott Spratt: In accordance with Vince's rule that we show video on every awesome Lamar Jackson run:

That was called back for holding. Whomp.

Bryan Knowles: Willie Snead is quietly having a big day. Four catches for 74 yards doesn't sound huge, but two of those catches were 20-plus yards, mostly YAC, for huge, drive-continuing conversions. When you consider the rest of the Ravens have just 94 receiving yards, you can see how Snead's carrying the receiving corps today.

A couple of plays later, Jackson hits Marquise Brown in the back corner of the end zone. It's ruled incomplete as Brown is falling out of bounds, but it's exceptionally close. Upon review, it looks like Brown's shin just barely scrapes the grass, but it ends up standing as an incomplete. So, the very next play, Jackson goes back to Brown again, and this time there's no question --touchdown, 24-21 Ravens lead early in the fourth quarter.

That makes 30 straight games with 20-plus points for the Ravens, tying the Peyton Manning Broncos' record from 2012 to 2014.

Bryan Knowles: We go back and forth here as penalties hamper the Ravens --- they were flagged for both a face-mask and a 20-yard pass interference play, helping the Steelers put together the longest drive of the game. The 80-yard drive was all passes, including four straight completions to JuJu, who was shut out in the first half. Chase Claypool gets the touchdown as the Steelers take the lead back, 28-24.

There's still 7:29 left here, so plenty of time for six or seven more lead changes, but I'm glad this second half became more competitive. Steelers-Ravens game should always, by law, go down to the last possession.

Vince Verhei: This game came on right after the Steelers went up 28-24. Still plenty of time left, so the Ravens haven't panicked. They're just going speed option, handoff, speed option, handoff, over and over. It's like a 1980s Big 8 offense. And it's working! They've already gone 60 yards in six plays, with a first down at the Pittsburgh 15, as the game stops for an injury to Cameron Heyward. None of this is good news for Pittsburgh.

From there, Jackson hands off twice more for 5 more yards. Third down, he finally drops back to pass, but scrambles for a gain of 2. So it's fourth-and-3 at Pittsburgh 10 at the two-minute warning, Ravens down 28-24 and looking for a go-ahead touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: And DVOA's No. 1 ranked run defense steps up! Lamar Jackson tries to take it himself, and the Steelers stiffen and hold him. The Ravens still have two time-outs and there's 1:54 left, so it's not game over, but what a time to get a run stop. Wow.

Bryan Knowles: A first down will end the game for Pittsburgh, but Patrick Queen bursts through the line on third down to stop James Conner in the backfield! The Ravens will have just under a minute to try to find the end zone. Big defensive stops, things coming down to the last drive -- this is Ravens-Steelers. The Elders of the Rivalry will be pleased.

Bryan Knowles: No dice! The Ravens hit Snead again, picking up 32 yards on fourth-and-2, but that takes long enough that there's only eight seconds left by the time they get up and spike it. They look for Snead again in the end zone, but this time, Pittsburgh breaks it up, hangs on to the 28-24 victory, and remains undefeated.

Hell of a game.

Los Angeles Rams 17 at Miami Dolphins 28

Bryan Knowles: I take issue with RedZone saying that the "Dolphins have set their clocks back … to the future! ... as Tua Tagliova gets his first start." Clearly, the better joke is "The Dolphins' clocks have changed ... to Tua Time." That's a very serious professional criticism, there.

Scott Spratt: Welcome to the NFL, Tua Tagovailoa!

Aaron Donald forced the fumble, but it was actually Michael Brockers that blew him up.

Scott Spratt: It's a big day for quarterbacks not seeing big men between them and their targets. This time, Jared Goff throws the ball to avoid an unblocked blitzer but straight into the hands of defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.

The Rams already scored a touchdown on a short field that was the result of a turnover. Now, the Dolphins can try to do the same to even the score at 7-7.

Vince Verhei: Score tied at 7-7 as Tagovailoa hits Devante Parker for a 3-yard touchdown on third-and-goal on the last play of the first quarter. That was the drive that started at the Rams 33, set up by Goff's interception on the zone blitz. Tagovailoa threw for two first downs on the drive, the other a 15-yard gain to Jakeem Grant on a deep curl. The Rams moved Jalen Ramsey into the slot, so Miami targeted David Long on that play. And Tagovailoa really needed that drive, because he had looked rough earlier -- not just the strip-sack, but a lot of missed throws. The Dolphins have used a lot of rollouts to the left out of pistol sets, playing to his strengths, but he had still been struggling badly up to that point.

Speaking of struggling badly -- hey, Jared Goff, wake up! He's only 4-of-11 up to this point, with the interception and I think three other passes batted or tipped at the line. The good news for the Rams is that they can run, and the Dolphins are last in run defense DVOA. Darrell Henderson is up to 48 yards on only six carries; Robert Woods added a 4-yard touchdown on a jet sweep.

Aaron Schatz: The Rams punted from the Miami 36. If they don't trust new kicker Kai Forbath to try a 54-yarder in good weather, what are they even doing with him on the roster? Rams get rescued from this mistake when Myles Gaskin immediately coughs the ball up and the Rams get it back on the Dolphins 7.

Aaron Schatz: And then the Rams immediately give the ball back -- sack of Jared Goff, picked up by Andrew Van Ginkel for a 78-yard strip-six. What a crazy turn of events. 14-7 Dolphins.

Bryan Knowles: And then the Rams get UNrescued! Emmanuel Ogbah comes off the edge and CRUSHES Goff, who fumbles. Andrew Van Ginkel scoops it up and runs back 78 yards for the score, so the scaredy-cat punt is punished ... sorta.

14-7 Dolphins.

Scott Spratt: Check the bottom right of your screen.


Vince Verhei: Goff has been freakin' awful today. He had no excuse to not see that unblocked blitzer in his face, and he has thrown several passes that could have been intercepted in addition to the one that was.

Vince Verhei: And yes, the Fox crew was so surprised they credited that as a Rams touchdown and added seven points to the L.A. score.

Vince Verhei: Following the fumble-six, Rams go three-and-out, with Goff throwing incomplete on second and third down. MVPunter Johnny Hekker booms the punt 60 yards, but Jakeem Grant weaves to his right, slips a few tackles, and zooms into the end zone for an 88-yard touchdown ... which Fox credits to Andrew Van Ginkle. Is Goff running the graphics department too?

Scott Spratt: And we were just joking about Van Ginkel nearly pulling a Daniel Jones and falling down on his fumble return touchdown. Grant seems like a slightly more natural runner haha.

Scott Spratt: With a little less than five minutes left in the first half, Goff is at 8-of-20 for 82 yards and two interceptions. I think you can somewhat credit the Dolphins defense, which is sixth in DVOA against the pass and rising with both Xavien Howard and Byron Jones healthy at cornerback. But also of note, Goff has averaged 299 yards, 1.84 TDs, and 0.63 INTs per game at home since 2018 and 272, 1.55, and 1.00 on the road. He's one of the more extreme home/road quarterbacks but rarely is mentioned alongside the Breeses of the world.

Dave Bernreuther: Vince beat me to all the graphical mishaps and handled the Goff struggles more fairly, but I do still have something to add here:

Tua getting to go from 0-7 to 21-7 by leading a 33-yard drive and watching as his defense and special teams then score touchdowns is the type of luck that some quarterbacks don't ever receive in that short a window in a single game over very long careers. He has it now in the first half. Hard to ask for a better way to break in a new quarterback than that. Good for the Dolphins for building a team that lets your rookie quarterback ease in without having to do too much.

On the flip side ... this game is doing very little to contradict the "the Rams are frauds" narrative so far.

And yeah. Goff is just awful. Even some of his completions have looked bad, and several passes are fluttering like he got hit as he threw ... but he didn't.

And as I type that he turns it over AGAIN!

Vince Verhei: That last interception came as a result of another unblocked blitzer, with Jerome Baker coming free up the middle to hit Goff during the throw. I'd put the pressure on the line instead of Goff there -- you can't just let a guy come untouched through the A-gap! -- but Goff's reaction to that pressure was poor.

The Rams force a quick punt, but Goff turns the ball over AGAIN. Shaq Lawson comes around the edge to knock the ball free, and Kyle Van Noy picks it up and runs it down to the 1.

Scott Spratt: Is there a prevailing "the Rams are frauds" narrative, Dave? I don't think I was aware of that. They entered today at 5-2 and are seventh in DVOA. I guess the issue is their five wins are against the entire NFC East and the Bears?

Bryan Knowles: The Dolphins have 27 points. They have 56 offensive yards.

There have been three games in NFL history where a team had less than 2.1 times as many yards as points. Two of them were shutouts where the losing team had negative yards on the day. The third was the 2002 Texans, who beat the Steelers 24-6 on a day they only picked up 47 yards, bolstered by three defensive touchdowns. I'm assuming the Dolphins will gain some offense in the second half, but they're in some rarified company at the moment.

Dave Bernreuther: That is exactly the issue, Scott. The fact that the best they've looked, to my eyes anyway, was actually against the Bills in a loss has made me a buyer of that theory.

I thought it was a big topic of conversation after the 49ers looked so good against them in that "upset."

Vince Verhei: Rams show some signs of life and get a field goal to go into halftime down 28-10. Dolphins got all the splash plays in the first half which covers up just how useless their own offense has been. Five first downs and 54 yards in 22 plays is ... less than ideal. Let's not forget that the Rams trailed Buffalo 28-3 and came back to take the lead earlier this year. This game's not over -- the Dolphins can't expect their defense to force four turnovers in a half again. They're going to need some kind of offensive production to finish this one off.

Vince Verhei: After a rollercoaster first half, the third quarter here was refreshingly peaceful. Five straight punts to open the half, then a Goff incompletion on fourth-and-10 from the 41. The Dolphins are up to 11 passes defensed now, which is a ton -- coming into today, there were three teams that only had 16 all season. But their own offense is just as inept. The defining play of this game may not be any of the turnovers, but the Dolphins lining Tagovailoa out wide with Malcolm Perry at quarterback. Donald stuffed the Wildfish or whatever for a 5-yard loss and just shook his head with disdain.

Aaron Schatz: Since the Dolphins were the team that introduced the Wildcat to the NFL, shouldn't a Dolphins Wildcat still be the Wildcat?

Vince Verhei: That's fair.

Vince Verhei: While the Dolphins have just kept on punting, the Rams got a touchdown on Goff's best drive of the day (7-of-7 for 84 yards by my counting-in-my-head math), then got into position for a field goal that would have made this an eight-point game. But Kai Forbath's try from 48 goes way, WAY left. Dolphins still up 28-17 with under four minutes to go, and this should be a done deal.

Bryan Knowles: Just to wrap up the earlier stat, the Dolphins finished with 28 points and just 145 offensive yards. They are the 40th team since 1940 to win with less than 5.2 yards per point or less, and only the third since 2010, behind the 2012 Ryan Lindley Cardinals and the 2018 Mitchell Trubisky Bears.

New York Jets 9 at Kansas City Chiefs 35

Scott Spratt: This will probably be my only Chiefs update today. I'm mostly just using this 30-yard Mecole Hardman touchdown as an excuse to bring up the fact that they opened as 21-point favorites over the Jets. Does anyone remember an NFL line in the 20s from recent seasons?

Aaron Schatz: Believe it or not, there were TWO lines in the 20s just last year, even earlier in the season! Both in Week 3!

  • DAL -22.5 MIA (cover)
  • NE -21 NYJ (did not cover)

Dave Bernreuther: When you're playing the best, you've got to pull out all the stops and run a bit of David strategy, right? The Chiefs do just that, busting out a fake punt from near midfield to keep a drive alive with a great pass to a wide open Byron Pringle, whose name makes me giggle every time.

What's that? Oh ... it's the *Jets* that are David in this matchup?

Oh. Hmm.

On the very next play, Tyreek Hill breaks Ashtyn Davis' ankles and comes wide open in the end zone, and Patrick Mahomes hits him with a laser to make it 14-3 and, let's be honest, put this one away early.

The only thing I can think of is this clip from a forgotten and (IMHO) hugely underrated movie:

Minnesota Vikings 28 at Green Bay Packers 22

Carl Yedor: We might not see an incredible amount of points in this one if only because both teams can methodically move the ball down the field and chew up clock in the process. After one drive for each team, we're sitting at 47 seconds remaining in the first quarter, with Davante Adams and Dalvin Cook accounting for the touchdowns in a 7-7 ballgame. The Packers converted a fourth-and-1 from the 24 to extend their drive; with Mason Crosby banged up during the week, we might see some more aggressiveness than usual out of Green Bay. Minnesota may not have much of a choice but to match that level of offensive aggressiveness considering how banged up they are on defense.

Bryan Knowles: Defense? What defense. The first half of this one had four completed drives, all resulting in touchdowns (plus a run on a fifth drive to get the clock to all 0:00s). I'm sure it has happened before, but I can't think of another game off the top of my head with just two possessions for each team in a half.

Carl Yedor: Two total drives later and the story is still the same. Adams and Cook matched scores again to cap off two more lengthy drives, and it's now 14-14 with 30 seconds left in the half. Green Bay runs the ball up the middle on its first play and kills the clock for the first half. Four total drives (excluding the meaningless last 30 seconds), all totaling at least 10 plays and at least 67 yards, and four touchdowns. The defenses don't really have an answer for the opposing offenses at all, as both offenses have been able to use a balanced approach to move the ball. As a side note, rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler suffered a scary hit to the head/neck area and had to be carted off during the second quarter. No definitive word on him yet beyond that they are evaluating him for a neck injury and a concussion.

Carl Yedor: We have a stop! An actual stop! The only non-touchdown drive of the first half was one play to burn the rest of the clock, but on Green Bay's first drive of the second half, they get to the Minnesota 37 on a deep completion to Robert Tonyan before stalling out. Four incompletions (the wind and Crosby's nagging injuries probably prevented a field goal attempt) result in a turnover on downs, giving the Vikings the ball back up 21-14 after they had scored another touchdown with Cook on their first drive of the half. Minnesota's scoring drive was another long one, though it required a bit of help from the Packers' secondary via multiple defensive pass interference calls. We'll see if the defensive play can continue to ratchet up here.

Vince Verhei: You have to smile at the little things in 2020, so let's all enjoy the debut of 3D dots!

Carl Yedor: A note on the earlier Dantzler injury, they took him to the hospital for further treatment and monitoring but initial tests performed at the stadium were encouraging. His replacement, Kris Boyd, just went down injured during a Packers first down. With three minutes to play, Green Bay is driving to try to cut it to a one-score game, but their offense has been surprisingly stagnant for most of the second half. Penalties have contributed to that, but credit to Minnesota's defense for hanging in there despite their injuries. I say most because Adams just picked up his third touchdown of the day, leading to a two-point conversion from Jamaal Williams. Green Bay will kick off down six, and Vikings fans are biting their nails for the last 2:42.

Scott Spratt: Alert, we are in Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary territory!

Scott Spratt: Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary attempt:

I guess that was a false alarm.

New England Patriots 21 at Buffalo Bills 24

Aaron Schatz: Cam Newton has let go a couple of sharp passes today but it's pretty clear the Patriots have no trust in the passing game with four undrafted wide receivers and only one active tight end. Twice they've run the ball on third-and-long. Meanwhile, the Bills are looking good on the offensive line, in part because of getting Jon Feliciano back at left guard. He moved to center in the second drive after Mitch Morse had a concussion. First Bills drive was a ton of runs, remarkable since they rank 32nd in run DVOA coming into this game but they were slicing through the Patriots defense. Second Bills drive had strong coverage by the Patriots so Josh Allen overthrew a guy deep and then had to check down on third down. But still, he had the time to throw. Patriots did get some yardage on their third drive and kicked a field goal after one of those third-and-long runs so it's now 7-3 Buffalo.

Aaron Schatz: Bills go into halftime up 7-6. Josh Allen threw his first pick of the day on what looked like miscommunication, with Stefon Diggs cutting his route too late and not turning around for the ball when it was there, J.C. Jackson picked it off. A completion to Jakobi Meyers and a couple of passes to tight end Ryan Izzo put the Patriots into field goal range to end the second quarter. Meyers is the only wide receiver with a catch today; Damiere Byrd is the only other receiver with a target. I expect the Pats to still come out run-heavy in the second half when they don't have to pass due to a two-minute offense.

Aaron Schatz: Good run blocking by Shaq Mason making up for an illegal use of hands penalty that cost the Patriots a 16-yard gain to Meyers. Patriots started a drive at the Buffalo 37 thanks to a good punt return and then made it all the way for the touchdown. Big play was a 10-yard run by Rex Burkhead on third-and-10, then Damien Harris tiptoeing through traffic for 22 and a touchdown. That Burkhead run is not going to work on third-and-long very often but it did here. Patriots make the two-point conversion with a pass to Meyers and it is 14-14. Feels like Buffalo is underperforming, they've outplayed the Patriots (and outgained them, 6.3 yards per play to 5.0), and this game should not be tied. But it is.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots with a surprise onside kick! It didn't work. Bills take the ball in Patriots territory.

Scott Spratt: Seeing Harris' burst on that touchdown run reminded me to ask you Aaron and other frequent Patriots-watchers: what do you think of Harris? Is he going to keep that No. 1 back job when Sony Michel comes back? Despite Michel's standard statistical success, he has underwhelmed by his advanced stats, notably with -2.7% and -6.4% DVOA in 2018 and 2019.

Aaron Schatz: Harris certainly looks more elusive than Michel does. I think he keeps the job when Michel comes back.

Bills score on that drive off the surprise onside kick, with nine straight runs. It's really remarkable how much better the run blocking looks today, especially on the left side. The goal-to-go series included Allen on QB power and then two players later, QB draw. The power didn't work, but the draw did. 21-14 Buffalo.

Aaron Schatz: Brutal ending to the Patriots-Bills game. The Patriots were driving with time running out and their stellar running attack today had gotten the ball into field goal range. Cam Newton was trying to get it closer or maybe even score a game-winning touchdown and he took it on a keeper and it was punched out by Jordan Zimmer. Dean Marlowe pounced on it immediately for the Bills and they'll take the game 24-21. Patriots put up a damn good fight today, especially their offensive line, but the season is essentially over.

Bryan Knowles: I wouldn't go THAT far for the Patriots -- 8-8 might well earn the seventh seed and Cam looked better today -- but the division is gone, which is not something New England fans are used to on November 1.

Indianapolis Colts 41 at Detroit Lions 21

Bryan Knowles: After a first quarter which featured very little offense -- the Lions scored a touchdown after a blocked punt -- the Colts start their first drive of the second quarter by airing it out. The Lions have been getting pressure, so Philip Rivers counters by rolling out, hitting Mo Alie-Cox on the sidelines on a great concentration play, feet tapping in bounds for 15. Rivers then hits Marcus Johnson for a great 20-yard gain down the middle -- Johnson has really stepped up with T.Y. Hilton struggling this year. And then a lollipop screen to Nyheim Hines turns into a 22-yard touchdown, thanks to a great spin move down by the goal line. Best offensive drive by either team to this point.

7-7 game, early in the second quarter.

Las Vegas Raiders 16 at Cleveland Browns 6

Vince Verhei: It's a cold, windy day in Cleveland, with occasional snow flurries. That's reflected in the low score -- the Raiders are up 6-3 at halftime. I have only been watching this out of the corner of my eye, focusing on Rams-Dolphins instead, but every time I have looked at it, Baker Mayfield has been rolling out to his left and missing an open receiver. The halftime montage showed that Derek Carr has hardly been any better. The Rams game looks about done at this point, so I'll watch more of this in the second half.

Vince Verhei: Well, the third quarter featured nothing but a lot of small ball. The Browns added a field goal to tie the score at 6-6 after this Jarvis Landry touchdown was overruled into an incompletion:

That drive took 11 plays and more than six minutes. The Raiders responded with 14 plays and the rest of the third quarter ... and they're still driving, with a second-and-goal at the 4. Longest play of the drive was just 11 yards. Just papercut, papercut, papercut. And then on third-and-goal, Carr hits Hunter Renfrow on a nifty little out-and-in route for the touchdown ... but they're reviewing this one too. Looks like the tip of the ball hit the turf and it's going to be incomplete.

Nope -- call on the field stands. Extra point is good, and the Raiders go up 13-6 very early in the fourth quarter.

Bryan Knowles: The Raiders just kicked the rare sub-25-yard field goal that probably was actually the right choice. The Raiders had fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line and ran Josh Jacobs three straight times -- no dice. Normally, I'd be shouting at them to go for it on fourth-and-inches outside the goal line, but they were sitting on a 13-6 lead with 4:24 left in the game. The field goal makes it a two-score game. That sort of decision gets you fewer points in the long run, but end-of-game strategy is different -- gotta make the Browns, who haven't scored a touchdown all day, have to march down the field twice in four minutes when you have the opportunity. Still -- three cracks from the 2 and you can't get it in? Oof.

Vince Verhei: After the Raiders touchdown, the Browns picked up one first down. On the ensuing third-and-8, David Njoku dropped a short pass that would have picked up a first down. Browns punted on fourth-and-8 from the 50. Tough call there, but it worked out badly for them, going into the end zone for a touchback.

Raiders responded by driving 74 yards in 13 plays, the fifth drive today of 10 plays or more. That includes Derek Carr, historically a terrible runner, keeping the ball on a zone read and running for a first down on second-and-11 (and he still fumbled on the play, though the Raiders recovered). The Browns stood firm at the goal line, but the Raiders still kicked a field goal to go up 16-6 with 4:24 to go.

That ball control by Las Vegas has made this game very short. They have run 65 plays to 35 for the Browns, and the Browns only have five drives as a result. But Las Vegas is still averaging less than 5 yards per play. They're 7-of-13 on third downs, 2-of-2 on fourth downs, and have only committed five penalties.

Aaron Schatz: For Bryan, EdjSports' model has Raiders field goal as the correct move by 3.0% there, even before the delay of game moved it back from the 1 to the 6.

Vince Verhei: Baker Mayfield ran for a first down on fourth-and-1 in the red zone, but from there a series of penalties and incompletions killed the drive. So they ended up trying the field goal, which is fine since they were down 10 ... but the wind pushes Cody Parkey's kick wide to the left, and that should be the end of this one barring something insane.

Tennessee Titans 20 at Cincinnati Bengals 31

Scott Spratt: Wow, Jayon Brown intercepted Joe Burrow to give the Titans a chance to come back in this one, down 20-31 with about two and a half minutes left in the fourth. But the turnover was erased by a questionable defensive pass interference call.

Rob Weintraub: In Joey B we trust!

It's hard to overstate just how good Burrow was in this game, given the fact that his offensive line was made up of dudes who just met on the bus ride to the stadium and the wind was howling up a gale. Andy Dalton would have checked out of this one with 10 minutes to play in the second quarter. Burrow wasn't even touched, which speaks partly to the yeoman effort turned by the likes of Quinton Spain and Billy Price but also Burrow, who yo-yo'd the Titans defense while making some amazing escape-and-throw plays. On one play Burrow faked a step-up in the pocket to draw in a linebacker, then stepped back and zipped one to the receiver crossing into that space. I've only seen Russell Wilson do that. Cincy even scored on four red zone opportunities!

That's three straight games over 30 points for the offense. Right now I'm confident they can hang 30 on anyone save a handful of teams (alas, two of them are division rivals). The wind clearly affected Ryan Tannehill, preventing deep throws, and after a critical end zone pick early in the day Tennessee played the empty yards game for the majority of this one. Jessie Bates continues his All-Pro level play at safety, and rookie linebacker Logan Wilson looks like a keeper. Add in Tee Higgins and it could actually be an impactful draft for the first time in a while.

Nice way to go into the bye week, anyway.

Tom Gower: The first three quarters of this game were a masterclass by the Titans offense of seeing just how well you could move the ball without scoring more than seven points. Even the drive that started on their own 25 with 32 seconds to go in the first half made it into Bengals territory, but the score was Cincinnati leading 24-7 when the Titans began their first possession of the fourth quarter. Ryan Tannehill threw a bad pick in goal-to-go; they got caught in mid-30s no man's land, missing one field goal and punting one; and Tannehill took a sack on third down to take them out of no man's land on another drive. Then they scored a couple of touchdowns down multiple scores in the fourth and had their only "drive" that didn't make it to plus territory, starting on their own 2 with 12 seconds left. This was more on the ground than throwing (Ryan Tannehill was just 6-of-13 for 86 yards at the half), with Corey Davis the only receiver to get volume early, but if you're running the ball efficiently, it still works. They just didn't make the right number of plays on most drives to score despite a general solid level of success.

Cincinnati, by contrast, was able to have a strong level of consistent success and to make enough plays to turn yards into points. The book is out on the Tennessee defense: they don't have a pass rush, and you can pick on the aged (by NFL standards) Johnathan Joseph or whichever player the Titans are currently trying at outside corner in his place. I thought behind an offensive line missing four starters from last week (once Michael Jordan went down Sunday morning with an illness) that the Titans might get pressure and/or Joe Burrow might have a microscopic average time to throw such as Ben Roethlisberger's 2.05 seconds against the Titans last week (per the NFL's Next Gen Stats tracker). Instead, as I write this during Sunday Night Football, Burrow's in the 10-highest ATT per NGS. He still frequently got the ball out quickly, but that was mixed in with enough plays where it seemed clear the Titans were much more intent on avoiding a dangerous Joey B scramble or breaking the pocket and finding a big second-reaction play than they were on sacking him. And, I mean, if Jadeveon Clowney can't bring him down when he gets schemed up nicely for a free rush on what I seem to recall as some kind of loop rush up the middle, then Burrow is clearly in Lamar Jackson's class as a real danger to opposing teams.

I'm trying not to be over the top here, but I came into today viewing this game as a sort of litmus test for the Titans defense. If they couldn't shut down an offense with a rookie quarterback, no receivers who scare you downfield, a banged-up and not very good offensive line, when their strong offense is facing a bad defense they should be able to have success against, putting their defense in favorable game situations, then there's a pretty decent chance it's not going to happen regularly all year. The better-than-it-looks defensive DVOA is built on a strong rate of early-down interceptions and partly on limiting big plays. They did a good job on limiting big plays again (Tennessee's longest play was 27 yards, CIncinnati's 24), but the Bengals offense executed with consistency anyway and Burrow's lone mistake that ended in the hands of a Tennessee defender was wiped out by a pass interference penalty. To the extent it was a litmus test, the Titans are a team with a good offense and a bad defense likely to end up with a record such as the 9-7 they've had the past four seasons, not a serious contender for anything other than an AFC South title.

San Francisco 49ers 27 at Seattle Seahawks 37

Vince Verhei: Bizarre play calling early in this one. Seahawks get the ball first and go WR screen for a loss, sack, WR screen on third-and-forever to punt. I know all their running backs are hurt, but still: Wut.

49ers take over and get to a third-and-5 at the Seattle 37 ... and go direct snap to Jerick McKinnon, with Brandon Aiyuk in the backfield next to him? I assume this was designed to set up a fourth-down attempt, but the Seahawks blow up the play, Damontre Moore tackles McKinnon for a loss, and San Francisco punts. It works out -- Seattle starts out at their 1 -- but that was weird against a team missing its top corner (Shaquill Griffin) and safety (Jamal Adams) and both top pass-rushers (Bruce Irvin, out for the year, and Benson Mayowa, out today).

Bryan Knowles: The 49ers keep shooting themselves in the foot -- not just the too-cute third-down play call, but then back-to-back potential turnovers in the red zone on the subsequent drive. First, JaMichael Hasty fumbles with nothing but Seahawks around, but a Seahawks defender slid out of bounds and touched the ball first -- 49ers dodged a bullet. The very next play, Jimmy Garoppolo throws his patented Terrible Interception, throwing well behind George Kittle and giving the Seahawks the ball right back.

On defense, the 49ers are getting great penetration, but Russell Wilson has been able to complete passes fairly easily. He hits DK Metcalf, who turns on that interception-chasing-down speed, bursting 46 yards for the touchdown. They miss the ensuing extra point, but that still gives them a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Scott Spratt: Remember how the pre-draft criticism of DK Metcalf was that he could only run go routes? I don't think that's true.

Vince Verhei: After nearly 15 minutes of some of the worst football you'll ever see, DK Metcalf finally makes a pro-athlete-caliber play, taking a short dig on the left side and cutting all the way across the field, following a great block by Jacob Hollister, and zipping down the right sideline for a 46-yard touchdown. Up to that point, the game was nothing but penalties, tackles for loss, drops, fumbles that should have been recovered by Seattle but the defenders couldn't stay in bounds, and a horrible Jimmy Garoppolo interception from a picture-perfect clean pocket when he threw behind George Kittle.

And after Metcalf's score, the shitshow begins again -- Jason Myers misses the extra point so it's still a 6-0 lead.

Bryan Knowles: Nice bounce-back drive for the 49ers after the interception, though they were aided by a couple of free first downs from Seattle penalties. 60 yards in 14 plays isn't the most efficient drive ever, but hey, it'll get the job done. And, unlike Kyle Shanahan's normal proclivities, the 49ers had a fourth-and-1 and actually went for it, picking it up as JaMycal Hasty continues to get a runout thanks to the injuries throughout the 49ers' running back corps. 7-6 49ers.

As a side note, Bobby Wagner is still everywhere -- five different plays on that drive were "Hasty rushes, tackled by Wagner." Stuck on replay, that drive.

Vince Verhei: 49ers answer with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that takes eight minutes off the clock. I don't know if Tevin Coleman is hurt, but this has been the JaMical Hasty show -- he's up to 11 carries now, to three for Coleman and one for McKinnon. Two of those carries were a fourth-down conversion at the Seattle 27, and then a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 1. The PAT is good and 49ers lead 7-6.

Scott Spratt: Yeah, Bryan, the Seahawks nearly made a goal-line stand there, mostly courtesy of Bobby Wagner. It reminded me of the big difference between the Seahawks No. 9 DVOA run defense and No. 30 DVOA pass defense. The 49ers really aren't the right kind of offense to take advantage of that, but hey, they're up 7-6.

Bryan Knowles: Coleman was certainly hurt coming into today, so maybe they're load-managing him with a game on Thursday to worry about.

Vince Verhei: In particular, Bryan, Wagner's tackle on second-and-goal right before the touchdown. Hasty had a full head of steam but Wagner met him at the 1-yard line and just knocked him backwards. If I was hit that hard my arms and legs would fall off.

Carl Yedor: Niners take the lead on a JaMycal Hasty plunge from the 1-yard line. Nothing crazy there, just a fairly methodical drive working the ball down the field. San Francisco might be limiting Coleman's workload since he just came off of IR, as they stuck with the rookie Hasty despite a fumble earlier in the game. He's running hard and seems to be hitting the holes when they're there, which is all you can really ask from a fifth running back.

Bryan Knowles: DK Metcalf is a problem. The 49ers' secondary is banged up, but I don't know how you cover him at all -- if and when Wilson hits him in stride, it's a near-guarantee score every time. He's already up to 102 yards receiving today, on just six receptions. The 49ers have to figure out some other way of stopping him; doubling him, jamming him at the line (good luck with that), blatant excessive holding -- something. On the last drive, he had a good 15-yard reception, a perfectly-thrown deep ball adding up to 35 more yards, and then a touchdown with a defender draped over him, his second score of the day.

Vince Verhei: Emmanuel Moseley can't stop DK Metcalf. Metcalf scorches him down the sideline for 35 yards. That sets up his own touchdown, as Metcalf beats Moseley on a slant route. Moseley is draped all over him and it's a holding penalty, but that's irrelevant, because Metcalf is superhuman and just shrugs him off and catches the ball anyway.

Carl Yedor: Mark Schlereth can be hit-or-miss on commentary for me, but he's in great form today. You can tell he's best-suited to call games with physical running games, which San Francisco definitely has. We had an awesome comment about deli meats representing the outside of the formation instead of bologna and white bread in the middle of the formation, the lineman classic of complaining about a wide receiver committing a false start, and a good deal of love for the fullbacks early on. We also had the football tough guy comment of being able to go get fourth-and-1 by running it and daring them to stop it (which coincidentally happened to be analytically backed too in that situation). Even when he doesn't explicitly say that he used to play guard on the broadcast, it's pretty clear and, frankly, can be a nice change of pace.

Vince Verhei: It's still 13-7 at halftime after some pretty terrible two-minute stuff by both offenses. In particular, the 49ers had this slow-developing rollout-one-way, wide-receiver-screen-the-other that lost 6 yards and ... man, I don't know what Kyle Shanahan is doing today.

But the real story is how the Seahawks, despite all their injuries, just played their best defensive half of the year. This team is so thin at edge rusher that Stephen Sullivan -- an undrafted rookie who played wide receiver and tight end at LSU -- has been pulled off the practice squad, dropped in on the perimeter, and told to do his best. It's like a position player pitching in baseball. But Wagner's monstrous day has continued -- he got a sack on a blitz, which is one more sack than Seattle had last week, and one more than I expected them to get today.

Bryan Knowles: Some of Shanahan's play calling is the lack of Deebo Samuel -- it's reminiscent of their Week 1 loss against Arizona. It's amazing how much he makes the offense go.

The 49ers don't have the horses out wide to challenge the Seahawks' defense's major problem, covering wide receivers. They don't have wide receivers; they have a flotilla of running backs, some of whom split out wide. Frankly, I'm slightly enthused by the fact that it's "only" 13-7, with the 49ers getting the ball to start the second half. If they can figure out a way to slow down Metcalf -- bear trap in the secondary? -- this game is still very much in the balance.

(In all seriousness: get pressure on Wilson, and get Tavarious Moore on the field for Dre Greenlaw, doubling Metcalf deep -- make Wilson have to use the tight ends to beat you. He can do that, sure, but at least it's something different.)

Bryan Knowles: Bobby Wagner is having a hell of a day. He's everywhere -- sacking Garoppolo in the backfield, slamming into running backs as they try to gain positive yardage, everything. He's always a lock for a good game, but this is above and beyond even by his standards. Seattle is just taking away all the quick wide throws -- Garoppolo is struggling when asked to move past one or two reads. He's not throwing interceptions, at least, but he's absorbing sacks from a defense which doesn't do that.

The Seahawks respond with death by a thousand papercuts -- a lot of short passes, aided by a few holding calls from a clearly frustrated 49ers defense. They kept the Seahawks from going to Metcalf on a bomb, but couldn't stop the offense in general. Seattle up 20-7, and the 49ers need to respond right away or this thing is going to get ugly. Uglier, maybe.

Bryan Knowles: Did I say "respond right away"? I clearly meant Dante Pettis, active only because of the Samuel injury, fumbling the ensuing kickoff, and Seattle scoring another touchdown a few plays later, taking a 20-point lead and pretty much ending the competitive portion of this one.

Carl Yedor: The 49ers' defense looked pretty impressive the past two weeks, but that could have been at least partially a function of who they were playing. Even today, they started out playing pretty darn well on Seattle's first two drives. Not much they could do there on the short field, but they seem to be struggling since those opening couple of drives. Bryan, do you think this is a function of just being too injured against a good offense?

Hopefully Pettis isn't seriously hurt, but this may be the last time he ever sees the field for Shanahan after fumbling there. He has been in the doghouse since basically the start of last season after showing some promise as a rookie.

Bryan Knowles: The flotilla of pass-rushers that are out obviously would have helped, Carl, and Metcalf against Richard Sherman would have been something to see. But Seattle has made a lot of defenses, healthy or not, look silly against them this year. The 49ers do not have an answer for Metcalf, which explains much of the first half, and they have struggled with mobile quarterbacks for three years now. This isn't an "oh, if everyone's healthy, it's not an issue" thing, at the very least.

If anything, I would say the offensive injuries hurt the 49ers today more than the defensive ones, though I suppose the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Vince Verhei: We're approaching the point where the only thing left to be determined is who can get through this game without suffering any more injuries. Tevin Coleman is officially out for San Francisco, and Fred Warner just went down grabbing at his neck. He's walking on the sideline now, so hopefully it's not as bad as it looks. Garoppolo is also walking gingerly on the sideline; they may pull him just because of the score.

Seattle up 27-7 at the end of three, with Seattle having the ball at San Francisco's 35. Metcalf is up to a 10-144-2 statline on only 11 targets. From what I can tell poor Emmanuel Moseley has been left alone out there in coverage when he's clearly not up to the task.

Vince Verhei: Moseley breaks up a pass to Metcalf in the end zone (good for him!) and the Seahawks add a field goal. Nick Mullens does indeed come in at quarterback for San Francisco. George Kittle helps his quarterback with a big catch downfield where he's sandwiched by two guys, but then HE leaves with an ankle injury. The drive does end in a McKinnon touchdown, but Seattle still leads 30-14 with less than 10 minutes to go.

Vince Verhei: And the 49ers force a punt, and zip, zip, zip, Mullens drives them down the field, and there's a 16-yard touchdown to Ross Dwelley, and the lead is cut to 30-20. San Francisco obviously goes for two and appears to convert, but on replay McKinnon was touched down short of the end zone. There's 4:16 to go. The 49ers try an onside kick, but Seattle recovers. San Francisco still has all their timeouts. I can't believe this but I'm thinking Seattle needs to get points here.

Vince Verhei: Seattle does indeed get more points, as a Deejay Dallas touchdown run makes it 37-20, but that's not the play people are going to talk about. Wilson was scrambling and basically faked a slide, but kept running. So Jimmie Ward moved in to tackle him, and Wilson went down, and they flagged Ward for a shot to the head. By the time the tackle was made, Ward was leading his helmet, not his hands or arms or shoulders, so I understand the penalty. But given the gray-area style of Wilson's slide, I also understand why Ward was so upset.

Carl Yedor: Due to a somewhat bizarre sequence of events, Seattle managed to go down the field and score another touchdown while taking less than 45 seconds off the game clock in the process. After starting with great field position thanks to an onside kick attempt, Seattle accidentally went out of bounds on completions three times, and San Francisco committed a penalty on a Wilson scramble that also stopped the clock. Combine that with three San Francisco timeouts and your end result is a somewhat counterproductive scoring drive.

New Orleans Saints 26 at Chicago Bears 23 (OT)

Aaron Schatz: The Bears just brought in Mitchell Trubisky for one first-and-10 play, just to run a read-option. I know Trubisky had a lot of scrambling value two years ago but is he really a good enough running quarterback to make that a good idea?

Scott Spratt: Is Mitchell Trubisky just Taysom Hill now?

Aaron Schatz: The Saints have three of their top four wide receivers all out today and so Drew Brees hasn't targeted a wide receiver through the first two Saints drives. Which is fine when you get things like Alvin Kamara gaining 47 yards on an angle route when Khalil Mack drops into coverage and seemingly ends up in the wrong zone, but it's a problem when everything you ever throw on third-and-long is going to be way short of the sticks. So the drive stalls out and then Wil Lutz doinks the field goal off the right upright. Still 3-3 at 10:38 left in the second quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Wait, aren't the Bears supposed to be frauds? They aren't playing like it today. The defense has been stellar against the Saints, and the offense has made a few big plays that are enough to give Chicago a lead. Two drives ago, the Bears had a 50-yard bomb to rookie Darnell Mooney and then two plays later, 24-yard touchdown to Allen Robinson. Then after a three-and-out on their next drive, David Montgomery went through a hole the size of a Buick when Demario Davis picked the wrong direction to go to try to tackle him and took the ball 38 yards for the longest run against the Saints this year. Bears stall out but kick a field goal and will likely go into halftime up 13-3. Saints have gone three-and-out on their last two drives, although they finally did target a wide receiver (Tre'Quan Smith) a couple of times.

Aaron Schatz: I spoke too soon, as the Saints went 68 yards in 1:36 before halftime and will go into the half down 13-10 instead of 13-3. It was more short stuff, and the Bears were there to stop any of those passes from getting longer gains, but the Saints chipped away. Then they started going deeper at the very end. They got a DPI that was only 13 yards even though the bomb would have been 29 yards into the end zone, then Brees threw behind Jared Cook in the end zone, and then they followed up with a 16-yard throw to Cook that was right on the money for the touchdown. The Saints need to throw more deeper passes like that in the second half. They can't do only the short stuff; some of their passes have to go past the sticks.

Vince Verhei: This is both the worst and the dumbest fight I've ever seen.

Aaron Schatz: The Saints tied it up with a field goal at 13-13 after a long Deontae Harris punt return, then on the next drive Nick Foles comes out and flicks a weird sidearm throw downfield that went behind Jimmy Graham and right into the arms of Marshon Lattimore. That's the first turnover of this game.

Scott Spratt: Wow, I thought the Saints were rushing to the line on that fourth-and-1 so Drew Brees could sneak it. Instead, he pitches back to Alvin Kamara, who had absolutely no chance as multiple defenders crashed into the backfield. Bears ball down 13-16 late in the third.

Aaron Schatz: The Bears just got a first down on a pass to Andrew Miller that was only the third first down by both teams in the entire third quarter.

Scott Spratt: Marshon Lattimore dropping a bunny interception and being upset on a fourth down where the failed conversion will net the Saints 20 yards of field position over a successful interception is the opposite of Todd Gurley accidentally scoring the touchdown against the Lions.

Aaron Schatz: The Saints march down the field after the Bears' failed fourth-down conversion. Once again, it's all short stuff until the end, where Brees goes 20 yards to Taysom Hill coming out of a bunch left and wide open over the middle. For most of this game, Chicago coverage has been very good. Not on that play, 23-13 Saints.

Bryan Knowles: Wow, that was too easy. Taysom Hills runs a post to the middle of the field, and the Bears have ~no one~ there. That's about as easy a pitch-and-catch as you'll see, and the Saints now have a 10-point lead.

Scott Spratt: Haha, breaking news on the FOX bottom line: Drew Brees breaks Tom Brady's career touchdown record! I'm going to preemptively break news that Tom Brady is going to break Drew Brees' career touchdown record tomorrow night.

Aaron Schatz: Bears offense woke up again with an 11-play, 75-yard drive with six first downs. Saints' zone coverage was giving up a lot of big holes and easy catches, then we had a DPI in the end zone on Demario Davis covering Jimmy Graham, and then after two runs got stuffed the Bears found Mooney on a little flat pass and he made it to the end zone. So now it is 23-20 Saints, 3:32 left.

Bryan Knowles: The Bears' drive is successful, but I don't get how you can let six and a half minutes drain off the clock down two scores with only ten minutes left in the game.

I mean, priority one is to score, and they pulled that off -- 11 plays, 75 yards, dinking and dunking their way down the field. But man, now you've got to stop the Saints again, and get the ball back, and score in just three and half minutes. A little urgency would have been nice.

Aaron Schatz: Bears have stopped the Saints. It's almost like they knew New Orleans likes to go to Alvin Kamara on third downs. Third-and-4, as soon as Kamara went into a pass route, Danny Trevathan was right there following him and tackled him in the backfield on the swing pass. So Bears will get the ball back with 2:00 left, down three.

Aaron Schatz: Very controversial call to start Chicago's next drive. Throw to Cole Kmet, Demario Davis drags him backwards and forces a fumble but the officials get together and rule that forward progress had been stopped, so it will still be Chicago's ball. Davis did have Kmet stopped for a couple of seconds there before he got the ball out.

Scott Spratt:

Aaron Schatz: The Bears made it for the field goal to tie the game at 23. Some weird play calls by Chicago like a second-and-4 run with 1:12 left, which went for no gain, and then Nick Foles took a sack with 28 seconds left on a second-and-10, but the next play they got Andrew Miller on an out where he beat C.J. Gardner-Johnson and that put them in position for a 51-yard Cairo Santos field goal.

Aaron Schatz: Both teams brought more pressure in the overtime period. Nick Foles took a sack on third down, and Drew Brees was able to scramble for a couple of yards when it looked like he would go down. Bears played strong defense when New Orleans got the ball first but couldn't move the ball when they got it. So Saints got another drive and they finally got a long run, 20 yards for Kamara, that set up a 35-yard field goal to win it.

Only problem for the Saints was bad process: they kicked on first down with 1:40 left in the game and the Bears out of timeouts. They should have just taken a couple of kneels -- there's not much difference between a 35-yard field goal and a 39-yard field goal -- and taken all the time off the clock so the Bears wouldn't have a chance to mount their own second drive just in case the Saints missed the field goal. But they didn't miss it.

Los Angeles Chargers 30 at Denver Broncos 31

Vince Verhei: Broncos trail 30-24 with seven seconds left, fourth down at the Chargers' 18-yard line. Lock's pass into the end zone is incomplete and game should be over ... but there's DPI in the end zone, so it's an untimed first-and-goal from the 1. Lock rolls out and hits KJ Hamler for what should be a game-winning touchdown. The play is reviewed, and it's ruled that Hamler's ass was in fact in bounds, and that's six points for Denver and a tie game. The extra point is good, but there's a penalty ... and it's on the Chargers. Broncos get touchdowns on each of their last three drives and win 31-30.

Aaron Schatz: The Chargers blew a 21-point lead while none of us were watching. They also took a six-point lead into Denver's final drive after a field goal. Never, ever extend your lead from three points to six and encourage your opponent to get aggressive to beat you.

Vince Verhei: Lock's winning pass:

Dallas Cowboys 9 at Philadelphia Eagles 21

Scott Spratt: Al Michaels, total pro, nails the "champing at the bit" idiom that many mistakenly say as "chomping at the bit." Never fear though, it still means what you think it means. And like 90% of the English idioms you don't intuitively understand, it's about horses.

Scott Spratt: As for the actual game, I'm not sure what Carson Wentz's thought process was on this long-developing strip sack.

I mean, the Eagles could use a 49ers/Saints type of low-aDOT attack and comfortably win this game. Why play hero ball?

Carl Yedor: Ben DiNucci almost definitely isn't a starting-caliber quarterback, but at least he should provide some "what is he gonna do next?" entertainment value. DiNucci doesn't sense the pressure coming from his right down near the goal line, and Philadelphia gets a sack-fumble of its own to avoid being punished for the Wentz mistake.

Scott Spratt: Let's check back in on how Carson Wentz is doing...

Yowza. The Eagles have obviously had a lot of offensive line injuries and are bottom-10 with an 8.3% adjusted sack rate because of it. But Wentz definitely doesn't make their life easier the way he holds the ball sometimes.

Carl Yedor: The Cowboys' offense has not been impressive, but it is at least somewhat creative. Elliott and Cedrick Wilson have both taken direct snaps and Wildcat formation plays, so they have been trying to mix it up. DiNucci's most reliable option seems to be a quick screen to Michael Gallup when the Eagles are in off coverage. Gallup is doing well with those, but if the Cowboys are going to really score points, they need to attack down the field a little more than they have been. Whether they are capable of that tonight is another question.

Scott Spratt: The Cowboys may not need to score many points, Carl, because Wentz is making bad decision after bad decision. This one was a 45-yard pass into double coverage while on the run on a first-and-10. Seriously, why would you throw this? The Cowboys are starting a third-string quarterback. Just get to 20 points and avoid turning the ball over.

Scott Spratt: Greg Zuerlein just hit the Tiger Woods stinger from 59 yards dealing with some significant wind to give the Cowboys a 9-7 lead at the half.

The Eagles deficit is entirely Wentz's fault. They have a 50-yard advantage, but Wentz has turned the ball over three times on plays with poor awareness and decision-making.

Vince Verhei: I only turned this on early in the second quarter and ... my god. What a horror show. I get why the Cowboys are desperate and trying wide receiver passes and direct snaps to Ezekiel Elliott and Cedrick Wilson. Why are the Eagles trying the same sideshow tricks with Carson Wentz? And when they do just rely on Wentz, why is he turning the ball over so often? Let's not forget that this Dallas defense is wretched -- Wentz's god-awful forced interception into double coverage is just the second interception for the Cowboys this year, and their first since they picked off Jared Goff in Week 1.

And here's the real damning thing for the Eagles: they're running like crazy! Even ignoring the turnovers, they're averaging 5.6 yards per rush, 2.7 yards per pass. But they keep on passing, even on that fourth-and-1. You're playing a JV team. Just hand off every single play and worry about playing real football next week.

Carl Yedor: Wentz comes out after halftime and launches a deep ball that falls gently into the arms of Trevon Diggs for another pick. The wind is apparently a factor in Philly tonight, as it has been across much of the east coast today, but it's hard to know how much of this was the wind taking the ball versus just being a plain bad throw by Wentz.

Scott Spratt:

The question is why would Wentz throw it? Even in the best case, it's a jump ball. That's not a strategy the big favorite should be using. And assuming that's another Wentz ad lib, I would bench him if I were Doug Pederson. Jalen Hurts could easily win this game.

Vince Verhei: So after my pleadings to run every play, the Eagles only had four runs in the third quarter. The first three were a gain of 4, a gain of 7, and a loss of 2. To be fair, Wentz followed that 2-yard loss by scrambling to set up a third-and-3, then throwing a touchdown on a sweet fade to Travis Fulgham. He also hit Jalen Raegor for a two-point conversion and a 15-9 lead. He finally woke up -- maybe the end of Daylight Savings Time threw him off? (Now that I think about it, that would explain the flow of more than one game today.)

Scott Spratt: I thought the real difference on the Eagles last drive was that Wentz avoided trying to throw the ball downfield, Vince. He has thrown accurate short and intermediate passes all night. And that's definitely all he needs to do.

Scott Spratt: I'm not sure the Cowboys were poised to score with as bad as their offense was tonight, but this was still a big call. T.J. Edwards came unblocked and strip-sacked Ben DiNucci, but it looked like Vinny Curry recovered the ball and was touched down before the ball popped out again and ended up being returned for a touchdown. The refs didn't overturn the call on the field of a fumble return touchdown, and so this game is all but a wrap at 21-9 Eagles with less than five minutes remaining.

Vince Verhei: If there is anything positive to be taken from this game, let it be Dallas' onside kick after the intentional safety. Just free-kick that thing a mile in the air so it comes down in between the two levels of the receiving team and let it be a free-for-all. That was brilliant.


130 comments, Last at 04 Nov 2020, 11:51am

1 well!

The introduction has changed!   Some people who want to grumble about you guys not watching the Bills games now have to grumble about something else.

74 Game Coverage Complaint

In reply to by scraps

Well, let me be the first.  No Colts/Lions?  Yeah, I know only like 4% of the country got to see it, but maybe that's a reason for you guys filling us in with your insight since most of us had no other options (come to think of it, you might not be able to tune in, either!).  One of these is teams now tied for first place in their division--and you covered their divisional co-leader's game.  Screw these one-win teams above!

I suspect next week you might cover Indy only because they're playing the Ravens.  Come on, admit it, clear indication of bias!  Audibles is rigged!

Whew, spewing that level is inanity is exhausting.  But I truly was hoping to get a little insight into the games I have no prayer of actually seeing.... and why Indy's formerly macho run game has withered this year.  

106 Dynastic Monkeys

Man, if I have to wait for a dynastic monkey, then I'll wait a couple more weeks for Pittsburgh.  Not so much a dynasty, but while mired in a slump Ben usually unleashes 400 yards and 4-5 TDs vs the Colts.  That's a big monkey. 

In 2014 I was climbing in Nepal and one guy in my group was a die-hard Steelers fan.  At the one lodge where we got spotty wifi, we were both surreptitiously checking scores... Ben rang up 522 yards and 6 TDs to show that whippersnapper Andrew Luck (400/3/2) how it was done.   Not that I am bitter, lo, these six years later.

2 Payback

Is a really great movie.

3 Wind and whizz

For three quarters, Packers-Vikings was the logical endpoint of all these Shanaclone offenses: endless motion, rollouts, misdirection – tons and tons of effort for each four-yard gain. I find it really tiring to keep up with, and wonder if Tyler Ervin feels hard done by when he watches old footage of Larry Csonka running in a straight line behind some jumbo dudes. Anyway, this hypnotic whirlwind of superscheming proved that it works very nicely against bad defensive fronts and cautious coordinators and, in the second half, even better against defenders that can't tackle.

Such a matchup was always likely to turn on such ephemera as dodgy refereeing decisions, gusts of wind, and drops. The Packers had more bad calls go against them, but none was so egregious as the Irv Smith phantom pass interference penalty that at last kept the Vikings from reaching the end zone.

LaFleur's offense still seems to wilt when Green Bay falls behind and by 4Q it was resorting to Late McCarthy era Four Go Routes While Rodgers Dances About. What we saw when the whizzing was over was a unit with only one starting-quality receiver, and a Qb who hasn't gotten rid of his bad habits.

Mike Pettine might pay the price if the 49ers run all over the Packers defense again on Thursday. It wouldn't be a total travesty, as the defense really isn't doing anything well. But during his gardening leave he might bring up a screenshot of Brian Gutekunst and speculate that he could have done more with a pair of 1st and 2nd round rookies on his unit.

20 I think both offenses in…

In reply to by ammek

I think both offenses in this game were forced to operate more horizontally than usual because, you know, the 25 mph winds. In this case, the combination of Dalvin Cook and the tackling of the Packers defenders really gave Minnesota an edge. I think the Ervin motions are legitimately helpful to GB's run and play action passing games, but I do wonder if they'll give him a few more chances with the ball - maybe they didn't think they had the jet sweep yesterday.

Both teams were able to complete a few passes downfield, but when Rodgers needed to put a lot of air under the ball it seemed like those passes were all slightly off, even when complete. You can probably pin that on Rodgers to some extent, who isn't as accurate as he used to be, but again that's also tough in those winds.

I felt worse about the GB offense in the immediate aftermath of the game because it was a tough loss, but the final scoreline is a little unflattering considering they got dinged for an unusual amount of offensive holding and had the big non-DPI call on 4th down. I don't think that the officiating was that significant to the outcome of the game (you're right about that gift OPI call on MIN - GB probably ends the game stuck at 14 points without it), but the Packers offense probably played well enough that they deserved score another 3-7 points and they should have easily scored 30+ again if they had gotten 2 or 3 more legit possessions like you would normally expect.

I have nothing good to say about the Packers defense...

24 Packers D was atrocious…

Packers D was atrocious yesterday. Vikings and their strong running game are a bad matchup for them, but when a bad matchup turns into domination, that’s reflective of overall quality and not just the matchup.

The Smiths have taken a step back this year, that much is obvious. Especially in run D, and especially Preston (in both run and pass rush). But the problems are deeper than that:

-ILB: The screen play went for a TD rather than being stopped short of a first because Barnes was overzealous in his pursuit (51 in the dots diagram in Audibles), which is definitely a tendency in his game. He’ll improve with time but probably not anytime soon. Martin has been decent over two games and is more promising in the short and long term, but they need a fast MLB to make this D work and they don’t have one and won’t get one anytime this year.

-DL: Clark has been a bit disappointing for me this year, but everyone else is replacement level. Giving Lowry a second contract looks like a mistake.

-OLB: Whither Rashan Gary? I know he’s banged up but so are a lot of guys. Pass rush has taken a big step back this year overall. And why the hell is Preston Smith ending up in coverage so much?

-DBs: Have been the best part of the defense, but still just average overall.

For this year, GB’s best strategy is likely to be going all in on offense because the D isn’t one player away. Trade for Fuller and this offense becomes unstoppable imo, because he is a very good player when healthy and fits their needs exactly. Hopefully they can get him for a 3rd or 4th considering salary and contract year.

29 Agree with you on a lot of…

Agree with you on a lot of this - there just isn't going to be much they can do to fix the defense at this point, and I think Will Fuller would definitely add value. A healthy Lazard will help a bit too if he can come back, but Fuller in particular would be a great fit because he gives them the speed dimension that no one else on the roster gives them other than MVS... so, basically, that no one else on the roster gives them right now.

34 Yeah, MVS is Lucy and we are…

Yeah, MVS is Lucy and we are Charlie Brown at this point. He doesn’t have it and no one can pretend otherwise.

Lazard is a good complimentary piece but game changer he is not. Will Fuller is #3 in DYAR and #7 in  DVOA.

58 Rodgers

Terrible play by Rodgers when they got down two scores, especially with the howling winds. On that first-and-30 he looked right at Williams in the left flat for an easy 12-15 yards, but instead threw to Adams deep into triple coverage. Yeah, that's the play. Lather, rinse, repeat. He's been good at sticking to the program, but when they get down, he looks deep, and that leads to a bunch of sacks like vs TB, and punts, like yesterday.

97 Re: Pettine

In reply to by ammek

The problem with Pettine is that he can't do more with additional talent. He's a really dumb guy trying to grasp the modern NFL; pass good, run bad, so let teams run as much as they want because letting them pass is bad. But eventually you'll run into teams that are phenomenal at running, and you gotta have a counterpunch. He can't get to that level though, because he doesn't know how (this isn't baseless speculation btw, the book about the Rex Ryan-era Jets does not paint him in a positive light, and his reputation is as a film grinder because he know he's not smart enough to out-scheme opponents). That doesn't excuse the organization throwing away their first three draft picks, but it's not like they be undefeated at this point if they made all the right ones. 

Like Capers before him, Pettine actually has a decent amount of talent at his disposal, but instead of the Capers problem of gearing a defense towards forcing turnovers in an era where teams became risk-averse, they now laser focus their defense on one thing in an era where teams are becoming smarter at attacking weaknesses. They've had injuries and they do have holes on defense, but it's basically one bad egg on each level; Dean Lowry is bad, Preston Smith is having a down year, and Darnell Savage looks like a bust. But even with those holes, they should still have a decent-to-good defense with the talent available. They even got lucky and found two solid young middle linebackers. But talent that's put in the wrong position on a consistent basis isn't going to perform. They shoot the wrong gaps and take bad angles constantly, because they're very poorly coached to defend the run game. They're not great at tackling either, but that's been a league-wide problem and it's made worse for them because they have so many free runners getting to the second level. 

Regardless of what their record is at the end of the season, I don't think there's any reason to take them seriously as a contender. Competitive teams almost never fire coordinators mid-season, and so as long as they're stuck with Pettine they're going to get gashed by smart teams with competent running games. And while their offense is good and can keep up with most teams, they're still thin at skill position talent which leads to games against deep teams where they just can't sustain drives. LaFleur has clearly lost his patience with Pettine based on his press conferences, but his hands are basically tied. Even with Wade Phillips still unemployed, you can't overhaul a defense mid-season. They're just hoping Lazard and Jones coming back makes their offense good enough to consistently outscore people.

118 Very interesting comment. I…

In reply to by jh_eldred

Very interesting comment. I can't help but wonder what would happen if the Ravens got to play those Packers.

EDIT: And if Phillips came back for one year to coach the Packers, I would have them as superbowl favourites, almost regardless of their record this year.

4 23 - 9

The final score of the Eagles - Cowboys game was 23 -  9.


The Cowboys have kicked four field goals in the last 8 quarters against two bad football teams (Washington & Philadelphia).

Are they really better than the Jets???

27 If history is any indication...

This is the kind of game that the Steelers lose.  All matchups seem to be in Pittsburgh's favor, on paper they should win walking away.

But they always seems to play down to the opponent and give away games like this.

31 They are when Prescott is…

In reply to by Trinian

They are when Prescott is playing.  I wasn't that high on Prescott a few years ago, his pocket presence in particular seemed poor to me.  How much of DAL's success is really a function of Prescott's individual ability, however, is really coming to the fore.

I wish I could remember who it was on this site who commented in the offseason, during the DAL and PHI QB negotiations, that DAL and PHI think they have each other's QB.  That was really prescient.  PHI was certain Wentz was the guy, but the jury's still out on that; DAL had doubts about Prescott, but pre-injury, he was the last of their concerns.

121 I don't really think Dallas…

I don't really think Dallas had doubts. My understanding was that his agent was pushing way too hard. Something like a 35mil per year contract was offered, and turned down. Well, there's only so much you can pay for Prescott.

7 The Eagles OL has been…

The Eagles OL has been functional--not good, but not "worst in the league" bad. Wentz holds the ball too damn long and never throws it away. Every throw involves a hitch, necessary or otherwise. He had two guys open on the Vander Esch sack and threw to neither. Pederson should have benched him for the second half and if this nonsense continues as it has for the past two months, Wentz should lose his job.

23 What makes you think things…

What makes you think things will be different with Hurts? They've used him as a gadget QB all the time. Put him in, and there'll be read option WR throwbacks with a reverse pitch every other play.

I mean, putting Hurts in might be a good thing in that people would see how limited the coaching staff has become. It'd be Keystone Cops all the friggin' time out there.

21 How are people just…

How are people just realizing this now?? He's always done this. He never bails on plays. Ever. Even his "stupid" turnovers are typically late in plays and I kinda think he thinks he's basically chucking the ball away, and then a defender makes a nutso play. (Seriously, DBs have made *wacko* plays on Wentz this year.)

Does it seem like he does it more often now? Yeah. That's not all due to him, though. He's got way younger receivers, and he waits on them to do the right thing *way* too often. As in, there's a play adjustment, the receiver's supposed to break early, he doesn't, and instead of throwing the ball away, Wentz gives him time. Which usually goes poorly.

I don't get the "bench Wentz" part, though. This is *all* the coaching staff, in my mind. They're just nutso cute. All the time. With rookies and a makeshift OL. WTF.

Wentz's a flawed QB. Absolutely. He's manageable, though, and they'll have these stretches where they do. And then there's a Greg Ward reverse with a QB option pass. Or a Jalen Hurts bootleg shovel hook-and-lateral, or god knows what else. Or a deep shot while facing 7 rushers or something.

Honestly I don't think the coaching staff has *tried* to coach it out of him. Think about it. They keep running these stupid gadget potentially highlight-reel plays when safer options would work perfectly fine. Who does that sound like? Wentz.

30 Because he's in his fifth…

Because he's in his fifth year and he shouldn't be doing the same dumb shit. And if he's going to insist on holding the ball and taking terrible sacks 1) he's got to make highlight plays to make up for it and 2) he can't fumble in the process.

I've lost faith in coaching staff and the front office. That doesn't excuse Wentz. Maybe he's less culpable than the other two, but that doesn't absolve him. He leads the league in INTs and he's #2 in fumbles. That's inexcusable.

36 My point's this: the…

My point's this: the offensive playcalling is just littered with "they'll call us a genius if this works" plays, either gadget plays, shot plays, or "ha they'll never see this coming" deception/bubble screen/etc. plays. So why exactly are you surprised that Wentz is doing the exact same thing?

I mean, are we actually sure that Wentz isn't doing exactly what they want? I mean, yeah, we think it's horrible (... and it is) but from their (wacko) perspective, sure, they're 3-4-1, but they've had a chance to take the lead/tie the game in the fourth quarter in every game this season. I mean, WFT: winning at the start of the 4th quarter. LAR: beginning of the 4th quarter, in the red zone, 8 points down. PIT: Down 2, 1st and 10 just outside field goal range with 5 minutes left. BAL: 2 point conversion attempt to tie the game late in the 4th quarter. I mean, if you think about it that way (which is a horrible way to think about it), not even Tampa's been that competitive in all their games (vs the Saints, they were never as close to tying/winning as the Eagles have been).

I friggin' think they think this crap is working.

44 You watch the Eagles more…

You watch the Eagles more than I do, but some of his plays in that game were unforgivable bad that it's hard for me to blame supporting casts or the coaching staff. They were don't do that...kind of plays.

Given his pedigree, I can understand the hesitation to cut bait. I am frankly stunned he's become this bad so maybe you are right that it's things around him that have changed. He had been playing much better prior to this. But he looked unplayable yesterday. His saving grace was that the opponent outstank him.

51 "They were don't…

"They were don't do that...kind of plays."

So were the playcalls! That's my point - there were all these cutesy gadget bullcrap plays that in some OC's demented dreams turn into this Twitter meme after generating a touchdown. But in reality it's a "WTF, you don't do that, this team is crap" situation. So why do I blame the playcalling then? Especially if some of the bad plays are clearly improvised? 

Take the first fumble, for instance. No one open - but Wentz sees a hole out of the pocket and takes it. It's 2nd and 19. They need a big play (and of course, they want it all, cuz... Eagles, so it's a deep shot). The corners and single-high safety (off screen) must've handled the 2 receivers, cuz they're not open, so Wentz bails out of the pocket when it's clear it's not going to be there.

Wentz starts directing the guys downfield. More experienced receivers would've known something was wrong and turned back to the QB already. But instead of bailing on the play, Wentz hangs on, gives them a chance to correct and attempts hero ball. Fails. Fumble.

It's just the QB version of the crap playcalling they've been doing. Wentz knows that there's a big play available if they had executed right. So he doesn't bail. Just like if the defense bites, Greg Ward can throw Wentz a TD, and it's a SportsCenter highlight. Or if Jalen Hurts magically has years of experience coming in at a moment's notice and paying attention to everything in the NFL, then yay, he can do some great Goal Line thing.

It was the same thing on at least 3 of the freaking turnovers. Failed deep shot turned hero ball. Deep shot into the wind. Deep shot into the wind. Noticing a pattern?


53 How much blame do you put on…

How much blame do you put on Wentz for this? Do you think if he went to a standard team like say the Raiders, he wouldn't be making these plays? I suppose its possible and maybe he's let a bad situation completely discombobulate him. But honestly the plays you are highlighting - the QB is the trigger man and he doesn't have to turn a bad situation into a god awful one. 


Its kind of what I wrote about Daniel Jones a few weeks ago. There's a lot of good there and hes in a terrible situation, but he compounds the bad situation so much that its actively prohibiting the team from winning.

Based on what I saw out of Wentz yesterday,, with all situations accounted for, I have a hard time sloughing off all of that onto others.  

56 I think if he went to the…

I think if he went to the Raiders, Gruden'd be screaming at him on the sidelines to get rid of the damn ball, and I think if he kept up this crap, he'd be benched. But in Philly? Their style of playcalling is exactly the same as Wentz's play style. They're stupid aggressive and always think they can get a big play. They don't play it safe, like, ever. I'm starting to think this isn't a coincidence.

"But honestly the plays you are highlighting - the QB is the trigger man and he doesn't have to turn a bad situation into a god awful one. "

Clearly you and I don't think he should. What I'm saying is that I think the coaching staff is fine with it. It's literally the exact same crap they do on playcalling. Think about it - if you've got a QB prone to playing hero ball, and you're in a bad situation (2nd and forever) - would you call a deep shot that has the potential to go horribly wrong? Hell no. Call some stupid run, punt the ball, and play defense.

Plus, again - look at the way the games have gone. They've literally been in every game they've played, all the way to the 4th quarter. No one else in their division has. Not even close. And the teams that they've played have been very good teams.

So at this point, to me, I see 1) you've got a very aggressive offensive playcaller who's convinced he can draw up anything that'll work, 2) you've got a very aggressive QB who's convinced he can always make a big play, and 3) they've been competitive with every team they've played. Literally the only conclusion that makes sense is this crap is intentional, and they think it's working.

88 You're right that they don't…

You're right that they don't help him or reign in his worst tendencies. They do nothing to scheme guys open, assuming they can win one-on-one (witness that breathtaking end zone fade to Hakeem Butler). Never mind that they haven't had WRs who could do that consistently since 2017 and the play calling was much better then (Doug seems lost now that mesh-wheel isn't automatic anymore).

I also think Doug hasn't accepted that his OL is no longer elite. Wentz could hold the ball before because he was safe and he had to hold the ball because he was dragging a bunch of bus drivers and retail clerks to NFL wins. Now he's got an average-to-mediocre OL and good-to-very good weapons and nobody has adjusted.

Also, there's nobody on the offensive side, except maybe Duce, who can and will chew ass. Peters gets to dictate his own terms. Alshon shanks Wentz in the back and they give him an extension. Somebody needs to tell Wentz to pull his head out of his ass. They need somebody to play the bad guy as opposed to just playing badly.


96 Well, y'know. Travis Fulgham…

Well, y'know. Travis Fulgham. (Actually, that might not be a joke.)

But I've got a bad feeling they're not being reigned in because they don't want them reigned in. I mean, if I put on my Eagles Coach hat and look at, for instance, the turnovers, all but one of them was him trying to make a big play. And in those plays you could *easily* point to the receivers and say "well... If he would've done X, this bad play wouldn't have happened." And, again: from the Eagles Coach perspective, reigning Carson in loses you the big play (bad) whereas chewing out the receiver gets you the big play (good).

Of course, the stupidity is that you'll always be fixing those mistakes, really. They'll just be new and different.

115 Sounds like you want to ask the Eagles coaches this question

Many years ago, I was in an Army organization which umpired field training exercises and then led after-action reviews of the exercises.  We were supposed to use questions to draw critical self-analysis out of the unit under-going the training (rather than just telling them what they did wrong).  Some units repeatedly did extraordinarily dumb things.  My colleagues and I always wanted to pose this question:  "Are you as stupid as you want to be?"

128 Well, the problem is, look…

Well, the problem is, look at the *results*: they've been in each game practically to the end. Part of *me* wonders if they're just using a different measuring stick than the rest of us and they're actually doing OK.

Not *much* of me, mind you.

60 I think Wentz is just kind of dumb

I think Wentz is just kind of dumb. He can get through progressions - decently at least - but he doesn't process a lot of other information well at all. Was it last week or the week before when they were at the 2- or 3-yd line, and lined up with nobody covering the receiver out wide to the right. At all. So Wentz is looking over the D, with a DB scrambling to get over, and no doubt people are yelling at him (in an empty stadium) to hike the damn ball and throw it to the uncovered guy, and he takes his time, and then finally notices (aren't QBs supposed to be looking over the D to determine coverage?), and casually throws a rainbow to the receiver, which is broken up and almost intercepted.

That's criminally stupid. I don't want to slag a guy for one play, but that's 13th-chime-of-the-clock stuff right there. Astonishingly, amazingly stupid.

So when he's got a pass rusher right on top of him, and he hasn't even begun his throwing motion yet, and he decided to try to pass rather than turtling (which is what happened on both his fumbles yesterday) is that coaching, or is he just kinda dumb?

112 "Dumb" is relative here. He…

"Dumb" is relative here. He's not Manning/Brady/Brees/Rodgers, definitely. Those guys notice *everything*. But he reads defenses fine, and he's got a good grasp of what *should* happen on a play. Usually better than receivers, although that's not saying much for Philly.

I kinda wonder if he's not a good teacher, either. That's pretty common with "instinctive" types: it's hard for them to explain what they see.

There's a lot of "what were you thinking" comments regarding Wentz which I don't get. It's usually easy to see what Wentz was going for in a play: the "dumb" part is usually just unrealistic expectations of others.

8 Scott Spratt: Aaron Rodgers'…

Scott Spratt: Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary attempt:

Had that been a Lions game, the defense would have been flagged for roughing the passer, defensive pass interference, and insulting Aaron Rodgers.

10 To the extent it was a…

To the extent it was a litmus test, the Titans are a team with a good offense and a bad defense likely to end up with a record such as the 9-7 they've had the past four seasons, not a serious contender for anything other than an AFC South title.

'course, we said that last year, and they had a 17-7 lead in the AFCCG.

12 Scott Spratt: Al Michaels,…

Scott Spratt: Al Michaels, total pro, nails the "champing at the bit" idiom that many mistakenly say as "chomping at the bit." Never fear though, it still means what you think it means.

Chomp is the replacement word in English for champ.

Incidentally, "champ" itself may be sound-alike corruption of "tramp", which also means the same thing (crush, tread), but in a more general sense.

13 TJ Watt

I remember rumblings that the Steelers reached for TJ Watt, but man he is good.  That one play where he took the RB assignment and still got the sack was something you don't see often.

The Steelers cant afford it, and Pittsburgh already has a great front 7, but it would be crazy if JJ ended up on the Steelers too.  Has there ever been a case of 3 siblings on the same team?

42 Tj Watt, in the times I've…

In reply to by p_cj

Tj Watt, in the times I've seen the Steelers, has been noticeable every single time. I think he and Mack are the best edge rushers in football. And he does it in a different way than his older brother did.



15 Just free-kick that thing a…

Just free-kick that thing a mile in the air so it comes down in between the two levels of the receiving team and let it be a free-for-all. That was brilliant.

Not really. You could fair catch it. This is why onside kicks so often involve bouncing the ball off the ground -- that eliminates the fair catch.

26 They mentioned that on the…

They mentioned that on the broadcast, and I was like "so what? what would that do?" All it does is prevent the opposing team from interfering with the one guy who called fair catch, but there are like, 20 bodies around. Still a ton of traffic to deal with, and in general onsides kick players are just positioning themselves nearby. Calling a fair catch doesn't mean everyone suddenly has to stay away from the guy - there's no halo rule - and the fair catch guy can't just run through people.

In this specific case, they were saying Ward should've called fair catch, but I don't see how that would've helped. He ended up not being able to get there because the ball veered off (you can see him have to change direction near the end), and there was traffic (from his own team) in the way.

I think the main reason fair catching isn't much of a help is just that it's hard to gauge where a ball's going if it's kicked up high like that, since it's coming down vertically so fast. Although that being said, for an onsides kick, there's literally no downside to calling fair catch as far as I can tell, so you should obviously do it. 

41 Still a ton of traffic to…

Still a ton of traffic to deal with, and in general onsides kick players are just positioning themselves nearby. Calling a fair catch doesn't mean everyone suddenly has to stay away from the guy - there's no halo rule - and the fair catch guy can't just run through people.

which is interference

Item 2. Right of Way. A receiver who is moving toward a kicked ball that is in flight has the right of way. If opponents obstruct his path to the ball, or cause a passive player of either team to obstruct his path, it is interference, even if there is no contact, or if he catches the ball in spite of the interference, and regardless of whether any signal was given.



48 Yeah, I've never understood…

Yeah, I've never understood that section. The only way it makes sense is that it's only interference if it's active.

That section doesn't even need the fair catch signal (it's section 1, not section 2). If you literally interpret it strictly as written, there's massive interference on every onsides kick attempt. Ward, for instance, was running to the ball, and he had to run around a Dallas player. His path to the ball was being obstructed! Interference!

So I figure the "secret manual" (the one the refs use) has to clarify that it has to be active interference.

52 if the ball hits the ground,…

if the ball hits the ground, interference is off. As is the fair catch. All teams have equal claim to the ball once beyond 10 yards downfield from the kick point. But while the ball is in the air, impedence of the player signaling a fair catch to the ball counts as interference.

54 Nono, read the rulebook…

Nono, read the rulebook. This is the non-fair catch section. Note "and regardless of whether any signal was given." It can't be as cut and dry as the rulebook makes it, otherwise interference happens on literally every onsides kick that isn't a "ground bounce" type.

61 Yeah, I said "non-ground…

Yeah, I said "non-ground bounce." As in, watch the Eagles/Cowboys kick. Ward could've just literally run into the Cowboys player while the ball was still in the air instead of running around him, and said "interference!" He doesn't even need to signal fair catch. No way the officials would've called that.


76 here's the rule

A Fair Catch is an unhindered catch of an airborne scrimmage kick that has crossed the line of scrimmage, or of an airborne free kick, by a player of the receiving team who has given a valid fair catch signal.

I'ts unhindered. I said unimpeded. Essentially the same thing.

At any rate, by the letter of the NFL rule you site, one wouldn't have to signal fair catch to be given the same treatment as regards to a path to the ball, although one could then be hit immediately after the ball is caught, potentially leading to a fumble. Either case should be treated the same up until that point, but following the fair catch signal, you'd be safe from getting hit afterwards and will probably get more leeway in terms of distance of the defenders.

89 Remember the 4th and 15 rule to replace onside kick?

In reply to by NYChem

With all this discussion about the onside kick, remember that the NFL was thinking of instituting a 4th and 15 rule to replace the onside kick. 

It is amazing that on 4th and 17, a coach would instruct his team to intentionally take a delay of game penalty to get 5 yards closer to the end zone to ensure that they could then snap it through the end zone to take a safety to set up the onside kick. So he gave up 2 points to have the right to onside kick.  If he recovers the onside kick, he still has the same QB at the helm.  Now what?

I saw the game, DiNucci looks awful but this can not possibly be a correct strategy.  I understand at the this point of the game the odds of winning are near zero by going for 4th and 17 or doing with Dallas did.

113 Yah, and my point is there's…

Yah, and my point is there's no way "unimpeded" means "everyone has to clear away," otherwise literally every onsides kick that isn't a bounce/ground kick has buckets of interference. Especially because with high kicks like that it's super hard to figure out where they'll land because of parallax.

114 I thought that almost every…

I thought that almost every onsides kick *is* a bounce/ground kick?

(Except for the occasional dodgeball kick, where they try to hit the ball hard into a return team player, but those don't have any interference because the ball gets there before the players do.)

120 Nearly every onside kick *is…

Nearly every onside kick *is* a bounce for exactly this reason.

There are basically four onside kicks:

1. Big bounce/death roller chaos agent
2. Line drive into the best victim
3. Slow roller retrieved by kicker
4. Pooch kick

#4 is along the lines of this, but there are a lot of variations.


#1 and #3 eliminate fair catches by bouncing it immediately off the turf.
#2 occurs too fast for a fair catch to be made
#4 is kicked to where the receiving team can't get to it before it lands


123 Completely agreed. How many…

Completely agreed. How many teams really practice for a kick in any random location? What are the odds of one of the LB midfielders dropping a fair catch, especially if he has to run there? What are the odds of the receiving team running into each other? 

I think the odds of things going your way are probably higher than with the traditional "line everyone up and kick it just barely 10 yards" play.

16 The first Tua dropback-sack…

The first Tua dropback-sack-fumble

What happened to the "players sacking the quarterback can't land their weight on him" rule/emphasis we saw silly penalties getting called for last year?

35 Decision-making inside the…

Decision-making inside the NFL must be a lot like politics in the Byzantine Empire.  You never know who'll get what through, or how long it'll last, or whether it'll be supported if it is implemented (see, for example, last year's coach's challenges on PIs, where those who didn't want it turned the whole process into a joke).


17 Jets 2nd half

We need an analysis of Gase's 2nd half playcalling.  they completely change the strategy every game.  Gone is any commitment to the run, and instead of throwing vertically every pass is in front of the defense.  Each of the last two games now the jets went from looking like a competitive offense in the first half to their deserved 32 ranking in the second.  

This isnt a new phenomenon.  over their last 13 games, the Jets only have six offensive td's in the second half.  Of those six, three were scored in garbage time and another was was a short route to Crowder he took 70 yards to the House.  I cant think of a stronger indictment against Gase than that

62 The Jets players won't play…

In reply to by Jetspete

The Jets players won't play for him, so Gase has first overall pick value.  Keep him in charge until that's assured and then fire him and let the Jets win a game or two at the end of the season.

86 Amazing Jets/Gase stat

I saw this on the bottom line last night:  The Jets have more losses by 20+ points under Adam Gase than they have wins.

I assume you don't want Herm Edwards back.  You play to win the game, I don't care if you don't have any wins.  I guess the Jets past and present have not changed much.

87 The Jets still have to wrap…

The Jets still have to wrap up the number 1 overall pick. Jacksonville is a terrible team too with 1 win. It would be totally Jetsy and Gase like to win just enough games to lose out on Lawrence. 

110 I think that's the right…

I think that's the right play.  New York market be damned, Lawrence and his representation should outright refuse to play for the Jets under the current management structure.  It's just a guaranteed career-torpedo-er.

119 Or Eli Manning, if you don't…

Or Eli Manning, if you don't want to go so far back.

It's also been rumored that the reason Peyton went back to UT for his senior year is because the Parcells Jets had the #1 pick.  Drew Bledsoe has admitted to advising Peyton to stay in school -- and it wasn't to finish up his degree.

129 I think it's just that he…

I think it's just that he was just an overbearing head coach on a rookie quarterback.  Manning probably would have done fine, although the pressure of saving the New York AFC franchise would have been tough.  Bledsoe, on the other hand, had his pysche shattered daily by Parcells.

19 Adventures in announcing

With 19 seconds left in the first half the jets had a 4th and 4 from around the KC 45.  Trent Green was adamant the Jets punt.  He could not figure out why they would give KC good field position when they had, in his words, "all three timeouts." I'm not sure what 3 timeouts had to do with the Chiefs having at most 14 seconds left if they stopped NY, but i've come to expect this from paid analysts i guess. The Jets got the first down to set up a manageable field goal attempt, which was blocked.  

Late in the Charger game after a Bronco completion in bounds, Rich Gannon topped Green by yelling drew lock had to clock it.  It was 4th and 1 at the time.  A few minutes later there was a flag on the game winning extra point, to which Gannon said a charger must have jumped.  Visible to the entire audience except Rich, the flag came from the end zone 30 yards behind the play.  Not sure what a flag in the end zone has to do with offsides.  

25 to be fair to gannon, his…

to be fair to gannon, his view of the last play was probably pretty crappy - exactly the video feed we could watch live, and he is trying to watch everything while commentating.  I prefer to rag on announcers when they have way better access than us to things and get them wrong (or especially when they don't understand basic rules).  It also was a weird penalty because teams designing plays that break the rules is pretty rare, so I'd forgive him for not knowing that particular rule.

Also, a penalty simultaneous with the snap is quite often offsides (though admittedly never coming from the back judge), so I get don't totally hate that assumption.

22 Vikings cornerback injuries

Cameron Dantzler was apparently well enough to travel back with the team....    which apparently is more than can be said of yet another cornerback injury (apart from the aforementioned Kris Boyd) as Mark Fields II apparently suffered a punctured lung when stepped on by a long cleat by St. Brown.     He was hospitalized and could not fly, having to be driven back home.    Yuck.   If a cleat can do that (through jersey and pads), it is too dangerous...

46 I suspect it was more likely…

I suspect it was more likely a broken rib that punctured his lung. The early report was calling it a "pinhole puncture" of the lung, and I can't imagine a single cleat could somehow knife through and cause an injury like that. I can't find anything definitive on that though. Do you know where specifically the injury was on Fields?

100 Yeah, I saw the reports from…

Yeah, I saw the reports from his father... but absent a more detailed description, I think it more likely that it's easy to say "the cleat caused it" when you really mean the "cleat broke a rib that punctured it".

It's kind of bizarre to think of a cleat going through someone's jersey/skin/muscle and possibly between ribs, into the chest cavity, and causing a pinhole puncture of a lung without doing a bunch of other damage and bleeding. 

111 To say nothing of potentially life-threatening infection

Seriously, if a cleat had gone that deep, that would have been a horrific injury--huge open wound, multiple major fractures, dirt and fibers and who knows what in the chest cavity and even in the lung, and probably major damage to other organs, probably including the heart.  Massive blunt-force trauma leading to emergency surgery.

28 Ryan who?

The QB change im Miami made such a difference. Only Tua could have the Miami D/ST play out of their minds like that...

More seriously, that was a butt-kicking. The Rams had no answer to the "engage eight" Maddden defense. Rams went empty, Miami play cover zero and blitz, and Goff had no answers; he should have been picked at least twice more. Great fun to watch. Beyond a kick-off out of bounds, the ST unit was also faultless. Getting up three scores early also hid the fact that Miami still have a ropey run D and erratic tackling.

The offense on the other hand, was frankly bad. Couldn't run, a number of drops, and Tua was unimpressive any way you want to slice it. If Miami can gaurantee 4 turnovers and 2 DST scores every game it won't matter, but I'd have liked to have seen something aproaching competence.

And fire the awful Wildcat plays into the sun


39 offense was bad

In reply to by James-London

It seemed like the opening fumble and the score dictated Miami's turtle offense. The result is we have no idea about Tua still. He made a couple of good throws. A few bad throws. He didn't run much. His threat of running opened up the running game not at all, though. Mostly he was asked to roll-out, which cut the field in half, and he tossed short passes to receivers. They mostly dropped the ball. Parker was invisible after the touchdown. Not sure if lefty spin was to blame or Miami receivers just letting down under mostly tight coverage. There were only two deep passes. One badly off, one in the hands in tight coverage that wasn't brought in. Those came early indicating Miami was going to do more, but suddenly found themselves with a 28-7 lead. The wildcat didn't work, but having Perry on the field might be interesting in a game without Darnold. He's the best player in the NFL right now. He basically dictated the whole game. Once they had the lead they took no chances giving him time to rush the passer. Flores, however, seems to have Goff's number. Goff could of had three more turnovers easy. Let's see what this team does on the road against another good team. Right now it feels like Miami fans are in bonus time as no one expected anything other than a slightly better team than last year's squad. 

67 Tua.

In reply to by johonny

I don't think the game in Arizona this Sunday is going to give you much more info, either.

I fully expect Vance Joseph to throw exotic schemes at him and blitz for much of the game.

With a full bye week to prepare, I see it being a romp.

Unlike the Rams, my Cards have a QB who can improvise and throw on the run so the O-line isn't as much a factor.

Tua will not have a good game.

71 How Tua does remains to be…

In reply to by DIVISION

How Tua does remains to be seen. Joseph's an agressive DC, so scheme and the line are going to need to be spot on to help him.

I think Arizon's biggest advantage is on the over side. They can run, and Miami's run D isn't good. Combine that with Murray's abiltiy to scramble big, especially again man defenses, and that's where I think the Dolphins might struggle. Keep that in check and it might be a game. In any event it should be a fun watch

32 LOL Chargers

“Never, ever extend your lead from three points to six and encourage your opponent to get aggressive to beat you.”

The Chargers were driving to go back up 10 late in the 4th quarter but then committed a crack back penalty for 15 yards. With 1st and 25 they ran 3 plays and kicked the FG. Without the penalty, they stood a good chance of getting a TD or killing more time off the clock. 

98 It was actually a rare …

In reply to by BroncFan07

It was actually a rare "reverse" chop block where the defender was hit low first by the TE and then the OT gave him a shove high.

It was a good call and the foul was in-character for the Chargers. I think in every game this year they've had a drive where they get to about the 10 yard line and immediately run some stupid running play where they get a 10 or 15 yard penalty to kill the odds of getting a TD.

33 I think it was pretty neat…

I think it was pretty neat how the Steelers turned things around by running their offense like a frustrated Madden player in the second half(shotgun and 5 wide virtually every play)

47 Tape

It helps that the steelers have run very little empty backfield plays this year. So very little for the Raven to have prepped for this week about tendencies and likely route trees for Ben and three/four of his five options from that set (generally Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Eric Ebron and James Connor, with JuJu). Only JuJu was with Ben consistenly in that set two years ago, although Connor would certainly have been deployed on occasion. And even still, quite a different offense, the last time the Ravens faced off against Ben, the passing offense ran through the threat of AB on almost every play. Basically in the first half, the Ravens D looked extremely well prepared. In the second, not so mush, especially on the last drive when Ben took the empty set down the field in extremely efficient fashion. It was only in retrospect that I thought of it, and the Steelers 2-1 minutes 3 and out at the end of the 4th made me realize. On 1st they went heavy, and got stuffed - Bal 2nd TO. On 2nd, they went empty (I was mindboggled, and Romo must have said "risky" like 5 times in the setup and aftermath), Ben hits Johnson for a 7 yard pickup to set up 3rd and 2- Bal 3rd TO. I think Ben wanted to go empty again, but they sent in Hawkins as an eligible 6th lineman, so Ben couldn't even audible into 5 wide, so they handed off and again, got stuffed. Granted, they burned 40+ of valuable clock, but I am guessing Ben wanted the game in his hands.

At any rate, it's on film now, so might be less surprising to B'more's defense on Thanksgiving.

78 Oh, I dunno

In reply to by NYChem

I think Ben wanted to go empty again, but they sent in Hawkins as an eligible 6th lineman, so Ben couldn't even audible into 5 wide

I think it would've been a kick for Ben to shift into five wide with 6'6", 305 lb Jerald Hawkins running a three-yard curl and rubbing off a defender for one of the other receivers to get open on a cross...

50 Roethlisberger said they…

Roethlisberger said they weren't even calling actual set plays in the 2nd half.  He was calling protections and moving the receivers around according to the defense.  Called it "backyard football."  Whatever was happening, it seemed to work.  

107 Backyard Football

That's a nice antidote to the Ravens' top-notch analytics/film study.  You can't prep for plays made on the fly.

All the talk of PIT getting run over in the first half and no mention of Tyson Alualu being lost early.  Between trying to stop Lamar from designed runs (completely shut him down in 2nd half) and having only nickel-pass-rusher Isaiah Buggs to play NT, had some problems inside. Buggs did bounce back to make two terrific plays vs the run late in the game, including assisting on the Jackson 4th down stop/fumble at the 2:00 min left in the game mark. 

40 I can't remember a more…

I can't remember a more depressing game that I sat through than Dallas Philadelphia. Sometimes two bad teams produce entertaining bad football. This was just bad football, like a cheap brand new car that drives when you turn the ignition but offers you nothing else.

Denucci's stat line won't show it, but that might have been some of the worst qb play I have ever seen. It cemented my view that McCarthy offers nothing as a head coach and had the good fortune to land on the Packers. It was eerily reminiscent of his time as offense coordinator for the 2-14 49ers. Seriously, if you are supposed to be a good offensive mind, even a third string rookie should look better than someone coming off the street. But that's what he looked like, a guy off the street told to just go out there and make plays.

Oh and Wentz was beyond horrible. Just plain terrible against a defense that routinely gives up 21 points by the half. I think I may have written him off forever after this game.

43 I seriously don't understand…

I seriously don't understand people commenting about DAL/PHI and not mentioning Philly's playcalling. I mean, Dallas, I understand - if I'm starting a guy named Ben DiNucci, I'm gonna pull out all the wacko crap. Can't be any worse! Announcers seemed to think they could march the ball with standard runs, but, uh, yeah, no. Felt like every other play you saw an Eagles defender in the backfield tackling someone 5 yards deep. Only way that it worked is if they got fooled and that guy didn't have the ball.

But WTF is Philly doing calling constant misdirection, wacko gadget plays and deep shots against Dallas, in 15-30 mph winds?

The playcalling was way worse than Wentz in my mind. Fumbles were bad. I don't know about the picks. Again, deep shots in gusty winds - not my first choice. And I dunno WTF happened on that second pick. Part of me thinks Reagor gave up thinking it's out of reach - but again, deep shot in gusty winds.

45 Responded to you in another…

Responded to you in another comment. The playcalling stood out far less than Wentz's low lights which were so many to be honest that I lost count. That level of play should have burried the Eagles in an ugly blowout. 


59 That ugliness is what…

That ugliness is what happens a QB-centric league when both QBs suck. Before the last drive the QBs had combined for 250 yards with about 50% completion rates and passer ratings in the low 60's. To stretch your car analogy, its like a car with 0-60 acceleration in the 30 second range so before you ever get to cruising speed you have slam on the brakes.


66 Once you've been written off by the SlotHooker... know it's gone downhill fast!

Wentz has been playing this way for about two seasons now.  It's safe to assume this is who he is now.

I know Philly is probably wondering how things might have been different if they kept Foles after he won them their SB.



69 I'll watch almost any NFL game...

I only wanted to see if Denucci would do anything interesting.

Everything else played out like I expected.

If I purchased a "cheap brand new car", say a Kia, I would know what to expect which is why I would never buy one to begin with.

70 Nooch is a developmental QB…

Nooch is a developmental QB who is on the roster because they might not have been able to keep him around on the PS. If there had been a preseason, possibly Nooch performs bad enough to not make that a concern and he's stashed away. Who knows, but a 3rd-string rookie QB who had no pre-season and 1 week of starter reps looking out of sorts is supposed to reflect poorly on McCarthy? 

77 I guess my point is, would…

I guess my point is, would it have been a better performance had another coach been at the helm? I mean, it was basically the kind of offense the Jets put out weekly. Except Adam Gase, for his many faults, has to deal with a bad qb situation(Flacco) + a terrible offensive supporting cast. Dallas at least has the supporting cast thats miles ahead of the Jets and yet produced basically the same outcome. It must also be pointed out that this offense was in the tank with Andy Dalton at quarterback, so it's not all just because of Mooch.

Perhaps Nooch at this stage is so terrible that it renders who the coach is moot. Sure that's one reasonable take. I guess have a different view that another coach who brings something to the table would have eeked out a better performance with this supporting cast, Nooch be damned. 

130 That's all well considered…

That's all well considered. I'd point out that the offense was in the tank against two top 10 defenses (ARI and WAS) and in the ARI game the star RB fumbled twice in the early going which helped snowball the game out of control and Martin went down leaving the team with 1/5 of a starting OL.

Regardless of who the QB has been Dallas has been undone by turnovers which should not need to be "coached out" of anyone, especially the stars. The two games also saw plenty of dropped passes (or maybe not plenty, but ill-timed for sure), and passes that Dalton would have been expected to make (the INT in the endzone vs WAS that was behind Zeke).

It has seemed to me the plays are there to be made—the players are just not making them. Even the defense where I feel Nolan was not a great hire (but, as a fan, held out hope) has seen his scheme often enough have players around the ball (I mean not the DBs getting blown out of their cleats), they're just taking bad angles, or staying back on their heels, or not wrapping up, etc. Maybe those are practice things, but maybe the GM has just failed.

125 Yes. Give Sean McVay one…


Give Sean McVay one week with a third string QB, and I fully expect him to look below-average but serviceable. Same for Sean Payton. Same even for Matt LaFleur, and a few others. McCarthy has never proven to be a good coach, who elevates his players. Rogers doing well is on Rogers, especially now that we've seen McCarthy fail everywhere else.

63 "Combine that with three San…

"Combine that with three San Francisco timeouts and your end result is a somewhat counterproductive scoring drive."

This seems like a paradoxical sentence to me.  Getting your opponent to burn all their timeouts is hugely important, especially in a three score game.

By scoring there, even in under a minute of game clock, the Seahawks ensured that the 49ers would have to score at least three times in 3:36, and since they don't have any timeouts, that would mean recovering *two* onside kicks.

I don't know this for sure, but my guess is they increased their win expectancy from about 97% to, like, 99.99% with that drive.

64 The NFL is so hard to predict.

We have statistical analysis galore, yet that doesn't account for the psychological impact of these matchups.

Some things that surprised me.

  • The Packers not showing up to a game they should have won at home against the Vikings.  It was almost like both teams traded places.  Given this game, I'm not even sure what to expect for Niners/Packers on Thursday.  
  • The Niners looking completely inept with Jimmy G, yet scored at will with Nick Mullens at QB.  Forget about the "garbage time" excuse.  Mullens was hitting just about everything in stride within the confines of Shanahan's offense while Jimmy G seemed like the weak link for most of the game.  I have the feeling that the team doesn't have confidence in Jimmy G and it affects their play on both sides of the ball.  Niners have good pieces, however they are going nowhere this year with Jimmy G or at least this version of him.
  • Bills/Pats.  Yes, some people expected a 3 point game, but the fact that the Bills couldn't put away a shadow of what was once a decent NE team should scare you.  Allen has regressed and is doing less freelance work in the offense and that's a bad thing going forward.  I don't know what happened, but he's somehow more timid and this team isn't beating the better teams in the league playing small ball.  
  • Ravens/Steelers. I'm not sure if Lamar Jackson is the player he has shown us he is when he plays the better teams or if he's got a mental block that hampers his performance against the Chiefs and Steelers of the world.  He has talent, but still makes way too many mistakes to take the Ravens far if he's going to be depended upon to throw the ball downfield.  Kyler Murray in year 2 has improved his game more than Lamar Jackson in Year 3.  
  • Rams/Dolphins.  I predicted long ago that any team that could collapse the pocket against Goff and "spook" him would roll over the Rams.  Flores is the first to do it consistently for a whole game.  Goff can't improvise in the pocket and can't scramble to save his life.  I'm surprised more teams don't gameplan to do this because it's the obvious way to beat them.  (Vance Joseph take note).
  • What happened to the Titans?  Big letdown from losing that game to the Steelers?  It looks like they rolled in to Cinci expected the Bengals to lay down.  I never expected the Titans to lose like that.


I'm amazed by NFL professional bettors who cash in every week on these games.  My DraftKings lineup tanked due to Rodgers and Lockett doing poorly.

73 The Bills/Pats game was…

The Bills/Pats game was played in 40 MPH winds and the Patriots were in dime for basically the entire game.  That wasn't "Josh Allen has regressed" as much as it was "you would have to be out of your mind to throw downfield in these circumstances".  The Patriots running a dive on 3rd and 12 on their first drive tells you exactly how much the wind was impacting the play-calling for both teams.

Allen's last 4 games haven't looked great but 3 of them were played in lousy weather and the other one (vs NYJ) he was pretty decent but couldn't find the endzone (9 drives leading to 8 FG attempts and a fumble)

95 Context matters

Weather, defensive game plans, personnel. Allen isn't a different player, but circumstances around him have reduced his production.

Starting with the Titans game, all 4 Bills opponents have switched from man-heavy to 2-deep zone-heavy defensive gameplans. Allen was obliterating man coverage for the first 4 games, so teams decided to take that away. Until this game, the Bills run game couldn't take advantage of the light boxes. Allen has been fine taking the short throws vs zone, playing efficiently, but not explosively. His only major mistake in the last 4 games was getting greedy vs Ten and throwing a pick in the 3Q when the game was still close.

Moss missed 3 games and didn't play much vs KC, and Feliciano just came back to give the Bills some attitude. In addition, John Brown has been AWOL these past 4 games after aggravating an injury.

81 The theory on Garoppolo is…

The theory on Garoppolo is that he's still bothered by his high-ankle sprain, that he can't plant and throw and so he's using all arm.  They're rushing him back because Mullens looked terrible against Philadelphia a few weeks ago and their third guy, C.J. Beathard, looked terrible the week after that against Miami. 

So, injured, bad, and bad have been the 49ers options to this point.  It's frustrating to watch; with merely cromulent QB play, they'd be a pretty good team.

126 The real theory on Garappolo…

The real theory on Garappolo is that he just is not quite good enough to consistently get that 4th quarter score and win the game for you when the defense forces him to carry the team.  The Super Bowl showed that he is basically Goff but smarter and with a weaker arm and less accuracy.

83 Great thoughts

Though I really think you've got to chalk up Mullens performance to "prevent" defense/garbage time. While there has been a lot of discussion in Seahawk circles of how atrocious 4th quarters have skewed some of the good things that the (mediocre to bad) defense has done this year. That 4th quarter was truly a case of the defense being willing to leave big underneath zones, and Mullens (reasonably) be perfectly happy to take 13 yards in a chunk.

91 They did blitz Mullens a ton…

In reply to by RoninX

They did blitz Mullens a ton, and it was mostly successful. However, for whatever reason, it seemed like they kept blitzing him on second down and going back to ineffective 4-man rushes on third down, leading to a bunch of long third-down completions.

90 More of this


  • The Packers not showing up to a game they should have won at home against the Vikings.  It was almost like both teams traded places.  Given this game, I'm not even sure what to expect for Niners/Packers on Thursday.  
  • The Niners looking completely inept with Jimmy G, yet scored at will with Nick Mullens at QB.  Forget about the "garbage time" excuse.  Mullens was hitting just about everything in stride within the confines of Shanahan's offense while Jimmy G seemed like the weak link for most of the game.  I have the feeling that the team doesn't have confidence in Jimmy G and it affects their play on both sides of the ball.  Niners have good pieces, however they are going nowhere this year with Jimmy G or at least this version of him.
  • Bills/Pats.  Yes, some people expected a 3 point game, but the fact that the Bills couldn't put away a shadow of what was once a decent NE team should scare you.  Allen has regressed and is doing less freelance work in the offense and that's a bad thing going forward.  I don't know what happened, but he's somehow more timid and this team isn't beating the better teams in the league playing small ball.  
  • Ravens/Steelers. I'm not sure if Lamar Jackson is the player he has shown us he is when he plays the better teams or if he's got a mental block that hampers his performance against the Chiefs and Steelers of the world.  He has talent, but still makes way too many mistakes to take the Ravens far if he's going to be depended upon to throw the ball downfield.  Kyler Murray in year 2 has improved his game more than Lamar Jackson in Year 3.  
  • Rams/Dolphins.  I predicted long ago that any team that could collapse the pocket against Goff and "spook" him would roll over the Rams.  Flores is the first to do it consistently for a whole game.  Goff can't improvise in the pocket and can't scramble to save his life.  I'm surprised more teams don't gameplan to do this because it's the obvious way to beat them.  (Vance Joseph take note).
  • What happened to the Titans?  Big letdown from losing that game to the Steelers?  It looks like they rolled in to Cinci expected the Bengals to lay down.  I never expected the Titans to lose like that."

Please do more of this type of analysis and leave out the name-calling and trash talking.

65 Can anyone tell me what happened to Carson Wentz?

I know Chris Collinsworth opined that he's "trying to do too much", but that sack he took in the second quarter where he fumbled right into the arms of the defender while falling down is beyond rookie-level.

There's a point where I ask whether it's him doing too much or just eroding skill level?  Some of the things he's doing this year I never saw before his injuries.  

Anybody have a cogent theory?

The Eagles don't vaguely resemble the team which beat the Pats in the SB a few years ago. (Neither do the Pats).


Between the play-calling, the inexcusable timeout near the end of the first half, and giving meaningful snaps to a talentless WR who is apparently also six years old emotionally, Matt Nagy may have had the worst head coaching game of his career. And that's a high bar.

Kudos to Juan Castillo, though, for getting that patchwork OL to look almost passable.

80 I can't take credit for the…

In reply to by TomC

I can't take credit for the thought, but someone on Twitter speculated that the Bears offensive line has been so bad that having to bring in backups might be a net upgrade.

As far as Nagy goes, the only thing that's saved him from comparisons to Trestman in the last year and a half has been his leadership and how his guys believe in him. If this is the start of a losing streak, and the offense continues to squander a good defense, I wonder how much longer that holds. I believe Allen Robinson was noticeably frustrated on the sideline (and I've gone past wishing the Bears would extend him to hoping that he hits free agency and signs a nice large contract with a team that can put his talents to use).

Also on the Nagy front, the best argument for his job security has been his record. I believe a 7-9 finish to the season is in play (though 8 or 9 wins is probably more likely), which would make his 3 years as HC 12-4, 8-8, 7-9. His career record would still be 27-21 at that point, but he would have delivered a worse result in each successive year while demonstrating almost nothing positive on the offensive side of the ball. All that said, Pace's seat should be much hotter than Nagy's. There's pretty much nothing that can happen the rest of this season to make me believe he should keep his job.

104 I agree with all of this

I'm beyond the point of thinking that Nagy has a lot of promise as a coach, but I can't understand the people who spend all their time calling for his head. This team is flawed from the top down and that starts with Pace. Whatever I might say of this team, I don't think that Nagy is the guy keeping it from achieving big things.

127 Maybe, but I watched a…

Maybe, but I watched a breakdown last year of how bad the Bears offense was. Lots of horribly out of sync plays, as well as head scratching playcalls/designs. There's only so much that can be blamed on terrible QB play.

79 San Francisco sure looked…

San Francisco sure looked like the team that's 31st in variance.  8 games, 6 blowouts, for and against.  I imagine the constantly revolving cast and the $55 million on IR are partly responsible, but yeesh, they're pogo-sticking all over the place.

84 A lot of that variance is…

A lot of that variance is driven by SF's defense. Even in this Seattle game, they would make many great plays and then give up terrible one's. I guess DK Metcalf is the best receiver in football, but letting him outrun everyone in your secondary for a td is pretty inexcusable.


Even on one of the Russ houdini tds; the dbs thought he was going to be sacked, let up and let the receiver just run by them for a wide open td. Yes it took a crazy play from Russ to throw that td while being sacked, but the dbs should know not to just pretend like its over.