Titans, Broncos, Falcons, Jaguars Lead Upset Week
NFL Week 9 - 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.
Denver Broncos 30 at Dallas Cowboys 16
Bryan Knowles: You could write a book on all of the odd Cowboys uniforms quirks and features they have had over the years. They're bringing back one of my favorites today—the single red stripe on their helmets, originally from the 1976 bicentennial—y'know, red white, and blue and all that. It's a weird quirk which doesn't really work as part of their regular uniform, but is really neat and effective for what they're doing as a one-off.
Vince Verhei: Story on Dallas' red helmet stripe, introduced for the bicentennial in 1976 and worn today to honor the military.
The Cowboys reach Denver territory on each of their first two drives, the first thanks to a long kickoff return by Tony Pollard. But each of those drives ends on a failed fourth-down play: the first when Ezekiel Elliott is stuffed in the backfield, the second when a Dak Prescott pass fell incomplete (looked like it might have been tipped at the line). Broncos then drive 80 yards in 11 plays for the 6-0 lead. Javonte Williams had runs for 11, 20, and 7 yards, Jerry Jeudy added a 25-yard catch, and Melvin Gordon pounds in the score on second-and-goal from the 3.
Vince Verhei: Broncos extend their lead to 13-0 on this long Tim Patrick touchdown with Trevon Diggs in coverage.
Teddy Bridgewater with a 44-yard score to Tim Patrick.pic.twitter.com/OuPRgVJ4Yf
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 7, 2021
Vince Verhei: Broncos lead 16-0 at halftime, and it could easily have been worse for Dallas—Denver got the ball back with 90 seconds and three timeouts left, but went very conservative and ended up killing the rest of the clock without even crossing midfield. Real story, beside those failed fourth-down plays for Dallas, is what a rotten day Dak Prescott is having—5-of-14 for only 75 yards. Broncos not missing Von Miller so far today.
Bryan Knowles: So, sometimes, things just aren't your day.
Denver has to punt, but Dallas blocks it! Great news, with the Broncos backed up in their own half. But the block goes forward, past the line of scrimmage, and touches another Cowboy. That means it's technically a punt forwards, and because it touched a Cowboy ... that's a muffed return. So even through the Broncos fell on the ball short of the first-down marker, the "muff" means it's a turnover and Denver's ball. Holy cow.
Vince Verhei: That was one of the weirdest plays of the year, and a good sign that the Football Gods just don't want Dallas to win today. Given new life, the Broncos drive down the field and end up kicking a field goal on fourth-and-1. That's annoyingly conservative, but the difference between 16-0 and 19-0 is not insignificant—you have forced Dallas to get at least three touchdowns now, rather than two touchdowns and a field goal.
Vince Verhei: Another failed fourth-down play for Dallas. Prescott scrambles and has CeeDee Lamb open for a big play down the field, but overthrows him by 5 yards, incomplete, turnover on downs. Broncos take over in Dallas territory, but get ultra-conservative with a handoff on third-and-12 to set up a 53-yard field goal try. Predictably, that kick is missed, and the Cowboys still have life.
Vince Verhei: Third-and-14 just across midfield, Bridgewater and the Broncos finally get aggressive, hitting ex-quarterback Kendall Hinton for a 40-yard gain. That sets up Bridgewater's sneak for a touchdown and a 27-0 lead.
We are now up to five scoring plays for Denver, five first downs for Dallas. Just a curb-stomping by this Broncos defense.
Scott Spratt: The Cowboys are down 30-0 at home with Dak Prescott against a Broncos team ranked 22nd in DVOA? How far are they going to fall in DVOA this week?
Cleveland Browns 41 at Cincinnati Bengals 16
Bryan Knowles: Cincinnati opens the game by marching down the field with Joe Burrow dealing, including a nifty flea-flicker to get them into the red zone. And then things get messy—Burrrow goes for C.J. Uzomah, but the ball is nearly ripped away by Malcolm Smith. Well, bullet dodged, and Burrow tries again ... and Denzel Ward actually does get the pick this time, running back 99 yards for a Browns touchdown. Oops. 7-0, Cleveland.
Aaron Schatz: Video of the Denzel Ward pick:
DENZEL WARD. 100-YARD PICK-6. #Browns
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
Bryan Knowles: It's not every day where you see one team run the first 20 plays of a football game, as the Bengals follow up their 11-play pick-six drive with a nine-play touchdown of their own, with Joe Mixon walking in for a fairly easy score. So far, Cleveland has been on skates, as Cincinnati hasn't exactly had trouble moving the ball; they're at 7.1 yards per play, and receivers are open on nearly every snap when the Bengals are in the middle of the field. Cleveland also has lined up offsides three times already, and we're not even done with the first quarter. Ward's pick-six was huge, but Cleveland needs a chance to regroup defensively. 7-7 late in the first.
Bryan Knowles: Watching the Ravens, Browns, and Bengals so far today, I'm convinced the AFC North has decided to take the week off, defensively speaking. The Browns' first drive was the Nick Chubb show. Not just on the ground—four carries for 34 yards and a touchdown is good, but not overly noteworthy. But Chubb also had a pair of receptions, including a 23-yarder to get the Browns out of a second-and-8. That was mostly air yards, too; I don't recall Chubb running many deep wheel routes historically speaking, but it worked there, possibly because the Bengals also were not expecting him to be catching balls 20 yards downfield and covered him with air. 14-7 Browns early in the second as we await our first punt.
Bryan Knowles: The Browns have opened up the biggest lead of the first half so far. The Bengals failed on a fourth-down conversion inside Browns territory—some serious Cleveland pressure, missing throughout the first quarter, harried Burrow into an overthrow. On the ensuing play, the Browns run play-action and Donovan Peoples-Jones roasts Eli Apple for a 60-yard score. Who needs Odell Beckham, anyway? Well, according to the rumor mill, about a dozen teams, but not the Browns today, apparently. 21-7 Cleveland.
Bryan Knowles: Nick Chubb is up to 110 yards and a pair of scores, which is fine. He has done it on just eight carries, though, which is a pretty good day, efficiency-wise.
The Bengals have run 47 plays to the Browns' 23, they have 17 first downs to the Browns' nine. And yet the Browns have a 31-10 lead because they're averaging 11.2 yards per play and have three touchdowns of 50-plus yards. It's time to change the channel, and for the Bengals to drag themselves home after back-to-back terrible football games.
NICK CHUBB. 70 YARDS. GONE. #Browns
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
Entering today, Nick Chubb was basically lapping the league with 40 breakaway carries for 20-plus yards since he was drafted in 2018. Add another two to that total from today:
- Nick Chubb: 40
- Derrick Henry: 32
- Saquon Barkley: 25
- Phillip Lindsay: 22
- Joe Mixon: 22
- Chris Carson: 21
- Ezekiel Elliott: 20
Minnesota Vikings 31 at Baltimore Ravens 34 (OT)
Scott Spratt: The Ravens went with their typical aggressive philosophy in trying a fourth-and-2 from the Vikings' 49-yard line on their opening series. And the play looked like a disaster. Two Vikings got their hands on Lamar Jackson several yards in the backfield, and then Jackson tried an option pitch, but he was off target and effectively fumbled. But the refs ruled that a grabbing of Jackson's jersey between the shoulder blades was a horsecollar tackle, and so the Ravens got a new first down. Instead of an early turnover, the Ravens ended up with a field goal to go up 3-0.
Carl Yedor: On a second down run by Alexander Mattison, it looked like he had been touched down in the backfield, but Mattison got up and kept running to salvage a positive play. However, John Harbaugh challenged the play to make it third-and-7 instead of third-and-short instead. As I was pondering whether those yards would really be worth it (there's a good chance it was because of how different conversion rates are in those two scenarios), Minnesota makes that irrelevant courtesy of a deep-ball touchdown to Justin Jefferson. Baltimore looked like they miscommunicated in coverage and let Jefferson run free, allowing the Vikings to take a 7-3 lead.
50 YARDS. Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson. Griddy time. #SKOL
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
I think Marlon Humphrey was handing off coverage to Chuck Clark, but Clark bit on a fake or a shallow route or something. Not the thing to do with Justin Jefferson.
Tom Gower: The dots make it clear the Ravens were in Cover-3 on the Jefferson touchdown, and Clark played K.J. Osborn's deep over route into Humphrey's zone while Humphrey played his area.
Justin Jefferson touchdown dots!
Is it just me or is that ball moving slooow? Must have been high.
(NFL Next Gen Stats) pic.twitter.com/Vaatu5Td0r
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 7, 2021
Scott Spratt: Dalvin Cook just provided another chunk play for the Vikings as he turned the corner and ran for 66 yards.
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
I know we're all programmed to trust the Ravens defense even as it sheds veterans in free agency and replaces them with their groomed midround draft picks. But they rank just 24th in overall defensive DVOA. They may just be bad defensively this season.
Vince Verhei: That Cook run is one of the most fun plays I have seen all year. He officially gained 66 yards but might have actually run twice that far weaving back and forth. It leads to a Minnesota fourth-and-goal at the 2. Kirk Cousins' pass to Tyler Conklin is incomplete, but Ravens are called for pass interference, giving the Vikings a first-and-goal at the 1. Cousins sneaks it in for the score two plays later and the Vikings have a surprising 14-3 lead.
Scott Spratt: Ravens rookie Rashod Bateman now has 10 catches this season and all 10 of them were new first downs.
Scott Spratt: The Ravens' Devin Duvernay is easily leading the NFL with 270 punt return yards, so maybe let him catch the ball, Brandon Stephens? Stephens just ran into his teammate Duvernay as the latter player tried to field a punt. I can't believe the ball didn't touch either Ravens player—and it's a good thing because they are already down 14-3 halfway through the second quarter.
Scott Spratt: Lamar Jackson just threw a bad interception. He has looked off with his passing accuracy and decision-making all first half. And now the Vikings have a minute and 40 seconds to try to extend their lead beyond the current one of 14-3.
Week 9 is shaping up to be survivor league armageddon. The Ravens, Cowboys, Saints, and Bengals are all down multiple scores in or near halftime. And the Bills are tied with the lowly Jaguars.
Bryan Knowles: The Ravens have been doing nada offensively all game as the Vikings' coverage seems to be confusing Lamar Jackson. No worries, however, as the Ravens go to the best play in football—the underthrown DPI! The 42-yard penalty brings the ball inside the 5, and the Ravens finally reach the end zone on the next play, so it looks like it'll be 17-10 at the half. The Ravens have been thoroughly outplayed, but they're still very much in this.
Scott Spratt: Whatever confidence the Ravens gained from their pass-interference-aided touchdown at the end of the first half just lasted 13 seconds into the second half. Rookie returner Kene Nwangwu just took a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to expand the Vikings lead to 24-10.
KENE NWANGWU GOES 98 YARDS.
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
Scott Spratt: The Vikings ranked 31st in kickoff return value and special teams DVOA in 2020, and the team made an effort to fix that in the draft by selecting returners Kene Nwangwu and Ihmir Smith-Marsettte in the fourth and fifth rounds. Those rookies have been in and out of the lineup with injuries, but they at least have flipped the kickoff value ranking even if the Vikings remain in the bottom three in special teams DVOA overall.
Vince Verhei: My favorite play in this game is Cook's long zig-zag run. My other favorite plays are the Ravens using 300-plus-pound fullback Patrick Ricard to key their comeback. Third-and-14, Ricard gains 12 yards to set up a fourth-down conversion. First-and-10, Ricard gets a gain of 22. Fourth-and-goal, Jackson finds Ricard for the touchdown. That's three catches for 35 yards for Ricard, tied for the Baltimore lead in both categories today, and the team's only touchdown catch so far.
Scott Spratt: The Ravens converted a third-and-15 with a wide receiver screen to Marquise Brown. My unofficial tally was a -17 ALEX. That had to be difficult for Kirk Cousins to watch.
Bryan Knowles: Oh my, what a catch by Devin Duvernay in the end zone! A reach-back, one-handed grab, with the concentration to come down in bounds. That ties us at 24, and what a way to do it.
WHAT A SNAG @Dev_Duv5
Tune in on FOX! pic.twitter.com/AfUxaRNJRQ
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 7, 2021
Bryan Knowles: The Ravens in the second half: three drives, all at least 60 yards, all for touchdowns. The Vikings in the second half: 13 total yards.
The Vikings are Vikinging; Le'Veon Bell punches it into the end zone, and the Ravens have a 31-24 lead with 3:30 left in the game.
Vince Verhei: C.J. Ham reception for a 27-yard gain. It's the Fullback Bowl!
Scott Spratt: That 27-yard Ham catch was his fourth catch over 25 yards in his five-year career. Field-stretcher!
Carl Yedor: The recent National Tight Ends Day celebration was a little over the top and probably doesn't need to be continued, but I would definitely support a Fullback Appreciation Day instead. Every team still uses tight ends on nearly every play. Some teams don't even carry fullbacks. Minnesota and Baltimore use them as key components of their offenses (even if they don't get all that many touches). It's an often thankless job, but fullbacks who are threats in the passing game can provide an uncommon offensive option, though surely defensive coordinators have seen offenses use fullbacks before.
That pass to C.J. Ham was critical in setting up Minnesota's game-tying touchdown to Adam Thielen. We're all tied up at 31, with a minute and two timeouts left for Lamar Jackson to potentially lead the game-winning drive.
Scott Spratt: Adam Thielen is an amazing touchdown-scorer. He may have pushed off on this one.
We're tied in Baltimore!
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
But it may be bad news the Vikings scored when they did. Now the Ravens have a little more than a minute to get Justin Tucker a chance to win the game. He may only need like 30 yards of offense with his range.
Scott Spratt: The Ravens looked like they would give Tucker a chance when they briefly crossed into Vikings territory with 22 seconds left. But Mark Andrews committed an offensive holding penalty, and then backed into a third-and-13, Jackson took a sack. This one is going to overtime at 31-31.
Bryan Knowles: The Ravens win the opening coin toss and start driving. But just over midfield, Anthony Barr leaps up and tips Lamar Jackson's pass to himself. Huge play, as the Ravens were already in Justin Tucker's field goal range.
Vince Verhei: We're in overtime, and as we all know, to beat the Ravens, you have to stop Patrick Ricard. The fullback leaks into the flat, but Anthony Barr is pass-rushing, and he tips the pass into the air and comes down with the interception. Next score wins.
Scott Spratt: Woah, Anthony Barr just won this game by himself. The Ravens won the overtime coin toss and were cruising down the field. But Barr deflected a Lamar Jackson pass and caught it for an interception. The Vikings can now win this game with a field goal.
ANTHONY BARR!!!! pic.twitter.com/vdLGVQGOT5
— Pineapple podcast (@pinepodapple) November 7, 2021
Aaron Schatz: Anthony Barr didn't win the game by himself because the Ravens defense holds and forces a punt. Good pressure by Chuck Clark on third-and-long to force a bad throw downfield.
Scott Spratt: The Ravens got to a first-and-5 at the Vikings' 34-yard line but then committed back-to-back offensive holding and illegal formation penalties to fall back to a first-and-20 from the 49-yard line. What a rollercoaster of an overtime.
Scott Spratt: The only sure thing in that overtime was that Tucker would make the game-winning kick. Which he did from 36 yards. The Ravens win 34-31.
Buffalo Bills 6 at Jacksonville Jaguars 9
J.P. Acosta: Matthew Wright knocks through the first Jaguars field goal made on American soil this year, and the Jaguars lead the Bills 3-0. Everyone touched the ball in the run game, from Carlos Hyde to Laviska Shenault. Making up for the James Robinson absence.
Bryan Knowles: The Jaguars are keeping this shockingly close, tied at 6-6 as we approach the end of the second quarter. But Trevor Lawrence just was rolled up on from behind and can't put any weight on his leg. Looks like an ankle injury of some description; C.J. Beathard is getting ready to come in.
J.P. Acosta: Trevor Lawrence is down on the field. Trainers are attending to him now. If he can't go, then C.J. Beathard is the backup.
Vince Verhei: The Bills were also tied with a horrible team at halftime last week and ended up blowing out Miami by multiple scores. I'm not turning to them this week until it's close in the fourth quarter.
Josh Allen just sacked Josh Allen.
It's the first time a player has sacked a QB with the same name since the @NFL started counting sacks in 1982.
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) November 7, 2021
Dave Bernreuther: Josh Allen is sacked … by Josh Allen!
Allen usually doesn't hesitate to flee pockets when pressured, but oddly in this case, after stepping up to avoid the strong side pressure, he hopped back, directly into Allen's path.
Somewhat shockingly, this game looks to be headed to the half at 6-6.
Aaron Schatz: Matthew Wright lines up to take a 42-yard field goal for the Jaguars. Hits left upright. False start, so it doesn't count.
So Wright lines up for a 47-yard field goal. Wide left. Bills called for running into the kicker. Let's do it again.
Wright lines up for a 42-yard field goal. Wide left. Again.
Bryan Knowles: The Bills drive after the missed field goal, but Josh Allen doesn't see Josh Allen, and Josh Allen ends up throwing the ball right to Josh Allen. Huge play by Josh Allen, getting Josh Allen's team right back into this one.
Scott Spratt: Oh man, is the ManningCast Curse real, Bryan?
Vince Verhei: Bills punt into the end zone, touchback. Jaguars have the ball and a 9-6 lead with about 10 minutes to go and I have turned Browns-Bengals off to put this game on.
Bryan Knowles: So Josh Allen vs. Josh Allen score: One sack, one interception, and now a fumble recovery as the Jags turn the Bills over and cling to a 9-6 lead with 5:30 left in the game.
J.P. Acosta: So, the Jaguars are up 9-6 with 59 seconds left in the game and have the ball. The Bills were driving but Josh Allen got sacked by Dawuane Smoot on third down, then threw an incompletion on fourth.
Bryan Knowles: With seven seconds left on fourth down, I was thinking the Jaguars should keep the offense on the field—run a few steps back, and then chuck the ball as far as Lawrence can, to drain the clock on a deep incomplete pass.
Instead, they bring their punting unit out there. The Bills bring all 11 to try to get the block, but fail, and importantly, Logan Cooke keeps the punt in the field of play, allowing the clock to run down to 0:00. Great punt by Cooke there, and the Jaguars come up with a MASSIVE upset!
Vince Verhei: Well, in the two drives I saw, Josh Allen (quarterback) looked like rookie-year Josh Allen. He hit a couple of big completions to Stefon Diggs and Emmanuel Sanders, but struggled with ball security (fumbling to Jacksonville on one third-down play, probably fumbling again later but the refs missed it) and field awareness. (You can't take a sack on third-and-7 down by three at the opponents' 39-yard line). Not fair to judge a guy on two drives, but he finishes with two interceptions, four sacks, and a fumble as the Bills lose to a Jaguars team that got boatraced by Geno Smith's Seahawks last week.
New England Patriots 24 at Carolina Panthers 6
Scott Spratt: The broadcast reporter just confirmed that Panthers center Matt Paradis is out for the game after he was carted off with an apparent knee injury. Cue the bad exchange between new center Sam Tecklenburg (who went to Baylor, obviously) and Sam Darnold. Darnold fumbled, grabbed the ball, and then tried to throw it away in what ended up being intentional grounding. The Panthers are on their 5-yard line on a second-and-25.
Aaron Schatz: Lots of sloppiness early on for Patriots and Panthers. Already seven penalties in the first 13 minutes including the Patriots getting called for delay of game coming out of a punt return to start a drive. Patriots moving the ball better than Carolina, although Shaq Thompson is really flying around on defense for the Panthers. Carolina running the ball a lot and going nowhere despite the return of Christian McCaffrey. Just punted back to the Pats and Gunner Olszewski had a good return until he fumbled, but he recovered his own fumble. Still 0-0, Patriots ball on their own 47.
Aaron Schatz: Brian Burns just lined up so wide on third down that the Patriots sort of forgot to block him. Isaiah Wynn went inside first to help on a defensive tackle, then tried to move back outside and it was way too late. Burns takes down Mac Jones and the ball is loose, Panthers recover. Third fumble of this game, first one recovered by the other team. Burns is hurt on the play though.
Aaron Schatz: Great interception by Stephon Gilmore, who basically ran the receiver's route for him. It's almost like he understands the Patriots playbook. They tried to run a pick play on him and he wasn't having it. He's only playing limited snaps for the Panthers but this is his second pick in two weeks, so he's having an impact.
Scott Spratt: Sounds like a possible revenge game, Aaron!
GILMORE PICKS OFF MAC JONES!!!
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) November 7, 2021
Aaron Schatz: Too bad the Panthers offense doesn't have anyone who needs revenge against the Patriots because they suck. They have also lost two offensive linemen in this game to make them suck even more. Panthers move the ball a little after the interception but then Ian Thomas gets called for taunting and this team is not converting any kind of "-and-23" situation. Zane Gonzalez field goal, 7-6 Patriots.
Aaron Schatz: This game really should not be this close. The Patriots are averaging 5.7 yards per carry on the ground by running backs. The Panthers are averaging 2.7 yards per play, period. Patriots just got downfield slowly with runs and then Jones hit Hunter Henry for a touchdown in the right front of the end zone. 14-6 Patriots and I assume the Panthers will just kneel on it and go to halftime with 24 seconds left.
Aaron Schatz: Panthers finally have a good offensive drive. A couple of good runs for McCaffrey and then Chubba Hubbard wide open for a dumpoff went wide around tacklers who had bad angles and he gained 33 yards. So all is well until the pressure gets Darnold out of the pocket and he overthrows Ian Thomas while trying to escape a sack ... right into the arms of J.C. Jackson. Free space all the way to the end zone, pick-six, 21-6 Patriots. Darnold is not good.
Scott Spratt: The interceptions are bad enough, but Sam Darnold seems to be setting his receivers up for injuries in recent weeks to boot. This week's victim is DJ Moore.
D.J. Moore is down on the field after this huge hit by Myles Bryant pic.twitter.com/3RucUiJmZN
— Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL) November 7, 2021
Aaron Schatz: Hey, remember that thing I said about the Panthers finally getting an offensive drive going and then Sam Darnold threw an interception? That has now happened on three straight Panthers drives. This last drive got some great underneath passes to Christian McCaffrey, finally getting receiving yards, and then they get into the end zone, and J.C. Jackson has great coverage on DJ Moore, and there you go, interception No. 3. Somebody's seeing ghosts.
Scott Spratt: There were rumors that the Panthers might work Christian McCaffrey back slowly in his return from injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Instead, McCaffrey has 106 of the team's 216 total yards. Sam Darnold can't move the ball with his other targets. Case in point, that second interception to J.C. Jackson blanketing DJ Moore in the end zone. That's Darnold's second interception inside of field goal range today.
Aaron Schatz: The Panthers were down to fourth-and-20 and Darnold threw downfield to DJ Moore past the sticks. Incomplete, and only the third pass over 15 air yards that Carolina threw this entire game. The Patriots' pressure had Darnold out of the pocket all day and the only thing that seemed to work for this offense was underneath passes to McCaffrey and Hubbard.
Atlanta Falcons 27 at New Orleans Saints 25
Vince Verhei: Matt Ryan's 3-yard touchdown to Olamide Zaccheaus puts the Falcons up 10-0 at halftime in a game that has been about as terrible as it sounds. Both offenses are playing with one arm tied behind their back. The Falcons can't run (32 yards on 15 carries). The Saints can't catch (Trevor Siemian is 5-of-11 for all of 34 yards, but his receivers have dropped five other passes). With Atlanta nursing a two-score lead, expect to see a lot more Falcons getting stuffed in the backfield and Saints letting balls go through their hands.
Vince Verhei: As we all suspected, Olamide Zaccheaus would be the man to carry Atlanta's offense through the absence of Calvin Ridley. He gets a 49-yard pass to set up one Atlanta touchdown, then after his defense forces and recovers a Siemian fumble, he gets another short score. That's three targets for Zaccheaus today: two touchdowns and the 49-yarder. Falcons lead 24-6.
Vince Verhei: Guys, I don't want to alarm you, but the Falcons are in serious danger of losing a game in which they had a seemingly insurmountable lead. Hard to imagine, I know. But the Saints have put together back-to-back touchdown drives on either end of a Falcons three-and-out. That last score was helped by penalties—a 27-yard DPI, and a roughing the passer foul on what had been a third-down sack. Siemian threw one touchdown to Marquez Callaway while Alvin Kamara ran in the other. The two-point conversion is no good, so Atlanta still leads 24-19, but that is very tenuous.
Taysom Hill has also returned for the Saints, throwing two passes and running once, but for now he's the change-of-pace option with Siemian still the top guy.
And here is how Atlanta responded to that Kamara score:
- Defensive holding for 5 yards and a first down.
- Feleipe Franks comes in at quarterback to run for a loss.
- Matt Ryan is sacked on second down.
- Matt Ryan is sacked on third down.
Saints will start in Atlanta territory after a good punt return.
Vince Verhei: Siemian finds Kenny Stills for a go-ahead touchdown. The two-point conversion is no good, but that's still a 19-0 run for New Orleans in less than seven minutes of game time.
Falcons have 61 seconds and two timeouts to get a winning field goal.
Bryan Knowles: The Falcons Anti-Falconed! Cordarrelle Patterson tip-toes down the sideline for 64 yards to get the Falcons back into field goal range. Mike Davis fumbles while trying to run clock, but Atlanta jumps on it. Bullet dodged, Atlanta kicks the chip-shot field goal, and the Falcons upset the Saints, 27-25. Did NOT see that coming.
Vince Verhei: Falcons only need one play to reach the red zone. Cordarrelle Patterson lines up wide and gets open down the sideline for 64 yards. The play is reviewed and upheld. First down, they hand off to kill the clock, but Mike Davis fumbles! He is very fortunate as the Falcons recover. Matt Ryan then takes two knees to kill clock and Younghoe Koo drills the 29-yarder to give Atlanta the win.
Saints rally was keyed by a dominant run defense. Falcons finish with 25 carries for only 34 yards, no run longer than 5 yards, and the fumble that nearly cost them the game.
Aaron Schatz: I don't understand why teams hand it off to running backs in situations like that instead of kneeling. The chances of a fumble are tiny, but they are more than zero, as we just saw.
Houston Texans 9 at Miami Dolphins 17
Aaron Schatz: What is Tyrod Taylor thinking here?
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) November 7, 2021
Bryan Knowles: He's thinking if the Texans aren't going to win any football games, he might as well be a finalist for the Worst Interception of the Season. Can't let Carson Wentz have all the fun.
Rivers McCown: I consider myself a connoisseur of terrible football games at this point, and if you feel the same way, you should spend some time with this one. The teams combined for nine turnovers, which is the most in a single game since Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six picks against the Chiefs in 2016. Just a dazzling display of horrible decisions. It had the signature bad play in the Taylor interception, each quarterback was also sacked at least four times, and Taylor had one sack where he tripped on Rex Burkhead's foot.
The Texans really do deserve this, of course, but I have never been happier to see a bye week. What a disaster.
Las Vegas Raiders 16 at New York Giants 23
Bryan Knowles: The Raiders, trailing by seven, are in the red zone—but Derek Carr takes a bad sack and loses the ball, and the Giants recover. The Raiders take the massive upset, as the AFC West gets thrown into further chaos.
Arizona Cardinals 31 at San Francisco 49ers 17
Vince Verhei: The 49ers' injury curse is so strong it's even affecting their opponents now. No Kyler Murray, no DeAndre Hopkins, no A.J. Green today. Colt McCoy-to-Christian Kirk all day!
Bryan Knowles: No Kyler Murray, no DeAndre Hopkins, and now no Chase Edmonds, as he gets up gimpy and leaves the game.
Also: no problem. The Cardinals get the ball in good field position after a George Kittle fumble, and march right down the field for the first score of the game. Expect lots of James Conner now with Edmonds out; he's the one who punches in the 13-yard score.
Vince Verhei: I thought Christian Kirk would catch a lot of passes today. It didn't occur to me that he would be throwing them too, but he did, completing one to Antoine Wesley for 33 yards down to the 1. Kliff Kingsbury is doing the stupid thing and challenging the play, hoping it will be ruled a touchdown instead of just taking first-and-goal at the 1. But the Cardinals are going out of their way to help their backup quarterback. Chris Streveler also came in to take a snap for a running play.
Sure enough, Arizona loses the challenge and Conner easily scores on the next play. So they're up 14-0 late in the first, but down their challenge and a timeout. Already a big day for Conner—he has both of Arizona's scores and also converted a third-and-18 with a 21-yard catch-and-run.
Vince Verhei: Crazy-ass sequence in the red zone just now. Cardinals lose yards on first, second, and on third down, but after that last play, Josh Norman gets a taunting penalty, half the distance to the goal, and a first down for Arizona, turning fourth-and-21 into first-and-10. Then Kliff Kingsbury—the coach!—gets an unsportsmanlike foul for jawing with Norman. That makes it first-and-25. Conner then fumbles, but Arizona is lucky to recover, and it leads to a field goal and a 17-0 Arizona lead.
Fumble luck definitely favoring Arizona here. The 49ers are actually leading in yards per play, but George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk have both lost fumbles after big gains on completed passes.
49ers, by the way, are basically not even trying to run today. In four drives, they have four carries: three for 15 yards for Elijah Mitchell and one for a 2-yard loss by Aiyuk.
Bryan Knowles: I have spent the past 10 minutes trying to figure out why the Norman/Kingsbury penalties were applied sequentially, rather than offsetting, and I have nothing. Also, Josh Norman is no longer good enough to be taunting anybody, down two scores to a backup quarterback!
Bryan Knowles: The story of the game so far has been San Francisco making mistakes and Arizona capitalizing on them. Ten of the Cardinals' 17 points came off of San Francisco fumbles, one inside the red zone, and you have had your usual San Francisco Defense Performance of pass interferences, blown coverages, and Josh Norman doing Josh Norman things. This game could have gotten well out of hand, but the 49ers finally put together a full drive without screwing up, thanks to some nice grabs by both Kyle Juszczyk and Brandon Aiyuk (who lives!). George Kittle caps the drive off with a touchdown—his first since October 18, 2020. 17-7 Cardinals with 16 seconds left in the half.
Bryan Knowles: James Conner is having himself a day, and that day involves being untacklable. He has 13 carries for 45 yards. three receptions for 66 more yards, and three touchdowns. On a day when the Cardinals are out of skill position players, Conner is having himself a hell of a performance.
Vince Verhei: Here's the third of those touchdowns and 45 of those yards.
JAMES CONNER. TD MACHINE.
His third TD of the day and 11th total TD of the season! #RedSea
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
Bryan Knowles: This game is getting flipped off now with the Cardinals up 31-7. With no Murray, no Hopkins, and no Green, the 49ers have allowed the Cardinals to earn 8.2 yards per play; they have forced only three incomplete passes from Colt McCoy. This is a shockingly bad defensive performance, and that's even taking into account the fact that the 49ers' secondary is, er, not good. This is a boot-stomping, and maybe the most impressive victory of Kliff Kingsbury's career, considering the players he had to actually work with today.
Vince Verhei: The 49ers are now giving up long touchdowns to men named "Eno." Eno Benjamin, a seventh-round pick out of Arizona State in 2020, came into this week with two carries for 7 yards in his career, both against Houston in Week 7. He now has two carries for 23 yards today, including a 21-yard touchdown run for that 31-7 lead.
Scott Spratt: Sabermetric-friendly baseball analyst Eno Sarris catching strays!
Scott Spratt: After Brandon Aiyuk caught that most likely meaningless touchdown, he's up to 79 yards on five catches and the score. Bryan, since you follow the 49ers closely, are you buying into what head coach Kyle Shanahan was saying last week, that Aiyuk is turning a corner after the surprising slow start to the season?
Bryan Knowles: The narrative of "needing to learn how to practice" that Aiyuk and Shanahan have been spinning does make a certain degree of sense. Superstar in college not immediately adapting on how to handle the pros? I could understand that. Hell, I nearly flunked out of college my freshman year because I never had to study in high school and didn't learn good study habits, so I can totally understand going from coasting on talent to "uh-oh, I have to work now..."
I have no insight as to whether the story is true or not in this case, but I could understand it if it was.
Vince Verhei: Kyle Shanahan called for a punt inside the Arizona 40-yard line while down by 17 points in the fourth quarter. It was fourth-and-13, but still, how many more chances do you think you'll get?
Well, as it turns out, maybe just enough. 49ers force a three-and-out and then get a field goal against Arizona's prevent defense. There's eight minutes to go and they have all three timeouts, so they have time to force two punts and score two touchdowns.
Vince Verhei: The 49ers do indeed force one punt, but then Budda Baker intercepts Garoppolo, and this one's done.
I'm processing all of today's action and looking at the NFC standings and just came to a shocking realization. With the 49ers, Vikings, and Panthers all losing today, your current wild-card teams would be:
1. NFC West runner-up (the Rams, for now)
2. New Orleans Saints (5-3 but sinking like a stone)
3, and I swear this is true: the Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
There are going to be some bad, bad teams in the NFC playoffs this year. This means the battle for the first seed is huge, but the battle to stay OUT of the fourth seed (and avoid the Rams or Cardinals) could be just as important.
Los Angeles Chargers 27 at Philadelphia Eagles 24
Aaron Schatz: Chargers just had a 98-yard drive that didn't score when they got stopped four times on the 2-yard line. The last one made it 1 yard but couldn't get into the end zone.
Vince Verhei: I was watching the Packers-Chiefs game but found I didn't have a lot to add that others weren't saying, so I turned to this just in time to see the Eagles kick a field goal to go up 10-7 just before halftime. That came at the end of a 16-play drive where they only threw two passes for a total of 7 yards. The Eagles have been notoriously pass-wacky this year, but the Chargers are dead last in run defense DVOA, and the Eagles seem to know it. They're now up to 25 carries for 115 yards and eight first downs. Again, not quite halftime yet.
Vince Verhei: Well this one turned around quickly. Chargers got a field goal to tie the game on the first drive of the second half, then forced a three-and-out when Joey Bosa sacked Jalen Hurts on third down. L.A. then goes ahead with a touchdown. Justin Herbert hits Mike Williams for a gain of 49, then Daniel Parham for the score. They miss the PAT, because Chargers Special Teams, but they're still up 16-10.
Vince Verhei: And now a shootout has suddenly broken out. Jalen Hurts hits DeVonta Smith for 23, then Smith for 19, then Dallas Goedert for 21, then scrambles for a 12-yard gain on third-and-8, and finally a Kenneth Gainwell goal-line plunge puts Philly back up 17-16.
Vince Verhei: The shootout has continued here, with Herbert scrambling for a touchdown to put L.A. ahead and DeVonta Smith scoring to tie the game. Chargers have a fourth-and-1 at about the Eagles 40 with less than three minutes to go, and Austin Ekeler (who hasn't done much today) converts with a run up the gut out of the offset I. Chargers will have a first-and-10 at the Philadelphia 37 at the two-minute warning.
Carl Yedor: The broadcast team just referred to the Chargers going for it on fourth-and-1 at the 39-yard-line as a "no-brainer" to go for it because the alternative was kicking a 57-yard field goal. I have tried to shy away from discussing fourth-down decisions much (mostly because as a Seahawks fan, Pete Carroll would effectively render that shouting into the void), but I do think it's telling that there has been enough of a shift in thinking that the so-called "obvious" decision does not always require kicking or punting the ball on fourth downs.
Vince Verhei: Chargers get another fourth-and-1 at the 28-yard line. That's not so cut and dry, but they do go for it again, and Herbert converts with a sneak. Ekeler runs for 16 yards on second-and-10 from the 27, Herbert spikes the ball, and Dustin Hopkins hits the game-winner from 29 yards out. Big clock management there considering the Eagles had scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives. But L.A. got the ball back at their own 25 with 6:07 left and made the winning kick with only two seconds left on the clock. (They probably could have killed those two seconds with one more spike but that's really nitpicking.)
Green Bay Packers 7 at Kansas City Chiefs 13
Scott Spratt: The Packers seem to be following the blueprint of how to defend the Chiefs, allowing the shallow stuff but preventing explosive plays. Well, it didn't work on the latter team's opening drive. The Chiefs just went 64 yards on 15 plays taking just under eight minutes off the clock. And the Chiefs punctuated the drive with a Patrick Mahomes touchdown pass to Travis Kelce. It's 7-0 Chiefs still in the first quarter.
Bryan Knowles: At least through one drive, the Chiefs seem to be playing more "what the defense gives them" as opposed to their normal brand of explosiveball. A 15-play, 64-yard drive which had a fourth-down conversion and three third-down conversions, with no play going for longer than 11 yards? That doesn't sound very Chiefs-like. It does, however, lead to a score, and the Chiefs take an early 7-0 lead.
Aaron Schatz: That Kelce touchdown was a complete broken coverage. Nobody was even near Kelce in the end zone.
Aaron Schatz: So far, Jordan Love looks like a rookie. Even the dumpoffs aren't really great throws, like a little screen to AJ Dillon that Love shot-putted and Dillon had to pick off his shoelaces. Third-and-8, under pressure from Frank Clark unblocked, Love overthrew Aaron Jones who was split out wide for a wide receiver screen.
Scott Spratt: AJ Dillon had 41 yards on that second Packers drive. He's also 249 pounds and maybe the closest thing the NFL has to Derrick Henry now that Henry is on the sidelines with his broken foot. I like head coach Matt LaFleur's decision to ride him early after the Titans just smashed the Chiefs 27-3 two weeks ago.
Aaron Schatz: Now 0-for-3 combined on field goals as the Chiefs just blocked a 37-yarder from Mason Crosby. Each kicker has also missed one outright. 7-0 Chiefs, 10:41 left in the second quarter.
Scott Spratt: LaFleur isn't letting Jordan Love throw the ball very much or much down the field early, but he's still looking shaky. Love threw what should have been a pick-six that somehow made it through Tyrann Mathieu to AJ Dillon for 5 yards just before the blocked Mason Crosby field goal.
Dillon stayed with it #GoPackGo
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
Scott Spratt: Holder Corey Bojorquez got yelled at for not turning the laces out on Mason Crosby's first field goal attempt. And Bojorquez failed to spin it again on the blocked kick. I see this as a legitimate developing story because Packers coaches were already blaming some non-kicker members of the kicking team for Mason Crosby's misses in the Bengals loss.
Aaron Schatz: Chiefs are averaging 3.4 yards per play so far. I understand the whole idea of throwing underneath against the two-high safety look but Mahomes is averaging less than 5 yards per completion.
Scott Spratt: The Chiefs may be up 14-0 shortly in any case, Aaron. A Chiefs punt grazed the foot of returner Malik Taylor as he fell to the ground. And now the Chiefs take over with a first-and-goal in the final three minutes of the first half.
Aaron Schatz: Impressive goal-line stand for the Packers defense, which has been very good this year by points and yards allowed but below average by DVOA ... prevented a touchdown when the Chiefs started their drive at the 9. Really physical with the Chiefs to force a second-down incompletion and then a third-down pass for 2 yards. Chiefs commit false start on fourth-and-goal from the 1, end up kicking a field goal from the 6. 10-0 Chiefs. I took this game as an "over" in ESPN Best Bets but the Chiefs offense has turtled and the Packers offense is built not to let Jordan Love lose the game by himself, so we have a defensive battle.
Scott Spratt: Second-year Packers linebacker Krys Barnes saved a touchdown by standing up Chiefs back Darrel Williams as he tried to reach the pylon. What an incredible tackle.
Krys Barnes, absolute monster pic.twitter.com/FPlyVDOEOX
— Christian D'Andrea probably does not own a brewery (@TrainIsland) November 7, 2021
The Chiefs were poised to try for a touchdown on fourth down. But after they false-started and backed up to the 6-yard line, they settled for a field goal that put them up 10-0 with 1:51 left in the first half.
Tom Gower: Chiefs up 13-0 at the half. I can't decide which team that flatters. Maybe Kansas City, because Green Bay has two field goal attempts that have missed and a failed fourth down in no man's land at the Kansas City 38. Maybe Green Bay, because Jordan Love, despite an OK statline, has missed some throws you'd like to see anybody whose future is assumed to be as a starter make with ease. One of those field goal drives came after a failed fourth-and-1 at the Chiefs 39, so it wasn't like he drove the field that time, and the Packers didn't run an offensive play in the red zone either time (though the second field goal attempt did come from the 19).
Anyway, the Chiefs offense still looks broken. Mahomes has 79 yards at the half on 24 attempts, and that includes a 25-yard completion to Kelce. He's looking for deep balls, sometimes to the point of avoiding easy completions; there was a 60-yard wrist flick to a completely not-open Tyreek Hill instead of an easier pass to an open Kelce. The short YAC throws aren't producing YAC; I still think they need the third receiver that Sammy Watkins was in 2019, and Mecole Hardman's not that guy. But unless Green Bay starts looking a lot better on offense, I don't think it'll matter much today.
Aaron Schatz: One thing about Jordan Love, his athleticism is keeping him away from a lot of pressure. He somehow just escaped two sacks on the same play and found Marcedes Lewis for a 0-yard gain that seemed like a huge gain since it wasn't a sack. The next play, third down, the Chiefs bring a blitz and finally take Love down. First Chiefs sack today. They're blitzing Love pretty much every third down.
Aaron Schatz: We finally got a good drive where the Packers offense had Jordan Love throwing downfield. Fourteen yards to Davante Adams, no pressure, good throw. Sixteen yards to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, good throw. Three yards to MVS under pressure, didn't panic. He looks much better all of a sudden on this first drive of the fourth quarter.
Aaron Schatz: Love just overthrew a single-covered Davante Adams on third-and-10 and L'Jarius Sneed came down with the pick. Aikman pointed out that Adams has been single-covered all day and they haven't gone to him on anything up the sideline to try to take advantage of him beating his guy. Well, they just tried it, and Sneed comes down with the ball. Green Bay is 0-for-9 on third downs today (though they did convert a fourth-and-1 earlier on this drive).
Bryan Knowles: This game is going to throw a wrench into Kansas City's defensive DVOA for the rest of the season. Putting up great numbers against the sixth-ranked passing team! Just, uh, ignore that elephant-in-the-room-sized asterisk.
Aaron Schatz: Chiefs defense has actually been ... good? ... yes, good for three weeks now. DVOA of -7.7% in the last three games before this one. But yeah, shutting out the Packers is going to really make their defensive DVOA a little unrealistic.
Bryan Knowles: Ah, I see Daniel Sorensen still plays for the Kansa City Chiefs. And that Jordan Love was told to look in his general direction.
Sorensen misses the tackle on Lazard, it's a touchdown, and it's a six-point game...
Aaron Schatz: And as soon as I say the Chiefs have been good, they allow a touchdown finally. They allow two third-down conversions, one on a pass and one on a run, and then Love hits Allen Lazard on fourth-and-5 and Dan Sorensen misses the tackle so Lazard saunters into the end zone to make it 13-7. Now, I can't believe I'm asking this, but can the Chiefs offense do anything to keep the ball and take time off the clock? Or will Love get a chance at a significant comeback?
Tom Gower: It's funny to say that, Aaron, but weird that it's deserved. The Chiefs did manage to get out to midfield on one of their second-half possessions starting inside the 10, but had gone three-and-out on their other three possessions, and hadn't looked great in doing so. But Mahomes found Kelce on one of those intermediate throws, Hardman actually caught one, and then one of those vintage plays where Mahomes scrambled and eventually found Hill to seal the game. Kudos to the Green Bay defense, who played well enough to win the game notwithstanding the Chiefs' ability to kill the game at the end.
Tennessee Titans 28 at Los Angeles Rams 16
Vince Verhei: I need somebody to look up the last time the Rams gave up sacks on back-to-back plays. I bet it was back in the Jeff Fisher days.
Scott Spratt: If my query is correct, it was actually Week 3 in 2020 on the Rams' first drive.
Jared Goff was a thing, Vince!
Bryan Knowles: You would lose that bet, Vince! A.J. Epenesa and Matt Milano got Jared Goff on back-to-back plays in the first quarter of Week 3 last season.
Bryan Knowles: Perhaps that was the moment when Sean McVay knew he had to find someone else to run his offense. The Matthew Stafford trade origin story.
Aaron Schatz: Yikes. Matthew Stafford just threw the same pick that Carson Wentz did a week ago: in order to avoid taking a safety on a sack, he threw it right into the hands of the defender. One play later, the Titans play-action and hit Geoff Swaim and take a 7-3 lead.
Scott Spratt: The view from behind Stafford as he threw that pick is MVP candidacy-destroying.
matthew stafford on some carson wentz shit pic.twitter.com/hZZHiyjSUz
— Flick Meetwood (@FMeetwood) November 8, 2021
Tell Tanier to bet it all on Tom Brady.
Bryan Knowles: You know, if Matthew Stafford keeps throwing interceptions inside his own 20, the Titans have a damn good chance in this one.
Aaron Schatz: On the next drive, Stafford immediately throws a pick-six to Kevin Byard, who was essentially freelancing and baited Stafford into a throw he knew he could pick off.
Carl Yedor: And then just like that, Stafford throws a pick-six on the next drive after Kevin Byard jumps an out route. It's only two truly bad plays in quick succession, but the fact that it's occurring in prime time may result in a major reaction in public opinion of Stafford.
Scott Spratt: I didn't think it would be this week, but we can now see if Adrian Peterson can be a facsimile of Derrick Henry for the Titans offense with a lead.
Aaron Schatz: Titans getting all kinds of interior pressure. Jeffery Simmons just put David Edwards on skates and pushed him all the way back into Stafford for a sack.
Vince Verhei: And now Stafford is sacked as Jeffery Simmons just walks David Edwards back into the quarterback. All the talk about Aaron Donald, and he deserves it, but Simmons and Denico Autry are the defensive tackles who are dominating this game.
Scott Spratt: You called this out for the Chiefs earlier, Aaron, but I think the Titans deserve a shout out. They ranked 28th with a 12.9% defensive DVOA in Weeks 1 to 5 and have ranked 10th the last three weeks with a -12.0% defensive DVOA.
Vince Verhei: Jalen Ramsey would be the consensus pick for the top corner in the league right now, but I still don't think we talk enough about how good he is.
Jalen Ramsey shutting down the reverse pic.twitter.com/6OEHjkwBHa
— SyedSchemes (@syedschemes) November 8, 2021
Vince Verhei: Tannehill with the fourth-and-goal keeper for the 21-3 lead. Not only does Leonard Floyd lose contain, he also wipes out Aaron Donald in the backfield and ensures this will be a touchdown.
That fake is Oscarworthy! @ryantannehill1 in Tinseltown.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) November 8, 2021
Aaron Schatz: Jeffery Simmons just whipped Brian Allen so badly I thought at first he was totally unblocked. Sacks Stafford for the third time in the first half. He's dominating this game.
Vince Verhei: And now another sack for Simmons. That's three sacks for him tonight. He had three in 15 starts last year.
Jaguars-over-Bills is a much bigger upset than Titans-over-Rams would be. But the way it's going down—with the Rams' offensive line getting torn up, and their MVP candidate melting down—is shocking to me.
J.P. Acosta: How high would we put Ramsey in terms of just players in the league, regardless of position?
Vince Verhei: Still 21-3 at halftime, but if you look at the boxcore it looks like a dead heat. The Rams defense is dominating Tennessee's offense too, they just didn't get the turnovers deep in opposing territory like the Titans did. Total yardage is tied at 94 apiece, though Tennessee got there in one fewer play (32 to 31) and one fewer drive (seven to six). Stafford and company should get plenty of chances to rally, is what I'm saying.
Tom Gower: Titans up 21-3 at the half. As Vince mentioned, both teams have 94 yards of total offense. Both teams are getting pressure, with Ryan Tannehill going down twice in the two-minute drill to end the half, while Matt Stafford has been sacked four times. Each Rams interior offensive lineman—left guard David Edwards, center Brian Allen, and right guard Austin Corbett—has been beaten for a sack. While the Tennessee defense is much improved this year, that's not typically how they have gotten their pressure. The first sack by Denico Autry on Corbett was an example of how it typically works—the coverage being good enough to hold up initially and often (though not this play) some kind of line game gets a player (this has most often been Harold Landry) free. We haven't seen many plays like Jeffery Simmons just walking Edwards back into Stafford. And to get their non-INT-based score, the Titans had to convert a couple fourth-and-1s, so it feels like DVOA may not like them very much, especially combined with a mostly mediocre run game. So, yay, the team I root for is winning a big game I thought they were rightfully not expected to win, but I feel kind of "eh" about the way they have done it?
Plenty more to come, of course. It feels like getting Stafford outside the pocket, so they can protect him from that interior trio, is one option for how the Rams could choose to attack the second half. I also expected a ton of empty, and while it's too early to go to a pure spread three-step game, probably, that feels like another possible option as long as Stafford plays like he knows he doesn't have much time. That loses the element of the deep strike, which would be important for coming back from a deficit of 18 plus whatever the Titans do with the opening kickoff, but after the opening drive, what you have been doing hasn't been working, so...
Aaron Schatz: To get back to J.P.'s question about Jalen Ramsey, it depends on whether you are considering positional value. If you're talking just about how good guys are compared to the average at their position, Ramsey's got to be in the top 10.
Scott Spratt: The Rams were this close to scoring their first touchdown tonight.
Tyler Higbee TD bettors… LOOK AWAY pic.twitter.com/FDgdZK8RMp
— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) November 8, 2021
That's Tyler Higbee's foot on the out-of-bounds line just before he caught a would-be touchdown pass. Instead, it became fourth-and-goal on the 4-yard line, and the surprisingly yet consistently conservative Sean McVay kicked a field goal to cut the Rams deficit to 21-6 halfway through the third quarter.
Vince Verhei: That field goal came on L.A.'s best drive of the night by far, and considering how they were rolling and the score, I'm pretty surprised they did not go for it on fourth down. But they have been much better getting Stafford in motion with bootlegs and rollouts, and that has given him much more time to throw.
Rams then force a three-and-out, third of the game for the Tennessee offense. And they drive into Titans territory, but a sack brings up a fourth-and-11. Rams are lining up to go for THAT fourth down when the third quarter expires.
Aaron Schatz: Never mind. The Rams kicked the 54-yard field goal instead. 21-9. They're going to need two touchdowns still to come back.
Vince Verhei: And there's Aaron Donald drawing multiple holds and getting a sack anyway and reminding us all who's still the best defender in the league.
Aaron Schatz: There have been some bad roughing the passer calls in the league this year but the call on Aaron Donald for pushing Ryan Tannehill in bounds, not touching his helmet at all, not going low, not putting body weight on him ... what the hell was that?
This is it. The worst roughing the passer penalty of all time. pic.twitter.com/9IcGubJaTi
— National Football Post (@FootballPost) November 8, 2021
Aaron Schatz: The Titans won tonight despite the Rams gaining more yards per play. In fact, the Titans are 7-2 even though all season long their opponents have more yards per play than they do. And their turnover margin for the season is just +1. Very weird.
Tom Gower: They were -6 in their first three games, pulling out a win despite -3 thanks to Carson Wentz's complete inability to move in Week 3, so they have at least won the turnover battle in their last six games now. Sure, that includes the loss to the Jets, but that makes sense for their winning streak.
What an under-ratedly weird game. The Titans barely crossed midfield in the second half until the Donald "roughing the passer" penalty extended their fourth drive, and it didn't matter. McVay chose to kick that field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 4, they kicked in no man's land, and failed on fourth-and-1 (which the Titans converted two of on their first-half touchdown drive). It wasn't great, but the Rams offense was much better. But if you can just take a lead and sit on it, as Tennessee did successfully do, and take advantage of a gift, as they did after the Donald roughing penalty (and the subsequent legitimate roughing penalty), you can win games. They weren't great, and I haven't said anything about the new running back committee (which itself was Adrian Peterson getting mostly not much and a couple of decent carries by D'Onta Foreman), but with the 14 free-ish points, it didn't matter.
Compiled by Andrew Potter