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.
Houston Texans 17 at Carolina Panthers 24
Rob Weintraub: Ryan Mallett makes a tremendously athletic play just to flick away a backhand incomplete pass and not take a sack, which keeps Houston alive against Carolina. They have one more chance for the end zone. But alas he overthrows Nuke Hopkins at the back in the end zone and Carolina hangs on to win.
Tom Gower: Ryan Mallett attempted 58 passes, completing 27 of them for 244 yards. I don't even know what to say about that statline, aside from that Houston is clearly still searching for answers. The offensive line woes didn't help, with Derek Newton out and his backup Jeff Adams getting carted off during the game, but at some point you need to do a better job throwing the ball. But I'm not sure how much of this is a surprise, really. Kony Ealy did what he could to help the Texans out on the final possession, getting flagged for roughing the passer on a third-down incompletion and jumping offsides on third-and-4.
San Francisco 49ers 18 at Pittsburgh Steelers 43
Scott Kacsmar: 49ers had a pretty bad challenge on a sideline catch by Antonio Brown. He controlled the ball all the way even after taking a big shot, so I have no idea what the 49ers saw to challenge. 49ers have snuffed out two screens so far -- not that I have any idea why you'd run a bubble screen to Darrius Heyward-Bey. Steelers are committing a lot of penalties to get to third-and-26, where Ben Roethlisberger is not on the same page with his receiver. It's a sloppy start.
Steelers can't buy a takeaway after their challenge fails. Anquan Boldin caught a pass facing Colin Kaepernick, got two feet down, turned upfield and was stripped. They ruled incomplete on the field. Steelers challenged it was a fumble and lost. I hate these plays. When you can see the guy actually change direction with control of the ball, how is that not a fumble? This "bang-bang play" standard is too strict.
DHB seeing a lot more targets than expected so far due to the Martavis Bryant suspension. He actually hauled in another deep one for the second game in a row. After a Heath Miller touchdown, Roethlisberger hurries up the offense to go for a two-point conversion. He found Brown for two points. I'm shocked they actually did something they said they would do this offseason by going for two in a most unconventional game situation.
Vince Verhei: There are times when I think a three-man rush makes sense. Second-and-goal inside the 10-yard line is not one of those times, and Ben Roethlisberger has an easy touchdown to put the Steelers up 6-0 in the first quarter. They then go for two because why not, and convert that too for an 8-0 lead. That's the first time I've seen a team go for two when they never, ever would have under the old rules.
Scott Kacsmar: I want to say that was the ninth time since 1994 an offense went for a two-point conversion in the first quarter (no fake or aborted XP). We haven't seen it since the Titans tried one against Baltimore in 1998. And yeah, that's the impact of the new rules.
The single-season record for successful two-point conversions is six (1994 Dolphins and 1997 Vikings). The 2015 Steelers are 3-for-3 and should obliterate that record. Josh Scobee just missed an extra point and may be another miss or two away from losing his job. He missed two field goals last week. At least this could lead to the Steelers just going for two almost every time. This opportunity came after DHB actually made a nice catch on a great throw from Roethlisberger. 49ers look outmatched on both sides of the ball. [Insert circadian rhythm comment about Pacific team playing an early game in the east.]
Sterling Xie: Niners just ran nine plays in the red zone and ended up with zero points. Pretty much sums up their day. Hopefully the Carlos Hyde injury doesn't turn out to be a big deal.
Scott Kacsmar: "Two 17-play drives net you three points" sums up the 49ers quite well today.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26 at New Orleans Saints 19
Scott Kacsmar: Saints gave themselves a shot at the end, but how far has this team fallen if they're losing at home to the Buccaneers? These things used to only happen on the road for this team. The defense has almost always been suspect, but even the offense isn't reliable anymore after losing too much talent. Jameis Winston played a much cleaner game after that ugly debut.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, the Saints' home record was always a bit of a myth. They were undefeated at home in 2013, and of course there were some amazing games back in 2006, but otherwise their home-field advantage was never greater than the usual NFL home-field advantage.
Of course, even with the usual home-field advantage, you aren't supposed to lose six straight home games. And now they have.
Scott Kacsmar: Saints at home against a bad team were pretty safe. I think it's wise to assume the 2015 Buccaneers won't win nine-plus games, so this is four straight home losses for the Saints against teams without a winning record. They had a 25-4 stretch dating back to 2008 before this current streak.
Tom Gower: What about the New Orleans offense concerns you right now? Any of their individual players? About all I saw of this game beyond the odd highlight was the Saints' failed final possession, but I don't know what the answer is.
Detroit Lions 16 at Minnesota Vikings 26
Vince Verhei: Matthew Stafford's bad day continues. He throws a pass 2 yards behind Calvin Johnson that is intercepted, but the play is wiped out by a Vikings penalty. Next play, Justin Trattou sort-of rushes off the edge, but holds up. Stafford tries a pass to the flat, but it hits Trattou right in the chest for an easy pick.
Aaron Schatz: So, Ameer Abdullah has less than 10 yards against the same Vikings defense that let Carlos Hyde run all over them last week? Once again, proof you shouldn't try to predict anything in football on a week-to-week basis unless you are willing to accept extreme amounts of variation.
Actually, serious question for Vince and anyone else watching Detroit-Minnesota. Has Detroit just given up on running the ball? Does the Vikings defense look that much better than last week? Matthew Stafford is the Lions' leading rusher today, for crying out loud.
Vince Verhei: The Lions were never terribly interested in running, and in the second half the score virtually took the choice out of their hands. If I'm doing my math right, they had four drives and 30 plays after Minnesota went ahead 23-10 midway through the third quarter. Only two of those plays were running back runs, and one of those was fumbled away.
Arizona Cardinals 48 at Chicago Bears 23
Vince Verhei: Jay Cutler's career neatly summarized in one half: He starts off 8-of-8 for 120 yards and a touchdown. Then on his next throw he throws a pick-six that stretches the Bears' deficit from 21-14 to 28-14. Worse, Cutler injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle, and the Bears are down to one healthy quarterback: Jimmy Clausen.
Cian Fahey: Running a flea-flicker to Larry Fitzgerald at this stage of your career is football's alley-oop to yourself.
Tom Gower: It was a hamstring injury to Jay Cutler, not a shoulder. Totally. Really. The Bears even said so. I don't know why you would possibly claim it was a shoulder injury.
Aaron Schatz: I guess they're saying Jay Cutler was clutching his hamstring after that attempted tackle. It looked like shoulder to me too, but hey, I'm not a medical expert by any means.
New England Patriots 40 at Buffalo Bills 32
Aaron Schatz: Patriots' run defense looking like a definite problem as the Bills march down the field easily for a touchdown on the opening drive. Also, I would advise a spy against Tyrod Taylor.
Sterling Xie: New Engalnd's run-pass ratio today is probably gonna resemble its playoff game against Baltimore from last year. Eight passes, no runs on that Patriots touchdown drive ending in an 8-yard Julian Edelman touchdown. Impressed by how much time Brady has had in the pocket, at least so far.
Aaron Schatz: Nobody is better than Edelman when it comes to agility in small spaces. They had a safety and a linebacker on him there on third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, and he still got wide open with a little whip route.
By the way, on the drive before that, it looked like Rex Ryan was trying to challenge the idea that Tyrod Taylor ran out of bounds for a sack instead of throwing the ball away. This would have been the difference between fourth-and-9 and fourth-and-15. The refs apparently told him this was unchallengeable, or something. It was hard to tell from the broadcast. But wow, what a silly challenge that would have been.
After one quarter, the Patriots lead 14-7 and the Bills have drawn three flags for unsportsmanlike conduct. That's two personal fouls for fighting after a play (on the same play) and then a taunting penalty after the Patriots kicked an extra point. Yes, that's correct. As Nick Goss from NESN said on Twitter, only a Rex Ryan team would draw a flag for taunting after GIVING UP a touchdown.
Sterling Xie: Pats extend their lead to 21-7 with Rob Gronkowski's fourth touchdown of the season. Score came on the same formation that led to two touchdowns against Pittsburgh last week, with Gronk and Scott Chandler split out to the left side of the formation. Body language of Buffalo defenders seemed to suggest a miscommunication, and I think I remember Pittsburgh also having a coverage breakdown against that formation last week. Really tough situation to defend.
Scott Kacsmar: It should be an automatic double team on Gronk any time he splits out wide inside the 5-yard line. If a defense is confused, call timeout, especially in the first half. No one seems to do any of that though.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots defense is switching things up on the Bills. After the first drive when the Bills scored the easy touchdown, the Patriots came out with three defensive tackles. Then the last drive, they came out with rookie Malcom Brown at defensive tackle plus four defensive ends. Doing something different each drive. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for the usual complicated Rex Ryan blitzes. Haven't seen a lot of the crazy stuff from last week against the Colts, like Kyle Williams coming from wide.
Sterling Xie: I believe it was Andy Benoit who mentioned this on Twitter earlier this week, but Brady is so much better throwing the deep ball to his left. 39-yard wheel route to Dion Lewis was placed on a dime.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots go up 34-13. I understand that Rex Ryan tends to go against his usual blitzing ways and rush only three or four against Tom Brady, but still, the talented Buffalo defensive line should really be getting more pressure than this considering that the Patriots are starting a UDFA rookie at center and another rookie at guard, and had their backup right tackle playing for about 20 minutes while Sebastian Vollmer was in the locker room with a finger injury. After 40 minutes, Tom Brady has only been sacked once for zero yards. Brady is getting the ball out quickly, which has something to do with that. But even on slower-developing plays, there isn't as much pressure as I would expect.
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Sterling Xie: I do remember the Jets having a lot of success off blitzes in the Week 16 game against New England last year, so it's a little surprising to me to see Rex move so far away from that. Patriots have also gotten especially timely pass pro on a few third-and-long situations (like that third-and-7 conversion to Aaron Dobson on that last scoring drive). David Andrews and Josh Kline have combined for four penalties, but I think the Pats would gladly take that given how mostly solid they've been otherwise.
Aaron Schatz: If you name any two players from this game, they've probably combined for four penalties. Buffalo got an unsportsmanlike penalty charged to the entire bench. The refs are feeling a little frisky today.
Somehow, while I was flipping over to watch the ends of two close games on FOX, the Bills scored 18 points on the Patriots and turned New England-Buffalo into a 37-32 game. So the Patriots have a four-minute offense drive to try to kill the clock and end this. And... Tom Brady goes deep to Dion Lewis for a 22-yard defensive pass interference gain. It's almost as if the Patriots thought, "Hey, this officiating crew seems to want to throw a flag for every single little possible thing, let's go get an easy DPI gain." And then it happened. Egads, has this game had a lot of penalties.
And then an insane diving catch from Danny Amendola. Wow. That catch was so good it merits a Vine.
— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2015
Apparently the penalty on the Bills' bench was on Rex Ryan. He said in the postgame press conference. "That was mine. The guy's got rabbit ears. I don't know what to tell you." So I guess he swore at one of the officials or something.
Andrew Healy: A couple of postgame thoughts:
1) The pass rush looked very good from the Patriots, but Chnandler Jones' three sacks were mostly on Cordy Glenn playing very poorly. But those Jamie Collins/Dont'a Hightower A-gap blitzes are just hard to deal with.
2) Tyrod Taylor threw a couple of nice deep balls and that looks to be a strength, but there seemed for much of the game to be little intention to have him throw more than the occasional pass in the middle of the field beyond 5 yards. That needs to change if the Bills have aspirations to be a serious contender. They took a chance on going with Taylor, which they had to do because we know Cassel/Manuel aren't good enough. Soon they have to take the chance to give Taylor more than screens and deep shots on most plays.
3) On a day when Brady looked very much in eff-you mode, three awesome catches for the Patriots, only one of which counted for Brady. The late one to Amendola, a Swann-ish catch by Gronk where he touched down out of bounds, and my favorite was Malcolm Butler's diving pick. Amazing he kept that from hitting the turf.
4) Bad Idea jeans tactic of the day: Leaving Bradley Fletcher mostly on an island to cover, well, almost anyone. All that changes is the uniform and the opponent he's flailing hopelessly after on another go route. Today it was Percy Harvin and Sammy Watkins.
San Diego Chargers 19 at Cincinnati Bengals 24
Robert Weintraub: Jeremy Hill has one bugaboo, and that's ball security. He fumbled twice and was benched Sunday, one of them just a flat drop. Fortunately, the Bengals have a pretty good alternative in Gio Bernard, and he appeared back to his 2013 self. His key fumble against SD in the wild-card game in 2013 set Gio on a downward spiral -- hopefully a good game against the Bolts allows him to put that behind him.
Collision Low Crossers was a great book by Nicholas Dawidoff about life in the NFL. It's also a defensive concept, and clearly, it was a priority for the Cincy linebackers, as they were very active in rerouting those shallow crossers and pick plays the Chargers love to run.
SD rolled up a ton of YAC last week -- keeping that to a minimum and tackling well were keys for the Bengals. Adam Jones for the second straight week was very active in said tackling, and provided his usual sticky coverage. Dre Kirkpatrick had a crucial miscommunication (expecting safety help that wasn't there) late but otherwise did a good job tackling as well. Keenan Allen had 2 catches for 16 yards. 'Nuf said.
Allen also muffed a punt early that led to Cincy's first score. He was only back there because Jacoby Jones was inactive. Tough day for Allen.
D.J. Fluker was also inactive, and he was sorely missed inside. Geno Atkins ate Chris Hairston's lunch all day. Orlando Franklin wasn't very good, either.
Melvin Gordon looked very tough and energetic, getting a ton of yards after contact.
The 2-point play at 24-19 was critical. SD went with a smoke screen to Allen, a play they love on the goal line and scored on a couple of times last year. But one of Leon Hall's particular strengths is sniffing out and stuffing WR screen actions, and he blew this one up. Did it twice against OAK last Sunday.
Hue Jackson Pandora's Box alert! Tackle Jake Fisher is eligible so often it's become a drinking game in Cincinnati, but for once he was the intended target. He caught a 31-yard pass, and really should have scored but was unable to juke Eric Weddle, the big stiff. Apparently it's the second-longest reception by a tackle since 1950 (Brian Baldinger has the record), but that's unofficial.
Cincy looks good early, particularly the o-line, which has certainly played better than Dallas' vaunted front in this short sample. Now everyone will have them whaling on 0-2 Baltimore next Sunday. As we all know, that's the signal for the Daltoncoaster to crest the big hill and the Bengals to chalk up an L.
Tennessee Titans 14 at Cleveland Browns 28
Tom Gower: Browns lead 14-0 eight and a half minutes into the game. The Titans offense has looked bad so far, going three-and-out once and the second drive ending short of midfield with a Terrance West fumble. Johnny Manziel found Travis Benjamin for a 60-yard score on the first drive, beating Coty Sensabaugh in coverage, and the second ended with Isaiah Crowell taking it in from 11 yards out. Week 1? Looks like it never happened, for either team. Titans have not run any packaged play looks yet, for the curious.
Cian Fahey: Even if Johnny Manziel collapses in on himself over the next three quarters of this game, he's shown enough in the first quarter to make it an illogical decision if they move back to Josh McCown.
Vince Verhei: It was an illogical decision when they signed McCown.
Aaron Schatz: The football commentariat seems way too quick to write off players who struggle as rookies and even quicker to write off quarterbacks who struggle as rookies, as if no players are allowed to have a learning curve going from college to the NFL anymore. But on top of that, we all knew Manziel's biggest issue was his off-field activity. I've been told some pretty remarkable stories about just how far gone Brett Favre was in his rookie year in Atlanta. Rehab really does have value for some people.
Cian Fahey: Marcus Mariota's accuracy has been spotty today but he has shown off aspects of his skill set that critics said he didn't have. That showed up on an early third-and-long conversion when he came off his first read, stepped up in the pocket and delivered an accurate pass downfield under pressure.
The Titans' roster was clearly better than the Buccaneers', but it's clearly worse than the Browns.
Tom Gower: 21-0 at the half. The Titans' defense stabilized after the early scores, stopping the Browns after they had good field position around midfield a couple times and shutting down a Manziel sneak on fourth-and-1 in the red zone (at 14-0, I wouldn't have hated the decision to kick the 37-yard field goal there as much as I would normally have). But the Titans offense still hasn't done anything of note, and Travis Benjamin got a punt return score late to make it 21-0. The game still doesn't feel quite that close, but it's more reflective of the difference in quality of play than 14-0 would have been.
Cian covered Mariota some, so I'll limit my notes. I mentioned on Twitter his imperfections last week have become failings this week. He's still a rookie, and rookies don't read the field or process defenses as quickly as veterans. That's resulted in some pass pressures today, including the sack at the end of the first half. That's probably also part of what got him on a couple throws that haven't been on target. He's still done some good things, but not enough to elevate the quality of play around him. Oh, yeah, and Chance Warmack also got carted off; his mostly underwhelming career to date notwithstanding, I'd rather have him starting than Jamon Meredith.
Vince Verhei: Browns are using the most wonderfully old school attack today, relying on deep passes, power runs, and kick returns for their offense. They've got 16 runs and 11 passes at halftime, and most of those runs have come from classic under-center formations with 21, 12, or 22 personnel. Up 14-0, they turned down a 36-yard field goal to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 19. Like that decision, hate the play-call of a quarterback sneak. Johnny Manziel is not Cam Newton, and if you're going to ask him to run, give him an option look and let him attack the edge. That drive finished with nine plays for 51 yards, but just one pass, which gained 9 yards.
And the fourth-down failure doesn't much matter, because the teams go on to trade punts for a while, and then Travis Benjamin returns one 78 yards for a touchdown. Benjamin also has a 60-yard touchdown catch. Josh Gordon, you are not missed.
Tom Gower: The second half for the Titans offense this game is just going to be the Browns' edge rushers teeing off on rookie right tackle Jeremiah Poutasi and fill-in right guard Jamon Meredith. If the Browns had a functioning offense, this game would have a chance to get really ugly.
I issue that forecast of impending doom, and the Titans go drive for a touchdown. Most of the drive was spent on the ground, some place the Titans didn't find success earlier in the game or even in last year's contest in Nashville. Mariota did cap the drive off with a nice touchdown to Anthony Fasano.
Since he started off playing well, Manziel hasn't done much at all. A couple fumbles on third down sacks, neither lost, and some missed throws downfield. The Browns should probably play him over Josh McCown, just because he's not Josh McCown, but if they think he's not ready, then it's not obviously a horrible decision.
Vince Verhei: A few observations from Tennessee's second-half rally:
- Contrary to prediction, Mariota has been largely unpressured in the second half.
- Dexter McCluster is having a career day with 10 carries for 98 yards. His best day in five years in Kansas City was 12 carries for 61 yards.
- Charlie Whitehurst is roaming the Tennessee sideline in a baseball cap, sleeveless t-shirt, and his uniform pants. Not many men could pull this off, but not many men are Clipboard Jesus.
Atlanta Falcons 24 at New York Giants 20
Aaron Schatz: Just switched over to the last two minutes of Giants-Falcons. Great pass by Matt Ryan to give Atlanta the 24-20 win, maybe even better acceleration by Julio Jones to get away from Prince Amukamara. The Falcons held on and prevented the Giants comeback attempt after that but I must say I'm scratching my head a little bit that the Falcons aren't using Desmond Trufant on Odell Beckham. It's Dan Quinn now as Atlanta head coach and this was the way it was in Seattle, of course, leaving Sherman on one side almost exclusively no matter where the opponent's best receiver was. Except with Atlanta, I think the value of putting Trufant on the opponent's top receiver is even stronger because you don't have the quality safety to help on the back end of the defense.
Miami Dolphins 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 23
Cian Fahey: The downfall of the Miami Dolphins is going to be their coaching staff. They refuse to use Lamar Miller or even run the ball consistently with another back. He has three touches into the second quarter while Ryan Tannehill has 11 pass attempts.
Vince Verhei: I tuned into this just in time to see Allen Robinson's 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter that put Jacksonville up 17-6. Robinson lined up in the left slot and ran a slant-and-go. Dolphins were in a Cover-2, and the safety to that side totally bit on the slant and let Robinson run right by him for the score.
Since then, it's mostly been Tannehill throwing to guys in the seams between Jacksonville's zones. He doesn't have a lot of touch on these throws and they're coming in high, forcing receivers to jump for them, which is limiting their YAC opportunities. They got one touchdown and missed a field goal to pull within 17-13. Jaguars then got a DPI just before halftime that put the ball at the Miami 40-yard line, and Jason Myers ended the half with a 58-yard field goal to put Jacksonville up 20-13.
Tom Gower: Joe Philbin was screaming at the officials at halftime about that 58-yard field goal, and he had a real point. The field goal just barely had enough range, and I'm not sure how they spotted the defensive pass interference where they did. The infraction appeared to be a couple yards further back, and unless Jason Myers has extra range on command that mistake gave the Jaguars 3 points.
Rob Weintraub: Heroic play by Dolphins lineman Jason Fox. Tannehill was strip-sacked at the goal line with three minutes left in a tie game. Fox recovered at the stripe and positioned his body so he wasn't safetied. Miami punts but could be losing.
Rob Weintraub: True, "heroic" in the way Forrest Gump was a hero.
Jacksonville hasn't done a danged thing on offense the entire second half. The only first down in their last four possessions came on an illegal hands to the face penalty on Miami on a failed third down. ... and as I type that sentence, the Jaguars in the two-minute drill in a tie game complete a pass for a first down.
Vince Verhei: This game turned into an ugly slugfest in the second half. For Jacksonville, it was the usual mix of bad play from Blake Bortles (he often looks like he's completely confused out there) and drops from his receivers. Miami has had more luck moving the football, but they've stopped running pretty much entirely, and every few plays an unblocked rusher gets through to sack Tannehill or force an incompletion.
Tom Gower: What a drive. Just heroic stuff by Blake Bortles. As many run plays as they could manage, and Olivier Vernon makes the field goal 15 yards closer and extends the drive with an awful post-play shove. Maybe Clay Harbor flopped a bit, but I never mind seeing dumb actions like that result in negative consequences. And after Miami can't get a first down , even with :40 to play and no timeouts, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South.
Baltimore Ravens 33 at Oakland Raiders 37
Rob Weintraub: Third-and-inches for Baltimore. Joe Flacco keeps and runs right behind Marshal Yanda -- one of the best linemen in the league and the best on the team. And he gets blown up in the backfield. Maybe things are different in 2015.
On fourth down the Ravens think better of challenging the middle of Oakland's line and pitch it to Justin Forsett, who just barely gets the first down out wide.
Aaron Schatz: You gotta love the Ravens going for it on fourth-and-1 from their OWN 29-yard line.
Rob Weintraub: One series after throwing an awful lame duck pick, Carr responds with a brilliant game-winning drive to beat the Ravens at home. Nice job by the kid. Terrible job by the Ravens defense who clearly missed Terrell Suggs from what I saw.
Dallas Cowboys 20 at Philadelphia Eagles 10
Aaron Schatz: Both offenses in the Dallas-Philly game have been stagnant through the first 20 minutes. Jordan Matthews hasn't gotten a pass yet. The Eagles running game is doing nothing: DeMarco Murray has 1 yard on his first five carries. As for the Cowboys, they absolutely missed Dez Bryant in the red zone when they discovered Gavin Escobar simply doesn't have the same kind of catch radius that Bryant has. I've also been underwhelmed by the Legion of Room. They're giving Romo lots of time to throw but they are nowhere near as strong on running plays as they were a year ago. Some of that might be Mackenzy Bernadeau and La'el Collins taking turns subbing for Ronald Leary at left guard, but Doug Free at right tackle has also been mediocre, and none of the three Pro Bowlers have made you say "oh, wow, great block" either.
Vince Verhei: I think the first half of Dallas-Philadelphia was worse to watch than the first half of Minnesota-San Francisco on Monday night. At least the Monday night game had funny fumbles and quarterbacks bouncing into their own linemen to keep me entertained. This was just gross incompetence all around. Let's review the closest we got to a touchdown: Gavin Escobar is tackled to make it first-and-goal from the 1. Jason Garrett challenges that he scored, because he has no confidence in the NFL's best offensive line to get 1 yard. He loses the challenge (and a timeout, which would have been useful at the end of the half), then a first-down run is stuffed for a loss of 1. And because of that one failure Garrett loses confidence in the NFL's best offensive line, calling a back-shoulder fade to Escobar on second down (I swear) and a play-action pass on third down. Both fall incomplete, and Garrett goes for the completely spineless field goal to go up 3-0.
And that's the team that's winning! They got another field goal at the end of the half on a drive that produced five first downs via Eagles penalties.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have run 16 plays over five drives with nothing longer than an 8-yard gain (on second-and-9 -- I think that's their only successful play), and their one first down came on a Dallas penalty. This is first quarter of Hall-of-Fame-game-level football.
Oh my God. Eagles open the second half with an actual first down on a pass to Agholor. Then Murray is hit in the backfield and loses 6. Then Murray is hit in the backfield and loses 5. Philadelphia's O-line isn't even touching these guys. Eagles run a give-up screen on third down, but then the Eagles' protection results in disaster for the third time in four snaps, and the punt is blocked and returned for a touchdown. Worse, Donnie Jones was wiped out by a block on the return, so the Eagles, who figure to be in a lot of fourth downs going forward, might be down their punter.
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DeMarco Murray now has seven carries for -10 yards. He has lost yardage on four of his seven carries.
Aaron Schatz: Philadelphia reporters are saying that Kiko Alonso is going to be done for the season, which is bad. Tony Romo just left the game clutching his left (not-throwing) shoulder after a sack and fumble, which may be even worse.
Scott Kacsmar: Curse of 370 is off to a good start, but this is really nothing more than piss-poor blocking by the Eagles. There's a guy on Murray in the backfield as soon as he gets the ball. The Eagles had issues last year up front, but we just passed it off to injuries and suspensions. What's going on with this group?
Vince Verhei: Murray got another carry. He lost 5 yards again. He's got to be threatening some kind of terrible record.
I'm telling you, Tennessee-Cleveland was a much better-played game than this.
Aaron Schatz: I feel like Joseph Randle is making most of the Cowboys' rushing yards himself with broken tackles. But at least he's getting enough blocking to get to the line of scrimmage before he meets defenders. Unlike DeMarco Murray. Oh, and Ryan Mathews has ONE carry with 20 minutes left. So, good thing the Eagles paid for two starting running backs.
Sterling Xie: Dan Bailey with an unsportsmanlike conduct while trying to say hi to DeMarco on the sideline? That's gotta count for like -100 Loser League points, right?
Vince Verhei: Third quarter ends on a perfect note. Eagles are getting something with Murray as a receiver in the flats. He hurdles Brandon Carr (an amazing play) and runs out of bounds, where he gets tangled with Dan Bailey. As Murray tries to run back to the field, Bailey grabs his arm and won't let go. This results in, yes, a 15-yard penalty due to UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS ON THE KICKER. Looked like he might have just been messing around with an ex-teammate and not doing anything malicious, but dude, that's not the time or place.
Byron Maxwell forces a Gavin Escobar fumble and the Eagles recover to give Philadelphia life. Very next snap, Eagles snap it before Bradford is ready, as guys are in motion all over the place, and the Cowboys get the ball right back -- and promptly get called for holding on their first play.
With a third-and-long up 10 points with less than five minutes to go, Brandon Weeden hits Terrance Williams for a 42-yard touchdown. Just a slant-and-go route against Byron Maxwell, who put forth one of the most half-assed efforts you'll ever see from a cornerback in an NFL game. He could not have given any less of a damn there. Probably wouldn't have mattered anyway, but that was appalling.
Seattle Seahawks 17 at Green Bay Packers 27
Aaron Schatz: Biggest difference in the first half of this game is that the Packers offensive line is good, and the Seahawks offensive line is not. It seems like the best Seattle offensive plays are bootlegs and other things that will get Russell Wilson away from worrying about the blocking. Marshawn Lynch has six carries for 3 yards through 20 minutes because how many tackles can you expect the guy to break, a million?
Tom Gower: Packers run defense got gashed last week. The Bears' line did a good job of letting Matt Forte attack the second- and third-level defenders of Green Bay, who didn't tackle well. Green Bay's defensive front has done a much better job and is making life much more difficult for Seattle than it was for Chicago last week, and we haven't seen the same missed tackles outside of, oh, Morgan Burnett, who didn't play last week, not bringing Lynch down on the reception.
Aaron Schatz: You know, it's not just Seattle. It feels like offensive line play is struggling around the NFL this year -- Dallas-Philadelphia being the most horrible example -- and there have been so many penalties. Those two trends have combined to make a lot of this year's games just feel like a slog to watch.
Vince Verhei: Seattle traded a Pro Bowl center for a Pro Bowl tight end. As a result, the line can't block anyone, the tight end has one target (and no catches) in the first half, and they've got nothing left except "chuck a deep ball and pray."
Richard Sherman is also giving up a ton more plays this year than he has before, but that's a separate issue entirely.
Aaron Schatz: The first touchdown was really a Cover-3 beater, right in between Sherman's area and what should be Earl Thomas' area. Hard to blame Sherman for that. But that's definitely not the only time. He had the penalties on consecutive plays, too.
Scott Kacsmar: Seahawks have had a lead in all 57 games in the Wilson era. Tough task tonight with the way this one is going. Their best offense may be Wilson going sandlot ball with Graham, Baldwin, Kearse and Lockett on the field.
So is the Seattle trade for Jimmy Graham like that time your dad bought a NordicTrack?
— Ryan Nanni (@celebrityhottub) September 21, 2015
Seattle pass protection has been much better since halftime, and it's enough for the Seahawks to march 54 yards on four passes and a Russell Wilson keeper, to take a 17-13 lead.
Vince Verhei: Wilson to Doug Baldwin puts Seattle ahead. Scott, I think you're onto something with that whole sandlot idea. Let your $20 million quarterback free!
Scott Kacsmar: I left Lynch out of the list of players to put on the field, but that was only to imply he was the fifth skill guy. I'm surprised how much of this quarter's success has come with Lynch on the sideline.
Aaron Schatz: At least the Seahawks seem to have finally remembered that hey, the Packers defense has a history of struggling against the read option.
Tom Gower: Yes, I was thinking this felt like the playoff game against San Francisco from a couple years ago. Julius Peppers has seemed to be a particular culprit lately, or at least I've just noticed him on the edge as Wilson runs successfully a couple times. Bad exchange by Seattle creates a fumble as it's 17-16, but Mike Pennel lined up on the wrong side to negate the call. Bad time for that mistake.
Aaron Schatz: Seahawks get super frustrated after Russell Wilson throws an interception on an attempted screen pass, great job of awareness by defensive lineman Jay Elliott on that. A couple plays later, things are getting super chippy between the Packers and Seahawks, and K.J. Wright gets himself ejected for ripping Richard Rodgers' helmet off by the facemask. Reminds me a bit of how angry the Seahawks were after the Immaculate Interception in the Super Bowl. They need to teach their players not to let their adrenaline overcome their common sense.