Week 5: Bills Blow Out Chiefs on Sunday Night
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.
New York Jets 20 "at" Atlanta Falcons 27 (London)
Carl Yedor: Today might be Kyle Pitts' welcome-to-the-NFL game for people not following the Falcons particularly closely. With Calvin Ridley out, Pitts has been Matt Ryan's most-targeted receiver through three drives and has been quite productive already, catching five passes for 58 yards, one touchdown, and three other first downs. There have been some big chunk plays, and it's clear that Ryan already trusts him. Sure, it is against the Jets and taking place in London, but Pitts could be in line for a monster game here.
Tom Gower: Falcons up 20-3 at the half, and the score accurately reflects the relative effectiveness of the two teams. Zach Wilson is 5-of-13 for 42 yards. His throws seem maybe a bit late, and his ball placement hasn't been great. His interception probably fit both of those categories. Even against Atlanta, the Jets run game isn't close to sustaining enough to make up for that.
The Pitts statline is part of an Atlanta plan that has revolved around using the tight ends to attack the Jets defense rather than a significant role change for Pitts that I have noticed. The other fantasy note is that Cordarrelle Patterson is playing a higher percentage of the running back snaps after last week's three-touchdown performance. I took a look at about a game and a half of the Falcons offense this week and got really frustrated watching Mike Davis (fun fact: between Davis and Michael Carter, this game featured the two worst backs in the league by Next Gen Stats' Rush Yards Over Expectation/attempt this season), so I'm not surprised by that.
Jets got their first touchdown of the game after a long kickoff return by Tevin Coleman to start the third quarter, though, so a Falconsing is definitely still in play.
Scott Spratt: In defense of my guys Mike Davis and Michael Carter, this game also features the seventh- and ninth-worst teams in adjusted line yards. There's blame to go around!
Rivers McCown: My only reaction to this game is: The Titans defense must be really, really bad.
Scott Spratt: I'm going to test that theory, Rivers with, an ill-advised Jaguars passing game DFS stack!
Denver Broncos 19 at Pittsburgh Steelers 27
Scott Spratt: Was Ben Roethlisberger playing possum this whole time??
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 10, 2021
The 50-yard bomb to Diontae Johnson gets the Steelers an early 7-0 lead.
Scott Spratt: Lest we get carried away, that 59-yard Chase Claypool reception only went about 6 yards in the air. Roethlisberger may have to dine out on that 50-yard Johnson bomb for a while.
Bryan Knowles: Getting late early for the Broncos, here. Roethlisberger is finding open receivers on Denver blitzes, and the Broncos' defensive line is just getting destroyed, surprisingly.
Denver finally got a stop, holding Pittsburgh to a field goal—but they got called for leverage, giving Pittsburgh new life. Roethlisberger then hits an absolute laser to Chase Claypool in the end zone, it's 24-6 Pittsburgh after their first drive of the second half, and this one is pretty much in the books.
New Orleans Saints 33 at Washington Football Team 22
Bryan Knowles: Saints fans are getting the classic Jameis Winston performance today! The Saints have had two drives so far. On the first, Winston forced a ball over the middle, and Holcomb got a pretty easy interception to set up Washington for an early field goal. On the second, Winston took a deep shot to Harris, who had gotten past everyone for a 72-yard score. Never boring when Jameis Classic shows up. 7-3 New Orleans early.
Vince Verhei: Winston gives the ball back to Washington on a sack-fumble. So…
- Bad interception
- Long touchdown
It's the Jameis hat trick!
Aaron Schatz: Jameis Winston just ended the first half with a 49-yard Hail Mary to Marquez Callaway.
— Football Outsiders (@fboutsiders) October 10, 2021
He's having the most Jameis Winston game of all time. An interception, a strip sack, and two deep touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Washington secondary continues to struggle. (Call back to this week's Derrik Klassen Film Room.)
Dave Bernreuther: Did I read that Taysom Hill was carted off the field in this one? So that means that we still have a full half of good/bad/interesting Jameis on tap, uninterrupted.
Vince Verhei: Kind of crazy that Washington is losing here, as they have mostly looked very good when they're not, you know, giving up mile-long touchdowns. But they have had two possessions in scoring range that ended with no points: a bad Taylor Heinicke interception in the red zone, and a curious decision to go for it on fourth-and-10 (again, with Heinicke at quarterback) rather than try a 52-yard field goal. I suspect they'd have a hefty lead in success rate today, but most of the critical plays have gone New Orleans' way.
Vince Verhei: You could argue the Saints were lucky to be ahead going into the fourth quarter, but they were pretty clearly the superior team in the final 15 minutes. They intercepted Heinicke to set up Winston's third touchdown pass, and though Heinicke rebounded to lead a touchdown drive, Winston responded with perhaps his best drive of the day as New Orleans goes 75 yards in eight plays and Winston finishes it with his fourth scoring pass. That's a 33-22 lead, and that proved to be the final margin.
Tennessee Titans 37 at Jacksonville Jaguars 19
J.P. Acosta: The Jaguars were helped by a huge 63-yard James Robinson run to set up a touchdown, then missed the extra point, making it 7-6 Titans. Can I go try out to be the kicker?
Scott Spratt: The Jaguars did enter the week with 7.9 points under average on their field goal and extra point attempts. That's nearly three fewer points than the next-worst team.
J.P. Acosta: The Titans are driving looking to extend their lead before halftime after Jaguars kicker Matthew Wright was short on a 53-yard field goal. The Jaguars haven't made a field goal since last year.
Vince Verhei: Derrick Henry takes a sweep to the right and it's such an easy 13-yard gain that he's got an offensive lineman desperately searching for someone to block. Next play he just goes right up the gut, barely touched, for a 9-yard touchdown run. Titans now up 31-13 early in the third as the Jaguars defenders are racking up the business decisions.
J.P. Acosta: Myles Jack going down with a back injury was a signal to just run at this Jaguars defense.
Tom Gower: This felt like a vintage 2020 Titans game, with a really good offense doing more than enough to make up for a defense that wasn't very good. That was definitely the feeling I got when the Titans built a 24-13 halftime lead.
Their first touchdown was a bit fortunate, a close catch/fumble vs. incompletion that stayed a fumble and a defensive touchdown. After the Jaguars tied the game (or would have if they weren't part of the league-wide informal ban on extra points today) on a long James Robinson run—which was a change up from last week's Titans defense getting gashed on pass plays—and an exchange of punts, we were off to the races. Big completions on crossers to Jeremy McNichols and A.J. Brown set up Derrick Henry's first score. A big pass to Marvin Jones and a Tavon Austin broken tackle-and-run set up a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to Jacob Hollister. MyCole Pruitt touchdown catch when the Jaguars defense completely busted on covering him. A couple of good Robinson runs set up a long field goal attempt, just short. Deep pass to Chester Rogers sets up a shorter field goal attempt, made.
And then the Titans did what they didn't do last week, taking the second-half kickoff and finishing off a bad team that they should have beaten. Key to that drive were three third-down conversions: one to Marcus Johnson, just activated off injured reserve; one to A.J. Brown; and the third Tannehill with his legs. It drew the headlines last week because it led to kicking field goals, but the Titans had been a poor third-down team for the rest of the season. It wasn't quite over at that point; the Jaguars would cut it to 31-19 and very briefly to 31-25 before Trevor Lawrence's touchdown was overturned by replay and their second fourth-and-goal from a yard away failed to reach the end zone.
I feel like I should have some sort of grand pronouncement to make, either a Titans update after last week's missive or a declaration about The State of Urban Meyer or How Good Trevor Lawrence Is Destined To Be, but I really don't. Meyer's press conferences really really REALLY sound like a coach who's not used to losing and not sure how to handle it. Lawrence is a talented player on a bad team, and that's fine for now and as far as it makes sense for me to go here.
J.P. Acosta: If you thought Jets-Falcons in London was bad football, I present to you: the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars vs. the 1-4 Miami Dolphins in London next week.
Dave Bernreuther: I have been a morning person for a few years now, but that matchup makes me want to go back to my "sleeps til noon" days.
Green Bay Packers 25 at Cincinnati Bengals 22 (OT)
Derrik Klassen: I'm not sure why Green Bay is so dead-set on throwing the ball right now. I mean, sure, they have Aaron Rodgers, but this Cincinnati defense has probably been overrated all season and the Packers were running the ball down their throats on the first drive. The Bengals' pass rush doesn't look too shabby right now, either. Think the Packers would be best served to lean on the run game and get some screens/play-action going off that—they are typically quite good at that.
Dave Bernreuther: The Bengals are getting after it so far today, limiting Aaron Rodgers to a 2-of-7 start and making him uncomfortable. The most recent of those throws deserves recognition for being fantastic but incomplete, I think, just because of how freakishly difficult it was. On third down, a strong-side rush flushed him out to his left, and near full speed and under duress, he squared his shoulders perfectly and threw just a dart without setting his feet, deep down the sideline, placed where only the tightly covered Robert Tonyan could possibly have caught it.
Tonyan didn't catch it, of course, missing by mere inches, but that was a jaw-droppingly good throw on the move. I'm not sure I have ever rewound an incomplete pass as much as I have that one.
Bryan Knowles: After, shall we say, a sluggish start to this one (four punts and a Chidobe Awuzie interception make up the first five drives), Cincinnati gets on the board first. The Packers' red zone defense is, shall we say, somewhat soft, as Samaje Perine found massive room on back-to-back plays to get the Bengals into the red zone. I'm not sure 5-yard cushions make a lot of sense from the 5-yard line, but then I'm not an NFL defensive coordinator.
Cincinnati 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Bryan Knowles: We questioned on the podcast on Thursday just how real the Cincinnati defense is, and especially how real their cornerbacks are. Well, they had done a good job against Aaron Rodgers through a quarter and change, with the returning Awuzie making a great interception earlier to squelch a Packers threat. But on that last drive, there was a massive brainfart in coverage. I would suggest, on third-and-12, that you should have at least someone within 10 yards of Davante Adams. Possibly several somebodies! But I suppose that's why I'm not an NFL defensive coordinator. That goes for 34, and sets up AJ Dillon for a touchdown a few plays later...
... but the Packers miss an extra point. What is in the water today? 7-6, Bengals, early in the second quarter.
Scott Spratt: After Mason Crosby pulled another extra point after the Packers' first touchdown, I had to look it up. I believe the record for the most missed (and blocked) extra points in one week is 12 in Week 11, 2016. At least that's the most in my database going back to 2009, which covers the full era of longer extra point distances. We are big-time on pace for a new record so far today.
Dave Bernreuther: Maybe a great incompletion is all a quarterback needs to get rolling; on the next drive, after a Bengals score that I missed, Rodgers is a perfect 6-for-6 passing.
Then again, as Bryan points out, they left Davante Adams completely uncovered over the center of the field. That's also the kind of thing that can get a quarterback rolling.
Derrik Klassen: Bengals facing a decent pass-rush unit and all of a sudden they can't protect ... weird! Passing game looks mostly useless so far whenever they have tried to do anything other than quick game, which is in part because Joe Burrow underthrew a deep ball that Ja'Marr Chase got open on. Still, two sacks through the first half when their game plan has largely avoided holding onto the ball in the pocket is concerning.
Dave Bernreuther: Adams being wide-open on that one play aside, the biggest reason that the Packers started to move the ball seems to be that they recognized the way the game was going and started moving Rodgers around more intentionally; I counted at least three designed bootlegs on the touchdown drive, and they're in Bengals territory again after a completion to (a covered, this time) Adams with the entire play moving left to right. Still seems kind of foreign to me to see a Packers offense that adapts, even with the simplest of tactics. The drive stalled on the next series after a run that went nowhere and a failed completion, but Crosby makes a kick this time, which gives the Packers the lead.
Scott Spratt: Phew. I saw Joe Burrow was down after taking a shot as a runner—slide, Joe!—but he looks like he's walking OK on the sideline. We won't know for sure if he's concussed for a series since the Bengals are punting, but hopefully crisis averted.
Scott Spratt: Davante Adams has 112 receiving yards so far in the first half. That's his most yards in a first half since ... Week 7 last year. He's so so good.
Scott Spratt: Update on Joe Burrow: he's fine.
UNO HAS DONE IT AGAIN!
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) October 10, 2021
Bryan Knowles: Davante Adams is up to six catches, 117 yards, and a score. That's a pretty nice day! ... there's still a minute left in the first half.
Adams has nine targets. No other Packers receiver has more than one; the only Packers player with more than one aside from Adams is AJ Dillon. Might I suggest, gently, that the Bengals focus their defense on Adams, especially when he's near the end zone.
But as I'm typing this, the Bengals fire back. Crisis indeed averted, as Joe Burrow is back in, and he just uncorked one to Ja'Marr Chase; a 70-yard score to get things back to 16-14 Packers as we head to the half. After both teams stalled out in the first quarter, things have gotten pretty exciting here.
Vince Verhei: To be fair, Bryan, even when they have covered Adams, he has caught the ball anyway. Take his scoring grab. The play-by-play just says 5-yard touchdown on second-and-2, ho-hum. But look at this catch:
— NFL (@NFL) October 10, 2021
That's very good coverage, but Adams makes a superhuman play to elevate, catch the ball over the defender, and hit the ground. Just a great play in a half that has been full of great plays. I know Adams has found some holes in zone, but I have been impressed by the plays Cincinnati's defenders have made in coverage and in pass rush when they have had the chance. Same for the Packers—their pass rush has really come alive today. But both teams also have excellent quarterbacks and wideouts, so the scoring totals are still fairly high. One of the best-played games I have seen this season, and I can't wait to see what they do in the second half.
Vince Verhei: This game rules. The Bengals' coverage is not terrible here, but Adams gets a step behind them, and Rodgers' pass is inch-perfect for a big gain.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) October 10, 2021
But the Bengals hold there and Green Bay kicks a field goal for a 22-14 lead. Adams is up to 186 yards early in the fourth; his career-high is 196.
Bryan Knowles: I'm not sure using Joe Burrow as Cam Newton and having him run draws on fourth-and-2 is necessarily the best use of him, especially when he has already been banged up today, but don't knock success. After holding the Packers to a field goal in the red zone, Burrow marches Cincinnati down the field, with what are becoming routinely great passes to Ja'Marr Chase. Some great moves to avoid pressure, too. The touchdown, however, was just a great play by Joe Mixon, juking Shemar Jean-Charles out of his boots. The two-point conversion is good, and we have a 22-all ballgame with 3:27 left!
Vince Verhei: Joe Burrow has no fear. Tore up his leg last season, took a massive hit on a scramble in the first half, but when the Bengals have a fourth-and-2 just across midfield, he keeps the ball on a quarterback draw and dives forward, just getting enough to move the chains.
Ja'Marr Chase converts a third-and-6 with a nice catch on a back-shoulder fade. Joe Mixon takes a handoff up the gut for what looks like no gain, but he bounces outside, jukes Shemar Jean-Charles out of his shoes, and gets into the end zone for a 9-yard score.
Mixon for SIX. The @Bengals have tied it at 22!
— NFL (@NFL) October 10, 2021
Scott Spratt: Aaron Jones showed off the full running back skill set on this 57-yard run. Be sure to watch to the end of the clip for a lethal stiff arm.
Aaron Jones. Certified game changer pic.twitter.com/p7YdNjs6B7
— packers clips (@packers_clips) October 10, 2021
Vince Verhei: But Cincy's pass rush shuts Green Bay down after Jones' "Super Mario with the star" run. Fourth-and-10, Mason Crosby comes on for the 36-yard field goal try … but he pulls it right! This after he missed the XP earlier. Bengals take over with a little more than two minutes to go, needing just a field goal to win.
Dave Bernreuther: Not that a field goal with 2:12 left was any type of guarantee in a 22-22 game, but Mason Crosby honked it, having already missed an extra point earlier, and now a possession that could/should require a touchdown for Burrow to get the game-winning drive will require only a field goal.
Dave Bernreuther: It's also worth pointing out that this is one of TWO (2) 22-22 games right now, along with New England-Houston. That, to me, is funner than a Scorigami.
Bryan Knowles: The Bengals get stopped, and opt to try a 57-yard field goal (?!). It's doinked off the uprights, and now Aaron Rodgers has the ball in a tie game with 21 seconds left, needing just 20 yards to get into field goal range. With that much time left on the clock, you CAN'T try a 57-yarder there...
Dave Bernreuther: I have no idea what to even think about the decision-making process by Zac Taylor there. I get why he did what he did, but boy was it a risk to be willing to run on third down and then attempt a 57-yarder, which if (when) missed, gives the ball to Aaron Rodgers at the 47 with time to make a play or two.
And make a play he does, straight over the middle to (who else) Davante Adams, just as the announcers talk about guarding the sidelines.
No matter, though, because Mason Crosby misses again. That's now three missed field goals in the last 2:12 of game time.
Bryan Knowles: And Rodgers gets those 20 yards, and Mason Crosby gets a chance to redeem himself ... and he misses AGAIN. We're going to overtime.
Vince Verhei: What are you doing, Zac Taylor? Third-and-5 at the Green Bay 42, the Bengals … hand off to Samaje Perine? That gains 3 and sets up a fourth-and-2, and the Packers call their last timeout with 26 seconds to go. Evan McPherson then misses from 57 yards because IT'S FIFTY-SEVEN YARDS, and his kick hits the upright. That gives Rodgers time for one play to get into field goal range, and he does … but Crosby misses again, this time from 51, and we're going to overtime.
Dave Bernreuther: Joe Burrow and Tyler Boyd had a miscommunication that led Burrow to throw it straight to a defender to open overtime. Bringing back memories of Mike McCarthy, the Packers appear perfectly content to run it into the line three times and kick, as if it's some sure thing ... and the first two runs BOTH go backwards.
When your kicker has three misses already, maybe actually try to score before you kick again, gentlemen. Ugh.
Vince Verhei: It's a real shame that this game that was so great for the first 55 minutes but is going to be decided by a series of mistakes. All the missed kicks and questionable play calling that got us to overtime, and then on his first pass of the extra frame, Burrow delivers a "who was he throwing to?" interception right into the arms of De'Vondre Campbell. Packers get stuffed on first and second down, then send Crosby out to kick a 40-yarder on third down … AND HE MISSES AGAIN.
Bryan Knowles: So, Mason Crosby's third miss sets up Cincinnati, who has to settle for a 40-plus-yard field goal … which is doinked off the OTHER upright. What the hell is happening in this football game?
Dave Bernreuther: Well, gee, nobody could have seen THAT one coming. Crosby misses again, and the Bengals have a short field now.
Matt LaFleur deserves that outcome; Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, most definitely does not.
And OK, now this is just ridiculous ... ANOTHER doink on the other end of the field. That's FIVE missed field goals since several of the other 1 p.m. games ended!
Vince Verhei: STOP TRYING LONG FIELD GOALS. Fourth-and-inches, and Taylor calls for the 49-yard field goal instead of going for it. MacPherson pulls it left and just over the crossbar. Amusingly, he thought the kick was good and started to celebrate before learning the harsh truth. So now Green Bay has life for, like, the ninth time.
Dave Bernreuther: Like Bryan, I always root for ties. In this case, this would be especially true, because neither coach deserves to win ... but Aaron Rodgers doesn't deserve this.
What is the opposite of the Louvre
Hang this there pic.twitter.com/p7HJ9hAegY
— Brett Edgerton (@EditorEdge) October 10, 2021
They're reviewing the spot on the unlikely 16-yard gain on third-and-16, which seems to be correctly spotted just shy. So this nice long delay is SURE to ease Mason Crosby's mind, right?
Regardless of the ruling, the thought of a field goal shouldn't even be entering LaFleur's mind right now.
OK good, looks like the offense is coming out. I wouldn't be surprised to see the hard count fake here though...
Vince Verhei: Third-and-16, Randall Cobb takes a touch catch over the middle and hangs on. It's very close, but after a long replay review it's ruled short of the line to gain, bringing up fourth-and-inches. Green Bay tries to get the Bengals to jump, but we hit the two-minute warning, and Crosby is apparently going to try a 49-yarder … and it's finally good, and the Packers win.
Well that turned out to be a completely insane game.
Bryan Knowles: No one stops Mason Crosby on four consecutive kicks! Packers win one of the stupidest endings in NFL history. Not the stupidest, mind you, but in the conversation.
Aaron Schatz: I know Crosby hit the field goal. I still think they should have just run an Aaron Rodgers sneak on fourth-and-inches. The odds of that working were better.
Carl Yedor: That overtime period made my brain hurt. Just confusing decision after confusing decision. Why did Cincinnati effectively turtle up on offense when they felt they were "in range" for the potential game-winner (that they missed)? Why did Green Bay still trust Crosby after his terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad stretch? Nothing makes sense, but Green Bay wins to move to 4-1.
Vince Verhei: There are few things in football I hate more than coaches who call plays like 50-ish-yard field goals are automatic. That game was FULL of that kind of thing.
Philadelphia Eagles 21 at Carolina Panthers 18
Vince Verhei: This is the Sam Darnold I was thinking of when I picked the Panthers to get the first overall draft pick.
Darius Slay extends for his first INT of the season! #FlyEaglesFly
— NFL (@NFL) October 10, 2021
Eagles had a fourth-and-goal touchdown nullified by a penalty and settled for a field goal and a 3-3 tie.
It's clear the Panthers are better than I thought they were going go to be, but Darnold may not be. Curious to see if they end up sticking with him after the year.
Scott Spratt: Sam Darnold threw a bad interception deep in his own territory, which gave Jalen Hurts the ball in the red zone. But after throwing short twice, Hurts just missed out on touchdowns to DeVonta Smith on consecutive plays—first a completion just short of the end zone and then a would-be touchdown wiped out by an offensive pass interference penalty for an illegal pick.
It's easy to latch onto the 44 penalties the Eagles had through four weeks, 11 more than any other team. But I'll also point out that Jalen Hurts has completed just 38.1% of his red zone passes in his career, easily the lowest among current quarterbacks with 50 or more such attempts. The low-average depth of target passing game works between the 20s but not so far near the end zone.
Bryan Knowles: Just for the record, I believe the lowest yards per completion mark in NFL history (with at least 10 completions) belongs to Dan Pastorini, at 4.0 in 1972.
Jalen Hurts is currently 12-for-20 for 35 yards, or 2.9 yards per completion.
Scott Spratt: I'm pretty sure Panthers defensive coordinator Phil Snow was ready for the Eagles screen game, Bryan.
Vince Verhei: The Eagles offense, everyone:
We'll take the 2 points...
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 10, 2021
Scott Spratt: There's a streaker on the field in Carolina. That's the most exciting thing so far in this game.
Vince Verhei: Even the streaker was boring—he had jeans on! If you're going to streak at NFL game, go all the way with it!
Scott Spratt: That's weak. My bad. I was judging the excitement by announcer Greg Olsen's tone of voice.
Dave Bernreuther: Maybe Olsen was excited because he's one of them. There are dozens, you know. Dozens!
Vince Verhei: A lot of kickers have been having bad days, but Jake Elliott hits a 58-yard field goal at the first-half gun to cut the Carolina lead to 15-6 at halftime. He may win special teams player of the week by default.
That was a five-play, 44-yard drive that was by far Philadelphia's best of the day, which makes the half-time situation … interesting? As bad as the Eagles have looked on offense so far, they actually have more passing yards than Carolina if you include sacks, even though it has taken them many more plays to get there. It feels like the Panthers should have put the nail in the coffin here several times over, but it's still only a nine-point game with 30 minutes to go. I certainly don't think that Philadelphia will come back, but the door has been left open for it to happen.
Scott Spratt: The Eagles finally had an opportunity to score a few minutes into the third quarter after a punt return to midfield and third-and-5 conversion to DeVonta Smith. But on the run after that catch, Smith fumbled on a Donte Jackson Peanut Punch. The Panthers didn't do anything with that next possession, but the field position has reset with the Eagles still down 15-6.
Scott Spratt: That's two turnovers on as many plays for the Eagles. Donte Jackson looked like an uncovered receiver tapping toes to stay inbounds on an interception on the left sideline. Clearly Jackson is upset the Panthers keep trading for new cornerbacks.
Scott Spratt: And there's another terrible Sam Darnold pick. This game is not pretty.
Vince Verhei: I have this game on one screen right next to Packers-Bengals and the contrast between the two is jarring. It's hard to believe they're playing the same sport.
Bryan Knowles: Hey, Jalen Hurts finally hit a pass more than 3 inches downfield! A play after Carolina nearly returned a fumble for a touchdown (Hurts' arm was going forward, although it was close), Hurts finds a wide-open Quez Watkins for 53 yards, setting up a score a couple plays later. That one play is a third of Hurts' passing yards today, but he's well clear of historical disaster at this point.
Carolina still leads 15-13, but you have to feel they should have put the Eagles away long ago. They have let Philly hang around, and we have a contest.
Vince Verhei: The Panthers have spent all day fooling around and are now in serious risk of finding out. Third-and-10, Quez Watkins gets all alone downfield for a gain of 53. (Watkins is now up to three catches for 48 yards with a long of 53, which, huh.) That sets up Jalen Hurts' touchdown on a quarterback sneak and the Carolina lead has been cut to 15-13. The margin right now is the safety when the Panthers just watched the Eagles snap the ball into the end zone.
Scott Spratt: The Eagles were back in business down 18-13 in Panthers territory with 5:35 left. But going for a fourth-and-4, Jalen Hurts made an inaccurate pass that Zach Ertz got a hand on but couldn't corral. It's a turnover on downs.
Scott Spratt: Well that was quick. The Panthers went three-and-out immediately with a would-be conversion drop on third down. And then the Eagles blocked the punt. The Eagles are right back in Panthers territory with 3:53 left.
Scott Spratt: Jalen Hurts eventually ran in a touchdown after the blocked punt, and he did the Cam Newton Superman move with his shirt. He maybe should save that for one of his defenders because they have completely carried his team today.
The Panthers have two and a half minutes to answer with a field goal to tie or touchdown to win. But they haven't moved the ball at all in the second half.
Scott Spratt: Darnold threw his third bad interception to give the Eagles the ball back just past the two-minute warning. The Panthers have three timeouts, but they can't move the ball on offense so it doesn't seem likely to matter.
New England Patriots 25 at Houston Texans 22
Aaron Schatz: This was supposed to be a defensive battle, but both teams score on their first drives. Houston's opening drive was more than 10 minutes long, only 4.4 yards per play, but they converted three third downs and a fourth down to keep it going for a long time. Some good screens, rookie hand-holding type stuff, although credit to Davis Mills for a good pass on the touchdown to Anthony Auclair. Patriots opening drive also looked strong; their makeshift offensive line looked pretty good against this below-average Houston defensive front. James Ferentz appears to be the weak link so far; got beat on a Damien Harris stuff at the line. Lots of runs, a couple of good, accurate Mac Jones passes. Went Wildcat on the last play and Damien Harris went in on power for the touchdown. Both kickers missed extra points so we're at 6-6.
Aaron Schatz: This pass by Davis Mills really should have been picked off, and the Patriots defender misjudged it, and then the other defender took a poor angle and somehow Chris Moore goes all the way for a 67-yard touchdown. And then Kai'mi Fairbairn misses his second extra point, so it is 12-6 Texans.
Chris Moore dunks on J.C. Jackson pic.twitter.com/qbCZ8xuPDd
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 10, 2021
Dave Bernreuther: That play made me think I was watching a college football game, Aaron. Underthrown, a receiver just going up and winning it while the defenders whiff, and then a long run after the catch for what, apparently, is Moore's first touchdown in three years. That was not a good look for the Patriots defense.
Cale Clinton: The Patriots running backs' fumble woes continue. Damien Harris looked like he had a touchdown, but a perfectly timed Peanut Punch just before the goal line freed the ball loose before Harris could break the plane. Houston recovered the ball in the end zone. It was ruled a touchdown on the field, and to be honest I wasn't sure that call would get overturned. The one goal-line camera angle was obstructed by some Texans players. I didn't think there was enough to overturn, but a tie game turns into a touchback.
Aaron Schatz: Texans offensive line is dominating the Patriots defense in screen blocking today. Just got 15 yards on a third-and-16 screen to David Johnson, then went for it on fourth down and converted with a slant to Brandin Cooks.
Cale Clinton: The Texans have converted two fourth downs on this drive, the second of which was a 40-yard pickup by Chris Conley. I can't make sense of this. How is the same defense that kept Tom Brady in check a week ago now facilitating the Davis Mills coming-out party?
Aaron Schatz: Lack of pressure is one of the problems for the Patriots defense today, but they did finally get some in the red zone, sacking Davis Mills twice and leading to a field goal. Still, allowing Davis Mills to complete this many passes is an embarrassment.
Cale Clinton: Things you wouldn't think would be said in the year 2021: the Houston Texans are putting on an absolute clinic.
Mac Jones throws a back-breaking interception on the opening drive of the half. First play of Houston's drive, the Texans run the ol' flea flicker for a touchdown.
Cale Clinton: I understand the Patriots are essentially missing their entire offensive line, but this is the worst Mac Jones has looked as a starter. Jones has one interception so far, but he has gotten lucky on a handful of other potential interception opportunities. On the throws he has made, Jones has failed to hit a single receiver in stride.
That being said, New England just caught a MASSIVE break. The Texans punter lined up under center on fourth-and-2, then dropped back to quick-punt. He booted the ball into his own offensive lineman's head, sending it horizontal and out of bounds inside the Texans' own 40.
Aaron Schatz: The Patriots' makeshift offensive line is actually protecting Mac Jones pretty well today. That was supposed to be their weakness, and it isn't close to being the reason they are losing. The blocking on screens leaves something to be desired though. They just had two straight screens on second-and-9 (loss of 3) and then third-and-12 (gain of 4). Kicked a field goal, now 22-15 Texans. But can the Patriots—and I can't believe I'm writing this—hold down Davis Mills for the rest of the game?
Aaron Schatz: Patriots come back to tie it at 22-22. Thank you to the Texans for the field position. On fourth-and-4, instead of going for it, they brought out Kai'mi Fairbairn for a 56-yard field goal. What made them think Fairbairn, who has missed two extra points today, was going to hit from 56? That was a clear opportunity to go on fourth down. It's hard to criticize David Culley too much given how aggressive he has been before this, but I think that was a mistake. Anyway, Pats get the ball on their own 46 and get a couple of nice runs up the middle from Damien Harris (behind blocks by David Andrews, the one regular starting lineman left) and a couple of passes to an open Hunter Henry, including the touchdown on the left side of the end zone.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots escape with a 25-22 win. The last drive was powered by a long 24-yard run by Brandon Bolden and a roughing the passer penalty on a head-to-head hit on Mac Jones. Some people say there is no such thing as a moral victory. I do believe in moral victories, and last week's loss to Tampa Bay was a moral victory. This game was a moral loss. The Patriots defense was lousy. They should have gone out there and dominated Davis Mills, and instead he carved them up—mostly with scheme, to be honest, a lot of screen passes and the flea flicker and then also great catches on not-so-smart passes like the Chris Moore play. But also some good throws, and they didn't bring enough pressure against Mills. They did stop the Houston running game, I'll give them that. Between the Stephon Gilmore trade and this week's performance, I no longer believe that the Patriots defense can lead this team to a wild-card slot. I think they're stuck with a mediocre year that's based around building Mac Jones' career. Oh well.
Rivers McCown: I wrote about this game, as is my curse.
The depressing thing about this is that for 2.5 quarters that was probably a 95% outcome for the roster that the Texans had. They killed it on fourth downs, they got plays from Mills that they hadn't before, they got big turnovers. They did just about everything but actually run the ball well. But they have so little margin for error that they can't even absorb a single bad decision.
Miami Dolphins 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45
Bryan Knowles: Jacoby Brissett is questionable to return with a hamstring, and Tua Tagovailoa is not active. The depleted Tampa Bay secondary may find themselves dealing with Reid Sinnett, who I believe is a player Madden randomly generates in Year 10 of a franchise.
Dave Bernreuther: I love Jason Pierre-Paul, and sometimes it amazes me that he's still in the league, playing at a high level. Big fan.
But coverage, even as an unusual wrinkle, isn't something you should be asking him to do; Myles Gaskin ran a route out of the Dolphins backfield that was perfectly suited for the Bucs' pass rush, leaving him one-on-one with JPP. That's an easy touchdown, even for a backup quarterback.
But now even that quarterback is hurt, so ... the Bucs are probably going to get away with that one.
Detroit Lions 17 at Minnesota Vikings 19
Bryan Knowles: Bite those kneecaps! Minnesota was in run-out-the-clock mode, but the Lions forced an Alexander Mattison fumble inside the Vikings 20 and just scored a touchdown with less than 40 seconds left. Down seven, that should tie the game...
... but Dan Campbell keeps his offense out there, goes for two, and the Lions take the lead 17-16! Love, love, LOVE the call for a team that's not going anywhere this season.
Bryan Knowles: Choke on those kneecaps! With less than 30 seconds left, the Vikings drive down the field and kick a 54-yard field goal to win the game. The Good Bad Team goes down yet again.
Vince Verhei: While none of us were watching, D'Andre Swift scored what appeared to be a game-tying touchdown … but trailing 16-15 with 37 seconds to go, they go for two and the win. And Goff hits KhaDarel Hodge for the conversion and the 17-16 lead!
But 37 seconds is all the Vikings need. Adam Thielen gets catches for 21 and 19 yards and Gregory Joseph hits the 54-yarder for the 19-17 win. Quite a battle of Good Bad Teams here.
Aaron Schatz: The Lions made a bad decision to try for two and the win. When the clock has run down to zeroes, you can try for two and have a 50-50 shot at winning the game. When there's time left on the clock, the other team is going to get the ball and you are encouraging them to be aggressive if you score the two points. It's not a 50-50 shot at winning the game. If you miss the two, you lose. If you make it, you still might lose if the other team can get the ball into field goal range. Which is what the Vikings did, and they win the game.
Aaron Schatz: Just want to add this tweet to the end of our Detroit-Minnesota discussion, because poor Lions.
We're through 5 games. #OnePride
— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerrCBS) October 10, 2021
Cleveland Browns 42 at Los Angeles Chargers 47
Bryan Knowles: Nifty little tight end screen to Donald Parham gets the Chargers on the board. We slam screens all the time here—and for good reason—but this was a well-designed one, with Keenan Allen and Stephen Anderson providing Parham a convoy as he rumbles 22 yards for the score. Nice little play design there, and the Chargers take a 7-3 lead late in the first.
Bryan Knowles: The Browns just forgot all about Mike Williams. The cornerback passed him off to the safety, the safety moved up, and Williams was wide open for a 72-yard touchdown pass. Tristan Vizcaino missed the extra point (another one!), so it's just a 13-10 Chargers lead, but oofdah, that was not a good look for Cleveland's defense.
Scott Spratt: I'm not sure which play is more Chargers. First there was the deep 72-yard Justin Herbert touchdown pass to Mike Williams. Then there was the Tristan Vizcaino pulled extra-point attempt. In net, the Chargers are up 13-10 early in the second quarter.
Has anyone been keeping track of the total missed extra points? I got confused by all the missed field goals in the Bengals-Packers game.
Vince Verhei: Browns take a 10-7 lead after a pair of long, 70-plus-yard drives. Lots of rushing by both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, with David Njoku doing most of the receiving damage. Baker Mayfield has only had to throw five passes, but he completed all five of them.
But then the Browns blow coverage on Mike Williams, who gets loose for a 72-yard touchdown on third-and-10. And then, on a day when every kicker in the league sucks, of course Chargers Special Teams are going to Chargers Special Teams—they honk the PAT, so they only lead 13-10. That's four lead changes already early in the second quarter.
Bryan Knowles: Cleveland hasn't punted yet, failing on a fourth-and-2 inside the red zone earlier in the second quarter. But the advantage of going for fourth deep is that you can get the ball back in good field position if your defense holds up and, indeed, the Chargers go nowhere but backwards, and the Browns get the ball back at midfield. Again, the Chargers force a fourth down, this time inside the five, and again the Browns go for it—and this time, it pays off, with Kareem Hunt bowling in to give the Browns a 17-13 lead with a minute left in the half.
Vince Verhei: The Browns are quickly becoming my favorite team to watch. Down 10-13, they have a fourth-and-2 at the LAC 17, but they turn down the field goal and go for it. Mayfield's pass is accurate, but Odell Beckham drops it. Their defense forces a three-and-out on a sack by Malik McDowell (who injures himself on the play, because he is Malik McDowell) and Cleveland soon finds themselves with a fourth-and-1 at the LAC 3. First, they try to get the Chargers to jump, which serves two purposes: it might get them a free first down, and if not, it's burning clock inside the two-minute warning. The Chargers don't jump, so Cleveland calls timeout. Then they still go for it, and Hunt scores from 3 yards out. Browns now up 17-13, up to 112 yards and seven first downs on the ground.
Vince Verhei: And then Austin Ekeler fumbles and McDowell recovers, and the Browns get a field goal at the gun for a 20-13 lead. They're getting the ball first in the second half too.
Vince Verhei: On their first drive of the second half, Cleveland quickly gets to a third-and-3, but uses my favorite underused NFL play call, the rollout, to convert with a completion to Donovan Peoples-Jones. That keeps the drive alive and sets up Nick Chubb's "magnificent" (per Kevin Harlan, the best play-by-play man on TV) 52-yard touchdown run and a 27-13 lead.
— NFL (@NFL) October 10, 2021
Aaron Schatz: The Chargers' bad special teams are about more than just punting or missed field goals. They have returned three kickoffs so far today and got to the 15, 15, and 16 with them. The first one was returned from the 1 and they probably could have let it bounce into the end zone. The other two they definitely did not need to return. Stop taking kickoffs out of the end zone unless your name is Cordarrelle Patterson.
Aaron Schatz: Brandon Staley burnishing his analytics bona fides even further by going for it on fourth-and-7 from the Browns 22 (converted with a pass to Keenan Allen) and then going for two down eight after Justin Herbert ran in the touchdown on his own. So it's 27-21 Cleveland. Browns missing Denzel Ward on that drive, I believe he's out the rest of the game.
Vince Verhei: The Chargers meet aggression with aggression. Fourth-and-2 at their own 24, they hand off to Ekeler for a gain of 9. Fourth-and-7 at the Cleveland 22, Herbert hits Keenan Allen for a 12-yard gain. Herbert finishes the drive by scrambling for a 9-yard touchdown. And then L.A. goes for two, with Herbert hitting Parham for the conversion. That's three plays on one third-quarter drive that each would have been unthinkable so early just a few years ago.
Vince Verhei: Offenses quieted down late in the third. Browns punted after a first-down holding penalty put them behind the sticks. Cleveland's pass rush then started beating Herbert up, as Myles Garrett smashed him for a sack and Takk McKinley leveled him (cleanly) on an incompletion. That sets up a fourth-and-17 for L.A. with Chargers (presumably) about to punt on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Dave Bernreuther: If you thought "I bet after leaving Mike Williams uncovered for a long score, the Browns will remember to put someone on him" earlier, well, bad news: the Browns just let Mike Williams run uncovered through their defense for the easiest 47-yard touchdown you'll ever see.
Kevin Harlan called that one "spectacular" too, which sort of cheapens the Chubb run earlier, I think.
Aaron Schatz: This is wide, wide open.
— Football Outsiders (@fboutsiders) October 10, 2021
Bryan Knowles: But, of course, the game is no longer tied, as Mayfield hits Njoku for a 71-yard catch-and-rumble, and it's back to a 35-28 Cleveland lead.
Hell of a game so far.
Vince Verhei: More fourth-down aggression from L.A. Fourth-and-4, Herbert chucks it deep to Williams and draws a 33-yard DPI on A.J. Green. Fourth-and-8, Herbert hits Allen for a gain of 20. Ekeler runs in the score on first-and-goal from the 4, the extra point is good, and we're tied 35-35 with half the fourth quarter to go still.
Dave Bernreuther: What a treat to get to watch these front offices/coaching staffs in this fun close game after the un-fun close game in Cincinnati earlier. In a range much closer to the field goal than any of the bad kicks in that one, Staley leaves the Charger offense out on the field for a fourth-and-EIGHT. Now, we all know that's still a good call, but having the balls to do that at that distance is still a bit of an eyebrow raiser.
Despite a holding flag that would have given them the first down anyway, Herbert fires one in there to Keenan Allen for a 20-yard gain. And the football gods smile on the Chargers. 35-35 in another game where I don't really want to have to watch either team lose.
Bryan Knowles: Oh no, the missed extra point theme of the day comes back at the worst time! The Chargers punch right back, but now they're down 42-41 with 3:15 left against a team who knows how to drain some clock. What a terrible time for some Chargering.
Dave Bernreuther: OH COME ON.
Vizcaino just missed what I believe is the NINTH extra point of the day, and his own second.
That's not how this game should end!
Aaron Schatz: Another long drive, Austin Ekeler scores. I tweeted that the way these offenses are playing, the Chargers should just consider going for two. They probably have a much better than 50-50 shot of making it. This is different from the situation at the end of the Lions-Vikings game, because the Browns need to be aggressive on the next drive no matter what since there are more than three minutes left. Instead, Tristan Vizcaino honks the extra point. So it's 42-41 Browns.
Dave Bernreuther: Is Harlan right? There were actually nine in just the early window, making that the 11th of today and 12th of the week including Thursday night? Ugh.
Vince Verhei: Oh, my goodness. On a day when the offenses have dominated, how do you run a give-up draw on third-and-10? I know running the ball is what Cleveland does best, but they're not THAT good. So the Browns go three-and-out and the Chargers take over near midfield before the two-minute warning.
Aaron Schatz: Shocked. Given their analytically oriented coaching staff, I would have expected the Browns to go for the kill on offense. I'm really shocked at the draw.
Dave Bernreuther: I'm with Vince—after taking the shot downfield (never thought I'd see the day where Mayfield showed impeccable pocket presence but then miss the throw), why run that? Come on.
The Chargers start at midfield and in their first play before the two-minute warning pick up a chunk play and are at the 19. The Browns still have all three timeouts, so the Chargers can't just burn the clock. This game can only end one way: Chargers score, two-point conversion, and the Browns still somehow tie. That would set us up nicely for a FG-FG-touchdown overtime to give us the highest-scoring game ever.
Make it so, football gods!
Aaron Schatz: Ekeler just tried to stop himself at the 1 on a run and the Browns grabbed him and pushed him into the end zone on purpose so that the Chargers would have to give the ball back to the Browns offense! Chargers go for two and fail, so we're at 47-42 Chargers. 1:31 left for Baker Mayfield and the Browns to come back.
Bryan Knowles: Hah! Austin Ekeler was trying his hardest not to score, and the Browns defense was trying their hardest to push him in. I love it. Football is crazy.
Dave Bernreuther: This is amazing. It's the exact opposite of the Bengals game with the coaching (ignoring that draw). First Ekeler slides short of the end zone when he could have scored. At first-and-goal on the 2, he gets it again, runs into traffic, and ... the Browns carry him into the end zone!
But a review overturns the two-point conversion, and my highest-scoring game ever dream is dead.
Vince Verhei: Video of the Browns pulling Ekeler into the end zone against his will.
.@AustinEkeler's IN ... with a little help from the Browns.
— NFL (@NFL) October 10, 2021
Vince Verhei: If that wasn't pass interference on the Chargers on Cleveland's Hail Mary try, then we can say for sure that refs will never call pass interference on a Hail Mary. Mark Webb Jr. was just wiping dudes out like a bowling ball.
Dave Bernreuther: One of these days they're going to actually decide that they will make that call, Vince, and it's going to end up deciding a game by creating an untimed down on the 1.
(Cynic/jerk prediction: it'll happen against the Bucs.)
Tom Gower: Hey, there was that Lions-Browns game in 2009 where the Browns were called for pushing Calvin Johnson, if I recall correctly, out of the end zone on a Hail Mary. That was only from 32 yards out, but that's roughly what you need to do: have a receiver with a reasonable chance at making the catch (normally not true) and prevent him from even possibly doing so legally.
Dave Bernreuther: We have been talking about DPI on Hail Mary passes here but one thing I think warrants some questioning: Did Mayfield and/or the Browns screw up by being too methodical earlier in that drive?
Vince already pointed out that the Harlan/Green booth is criminally underrated, and they were on top of this as it was happening. Without any timeouts, they were dinking and dunking to start that drive. They even got bailed out a little bit by an injury and L.A. timeout.
As a result, they were at the 46 with 27 seconds left. After the spike, they went straight into chuck-it-deep mode. And that seemed maybe a bit early to me too; I thought there was time to run another play to get closer so you could run a normal play and still conceivably score.
Were the early-drive decisions a mistake?
Vince Verhei: You're definitely right about that Dave. Cleveland's play calling on their last two drives was bizarre.
San Francisco 49ers 10 at Arizona Cardinals 17
Bryan Knowles: Trey Lance's first drive ends with a pretty bad interception—an overthrow, when he had an open running lane in front of him and an open (...ish) receiver to hit. Adrenaline, or poor accuracy? Call it 50/50 there. The Cardinals have not needed good field position to score this year, but hey, they're not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. It's not Kyler Murray, though—it's running all over the place, with Chase Edmonds, James Conner and Rondale Moore crossing up the 49ers left, right, and center. Bad tackling, bad angles, and just too much speed. Cardinals take an early 7-0 lead.
Bryan Knowles: We just had a 96-yard drive followed by a 93-yard drive. Total points? Three, as Trey Lance was stuffed on fourth-and-inches, and the Cardinals had to settle for a field goal inside the 5-yard line. Don't see THAT very often.
Vince Verhei: Last week I noted that a lot of Lance's success came on fourth downs, and that would not be sustainable game after game. So far today, Lance and the 49ers are 0-for-2 on fourth downs.
Bryan Knowles: The 49ers have done a better job moving the ball on offense than Arizona—they're averaging 5.8 yards per play to Arizona's 5.1—but fourth-down failures and some key holding penalties have kept them off the scoreboard.
Until now, that is. The 49ers have begun attacking the edges with their running game, and Arizona is backpedaling some. Deebo Samuel just lined up in the backfield, took a pitch, and scored, and it's a 10-7 Cardinals lead late in the third quarter. We'll see if the Cardinals can actually kick that offense into the gears we have seen over the first quarter of the season.
Bryan Knowles: One thing that's going to be true of the Trey Lance 49ers: fourth-down attempts. We have criticized Kyle Shanahan, repeatedly, for punting or kicking field goals on makeable fourth downs during the Jimmy Garropolo era. With Lance under center, Shanahan just called his fourth fourth-and-short play call.
... three of them have failed, and Arizona has the ball back now, but I appreciate the thought, at least.
Vince Verhei: So Deebo Samuel got a rushing touchdown when he lined up at tailback and took a straight pitch, no trickery involved. Meanwhile, Trey Sermon is healthy and has zero carries. Do I have that right?
Bryan Knowles: You're right, Vince; it has been the Elijah Mitchell show. Count one for BackCast, zero for the 49ers' front office.
Scott Spratt: I don't agree with that, Bryan. Getting a really good running back out of a third- and a sixth-round draft pick is good value. Who cares what the order was? Other teams were going to take Sermon before the sixth round, and the 49ers still landed Mitchell by waiting.
Bryan Knowles: Well, we'll agree to disagree on Sermon's value at this point, and the fact that the 49ers didn't grab a corner with their Day 2 picks remains a problem,
Case in point: DeAndre Hopkins has been doing really well against Josh Norman today! After the 49ers fail on another fourth-down attempt, Arizona finally capitalized, hitting Hopkins twice to get into the red zone and then into the end zone, giving Arizona a 17-7 lead with 5:13 left.
New York Giants 20 at Dallas Cowboys 44
Vince Verhei: Dak Prescott is a stud and Daniel Jones has been playing very well lately, so I thought this one might turn into a fun shootout. That is very much not what has happened. At the end of the first, Jones has thrown incomplete on all four of his passes. Prescott has had hardly any more success (3-of-8 for only 20 yards) and more disasters (an interception and a fumbled snap inside the 10 that was recovered by New York). The good news for Dallas is that they have Ezekiel Elliott, whose 57 rushing yards are the biggest reason Dallas has been in scoring range twice. The bad news for New York is that they don't have Saquon Barkley, who was carted to the locker room with an ankle injury after only two carries.
Aaron Schatz: Cowboys dominating this game on the ground so far. Sixteen carries for 98 yards so far, not counting a Dak Prescott scramble. Huge blocking on the right side from Zack Martin and Terrance Steele. But they bogged down in the red zone twice, and the second time they turned it over with a blown snap, so it is still only 3-0. Saquon Barkley rolled his ankle; it's terribly swollen and he's done for the game for the Giants.
Aaron Schatz: Prescott finally made the big pass play. CeeDee Lamb ran past James Bradberry down the right sideline on third-and-8 and Prescott hit him in stride for a 49-yard touchdown. Dallas offensive line is really pushing around the Giants defensive front here. 10-0 Cowboys.
Aaron Schatz: Daniel Jones starts 1-for-9. The only completion was a 43-yarder where he just chucked it up to Kadarius Toney and Anthony Brown from the Cowboys slipped and fell, allowing Toney to catch it right on the sideline. Other than that pass, Cowboys defense is dominating. But that pass was enough to get the Giants into field goal range so 10-3 Cowboys.
Aaron Schatz: Giants offense finally gets going with not just passes to Toney but runs and an 18-yard gain to Evan Engram. They get down to the goal line and Devontae Booker gets stuffed twice. Third down, they naked boot with Daniel Jones and he ends up colliding with Jabril Cox helmet-to-helmet. (Jones initiated the contact as a runner, so no penalty.) Jones is apparently very shaken up to the point where he was carted off, not your normal concussion. Giants run fourth-and-goal from the 1 and Booker goes over the top so this game is 10-10 but the Giants are still getting outplayed overall and they need to do the rest of this with Mike Glennon and Booker instead of Jones and Barkley.
Scott Spratt: The Giants had already lost Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones to an ankle injury and concussion, and now the Cowboys saw Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper hurt on consecutive plays in the red zone. Elliott looked like he hurt his hip, perhaps landing funny as he fell on a first down marker laying on the ground. For Cooper it may have been a hamstring. Elliott came back in two plays later is clearly fine since he just high-stepped his way into the end zone to put the Cowboys up 24-13.
Scott Spratt: On the very next play, Trevon Diggs expanded his league-leading interception total to six, picking off a deep Mike Glennon attempt. There are still a few minutes left in this third quarter, but with Jones sidelined, this game feels finished.
TREVON DIGGS IS AN INTERCEPTION MACHINE. #DallasCowboys
— NFL (@NFL) October 10, 2021
Scott Spratt: The silver lining of the Giants' myriad injuries has been extra opportunities for rookie receiver Kadarius Toney. And while Toney has a reputation as a gadget player and was ostensibly a slot receiver fill-in for Sterling Shepard at the start of the day, he has 160 yards on eight catches through a bit more than three quarters and added that production on a variety of routes and showing a diverse skill set. My favorite was this sideline grab.
every other Giant is getting injured, meanwhile Kadarius Toney is standing with his arm raised yelling "YES PLEASE I'D LIKE TO PLAY FOOTBALL" pic.twitter.com/RvxtedfB8a
— Christian D'Andrea probably does not own a brewery (@TrainIsland) October 10, 2021
Toney also just took a Wildcat snap at quarterback and nearly punched in a touchdown. Instead, the Giants turned the ball over on downs when Glennon threw incomplete on a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
Aaron Schatz: Good no-call on that fourth down, as Toney's feet got tangled with the defender and he fell down but not because of DPI.
Scott Spratt: Toney got up to 176 receiving yards, but he just ended his night by throwing a punch.
Kadarius Toney just threw a punch at a Dallas defender after Rudolph got shoved....
It's getting ugly now. pic.twitter.com/7JWeaL73h8
— Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonESM) October 10, 2021
All told, today's game went really poorly for the Giants.
Chicago Bears 20 at Las Vegas Raiders 9
Scott Spratt: Justin Fields has taken multiple shots to the ribs and now just had his leg stuck as Yannick Ngakoue pulled him down for a sack from behind. He just went to the sideline for a least a play, so it's Andy Dalton time, at least for now.
Scott Spratt: Fields is back three plays later, but this demands a close eye. He's taking a lot of abuse behind that undermanned Bears offensive line.
Scott Spratt: The Bears have run all over the Raiders to build their 14-3 lead. The former team has 87 rushing yards on 5.1 yards per carry with their running backs. It's a bit of a surprise because of how bad we consider their offensive line, which is also down starter Germain Ifedi after an injury today. But they have been much worse in pass protection with a 12.9% adjusted sack rate (32nd) than while run-blocking (4.05 adjusted line yards, 20th). Perhaps the rushing will be enough for the Bears to pull an upset in Las Vegas.
Tom Gower: On the other hand, at least the Chargers didn't return a punt out of their own end zone like new Chicago Bears returner Jakeem Grant did! He made it to the 18, but returning a punt from 3 yards deep feels like about the dumbest decision you can make.
Vince Verhei: Derek Carr has terrible rushing DYAR every year. Joey Bosa publicly questioned his toughness after the Monday night game. Now he runs a sneak to convert a third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter, but he's hurt. It looks very scary, with players surrounding him in a circle, taking a knee. He eventually walks off, meaning it's Nathan Peterman time. Peterman gets them to fourth-and-inches and Carr tries to return to the field to run the sneak before Jon Gruden pulls him back. Peterman runs the sneak instead and converts. Then Carr takes the field to take the snap on first down, but the Bears are challenging the spot on the Peterman sneak. Those calls are almost never reversed, but this late in the game and with a 14-3 lead, I can't be too mad at Nagy for trying that here.
Anyway, that was all a very weird sequence of events.
Vince Verhei: That weird Carr exit-and-entrance was part of a 16-play touchdown drive that ended with Josh Jacobs running it in on first-and-goal from the 1. Raiders go for two, but Carr is sacked, so Bears still lead 14-9.
Buffalo Bills 38 at Kansas City Chiefs 20
Scott Spratt: The Bills are winning the 50/50 breaks early in this game. They held the Chiefs to a field goal on a 17-play opening drive, and then they scored a touchdown themselves on their first drive. Meanwhile, on the ensuing kickoff, the Bills forced a Byron Pringle fumble and recovered it. The Bills have a chance to open a 14-3 lead late in the first quarter. I just don't know if it pays to build a big lead on the Chiefs and force Patrick Mahomes to air it out to catch up.
Aaron Schatz: Instead, Josh Allen takes forever to get rid of the ball on third down and picks up intentional grounding trying to avoid the sack, and the Bills don't even get a field goal out of the deal.
Scott Spratt: In hindsight, that definitely seems worse, Aaron.
Vince Verhei: Through four-plus games, Allen certainly has regressed to ... well, not nearly as bad as he was in his first two seasons, but not nearly as good as he was in 2020 either. He has really been pretty mediocre this year, but not many have noticed because the Bills are blowing teams out every week. I certainly wouldn't say that they're winning in spite of him, but he hasn't been the driving force behind their success either.
J.P. Acosta: I would love to see his numbers on deep passes this year, because it feels like he hasn't connected as often. I also think the offense not having a true running game outside of him is hurting the offense
Aaron Schatz: Josh Allen on passes of 20-plus air yards:
2020: 86.9% DVOA, 43% completion
2021 through Week 4: 49.5% DVOA, 39% completion
Not as much difference as you might expect.
Scott Spratt: Aaron and Bryan are too fast for me, but I'll plug that FO+ offers a passing efficiency tool that lets you run various advanced passing splits, including on deep attempts.
Vince Verhei: Chiefs get a touchdown after Travis Kelce, then Tyreek Hill, then finally Mahomes motion under center.
I wonder if anyone has ever suggested a red zone play to Andy Reid and been told "no?" How goofy would something have to be that he would refuse to try it?
Bryan Knowles: Well, they could suggest giving Clyde Edwards-Helaire the ball in the red zone occasionally. Seems like Reid has said "no" to that!
Aaron Schatz: You were asking about deep passes, J.P.? Allen just completed one to Emmanuel Sanders for a 35-yard touchdown, right over his shoulder.
Vince Verhei: OK, that was 2020 Allen on the long touchdown to Sanders. Great throw.
J.P. Acosta: He obviously reads the threads.
Aaron Schatz: The mystery for me is what the Kansas City defense is doing differently that has made them so much worse than last year. I understand that Chris Jones is out tonight, and Daniel Sorensen has declined. Frank Clark has missed a couple games. But it's mostly the same players with the same strategies as the defense that finished 22nd in DVOA last season.
J.P. Acosta: I think it's also a decline in in their play at the second level. Their linebackers haven't been good at all this season.
Aaron Schatz: I mean, were their linebackers any good last season? That was already the weakness of the defense, I think. I guess it is just more of a weakness this year.
Rivers McCown: They spent all the money on the offensive line and only one draft pick from 2021 is on the roster—linebacker Nick Bolton. I think it's generally a case of just expecting improvement from youth and not finding any, but I'm open to the idea that Steve Spagnuolo has a tell now.
J.P. Acosta: I think it's especially a glaring weakness when you can't get pass rush like they could last year. This year they have been especially bad, but the defensive line play has also taken a step back.
Vince Verhei: I think that's the key. Defense in football really is symbiotic, and everything relates to everything else. So even a tiny drop in pass rush can make bad pass coverage much, much worse than it looked the year before.
Vince Verhei: Meanwhile, as much as we joke about players or teams being figured out after several years of success, it really does feel like Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have been figured out. You play deep zone coverage, you encourage as many short completions and runs as you can, and you hope they make enough mistakes to keep them out of the end zone. It's not perfect—they still have 13 points at the half, nothing to sneeze at—but it limits their capacity to just run you off the field, and you can tell they're frustrated. It's halftime and they have already run for 100 yards, almost 6 yards per carry, and it's like ... so what? Mahomes is completing barely half his passes with about a 5-yard average. You'll take that any day.
On the other side, Josh Allen's statline is kind of insane. He's only 7-of-14 passing ... but those seven completions have gained 219 yards! And he's got 41 yards on four rushes on top of that! In fact, both quarterbacks are leading their teams in rushing right now. Don't see that often, though I'm sure it's more common these days than it has been before.
J.P. Acosta: It's pretty insane how the Chiefs have played offensively tonight. It's like, it hasn't been bad, but it's been a lot less explosive. The Bills have forced them to be patient and take the underneath stuff.
Scott Spratt: Pretty bold to claim a Chiefs offense that was easily leading football through four weeks with a 41.1% DVOA has been figured out, Vince. Are you saying that teams understand what the Chiefs are trying to do offensively even if most if not all of them can't stop it?
Vince Verhei: I'm saying that teams know which tactic works best against Kansas City. I am not saying that every team will have the same success with that tactic that Buffalo has tonight, but I do think pretty much every team will be better off playing as conservatively as possible on defense, with little man coverage and even less blitzing, and I think they all know that. We talked about this a little bit at the end of the Audibles Super Bowl thread, but Tampa Bay completely switched up their defensive scheme against Kansas City, going from very aggressive to very conservative, and that (along with Kansas City's skeleton crew offensive line, and the ability of Tampa Bay's defensive line to dominate those backups) is the biggest reason they shut down an offense that has looked otherwise unstoppable ever since Mahomes took over.
But no, not every defense can just say "we're running Cover-2 all night" and hope to succeed like Buffalo has. Based on what the Bills have done tonight, and the plays we saw Ben Roethlisberger and Davis Mills make today when they were NOT playing Buffalo, it's becoming clear to me that this Bills defense really is something special.
J.P. Acosta: I think Mitchell Schwartz put it the best way:
Here's my cross-sport Chiefs analogy. They're like peak Barry Bonds. Teams are playing very soft on defense against them and taking away the deep passes. Much like pitchers would walk and pitch around Bonds, only giving him a few (if any) hittable pitches in a game. (1/7)
— Mitchell Schwartz (@MitchSchwartz71) October 11, 2021
Aaron Schatz: Mahomes is clearly off his game tonight—Seth Walder says he currently has a -11% CPOE according to Next Gen Stats—and he has short-hopped a number of throws. He was right on target to Tyreek Hill though just now. Too bad Hill let it go right off his hands and into the hands of Micah Hyde for a pick-six, and now it is 31-13 Bills. Bills' defensive DVOA is going to be pretty crazy considering the opponent adjustments for holding down the Chiefs combined with what they did to the Texans and the fact that the Texans now look like a better offense than they did a week ago because of what they did to the Patriots today.
Tom Gower: It has been a very bad night for Chiefs right tackle Lucas Niang, with the latest lowlight that Gregory Rousseau red zone interception.
Rivers McCown: I think the Chiefs will be fine in the long term, and there have been plenty of bad defenses that got hot after a bad start and scooted closer to average.
I think the Bills are scary.
Tom Gower: At some point, we'll have to start being seriously concerned about the Kansas City Chiefs. I'll probably start if they lose and/or give up 30 to Washington next week, because, while it's a long season, you need to sometimes win games to make the postseason and beating teams that aren't very good is a good way to get wins, and we saw with the Buccaneers last year it's possible to lose almost every game you play against good teams in the regular season and still win the Super Bowl.
Aaron Schatz: I'm going to guess that the Chiefs are going to be No. 1 in offense still, even after this performance. The losses to the Ravens and Chargers were close. This was the first ass-whipping. And we know that offense is more predictive and consistent than defense. I think the Chiefs will make the playoffs, and I don't think their defense will be this bad all year long. But they certainly are no longer the favorites. The Bills have the clear lead for the No. 1 seed, playing the best football in the conference with the easiest remaining schedule.