Week 2: Crazy Wins for Ravens, Cardinals, and Titans
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.
Los Angeles Rams 27 at Indianapolis Colts 24
Bryan Knowles: In pregame news, the Rams have been forced to stay at a different hotel than they normally do in Indianapolis. Due to the pandemic, Gen Con—the largest tabletop gaming convention in North America—moved from its traditional August date to this weekend, and they did it before the schedule was released. That booked up all the local hotels, and the Rams were forced to scramble for alternatives at the last minute.
Now, I have never made it down to Indy for the combine, but I have gone to Gen Con, which is held right next door to Lucas Oil. In fact, I was there on the day the Colts had a preseason game scheduled, and let me tell you, the clash of cultures as all the Colts fans walked by us geeks and nerds filing out of the convention center was something to behold. There was a lot of scoffing at all the goons dressed up as their favorite characters, their faces painted strange colors and shouting battle cries. Man, football fans are so weird.
In other news, Eric Fisher has apparently received a potion of greater healing and will make his debut today at left tackle. He may not play the entire game—Julién Davenport, who will start on the right side, will occasionally spell Fisher throughout the game as he gets his stamina back up. I can't remember another situation off the top of my head where a team intentionally flipped a player back and forth on the line. I know the positions aren't that different, but I would imagine being asked to do double-duty like that makes prepping for the game that much more difficult.
Bryan Knowles: Fisher may be back, but the Colts offensive line has not been playing up to its billing so far this season. The Colts take their opening drive all the way down to the 1-yard line, but Jonathan Taylor gets stuffed slamming into the middle of the line on three straight plays. Fourth-and-goal at the 1, the Colts decide to go for it (yay!), but Carson Wentz takes a 9-yard sack (boo!). One of the benefits of going for it on fourth-and-goal is the great field position even if you fail. That doesn't hold up so much when you take a 9-yard sack.
Bryan Knowles: It takes eight plays for the Rams to march 90 yards back down the field and get on the board first. The touchdown was interesting—Cooper Kupp lined up as a running back and ran a seam route, and no Colts defender picked him up coming out of the backfield. Easy pitch-and-catch for the score and a 7-0 Rams lead.
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2021
Vince Verhei: Rams lead 7-0 at the end of the first. No incomplete passes in this game, so the quarter flew by.
Just adding a little detail to what was previously reported: the Colts were stuffed on three straight runs up the gut from the 1-yard line. (Maybe Aaron Donald can play run defense after all!) Fourth down, they hurry to the line and try a play fake, but the Rams have everyone covered, William Floyd pays no heed to the running back, and Carson Wentz has no escapability.
Then on the Rams touchdown drive, it's not just that Matthew Stanford went 5-for-5, but all five of those completions gained at least 13 yards and a first down. He needs to play at an MVP level to justify his trade. Through five quarters, so far, so good.
Derrik Klassen: That Cooper Kupp touchdown catch out of the backfield was even cooler than I thought at first glance. Getting him at running back is pretty awesome by itself, but the Rams still had Darrell Henderson on the field split out as the outside receiver to the trips side. Looks like a standard personnel bunch to the defense coming out of the huddle, only for the Rams to line up in a way that doesn't make any conventional sense. Really cool stuff out of Sean McVay.
Vince Verhei: Welp, let's not give Stafford his trophy yet. After pressure forces a thrown-away incompletion on first down, he drops back on second-and-10, and from a clean pocket he airmails a pass 5 yards over Cooper Kupp's head. Khari Willis reels in the interception.
Announcers are saying a pass-rusher got a hand up to tip this, but even in close-up replays that was not at all clear to me.
Khari will be keeping this one.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 19, 2021
Not to worry, Rams fans, because Carson Wentz is allergic to the end zone. On third-and-goal, he just threw what may go down as the worst pick of the season. Video coming as soon as I can get it. You'll want a stiff drink for this one.
Aaron Schatz: I didn't know it was possible to throw an interception on a shovel pass, but apparently Carson Wentz can do it.
Carson Wentz found a way to throw an INT from a shovel pass. Embarrassing.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 19, 2021
Vince Verhei: Rams up 10-6 at halftime of a weird game. The score sounds like something of defensive slugfest, but the offenses have mostly dominated—Rams are averaging 6.8 yards per play, Colts a respectable 5.6—but both teams (especially the Colts) are making bad red zone mistakes. Possessions are also at a premium; the Colts only had four possessions in the first half; the Rams only had three.
Bryan Knowles: The Rams pick up the second half right where they left off, with Cooper Kupp just running free. Stafford hits him on a screen, and Kupp just hits a second gear and weaves his way 40 yards upfield; he's up to six catches for 106 yards already. Perhaps a bit wary of the Rams passing attack, the Colts play soft, only for the Rams to run five straight times, with Darrell Henderson eventually capping the drive off with a score. The Rams might be really good, you guys.
17-6 Rams early in the third quarter.
Derrik Klassen: Through the first half and change, Carson Wentz looks like the median version of himself. Taking a lot of time in the pocket and taking some sacks, got away with a ballsy deep pass earlier that was underthrown a bit, and has been competent but not great in the quick game. Not bad, but making things a bit turbulent. The "interception" on a shovel pass was pretty bad, but Indianapolis' offensive line has looked disastrous inside the 5 all game, so I'm willing to believe the offense's struggles down in that area are not totally on Wentz. Still struggling to see how Wentz fights back into this game, currently down 17-6 trying to outgun a Rams offense that looks better than the scoreboard suggests.
Vince Verhei: For the third time today, Colts have a goal-to-go situation. There's some pushing and shoving after a play, and Rams linebacker Kenny Young gets a 15-yard penalty and an ejection for making contact with an official. However! Zach Pascal is then flagged for taunting for celebrating the penalty. They say it's not offsetting, that they're going to enforce both penalties, but the Colts still end up with first-and-goal at about the 10. Apparently taunting is only a 5-yard penalty? Regardless, pressure gets to Wentz on first and second down, but third-and-goal he finds Pascal for the touchdown. Jack Doyle picks up the two-point conversion and the Colts cut the lead to 17-14.
Bryan Knowles: We should also note that Wentz nearly threw his second shovel-pass interception of the day on that drive, Vince! Still, it was his best drive in a Colts uniform so far...
Derrik Klassen: And right on cue after my last update, the Colts string together a long drive for a touchdown pass to Zach Pascal (who suddenly looks like the NFL's leading touchdown-catcher), while the Rams take a sack on first down of the ensuing drive and punt to give the Colts great field position. 17-14 with a good chance for Indy to at least tie things up.
Vince Verhei: Well, the Rams are melting down. Since scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the second half, they have gone three-and-out three straight times. Worse, on the third of those punts, the snap hits an upback and ricochets into the end zone, where the Colts recover for a touchdown. Indianapolis now leads 21-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Bryan Knowles: Stafford hasn't looked quite the same since hurting his thumb, and the Rams go three-and-out. It's OK; they'll just punt it away...
… but the snap on the punt hits the gunner and goes spiraling off to the side; the Colts recover and score a touchdown! 21-17 Colts on one of the more bizarre plays you'll see.
Just how we drew it up.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 19, 2021
Bryan Knowles: The Rams certainly didn't wait long to respond! In the time it took for a touchdown review in Philly, the Rams race down the field for another score of their own. Have a day, Cooper Kupp; up to 160 yards and two scores as the Rams re-take a 24-21 lead early in the fourth.
Vince Verhei: Well that didn't last long. Cooper Kupp gets open down the left sideline for a gain of 44, then scores a 10-yard touchdown on the next play to put L.A. back up 24-21. Kupp is now up to an 8-160-2 statline and there are still 12 minutes to go.
Darrell Henderson has gone to the locker room, so for the time being it's Sony Michel at running back for the Rams.
Scott Spratt: I don't know if it was his foot with the previous injury, but Carson Wentz's foot got stuck for a second on an Aaron Donald sack. He's getting looked at on the sidelines after Rodrigo Blankenship kicked a field goal on the next play.
Carson Wentz' ankle takes a nasty turn after Aaron Donald rips him to the ground. pic.twitter.com/ChjIgulcMU
— The GIF Guy (@IHaveFourBalls) September 19, 2021
Vince Verhei: The teams have traded field goals, the Rams just went up 27-24 with 2:23 to go (41 rushing yards for Michel on that drive), and it's Jacob Eason making his regular-season debut at quarterback for Indy.
Bryan Knowles: ... and Eason's debut starts with an incomplete pass and an interception. Somewhat less than ideal.
Vince Verhei: That Eason pick realistically ended things. Rams ran three times to kill clock and punted, and the Colts' lateral play failed, and that was that.
Really a mixed bag for L.A. They played really sloppy at times and benefitted from a bevy of Colts mistakes. But credit to them for rallying after the Colts went ahead and finishing the game.
New Orleans Saints 7 at Carolina Panthers 26
Scott Spratt: The Saints have beaten NFC South opponents 10 straight times in the regular season—including Tampa Bay twice last year—but they headed to Carolina today without at least eight coaches in COVID protocols and without Marcus Davenport or Marshon Lattimore. And they didn't look great defensively on Carolina's first offensive series. Sam Darnold hit Christian McCaffrey and Brandon Zylstra for a pair of big plays and went the full field for a touchdown in just three minutes.
Andrew Potter: Without regular center Erik McCoy, the Saints offensive line is off to a rough start too. Opening drive, they already have two false starts, one sack allowed, and one quarterback hit that resulted in a (soft, but correct) roughing penalty. Only that roughing call prevented the Saints from going three-and-out, and they eventually punted on fourth-and-11 after the false starts.
J.P. Acosta: Hey Aaron, how often has a team been on the good side of Any Given Sunday one week, then on the bad side the next week? Because the Saints are trending in that direction…
Andrew Potter: Two-minute warning before halftime in Carolina. The Saints have had the ball three times and run nine plays. Total dominance by the Panthers defense. Sam Darnold's second touchdown pass of the day, this time to D.J. Moore, just made it 17-0. Panthers offense has been effective, if not quite dominant, but their defense is lights out.
Scott Spratt: Sam Darnold just threw his second touchdown pass, this one to DJ Moore, to extend the Panthers' lead to 17-0 with 1:55 left in the first half. The lack of coaches is an easy excuse for the Saints, but the Panthers have outplayed them in the trenches, which is a definite surprise after what the Saints did to the Packers last week. The Panthers have outgained the Saints 252 yards to 34.
Aaron Schatz: J.P., I would have to look through the archives, but it definitely has happened.
By the transitive property of football, I think that Sam Darnold has now stolen Aaron Rodgers' MVP award.
J.P. Acosta: I'm so here for NFL MVP Sam Darnold.
Scott Spratt: I actually think Christian McCaffrey would win a hypothetical Carolina MVP. And he might be the last running back who ever would.
Andrew Potter: First play following that score, Jameis Winston holds onto the ball until Morgan Fox gets a hand on him, then flings the ball left-handed into the back of Terron Armstead's head. Easy intentional grounding call, and the Saints look set to just kneel out a very, very poor first half.
Andrew Potter: … or maybe not, as Winston hits a bomb to Lil'Jordan Humphrey for their first non-penalty first down of the game.
Scott Spratt: Jameis Winston is back folks!
2019 Jameis Winston has resurfaced pic.twitter.com/MMhwnyqwtt
— trey wingo (@wingoz) September 19, 2021
Cale Clinton: For someone who lauded the post-Brees era Saints, this is a tough showing for New Orleans. They don't have nearly the same control that they had against the Packers in Week 1. New Orleans held onto the ball for so long against Green Bay; their first three drives went for 15 plays, nine plays, and 15 plays. Today, their first three drives have been three plays, three plays, and five plays. Their longest drive of the day (six plays) was just ended by a brutal Jameis Winston interception into triple-coverage. Not exactly in line with his status as one of the league's most accurate and most risk-averse quarterbacks in Week 1.
Andrew Potter: Some of the Jameis comments are a little harsh on what was essentially a Hail Mary heave 40 yards downfield on third-and-10 with like 20 seconds left in the half. The bigger story is the Panthers pass rush absolutely destroying the Saints pass protection on basically every play. It's going to be a long second half if that continues.
J.P. Acosta: I remember saying on the Thursday stream that Brian Burns could have a DPOY year. I never lost faith.
Andrew Potter: The scary part is that it's not really Burns being dominant, it's the combination of him, Morgan Fox, and Haason Reddick.
Vince Verhei: Guys, I'm starting to think that I may have underestimated this Panthers team.
J.P. Acosta: Guys, I think the Panthers defense might be legit. They opened up the second half with a three-and-out, but they have so much speed at every level, and they play with an edge
Scott Spratt: Panthers! Texans! Thursday Night Football! Which team will be the first to 3-0?
Scott Spratt: The Saints may have some life after Carl Granderson blocked Zane Gonzalez's attempted 50-yard field goal. They'll start their second drive of the second half in Panthers territory after a decent scoop and return.
Scott Spratt: Nope, the Panthers just sacked Winston on a fourth down to get the ball back. It was their third sack of the day so far.
Scott Spratt: If you thought Carson Wentz's shovel-pass interception was bad, Sam Darnold did this one up 17-0 late in the third quarter.
Sam Darnold with one of the most bizarre "nah, you take it" interceptions you'll ever see. Saints finally catch a break. Can they take advantage? pic.twitter.com/2N5IvP3SKz
— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) September 19, 2021
Andrew Potter: Jameis Winston finally got the Saints on the board with a scramble touchdown following that inept Darnold interception, but they haven't looked like parlaying that into an actual comeback. A Saints fourth-down incompletion deep in their own territory just let the Panthers kick an easy field goal to go up 26-7. That would have ended the game as a contest even without another Winston deep-ball interception, this time to Jaycee Horn, on the ensuing drive.
I was very high on the Panthers defense coming into this season. They looked every inch the finished article today. They dominated at the line, locked things down in coverage, and pursued relentlessly. The only Saints points came on a 20-yard drive following an offensive screwup. The offense wasn't quite as dominant, but it was good enough. If they can get both units to play at this level consistently, they'll be a very dangerous spoiler, though still a couple of levels below an actual contender.
Denver Broncos 23 at Jacksonville Jaguars 13
J.P. Acosta: Imagine what not having illegal procedure penalties can do? The Jaguars score on the opening drive, Trevor Lawrence to Marvin Jones. Offense looks more balanced.
J.P. Acosta: End of one in Duval, Jaguars are up 7-3. However, Jaguars defensive back CJ Henderson was pulled from the game. He's not in the tent—something to watch.
Scott Spratt: CJ Henderson underwhelmed as a rookie in 2020 with 8.6 yards allowed per target, 61st of 79 regular cornerbacks. But Urban Meyer sounded really positive on his development this preseason.
It would be pretty shocking if the team benched Henderson this early in the second game this year.
J.P. Acosta: Henderson is back in at cornerback, not sure what pulling him was for.
J.P. Acosta: Anchored by a big 33-yard completion, the Broncos get a touchdown on the board to make it 10-7 Denver with 1:54 left in the half.
J.P. Acosta: Trevor Lawrence is leading this two-minute drive really well. Just picked up a fourth-and-5 using his legs, and the Jaguars are in field goal range. However, Josh Lambo missed a long field goal earlier in the game.
Cale Clinton: Yeah … Josh Lambo missed his second field goal of the game and the Broncos will go into half up 10-7.
J.P. Acosta: CJ Henderson NOT on the field with the starters to start the second half. The Broncos then hit a big pass play at Henderson's backup Chris Claybrooks.
J.P. Acosta: Denver goes up 17-7 after a Teddy Bridgewater-to-Noah Fant touchdown. Damien Wilson is being roasted in pass coverage.
J.P. Acosta: Trevor Lawrence throws his first interception of the day to Kareem Jackson. He was trying to hit Luke Farrell but Farrell kept moving and Lawrence thought he would sit in the zone.
J.P. Acosta: Trevor Lawrence throws his second interception of the day on a tightly contested pick by Pat Surtain II.
J.P. Acosta: Jamal Agnew scores on a 102-yard kickoff return touchdown, the first kick return touchdown for Jacksonville since 2016. Denver leads 23-13.
J.P. Acosta: The Broncos handle Jacksonville 23-13. The Jaguars offense looks lifeless, and a lot of it is "help us Trevor."
Buffalo Bills 35 at Miami Dolphins 0
Scott Spratt: Oh no, Tua Tagovailoa is walking gingerly off the field after taking a shot to the ribs on his last pass. Looks like we may see Jacoby Brissett in this game.
New England Patriots 25 at New York Jets 6
Cale Clinton: One drive in and already a lot to report from this one. Jets end up on the wrong end of a tough call early. Mac Jones' first pass of the game was complete to Kendrick Bourne, but the Jets managed to pry the ball loose before Bourne went down. Robert Saleh attempts to challenge the call of a completed pass, but the refs had blown the play dead due to forward progress, making the play unreviewable. Marcus Maye salvaged the drive later on by sacking Mac Jones on third-and-4, with New England electing to punt on fourth-and-14 from the Jets 40.
Marcus Maye was everywhere on that first drive. He was in on that forced not-a-fumble along with Bryce Hall. On the sack, Maye exploited Trent Brown's fill-in, Yasir Durant, and practically came in untouched.
And as I type this, Zach Wilson's first pass in MetLife Stadium is intercepted! J.C Jackson tips the pass up into the air, then Devin McCourty taps it back to Jackson as he's falling to complete the turnover. Team effort!
Aaron Schatz: Patriots take a 3-0 lead after an interception by J.C. Jackson, off a tip by ... also J.C. Jackson. Zach Wilson threw a little behind his guy, who was easily covered by Jackson. Not a good throw. The Jets are doing a good job of bottling up the New England offense. They aren't blitzing Mac Jones, just sitting back and playing coverage. Pats are play-actioning and trying to get the ball downfield but the downfield guy is never open so it's just dumpoff after dumpoff. On the first drive, Jones took a terrible sack on third down that knocked the Pats out of field goal range although that may have been entirely caused by a blown block by the replacement right tackle Yasir Durant.
Aaron Schatz: Two possessions, two Zach Wilson interceptions. Wilson threw the ball too high, through the hands of a leaping Corey Davis and into the arms of Adrian Phillips. You can argue that Davis should have caught it, but still ... that throw was off.
Cale Clinton: Josh McDaniels just drew up a fun one on that Patriots touchdown drive. Mac Jones hands it off to James White running to the right side. White threw it back to Jones, who hit a wide-open Jonnu Smith for a 14-yard gain.
New England getting tricky with Mac Jones. #ForeverNE
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2021
Kind of like an outside zone flea flicker.
Cale Clinton: The Patriots' offensive line just got blown up as bad as I have seen in quite a while. Mac Jones was sacked and stripped by John Franklin-Myers, then sacked again on third down by Sheldon Rankins. Jones has been sacked three times in this first half.
For a team with two costly turnovers early, the Jets are really sticking around. New York has already racked up some considerable yardage on the ground off Tevin Coleman and Michael Carter ... aaaand Zach Wilson has thrown his THIRD pick of the afternoon.
Scott Spratt: Zach Wilson is looking like a possible Loser League MVP this week, Bryan.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots intercept Zach Wilson a fourth time, I don't even know who he was throwing to. Did Corey Davis run the wrong route? Then Damien Harris comes in on second-and-1 and breaks at least five tackles plus pushes a pile into the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. I don't know, does pushing tacklers into the end zone count as extra blown tackles? Great block on the run by right tackle Justin Herron, who has replaced the struggling Yasir Durant ... it looked like Herron was hurt right after coming in at the end of the first half, but he's back.
Right now the best thing the Jets have going for them is their running game, so the sooner the Patriots can take that away with a big lead, the better. Nick Folks honks the extra point so it is 19-3 Patriots.
Cale Clinton: That's FOUR for Zach Wilson, and this interception may have been the most egregious. There wasn't a single green jersey in frame when CBS replayed it. That set up a 26-yard touchdown run by Damien Harris that would have made Marshawn Lynch blush. Harris could have gone down at maybe four different points during that run, but he ended up carrying a gaggle of Jets jerseys into the end zone with him. Nick Folk missed the extra point. 19-3 Patriots.
Aaron Schatz: I felt better about Mac Jones after last week's close loss than I do after this week's big win. They have got to be stretching the field for him more than this. So many dumpoffs, with Patriots receivers just not getting open deep against a bad Jets secondary. There was one sweet seam pass to a wide-open Hunter Henry, but that was an exception. The other problem for the Patriots was run defense. Their run fits weren't good and they were getting pushed around by the Jets' offensive line—really impressive performance by a unit that I considered a weakness going into this game. Pass defense was very good, despite the bonus yards that Wilson added up in garbage time. The four picks were generally not great defensive plays, mostly handed to them by Wilson, but you do have to have good ball skills to hold onto those passes when the quarterback throws them to you. The first pick which Jackson batted up in the air, and then McCourty batted back to Jackson, that was pretty sweet.
Cale Clinton: Nothing of note has happened in a while. With Nick Folk putting New England up 25-6, I'll try to put a bow on this one.
Bill Belichick maintains his impressive record against rookie quarterbacks, moving to 22-6 since the 2000 season and 14-0 at home. New England didn't throw much deception at Zach Wilson defensively. The Patriots were able to generate pressure consistently while just rushing three or four. They were able to bring Wilson down four times but were consistently able to drive him out of the pocket into throws on the run. Last week, Wilson showed shades of Johnny Manziel against Alabama the way he was able to evade pressure and still find someone downhill. This week, Wilson forced it into heavily covered areas and paid the price. Mekhi Becton is sorely needed on this line.
Mac Jones looked fine today. He did what he was asked to do, throwing 22-for-30 for 186 yards. No touchdowns, no major mistakes, and beyond getting sacked twice on one set of downs, he wasn't pressured terribly. I thought he'd do more against a vulnerable Jets secondary, but the real strength come on the ground. New England averaged 4.2 yards per carry on the backs of Damien Harris and James White. It's surprising seeing White get action in the run game, but even more surprising to see the longest-tenured skill position player for New England also lead the team in receptions. Either that doesn't bode well for all the additions the Patriots made this offseason, or it shows just how deep their roster of talent is.
Cincinnati Bengals 17 at Chicago Bears 20
J.P. Acosta: The Bears defense is harassing Joe Burrow right now. Multiple stunts and twists just messing the Bengals offensive line up.
Scott Spratt: I wonder if we all were thrown off the scent of the Bears being decent in Week 1 because of how scary-good the Rams might be.
Bryan Knowles: Andy Dalton came up gimpy out of bounds after a scramble, and Justin Fields is in the game. Not a great day for quarterback injuries so far!
Scott Spratt: That might depend on whether you're talking to a Bears fan or not, Bryan.
J.P. Acosta: Andy Dalton is BACK in the game. Fields was in for one drive, but Dalton comes back again.
J.P. Acosta: Now Dalton is going back to the locker room, he took a huge hit on a sack. Justin Fields will go in for the Bears next offensive drive
Bryan Knowles: Hold off on that Zach Wilson Loser League coronation—Joe Burrow has just thrown three interceptions on three consecutive pass attempts and is charging strong...
Bryan Knowles: I'm not sure the Bears should be using Justin Fields as a straight dropback passer at this point, especially not in a game where he has come in unexpectedly without getting first-team snaps in practice. Fields is 5-for-12 with a pretty ugly interception in relief of Dalton.
San Francisco 49ers 17 at Philadelphia Eagles 11
Scott Spratt: Jalen Reagor just caught a long touchdown pass to put the Eagles up 9-0, but I'm pretty sure he stepped out of bounds en route such that this one will be called back.
Cale Clinton: I have been very impressed by Jalen Hurts' deep-passing ability the last two years. Hurts has done it a few times in this one, but MAN that last pass to Quez Watkins was perfectly placed in the basket. Ended up being good for 91 yards.
Jalen Hurts 91 yard pass play with Quez Watkins is fifth longest in Eagles history 🔥🔥
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 19, 2021
Aaron Schatz: Here's San Francisco keeping the Philly Special well-covered to prevent a fourth-down conversion by the Eagles.
— Football Outsiders (@fboutsiders) September 19, 2021
Bryan Knowles: I shall explain the first 28 minutes of this game as such:
- The 49ers offense was stuck in neutral. They went three-and-out on their first three drives, something that had never happened in the Kyle Shanahan era. Part of this was being very concerned about Philadelphia's pass rush; they barely attempted anything deep for the first quarter, and only began opening things up late.
- The Eagles offense is "Jalen Hurts does amazing things," which began to pick up in the second quarter. Hurts' deep shot, which we have already linked, was a hell of a throw, and quiets down a lot of people worried that his efficient day last week was a YAC-induced mirage.
- Josh Norman is not the answer in the 49ers' secondary. He got the start today but has already been flagged for two PI calls. Demmodore Lenoir has played well, but in general, the 49ers' secondary is an issue.
- Not an issue: the 49ers special teams. They blocked a field goal, downed a punt inside the 1, and have basically been forcing Philly to march up and down the field.
Add it all up, and the Eagles should have a significant lead—I'd say 17-0 or thereabouts. But tough defense on the 49ers' side of the field and the botched Philly Special kept the Eagles out of the end zone all half. The Phailed Philly Special gave the 49ers the ball on their own 3-yard line with 4:20 left, and San Francisco managed to drain the rest of the half on a 12-play, 97-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by Yet Another Deebo Samuel YAC+ Special. Jimmy Garoppolo hits Jauan Jennings in the end zone to give the 49ers a rather shocking 7-3 lead at the end of the first half.
The Eagles are going to be kicking themselves for missed opportunities; they should not be trailing at this point, and now they have to stage a comeback.
Carl Yedor: Bit of a slow one here in Philly, but there have been a few explosive plays sprinkled in that have added some measure of excitement. San Francisco scored a touchdown to take the lead after a 40-yard gain from Deebo Samuel, and the Eagles have had a few chances to score that were foiled due to a lack of execution on high-leverage downs, with a blocked field goal and a fourth-down stop at the goal line. 49ers lead at half 7-3.
Bryan Knowles: The 49ers' quarterback scrambles in for a touchdown. I am, of course, talking about Scramblin' Jimmy G, as the 49ers take a 13-3 lead after a 15-play, 92-yard drive.
The 49ers now have two 90-plus-yard touchdown drives in this game, the first time they have managed that since the 2015 season opener against Minnesota. I have always said that Kyle Shanahan might be nearly as good of an offensive mind as Jim Tomsula.
Game's not over yet, but Philadelphia probably needs points right now in order to stay in this one.
Bryan Knowles: The 49ers force a quick punt and try to drain some clock, but three separate running backs (Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, and JaMycal Hasty) all get hurt. San Francisco does manage to kick a field goal to go up 14 points with five minutes left in the game, but Philly mounts a comeback, and it's all Jalen Hurts. Hurts picked up 27 yards on a scramble to his right, and then got 15 more tacked on from a late hit by Jimmie Ward out of bounds. A few plays later, Hurts scrambles in for the touchdown, making it an eight-point game...
... and Philadelphia, analytics darlings, decide to go for two! It works, the Eagles are now down 17-11 with four minutes left, and we have a ballgame in Philly.
Houston Texans 21 at Cleveland Browns 31
Bryan Knowles: And now, Baker Mayfield is coming off hurt! Starters falling like flies around the league.
Bryan Knowles: So, how did we all miss Tyrod Taylor, NFL MVP? He hasn't missed a beat after his great performance in Week 1, going 10-for-11 for 125 yards and a touchdown pass, and he just added a 15-yard touchdown scramble for another score. I was not expecting the Tyrod Taylor Revenge Game to be a thing; but now Houston has the better quarterback in this game if Case Keenum has to go the rest of the way for Cleveland...
Tom Gower: Early in the second quarter of a 7-7 game, the Texans faced third-and-15 at the Browns 38-yard line. Tyrod Taylor completed a pass to Brandin Cooks, who was able to run to the Browns 49, setting up a fourth-and-2. The Browns' Takk McKinley was flagged for offside on the play. David Culley now faced a decision: accept the penalty and go for it on third-and-10 from his own 43, or decline the penalty and accept fourth-and-2. He chose to decline the penalty, and facing fourth-and-2 from the Browns 49, sent out the punt team. They then punted 49 yards into the end zone for a touchback. This decision was perhaps 30 real-time minutes ago as I write this email, and I'm still attempting to process it.
Bryan Knowles: Why is Davis Mills in for the Texans? I haven't heard anything about an injury, and Taylor was playing well. He didn't go in for a painkilling shot, did he?
J.P. Acosta: Davis Mills starts the second half at quarterback. Tyrod Taylor is injured. Has there ever been a quarterback as cursed as Taylor?
Scott Spratt: Tell me Tyrod Taylor didn't try to get a pain-killing injection at halftime!
Aaron Schatz: Taylor announced with a hamstring injury.
Tom Gower: 14-14 game at the half. The Texans have mostly played well in run defense and haven't been getting pushed around the same way Kansas City was last week. That has forced the Browns to play a little differently than they might want to, with some mixed results. Baker Mayfield, who got banged up at one point but didn't miss any time, has been solid but not great, I'd say.
I'll let Rivers cover the Texans side of things in more detail later, but the big news came on the opening drive of the second half, when Davis Mills trotted into the huddle instead of Tyrod Taylor. We soon learned that Taylor had been declared out with a hamstring injury. It looked like he might have tweaked something on a "well, if nobody's going to cover me..." scramble for a touchdown but returned to the game without significant limitation after that. It's going to be real interesting to watch the Texans play with rookie Davis Mills, who doesn't have the same experience or nearly the same mobility.
Bryan Knowles: We dump on screens so much because they're such low-percentage plays. So I suppose it's only fair that we point out when they work a treat, as Demetric Felton takes a little screen 30 yards into the end zone, complete with some spins and jukes. Not bad for a guy's first NFL reception!
Texans burned on screen by Demetric Felton. pic.twitter.com/S0odLVz4q1
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) September 19, 2021
21-14 Browns, midway through the third.
Rivers McCown: I think it's fitting that comments end for this game the way that they do, with everyone saying Davis Mills came in and that's just about all that happened. Because that was just about all that happened. The Browns run game got going and the Texans defense wasn't all that good and stopped forcing turnovers, but in the end that all paled in comparison to the dropoff from Taylor to Mills. I wouldn't read about some other franchise's third-round rookie quarterback struggling, but hey, maybe you're a sadist.
Las Vegas Raiders 26 at Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Bryan Knowles: The clocks hit 0:00 here with the Raiders winning 26-17.
So, at the conclusion of the early window of games, the NFC and AFC Wests are a combined 12-0. The rest of the league is a combined 13-26.
Minnesota Vikings 33 at Arizona Cardinals 34
Scott Spratt: The Cardinals entered this week with the No. 2 defense by DVOA after their dominant performance against the Titans last week. Well, after one pass this week, that rating could take a hit. The team forgot to hand off coverage on third Vikings receiver K.J. Osborn, and 64 yards later, it's 7-0 Vikings.
Bryan Knowles: Kyler Murray is going to lead the league in "touchdown passes thrown after facing the wrong way at some point during the play." 7-7, midway through the first.
Kyler Murray is just silly
— Josh Callaway (@JoshMCallaway) September 19, 2021
Scott Spratt: Move over Tony Romo, Aqib Talib just predicted Kyler Murray would throw a pass in the end zone on a third-and-10 from the Vikings' 15-yard line. A little scrambling in the pocket later, Murray hit DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown to tie this game at 7-7 just over 10 minutes into the game.
Scott Spratt: The not-often-seen double-doink completion to blocking specialist Maxx Williams. I'm guessing not the intended target.
This Kyler Murray to Maxx Williams connection took some crazy deflections on the way.pic.twitter.com/fwbS89O2DC
— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) September 19, 2021
Scott Spratt: I thought the Vikings had major offensive line problems, but they have created some college-sized holes for Dalvin Cook so far today. Maybe we're in for a repeat of last season when they finished first in adjusted line yards (5.07) but 31st in offensive pressure rate (31.4% per Sports Info Solutions).
Cook has 10 carries and 86 yards at the two-minute warning in the first half.
Vince Verhei: Just when you thought Kyler Murray couldn't get any more fun, he scrambles for a touchdown and strikes the Baby Yoda zen pose in the end zone:
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 19, 2021
LOOK AT HIS LITTLE HANDS!
— Connor Dragonheart (@White_Wolf998) December 4, 2020
(I don't know how long Baby Yoda has been a thing for Murray, but Chandler Jones called him that earlier this week after Murray made fun of Jones' physique.)
Scott Spratt: Yikes, I announcer-cursed Cook in a major way. He just got stuffed on a third-and-1 and is currently down injured on the field.
Bryan Knowles: Gus Johnson calling Kyler Murray seems like something we should get every week for the rest of time.
KYLER MURRAY IS ELECTRIC. #AZCardinals
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2021
Vince Verhei: Agreed, and that's another turn-your-back-to-the-defense touchdown for Murray.
Scott Spratt: Dalvin Cook is back in the game on the subsequent series.
J.P. Acosta: Matt Prater nails a 62-YARD FIELD GOAL to put the Cardinals up 24-23 at half.
Vince Verhei: Even the kickers are making plays today! Greg Joseph puts Minnesota ahead with a 52-yarder, but Matt Prater goes full "hold my beer" mode and drills a 62-yarder at the second-half gun! Cards lead 24-23 at halftime; Joseph's missed extra point is the difference in the game. But I'm done with analysis—I'm just going to enjoy the fireworks here. This could be a regular thing now as Kliff Kingsbury has turned the Cardinals into a Big 12 team.
Bryan Knowles: It's 31-30 Arizona with 9:11 left in the third quarter. They're on pace to put up 102 points in the desert. I am enjoying some Big 12 football today.
J.P. Acosta: Kyler Murray completes an insane pass against a zero blitz like he did last week to convert on fourth-and-5. The Cardinals are in the red zone down two with 5:25 left in the game.
KYLER ON FOURTH DOWN
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 19, 2021
Vince Verhei: In the second half, Murray has thrown a pick-six to Nick Vigil, a touchdown to A.J. Green, a red zone interception to Xavier Woods, and that nutty deep ball to Christian Kirk. They settle for the field goal but that's still a 34-33 lead with 4:25 to go.
Bryan Knowles: The Vikings drive for a much more sensible game-winning field goal, with Cousins driving Minnesota 58 yards on their last drive. Greg Joseph comes out for the 37-yarder ... and misses it. The Cardinals survive, 34-33.
Vince Verhei: Just to complete the Kyler Murray experience today, on the Cardinals' last drive he ran out of bounds on first down to save Minnesota a timeout, then took a sack on second down, forcing a punt two plays later. He really was hot or cold all day with no in between.
But it doesn't matter. Vikings trailed by one because Joseph missed an extra point in the first half, and they lost because he missed a 37-yard field goal at the end.
Tennessee Titans 33 at Seattle Seahawks 30
Vince Verhei: They forecast a downpour, but the sun is shining in Seattle at kickoff. But bad news for Tennessee: Taylor Lewan was unable to get through warmups and is a late scratch for today.
Vince Verhei: We're tied 3-3 at the end of the first. Seahawks have 85 yards of offense, 51 of them on one long ball to Tyler Lockett (who beat former Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald on the play). Otherwise Russell Wilson has not looked sharp, missing a few throws, including an open Lockett in the end zone on third down.
Seahawks defense, meanwhile, has struggled to get off the field on third downs, giving up three conversions (including one on a penalty) on the Titans' field goal drive. Still waiting for Derrick Henry to make an impact this season: he's currently at six carries for 9 yards.
Vince Verhei: Not a good day for Tre Flowers. Earlier he was beaten by A.J. Brown for what could have been a big gain, but Brown dropped the ball (may have been intimidated by a hit from Quandre Diggs, may also have lost the ball in the sun). Now he gives up a 51-yarder to Julio Jones. That leads to Tennessee getting a first-and-goal, but a forward motion penalty moves them back, and Bobby Wagner gets free on a blitz to sack Tannehill and force a field goal try. Titans take a 6-3 lead.
J.P. Acosta: Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett is one of the most deadly combinations in football. Wilson hit Lockett for a 60-yard bomb to give the Seahawks a 10-6 lead. Elijah Molden missed a tackle after the catch.
Vince Verhei: Seattle's game plan today has largely consisted of failed wide receiver screens, sacks, and penalties, so it's nice to see them go back to the "screw it, just go deep to Lockett" strategy again.
Guess who?! @TDLockett12 takes it to the end zone for this 63-yarder!
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) September 19, 2021
J.P. Acosta: A series of unfortunate events for Tennessee. Rodger Saffold goes down with an injury, then on the next play Ryan Tannehill fumbles on a strip-sack and the Seahawks recover. Chris Carson takes it in two plays later to make it 17-6.
Vince Verhei: That was Alton Robinson beating Lewan's backup Ty Sambrailo for the sack-fumble. That's Tannehill's third fumble in six quarters; he hasn't had more than six in a year since 2016.
Scott Spratt: That surprises me to hear, Vince. Ryan Tannehill had 11.3% and 9.8% sack rates in 2018 and 2019. But I guess the former was his last year in Miami that ended early with injury and the latter was his first year in Tennessee when he didn't become the starter until Week 7.
Still, yikes for Tannehill's early career. He took 58, 46, and 45 sacks in his second, third, and fourth years in the Adam Gase days in Miami. That's a recipe for nine or more fumbles per season. And it definitely bodes poorly for this year if the Titans keep falling behind by multiple scores and forcing a pass-heavy game script.
Vince Verhei: The Seahawks cannot cover Julio Jones—he's over 100 yards in the second quarter—but apparently the referees can. This was called a touchdown on the field, but overruled by replay review as incomplete because his heel was out of bounds. I'm stunned—looked plainly like a touchdown to me, let alone being definitive enough to overrule the on-field call. Titans settle for yet another field goal and a 17-9 score.
INSANE CATCH @juliojones_11
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) September 19, 2021
Bryan Knowles: Seattle Twitter was getting furious over Pete Carroll not calling a timeout at any point when the Titans were driving for that field goal, but it ends up not hurting them. They get the ball back with 1:05 left and take 48 seconds to go down the field as Tennessee has apparently decided covering people is optional today. It's not just the big Lockett catch from earlier in the game; they entirely lost Freddie Swain and decided that Alex Collins didn't need to be accounted for in the running game, resulting in a pair of chunk plays with no one with 10 yards of the Seattle player.
Chris Carson punches it in with 17 seconds left, and the Titans need to get to the locker room and regroup down 24-9. Painful minute or so of game time after the Jones touchdown was overturned.
Vince Verhei: Seattle snapped the ball eight times (seven official plays, one more wiped out by penalty) in those 48 seconds without calling timeout. Good NFL offenses moves FAST, man.
So Seattle leads 24-9 at halftime. The second half ends with Nick Bellore destroying Chester Rogers on a meaningless kickoff return. Not a good half for either team's return game—both teams have started drives deep in their own territory after kickoffs.
Vince Verhei: Derrick Henry is not dead yet! After being held to 30-some rushing yards in the first half, he has 25 on an 80-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, including a nifty 9-yard touchdown run where he looked bottled up for a loss but bounced to the outside and across the goal line. Titans force a punt and have another nice drive going, but pressure forces Tannehill to throw incomplete on third down, and Randy Bullock misses a 44-yard field goal. Seahawks not doing much, but still clinging to a 24-16 lead as the fourth quarter begins.
Bryan Knowles: Well, NOW they're doing much, as for at least the second time today, the Titans decide just not to cover Freddie Swain. This time, it's a 68-yard touchdown as Swain just runs past everybody. Two different defensive backs passed Swain off to empty space, and it's now 30-16, Seattle, and Tennessee is looking toast-adjacent.
Vince Verhei: Remember when we projected Tennessee to have the worst defense in the league? We may have gone too easy on them.
Russell Wilson to Freddie Swain for a 68-yard score! #Seahawks
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2021
J.P. Acosta: It's hard to get worse than where they were at last year, but this is bad.
Bryan Knowles: And now TENNESSEE strikes back with the quick-fire offense, as this late-game window goes absolutely nuts. Derrick Henry rumbles off left end for 60 yards and a score, and now it's 30-23, Seattle. That missed extra point after the Swain touchdown is now looming large, with 12:17 left to go.
This is exhausting!
Just what the doctor ordered 👨🏽⚕️ @KingHenry_2
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) September 19, 2021
Vince Verhei: But there's fourth-quarter Derrick Henry with a 60-yard touchdown run and we're back to a one-score game. These afternoon games are all nuts.
Bryan Knowles: Accepting all responses for why the Titans decided to not have Derrick Henry on the field on fourth-and-2. I'm not saying necessarily slam him into the line, but how can you not even have that threat out there?
Seahawks get a big fourth-down stop and the ball back.
Vince Verhei: This game is messing with my emotions. A.J. Brown has a step on D.J. Reed for what would be a long tying touchdown, but Tannehill's pass is a few inches overthrown. Reed pops up and flexes—and gets a 5-yard taunting penalty. This just makes Seattle's defense more angry, and they promptly stuff Henry for no gain and get a sack of Tannehill (by former Titans lineman Al Woods). Third-and-long, Tannehill hits Julio to set up a fourth-and-2. Of course they go for it, but Henry is on the sideline. Tannehill takes a shotgun snap but pressure forces an incompletion again. Seahawks take over, but they have shown zero ability to sit on a lead and kill clock today, and there's still more than five minutes left.
Vince Verhei: Sure enough, Seattle goes three-and-out. They then choose the odd defensive strategy of "surrender all the 8-yard completions the opposition wants." Just short curls to Henry and Jeremy McNichols, all the way down the field, until Henry runs into the end zone with 29 seconds left. Titans kick the extra point and we are tied at 30. Seahawks need one more lightning-strike drive to avoid overtime.
Bryan Knowles: Derrick Henry scores with 29 seconds left, and Bullock kicks the extra point to tie us at 30. The missed extra point comes back to haunt the Seahawks.
Two strategic notes here, though. The Titans used a timeout rather than letting 10 seconds run off the clock, so Russell Wilson gets the ball with 29 seconds, not 19. That might come into play. Also: anyone here like the idea of going for two here, rather than settling for the tie?
Vince Verhei: Do not like the idea of going for two. If you get it, you force Wilson to try for a field goal to beat you. By kicking for one, you're way more likely to at least go to overtime.
Mike Vrabel made the CORRECT decision to kick the PAT.
— EdjSports (@edjsports) September 19, 2021
Scott Spratt: In support of the EdjSports tweet, Derrick Henry has taken 11 career carries from exactly 2 yards from the end zone. He has only scored on two of them (one a touchdown, one a two-point conversion).
Scott Spratt: The Titans have dropped six passes so far today. That would have tied Ryan Tannehill for the second-most in a passing game in 2020. But poor Drew Lock saw nine drops in a game in Week 16 last year.
Bryan Knowles: The Seahawks' first overtime drive goes nowhere. I'm not entirely convinced Russell Wilson wasn't sacked in the end zone for a walkoff safety, though it looks like the refs called forward progress at about the 6-inch line.
Bryan Knowles: To sum up: The Seahawks were winning 30-16. They miss an extra point, keeping their lead at 14 points. The Titans score two straight touchdowns to tie the game, and win the overtime coin toss. Seattle then finally stiffens up and forces a punt, only to go backwards on offense and have to punt the ball right back, allowing the Titans to kick a field goal.
I am VERY curious to see Seattle's Post-Game Win Expectancy on this one.
Vince Verhei: If you're going to call that in the grasp, I don't see how it's not a safety. But it doesn't matter, because the Titans take over in Seattle territory and quickly get a field goal and win.
Just too much inconsistency from Seattle on offense. They averaged 7.6 yards per play, which is good, but they also went 4-for-12 on third downs and had four three-and-outs. After the broken-coverage Swaim touchdown, Seattle's last four drives produced four punts, one first down, and a total of only 43 yards—27 of them on the meaningless last play of regulation.
But I can't get over Seattle's defensive scheme on the drive that forced overtime. They went to a prevent defense with a one-score lead and four minutes to go. Henry's career-high coming into the day was four catches, but he had three on that drive alone, and McNichols had four. That's seven running back catches for 51 yards on one drive! For god's sake, put somebody in the middle of the field! It finished as a real monster day for Henry—182 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, plus a half-dozen catches for 55 more yards.
Oh well, on to next week, when the Seahawks face the Vikings and Dalvin...
Tom Gower: When the Titans had that horrible 1:15 to finish the first half, going from what looked like it would be a 17-13 deficit to going into halftime down 24-9, I thought the game was over. The Seahawks had gotten a couple of big pass plays on their first two scoring drives, cashed in on a short field after a turnover, and then sliced up the Titans in an incredibly efficient one-minute drill. The Titans got the second-half kickoff and scored and got a stop, but missed a field goal and then Wilson found Freddie Swain on a completely blown coverage for a 68-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to restore the two-touchdown lead. But then Myers missed the extra point to keep it at 14 points, and Derrick Henry went 60 yards on the second Titans play to take the game back to seven points.
And then what had been happening mattered—the Seahawks had been getting yards in massive chunks, but outside of the one-minute drill had not been gaining yards consistently. I'll run the numbers later, but I don't think they were impressive on a down-to-down basis. They finished the game with just two drives with multiple first downs, and the one not in the final minute of the first half ended with Pete punting on fourth-and-3 near midfield after Chris Carson was stuffed on third-and-2. And a Titans offense that had sustained drives kept having more sustained drives. They got stopped in field goal range on the aforementioned fourth-and-2 without Derrick Henry on the field. No problem, Seattle couldn't convert a third down, so just drive the field again. Tie game, overtime, the sack that was nearly a safety, and their only good starting field position of the game cashed into a winning field goal. An unexpected win, the first extra-divisional AFC South win of the season after five defeats, and first NFC West defeat of the season.
Dallas Cowboys 20 at Los Angeles Chargers 17
Bryan Knowles: The Cowboys march down the field for an opening-drive touchdown. That's the first time they have been able to say that since Week 14 of 2019; it has been a little bit. It included an odd fourth-down conversion where the Chargers were flagged for pass interference. The "interference" in this case was the defender just standing there as the receiver ran into him; looked almost like a pick play gone wrong more than anything else. Given new life, the Cowboys finished their march to the end zone, with Tony Pollard running in for the score to the frustration of Zeke Elliott fantasy managers everywhere.
7-0 Cowboys here in the first.
Aaron Schatz: Cowboys and Chargers trade picks. Trevon Diggs had an awesome play undercutting an over route to take the ball away from Keenan Allen. Then on the Dallas drive, Dak Prescott overthrows CeeDee Lamb right into the arms of Asante Samuel Jr. Cowboys offensive strategy today is clearly to run the ball with heavy sets against the Chargers' preferred two-deep looks. It helps that Michael Gallup is hurt so they can feel better about going two-tight end instead of three-wide receiver.
Scott Spratt: Justin Herbert's throw was pretty much on target and a fast throw, so Trevon Diggs did an amazing job to undercut it for a pick. Prescott's was more of a mystery. I think he was aiming for CeeDee Lamb, but if so, the throw was close to 10 yards too far downfield and right at Asante Samuel, Jr.
As predicted by me, this is a defensive struggle early, haha.
Aaron Schatz: The Cowboys go up 14-3 and here are the four runs on that drive:
- Pollard right tackle for 16
- Pollard right tackle for 6
- Lamb (!) right tackle for 13
- Elliott right tackle for a 5-yard touchdown.
Zack Martin for the win at right guard. Terrence Steele pushing guys around at right tackle too.
Bryan Knowles: The Cowboys' offensive plan seems to run in streaks. Three straight plays to Tony Pollard earn 34 yards, and then three straight plays to CeeDee Lamb get 36 more. And then it's Zeke Elliot's chance to steal a touchdown from Pollard, punching it in to give the Cowboys a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Lamb plays are worth noting; he lined up at tailback on one of them and took an inside zone for 13 yards. Dallas finding creative ways to get the ball in Lamb's hands and it's fun to watch! The crowd seems to agree, which is concerning as the game is in Los Angeles.
Bryan Knowles: Good defensive strategy: force a lot of long down-and-distance situations. The Chargers found themselves in third-and-11 and third-and 13 on their last drive. Bad defensive strategy: let your opponents convert said long down and distances, as the Chargers march 75 yards in 10 plays. Even worse defensive strategy: don't cover Mike Williams, with a couple big catches on the drive, including a 12-yard touchdown after a hell of a leap and stretch.
And then the Chargers steal a timeout. The touchdown made it 14-9 and Dallas trots their field goal block unit onto the field. The Chargers, however, decide to go for the two-point conversion, confusing the Cowboys and forcing them to burn a timeout. It doesn't help, either, as Austin Ekeler scores to make the score 14-11 Dallas midway through the second. Losing a timeout like that isn't a huge deal in the first half, but it's a free bonus for Los Angeles on a play they converted anyway.
Aaron Schatz: Chargers had nine penalties for 79 yards in the first half of this game and they just had an ineligible man downfield for their first penalty of the second half, cancelling a great 31-yard completion to Mike Williams. Lots of offensive penalties too. Defensive penalties often mean close play that goes over the line. Offensive penalties are often just mistakes.
Aaron Schatz: Chargers with more penalties. Just had a 36-yard touchdown to a wide-open Donald Parham called back by a somewhat iffy holding on Jared Cook at the line of scrimmage. Cook did have his hands inside the defensive player's pads, but it's not like he tackled him to the ground. Justin Herbert is making some phenomenal throws today but the penalties are getting in the way.
Aaron Schatz: Big interception by Herbert! Throws behind Jalen Guyton and right into the hands of Damontae Kazee in the end zone. Ball might have been intended for Keenan Allen, who fell down making a cut. Take a long, successful Chargers drive and toss it in the garbage can. Still 14-14.
Aaron Schatz: It looked like the Chargers had a 75-yard touchdown drive to take the lead, but what do you know, another penalty. Beautiful 30-yard pass to Keenan Allen stuck the Chargers at the Dallas 2, and on the next pass Herbert slants it over to Jared Cook, but the Chargers get called for an illegal shift. Then on the next play, very strange, the Cowboys' pass rush moves Herbert way back and he throws it away as he's falling to the ground ... and the officials declare that his forward progress was stopped (!!) and thus he lost 18 yards. I mean, I would understand an intentional grounding call there, but not the idea that he was in the grasp, that's just weird. Chargers got some of the yardage back on the next play but ended up having to kick a field goal. So we are at 17-17 with 3:54 left.
Bryan Knowles: Yet another touchdown is taken off the board for the Chargers as a Keenan Allen score is brought back for illegal formation. The Chargers have 12 penalties, and it feels like a full third of them took points off the board.
Then Herbert gets called for one of the softer in-the-grasp sacks you'll ever see, though it probably was at least intentional grounding. Los Angeles has to settle for a field goal, and we're tied at 17.
Aaron Schatz: Crazy bad game clock management by Dallas, with one timeout left they run the ball on second-and-7 and 33 seconds left and ... then ... just let the clock run down. They could have run multiple plays trying to get closer. Instead they settle for a 56-yard field goal. Now the Chargers ice the kicker...
Aaron Schatz: And Mike McCarthy gets away with it! Greg Zuerlein puts it through for a 20-17 Cowboys win!
Bryan Knowles: Stopped clock, twice a day, and all that. And THAT'S how the Western divisions pick up their first loss of the year.
Scott Spratt: With all the offseason Brandon Staley intrigue, I had forgotten that the Chargers always lose like that.
J.P. Acosta: The Chargers find new ways to lose.
Atlanta Falcons 25 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48
Bryan Knowles: Wellity wellity wellity, don't look now, but the Falcons, who were steamrolled off the field a week ago, have pulled to within one score. It's 28-25, Buccaneers, with 1:45 left in the third quarter, as Atlanta has scored twice in the third quarter to stay within touch. Cordarrelle Patterson has 10 touches for 71 yards and a couple of scores, which is his biggest day since 2017. Full credit to the Falcons for scraping themselves off the pavement from last week. They have made some strange choices strategically, and it hasn't always looked pretty, but they're actually keeping things interesting.
Scott Spratt: Tom Brady threw his fifth touchdown of the day, and then Matt Ryan threw a pick-six three plays later. Suddenly it's 41-25 and this one is over with less than eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Kansas City Chiefs 35 at Baltimore Ravens 36
Bryan Knowles: Well this one escalated quickly. A play after Lamar Jackson misses a big connection deep down field to Hollywood Brown, Tyrann Mathieu picks Jackson off and returns it for six. More blame on that pick is probably on Sammy Watkins than Jackson, but still, an ugly start for a team that really can't afford an ugly start.
Aaron Schatz: Historically, the Ravens blitz constantly, which is one of the reasons Patrick Mahomes carves them up. DON'T BLITZ MAHOMES. Tonight, the Ravens are playing totally un-Ravens-like, the way that every other team plays the Chiefs: two high safeties, zone coverage, invite them to run the ball, let them complete short passes.
J.P. Acosta: Do you think that could just be out of necessity? Because they have no healthy defensive backs that they can leave on islands.
Aaron Schatz: Well, Marlon Humphrey still could, I think. But that definitely might be the reason they're playing this way.
Carl Yedor: We can't allow ourselves to become numb to Mahomes. Maybe we shouldn't go over the top with praise every week to avoid annoying everyone on the planet by the end of the year, but he is such a special, special talent. He makes the excellent seem ordinary essentially whenever he isn't running for his life.
Scott Spratt: That graphic was presumably meant to extoll Lamar Jackson's rushing virtues, but wow Jamaal Charles got to 3,000 rushing yards on fewer than 500 carries?
Scott Spratt: With most teams, I would think they missed their opportunity to beat a good opponent when they forced a pair of interceptions in the first half and converted one into a pick-six and yet still were just tied 14-14 with 3:21 left in the half. But I guess those rules just don't apply to the Chiefs. The Ravens could continue to run for 7.7 yards per carry and that may not even be enough at home in Baltimore.
Vince Verhei: Actually, Scott (and anyone else too young to remember the brilliance of Jamaal Charles), not even 500. At the end of his fourth season, Charles had 3,027 yards on 499 carries, a 6.1-yard average. He was the man.
Scott Spratt: I watched Charles play, Vince. I watched Priest Holmes play. I just wouldn't have assumed any running back could sustain 6.0 yards per carry for more than one season of carries.
Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs had the Ravens on a first-and-25 at their own 21 with 40 seconds left and one timeout remaining. It turned into a field goal. That's bad situational football from the Chiefs; gotta make some tackles inbounds at some point.
I think being down just four points is pretty much a best-case scenario for two pretty ugly interceptions exceptionally early; I'm impressed Baltimore is still keeping in touch here. The Chiefs' issues with their front seven will come back to bite them at some point, you would imagine.
Bryan Knowles: A reminder that last year, Patrick Mahomes had a -2.1% DVOA under pressure, the ninth-highest DVOA we have ever recorded. In 2019, he was at -0.5%. In 2018, he was at 7.6%. Mahomes is pretty good under pressure!
So, after sitting back for most of the first half, Baltimore comes out in the second half, blitzing. Mahomes absorbs the pressure and hits Byron Pringle for a 40-yard touchdown. I'm not saying never rush Mahomes, but you have gotta time your shots right, and that was not timed right.
Scott Spratt: I'm not entirely sure why Lamar Jackson jumped on this touchdown pass to Hollywood Brown, but it was pretty sick.
Tune in on NBC! pic.twitter.com/zDO2qGp9of
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2021
28-24 Chiefs leading with 9:30 left in the third quarter.
J.P. Acosta: Didn't you know? Jumping on passes makes them 10x cooler. That's advanced analytics.
Carl Yedor: I hope Travis Kelce gets the rumblin', tumblin', stumblin' treatment from Chris Berman when that touchdown shows up in a highlight package. Never seemed like he was running that fast (he is a tight end, after all), but he evaded every defender that got near him and finished the play with six points. Kansas City leads 35-24 halfway through the third quarter.
Vince Verhei: The dots on Kelce's touchdown may be the most fun dots I have ever seen.
Kelce dots by request!
(NFL Next Gen Stats) pic.twitter.com/0J7kg6ukln
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) September 20, 2021
J.P. Acosta: 71 is in the wrong number bracket to be making plays like that in space.
Aaron Schatz: Patrick Mahomes just threw an interception in September! On a bad decision where he tried to do too much, throwing the ball while he was going to the ground on a sack. He's human!
Bryan Knowles: I think it's more likely that Patrick Mahomes was secretly replaced with a body double than that he's capable of making mistakes, but either way, boy howdy did the Ravens need a big defensive play.
Scott Spratt: Ineligible man downfield on a two-point conversion? How is that even possible?
Aaron Schatz: You can't be more than 1 yard downfield on a passing play. The two-point conversion takes place from the 2. So if the offensive lineman is in the end zone ... ta da, that's ineligible downfield.
Tom Gower: Can we get an EdjSports ruling on the Ravens decision to still go for two at 35-30 after the 5-yard penalty?
Aaron Schatz: The EdjSports model had Baltimore going for two as +1.5% win probability, even from the 7-yard line.
Scott Spratt: If you are the Ravens here, how long would you ideally take to score a touchdown? They probably can't drain all 10 minutes, right? But if you take it to four or five minutes, you may never get the ball back. The Chiefs can really get in your head.
Bryan Knowles: Well, ideally, yes, drain all 10 minutes. But absent that, I'd want to score as quickly as possible. There may well be three or four more touchdowns in this one, at the pace these teams are going.
Scott Spratt: I think the Ravens are taking too long to score.
Scott Spratt: Now that the Chiefs get the ball back down one with 3:14, should the Ravens just bring eight every play? The best thing that can happen is a turnover, but the second best thing is an immediate score so the Ravens have time to answer.
Aaron Schatz: Looks like the Ravens are doing the opposite. They're sticking with the regular pass rush and the coverage, and the Chiefs move the ball downfield easily anyway. They're going to very likely set up for the game-winning field goal as time expires.
Scott Spratt: Harrison Butker missed six extra-point attempts last year. Maybe the Ravens think their best chance is a missed kick?
Scott Spratt: Or a fumble!!
Bryan Knowles: Or, you know, a forced fumble!
Game's not over yet, as the Chiefs have all three timeouts, but wow.
Bryan Knowles: The Ravens go for it on fourth-and-1, because kicking the ball back to Mahomes is a recipe for disaster. And they get it! And they win!
What a football game.
Scott Spratt: Circling back, that Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble was horrific.
ODAFE OWEH WELCOME TO THE LEAGUE!
NOW ON NBC! pic.twitter.com/6hDbrKClBX
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2021
Oweh wasn't even on the ball side. He just poked a hand in.
J.P. Acosta: Odafe Oweh has had a wonderful game, and seals it with a forced fumble
Scott Spratt: The Ravens finished the game at 6.1 yards per carry. Jamaal Charles-esque.