Audibles at the Line: Week 8
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 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 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.
Philadelphia Eagles 24 at London Jaguars 18
Bryan Knowles: First thoughts: the NFL GameDay crew in the booth is an ... interesting experiment. I really like Rich Eisen normally, but he's not really working for me as a play-by-play guy. Mooch and Kurt Warner are good on color, and Irvin's not bad, either. They're not getting on each other's toes, which is a real fear from a four-man booth. Put an actual play-by-play guy in there, and you'd have something here.
Dave Bernreuther: I think Eisen could be OK with a bit more practice. He's obviously a bit out of his element, but he's inoffensive. And kind of funny in his restraint when they showed Jason Kelce walking off wincing and grabbing his, uh, crotchal region.
I can think of no more fitting Blake Bortles play than fumbling the first snap after being the beneficiary of a turnover.
Bryan Knowles: Yeah, this is Eisen' s second-ever call. Dude's just not got the reps. Warner, on the other hand, has lots of radio experience, and was rumored for the MNF booth over Witten. May we have been so lucky.
The Jags identity is a "power running team," but they get stuffed in third-and-1 and don't even think about going for it on fourth. Have a better identity, guys.
Andrew Potter: Rich Eisen's far from the worst play-by-play guy out there, but a few times already he has either had the distances wrong or been uncertain about things that are obvious on the broadcast. That stuff comes with experience, or in this case lack thereof.
The game itself has had a few fun moments already. Carson Wentz picked up a first down on the opening series by catching his own deflected pass and diving past the marker. The second was even more spectacular: Wentz was being tackled from behind and falling down forward, but still had the arm strength to launch the ball 15 yards to Jordan Matthews on third-and-14. He tried something similar on the next play though, and instead he fumbled the ball on a hit from Marcell Dareus and Myles Jack recovered.
The Jaguars defensive line is winning early and often on passing downs, and the Eagles have already lost Lane Johnson with a suspected knee sprain. Jason Kelce left after the opening play too, but he returned two plays later. When the Eagles blocking solidified on their second drive, they marched down the field, but a superb read and break on the ball by Jalen Ramsey got him an end zone pick in deep centerfield. Given that Ramsey lined up at left cornerback, Wentz had no way to anticipate him getting deep centerfield that quickly. Just a fantastic play by a tremendous athlete.
Bryan Knowles: Well, the first half was certainly not short of action, even if scoring came at a premium. Both teams have shot themselves in the foot multiple times, with no real true "successful" drives to this point. We've already had three turnovers, with the latest one leading to our only touchdown of the first half. Avonte Maddox hit Keelan Cole just after he caught a pass -- it's the sort of bang-bang play that I feel would have been overturned a lot under the previous catch rules, but I like the ruling. The ensuing "drive" was just one Wentz scramble and then a deep shot to Dallas Goedert, but that plus the short field position is enough to give us a 10-6 game at the half.
The Eagles, when they're not turning the ball over, are doing a much better job of moving the football. It feels like they're going to pull away some in the second half, if they can just clean up a little bit of execution here and there.
Andrew Potter: The 10-6 lead is certainly indicative of which is the better team, but also of the type of game it is. One big play in either direction could swing it -- or, perhaps, one big injury, as Jalen Mills becomes the second Eagles starter to leave with an injury that is likely to at least keep him out for the rest of the game. Both offensive tackles, Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, missed most of the first half, but according to the Eagles Twitter feed Peters is expected to return.
Bryan Knowles: One thing I'd really, really like to see is announcers recognizing that the fourth quarter is not some magical line of demarcation, before which two-point conversions are verboten. Four guys in the booth, and only Mooch went "eh, sometimes you might want to go for two outside the fourth quarter."
Of course, it's easy to be skeptical when Jacksonville fails to convert. I'm glad coaches are beginning to tap into the two-point conversion more and earlier, though. Slow but sure progress.
Speaking of "big injuries," the Jaguars are down four cornerbacks today now that Quinton Meeks has left the game, and it's leaving some matchup mismatches on the outside for Philadelphia. Tre Herndon, a UDFA who is Jacksonville's fifth or sixth corner, was beaten by Jordan Matthews for a 35-yard gain to start Philly's last drive, and then by Zach Ertz for a touchdown to end the drive. 24-15 Philadelphia. I don't know that I trust Jacksonville's secondary at all at the moment, so Jacksonville has to score touchdowns every time they get the ball.
Andrew Potter: The Eagles got the ball on downs with the lead and around 4:30 to play. 2:30 later they will kneel the game out with Jacksonville out of timeouts.
The Jaguars called nine runs today. Six for Carlos Hyde, two for T.J. Yeldon, and one to Dede Westbrook. Blake Bortles scrambled eight times, was sacked four times, and threw forty-one passes. The Jaguars led for much of the first half, were never down by more than 11 points, are missing their top two left tackles, and still called dropback after dropback: 30 consecutive dropbacks in the last 20 minutes of the game. Sure, their best plays have mostly been Bortles scrambles, but that's very clearly a team getting away from the philosophy they've tried to espouse. Bortles, for his part, was somewhat passable today, but he was much more consistently dangerous as a scrambler than a passer.
Bryan Knowles: Eagles hold on, 24-18. It was a deserved win in the end, though I think the Jaguars may have gotten hurt by a replay overturn. Josh Adams appeared to fumble with about seven minutes to go in the game, and Jacksonville recovered. The replay looked mighty inconclusive to me -- not saying it was or was not a fumble, only that I didn't see enough to overturn any call on the field. The replay officials disagreed with me, and said that Adams was down, allowing Philly to drain an extra two minutes off the clock. The Jaguars failed to score on their ensuing possession anyway, and they would have needed a touchdown either way, so I don't think the call was a game-decider or anything. Still, though, I think the Jaguars have a couple of reasons to be miffed.
Baltimore Ravens 21 at Carolina Panthers 36
Bryan Knowles: More epic standing around by Joe Flacco during the Lamar Jackson packages, but you have to admit, they're working. Jackson had a 17-yard run to get the Ravens into the red zone, and then handed off to Alex Collins, who broke through a number of tackles to finish off the drive. I do like how Baltimore has committed to the Jackson packages as a regular part of their offense -- not a gimmick, but something around which they actually build drives. I think the regularity of reps they get out of the package helps it be more consistently successful. I'll have to go through their games at some point and see exactly when and how they use Jackson (I'd imagine he's likely more successful in the red zone than in the open field), but so far, so good.
Lots of laundry to open this one -- a false start, a delay of game, an offensive holding, all outweighed by an unnecessary roughness that helped Baltimore covert a second-and-long to keep the drive moving.
The Ravens do not seem to fear the Carolina offense. They ran a fake punt from their own 10 and converted -- though it was called back for an illegal shift. That forced the actual punt, and the Panthers ... shred the Ravens defense. Newton completes three straight passes, then Christian McCaffrey, after getting stuffed at the line, ducks under his tight end's arms and finds some open space on the second effort, tying the game at 7. Game on.
Dave Bernreuther: It's not all sunshine and roses for the Lamar offense, Bryan. Deep in their own end they run one where Jackson moved to his right, drew the defender, had a wide-open receiver on the sideline for the first down ... and threw a Josh Allen pass. The camera was zoomed too tight to see if Joe Flacco clapped or smirked after that one.
Bryan Knowles: Cam Newton has generally been sharp today, but Carolina got lucky twice on this last touchdown drive. First, they pitched out to D.J. Moore on a third-and-1, who dropped the ball on a backwards pass a good 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The ball bounced right back to him, however, and he turned it into an 11-yard gain. Then, in the end zone, Newton's pass bounced off either Devin Funchess or Brandon Carr, fluttered around in the end zone, and found McCaffrey's hands. 21-7, Carolina.
Luck is great to have, but Carolina has looked good on offense all day long. That was a 99-yard drive against the third-ranked DVOA defense. Newton's 12-for-15, and D.J. Moore already has four catches for 71 yards, in addition to his run.
Oh, man, watching Carolina is so much fun today. After Baltimore put together a 10-play, 15-yard drive (!), Carolina got the ball on their own 29 with 52 seconds left in the half and just one timeout left. A deep pass to Moore got things going, and then Newton had a classic Newton-esque scramble, plowing his way through tacklers to get across midfield. On third-and-2, Baltimore rushed nobody, giving Newton all day to scan the field, but forcing him to throw it away, with 11 seconds on the clock. Carolina then takes a delay of game penalty while trying to decide whether to go for it on fourth down with no timeouts, putting the ball back at midfield. Hail Mary time, right?
No! Instead, bring in backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke to fake the Hail Mary, and instead have him throw a quick out to a wide-open Greg Olsen, who gets out of bounds and sets up a Graham Gano 54-yard field goal. 24-7 at the half, and Carolina is just doing whatever the heck they want. Newton has yet to be sacked, after Baltimore had 11 sacks two week ago. That first half went about as good as it possibly could have from Carolina; maybe they'll actually have a lead going into the fourth quarter this time.
Vince Verhei: Wait. Was Newton hurt? Does Heinicke have a stronger arm than Newton? What was the point of that swap?
Bryan Knowles: Newton's just fine. I can't actually explain the move except as some kind of massive confusion ploy -- no one on Baltimore's defense really seemed to get what was going on. I think they assumed that, oh, you bring in a specialist quarterback rather than the kicker or punter, it must be a Hail Mary, because NO one covered Greg Olsen. At all.
I can't explain it, but it worked.
Incredible play-calling on 4th down after taking the delay of game flag. Perfectly played to end the half. @RiverboatRonHC @gregolsen88 @Taylor_Heinicke @GrahamGano #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/XefoMiPEOK
— Derek (@DerekTang426) October 28, 2018
Newton DID have a sore shoulder during the week, but he's 15-for-21 for 154 yards so far this game; he's doing just fine. Heinicke took most of the snaps during the parts of practice where media was allowed to watch this week, so they must have been cooking SOMETHING up.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 at Cincinnati Bengals 37
Andrew Potter: Twice on their opening drive, Jameis Winston has thrown the ball almost perfectly into the hands of Shawn Williams. The first was dropped, but the second found Williams wide open in the end zone.
The problem, of course, is that Shawn Williams plays safety for the Bengals.
We've already seen two reasonably aggressive fourth-down decisions, too. The Bengals went for a fourth-and-1 just outside the red zone, but despite facing a seven-man box with only six blockers, Andy Dalton handed off to Joe Mixon on a shotgun draw that never looked like it had a chance. The Buccaneers then drove to fourth-and-4 around the Bengals 40, where Jameis Winston picked up the first down on a scramble. That led to his interception, and we still haven't seen any points.
Jameis Winston just hit yet another Bengals defender square in the chest with the ball. That's his third interception of the game, and he should have thrown at least two more. All three picks have come in Bengals territory. Winston now has nine picks this season, which is third-most in the league at the time of writing. He has only played four games. We know this is who he is, but usually he has thrown enough touchdowns as a young quarterback to make up for it. He's not that young a quarterback any more, and he only has six touchdowns versus those nine interceptions this year.
Dirk Koetter has seen enough. Ryan Fitzpatrick is in for the Buccaneers.
Bryan Knowles: Jameis Winston is part of arguably the most frustrating groups of quarterbacks. His talent is undeniable; he's not a Beathard or a Peterman or something, where everything is terrible. He's also not an Alex Smith-type, a steady, unspectacular game manager. Winston's highs are so high; he can do fantastic things ... but his lows are among the lowest in the league. And at this point, I don't know there's much you can do to fix that.
The Bucs picked up Winston's fifth-year option back in April, so he'll presumably be the quarterback next year, but it seems unlikely he'll get a second deal from Tampa Bay. He's good enough to get a second chance somewhere else, and maybe a new coaching staff and a new location can turn his career around. But for now, he's damaged goods, and that's just on the field.
Andrew Potter: The Buccaneers have never had a drafted quarterback reach his second contract. Never.
Only Vinny Testaverde lasted six seasons, and that's because his rookie deal was a six-year contract.
Bryan Knowles: This is why Tampa had so many players on our Greatest Journeymen list -- they've employed the top three, five of the top ten, and seven of the top 25. One day they might find their franchise guy. Maybe.
The question in Tampa Bay is: Do you want to play your best quarterback, or are you not ready to not admit your first overall pick was a bust?
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) October 28, 2018
The beautiful irony here is that Lovie Smith was fired so that the team could keep Dirk Koetter, ostensibly for the work Koetter had done with Winston in his rookie year. Now, Koetter's best chance to keep his job appears to require that he be the one to give up on Jameis Winston.
Bryan Knowles: Fitzmagic LIVES! He has led Tampa Bay to 18 unanswered points, and we have a tie game. My god.
Andrew Potter: The Bengals offense just shut down in the second half. The only second-half score for Cincinnati was the pick-six. After running up a 27-6 lead in the first half, they now have to hope Randy Bullock can kick a roughly 45-yard field goal on a windy day to win it.
Bryan Knowles: Fitzmagic does not play defense. Cincinnati escapes with one.
Cleveland Browns 18 at Pittsburgh Steelers 33
Scott Kacsmar: Rough start to this one. Have yet to have a return without a penalty. The Browns had a good opening drive with lots of passes to the edges, but Todd Haley had some questionable calls right up the middle that the Steelers snuffed out to hold the drive to a field goal. Pittsburgh seemed to have a third-and-1 run converted by James Conner, but Xavier Grimble was penalized for an illegal block in the back. Hardly ever see that called on such a quick, short-yardage run play. CBS didn't even bother to show a replay and the Steelers only bothered to throw a screen/failed completion on third-and-11 before punting.
Both quarterbacks force a pass on third down. Ben Roethlisberger's attempt was tipped and intercepted to give the Browns good field position. Baker Mayfield was luckier in that his tipped pass hit the ground before it could get picked. That led to a 45-yard field goal by Greg Joseph and the Browns are up 6-0. Conner almost coughed up the ball right back to Cleveland, but the Steelers were fortunate to recover. I thought the rain in Week 1 helped even the playing field a lot with turnovers between these teams, but conditions are good today and the play has been just as sloppy. Myles Garrett with a sack and the Steelers will likely end the first quarter without even a first down.
Dave Bernreuther: Baker Mayfield is running for his life every time I look up. But for good reason, as opposed to leaving clean pockets the way many young quarterbacks do. And he really does impress me, even when the results aren't there. His vision and presence on the move, keeping his eyes up, directing traffic, and throwing mostly accurately, really are quite incredible for a rookie. He's not Aaron Rodgers on the move, but he's good. Anyone who has ever read what I write knows that I'm pretty rough on quarterbacks and fairly curmudgeonly, and I didn't initially like Mayfield at all ... but he's the real deal, and I'd love to get to watch him with an actual coach.
I guess this is hardly news at this point, but the Chiefs and Rams offenses have kind of overshadowed him for a few weeks now so I thought it worth mentioning.
Scott Kacsmar: Not bad when you can look terrible and still lead 7-6 like the Steelers. The Browns again settled for a field goal attempt, but Joseph missed this time. The Steelers got a little life with a third-down conversion from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown, and then Roethlisberger found him again for a 43-yard touchdown after Brown got behind the secondary. This is like the opposite of the offense earlier this season when everything looked good except for Ben to Brown. Today, it's Ben to Brown that looks great, and everything else has been a little off.
Bryan Knowles: It's odd that they haven't been going to Brown more often -- he only had one target in the first quarter. Of course, only running nine plays will do that for you.
Dave Bernreuther: Everyone here knows all about the success of the quarterback sneak, but Mike Tomlin of course has always avoided it.
But just now, after Conner goes out of bounds just shy of the first ... Roethlisberger slow-motion falls forward for the easiest 2.5 yards you'll ever see on third-and-1. Maybe there's hope for him yet.
This drive follows a Joe Haden pick that was a great effort on his part to go up and get a decent throw. So in the span of five minutes we've seen great defensive back play and a quarterback sneak. From the Steelers. What's next, an appropriate challenge from Tomlin?
Scott Kacsmar: I think the sneak thing was a Todd Haley thing. For whatever reason, he didn't want Roethlisberger to run them, and now I believe they've used it three times this year against Haley's Browns. Roethlisberger converted both today with so much ease with his size. The second was initially ruled a fumble, but that was just a terrible call. His knee was down past the line to gain with control. What I loved on that second one was that the Browns stuffed the middle and Roethlisberger still ran the sneak by taking it to the right and easily gaining what he needed. Hopefully this becomes a staple in the offense.
What a drive by the Steelers (16 plays, 87 yards, 7:12) for a touchdown, and they get the ball to start the third too, up 14-6. The quarterback sneaks were helpful, as were some throws to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Interesting decision to go for it on fourth down in the red zone. Maybe the clock wasn't handled perfectly there by Tomlin (surprise, surprise). By throwing short of the end zone, but enough for a first down, the Steelers were really limited to maybe two throws in the end zone after converting the fourth down. Fortunately, Roethlisberger only needed one play to hit Brown on a screen at the 1 for the touchdown. This will only add to that split CBS showed where the Steelers have the league's worst first-quarter scoring differential this season, but the best in the second quarter. They're plus-14 in the second quarter today.
Bryan Knowles: Special Teams Rules Shenanigans!
Pittsburgh gets a safety on a holding in the end zone, so Cleveland has to kick the ball to the Steelers. Roosevelt Nix calls for a fair catch, and then lets the ball bounce, where the Browns down it...
… like it was a punt. But a safety kick is NOT a punt. It's a free kick. So when Cleveland downed it ... that's a recovery, just like an onside kick. Browns ball. Giving up two points for a 75-yard gain seems worth it, right?
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers just did one of the dumbest things you'll ever see. Bud Dupree forced a holding penalty in the end zone to get a safety. On the free kick, the Steelers had fullback Roosevelt Nix signal for a fair catch, and Antonio Brown and Ryan Switzer let the ball bounce. The Browns were all over it, and that's a live ball. So they take over in great field position just when you thought the Steelers could lock this one up. The defense is adding to the idiocy with penalties for roughing the passer, pass interference in the end zone on third down, and holding in the end zone that negated a sack.
All of that led to a touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway, who caught it despite being interfered with again. What a turnaround for this game. Browns are only down 16-12, because yes, the kicker missed the extra point.
Bryan Knowles: The free punt recovery might be the first play I've ever seen where neither team knew the rules, because it didn't look like any Brown realized they had just recovered the ball; they didn't immediately celebrate like it was a big play. I've seen plenty of plays where someone has forgotten how rules work (like the onside kick to the end zone against Mike Gillislee in Buffalo a couple years back), and plays where one side of the ball or the other wasn't sure what was going on because there was a trick play going on, but I don't think I've seen something where all 22 players seemed to have no idea what had just happened.
Unless Pittsburgh forgets a few more special teams rules, it looks like Cleveland will lose this one, falling to 2-5-1 and essentially ending any chance they had of competing this year.
With news reports coming out that Todd Haley might be the one who gets the chopping block for Cleveland's poor performance to this point, the question remains -- what on earth does Hue Jackson have to do to get fired? The Cleveland offense has advanced the ball just 11 yards in the second half, thanks to the 24-yard touchdown drive which featured a roughing the passer call and defensive pass interference. Take out penalty yards, and I believe Cleveland has -1 yard in a quarter and a half. In a must-win game against a division rival. Heads have to roll after this one, right?
Hue Jackson was asked why he didn't use his timeouts late in the second quarter. His answer? "Honestly, I don't even recall that."
How does Hue Jackson have a job?
Denver Broncos 23 at Kansas City Chiefs 30
Bryan Knowles: Gah, the Chiefs were lining up to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 3-inch line, but a false start scuppers that. They're forced to kick the field goal -- always a win when you're playing the Chiefs -- and Denver has a 7-3 lead early. Kansas City had a first-and-goal from the 3 and couldn't find the end zone. Two false starts certainly didn't help. This is also the first time all year Kansas City hasn't scored on their opening possession, so things are going pretty well for the Broncos late in the first quarter.
Tom Gower: After running a draw play on third-and-goal from the 7, Vance Joseph does go for it on fourth-and-goal for the 4 to start the fourth quarter. After the touchdown cuts it to 30-20, he chooses to go for two. That's not something you see every day, and a rare instance of an NFL coaching being more aggressive than I probably would have been in that situation.
Seattle Seahawks 28 at Detroit Lions 14
Vince Verhei: Lions lead 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. I know it's a dome, but this game is in Michigan, and it feels like a classic late October Big Ten matchup. The Seahawks got the ball in bad field position and picked up a few first downs, but punted from around midfield. The Lions got the ball in bad position and picked up a few first downs, but it looked like they were going to be held to a long field goal try. On third-and-10, though, the Seahawks rushed three and actually got pressure, but Matthew Stafford slipped away and found Marvin Jones behind Tedric Thompson for a 39-yard touchdown. On the last play of the quarter, though, Seattle picks up a first down in Detroit territory. It's a run-heavy game -- 15 total carries, only 11 pass plays so far.
Thompson atones for his coverage error by forcing an Ameer Abdullah fumble on the kickoff, and Seattle recovers. The league's best red zone team quickly capitalizes on a Wilson touchdown pass to David Moore. Moore was isolated on the right sideline against Teez Tabor and Wilson threw a perfect back-shoulder fade. Moore bobbled the catch, but tipped it into the air and away from the defender and reeled it in in the end zone. If he catches it cleanly, he probably gets tackled at the 1.
Seahawks have the ball for what feels like forever, but is actually only six minutes and change, and Ed Dickson's first catch for Seattle is a touchdown to make it 21-7. Biggest play actually happened at the other end of the field. On third-and-7 at their own 23, Wilson threw to Moore, who got his hands on the ball in traffic against Tabor, but lost it as he went to the ground and it was ruled incomplete. Pete Carroll challenged the call and everyone I was watching with thought it was a bad move, but we were wrong and Pete was right and it was a catch and a first down.
Seattle forces a punt with a minute to go, but they get pinned inside their own 10, and they're content to run twice and go to halftime with a 21-7 lead. Wilson had a third-down sack on the first drive, but otherwise has been nearly perfect -- 11-of-12, 153 yards, three touchdowns, a perfect 158.3 rating. And they're running effectively too, with 19 carries for 95 yards in the half. I can't say Damon Harrison has had no effect -- the few Seattle runs that haven't worked, he has either made the play, or forced the double-team that let somebody else make the play -- but the problems with Detroit's defense go deeper than one guy.
Detroit's offense, meanwhile, looks totally overmatched. They've got 39 yards on the one touchdown, less than a hundred yards on their other 22 plays. Seahawks are getting lots of pressure without blitzing much. Detroit has nowhere to go in the running game. They do get the ball to start the second half, but there was nothing on either side of the ball in the first 30 minutes that would lead you to believe they're capable of coming back from this.
Still 21-7 at the end of three. Seahawks had a fourth-and-goal at the 1 and went for the death blow, and it looked like Wilson had his fourth touchdown, but Nick Vannett stepped out of bounds before catching the ball and it was a turnover on downs. That was set up by a play-action on third-and-1 where the Lions blew coverage and left Ed Dickson uncovered for a 42-yard gain. Dickson's only career 100-yard game was against Detroit in 2017, and he's having a big day again today, with a team-high 54 yards on the day.
Oh my god, Matt Patricia, what are you doing? Wilson completes a pass to Vannett for a third-down conversion. There's a penalty on Detroit, but Seattle declines. But Patricia challenges the play and it's overturned to an incompletion ... so Seattle accepts the penalty instead and it's a first down anyway! He challenged a play to gain 2 or 3 yards of field position! Next play, Wilson finds Moore behind the defense for a 45-yard gain; next play after that, Chris Carson steamrolls over Quandre Diggs into the end zone for a 28-7 lead, and this one's done.
I keep meaning to mention this and forgetting: the commentary team of Kevin Kugler, Ronde Barber, and Chris Spielman has been tremendous today. I've heard Kugler on the radio before and he's a very good play-by-play man. Barber has been outstanding pointing out Seattle's formation and play-calling tendencies. Most TV crews are actively bad. Some are neutral. This is one of the few that has actively made the game better.
Detroit threatened to make a game out of this. They dink-and-dunked their way to one touchdown (big PPR days for Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones), then got into the red zone on an absolute ticky-tack DPI on Bradley McDougald for 50-plus yards, when both guys were hand-fighting the whole way. My most hated play in football, just handing the offense half the field for not doing a damn thing. But then on first-and-goal, Stafford throws the ball right to Justin Coleman for an interception, Stafford's second turnover of the fourth quarter (he had a sack-fumble earlier).
Game ends in the funniest way possible. Seattle runs three times from their own 1-yard line. On fourth down, Michael Dickson takes the snap and rolls right. He's just going to kill clock and take the safety. But the Lions are napping, and Dickson runs out of the end zone and picks up the first down. The Seahawks were literally TRYING to give the Lions points and the ball, and the Lions wouldn't take either one.
Andrew Potter: As a Michael Dickson fantasy owner, I am devastated that this was only a 9-yard run.
Bryan Knowles: Your fantasy league is weird, Michael Dickson is amazing and the Lions are terrible.
Vince Verhei: Rushing first downs today:
Detroit Lions: 1
Michael Dickson: 1
Carl Yedor: Seattle picks up a big one in terms of potential playoff implications down the road. If they end up needing a wild-card tiebreaker over Detroit, this game will be helpful as it's a road conference game. The Seahawks played five of their first seven games away from home (four road, one London), but it's not like the schedule gets a whole lot easier moving forward, as they face both L.A. teams, the Packers, and the Panthers in the next four weeks. In other words, they really needed this one. Detroit drops to 3-4, continuing a fairly confusing season in which they've beaten New England and Green Bay (good!) and lost to the Jets and 49ers (not so good). They now sit in last place in the NFC North.
New York Jets 10 at Chicago Bears 24
Vince Verhei: Some terrible defense by the Jets on the opening touchdown here. Bears run what is supposed to be a screen pass to Tarik Cohen, but it's run so badly that Cohen is actually IN FRONT of his blockers. That sounds like disaster, but that side of the field is just totally devoid of anyone in green-and-white, and it turns into a 70-yard score.
Washington Redskins 20 at New York Giants 13
Derrik Klassen: The New York Giants offense right now is a perfect snapshot of what they have been for years. Though not his fault, Saquon Barkley is being stymied in the run game for fewer than 3 yards per carry, while four of Eli Manning's five throws to this point have gone for 5 yards or less. However, the one other throw ... was a 44-yard reception by Odell Beckham with a defender draped over him, which was later ruled a DPI that the Giants declined. That Beckham's heroic efforts are giving this offense its only signs of life is perfectly on brand.
Lucky for them, the Giants trail just 7-0 with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter despite their ineptitude and are now starting a drive at their own 30. Maybe Beckham can continue the magic on this drive.
My god, the game got even more peak Giants. Barkley and Beckham strung together a few great plays in the passing game to move the Giants into the red zone, then Manning promptly throws an interception right at D.J. Swearinger in the underneath area. Leave it to Eli to throw such a comically on-cue interception.
Aaron Schatz: The Eli Manning interception reminded me a bit of the Malcolm Butler immaculate interception from Super Bowl XLIX. In style, not importance, of course. Beckham was trying to slant to a specific location and Swearinger was standing in that location and just caught the ball with the two of them pushing into each other.
Not sure why the Giants aren't doing more to try to pick on seventh-round rookie Greg Stroman. That's the defender who was on Beckham on that big 44-yard play. He's essentially Washington's fourth corner but he's playing with Quinton Dunbar out. Washington leaves its cornerbacks on specific sides so whoever the Giants line up on the left is going to get Stroman.
The Giants defense at this point feels like it's "Janoris Jenkins and who are these other guys?" Landon Collins is out there, of course, and Olivier Vernon. Vernon finally started to make some noise on Washington's drive in the second half of the second quarter. Rookie defensive tackle B.J. Hill is also flashing, and had a nice batted pass on that drive. Ended with a missed field goal for Dustin Hopkins so it's still 7-0 with 3:19 left in the second quarter.
Derrik Klassen: You could convince me every Washington game this season has ended something like 20-13 and I'd believe it. With the game sitting at 10-3 halfway through the third quarter right now, it looks like Washington is right on schedule.
Aaron Schatz: If the Giants go for another screen pass on third-and-15, I'm going to hurt somebody. Then again, I guess they don't have enough faith in their offensive line to hold up long enough for an actual deep pass that might convert for 15 yards. The biggest difference between these teams today has been the offensive lines. Washington has six sacks with seven minutes left in the game. John Greco is getting eaten alive on the inside, and Nate Solder has given way to Ryan Kerrigan a couple of times. The Giants have no sacks on Alex Smith, and the Washington offensive line has made some nice holes for Adrian Peterson as well.
Bryan Knowles: No, no, no. The Giants need a touchdown and a field goal, and they end up with a fourth-and-goal from the three with 4 minutes left. They kick the field goal. Yes, that makes it a one-score game, but are you going to get closer than the 3 again? Plus, you're the New York Giants; what on Earth do you have to lose by just going for it? I would have tried to score with my second-pick-overall running back.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, Washington just ran power and it was beautiful. Center and right guard pulled around right end, beautiful seal on the outside by Brandon Scherff against Landon Collins, the center Roullier took out Tae Davis from the Giants, and Adrian Peterson was gone. 20-6 and that should be the game.
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) October 28, 2018
Indianapolis Colts 42 at Oakland Raiders 28
Dave Bernreuther: An Adam Vinatieri field goal closes out a 10-0 first quarter in which the Raiders ran three plays. I get the feeling that if it wasn't the Raiders and Vinatieri being five points from history, Frank Reich would've gone for that fourth-and-2, as the Colts are just having their way with the Raiders so far. Even the incomplete passes are good looking plays, including the third down near-touchdown before the kick. Turns out that playing the Bills and Raiders back to back can make you look like the 2009 Colts.
Vince Verhei: Big news here is that Adam Vinatieri has passed Morten Andersen to become the NFL's all-time scoring leader. Vinatieri kicked his first NFL field goal in 1996. Saquon Barkley was born in 1997.
Otherwise, the Colts' scoring was limited to a great one-handed touchdown catch by Mo Alie-Cox, a VCU basketball player who signed with the Colts last year but never saw the field until this season. Meanwhile, Derek Carr is having probably his best day of the year -- he's 1-of-4 for 14 yards to Jordy Nelson, but 8-of-8 for 100-plus yards and two touchdowns to everyone else. Not sure what it says that they get rid of Amari Cooper and promptly look better than ever, but it's probably not a good sign for Dallas.
Dave Bernreuther: Congrats to Adam Vinatieri, who is now the new NFL scoring leader after closing out the first half with a field goal.
The second quarter was the exact opposite of the first, with two relatively easy scoring drives for the Raiders sandwiched around a failed one for the Colts, which is probably a pretty fair outcome after I opened my big mouth a quarter ago. I guess it's easy to forget that although improved, the Colts defense still lacks a real pass rush, and this week's opposing Derek is, despite the handcuffs placed on his offense, still quite a bit better at quarterback than last week's opposing Derek.
Vince Verhei: The Raiders took the lead on a fourth-and-goal quarterback sneak by Carr. It's the first rushing touchdown of his career. It was called short originally, but Jon Gruden challenged the call and won. A big rushing drive for the Raiders -- besides the score, Doug Martin had runs of 29 and 6 yards on the drive, and Jalen Richard had a 13-yarder.
Colts respond with another Luck touchdown pass, and again it's a great catch by his receiver, as Eric Ebron runs a corner route, boxes out the defender, and pulls in the jump ball. They go for two and convert it on a wide receiver screen, and we're tied at 21-all.
Luck is now at 22 touchdowns on the year. This stunned me, but he was second behind Patrick Mahomes in touchdown passes coming into the day. That's partly because the Colts haven't had their bye yet, but as much as we've been fretting about Luck's arm this year, he and the Colts have been productive.
Dave Bernreuther: The Raiders move down the field in the blink of an eye to open the second half, lest any of us forget that the Colts still aren't a good team on defense. At the goal line they tighten up though, with an assist from the Gruden heavy package, and then get a stop on fourth-and-goal ... or so it's called. What actually happened, though, was that they went offsides and Derek Carr obviously crossed the plane over the top, but wasn't given the score. Which was an atrocious call.
Gruden had to know he was guaranteed the win, so he threw the challenge flag ... which made me wonder -- if you got a free play from inside the 1-yard line against a bad defense, what's your threshold rate of success for using that challenge there? A touchdown is nothing to sneeze at, of course, but fourth down is going to have some variance no matter how confident/competent you are. I guess the more I think of it the more I agree with him, even as likely as a score would be on the next play.
On the Colts' first drive of the half, Jack Doyle makes his return known by opening up a giant hole for Marlon Mack, who rips off the longest run I can remember a Colt having, which was followed by a nice touchdown catch by Eric Ebron and a two to tie. And now it's looking like the track meet I expected, as in the time it took to type that paragraph the Raiders have already made it down to the 10, because Colts defense. For the second straight drive, once on the doorstep the raiders revert to the offense of two weeks ago without any passes downfield, but this time Carr finds Brandon LaFell to retake the lead. That was an interesting play, as it looked like he had made up his mind to tuck it and run, only to pull up and hit LaFell. Carr is 17-of-20 now, and unlike his last over-80 percent game, he's getting a respectable yards per attempt.
Vince Verhei: Colts tie the game at 28-all in what has turned into the most fun game of the day. T.Y. Hilton gets his first catch today on a deflected ball for a 16-yard gain on second-and-20; later on the drive, he gets a diving catch down the middle of the field for a 34-yard gain and a first down in the red zone. Nyheim Hines does two full pirouettes on one run to set up a first-and-goal. Andrew Luck nearly throws an interception to Erik Harris, but then Marlon Mack carries it in from the 4 on third down to knot things up.
Dave Bernreuther: The Colts now have three touchdowns by three different tight ends, with Jack Doyle getting in this time to take the lead after a stop. "Fun" isn't a word you often use with a three-tight end offense, at least in this generation, but this team really is a lot of fun to watch. On offense, at least.
Vince Verhei: Jack Doyle is on fire, NBA Jam-style. On one drive, he gets four catches for four first downs in four targets, gaining 14, 11, 17, and 10 yards, the last a go-ahead touchdown. Colts are now the first team in NFL history with three different tight ends to catch a touchdown in one game. As the announcers point out, Luck's Stanford offenses were built around tight ends too.
Green Bay Packers 27 at Los Angeles Rams 29
Bryan Knowles: The Rams play in the Pac-12, right? The state of the Coliseum, with all of the USC graphics still clearly visible underneath the logo at midfield and in the end zones, is really an embarrassment. I'd love to hear from the groundskeepers about what's going on here, as I can't remember the stadium looking this bad in years past.
Green Bay draws first blood, after a 48-yard pass to Davante Adams sets up a 1-yard plunge ... and the crowd goes wild, because the stands are filled with Packers fans. I think this is slightly more defensible than the Chargers' usual fan situation because A) the StubHub Center holds only 27,000 people, compared to the Coliseum's 78,000-plus, and B) there are home games for the Dodgers, Kings, Galaxy, and Clippers today, making it a little bit of a crowded sports day for Los Angelinos. Still, we've got a Lambeau South situation developing here.
Aaron Schatz: There really haven't been that many years past to remember.
Bryan Knowles: I was alive in the '90s! There were football games back then!
Dave Bernreuther: Past L.A. games or not, it's still pretty poor. The Steelers don't ever have leftover graphics on their sod after Pitt games (then again, the field is usually just a muddy disgrace) and we never saw that out in Arizona pre-cactus either.
That said, I have no sympathy whatsoever for Stan Kroenke, so I am kind of enjoying seeing this all play out this way.
Which means I should enjoy that the Rams gained a mere 38 yards in the first quarter in multiple possessions ... but I also enjoy watching that offense. I don't think any of us expected the Packers to suddenly have the horses to keep up with them so this has been interesting so far. I wonder how long they'll be able to keep it up.
Aaron Schatz: I don't remember another game where I've seen the Rams giving up this much pass pressure. Packers are sending a lot of five-man rushes and getting guys to Goff over and over.
And in fact, they just sent five men after Goff and took him down on third-and-9. I believe that's the third straight third-down sack for the Packers.
Scott Kacsmar: It's funny how the thing worth preserving from the Jeff Fisher era in L.A. is the fake punt pass with Johnny Hekker. They really needed that, but it still didn't lead to points. This offense really misses Cooper Kupp in the slot. The last two games and especially today have not been too impressive for the passing game.
Dave Bernreuther: That wasn't all! In the span of about five minutes, Hekker had the first-down pass and two deep downed punts, including one an inch from the goal line that led immediately to a safety. The whole NL -- err, NFC -- West is in prime Fisher mode right now, with Hekker being his team's MVP and point totals of 5, 3, and 2 (two!), as the Giants lead the Diamondbacks (oops) in Arizona.
Bryan Knowles: The Rams finally find the end zone, and we have a 10-8 game at the half. I don't question the Rams' decision to go for two; I do question their decision to do it by just having Gurley plow into the line. They had two attempts at scoring with Gurley on or near the goal line, and Green Bay stacked him up both times. It was when they threw it that they actually got over the goal line for the touchdown. I think airing it out again would have been the wiser play, but I suppose it's easier to second guess from this side of the TV screen.
Dave Bernreuther: Dear Packers,
You should consider covering Todd Gurley. With someone. Anyone at all, really.
Bryan Knowles: See? Passing to Gurley! Passing to Gurley is good. A 30-yard touchdown reception, plus the two-point conversion score. That's the way you do it.
The Packers have done a good job bottling up Gurley, the running back -- just 50 yards, with nothing longer than 11 on his 15 carries. But when he's allowed to swing out into the passing game, he's just too much for Green Bay to handle.
Aaron Schatz: The Rams offense has gotten its act back together in this game, but not so much the Rams defense. There have been some significant coverage lapses in this game, mostly by Marcus Peters on Davante Adams. You also don't want to leave Mark Barron covering Adams one-on-one. Then Troy Hill just failed to get a good jam on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and MVS blew past him and was wide open for a touchdown catch, which gives the Packers (with the extra point) a 27-26 lead.
Todd Gurley only has 65 rushing yards on 19 carries so far, which is interesting because the Packers are playing primarily dime defense here today. But the Packers have always played a lot of dime -- it was over 40 percent of their snaps last year -- so I think they're used to playing it on first downs or in possible running situations. It seems like we're seeing the Packers with more defenders in the box than we would usually assume if we knew we were seeing 11 personnel vs. dime personnel on every down.
The Packers' performance vs. Gurley is even more impressive since the Packers were No. 29 in run defense DVOA going into this game.
Bryan Knowles: Every time I look over, Jaire Alexander is making a huge play. Dude's having a heck of a rookie season.
How, how, HOW does Ty Montgomery take the ball out of the end zone on the kickoff? Kneeling would have given the Packers the ball at the 25 on the good side of the two-minute warning. Instead, he runs it out, blowing the stoppage -- oh, and fumbling, too. Probably should have led with that one. Rams ball, NOT quite game over yet, but close.
A touchdown would be really helpful for some of us.
Aaron Schatz: After a Greg Zeurlein field goal we have a 29-27 game and everything is all set up for an awesome finish with Aaron Rodgers getting the ball and two minutes for a comeback drive. Except on the kickoff, Ty Montgomery decides to take the ball out of the end zone instead of just taking a knee ... and Ramik Wilson whacks him around the Green Bay 20 and knocks the ball loose. Rams recover. Green Bay can stop it the clock one more time, but I assume the Rams will just run three times then kick another field goal and Aaron Rodgers will get the ball back with less than 40 seconds, no timeouts, and a touchdown needed instead of a field goal.
Gurley got free on third down and instead of scoring the touchdown, he went down around the 4-yard line. By getting a first down and not scoring, it guaranteed that Aaron Rodgers would not get that comeback attempt. Smart move by Gurley, and I'm always amazed when players have the brainpower to fight their own adrenaline and go down in situations like that (Brian Westbrook being the best-known example, of course). Rams win 29-27 and stay unbeaten. Should be another interesting week to see if the Chiefs or Rams come out No. 1 in DVOA. I'm going to guess the Chiefs stay No. 1 because the Rams' win was closer, but the Broncos were a stronger opponent by DVOA (albeit not by W-L record).
San Francisco 49ers 15 at Arizona Cardinals 18
Vince Verhei: 49ers up 5-3 at halftime. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between great defense and terrible offense. And sometimes it's obvious. These teams are awful. Josh Rosen and C.J. Beathard have each been sacked three times. (Richard Sherman has his first sack since 2012.) Neither team has gained 100 yards receiving or is averaging even 10 yards a catch. David Johnson has 42 yards receiving, already a season high, but it hasn't helped Arizona very much. The 49ers are averaging less than 3 yards per play and less than 2 yards per pass ... and they're winning. If they can hold on, Arizona's odds of getting the top pick in 2019 are going to skyrocket.
Bryan Knowles: The first-half drive chart: Three-and-out, three-and-out, punt, safety, three-and-out, 78-yard field goal drive, punt, interception, 3-yard field goal drive, punt, end of half.
The only first half that may have been harder to watch this season was the 3-3 Titans/Jags snoozefest back in Week 3, and at least that had fourth-down attempts and a missed field goal to keep fans somewhat entertained. This has been … terrible. San Francisco is averaging 2.3 yards per play, Arizona is averaging 3.6. The only difference in the game is the interception; Beathard's getting hit too quickly to throw any picks. Both teams have converted exactly one third down.
Both of these teams are in dead, going-nowhere seasons. If anyone is watching this game, they deserve to be committed.
T … touchdown? That's allowed?
Marquise Goodwin just caught a 55-yard touchdown. Before that, the 49ers had 35 net passing yards on the day.
Vince Verhei: A touchdown! Marquise Goodwin lines up on the left across from Patrick Peterson and beats him on a quick slant, and then there's just nobody to stop him as he goes 55 yards for the score. Kinda harsh to blame Peterson for that one -- he gave up the slant, but there was just nobody in the middle of the defense. 49ers go up 12-3. The good news for Arizona is, we know Nick Bosa looks good in red.
Right before that, George Kittle took himself out of the game after a shot to the head, and he's headed to the locker room.
A reminder that for all our jokes, there are Hall of Famers in this game. Larry Fitzgerald beats Richard Sherman for a 37-yard gain, and Arik Armstead is flagged for roughing the passer to boot. Two plays later, Rosen finds Fitzgerald in the end zone. 49ers still lead 15-10, but both teams still have plenty of time to screw this up. (I could only put the jokes aside for so long.)
Bryan Knowles: Let's sum up Jimmie Ward's time in San Francisco: he tried to do something illegal, failed, and so the 49ers benefit.
Jermaine Gresham was running up field when the ball just flew out of his hands, bouncing around near the sideline. Ward tried to bat the ball further into play, but he was out of bounds. Fortunately, he missed the bat, and so the 49ers were able to recover.
Vince Verhei: On that note: Arizona gets the ball back and is driving, but Jermaine Gresham fumbles and the ball goes dribbling forward down the sideline. 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward, who is out of bounds, tries to recover the ball, which would make it a dead ball and end the play and let the Cardinals keep possession. And at first that's exactly the ruling, but the 49ers challenge, and it's ruled that Ward failed at the dumb thing he was trying to do, the ball stays in bounds, and San Francisco recovers.
Bryan Knowles: San Francisco also knows Nick Bosa would look good in red.
With no pressure, Josh Rosen's able to drive the Cardinals down the field, with Christian Kirk scoring the touchdown and Larry Fitzgerald tacking on the two-point conversion. They take a 18-15 lead with 34 seconds left.
Vince Verhei: And suddenly the Cardinals make it look easy. They move 73 yards in 12 plays in only 1:42. Much of that, oddly, was targeting Sherman, including a 19-yard gain on a deep comeback by Christian Kirk. They get the touchdown on a third-down pass to Kirk in the back of the end zone, and then the two-pointer to go up 18-15. Only problem is they may have scored too quickly -- 49ers have 34 seconds and two timeouts to get a tying field goal. Under the circumstances, an incomplete pass on first-and-goal, and a completion for a loss and out of bounds on second-and-goal, might end up costing Arizona a chance to put this on ice.
49ers get into Arizona territory with a few seconds left ... and the ball is snapped over Beathard's head and way the other way. Beathard is able to run it down and throw it to nobody in particular, and it should be grounding, but there's zeroes on the clock and it doesn't matter either way. Cards win!
Bryan Knowles: On the last play of the game, the backup center snaps the ball way over Beathard's head. He manages to scramble back and get to it, but rather than falling down and calling a timeout, he flings it towards George Kittle -- incomplete, but it wasn't going anywhere anyway. Game over.
Everyone excited for San Francisco-Oakland on Thursday?
Aaron Schatz: Thursday night's Oakland-San Francisco game should be retitled Next Season Tonight with Ed Oliver.
Bryan Knowles: Can't we move that one up 24 hours? After all, nothing is scarier on Halloween night than watching those two teams play.
New Orleans Saints 30 at Minnesota Vikings 20
Aaron Schatz: I love, love, love letting Taysom Hill launch a deep pass to Michael Thomas. Finally, force the defenses to respect the pass when Hill comes in. It will make his runs even more effective.
On the other hand, I don't understand the red zone play with both Drew Brees AND Teddy Bridgewater in the game as fairly useless "wide receivers." Is that fooling anyone into doing something differently?
Carl Yedor: Huge swing right at the end of the half. Minnesota is driving with plenty of time left to score at the end of the half before they get the ball to start the third quarter. Instead of punching it in for a touchdown, Adam Thielen fumbles on a screen pass, which New Orleans then recovers and takes back most of the way, scoring two plays later. Instead of potentially being up 20-10 with the ball to start the second half, Minnesota is now down 17-13. Minnesota's linebackers haven't been able to hang with Alvin Kamara in coverage, which isn't exactly a huge surprise having watched them in prime time against the Rams. The Saints' two stops have been largely thanks to the fumble and a holding penalty. We could be in for a lot of points in the second half here.
Bryan Knowles: Heck of a first half on this one; a little bit of everything you might want: spectacular catches, turnovers, plenty of scoring but not up-and-down running through shoddy defense. Good football game, this.
Minnesota has generally outplayed New Orleans -- the Saints had that one great opening drive, and then not much since then. Brees threw his first interception of the year, Kamara dropped a conversion, things like that -- just a little bit out of whack. But the Thielen fumble with a minute left in the half ended up being a huge swing. Minny would have gotten at least a field goal and a six-point lead entering the half, but the fumble and ensuing unsportsmanlike call gave New Orleans a huge opportunity right at the gun. 17-13 New Orleans, but the Saints will have to be a little sharper here in the second half to hold on to that lead.
Aaron Schatz: I appreciate all this going for it on fourth-and-1 around the NFL but can we please have some more running plays? The Vikings started the third quarter by going for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 45 and threw the ball to Laquon Freakin' Treadwell.