Audibles at the Line: Week 1
compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails 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 turn into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails 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 Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors 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.
Miami Dolphins 17 at Washington Redskins 10
Sterling Xie: Washington caps off a nine-minute drive with a nice fade touchdown to Jordan Reed on third down. We've had two 17-play drives so far today, and they've come from Cleveland and Washington. Go figure. Anyways, the Dolphins have 32 yards and less than 5 minutes of possession (!) with just under 2 minutes to go in the first half. Yeesh.
Cian Fahey: The Dolphins really needed to replace Dallas Thomas in the offseason. He's been getting destroyed all day today. Just not a viable starter at guard.
Sterling Xie: Remember that ridiculous Super Bowl sack Bob Griese took against the Cowboys when he ran backwards like 30 yards? That Ryan Tannehill strip sack, with the ball rolling 40 yards backwards as two MIami offensive linemen rolled over the ball, was basically the 2015 equivalent.
Andrew Healy: I was thinking of that Archie Manning play on the goal line against the Bears where the fumble just kept going backwards.
Aaron Schatz: The sad thing about Dallas Thomas is that they thought they had replaced him with Jamil Douglas. But apparently, Billy Turner from our Top 25 Prospects list (oops) was not good enough to start so Douglas had to play right guard and Thomas stayed in on the left side.
Cian Fahey: If the Miami Dolphins had a track record of success we'd be praising them for winning this game while playing terrible football. Alas, the Miami Dolphins don't have a track record of success so the takeaway here is rightfully that they have underperformed.
Indianapolis Colts 14 at Buffalo Bills 27
Sterling Xie: Andrew Luck is going hard after the rookie Ronald Darby on the right side of the field so far, but the Florida State rookie picks off a deep pass to make the Colts pay. Penalties have been part of the problem in the Colts stalling out in the first quarter, but in general, the Bills are dominating the trenches and causing confusion with varied fronts (which obviously doesn't come as much of a surprise).
Aaron Schatz: I'm not a believer in most "confidence" narratives, but... No, never mind, screw that narrative. I don't think the Bills starting off with a weird "Wildcat" formation that had Matt Cassel at quarterback and Tyrod Taylor at running back shows any "lack of confidence" in Taylor. I just think it's silly and ridiculous and the Colts were not fooled in the slightest.
When the Colts are on offense, the storyline is that Rex Ryan has this defense going FULL REX already. We are not living in the Jim Schwartz land of four-man pressure anymore. We've had plays with guys all standing up and Luck unsure of who was coming. We've had plays with six or seven guys up on the line. We've had Kyle Williams lined up outside of the tackle's shoulder while Jerry Hughes is lined up inside. And most importantly, we've had BIG BLITZES. Over and over and over. The charting on this game is probably going to show at least six pass rushers on 40-plus percent of snaps and I am guessing seven pass rushers on at least 15 percent of snaps. It is absolutely working and the numbers suggest it's the right strategy. Last year, Luck went from 7.5 yards per pass with three or four pass rushers to 8.7 with five, then dropped to 6.9 with 6-plus. In 2013, he dropped all the way down to 4.9 yards per pass with 6-plus pass rushers. His rookie year, it was 4.6 yards per pass with 6-plus pass rushers.
Andrew Healy: So far, the Bills defense is picking up right where it left off last year. On three straight targets to T.Y. Hilton, Luck is almost picked off by Nickell Robey on play one. Then good pressure from a five-man rush and a Luck special for 30 yards into pretty good coverage. Then a Luck mistake picked off by Ronald Darby. And the Bills don't even have Marcell Dareus today. Mostly awesome Bills defense, but perhaps Luck will be wishing he had one fewer receiver and one more decent offensive lineman.
Aaron Schatz: I want to add how disappointed I am that Nickell Robey's name is apparently pronounced "Nih-KELL" and not "Nickel."
Andrew Healy: The Tyrod Taylor experiment is off to one heck of a start. He is 8-of-9 for 139 yards and a touchdown right now. He had more room on his last throw in the deep middle to MarQueis Gray, but I don't think it was his first read and he showed good composure in the pocket.
Aaron Schatz: Wow, Luck is not having a good game. Even when the pressure isn't on top of him, he's missing throws. He just overthrew Donte Moncrief on a quick slant that would have gotten a conversion on third down. He's also hanging up all his deep throws. And then Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal, so it is still 10-0 Buffalo.
Sterling Xie: Luck's throwing windows are tiny in this game. Buffalo's pressure is allowing their defensive backs to play downhill. The small Indy receivers are taking a beating, as the corners are right on top of them almost every play. Colts offense has a really small margin for error right now, especially if they're not going to run much down double-digits in the second half.
Also, Luck did hang up the pick and the one Gilmore dropped, but he's also fit in a few throws with very small windows, and he has had a small window on almost every play.
Scott Kacsmar: Colts will be the last team to score today, if they score. Colts also trailed 24-0 in Week 1 at Denver last year. Gee, it's almost like the theme of my FOA chapter was that this team inexplicably has four or five of these beatdowns every year under this regime. It shouldn't happen to a playoff team, but this is why you see CBS reports before the game that Chuck Pagano is basically a dead coach walking.
Aaron Schatz: Bills defensive backs are not playing as tight here in the second half as they did in the first half, but I'm guessing that's on purpose to make sure that mistakes don't lead to another Andrew Luck comeback. Still bringing lots of pressure though.
Colts finally make it up the field, go for it on fourth-and-goal because why would you kick a field goal down 24-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, and score a touchdown on a pass to Donte Moncrief. (Moncrief is clearly playing over Phillip Dorsett.) Then the Colts do the thing we always talk about and never see, but we may see more with the new extra point rules. They line up to go for two in an attempt to make up a 24-point deficit with three touchdowns AND three 2-point conversions. And they make it! 24-8.
Sterling Xie: Talk about a horrible afternoon for Indy returners. Moncrief slipped on a kickoff return and was tackled inside the 5-yard line, and now Dorsett's muffed punt is probably the last nail in the coffin. Dorsett also bizarrely fair caught the ball around the 6-yard line earlier in the game. Indy's been outplayed, but the special teams gaffes have hurt a ton as well.
Cleveland Browns 10 at New York Jets 31
Sterling Xie: Josh McCown tries to helicopter John Elway-style into the end zone, but in Browns fashion, he fumbles and it's recovered by Antonio Cromartie in the end zone for a touchback. 17 plays, 10-plus minutes, 0 points.
Sterling Xie: Also appears that McCown got hurt on that play, as he's headed to the locker room. Hope take two goes better for Johnny Manziel.
Scott Kacsmar: McCown brought back the Rosencopter to diminish a 10-minute drive. At least it was worth a good laugh.
Andrew Healy: Just heard that the Browns hit a 48-yard extra point. Such a poor decision. Expected points clearly higher from going for two.
Aaron Schatz: Except, if you have to hit a 48-yard XP, doesn't that also mean you have to go for two from the 17? The penalty rules on conversions are honestly so confusing now.
Andrew Healy: Oh, yeah, my bad.
Seattle Seahawks 31 at St. Louis Rams 34
Vince Verhei: I just want to go on record saying that with all the youth on the offensive lines and all the talent in the front seven, first team to score 13 wins today.
Marshawn Lynch's first third-and-1 carry results in a pile-moving 10-yard gain. But sure, let's pass on the goal line. (That wound will never heal.)
Andrew Healy: And it takes Tyler Lockett no time at all to get on the board with an untouched punt return touchdown. As if the Seahawks needed one more strength. Their first punt return for a touchdown since 2007.
Scott Kacsmar: Tyler Lockett made that punt return touchdown look too easy. Last year the Rams had all the big special teams plays go their way in this matchup. I really liked Lockett's preseason too. I think he's going to be what Cordarrelle Patterson was supposed to be: dynamic on special teams and offense. Just wait until they get him in there with the play-action game.
Vince Verhei: Rams' first drive: swing pass to Tavon Austin for loss of 6, run stuffed for almost a safety, false start, quarterback sneak on third-and-21 to avoid the safety and give the punter room. Which backfires. Seattle's longest punt return last season was 38 yards. The first punt return of Tyler Lockett's career goes for a 57-yard touchdown.
Cian Fahey: That return looked too easy because it was too easy. Rams coverage was woeful. Wide open running lane down the middle of the field created by Seattle blockers. Richard Sherman had a key one. Way too easy.
Vince Verhei: Tavon Austin showing up today. He gets 5 yards behind Richard Sherman for what should have been a long touchdown, but Nick Foles underthrew him badly, then Sherman got away with defensive pass interference to break it up. The drive continues, though, and Austin finishes it with a 16-yard touchdown run. Rams put him at tailback in an offset I and just ran a simple backside counter, and Seattle didn't have enough defenders to that side to contain his speed.
Seahawks get a late field goal to tie the game at 10 at halftime. They can't run, and they're doing everything they can to get the ball out of Russell Wilson's hands quickly. That means an endless string of short passes to the outside. He's not even looking deep, and he's still been sacked three times. Jimmy Graham has been a non-factor, with as many catches (one, for 7 yards) as blown blocks that nearly got Wilson killed, because WHY WOULD YOU EVER USE GRAHAM AS A BLOCKER INSTEAD OF A RECEIVER?!?!
Rams' first second-half drive results in a lost fumble when Tim Barnes (making his fifth career start) snaps the ball too early. That results in a Seattle field goal. Rams get the ball back, though, and drive 80 yards for a touchdown. Been a long time since I saw this many guys flying through the secondary uncovered. Nick Foles runs it in from the 1-yard line to put St. Louis up 17-13.
Justin Britt has moved to guard, still sucks at pass blocking. He gives up the sack to Aaron Donald on third down. Tavon Austin returns the ensuing punt for a touchdown, though they're reviewing it to see if he stayed in bounds.
Touchdown stands. Rams up 24-13.
Seahawks spend what feels like an hour in the St. Louis red zone. Wilson has Graham open a few times but overthrows him, which is no mean feat. Finally hits him on third-and-goal for the score. That was almost overthrown and Graham had to reach for it too. Lynch then runs in the two-pointer to make it 24-21 Rams.
Seattle recovers another fumble and drives for a field goal to tie the score at 24-all. Seattle has used a lot of no-huddle the last two drives and had the most success they've had all day.
Make it three second-half drives that end in lost fumbles for the Rams. On the first play of the drive, Cary Williams comes unblocked on the corner blitz and gets the sack, the strip, the recovery, and the touchdown to put Seattle up 31-24.
Scott Kacsmar: The Rams were down 31-24 in the final minute and FOX's Kenny Albert was talking about how long the field goal was going to be if the Rams didn't convert third down. Are you kidding me? Then some bad stumbling defense by a guy who hasn't earned his Legion of Boom tags yet leads to Lance Kendricks wide open for the game-tying touchdown.
Vince Verhei: Dion Bailey (playing due to Kam Chancellor's holdout) falls down in coverage and Lance Kendricks has an easy game-tying touchdown in the final minute. Interesting note: New Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard has been moving Richard Sherman all over the place. Right, left, outside, slot, covering wideouts, covering tight ends. A big change, obviously.
Andrew Healy: A couple thoughts on the touchdown to Kendricks: 1) Maybe good scheme by the Rams getting Kendricks that matchup with Dion Bailey on the sideline; 2) The Seahawks really missed Kam Chancellor there.
Vince Verhei: Seattle opens overtime with a surprise onside kick. Ballsy, but it doesn't work, and the Rams take over at midfield.
Sterling Xie: So many special teams shenanigans whenever Seattle and St. Louis play at the dome. The Seahawks try a surprise onside kick, fail, and get bailed out by a byzantine invalid fair catch rule that doesn't appear to make any sense. But then Jeff Triplette, after bumbling through that explanation, changes his mind and reverses the call. What in the world?
Mike Kurtz: The real issue is that nobody threw a flag when a receiver who signaled for a fair catch got leveled. Even if it is eventually determined that the signal was illegal (without going into that absurd can of worms), that isn't the wing official's job to know or not know. Horrific work by the crew in general and Seattle avoided a big penalty in overtime.
Vince Verhei: Stedman Bailey, from the slot, beats Sherman for a big catch to set up the go-ahead field goal. Seahawks try to answer, but Lynch is stuffed on fourth-and-1 and it's game over. Before we say this validates the Super Bowl call, let me point out that the Rams' front seven is not New England's.
Andrew Healy: Rewatching the last play, I can't decide whether to give credit to the push up front or to think that Lynch maybe could have scored if he'd been more decisive. I guess it makes sense that he wanted to cut back right away given that he needed a yard, but there was nothing but space to the left if he'd just gone straight to the hole.
Vince Verhei: As long as we're breaking down the last play, here's a question: The Seahawks have two fullbacks on the 53-man roster. Why was neither on the field on fourth-and-ballgame? What's the point?
Green Bay Packers 31 at Chicago Bears 23
Tom Gower: The Bears had a nice opening drive. Matt Forte had a cutback to take advantage of some overpursuit on the second-level defenders, with Sean Richardson, I believe, the key culprit to open up the backside alley. The big play on the drive was an Alshon Jeffery catch-and-run on a shallow crosser after Sam Barrington overreacted to the route combination. Then of course they got to the red zone and stalled out, and their second drive ends with Julius Peppers beating "No, he's obviously not going to play right tackle, why would everybody think that?" right tackle Kyle Long for a Cutler strip-sack (which after review ended up just a sack). In between, the Bears actually forced the Packers to punt in the competitive portion of a game for the first time since 2013. Rodgers couldn't find anything downfield on first down, and his third-and-3 fell incomplete when Davante Adams couldn't get around for the conversion on the back-shoulder throw.
Mike Kurtz: The Kyle Long right tackle experience has not been pleasant thus far. Really ugly sack on third-and-long in the first quarter where Julius Peppers just ran right past Long. He never even got his feet set. He's had a few looks against Clay Matthews with better but similar results. Here's hoping this is Long trying to get up to game speed.
The Bears are getting a good rush from their front four on passing downs, which is heartening considering the past few years.
Scott Kacsmar: Bears ran some kind of sprint-left option and Matt Forte was wide-open for a walk-in touchdown. He dropped the ball like it had a disease on it. This opportunity only happened after an inexcusable offsides penalty by Green Bay on a field goal attempt extended the drive. Bears are having a hard time finishing drives and Cutler is taking some bad sacks.
Mike Kurtz: Another good look at the inequity of offsetting penalties: Green Bay brings a really smart blitz on second-and-goal at their own 8-yard line. The Bears basically hold everyone, flags go flying. The holds free up Jay Cutler, who throws into the end zone, where Sam Shields holds Jeffery. Yes, the defense should not be allowed to hold receivers. On the other hand, the only reason Cutler wasn't plastered well before he had any chance of getting the ball away were a few holds so blatant the short wings picked it up. Oddly, Shields' best play was to just let Jeffery catch the touchdown. The rules create some strange and perverse incentives.
Cian Fahey: How James Jones couldn't get an early free-agent deal or make the New York Giants roster is baffling to me. He could clearly still play in Oakland.
Aaron Schatz: Maybe the Giants just wanted to go with youth and guys who could develop. Also, Jones doesn't play on special teams, which is a problem for a guy who was going to be your fourth receiver. It was a really good break for the Packers to have Jones available right when they needed him.
Tom Gower: We're at halftime. Matt Forte has 16 carries. He's at 105 yards, but at this rate he'll be averaging 2.7 yards per carry from Week 4 onward. Outside of the Jeffery big play early, the Bears have been very much grinding out their drives, which has really limited possession. Green Bay having just 10 points in the first half doesn't sound very good, but they've only had the ball three times (plus a kneeldown). The first half has been about Green Bay's defense and their mistakes, like all the penalties and the missed tackles at the second level.
Mike Kurtz: The first half has been about Packers miscues, but it's also worth mentioning that they're currently relying on an injured Palmer in the middle after Barrington left the game. A heavy dose of Forte is absolutely the way to go for this game, so I'm not sure we should read too much into it other than the Bears making a good adjustment.
Strange series in the red zone for Chicago. First-and-goal from the 4-yard line and no runs whatsoever. One of the plays was a quick slant with a pick where the picked defender managed to wipe everyone on the side out, and the fourth-down pass never had a chance with how fast Matthews got into the backfield. Lots of mastermindering.
Aaron Schatz: John Fox actually has the Bears going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, down eight. They don't get it when pressure forces Jay Cutler to overthrow Eddie Royal. But the next few plays show why it works to go for it at the goal line. Obviously, it's tougher to stop the Packers offense for a three-and-out backed up at their own goal line compared to how tough it is to stop other offenses, but that's what the Bears did. And the punt back gives the Bears the ball again starting at the Green Bay 41-yard line.
Detroit Lions 28 at San Diego Chargers 33
But nah, let's keep pretending Joique Bell is the real lead back in Detroit.
Aaron Schatz: Well, having more yardage doesn't make you the lead back. Having more carries makes you the lead back! But yeah, everyone thinks it will be Abdullah by midseason.
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Mike Kurtz: Detroit paid real money for Bell, so Bell is the guy. Detroit has been clueless with running backs for a few years, now.
Sterling Xie: San Diego gets a Ladarius Green touchdown to go up 26-21, but Mike McCoy bizarrely doesn't choose to go for two with roughly 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The wrath of the football gods fittingly causes Josh Lambo to push the extra point wide right.
Andrew Potter: They did initially line up to go for two, but a delay of game penalty meant they'd need seven yards so they chose to kick instead. You saw how that worked out.
Sterling Xie: Ah, my fault didn't see the penalty. Even Phil Simms could've made the go-for-two call in a normal situation.
Andrew Potter: Grudgingly, with a disapproving tone and a scornful "the sheet says."
Sterling Xie: He hasn't reached the end zone, but Keenan Allen sure looks like his rookie self today. 14 catches and 161 yards are both easily career highs, and he just broke Detroit's back with that catch-and-run on third-and-19.
New Orleans Saints 19 at Arizona Cardinals 31
Aaron Schatz: Sean Payton chooses to punt the ball instead of having Drew Brees try fourth-and-6 from his own 7-yard line. He punts the ball back to Arizona with 1:58 left and two timeouts. Which means even if they force a three-and-out, barring any punt weirdness, the Saints are going to get the ball back with something like 50 seconds left and no timeouts, needing to go at least 80 yards for a touchdown. I don't think that was the smart decision.
And the Cardinals render it moot by throwing a little screen pass to rookie David Johnson on second-and-8, which he takes all the way for a touchdown.
Vince Verhei: It was funny, because I was watching that thinking "Here we go, another one-score win for Bruce Arians." And then he won it with an aggressive play call that made it a two-score game, so it won't count in his close-game record, even though it was close. Oh well.
Scott Kacsmar: As long as I'm doing the counting, this definitely counts in BA's close-game record. Another quick stop by the defense, and another aggressive call on offense to put the game away. Great stuff.
Baltimore Ravens 13 at Denver Broncos 19
Scott Kacsmar: Denver using a ton of shotgun so far, so that will be fun to track all year. Peyton basically looks like Peyton so far. Brandon McManus was a weakness last year and he never made a field goal longer than 44 yards. He just drilled two from 57 and 56 this quarter. Sure, being in Denver helps, but he had that last year too. Defense getting good pressure on Joe Flacco early.
Aaron Schatz: On the other hand, we've entered a weird alternate universe where Peyton Manning sometimes lines up with a fullback in the I-formation, and not even on the goal line!
Also, when Brandon McManus hits field goals of 56 and 57 yards, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms seem to have no idea how altitude works. Yes, those are good field goals. Those are not incredible field goals in Denver. In Buffalo in December? Sure. In Denver in September? Probably a lot like hitting from 48 elsewhere.
Sterling Xie: Pass rush also a huge story for Denver, having sacked Flacco twice and hit him five other times through one quarter. Baltimore returned every starter from last year's elite O-line (fourth in Adjusted Sack Rate, third in Adjusted Line Yards), but the Broncos are making that unit look like the horrid 2013 version.
Aaron Schatz: Feels weird not to have much to say about Baltimore-Denver after a full half. The defenses are really dominating the offenses, but we knew these defenses were going to be good this year. I guess my surprise is that I would have expected more from the Denver running game than C.J. Anderson having seven carries for 16 yards after 29 minutes.
Vince Verhei: Ravens sack Peyton three times in the first half. He hadn't been sacked three times in a game -- regular season, preseason, or playoffs -- since Week 7 of 2013.
Sterling Xie: Kyle Arrington got a huge hit on Peyton on a cornerback blitz in the first half, so the Ravens go back to that well and get a Jimmy Smith pick-six (plus another wallop on Manning). If Peyton got hurt while barely getting breathed on last season, he's not lasting this year if he continues to take this kind of abuse.
Aaron Schatz: I'm looking for that Kubiak and Manning offensive line magic and we're not seeing it today.
Peyton Manning has taken four sacks through the first three quarters. He didn't have a single game with more than two sacks last year. His last game with four sacks was against Indianapolis in Week 7 of 2013. I'm going back now and looking for the last time he took more than four sacks in a game... it doesn't seem to be in the P-F-R Game Finder so I'm going through the FO spreadsheets.
I went all the way back to the beginning of his career. It took a long time but I finally found games where Peyton Manning took more than four sacks. He took five sacks against Pittsburgh in the 2005 playoffs, against Baltimore in Week 6 of 2002, and against Carolina in Week 17 of 1998, when he was a rookie.
This is just the 14th time in his entire career Manning has taken 4-plus sacks. It's the first time since 2007. I'm putting them here just because I did all the damn work. Here are games where Manning took four sacks, counting backwards:
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- Atlanta in Week 12 of 2007
- San Diego in Week 15 of 2005
- San Diego in Week 16 of 2004
- New England in the 2003 AFC Championship Game
- Miami in Week 9 of 2003
- Buffalo Week 8 of 2001
- New England Week 6 of 2001
- Green Bay Week 12 of 2000
- New Orleans Week 4 of 1998
- Miami Week 1 of 1998
Scott Kacsmar: I hate to say it, but this Denver offense looks like the same one that lost to the Colts in the playoffs, but with a worse offensive line. Maybe Baltimore really is that good on defense, but this isn't an encouraging debut, even if they did just put together an 11-minute drive to basically leave Baltimore with one shot. And uh-oh, it's Joe Flacco in Denver in a 6-point game. Alert the safeties.
Aaron Schatz: Broncos take the win against Baltimore when Joe Flacco throws a pick on third-and-goal. I'm not going to argue too much, but I think there was interference on Denver's David Bruton on this play. He whacked Crockett Gillmore's arm before the ball got there. But that doesn't mean the play by Darian Stewart to come over and make the pick wasn't a great play by Stewart, because it was.
Denver's defense looked really great today. I want to avoid National Jump to Conclusions Week, but there's no doubt that Manning looked a lot closer to the Manning of last December and January instead of the Manning of our memories. And the offensive line didn't open the space for running back cuts that we expect from a Kubiak offensive line scheme.
Ravens Twitter account just reported Terrell Suggs is out for the year. Wow, that's a big loss.
Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles and is done for the year.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 13, 2015
Cincinnati Bengals 33 at Oakland Raiders 13
Rob Weintraub: Good start for the Bengals -- three-and-out Raiders, then a solid touchdown drive, ended by Jeremy Hill bouncing outside to convert fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Hue Jackson throwing the book out there already. Lots of shifts and motion action. Just flanked rookie lineman Jake Fisher wide right as part of trips, then threw slant the other way. It was wide-open but Justin Tuck knocked the pass down.
Oakland's expensive new center ends the first quarter with back-to-back penalties including a roughing call.
Now Cincy lines big ol' Andrew Whitworth out as part of trips, run a screen for a big gainer off that action. Then Tyler Eifert shows what he adds with a deep seam route for 31 more. But long drive stalls when newly rich A.J. Green drops an easy touchdown catch. 10-0 Cincy.
Aaron Schatz: Andrew Whitworth lined up as a wide receiver in trips was one of the things that came out of Pandora's box.
Rob Weintraub: Eifert has six catches -- a career high -- with ten minutes left in second quarter.
Pretty active Pacman series. Scuffles with Amari Cooper (slammed his head down on his helmet, which had popped off) after a cheap shot from behind. Then a high-on-the-head tackle and a strip of Derek Carr on a scramble that prevents a first down. Then, exhausted, he came out.
Carr was hurt trying to stiff-arm Jones. Nevertheless the Raiders go on fourth-and-short in their own territory with Matt McGloin in. Stuffed, Cincy ball.
Vince Verhei: Just saw the Pacman-Cooper brawl. Cooper's helmet didn't "pop" off, Jones yanked it off, then went for the head. How on earth was this not an ejection?
Pac made it rain in the refs' dressing room pregame I guess.
Eifert caps a great first half with a post pattern touchdown in the waning seconds. Perfect throw to big target. 24-0 at the half.
Reggie Nelson intercepts an overthrow from McGloin. He then takes a clear helmet-to-helmet shot as he was defenseless. But there is no penalty of course because Nelson plays defense. Double standard.
Now Eifert reaches around D.J. Hayden for another touchdown. It took three years but he's showing it all today. Tuck, who has been very handsy in this game, blocks the PAT. 30-0 and I think I can relax...
With the block by Tuck there are now four extra points missed today.
Geno sighting! Strip-sack, and Michael Johnson gets a fumble recovery in his first game back in stripes. Blowout situation but nice to see.
Aaron Schatz: Dude, you gotta be specific. My first instinct was "wait, he broke his face, how is Geno Smith playing today?"
Rob Weintraub: Reggie Nelson was in the concussion protocol earlier in the game. Now he's back in there playing in garbage time. And sure enough on a meaningless Raiders touchdown, he gets dinged in the head again. Play the backups for Lord's sake.
Tom Gower: Nit: Nelson was evaluated for a concussion earlier. If he had a concussion, he'd be in the protocol. He didn't, so he's not and thus free to come back into the game.
On the same note, we actually had a Buccaneers player pulled from the game for an evaluation after a call from upstairs. I'm sure we'll get a press release tomorrow about how this proves the process is working and the risk of head injuries has been reduced by the NFL's forward-thinking program.
Rob Weintraub: Right, evaluated. Not the point though. Coaching decision, not doctor's.
Cincy win for the first time EVER in Oakland. Hard to fathom. And that's despite the fact that Chris Simms called them the "Bangles" the entire game.
Tennessee Titans 42 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14
Sterling Xie: Titans-Bucs looking a lot like Oregon-Florida State right now. Marcus Mariota hits Kendall Wright deep for a touchdown on his opening drive, then Jameis Winston follows with a pick-six on a bad read. Coty Sensabaugh was all over that out route, and took it to the house. 14-0 Ducks...er, Titans.
Andrew Healy: Can we declare QBASE an enormous success already? I kid, I kid. But Mariota did look awfully good on that throw and the one to Delanie Walker.
Just saw that Winston pick and wow was that an inauspicious debut. I've rewatched it a few times and I can't figure out what he could have been seeing there. Sensabaugh is just sitting on that route the whole way and Winston's looking there the whole time.
On Winston's first NFL touchdown, nice movement in the pocket and then escaping to the left before finding Austin Seferian-Jenkins. It did come on the heels of a ball that should have been picked but somehow ended up in ASJ's hands for about 20 yards, but still a nice play there.
Sterling Xie: Another really ugly pick for Winston. Tried to set up a running back screen, but three Titans were waiting for it. Ended up being a softball for Deiontrez Mount. Only thing missing from this game is a stumbling backwards pass that gets returned for a touchdown.
Tom Gower: Halftime at Raymond James Stadium, where the Titans hold a 35-7 lead, or more points than they scored in any single game last year. I thought the Titans had a chance to really do well this game. They kept things pretty buttoned down in the preseason, and Dick LeBeau has a pretty good history against rookie quarterbacks. That's a bit overblown, of course, since most rookie quarterbacks struggle and are playing on bad teams. But, hey, Tampa's offensive line was a big part of why I expected LeBeau and the Titans to have so much success.
Part of that has come to pass. We've seen a fair amount of the packaged play concepts familiar from Mariota's Oregon days. The final touchdown was set up by a zone-read look with a hitch option, right out of the Ducks playbook. The first touchdown to Kendall Wright was a zone-read fake combined with a slant, and they went back to that look several times. Seven-step drops and throw the intermediate dig or deep cross this has not been.
On the other side of the ball, Doug Martin has been doing everything he can, but it's still been nowhere near enough. Winston looked good and had some solid moments, notably on the touchdown drive. But both of his interceptions thus far were pretty awful. The first might have been affected by Brian Orakpo's rush against Donovan Smith (not pretty, this play or all day), but he just floated a pass to the flat that made for an easy pick-6. The second, he just didn't get a screen throw over the edge rusher (rookie Deiontrez Mount). Even if you kind of excuse the first one, it still wasn't good and the second has no such salvation. I thought he'd make mistakes, but I thought they'd be more the sort of mistakes we'd seen from him in the past, being too aggressive trying to fit the ball into too-small windows downfield or failing to spot an underneath defender coming from an unexpected place.
Not much of interest in the second half. Jameis looked more like I thought he'd look in the second half, under a lot of pressure and with some throws Cian would grade as interceptable even if they weren't necessarily intercepted. We'll see what, if anything, it means for the rest of the season. There's plenty about this game like it seemed like it could be sui generis, and that Tennessee's best and only really good performance in Week 1 last year makes me even more skeptical. But as a Titans fan, it was a lot of fun watching this game, and "having fun watching a Titans football game" was a really weird feeling after last year.
New York Giants 26 at Dallas Cowboys 27
Scott Kacsmar: I still don't think we know what counts as a catch. I don't see how they could just overturn the Larry Donnell play to incomplete. He caught it standing up and took multiple steps before going down.
Aaron Schatz: There's just a lot of short passing in this game, and the wide receivers don't seem to be doing the quarterbacks many favors. Maybe some of that is Odell Beckham and Dez Bryant each being off the field a little bit, but it wasn't much, and Bryant dropped that easy pass that would have converted a third down in the red zone.
Mike Kurtz: Like Collinsworth said, there is a massive preference for incompletes over catch-plus-fumbles. If there's contact anywhere around possession and the ball comes out (either falling to the ground or popping out), it'll be incomplete. It's probably the most consistent call in the league, and I'm actually amazed it was called a fumble live.
Aaron Schatz: By the way, I heard the Giants signed Shane Vereen. Any chance he's around tonight?
Scott Kacsmar: I think Brandon Jacobs prejudiced Eli Manning against throwing the ball to running backs. But seriously, that just hasn't been his game. Tiki Barber had five straight seasons with 66-plus catches. The Giants drafted Eli and that number was between 52 and 58 the next three years.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, but part of the thing with Vereen is you can line him up wide or in the slot. I would think Eli would throw to him then, right?
Scott Kacsmar: Well I'd rather just have James Jones to do that, but Giants went in a different direction despite Victor Cruz's injury situation. Ben McAdoo's offense is receiver-heavy from Green Bay, and that fits Eli well.
And damn, this game is all about failing to secure the ball, mostly from Dallas. Joseph Randle got lucky on a fumble. Dez dropped a big third down. Cole Beasley fumbled the ball for a touchdown. Jason Witten just tipped a bad ball thrown wide for a pick to set up the Giants before the half.
Aaron Schatz: I guess when I said earlier that the Giants had three receivers better than Jones, I forgot that Cruz isn't fully healthy yet. I don't think Preston Parker is better than Jones.
I definitely think Witten maybe could have done a better job on that Tony Romo interception, but I think when it comes time for adjusted interceptions, that one is on Romo. That was thrown behind Witten, a tough catch to make. Not really a drop.
I know that we complain all the time about plays that should be called defensive pass interference and aren't called. The play in the third quarter that was called DPI on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone -- wow, I just do not get that at all. It looked like great coverage by DRC. There is no contact before the ball gets there. There's hardly any contact with the receiver AFTER the ball gets there. What the hell? Dallas easily converts from the 1-yard line to make the score 16-13 Giants.
The Cowboys are really shutting down Odell Beckham with Morris Claiborne and safety help over the top. But honestly, it doesn't look like Eli is even looking over at him. Do the Giants really want their game plan built this much around Preston Parker?
Tom Gower: Option 1: These teams don't have enough secondary offensive options to be that effective once you double, or otherwise take away, their best receiving options.
Option 2: Both these defenses are better than we thought, especially New York's.
Option 3: Cowboys-Giants is normally a close game, even if the teams aren't that close in quality together.
I'm leaning toward option 1, but trying to keep my mind open.
Aaron Schatz: There's a lot of "turnovers sure are unpredictable" but that just emphasizes how sloppy this game has been. The Cowboys don't look as good as everyone thinks they are, and the Giants... well, they don't look like winning this game would be any proof that they're better than everyone thinks they are.
Rob Weintraub: Anyone else smelling a "late touchdown and the long extra point to win" scenario?
Aaron Schatz: Reality apparently smells what the Rob is cooking.
Rob Weintraub: Call that shot, not that it was so difficult.
Scott Kacsmar: Giants gave that game away with some of the worst clock management I've ever seen. I'd say more, but that's why I do a column on this stuff.
Aaron Schatz: If the clock doesn't stop on the declined penalty on the first down by Odell Beckham at the 4-yard line, the Cowboys don't make it all the way back. If the Giants run on third down at the goal line instead of throwing an incomplete pass, the Cowboys don't make it all the way back.
Tom Gower: You may thank my earlier email for all that offensive proficiency late in the game, especially Dallas without Dez Bryant. The clock management... Dallas should not have been able to run the "dumpoffs -plus YAC" strategy, but they did, and it worked, and the Witten touchdown was just absurd defending, as amply covered on Twitter. I know, Jerry Reese is probably too stung by the Michael Boley contract to ever try acquiring a good linebacker again, but y'know, there comes a time...
Rob Weintraub: The personal foul on Jeremy Mincey served the same purpose; the Cowboys did not have to call a timeout because of that penalty. Saved them some seconds or the timeout. All reminiscent of the Giants' second Super Bowl over the patriots when the 12th man penalty wound up helping them by running clock.
Vince Verhei: Caught the end of that game on the radio. As soon as the Giants got first-and-goal I started screaming for them to take three knees and kick a field goal. I can forgive the attempts to run it in, but that pass is inexcusable, and Eli's decision to throw it away instead of just sitting down is also inexcusable. Seriously, as soon as he his first read wasn't open, he should have just casually hit the turf and let the clock go.