Audibles at the Line: Week 7
compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a 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.
San Francisco 49ers 9 at Washington Redskins 0
Bryan Knowles: Wearing their throwbacks, and in some sloppy weather, Washington's opening drive is ten straight runs, followed by a -3 yard pass and a missed field goal. Like the Rams, they ran well against the 49ers on the first drive. Unlike the Rams, they actually converted on a third down, breaking a streak of 20 straight stops by the San Francisco defense. If I'm Washington against the 49ers, I probably go for it on fourth-and-2 inside the 49ers' 20 -- what do you have to lose? -- but instead they miss the figgy. Karma, I suppose.
Dave Bernreuther: On side-by-side viewing windows, I just watched two former Tom Brady backups scramble in almost identical plays at the exact same time. Jacoby Brissett tucked one and ran up the middle for a decent game heading right to left, while Jimmy Garoppolo did the exact same thing, only much wetter, from left to right.
Two years ago, I wonder how many people might rather have had Brissett than Garoppolo. I'd imagine that opinion -- which I share -- is a lot more popular these days, even with the 49ers sitting pretty in the NFC playoff race right now.
Conditions are just ugly in that game. Hard to get too upset about missed field goals on a day like this ... which just makes it all the more obvious that Washington should've gone for that early fourth down.
Vince Verhei: Washington gets a fourth-and-1 in field goal range, but this time they do go for it ... and Adrian Peterson is hit for a loss. Washington has badly outplayed San Francisco for the opening 20-some minutes, but they keep screwing up in scoring range, and it's still 0-0.
Bryan Knowles: Bad weather? 10 a.m. start? The effect of missing four starters and Deebo Samuel on offense? Whatever it is, the 49ers offense hasn't shown up for this one. Jimmy Garoppolo has 20 yards rushing and only 10 yards passing, which seems less than ideal. Robbie Gould is kicking like it's the 1970s; he's 9-for-16 on the season and missed another one today. It's wet, it's slippery, it's sloppy, but these are all excuses. The 49ers offense has stunk to high heaven today. Of course, their defense is still great, and it's 0-0 at the half, the first scoreless first half of the season. And boy, am I ever so glad I got to watch it. Ugh.
Vince Verhei: No score at halftime as both offenses look miserable now. Jimmy Garoppolo in particular is having a terrible day -- he has completed exactly one pass that has gained more than 1 yard, and he has taken a sack and fumbled. He has mitigated that somewhat by running for a few first downs, and the weather has obviously played a huge role, but at the same time he has been outplayed by Case Keenum, and unlike Keenum, he's not playing against a dominant defense today.
49ers get the ball to start the second half and get a fourth-and-5 in Washington territory. They go for it and Dante Pettis has a step on his man down the left sideline, but Garoppolo's pass is underthrown and safety Troy Apke jumps the route for the interception. No matter though, because Washington goes three-and-out with a sack on third down and punts the ball right back.
The scoreless tie is starting to look like a real possibility.
Scott Spratt: I feel like a defense is bound to score at some point.
Carl Yedor: This probably shouldn't come as a surprise given the weather, but the Redskins have run the ball on every single first-and-10 today outside of the two-minute drill. They only had three pass attempts in those situations last week against Miami. Bill Callahan has been making his imprint on the Redskins' offense and making a concerted effort to run the dang ball whenever he can since taking over as head coach for Jay Gruden.
Vince Verhei: 49ers have finally started to make some big plays in the second half -- a recovery of a Peterson fumble on defense, a 40-yard catch-and-run by Richie James, a fourth-and-1 conversion by "R.Dwelley" (no team gets more production from anonymous players than San Francisco), a slip-and-slide diving catch downfield by Kendrick Bourne -- and for all that, they have scored just a pair of field goals. It's 6-0 with about ten minutes to go.
Bryan Knowles: Ross Dwelley, of course, would be the emergency backup fullback for the 49ers. After watching their offense the last two weeks, I'm never going to say Kyle Juszczyk is overpaid ever again.
Vince Verhei: 49ers get another field goal, which sounds like a failure, but under the circumstances it was a great drive. Eleven plays, 56 yards, and ate up more than six minutes of clock. 49ers up 9–0 and kicking off with less than a minute to go and should escape here.
Bryan Knowles: The less said about the offensive performance, the better, but...
The 49ers just became the first team to hold opponents to under 100 yards net passing in three straight weeks since the 2009 Bills did it to Chad Henne, Derek Anderson, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. I'd put the Mayfield/Goff/Keenum group as a better set of passers than that, at any rate.
No team has held opponents to under 100 yards passing in four straight game since the 1977 49ers, Falcons, and Cowboys all did it in November. Kyle Allen, you're on deck.
Vince Verhei: Washington's second-half offense: four drives, 14 plays, 36 yards. Yeah, them 49ers are goooooood.
Arizona Cardinals 27 at New York Giants 21
Bryan Knowles: Nice opening drive by the Cardinals -- nothing big or explosive, just two third-down conversions and one fourth-down conversion before Chase Edmonds ran the ball in for the opening score. The Giants could just not get off the field at all -- no tackling, bad coverage, etc. They were practically chasing ghosts out there -- doesn't bode well for them the rest of the way. 7-0, Arizona.
Aaron Schatz: Daniel Jones answered that first Cardinals touchdown drive by taking a sack and then staring down Golden Tate on an entire third-down play, making it really easy for two zone coverage defenders to jump in front of the pass; Jordan Hicks gets the interception. And then the Cardinals come back out with three runs by Chase Edmonds and that's that, 32 yards and a second touchdown. I guess David Johnson might be more hurt than they let on during the week and was started as a bit of a decoy? Not sure the point of that if he's not healthy enough to play, but Edmonds sure is healthy enough to play and speed away from guys.
Vince Verhei: The dirty little secret of Arizona's season so far is that Chase Edmonds has badly outplayed David Johnson carry-for-carry. Looks like that has continued today, and Johnson's injury may be a case of addition by subtraction.
Scott Spratt: Vince, since you probably consume more West Coast football, what are your general thoughts on David Johnson? Even in his very productive 2016 season, he had just 5.1% rushing DVOA (compared to 27.7% receiving DVOA). He was -12.6% and -17.1% last year and is -9.4% and 32.9% this year. So I guess I'm asking, has he rebounded to his peak career when he was an average runner but excellent receiver or is he worse? And even if he has rebounded, how good a receiver does a back need to be if he's a mediocre runner to play most snaps and not simply be a James White kind of usage player?
Vince Verhei: I have not watched him enough this season to have an opinion on him right now, but over the course of his career, it's pretty obvious that the standard stats paint a more accurate picture of the player than the advanced numbers do. Johnson has been very effective in two of his three healthy seasons, and you can throw out last year with the disastrous state the franchise was in.
Aaron Schatz: Kyler Murray, trying to do too much on a third-and-5, runs backwards, twists, turns his back to the defense, avoids a sack, runs backwards some more, avoids another sack, and finally gets taken down for a 15-yard loss. Next play, Giants block the punt and recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. We've gone from 17-0 to 17-14 in just a couple minutes.
Scott Spratt: Oh man, Saquon Barkley is hurt again. I think he went knee-to-knee with one of his own linemen and is now out of the game.
Aaron Schatz: Good news. Barkley's back in the game. Bad news. Daniel Jones' awareness of the pass rush is still bad.
Daniel Jones has been under a ton of pressure today. The Giants are trying to drive for a tying or go-ahead score, down 24-21, and the Giants just somehow had an offensive line protection where nobody blocked Chandler Jones. One offensive lineman went one way, the other offensive lineman went the other way, and nobody blocked the Cardinals' best pass-rusher.
Then the Giants run a draw on third-and-18. They aren't going to punt the ball away after a give-up draw, are they? Nope, that was apparently a real play call. They gained 3 yards and then they went for it on fourth-and-15. And Jones gives up the ball on another sack, a corner blitz by Patrick Peterson. This game is probably over.
Scott Spratt: Kyler Murray just ran a third down out of bounds for some reason, so there's still a chance for some Daniel Jones magic.
Aaron Schatz: Jones just has no pocket awareness. He just took his seventh and eighth sacks on that attempt at a last-second comeback drive, and then on fourth down, the defender Jonathan Bullard knocked down Jon Hilapio and hit Jones in motion for the incomplete pass that ends the game. This was not a good performance by the Giants offensive line, but Jones' lack of pocket presence is just as big a problem, maybe a bigger problem.
Oakland Raiders 24 at Green Bay Packers 42
Bryan Knowles: Aaron Jones caught a wheel route touchdown pass like a wide receiver. He was working toward the back corner of the right side of the end zone but adjusted back on an inside throw. Without Davante Adams and with Marquez Valdes-Scanting and Geronimo Allison playing at less than 100%, maybe he's their No. 1 receiver.
Scott Spratt: Did Derek Carr get hurt in this one? I just saw that Mike Glennon threw a touchdown pass.
Bryan Knowles: I don't believe Carr was hurt; I believe they just pulled him about the same time the Packers pulled Rodgers. Blowout.
Minnesota Vikings 42 at Detroit Lions 30
Bryan Knowles: In what might be the most interesting game of the early window, the Lions draw first blood. Marvin Jones Jr. catches a pass and goes 16 yards for the score, weaving through defenders. I do not believe the Vikings have actually come back from any deficit this year ... until now, when the Vikings respond five plays later with an Adam Thielen touchdown. Thielen goes down after the play, though, holding his hamstring and being helped off the field. That's a costly score, but they all count. 7-7.
Danny Amendola is, what's the cliche, shifty? Elusive? Deceptive athleticism? Whatever it is, no Viking was within 30 yards of him, as he moved the ball into scoring range. A few plays later, Stafford finds Jones for his second score of the game, and the Lions retake the lead in what's looking like a back-and-forth affair.
Stafford's pass to Amendola makes him the fastest quarterback ever to throw for 40,000 yards, beating out Matt Ryan by four games. Some of that is the modern passing game, sure, but still an impressive feat for Stafford.
Oh, Lions fans are angry. They pick Kick Cousins off in the end zone, but that's called back by a somewhat borderline pass interference call. I mean, Lions fans would boo any yellow flag thrown in their direction after last week, but this was a little bit ticky-tack. Plus, the receiver had stepped out of bounds -- can you interfere on an ineligible receiver? Matt Patricia is challenging, which, uh, never works. I guess you gotta try, but at the moment, it seems like a good way to blow a timeout.
Sure enough, it doesn't get overturned, and the Olabisi Johnson scores on the next play. More fodder for the Lions blogs, and we're tied at 14.
Andrew Potter: Fun officiating nuance: Matt Patricia didn't actually challenge this play. Because it was called an interception on the field, the play was automatically reviewed.
Bryan Knowles: The Vikings' offensive line is winning the battle early and often today. They just put together what might be their most impressive drive of the season -- 15 plays, 97 yards, converting on a trio of third downs on their way to the go-ahead score. Lots of Dalvin Cook -- six of those 15 plays for 32 yards, including the touchdown. They're also using a lot more play-action than I remember them using in September, and the Lions are just kinda skidding around the field trying to respond. 21-14, Minnesota.
Marvin Jones has three touchdowns at the half in a 21-all game. He entered the game with just one touchdown all season long, so, you know, I guess he was due.
The real story for the Lions, however, has been injuries. Darius Slay and Damon Harrison both went out of the game in the second quarter. This goes a bit of the way to explaining why Kirk Cousins is on pace for 300 yards passing, and Dalvin Cook is on pace for 150 yards rushing. This looks like it might be first to 40 wins in the second half.
I cannot wait to see the Vikings play-action splits this season. They're using it so much more than I remember them using it at the beginning of the season, and the offense is clicking so much more because of it. A really nice play-action lets C.J. Ham walk untouched into the end zone, and it's 28-21 Vikings. Yes, the Lions are down a couple of key defenders, but Adam Thielen is out, too -- not exactly full strength on full strength here at the moment.
Make it four touchdowns now for Marvin Jones, who is having a career day. It's not like it's blown coverage or anything, either; Minnesota's generally been covering him well in the end zone, but Stafford has thrown the ball on the money and Jones has come down with a quartet of clutch catches. The two-point conversion fails, so it's still a 35-30 game for Minnesota. The Lions will be kicking it deep, and they'll need their defense to get their second stop of the second half in order to have a chance in this one.
Oh, that Vikings' play-action. A 66-yard play-action bomb to Stefon Diggs sets up the Vikings for yet another touchdown; a 43-20 lead with 1:55 left. That'll probably be all she wrote. Like I said -- first to 40 wins.
Just putting a final capper on this, as the clock goes to zeroes: since scoring six points against Chicago in Week 4, the Vikings have scored 80 points in two games. I don't think we'll hear as much grumbling from the Minnesota locker room from here on out.
Rob Weintraub: Just to make it all about the Bengals, Marvin Jones had a better game back in 2013, when he had 122 yds and four touchdowns in a blowout win over the Jets. Today he managed just 93 yards, which I believe is the lowest amount for any wideout with four touchdowns in a game. Jones with a pair of four-TD games joins Sterling Sharpe as the only guys to do that, also subject to correction...
Vince Verhei: Jerry Rice did it too.
-- NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) 20 octobre 2019
Scott Spratt: I'm assuming "Jerry Rice did it" is "The Simpsons did it" of football.
Rob Weintraub: Ah, but technically, Rice actually caught five touchdowns in one of those games, against the Falcons, natch, so I wasn't counting him. We are a numbers-based organization!
By the way, guess who forgot to put Jones back in the lineup for his son's fantasy football team after sitting him last week?
Houston Texans 23 at Indianapolis Colts 30
Vince Verhei: Colts lead 7-0 at the end of one. A good chunk of the first quarter was devoted to a 12-play, 94-yard touchdown drive by the Colts -- three runs for 12 yards, and the rest produced by Jacoby Brissett through the air. Brissett hit Zach Pascal for an 11-yard score on third-and-5 to finish the drive.
Biggest play for Houston technically never happened. They went for it on fourth-and-1 on their own side of the 50, but the play was wiped out buy a formation penalty and they ended up punting.
Will Fuller has left the game with a hamstring injury; his return is questionable.
And now it's the Colts' turn to go for it on fourth-and-1 on their side of the field. They fake a pitch to the right, then pitch to Marlon Mack going left, but Benardrick McKinney is not fooled and stops Mack in the backfield for a turnover on downs. Texans also stuffed a run on third-and-1, so the run defense is showing up strong today.
That was the Colts' eighth fourth-down attempt this season, and the first time they have failed to convert.
Scott Spratt: I coincidentally had both the Texans-Colts and Falcons-Rams games on TVs at the same time, and in the former, they've been talking about how Deshaun Watson hasn't been sacked in two weeks, and in the latter, they showed that the Falcons haven't gotten a sack on 266 consecutive pass plays. These stats may be related.
Vince Verhei: The Texans add a field goal after Indy's failed fourth-down play. Next Colts' drive, Brissett fumbles the snap on third down, and Texans take over inside the Indianapolis 5. It looks like they had taken the lead on a classic Deshaun Watson play throwing a touchdown pass with multiple defenders wrapped around his legs, but the score is taken away when the refs rule Watson was in the grasp. Just a terrible break for Houston. So that's a third-down sack and they kick a field goal, and the Colts still lead 7-6.
Colts go on another long touchdown drive -- nine plays, 75 yards, with T.Y. Hilton scoring on a goal-line screen -- and lead 14-9 at halftime. Texans have moved the ball but keep settling for field goals, and that obviously has been the difference in the game.
Tom Gower: Colts lead 14-9 at the half. Both teams have struggled to find consistent running room, but was Vince noted the Colts had a long touchdown drive mostly through the air. Jacoby Brissett had a number of third down conversions, all of them seemingly coming after 5-plus seconds to throw and the Colts' route combinations yielded an open receiver. Their second touchdown drive came after Johnathan Joseph went out early in the drive. Without him or Bradley Roby, the Texans know their cornerbacks can't keep up and have added off/soft coverage to the extant diet of shallow crosses and designed rub routes producing open receivers for the Colts. But Deshaun Watson has moved the ball on his own, including in the two-minute drill, so the other story for the game is Houston's red zone execution: three field goals in three opportunities, after only six non-touchdowns in 21 red zone possessions coming into this game.
Scott Spratt: Wow, Eric Ebron caught a beautiful touchdown pass that I thought Brissett was throwing away through the back of the end zone. Ruled that he was out of bounds on the field, but I'm pretty sure this is going to be overturned on the challenge. Maybe Ebron should use one hand on all of his catches from now on.
Vince Verhei: Texans finally get a touchdown! Keke Coutee takes the pitch on a sweet triple-option play. The pitch is behind him and nearly disastrous, but he makes the one-handed snag and strolls into the end zone.
Tom Gower: After cutting the Colts' lead to five with that Coutee touchdown, Houston decides to let Indianapolis go down and score a touchdown to take the lead back to 12. The drive featured two third-and-long conversions, both via defensive penalty, and the other third down, a third-and-6, featured a three-man rush to give Brissett a week and a half in the pocket, plenty of time to find Eric Ebron between levels of zone coverage for a 33-yard catch-and-run. The Texans issues in coverage are continuing.
Scott Spratt: With the stat that said Deshaun Watson had the highest fourth-quarter passer rating this season on the screen, Watson throws a terrible fourth-quarter pick to Pierre Desir.
Vince Verhei: Well this is interesting. Houston has a fourth down deep in their own territory, down 28-23. Bill O'Brien frantically calls timeout, and then the Texans take an intentional safety. So Colts are up 30-23 now, and after the free kick, they have the ball at their own 20, 2:35 to go, and the Texans with two timeouts left.
Dave Bernreuther: With under three minutes to play, after the Rigoberto Sanchez punt backs the Texans way up inside their own 5 and a quick failed series, Brian Anger deliberately wanders out of the end zone for a safety to make it a seven-point Colts lead.
This shouldn't surprise me, as it's a sound strategy given the field position, but because it's Bill O'Brien, it does.
After the free kick, the Colts are now starting from their own 20 instead of around midfield, and that single-point difference between 31-23 and 30-23 looms large.
Vince Verhei: O'Brien's gambit worked -- Houston forced a three-and-out and took over with 1:41 to go.
Unfortunately, Watson's deep pass to Coutee is tipped into the air, and Darius Leonard reels it in for the Colts move into first place in the AFC South.
That'll be the best game of the week, I expect. Well played, well coached, lots of swings, and very heavy stakes.
Rivers McCown: It's amazing how when you trade Jadeveon Clowney, you suddenly have a lot of trouble getting to the quarterback. J.J. Watt has 12 quarterback hits over the last three weeks. Five other Texans have combined for the other six.
I know Vince said this game was well coached, but EdjSports' GWC believed that O'Brien taking the safety was a mistake. I'll take well coached from the Colts perspective.
Miami Dolphins 21 at Buffalo Bills 31
Zach Binney: This one's on me, y'all. I totally spaced and forgot to actually take Buffalo in my survivor league this week. After two shockingly competent Miami drives -- including a nice over-the-shoulder catch by the undrafted-but-so-far-impressive Preston Williams -- Miami *leads* Buffalo 14-9 with six minutes left in the second quarter. They have a real chance to take their first offensive snap with a lead here, guys!
Scott Spratt: The Dolphins' quarterback start/sit decisions are not aligned with their tanking plan.
Zach Binney: Actually so far the most impressive thing has been Miami's ability to run the ball effectively up the middle, with I think at least three gains of 7 or more yards. It would not shock me if that's more than they've had in their other five games.
Bryan Knowles: They had four 7-plus-yard runs against the Chargers, Zach, but that's all -- this has easily been their best performance of the year to this point.
Aaron Schatz: The Dolphins are trying to win! They faked a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 4, and converted with a run by holder Matt Maack. Except, then Ryan Fitzpatrick takes a 10-yard sack on first down and throws a red zone pick to Tre'Davious White on second down.
Scott Spratt: I wonder what odds you could have gotten on a Dolphins-Redskins-Bengals money-line parlay today?
Bryan Knowles: The Tank rolls on! Since we last checked in here, the Bills have scored twice, with Josh Allen hitting John Brown and Cole Beasley to jump to a 24-14 lead. The dream of 0-16 looks like it will live on, though I suppose technically 6:30 is more than enough time for an NFL team to score twice. We'll see if that holds true for Miami.
Miami scores to bring it within one score! They have to try the onside kick to win the game...
... and Buffalo returns the onside kick for a touchdown are you KIDDING me.
Los Angeles Rams 37 at Atlanta Falcons 10
Scott Spratt: The Rams fake a punt and Johnny Hekker throws another nice pass for a big gain.
Despite some of their offensive line injuries, the Falcons entered this week allowing pressure on just 28.5% of Matt Ryan's dropbacks, 15th-best in football according to Sports Info Solutions (subscription required). But in the first half of this game, the Rams defense has hit Ryan on 11 of his 22 dropbacks. That is the major reason the Falcons have just three points and are trailing by 10 at the half.
Vince Verhei: Hekker's fake punt was by far the most exciting play of the first half. I love that they sent the punt team out there, then just lined them up in a standard shotgun set and and Hekker hit the running back leaking out into the flat.
Johnny Hekker is an offensive weapon. #LARams
-- NFL (@NFL) 20 octobre 2019
Jalen Ramsey has played a lot, part of the reason the Falcons only have three points at halftime. And he's active, making four tackles and forcing a fumble (the Falcons recovered).
Neither team can run the ball at all today, and neither quarterback has looked sharp either. Jared Goff hit a wheel-route touchdown to Todd Gurley, and the Rams got a field goal off that fake punt, and that's why they lead 13-3.
When you think of dangerous Rams playmakers, the first name that comes to mind is "Gerald Everett." And as you'd expect, he delivers with the biggest plays on the Rams' latest touchdown drive. He gets a deep ball down the right sideline for a 33-yard gain. Then, with a third down in the red zone, They throw to Everett on a wide receiver screen, and he takes it in for a touchdown and a 20-3 lead that feels like 200-3.
Scott Spratt: If I'm Devonta Freeman, I probably pick a fight with literally anyone else on the Rams other than Aaron Donald.
The Rams should really go for two to extend their lead to 28-3 against the Falcons.
Vince Verhei: Matt Ryan is sacked by Aaron Donald. Matt Ryan fumbles, recovered by Aaron Donald. Matt Ryan limps his way into the blue tent, smashed by Aaron Donald.
Scott Spratt: Add Matt Ryan to the list of injured quarterback starters this season. He leaves in the third quarter, no doubt just before throwing three touchdowns in garbage time.
Also wow, did everyone know Matt Schaub was Ryan's backup?
Jacksonville Jaguars 27 at Cincinnati Bengals 17
Vince Verhei: I have seen barely any of this game, but I do want to note that Cincinnati leads 7-6 at halftime on a Joe Mixon goal-line touchdown reception. This means that Miami, Washington, and Cincinnati -- the NFL's three worst teams -- all played in 1 p.m. games today, and none of them were trailing at halftime.
Jaguars outscored the Bengals 18-0 in the fourth quarter, including a Yannick Ngakoue pick-six. Miami, Washington, and Cincinnati each gave up go-ahead scores in the second half, and all three lost.
Rob Weintraub: 18-7, goddamnit! Andy Dalton throws interceptions on three straight possessions in the fourth quarter to lose the game, but he will sneak one in with seconds to play to make the 27-17 final score more respectable, I guess.
Los Angeles Chargers 20 at Tennessee Titans 23
Bryan Knowles: This is basically an elimination game -- from relevancy, if not yet from mathematical playoff contention. Even in a soft AFC, I can't see either of these teams getting off the deck from a 2-5 record, while 3-4 keeps them right in the midst of that race for the sixth playoff seed. That might make it the most interesting game of the late window, if far from the best.
Scott Spratt: Another well executed fake punt, this one with a pass completion from Brett Kern to DB-turned-WR Kevin Byard.
Bryan Knowles: Nothing like a 101-yard touchdown drive to get your fans excited. Ryan Tannehill is looking ... well, let's say "better than Mariota" and leave it at that; he's 10-for-12 for 127 yards and a touchdown as the first half winds to a close. He has certainly been more decisive than Mariota has been in the passing game, and that's worth something. Most importantly, he hasn't taken a sack yet, after Mariota took eight over the past two weeks. Some of that is the Chargers' pass rush being nonexistent, but it has to be nice for Tennessee fans to see their quarterback more or less upright.
10-10 at the half.
Dave Bernreuther: Earlier in this game I was starting to wonder if maybe Philip Rivers really was falling off a cliff, as he was simply too late/too slow on a sideline route where his receiver was open. It was the kind of throw he has always been able to place accurately, velocity be damned, and it wasn't his only missed opportunity of the first half.
Just now, though, fresh off the Derrick Henry touchdown to put the Titans up two scores, Rivers winds up and goes deep ... and it was a DIME to Austin Ekeler for an easy touchdown. One of the better throws I've seen all year.
Vince Verhei: Titans lead 23-20 with less than three minutes to go, with a fourth-and-inches just across midfield. They go with the quarterback sneak, but the Chargers stuff the play and take over on downs, with a short field to tie the game or take the lead.
Bryan Knowles: It might have been a hopeless move, but I'm surprised Mike Vrabel didn't challenge the spot; I think Tannehill got at least closer than the refs gave him.
I think we might also be able to do better than two guys with a chain and a dude guessing with his foot in the year 2019, but that's a story for another time.
The Chargers' last two drives, just before they had a go-ahead touchdown called back, had ten snaps for Austin Ekeler, and no snaps for Melvin Gordon. So they bring Gordon in for the goal-line situation. They get, in order: a false start, a pass interference penalty bringing the ball back to the 1; a stuff on first down where Gordon nearly fumbled; and a stuff on second down where Gordon DID fumble, giving the ball, and the game, to the Titans.
Tennessee wins with a heck of a goal-line stand, and the Chargers' season is basically over. I had them as a Super Bowl team early in the offseason! The collapse can only be called one thing: Chargersesque.
Aaron Schatz: FO Almanac had them as a Super Bowl team. What a mess they've become. That was a terrible sequence at the end of the game. They absolutely should have won that, getting first-and-goal from the 1 with 39 seconds left.
Rivers McCown: Today's 23-20 Titans win presented a veritable smorgasbord of "choose your own adventure"-esque storylines. Take your choice from, among others:
1. The ref show at the end, with ... :deep breath: ... a touchdown overturned on replay, a false start penalty, a defensive pass interference call, a second touchdown overturned on replay, and a run for no gain overturned on replay to a fumble and Titans ball for the closing kneeldown. On consecutive snaps.
2. The Titans remaining perfect under Mike Vrabel when they score at least 20 points.
3. The Titans coming oh-so-close to blowing a 10-point lead with six minutes to play.
4. Ryan Tannehill's big day in his first start in Tennessee, pulling the trigger regularly on tight window throws when Marcus Mariota would not.
5. The Chargers' injuries taking their toll on both offense and defense, with Russell Okung's absence at left tackle sometimes putting Rivers under quick pressure and backups leaving open gaps on the second level, especially later in the game after Uchenna Nwosu and Denzel Perryman both had to leave the game in short order.
6. A non-existent Chargers run game, with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combining for just 2 yards per carry even before the endgame whatever-that-was.
7. Rivers and the Chargers finding space in the middle of a Titans defense, even with some of his difficulties throwing to the outside and asking Mike Williams and Keenan Allen to make difficult catches they sometimes managed.
8. New Titans kicker Cody Parkey doinking a field goal, suckering Anthony Lynn into kicking a field goal to cut the deficit to three in the fourth quarter.
9. Lynn playing for the winning score at the end instead of just kicking the short field goal to tie. And others I'm not mentioning right now.
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears
Derrik Klassen: First play of Chicago's opening drive, they come out in pistol with an H-back and motion someone else across. Matt Nagy wants me so badly to like the Bears offense despite the quarterback.
Bryan Knowles: That first drive ended up sputtering out despite all of Matt Nagy's formational trickery, and the Bears have to punt ... but it's blocked! Full credit to Pat O'Donnell for hustling back 20 yards into the end zone and batting it out of bounds, saving five points.
We finally have some touchdowns in the late slate of games! Took 'em long enough.
An Anthony Miller fumble sets the Saints up just outside the red zone. Now, once again, that fumble SHOULD have ended in a touchdown, but the refs blew the whistle early (again -- how does this keep happening to New Orleans?) The early whistle ends up not mattering, as Teddy Bridgewater finds Josh Hill in the end zone for the score.
Now, with the Bears' offense sputtering, Cordarelle Patterson takes matters into his own hands and returns the ensuing kickoff for six. Add in the Saints' safety, and we have a 9-7 game early.
Vince Verhei: The Skycam shot of Patterson's touchdown return is glorious.
KICK RETURN TD!!
-- FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) 20 octobre 2019
Bryan Knowles: Two blocked punts in one day for New Orleans, and they're set up in great field position again. Chicago entered the day eighth in punting value; I forget if punt blocks count against them (it's a fairly random play), but special teams have been a roller coaster today.
Mitch Trubisky has been terrible, and Soldier Field is awash with boos. 13-for-23 for 78 yards is bad enough on its face, but he's missing wide open receivers and making terrible decisions left and right -- he just threw the ball out of bounds on third down as the Bears were trying to run out the clock, setting up a Saints punt return touchdown that, fortunately for Mitch, was called back via penalty. If it's not a 5-yard curl or slant or something, Trubisky cannot hit it. It's his first game back from injury, so maybe he's still not fully right, but this has been a really, really bad day for someone fans were already predispositioned to turn against.
No Drew Brees, no Alvin Kamara, no problem. New Orleans comes out after the half and marches right down the field. Bridgewater has picked up a couple of key first downs with his legs, and he just hit Ted Ginn for a 45-yard strike to boot. That set up Latavius Murray's three-yard touchdown plunge, and now it's a 19-10 game before the Bears touch the ball in the second half.
I tend to roll my eyes at Sean Payton's love of Taysom Hill, but when we get an actual, factual fullback option pitch for a first down ... I mean, I'm only human. Hill also ended up catching the touchdown pass a few plays later, and the Saints have a 26-10 lead.
🚨🚨🚨 THE SAINTS RAN A FULLBACK OPTION TO TAYSOM HILL 🚨🚨🚨 pic.twitter.com/q8JVxXU27F
— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) October 20, 2019
Perhaps more to the point, the Saints are up 316-83 in yardage. Could the Bears trade for Andy Dalton or something like that? 'Cause at the moment, it feels like all they need is that level of quarterback play, and they're not getting it.
Aaron Schatz: Actual onside kick recovery in the Chicago-New Orleans game, though I doubt it matters with the score 36-18 and 2:31 left. The ball glanced off Michael Thomas and then was recovered by the Bears. So we know now how to recover an onside kick with the current rules -- hope the receiving team screws up trying to catch it.
Bryan Knowles: Basically, forget all the onside kick strategy -- just kick it as hard as you can at the upman and hope it bounces off their face. It's a strategy!
Scott Spratt: Sometimes it works!
Best onside kick, ever?pic.twitter.com/36W47mWBXO
-- Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) October 19, 2019
Bryan Knowles: Um.
The Bears have now recovered two consecutive onside kicks. Those are the first two onside kicks recovered this season.
I mean, they'll need one more, but...
Aaron Schatz: Both kicks went less than 10 yards but bounced off of Saints players and then were recovered by the Bears. So that's the trick, I guess. Try to bounce it off an opposing player.
Change of plans. The Bears player apparently touched out of bounds, so it's not an onside recovery, it's Saints ball.
Baltimore Ravens 30 at Seattle Seahawks 16
Derrik Klassen: Lamar Jackson likes to go kinda sidearm when he's under pressure and/or making short throws. I don't think it's bad necessarily -- he has always done it and plenty of good quarterbacks do the same -- but he's not all the way there with making it work consistently. He'll get there. Think it's at least a good start that he knows how to and is willing to make that adjustment to find windows.
Vince Verhei: Ravens lead 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, though the Seahawks have the ball in scoring range. Been a mirror-image game so far -- both offenses have been quiet except for one deep catch each. For Baltimore, Miles Boykin became the latest opposing wideout to catch a deep ball against Tedric Thompson, a list that is depressingly long. For Seattle, DK Metcalf beat Anthony Averett down the sideline.
Seahawks finish the drive with a scoring pass. For the second straight week, Russell Wilson is under pressure and appears to be throwing the ball away, only for Tyler Lockett to turn the throwaway into a touchdown catch. Marlon Humphrey had been flagged for DPI and gave up on the play, but Lockett chased down the ball and made the diving catch for the score. Seahawks up 7-3 now.
Scott Spratt: Mark Schlereth has been unintentionally hilarious calling this game, alongside Ronde Barber in the three-man booth for some reason. He earlier compared broken-tackle rates to baseball WAR, and on the touchdown, he said that Wilson and Lockett must have gone to the University of Hogwarts together. I'm not sure he's hip to the kids these days.
Derrik Klassen: Right out of the first-quarter break, Seattle score on a bit of a scramble drill from Russell Wilson. Found Tyler Lockett on the right side of the end zone. Seattle came out with a nub tight end to the boundary with trips to the field. One of their favorite looks in any area of the field.
Carl Yedor: Carroll unsuccessfully challenges the lack of pass interference on a third-down deep shot into the end zone intended for DK Metcalf, using Seattle's final timeout of the first half with seven-plus minutes still to play. This comes after Seattle fails to get the play off in time prior to that third down, forcing them to use two timeouts bookending one play. Jason Myers kicks the field goal and pushes their lead to 10-6.
Vince Verhei: Welp. There's Wilson's first interception of the year. And it's a bad one -- late to Jaron Brown in the flat and Marcus Peters, just sitting in his zone, easily jumps it and runs it back for the touchdown. Ravens now up 13-10.
Bryan Knowles: I am annoyed. Before today's game, Russell Wilson had thrown three career pick-sixes: to Desmond KING, PRINCE Amukamara, and CAPTAIN Munnerlyn. EARL Thomas was right there, but who does Wilson throw his first interception of the year to? Marcus Peters, who returns it into the end zone. How am I supposed to write a joke about that?
Vince Verhei: Just pretend he's MARQUISE Peters.
Seattle closes the first half with a field goal to tie the game at 13. Ravens are out-Seahawking the Seahawks: getting crushed on a play-to-play basis, but keeping the game close by getting the vast majority of the big plays. Seattle leads 13 to five in first downs, 223 to 165 in total yardage. But Ravens got the pick-six and a trio of big offensive plays: the Boykin catch, a Lamar Jackson scramble, and a 33-yard Mark Andrews catch. Those three plays produced 116 yards; their other 21 plays have produced 49.
Derrik Klassen: Tied 13-13 at halftime, I think Baltimore's offense has some room to take off in the second half. Baltimore missed on a number of passing plays in the first half through some slight misfires in the quick game by Jackson all being dropped by his targets. If either Jackson cleans things up a bit or the receivers start bringing those passes in, Baltimore's offense should be able to match some consistency to their explosive plays. Would love to see this one turn into a Lamar Jackson vs. Russell Wilson second-half shootout.
Vince Verhei: Another wasted opportunity for the Seahawks. Third-and-2 in Chicago territory, a swing pass to Tyler Lockett loses a yard. Then, instead of going for it on fourth-and-3, they try a 53-yard field goal. That's indefensible. The kick misses. Good god.
Derrik Klassen: Mark Andrews has cost the Ravens like 50 yards and a touchdown with all these drops.
Aaron Schatz: The Ravens go for it on fourth-and-2 from the 8! They were originally going to kick a field goal but they called a timeout and brought out the offense. They run a single-wing quarterback sweep and Lamar Jackson goes all the way in for the touchdown. This new thing where the Ravens love analytics is so much fun.
Vince Verhei: Following one of those Andrews drops, plus a pass in the end zone he could have caught but allowed to be broken up by K.J. Wright, Jackson takes a designed run on third-and-long to set up a fourth-and-2. Much to my shock, the Ravens send in Justin Tucker, but come to their senses and call timeout. Fourth-and-2, Jackson keeps on a play that Amos Alonzo Stagg might have drawn up and scores a touchdown. Ravens lead 20-13.
Well I think the Ravens just iced this one. A 13-play, 86-yard drive that eats up eight minutes of game clock and ends in a Justin Tucker field goal and a 23-13 lead. Tremendous drive by Lamar Jackson -- 30-yard scramble on third-and-8, 13-yard run on second-and-6, a number of completions after scrambles, and most of all milking every second off the clock before snapping the ball. Seahawks still have all three timeouts. I don't know why they didn't use any late, especially on fourth down as the Ravens were sitting there waiting to kick. They've got 3:47 to go, needing two scores.
Derrik Klassen: So, DK Metcalf -- who was uncontested for a few yards after catching a screen pass -- just fumbled the ball without being hit and effectively gave up Seattle's only chances to win. Whew.
Vince Verhei: The Hot Rotten Garbage Seahawks have struck again. After Wilson's layup of a pick-six in the first half, he throws a short hook to Metcalf, who catches it, then fumbles it away untouched. It's recovered and returned by Humphrey for a touchdown. I believe the Seahawks lead the league in return touchdowns allowed, both turnovers and special teams. And that's not counting a number of short-field touchdowns allowed. When they make mistakes, the mistakes are massive.
Carl Yedor: Today was a great example of how reliant on Wilson the Seahawks actually are in spite of how often they run the ball. He cannot afford to make mistakes for this team to win games. I'm not the first person to say this, but Carroll still coaches games as if he has a dominant defense, which Seattle does not have. When Wilson is his normal good self, the games are close, but they often come out on top. When Wilson is not good, the defense isn't capable of picking up the slack anymore.
Philadelphia Eagles 10 at Dallas Cowboys 37
Aaron Schatz: Well, a parade of mistakes early on. The Eagles fumble early on not just one but their first two drives of the night. The Cowboys easily convert those short-field opportunities to touchdowns. Then on the Eagles' third drive, Dallas extends things with two 15-yard penalties, including one on third-and-10, and the Eagles find Dallas Goedert in the end zone to make it 14-7.
Everything just gets worse for the Eagles in the second quarter. It doesn't help that the Cowboys got into ridiculous field goal range in 22 seconds and then managed a ridiculous 63-yard field goal right before halftime. But overall for the game, the Cowboys are outgaining the Eagles on average 6.8 yards per play to 3.7 yards per play. So it's not just those two fumbles that are the problem for the Eagles.
Rivers McCown: I guess we're all done with this after the 63-yard field goal.
The Eagles are a quixotic team but I guess if there's one thing to take from this it's just that they are desperate for some speed. Wentz's long pass has gone 30 yards and I think the only player constantly getting separation is Nelson Agholor, who is Nelson Agholor. The Cowboys are glued on Zach Ertz.
Aaron Schatz: The Eagles miss DeSean Jackson a LOT.