Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Balimore Ravens K Justin Tucker
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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.

Philadelphia Eagles 31 at Miami Dolphins 37

Dave Bernreuther: Greetings from southeastern Pennsylvania, where this Miami resident is lucky enough not to have to watch the woeful Dolph -- ah, crap. I just can't get away from the Fitzmagic.

Which is off to a brilliant start, as he throws an interception -- and a really, really bad one -- on the very first pass of the game. Carson Wentz and the Eagles, who have thus far resisted the urge to seize the NFC East that the Cowboys seem desperate to give away, are set up in scoring range with a mere ten seconds off of the clock.

The Eagles fans around me are naturally all wondering just how they'll screw this one up.

Bryan Knowles: You're 2-9, you're down 10 points, so there's no reason to play conservative. On a fourth-and-4 from the Eagles 43, Ryan Fitzpatrick finds DeVante Parker deep -- tight coverage, but Parker brings it in for the score. 10-7 Eagles; it's possible no one wants to win the NFC East.

Bryan Knowles: You have to see the Dolphins' touchdown. Punter-to-kicker for a touchdown is rare enough, but look at this formation!

Aaron Schatz: Dolphins just hit a great fake field goal. They motioned to have the punter/holder at quarterback with nobody else in the middle of the field except the center. Half the Dolphins were lined up on one side, half on the other side. The punter Matt Haack starts going like he's going to run a sweep, and nobody covers the kicker Jason Sanders as he sneaks into the end zone. Haack just flips it to him for a touchdown.

The whole thing was set up by a challenged defensive pass interference call in the end zone, where Brian Flores threw the red flag and actually got the refs to reverse a play and add a DPI to a pass to Parker.

Dave Bernreuther: Insanity alert: After a horrible non-call DPI was overturned, the Dolphins special teams come out in a formation that's even crazier than the swinging gate. One center, one "quarterback," and everyone else off on the sidelines. Matt Haack runs left into what looks to be certain doom ... but it was by design, and then he shovels it to a completely uncovered Jason Sanders for the touchdown.

That. Was. AWESOME.

Zach Binney: I have to guess Flores took that from Bill Belichick, who presumably dreamed it up as a non-stupid version of the swinging gate punt from the Colts?

That was the stupidest thing I've ever seen AND I LOVE IT.

Vince Verhei: Matt Haack has now thrown as many touchdowns as Josh Rosen this year.

Bryan Knowles: Miami goes surprise onside kick to open the second half. It doesn't work; perhaps Atlanta's performance on Thanksgiving made people forget how hard onside kicks are to recover nowadays. Philadelphia coverts the great field position into a touchdown, taking a 28-14 lead early in the third. Game's not quite over yet, but you can see over from here.

Bryan Knowles: Well, hold on. Miami scored a touchdown on each of their drives after the failed onside kick, and now trail just by two. Does anyone actually want to win the NFC East?

Bryan Knowles: Make that touchdowns on THREE consecutive drives, as the Dolphins take the lead. A Cincinnati win doesn't hurt as much if Miami and Washington both win!

Vince Verhei: Jason Sanders just hit a 51-yard field goal to put the Dolphins up 37-28 in the fourth quarter. So, two questions. A) We can just make Sanders the special teams player of the week now, right? B) What's the record for shortest time a coach was fired after winning the Super Bowl? I guess Jimmy Johnson was fired before the next year even started, but that was a personality conflict. Doug Pederson's performance has been so poor, there would be calls for his head if he had not won that ring.

Vince Verhei: Dolphins running backs currently have 12 carries for 21 yards, 11 of them on one play. Fitzpatrick has been shredding the Eagles with no kind of run support.

San Francisco 49ers 17 at Baltimore Ravens 20

Bryan Knowles: In a world with flexed schedules, Baltimore-San Francisco should not be one of eight games on television in an early window, but eh, that's where we are. Plenty of rain today, so that'll be something for which to keep an eye out -- some sloppy conditions could lead to some sloppy play. Deebo Samuel had a ball bounce of his hands, for example, in something that seemed destined to lead to the Contractually Mandated Jimmy Garoppolo interception, but it ended up just falling incomplete. Two plays later, the 49ers faced fourth-and-2 from the Baltimore 33, and decided hey, you don't beat the Ravens with field goals. Garoppolo threw the ball to Samuel in double coverage, and he managed to bump the defender out of the way and come down with a pretty astounding catch. 49ers draw first blood, but now the REAL matchup starts, as Lamar Jackson takes the field against the 49ers defense. Popcorn time.

Vince Verhei: San Francisco's first touchdown was a case of bad process, good results for Jimmy Garoppolo. He had Deebo Samuel open down the right sideline against what looked like Cover-2. His pass was badly underthrown, bringing Samuel back right into Marcus Peters, playing the deep zone coverage. But it looked like Peters misread the ball and almost ran right past Samuel, letting the receiver make the catch in traffic and go into the end zone.

Aaron Schatz: That was Marcus Peters as the main defender on Samuel. Peters presents an interesting dilemma. He's a massive outlier when it comes to interceptions but he's also clearly the weakest of the Ravens' cornerbacks in coverage when it comes to success rate and yards per pass.

Vince Verhei: Really, that's Peters' whole career, isn't it? Never especially good at shutting down receivers, but outstanding at interceptions and runbacks. He's like DeAngelo Hall that way.

Dave Bernreuther: I *hated* how Peters played that. The ball was horribly underthrown and should have been picked, but Samuel managed to box Peters out, which wasn't that hard because Peters seemed a little bit lost, as if he didn't know where the ball was. Which is odd for a ballhawk. He looked almost like his main concern was trying not to get flagged for DPI.

Bryan Knowles: Jimmy Garoppolo is diversifying his skillset. Rather than throwing a terrible interception, he instead makes a terrible fumble. He just held on to the ball forever against the Ravens pass rush, ran out of time, and had the ball knocked out as the pressure got to him. Two plays later, Jackson finds Mark Andrews up the middle to tie the game at seven.

Aaron Schatz: Earl Thomas blitz on third-and-4. They're blitzing him a lot more in Baltimore than Seattle ever did. Pass to Emmanuel Sanders was a yard short so the 49ers will punt instead of going on fourth-and-1 from their own 39.

Aaron Schatz: San Francisco was No. 1 in DVOA against tight ends going into today's games (subscription required) but between the presence of Lamar Jackson forcing the 49ers to play in zone and the play-action fakes bringing up the linebackers, the Ravens have completed a couple of big passes to tight ends already.

Scott Spratt: I'm not sure any numbers you give up to the Ravens should count against your DVOA this year. They just can't capture how your defense should be expected to play against normal offenses in the future.

Scott Spratt: That Lamar Jackson cut just completely uncleated K'Waun Williams. Ridiculous.

Bryan Knowles: The 49ers keep crashing the edges on Jackson. This is the right strategy against a lot of mobile quarterbacks; it's probably not the right strategy against Jackson, who can make people look absolutely ridiculous in the backfield. The Ravens' recent scoring drive had Jackson run for 11, 7, 11, and a 1-yard touchdown. Yeah, the drive was extended by roughing the passer, but they probably would have gone for it on fourth anyway. Ravens take the 14-7 lead, as Jackson is just ... I mean, he's crazy good.

Dave Bernreuther: I'm not sure we'd just want to throw DVOA *entirely* out the window when it comes to the Ravens, Scott, but yeah, it's definitely an offense that requires some additional thought. (Which is also true for opposing coordinators...)

One thing we can all agree on: we should all be very grateful that Chris Berman retired before Lamar Jackson came along. Imagine how annoying the high-pitched "WHAT!" squeak would be for every move he makes like the juke he put on K'Waun Williams in the backfield on an option keeper (which Nick Bosa bought enough to flat-out tackle Mark Ingram) or the naked boot around left end on which he nearly scored a few plays later.

Another option keeper for him and he scores untouched. The 49ers have the best front in football and they were being made to look foolish on this drive. Completely overmatched.

Scott Spratt: Dave, you can actually watch Berman on ESPN+. Sounds like a great stocking-stuffer from your family members.

Bryan Knowles: This is what Lamar Jackson does:

This is also what Lamar Jackson does: The 49ers just busted a 40-yard touchdown run, with Raheem Mostert olé-ing Earl Thomas into the end zone, and my first thought was "oh no! The defense hasn't had enough time to rest!"


Aaron Schatz: Raheem Mostert, 40-yard touchdown run on a sweep right to make it 14-14. Great blocking on this one by George Kittle on Jaylon Ferguson and Richie James on Chuck Clark.

Dave Bernreuther:

via Gfycat

Thought that the under in this game looked good without the weather, and great with it ... so naturally Raheem Mostert takes off on a long run and it's 14-14 already. With the way Jackson is rolling, they might hit the over by halftime.

Dave Bernreuther: Just as I was typing about how Lamar Jackson doesn't get nearly enough credit for his ball placement (which remains true of almost everyone except maybe Mike Freeman and Cian Fahey), he sails one way behind an open Mark Andrews in the end zone and the Ravens kick a field goal on fourth-and-8.

Everything seems to be in commercial right now, so it's a fine time to say that I'd also like to complain on the record about how stupid it is that this game is a 1 p.m. start.

Carl Yedor: For a defense as talented as that of San Francisco, a field goal normally would feel disappointing. Not today. Even despite the rain, Baltimore has been moving the ball quite effectively, but they stall out in the red zone and are forced to settle for three. San Francisco ball inside the two-minute warning down 17-14.

Bryan Knowles: This is the effect of Lamar Jackson: with two minutes left and all three timeouts, the 49ers run out of time on their drive and have to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt in the driving rain. They're that concerned with giving the ball back to Lamar Jackson. Robbie Gould's field goal is no good, so the Ravens take a 17-14 lead into the half.

The 49ers have made one general mistake (their ends crashing in over and over again, rather than holding on the outside to contain Jackson), and three specific mistakes -- the Garoppolo fumble, and two roughing the passer penalties as defenders took out a bit of frustration on Jackson. That has lead to all 17 Baltimore points. I am not saying that Baltimore is only winning because of San Francisco's mistakes; that's crazy. I am, however, saying that you can't make mistakes against Baltimore and expect to win, because the Ravens do not make mistakes.

Hell of a game so far. Looking forward to the second half.

Carl Yedor: Great play by Fred Warner to break up a Lamar Jackson throw on fourth-and-5 from the plus side of midfield. The Ravens were effectively in no man's land at the San Francisco 40 and chose to go for it, but the 49ers defense held firm and got a huge stop.

Aaron Schatz: Turnabout being fair play, same thing just happened with the 49ers going for fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 35. Pass knocked down by Chris Wormley. Baltimore gets the ball back.

Bryan Knowles: The Ravens respond by stopping the 49ers on fourth-and-1 from the 35, tipping the ball at the line. 6:33 left, still tied at 17.

Vince Verhei: Let's not overlook that the 49ers called timeout on that fourth-and-1 play. They've only got one left now, with six minutes to go.

Can I just say that, between the teams and the weather, this one has been a joy to watch? I like football where third-and-4 is a running down.

Bryan Knowles: The battle of fourth downs continues! The Ravens convert at their own 30, and can kneel to set up a field goal if they want...

Bryan Knowles: 49-yard field goal? In the rain? For the game? Please. Give Justin Tucker something hard to do next time. The Ravens pull it out, 20-17, after a great game.

Dave Bernreuther: Tucker hits a third-down field goal as the game expires, and it's the only points of the second half. Baltimore keeps the heat on New England. Sorry, Texans fans...

Guess I jinxed that over with my earlier comments. Whoops.

Vince Verhei: Third-and-13 at the 31, two timeouts left ... and the Ravens choose not to run a play, settling for the 49-yard kick. I hate that decision so so so so so so much. Fortunately for them they have Justin Tucker, and he drills the 49-yarder for the win.

Scott Spratt: I was thinking maybe the Ravens should call timeout with like 12 or 14 seconds before the third down. That way, even if they throw incomplete, they wouldn't give the 49ers more than a play, and they'd still have a chance to gain yards and comfortably call their last timeout. What do you think, Vince?

Vince Verhei: They could have called almost literally anything on third down and I would have liked it more than doing nothing. They had two timeouts! Zone read, quarterback run, straight dropback, even just a handoff in a range where a 5-yard gain would make a huge difference in the kick.

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, it was strangely conservative from Harbaugh. I mean, I know you've got the best kicker in football, but it's rainy and miserable out there; give him a few more yards, yeah?

Washington Redskins 29 at Carolina Panthers 21

Scott Spratt: Derrius Guice just broke a long run for 60 yards but didn't show the top-end speed to outrun the secondary. I'll be curious to see if his workload spikes over the last third of the year as the Redskins try to evaluate their young players for future seasons.

Scott Spratt: Aaron, what was the DVOA of the worst rushing defense of all time? I'm asking for a friend...

Aaron Schatz: 1986 Tampa Bay at 21.2%. The Panthers aren't close to that yet, even after today's game.

Bryan Knowles: It has been an onside kick-happy weekend -- Carolina just recovered an onside kick thanks to a great layout by Jermaine Carter, and all of a sudden, Carolina has the ball down just eight...

Bryan Knowles: Oh, Carolina's goal-line offense. Stop me if this sounds familiar: the Panthers had a first-and-goal from the 1, and couldn't get the ball into the end zone. I think this is the fourth game they've lost this season because they couldn't punch the ball in at the goal line. I mean, they were dead before today, but they pushed the Saints last week! Not so much this week.

Andrew Potter: That sequence bears a little elaboration. A D.J. Moore catch-and-run almost reached the goal line, but he was tackled just short to bring up first-and-goal. Two Christian McCaffrey handoffs lost a yard each, placing the game in the hands of Kyle Allen. On third down, Allen threw straight to Quinton Dunbar under the goalposts (targeting Moore again) but Dunbar dropped the game-sealing pick. On fourth down the Panthers went five-wide. Allen took the snap, went backward, delayed, went backward … and backward … and backward, until he was eventually sacked at, I'm not kidding, the 25-yard line, and inevitably fumbled. Terrible situational awareness, terrible pocket awareness. At some point on fourth-and-game you really do need to just heave and hope.

Vince Verhei: This is amazing.

Scott Spratt: Amazing is one word for it, Vince.

Green Bay Packers 31 at New York Giants 13

Scott Spratt: I love that it's snowing in New York while the Giants are hosting the Packers. Talk about a road game at home.

Vince Verhei: It's the first day of December and I think this is the first real snow game of the year, which is always fun, but Fox's enhanced field graphics are really distracting. You want to clarify the 5-yard lines and sidelines, that's fine, but the numbers and 1-yard ticks along the sideline are just too much. Every time a player steps on one they enter the shadow zone.

As for the actual game, slippery conditions often give the edge to the offense, because they can act while defenders must react. That's true so far today -- at the end of the first quarter, the quarterbacks are a combined 12-of-15 for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Packers up 14-7, but the Giants just got a first down on an unnecessary roughness foul on Blake Martinez.

Bryan Knowles: I'm surprised this score is 17-13 ... and as I type that, Rodgers finds Davante Adams on third down in the red zone to extend their lead. Stop me if you've heard this one before: Aaron Rodgers had a free play on an offside and took advantage to throw deep and score.

Tennessee Titans 31 at Indianapolis Colts 17

Rivers McCown: I swear these teams run the same playbook. Play-action, run-heavy, and then mix in some empty for some easy gains too. Tennessee has seemed to be doing a little better so far, but Derrick Henry's fumble gave them a short field.

Another missed Adam Vinatieri field goal -- ambitious from 55 after a false start ruined a fourth-and-1 -- and the Titans start their third drive with good field position.

Vince Verhei: Adam Vinatieri is something like 200 years old and has been having a terrible year. If I have to choose between giving him a 55-yard field goal try or going for it on fourth-and-6, I'm not kicking. But Frank Reich makes the conservative choice, and Vinatieri predictably pushes the kick wide and to the right.

Dave Bernreuther: And now the Titans block a kick. I guess I'm not going to put that one on Vinatieri, but damn, it's really just not his year.

Rivers McCown: One telling stat for this game is that Tannehill has already taken five sacks at halftime. The earlier ones were blitzes that got home -- one important one was Darius Leonard inside and coming untouched past the center. The last two were just base rushes in a two-minute offense.

The Colts have also not done much against the blitz. Jacoby Brissett just doesn't read it very well. 10-7 Colts at halftime in a game that very much feels like a battle to make fewer mistakes.

Vince Verhei: Tannehill strikes me as a Jared Goff type, who looks great when his first read is open but much worse if he has to go through progressions or escape pressure. That would explain his bad sack numbers, which have been a constant for most of his career.

Bryan Knowles: Every time I look over to this one, Jacoby Brissett is hitting a good pass. A big third-down hit to Jack Doyle sets up Nyheim Hines for a 1-yard touchdown, and we have a 17-7 lead. Colts look like they're tired of the Titans hanging around in the division race.

Vince Verhei: But then Derrick Henry answers. His four runs on the next drive go for 7, 34, and 6 yards, and then finally on fourth-and-1 he takes a pitch to the left and rumbles through the Colts defense for a 13-yard touchdown. He's at 123 yards on 15 carries, still in the third quarter, and the Colts lead is just 17-14.

Vince Verhei: Well, we have the hands-down weirdest officiating moment of the day. First-and-10, Tannehill throws to A.J. Brown right at the first-down marker. Brown drops it and the refs rule incomplete. Colts challenge, saying it should be a catch and fumble, and they recover. Replay determines that it WAS a catch, and it WAS a fumble, but there was no clear recovery by the Colts, so Tennessee retains. However, because the Colts didn't win the challenge, the original incomplete call stands, even though replay showed it was a catch. So it's second-and-10 instead of a first down, and two plays later Tennessee punts. We're tied at 17-all midway through the fourth.

Vince Verhei: Vinatieri has missed one field goal today and had one blocked ... and now in the fourth quarter, he has another blocked, and this one's returned for a touchdown that breaks the tie and puts Tennessee up 24-17.

Vince Verhei: Brissett throws a bad pass into triple-coverage and it's his second interception of the day, this one by Logan Ryan. Third-and-6 two plays later, Tannehill goes deep to Kalif Raymond for a 40-yard touchdown. Titans have scored 24 straight points and now lead 31-17. The Colts were kicking for the lead barely two minutes of game time ago.

Tom Gower: The game ended about three and a half hours ago now, and I've been trying to think about the best way to give my customary recap of that game. Tennessee's offensive performance today had something in common with their offensive performance last week, a seven-point effort with better play-to-play effectiveness than you'd expect from a seven-point performance. A couple of fumbles that gave the Colts short fields put Indianapolis in front, but Jacoby Brissett will probably end up with his front/red zone splits quoted in Quick Reads as the Colts made it inside the Titans' 40 four times in five non-kneeldown possessions in the first half and only had 10 points thanks to a pair of no-good Adam Vinatieri field goals (one blocked). Both teams started the second half with good scoring drives to make it 17-14 Colts. A dreadful Jacoby Brissett overthrow under pressure gave the Titans a tying field goal on a three-and-kick. The second-best Colts drive of the half stalled out in field goal range, and he matched Al !@#$!#@ Del Greco's playoff performance to go for 1-for-4 with two blocked kicks, one of those returned for a crucial touchdown (yes, I hate myself just typing those words, but I can't help myself sometimes). Trailing 24-17, Brissett had another overthrow end up in the hands of a Titans defensive back, and Ryan Tannehill hit Kalif Raymond deep for a 31-17 lead with just over three minutes to play and that was that.

The natural temptation, of course, is to say What It All Means, so here's a go at that:

1. Like last week, the Titans exploded for a bunch more points in the second half after only seven in the first half. This game was not that game. Last week was a Jaguars defense that didn't adjust (well?) to their schematic failings in the first half and was just completely eviscerated. The Colts defense gave up one good drive, a field goal on a non-drive, and one deep play. The Titans otherwise had two gains longer than 20 yards, one on each of their first two touchdown drives.

2. Jacoby Brissett was effective when his first read was open, which Frank Reich did a great job of for most of the game, and completely ineffective when he was not. When he got pressured and his first read didn't lead him to a throw, he was done.

3. Ryan Tannehill had similar issues. Both he and Brissett got hit a ton (the Colts set a season-high for sacks in a game, in the first half). The first touchdown drive was an example of why he's playing over Marcus Mariota and the Titans are happy he is, with his willingness to attack tight windows, but those sacks are basically a feature of his game, which we learned in Miami.

4. The Colts wide receivers against the Titans corners ended up looking like the fourth quarter of a first preseason game. Chester Rogers and Adoree Jackson got hurt early, so it was Logan Ryan (the one exception), Kareem Orr, and Tye Smith covering Zach Pascal, Ashton Dulin, and Marcus Johnson.

5. Every game feels like a must-win elimination game for Tennessee, and today was no exception to that. They're still not likely to win a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Colts, even after the win, but it gave them a win and their foe a loss. A similar scenario awaits next week as they travel to Oakland. The Colts begin a stretch of division games. They're in decent shape tiebreaker-wise in the division, but pending Sunday Night Football they're looking up at Houston at 7-4 and Tennessee at 7-5. Those two teams have yet to meet (thanks, 345 Park schedule-makers!), so there are two more guaranteed losses and the Colts still have hope. But they do need to do better on offense if they're going to get there, because they can't count on their defense to win games for them.

Cleveland Browns 13 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Vince Verhei: Third-and-5 from the 15-yard line, Baker Mayfield hangs in the pocket and finds Kareem Hunt wide open underneath the coverage, and Hunt slips some tackles and goes into the end zone for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead. Cleveland's two scoring drives have totaled 23 plays (the key play on the field goal drive was a Jarvis Landry sideline toe-dragger that was ruled incomplete live but, much to my surprise, switched via replay to convert a third-and-long) and they had a six-play march that ended in a punt too. Steelers have only had two possesions, gaining 9 yards in eight plays so far, almost halfway through the second quarter.

Vince Verhei: Steelers getting back into this. James Washington makes a deep catch down the left sideline, and then the Steelers get creative, with a reverse to Diontae Johnson and a pair of direct-snap runs to Jaylen Samuels. The drive stalls after a false start (which I never saw, even on replay), but they get a field goal to make it 10-3.

Dave Bernreuther: That was a terrible call. Should've been on the defense.

Vince Verhei: Steelers have tied the game on a barrage of long bombs:

  • First down, Hodges throws incomplete deep downfield to Johnson. Sheldrick Redwine was actively trying to interfere, but got lucky when the ball got there at the same time he did.
  • Next play, Hodges goes deep to Tevin Jones for 28 yards.
  • Next play, Hodges goes deep to Washington for a 30-yard touchdown. T.J. Carrie pulled Washington down by the facemask and shoulder before the ball got there, but Washington still made a spectacular catch while falling to his back.

Vince Verhei: Closing seconds of the first half, Baker Mayfield's hand smacks the facemask of a Steelers defender as he's throwing a pass. He immediately jogs to the sideline and straight into the locker room, clutching his thumb. Garrett Gilbert comes in throw a pair of desperate lobs and we hit halftime tied at 10, with Mayfield's status in serious jeopardy.

Vince Verhei: Steelers take a 17-10 lead as another deep ball, a 44-yarder to Washington, sets up a Benny Snell goal-line plunge, Snell's first touchdown of the year.

Mayfield is on the field for Cleveland after the kickoff. The Browns cross midfield and convert a fourth-and-1 at the 40 with a dive up the gut, but then a holding penalty on a wide receiver screen pushes them back, and in long yardage Mayfield scrambles in the pocket and has the ball knocked free, and the Steelers recover.

Vince Verhei: Following the turnover, the Steelers get a first-and-goal, looking to stick the nail in the coffin. And then the Steelers apparently confuse Devlin Hodges for Lamar Jackson, perhaps because they're both wearing black jerseys today. Second-and-goal, they run a quarterback draw for a decent gain. Third-and-goal, they run a quarterback sweep. Designed run all the way, with Hodges' teammates throwing blocks, not running routes. That goes as well as you think it would and brings up fourth down. They kick the field goal for the 20-10 lead but that still feels like a missed opportunity.

Vince Verhei: The big-play results have flopped in the fourth quarter. Mayfield completes three straight passes of 19-plus yards to set up a field goal. First play of Pittsburgh's next drive, Hodges goes deep again, and Terrance Mitchell gets an easy interception. The drive goes nowhere, and Cleveland ends up punting out of a field goal formation. It appears that the ball is downed inside the 1, but Mike Tomlin has challenged that the ball was touched by a Browns player in the end zone and should be a touchback.

Vince Verhei: Call stands, and man that's a hard one. Sure looks like Carlson has a hand on the goal line and a knee on top of the ball, but is it indisputable? Steelers have a first down inside their own 1, up 20-13, 5:35 to go.

Dave Bernreuther: Should be, but isn't. And nobody knows why, including Gene Steratore and Dan Fouts, who called it "flat wrong."

Fouts is right on this one, but he and Ian Eagle have been otherwise awful and horribly annoying to listen to today. Neither one of them has called Devlin Hodges anything other than "Duck" all game, including repeatedly calling him just plain "Duck" -- similar to Madonna or Seal -- which seems entirely unwarranted. Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon, and even if it's his actual long-standing and well-publicized nickname (if it is, I had never heard it till today), it's unprofessional and lazy. It's driving me crazy.

But yeah, even though Tomlin is notorious for making bad challenges ... that non-reversal was every bit as terrible as some of the DPIs that New York has ignored this year. He had every right to complain.

Vince Verhei: Folks have been calling him Duck for weeks now. I saw a photo where he went duck hunting, so maybe that's why? Anyway, it's not new. Annoyingly overused, yes. New, no.

Vince Verhei: Oh, man, third-and-6 after the two-minute warning, needing one first down to ice the win, Hodges has Washington almost totally uncovered down the left sideline but doesn't see him, and ends up throwing the ball away. Cleveland will get one more possession to tie the score.

But no, Mayfield throws behind Landry, former Browns corner Joe Haden gets the pick, and this one's done.

New York Jets 6 at Cincinnati Bengals 22

Bryan Knowles: With a two-game lead in the draft race, the Bengals clearly think they can afford to actually play some football now. The return of Andy Dalton to the lineup has sparked something; he broke Ken Anderson's franchise record for touchdowns in the first quarter, and the Bengals have now scored on three consecutive drives to jump out to a 17-3 lead over the Jets -- the Jets, who have looked so hot over the past three weeks, are in danger of losing to a winless team!

Scott Spratt: A Bengals win would be super dangerous, Bryan. Remember they play the Dolphins in Week 16. Could be the No. 1 pick bowl!

Aaron Schatz: Remember, front offices may be trying to tank and get a better draft pick, but players never are. Do you think it matters to Andy Dalton whether the Bengals get the No. 1 pick to choose his replacement? Draft position isn't going to change his competitive drive.

Dave Bernreuther: I said this earlier to a friend, but it would be the most Jets thing ever to lose to the 0-11 Bengals after thrashing a playoff contender.

And lo and behold, Andy Dalton has the Bengals up by two touchdowns. Being a Jets fan must be infuriating.

Bryan Knowles: The 2017 Browns can pop the champagne. We will not have a winless team this year!

Rob Weintraub: In the immortal words of Etta James, "At … last!" Cincy finally wins one, and the Fish and Skins do too, so we are still in great shape for the top draft pick. Can't ask for more than that. Naturally, Andy Dalton coming back into the lineup to lead the Cats to a win had Bengals twitter going ape, pushing for the team to keep Dalton at quarterback next season and pick Chase Young first overall. Should those events transpire it would prove a form of malpractice so great the league should just step in and let the dudes who picked the top 100 players of all time run the franchise.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 at Jacksonville Jaguars 11

Bryan Knowles: The mustache lives! Gardner Minshew is back in for Jacksonville, as Nick Foles has just been terrible today. Too little too late, both in the game (25-0 Tampa Bay) and the season in general, but hey.

Los Angeles Rams 34 at Arizona Cardinals 7

Bryan Knowles: Other than the NFC East race to the bottom, there's pretty much exactly one NFC team out of playoff position who could still make noise down the stretch -- the Rams. And even they are hanging on by the thinnest of threads, desperately needing to beat Arizona to get to 7-5 and still have a tiny, tiny bit of relevance. They seem to be playing like they know that, too. Arizona's defense held them to two field goal attempts on their first two drives (one missed), but their third drive was an 81-yard touchdown drive, with Jared Goff looking like 2018 Jared Goff, not 2016 Jared Goff. Arizona's first two drives have gone for 5 and 16 yards, so, you know, things could be going better in the desert. Rams have a 10-0 lead early in the second.

Vince Verhei: Rams' first three drives today:

  • 10 plays, 66 yards, field goal.
  • six plays, 43 yards, missed field goal.
  • 10 plays, 81 yards, touchdown.

They're already over 12 minutes of possession in a game that is only 16 minutes old. They're not always scoring but for whatever it's worth, they are really hanging onto the ball.

Scott Spratt: With Gerald Everett out, Rams' second tight end Tyler Higbee has 77 yards and a touchdown in a quarter. The Cardinals are on their normal game as the No. 32 DVOA defense against tight ends.

Bryan Knowles: I thought this would be the best game of an admittedly weak late-game window. With the Rams now up to a 16-0 lead, and Goff up to 255 yards passing in the first half, I may have been mistaken.

Bryan Knowles: Halftime here, with the Rams holding on to a 20-0 lead. This is the Rams from last year, the ones we really haven't seen all year long -- Goff's up to 323 yards passing, Gurley's got 62 yards and a touchdown of his own on the ground; both Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee going off. Twenty-one first downs to Arizona's three; it's an old-fashioned stomping. In a day filled with bizarre results, this may be the most bizarre for me by a significant margin.

Vince Verhei: Rams lead 20-0 at halftime. They have more than 20 minutes of possession time, they have run 47 plays to Arizona's 20, they have outgained the Cardinals 390 yards to 63, and they have the edge in first downs by a margin of 21 to three. Jared Goff is over 300 yards passing. Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee are both over 100 yards receiving. Kyler Murray has completed five passes (one to a wide receiver) and been sacked three times. Again: it's halftime. Hell of a turnaround for L.A. after the Ravens eviscerated them last week.

Scott Spratt: They just showed on the broadcast that 15 of 77 pass interference replays have been overturned this year. Doesn't that rate seem high?

Vince Verhei: Kyler Murray runs in a touchdown to make it 34-7 and Blake Bortles takes the field for L.A.

Reporting for the sake of completeness.

Los Angeles Chargers 20 at Denver Broncos 23

Bryan Knowles: Drew Lock is getting his first career start today; if he hadn't been injured early in the season he probably would have started before December. So far, so good -- 6-for-9 for 54 yards and his first career touchdown, as the Broncos take a 7-0 lead late in the first.

Derrik Klassen: Drew Lock!

In the first quarter of his NFL career, Lock hits Courtland Sutton down the right sideline for a touchdown. Sutton needed to extend and pull it in with one hand, but hey, for a rookie quarterback in his first start, you take those. Lock does have the benefit of 12 weeks on the bench before having to play, but credit to him for coming out strong in his first appearance. Won't at all be surprised when Lock tosses a pick later in this game, though. Lock has always been a volatile player. Good thing Broncos fans are used to that from their quarterbacks.

Bryan Knowles: When writing the Denver chapter this year, I became convinced that Lock is Jay Cutler with a friendlier personality, so Broncos fans have a lot of experience with this kind of player.

Derrik Klassen: Lock did it again!

Didn't ask his wide receiver to make a crazy catch the second time around. With the offense inside the 10-yard line, Lock slipped around the pocket a bit before sliding up to fire from a bit of an odd platform. Lock has always been able to throw from weird platforms, though, because he's so good at finding a comfortable arm slot and he has the raw strength to make it work. When he's on, Lock is a lot of fun and it's showing early in this one.

Bryan Knowles: Kicker-coach controversy! Brandon McManus was coming out to try a record 65-yard field goal to end the first half, but Vic Fangio called him off the field. McManus shouted some unprintable words and chucked his helmet at the ground. To add injury to insult, the Broncos got called with a delay of game. The ensuing play is a good gain from Drew Lock, but not one that gets into the end zone, so it's just a 17-10 lead at half for the Broncos.

Vince Verhei: In Denver?

With a 17-10 lead?

And you don't give him a shot?


Bryan Knowles: I'm not sure how Keenan Allen gets lost in coverage, but hey, a touchdown is a touchdown. The entire third quarter was eaten up by punts, but the Chargers have opened up the scoring in the second half to tie it at 17 in the one remaining competitive game, even if it's between two noncompetitive teams.

Bryan Knowles: Well, now Broncos fans can say they've had the full Drew Lock experience, with Denzel Perryman picking him off on a route Lock stared down the entire way.

Vince Verhei: The Broncos kicked a go-ahead field goal with 4:26 to go. The Chargers then managed to kill two minutes and nine seconds, and also lose a timeout ... without even picking up a first down. They called a timeout to discuss a fourth-and-1 play, then committed a false start anyway to bring up fourth-and-6. But now down to two timeouts (plus the two-minute warning), they pretty much still have to go for it.

Bryan Knowles: And a SECOND false start, bringing up fourth-and-11. Chargers going to Charger.

Bryan Knowles: Fourth-and-1? Too easy. Fourth-and-11 is the kind of play that Phillip Rivers likes; bombing one out to Mike Williams to keep the game alive!

Vince Verhei: But then Mike Williams runs downfield, falls down, recovers, and THEN catches a ball deep downfield in field goal range.

The Chargers are going to tie this game but then lose on a 70-yard field goal and all of our Chargers losses BINGO cards will spontaneously explode.

Rob Weintraub: But no! Mike Williams stumbles, almost falls, then recovers in time to make a sensational grab on the fourth-and-11 heave down the left sideline. L.A. in business at the two-minute warning.

Dave Bernreuther: Please tell me that the Chargers didn't just get into a totally makeable fourth-and-1 and then commit TWO consecutive false starts.

My god. They did. There aren't even words for that.

Thankfully, Rivers summoned his old self and hit Williams for 38 yards to keep the game alive, because that would have been a really stupid way for this game to end.

Vince Verhei: Chargers get a fourth-and-1 at the 28. They line up to go for it, wait till the play clock hits one second, then call timeout. The clock was running, so only 19 seconds left as they try to tie the game. So, uh, why didn't the Broncos call timeout? Well, the kick is good, and the game is now tied with 14 seconds to go.

Bryan Knowles: The Chargers get to ANOTHER makeable fourth-and-1, with two timeouts left and a minute left on the clock. They decide, instead, to drain the clock and kick the game-tying field goal. Booooo!

Bryan Knowles: Eight seconds left, and the announcers agree: you just take a knee here and go to overtime.

Wisely, the Broncos disagree, and bomb one out … and the Chargers commit pass interference in field goal range, so they'll get a kick to win. Oh, Chargers.

Aaron Schatz: Oof. Chargers loss bingo has reared its ugly head again, as Casey Heyward commits DPI on a desperation downfield pass to Courtland Sutton and it puts the Chargers into field goal range with three seconds left.

Vince Verhei: I was close, dammit.

That was some horrible, horrible clock management at the end of the game by both teams. Chargers bailed out by one big catch downfield. Broncos bailed out by the NFL's ridiculous spot-foul pass interference rule.

Rivers McCown: Friend: "What are the Chargers doing?"

Me: "What are the Chargers ever doing?"

Rob Weintraub: The NFL is a billion-dollar business, the players and coaches work impossibly hard year-round, and yet games are decided on such falderol and gimcrackery as that pass interference call and huge yardage gained as a result. Never ceases to amaze.

Oakland Raiders 9 at Kansas City Chiefs 40

Scott Spratt: Normally you're OK with Patrick Mahomes violating all the rules of quarterbacking, but that deep throw across his body from the right sideline to the middle of the field should have been intercepted. Nevin Lawson dropped an absolute bunny and cost the Raiders a good amount field position in the process following a Chiefs punt.

Vince Verhei: Checking in here midway through the second quarter.

The Chiefs' first two drives both started in Oakland territory after Raiders turnovers (Tyrann Mathieu intercepting Derek Carr and Trevor Davis fumbling away a kickoff return). They scored a touchdown on the first one, but the second ended when Darrell Williams was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the 15. Combine that with Mahomes' near-interception, which had a good chance at being returned for a touchdown, and it has not been a stellar day for the Kansas City offense.

For Oakland, Josh Jacobs has eight carries for 55 yards, but on fourth-and-1 in no man's land they take him off the field. The fullback Marc Ingold lines up at tailback, but the ball goes to Davis on a jet sweep. With no Jacobs on the field to distract the defense, the Chiefs sniff out the play and hit Davis for no gain. A well-earned zero points so far for the Raiders.

Bryan Knowles: Derek Carr throws his second interception of the day. The first was a lollipop that any defender could have snagged with ease. The second saw Juan Thornhill just reading Carr all the way, jumping the route and taking it all the way back to the house. 21-0 Chiefs, as the Raiders are just beating themselves.

Vince Verhei: OK, Kansas City has woken up. Patrick Mahomes runs for a 13-yard touchdown, his first of the year on the ground and only the third of his career. Next drive for Oakland, Juan Thornhill jumps a seam route intended for Tyrell Williams and takes it to the house for a touchdown, and Kansas City's up 21-0.

Aaron Schatz: The Raiders offense basically consists of two guys, Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs. Jacobs has 14 carries for 95 yards against the weak Kansas City run defense but the problem is that eventually he's going to not pick up 8 yards on his first-down carry and you're going to have to throw the ball and then there seems to be nobody Carr can throw to except Waller (three catches, 48 yards). Oakland wide receivers have one catch in the first half.

Daniel Carlson finishes off the last Oakland drive of the half by honking a field goal VERY wide to the left. Chiefs get the ball with 1:04 left.

Bryan Knowles: A video of that field goal, which may be the worst kick of the season. And a Jon Gruden face that sums up the last two weeks for Oakland.

Vince Verhei: Remember those halftime stats I gave in the Rams game? At halftime here, the Raiders have held the ball for more than 17 minutes, and they have outgained Kansas City 189 to 127. They're still down 21-0.

Vince Verhei: By far the most interesting thing in the second half of this hideous game is a unique officiating call. On third-and-goal from the 8, Trayvon Mullen intercepts Patrick Mahomes in the end zone. However, all turnovers are automatically reviewed ... and upon review, it is determined that Mullen interfered with Demarcus Robinson. So take away the interception, give Kansas City a first down at the 3, and LeSean McCoy runs it in from therefor a 28-0 lead.

Wait. 31-0. Apparently the Chiefs got a field goal in there somewhere.


Aaron Schatz: I have no idea at this point what will make them overturn pass interference. I think there have been more of those reversed pass interferences this week than any other week of the year and I can't tell what separates one from the other.

Aaron Schatz: End of the third quarter, and Oakland still has only one pass reception by a wide receiver. Please get Tyrell Williams some help.

Rivers McCown: With Oakland and Indy losing, looks like the driver's seat for AFC South/Final wild card are: Titans, Texans, Steelers.

At this point I think nine wins is probably enough.

Dave Bernreuther: Down 31-0 in the fourth quarter and in the red zone, Jon Gruden sent out the field goal unit, and mercifully, the local CBS affiliate switched over to the Broncos-Chargers game. Congrats to Gruden for once again keeping a shutout off his resume.

Matching 34-3 thumpings in consecutive weeks would be appropriate. This week it's against a good team, so I guess that counts as improvement.

Bryan Knowles: Oakland gets a late touchdown to salvage a little bit of dignity.

And then the extra point is blocked, and returned for two points for Kansas City, to take it right back.

New England Patriots 22 at Houston Texans 28

Aaron Schatz: Early in this game, these teams seem determined to try to run the ball on each other. There have been a lot of third-and-mediums.

Bryan Knowles: I'm not sure Kyle Van Noy on Duke Johnson is something the Patriots want to do too much of during the game; Johnson burns him for a touchdown to give the Texans a 7-3 lead.

The short field was set up by a Tom Brady interception. Bradley Roby jumped the route -- I think it was a sloppy route by N'Keal Harry, though you'd expect someone like Brady to see that and not throw the ball that way. Even the Pats' defense can't hold up against short fields like that!

Rivers McCown: I think you can argue it makes sense on both sides. The Texans got rolled by the Colts and Ravens their last two games, and they're down Angelo Blackson and Brennan Scarlett in their base package.

Then the Texans don't have a lot of incentive to throw against the greatest pass defense of all time unless they've got a mismatch somewhere.

Aaron Schatz: Duke Johnson is the mismatch, apparently. If the Patriots can't cover Johnson, they're going to have even more problems with Kansas City's running back patterns next week.

Bryan Knowles: Well, running backs in the pass game was their weakness, in that they were 10th in the league rather than first by a longshot. Worth noting they were sixth against tight ends, too, and both Darren Fells and Jordan Akins have had big plays against them so far.

Dave Bernreuther: Rob Gronkowski, L.A. Lakers Cheerleader.

And now we have seen everything.

Carl Yedor: Bill O'Brien's approach to the end of half seemed a little bizarre there. Running on second-and-long made it feel like he was happy with the lead that he has currently (yes, there was over a minute left for New England to mount a drive) rather than there being some sense of urgency to try to put more points on the board. Sometimes we see coaches play it a little more conservatively before half when they're getting the ball to start the third quarter, but New England gets the ball first instead. So you'd think that with the amount of time remaining, Houston would be somewhat more aggressive with its play calling. There is the issue of time on the clock, but with two timeouts, the Patriots had more than enough time to get some sort of points out of their ensuing drive. Doesn't end up costing them any points because the Patriots' drive stalls out just outside of field goal range, but New England does still get the ball to start the second half.

Rivers McCown: I assure you it's entirely consistent with O'Brien's history.

Boy it's nice to see a short-passing offense that works. Duron Harmon talked earlier in the week about how the Pats would run more Cover-2, and the Texans have an advantage in the secondary weapons department that most teams don't have.

Aaron Schatz: Brady got rescued from his second interception by a (correct) holding call but he still telegraphed that pass right to Bradley Roby. A couple plays later, he just threw it past Rex Burkhead. He's straight-out missing guys tonight. The whole offense is discombobulated, but it's not just about whether the receivers can get separation. Brady is not playing well.

Derrik Klassen: Any discussion about whether or not Tom Brady is truly washed/done isn't interesting to me, but if nothing else, he doesn't make for compelling entertainment right now. It's just not fun watching him play right now.

Bryan Knowles: I'm glad that we could spend those five minutes reviewing a 35-yard touchdown pass by Deshaun Watson, just so we could do another 35-yard touchdown pass by Deshaun Watson on the very next play. I think that was the third big deep shot Watson has hit tonight, against the best deep-ball defense in the league coming in. If you can beat New England at what they do best...

Rivers McCown: Well, those both came on man. The other deep catches have been in zone.

I think one thing we've learned tonight is, absent some real changes, that there's not a lot of catch-up ability for the Patriots. They aren't coming back in deep negative game scripts.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots finally score a touchdown after two penalties give them a first-and-30 and they somehow convert it with a 44-yard pass to a weirdly wide-open Julian Edelman. James White catches a flare pass for the score. And the Pats line up to go for two and ... take a delay of game penalty? Do you really want to move your new scrap-heap kicker back 5 yards for the extra point?

Apparently you do, and he misses it. So now it's 21-9.

Bryan Knowles: New England responds with their longest touchdown drive since the opening drive of the second half against Philadelphia -- and that's not counting the extra yardage they had to pick up after 30 yards of penalties.

Carl Yedor: Seemed like New England was going to go for it if they liked the look they saw from Houston's defense, which seems a bit strange because by not going for it, if you assume that the PAT will be made (which it obviously wasn't) you are then hoping that you then get a better look when you try a two-pointer later in the game? This is under the assumption that you're trying to tie the game with one more touchdown and field goal after this sequence. But Kai Forbath's miss makes that all go out the window.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots just sent a blitz that looked like the "Engage Eight" from Madden. I think it was only seven, actually. The defenders didn't get to Watson and he found DeAndre Hopkins open easily because Stephon Gilmore had to protect against the deep pass with no safety help. I don't think the Cover-0 is working against Watson tonight, kids.

Rivers McCown: The result of this game defies the results of any Houston football team I've ever seen before so I am very confused, but I will accept that this is happening.

Tom Gower: We finally saw Houston look like DVOA's 26th-ranked defense, but too late for it to make a difference in the game. As Rivers said, not the sort of positive result you expect from a Houston-based football team.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, man, I thought the Patriots had that last onside kick there, just for a moment. That would have been one of the most painful losses in a long time had the Pats come back, but the Texans prevent defense failed to prevent victory.


112 comments, Last at 04 Dec 2019, 4:23pm

1 Calling him :Duck"

Hodges is a champion duck caller. (And he went hunting Tuesday with James Washington as a quarterback-receiver bonding experience.)

2 A bit early to crown the…

A bit early to crown the Pats defense "the greatest pass defense of all time", no? They've faced four above average quarterbacks (one in a windy, driving rainstorm, one with no receivers in heavy wind), and two of them have lit them up. Next week should be interesting; Chiefs can't really run the ball, so it'll be a matchup of strength against strength (and the Pats being at home will probably give us a better sense for how they'll look in an actual playoff head-to-head with one of these teams). Also looks like the Pats struggles on offense have more to do with a lack of weapons than Brady, to me at least. Still don't get why they jettisoned Gordon, at least he'd scare teams away from doubling Edelman as much you'd think

5 If you are going to add…

If you are going to add qualifiers about the defense, you need to include the illness that swept through the locker room this week.

As for weapons, NE has done a lot more with a lot less, so there is something unique going on.  Whether it's Brady or the team still struggling to get a firm grip on things after all the turnover, it's hard to say.  Earlier it was easy to attribute much of the struggles to awful pass pro, but that clearly wasn't the root of the problem.

Gordon earned his way off the team by being mediocre on the field and, according to a few reports, showing signs of being unreliable off the field.  Which is a real problem given his history.  I'd say the team deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one.  

11 Receiving corps isn’t great…

Receiving corps isn’t great but they’re not so bad that the offense should be this bad. 

Personally I think it’s a combination of some Brady physical decline plus, more importantly, him mentally checking out at some level. His attitude, at least in public, has not been good this season.

BB may not have lost his locker room, but I think he’s at least half lost his QB.

30 Brady

Brady isn't "mentally checking out".  He's pissed off.  And that makes him withdraw into himself.  His "attitude" is fine.  

"BB may not have lost his locker room, but I think he’s at least half lost his QB."

This is completely ridiculous.  

Brady's issues are with the offense - his receivers aren't getting open and he might have issues with the playcalling.  If you'd said he was getting upset with McD, I might believe you.  But Brady and Belichick have won six titles together.  Do you think he's forgotten that because their record is a dreadful .... 10-2?  

Last season they didn't win 10 of their first 12 games and they won the Super Bowl.  Last season they didn't get their 10th win until their 15th game.  

Brady has a much better perspective on the big picture than a lot of fans seem to.  

36 Brady isn't "mentally…

In reply to by RickD

Brady isn't "mentally checking out".  He's pissed off.  And that makes him withdraw into himself.  His "attitude" is fine.  

That fourth sentence seems to contradict the three that came before it.

We're critical of Rodgers getting a coach canned for the same trait. Either it's fine in both cases or it's not.

43 I think the Patriots,…

In reply to by RickD

I think the Patriots, Belichick, and Brady get psychoanalyzed far more than other teams (though that comes with being an outlier on either the good or bad end of the success scale), but I also don't think it's ridiculous to speculate that a 42 year old quarterback that already has six titles might be starting to check out a little.  I doubt it's because Brady has lost faith or confidence in Belichick; rather, it's moreso because - hyperbolic statements like "I'll play until I'm 50" aside - he's at the end of his career and probably getting tired, both mentally and physically, of playing football a little bit.

54 This is nonsense.    Edelman…

In reply to by RickD

This is nonsense. 


Edelman and white aren't getting open because teams are doubling them. You'll notice that Houston stopped.doubling them and that's when NE started scoring points. 

Watch the all 22 - Brady is getting plenty of time and the 3rd and 4th looks are getting open pretty often - he's just not throwing to them.  


He's either just locking onto his favorites, or he can't make his reads fast enough anymore.  


It doesn't really matter which, as he's not in a place where he's going to make major changes in his game. 


Brady is a major problem at this point. 


60 Edelmen & White

This is right - mostly.

"Edelman and white aren't getting open because teams are doubling them. You'll notice that Houston stopped.doubling them and that's when NE started scoring points. 

Watch the all 22 - Brady is getting plenty of time and the 3rd and 4th looks are getting open pretty often - he's just not throwing to them."

The first part is undoubtable correct - however the second part is less conclusive. I was looking at the PFR data - Brady actually targeted Dorset, Sanu & Meyers a combined 18 times (8/18 for 75 yds, no TD's & an INT). Brady distributed the ball more last night than it intuitively appeared at least to me, but the performance on those throws was horrendous (including several drops & route miscommunications). At this point I think it's fair to place some blame for that on Brady (when 10 men tell you your drunk you better lay down), but exactly how much is hard to say. We saw this set of problems before at the end of Welker's tenure in NE (leading to a couple playoff disappointments because the offense was predictable) - and everything got better after letting Welker walk and forcibly moving the offense to a new paradigm, but I don't think at this point there is time left in Brady's career to make a similar re-invention.

It's really unfortunate for the Pats that the timing didn't work out for Jimmy G because it's sure looking like they have a set of players on defense that are going to give themselves a couple years of championship window that are at risk of being ruined by a really tough situation on the offensive side of the ball without a clear way forward.


78 Given that the Pats have won two superbowls

since that trade, and the 49ers just now finally going to get back to the post season... I'm guessing that the Pats are fine with how that worked out. 

Though, if Belichick is as cold blooded with Brady as he is in most of his player management then Brady gets cut this off season and the Pats sign Rivers in FA while drafting and grooming a long term replacement.

105 Haven't actually watched…

Haven't actually watched much of him this year, so I guess I'll take your word. Their are several veteran QBs who Belichick could probably work wonders for on the market this season.

My point was more about the Brady needing to be replaced and Belichick being unwilling (so far) to act on that, than about who the replacement actually will be.

106 That plan sounds fairly…

That plan sounds fairly ambitious.  I'm not sure who you think they can acquire right now that would be better than Tom Brady to win a championship with.  Maybe 15 humans on Earth, none of which are likely available.

Their are several veteran QBs who Belichick could probably work wonders for on the market this season.

Come on now.  Name one who is going to be an improvement over Brady.

102 "If you are going to add…

"If you are going to add qualifiers about the defense, you need to include the illness that swept through the locker room this week."

God, I think this week's proved that while the Patriots defense may not be "one of the best of all time" they're definitely "the most asterisked of all time."

We've got like, what, four asterisks at this point?
*: primarily against the Dolphins, Jets, Bills, Giants, and Redskins
*: also with help from a monsoon
*: not valid against Lamar Jackson
*: not valid with illness

It's not even like I'm trying to make excuses or anything: I just have no idea how to evaluate them at all.

100 I was thinking the same…

I was thinking the same thing in re: Gordon while watching the game.  He wasn't having a great year, and I don't know how much his reported chronic tardiness and non-attentiveness was a problem, but least defenses had to account for him.  Since he's been jettisoned, New England cannot reliably move the ball.  With all due respect to Mohammed Sanu, who I think is a great football player, he's not a guy who's going to demand any particular attention.

I understand the offense's love for slot receivers, but drafting Harry and trading for Sanu just gave them an incredible redundancy with no credible deep threat.  It's amazing to me that a guy as fast as Dorsett cannot get open when the defense barely accounts for him.

3 It's interesting the…

It's interesting the Football Outsiders DVOA playoff report still gives the Redskins a 0.00% shot at making the playoffs despite the fact that they can still technically sneak into the playoffs.

7 Well those odds are based on…

Well those odds are based on their monte-carlo game simulations I think... not on what's mathematically possible. If their simulations don't come up with the Redskins making the playoffs in 10,000 simulations, then they'll be at 0.00% odds.

112 I wonder what their actual…

I wonder what their actual odds are of winning the Super Bowl. Let's say 0.05% to win the division. Then, as a 7-9 #4 seed, they'd probably be around 10-point dogs in each game, which would be 0.2^4 = 0.16%. That amounts to... just under 1 in a million!

Yet Vegas gives them 10,000 to 1. As someone here pointed out, most people have a hard time distinguishing 1,000-1 (or even 100-1) from 1,000,000-1.

4 Golly, if Deshaun Watson had…

Golly, if Deshaun Watson had just a little more velocity on his throws, he could be a good NFL starting quarterback.....

6 Bengals tanking? Unlikely

I think the accusations of teams tanking is being thrown around pretty callously here. Right now there are 11 NFL teams with 4 or fewer wins with four games to play. Since as far as I know no NFL front office has been caught sending memoranda to the coaching staff encouraging them lose games, because that would be pretty awful, I'm assuming that most of those teams are going with good faith plans to compete for a title in some fashion. They may be TERRIBLE plans, but they are plans.

We can rule out the Falcons, Chargers Lions and Broncos as tankers. These teams are largely just disappointing and/or poorly run. The Jets and Cardinals theoretically drafted QB's of the future recently, with varying amounts of success. Technically the same goes for the Giants.

That leaves Jacksonville, Washington, Miami and Cincinnati as tanking suspects.

The Washington Racistnames are just a terrible organization. If they were actually trying to tank they would be sitting at six wins and inexplicably competing for a division title before melting down in December.

The Dolphins are bad enough, and they have certainly made some questionable personal decisions. But if they are tanking they made a terrible decision handing the ball to Fitzmagic, guaranteeing at least 2 inexplicable victories a year.

The Jags... the Jags are definitely tanking the way Cleveland did to get to the Mayfield era, stocking draft picks and not trying to really compete this year.

The Bengals? The Bengals aren't good, and the Dalton/GreenFitzpatrick team is definitely ready for a rebuild. But this team is nowhere near as terrible as they have looked this year. Five of their losses have been by a TD or less, and that includes the "Let's seen what Ryan Finley can do" era. They haven't cut veterans willy nilly, in fact they kept Gio Bernard around to play security blanket to the next QB.

So the Jags and Fins may be tanking. The Bengals are just being Bengals.

13 Why can you rule out the…

Why can you rule out the Lions?

When they fired their most-successful coach in half a century for a fired Patriots coordinator, traded away their best defender for peanuts, and benched their franchise QB (and sole offensive weapon), what did you assume the intent was?

28 Miami is clearly tanking

They had eight undrafted defensive backs for the game this week. They had their owner flying to Alabama games to scout out their then future QB. I think what is clear is most coaches understand that 0-16 gets them fired. I don't think anyone counted on the Eagles, Colts and Jets playing so poorly against a team that averages less than 2 ypc on the ground. In addition, no one wants to be winless as a head oach. Miami's playing Fitz or Rosen is a terrible decision for the GM and owner, but clearly trying to win games is a good decision for the coach. If the coaching staff isn't trying to win games, how does he ever build a winning program? More than that, starting garabage QBs make it impossible to evaluate all the other players. Because Fitzpatrick has been starting, Miami has been able to see their WR and TEs develope this year. Something that didn't happen under Gase. That said, there's no way their starting oline or defensive backfield situation exists if the front office wanted to win a lot games. What makes me unhappy is the fact, Miami probably is better off with Fitzpatrick and Tunsil than the late first round picks they're going to get for them. That said, they're in strong position to still be the 2nd pick in the draft because they have the ammo to move to the 2nd pick if they aren't there. So Flores isn't too worried about next year's draft. The only question left this year is if he can find two more wins from Jets, Giants, Pats and Bengals?  Possible, but unlikely.  At 5 wins with that team, it's pretty amazing or rather condeming at the general state of the league. Depending how you see it.  

34 Fitzpatrick is weirdly the…

Fitzpatrick is weirdly the perfect QB for a bad team.

He's too reckless and high-variance for good teams, but those same attributes are positives for a bad team that needs to take ridiculous shots in order to win. He's a Hall guy so long as he never has to start for a >.500 team.

40 Dolphins ownership may be tanking

but Flores definitely isn't.

BTW, we all noticed that the Dolphins, Redskins, and Bengals all won yesterday, right?  

Tanking doesn't work as a strategy in the NFL because the end result is most everybody gets fired.  So none of the current players or coaches has any incentive to lose games.  Brian Flores, Bill Callahan, Adam Gase, and Zac Taylor all want to keep their jobs.  

Also, tanking doesn't work in the NFL because the marginal difference in draft status isn't enough to make a difference.  The difference between drafting #1 and drafting #32 is one player.  In the NBA, one player can make an enormous difference.  That's just not true in the NFL.  Yes, it's important to get the "right QB", but top pick QBs do not have a great track record, eiither.  For every Peyton Manning, there is more than one Tim Couch. And even Peyton Manning couldn't win anything by himself.  

42 Highly-drafted QBs still…

Highly-drafted QBs still have a better track record than QBs acquired through virtually any other manner. And to the extent that teams like the Dolphins or Browns a couple of years ago have tanked, it hasn't just been about losing games on purpose to try to pick as high as possible in one draft, it's been about accumulating multiple first and second round picks over multiple seasons. To do that, you end up stripping the roster for parts and essentially guarantee they won't be able to compete for the playoffs, even if they do play hard.

44 I the case of Miami's tank its more than just one player

They have 5 number 1 picks the next two years. More than that they've stock piled 100 million plus in future cap space and lots of 2nd, 3 rd round picks as well. The idea wasn't gambling for one player. It was to clear the team out from the Gase era salary cap heck, and at the same time give them lots of future flexability to improve. To do that, though, they needed to field a terrible team this year so they did. Does tanking work? My general opinion is it doesn't work well in the NFL because so rarely does a team line up; the right coach, right draft pick, and have the ability to wait for it all to come together. Still you can see the talent in Cleveland right now. I think Miami would love to have Flores surround by that level of players. Tanking did work for Jimmy Johnson. But he was good at knowing who to keep and who to move. He was his own boss in those days so he didn't have to worry about his GM axing him mid-plan. That's rare. Tanking also works in baseball. Where you can sit a collection of young guys in the minors and bring them all up at once. Houston being the latest example of tanking, then winning. Marlins somehow won two world series this way. The key, though, is stockpiling lots of young talent and bringing them up together. That's Miami's plan. The NBA is really about getting that one guy. 

96 The 1997 Marlins were not built by tanking...

...there was an entire book written about their free-agent spending (If They Don't Win It's A Shame).  As several sportswriters have pointed out, there's a little bit of a disconnect when free spending was just accepted as Standard Operating Procedures for the New York Yankees (who were actually developing a homegrown core in this period) but was somehow unacceptable for this fledgling franchise.

TL;DR; the Marlins *may* have won one World Series by "tanking," but definitely not two.

89 But most tank jobs come down from the owner

He's either talked into it by over confident GMs, or decides to do it and finds the people to do it. Miami's owner is on record of saying he was willing to feel the pain to get to the other side. I think everyone agrees, Miami's coach isn't as cool with that. He didn't come to Miami to get fired after two years.  

8 This should have been a get…

This should have been a get-right game against a mediocre defense, but apparent the issues that plague NE's offense are deeper than mere opposition. They've done more with less, so there is definitely something unique to this season going on. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'll offer hopes rather than criticisms, some more reasonable others mostly wishful thinking.

* I hope Brady's decline is due more to circumstance and not just age catching up with him. * I hope Sanu's best is yet to come and that injuries and newness have held him back.

* I hope Harry can stay on the field beyond the first target.

* I hope that offensive turnover and injuries have forced NE into a prolonged preseason, where they are still trying to get a handle on what strengths they have.

* I hope that, given the lead in the standings and the buffer provided by the defense, developing players and packages the team anticipates needing in the playoffs has been deemed paramount even if that means some struggles now.

* I hope Josh McDaniels can remember how to scheme guys open like the Patriots used to and many teams still do.

* I hope Edelman can get healthy.

* I hope Brady and Meyers can get on the right page.

* I hope when the team finds something that works, they don't go away from it just because.

Given their track record, hoping NE finds themselves by the playoffs isn't exactly blind faith. But this is, at best, a bottom 10 offense right now, so it'll take more magic than usual.

14 What's wrong with the…

What's wrong with the Patriots is that for the first time since Brady was in HS, he's playing behind an offensive line that appears mortal. 

He's suffering from Rodgeritis, wherein he's too old and too rich to deal with the bullshit of trying to scramble away from pressure behind a so-so line in order to throw the ball to idiots who won't catch it anyway. Earlier in his career, he was still establishing himself (and was 20 years younger and faster), and in his late career he had a stellar line and at least one Hall-caliber receiver.

Congrats -- now you know what the other 31 sets of fans have experienced in this millennium.

17 The pass pro was terrible…

The pass pro was terrible with Newhouse at LT, but despite your proclamation otherwise, NE has had plenty of mediocre-to-poor OLs over the years.  Ironically, it was Brady himself who played a key role in keeping things on track during these times, so you are off base on both sides of the discussion.

25 No, he wasn't, but why…

No, he wasn't, but why should that matter?  Are you saying Scar has a magical ability to not only affect the line's performance, but Brady's reaction to it  :)

No, 2005 wasn't good at pass blocking.  Maybe average, that's it.

47 If you can only come up with…

If you can only come up with two bad years in the last 15, that's a lot of good-to-above-average O lines no matter how you cut it. Any NFL team would be thrilled with that level of consistency. Pats fans are currently the league's most spoiled. I say this as a Packers fan which isn't far behind in the spoiled fans derby. 

22 No, the Patriots have not…

No, the Patriots have not had "plenty of mediocre to poor OLs over the years", unless the word "plenty" is stripped of meaning. Did Brady play a big part in making those lines look better? Sure. However, in the overwhelming majority of years the Patriots have blocked with competence, and it is no devaluation of Brady's performance to make that observation.

23 "Plenty" does not need to…

"Plenty" does not need to mean all or even a majority in the context of my response.  A single season should be enough to discredit the idea that Brady has no sense of how to react to pressure.  Hell, just a few weeks is enough, given that this season isn't even over yet.

So, yes, given those parameters, Brady has dealt with "plenty" of stretches with mediocre-to-poor pass pro.  

26 Look, I've argued that the…

Look, I've argued that the 4th quarter of Patriots at Broncos, AFCCG, after Brady was bludgeoned for the previous 150 minutes, was one of the greatest performances I've seen. The quality of throws he was making at the end of that game, under extreme duress, after the hammering he endured, was really incredible. I am not a Brady detractor in the least. I just want the quality of the oline performance in New England, both players and coaches, to be given its due. What they collectively accomplished over a 20 year span is one of the more stunning achievements in league history.

32 We need an Irrational…

We need an Irrational Patriots Supporter form for this site.

I didn't say Tom Brady was academically unfamiliar with the concept of pressure. I said he's enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in terms of line play over his career. He's not alone in this -- Brees and Aikman had long stretches of elite line protection, with Romo, Rivers, McNabb, and Roethlisberger not too far behind. 

But Brady has never had to run for his life like Wilson, Watson, Luck, or Stafford regularly did, or been asked to make Kanutean defiances of the tide like Warner was.

If you offered my team Brady's line performance since 2000, I would accept and be out of town before you finished the sentence.

57 Romo was also a problematic…

Romo was also a problematic player to block for as he was prone to gunslinging and buying time. Some of the early Garret years, the line was bad but the late Parcells years the line was actually decent and by the latter part of Romo's career, the line had good pieces in Smith and Frederick. It sadly became turbocharged for one year during Romo's tenure.


I think Romo's biggest issue was a defense that would pratfall on cue, leaving Romo in the perpetual state of having to do too much. In that sense, he was stretched too far as a qb, something only a very very handful of qbs can successfully accomplish - ie playing high end qb with very limited mistakes to protect their defense.



58 I would say the years Brady…

I would say the years Brady had bad o lines were 2005, 2015 and some of 2013. 2015 he had a great set of weapons, but 2005 and 2013 he had weak weapons so his numbers were down. I think that jives with common sense - A qb's numbers and play will suffer when the line and or receiving talent is weak and definitely when both are true. 

101 After watching those passes…

After watching those passes come out of his hand Sunday night, I'm wondering if his elbow injury isn't legit.  He's just throwing ugly balls right now.  Even the long gain to Edelman on 1st and 30 was an ugly throw mechanically and aesthetically.

9 Raiders field goal

I'm not complaining, I had the over at 48.5. Maybe Gruden did too.

27 Outdated Lead-in

"(If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.)"

It'd be great if you'd update this lead-in to something relevant given that the Bills are back to being an interesting and competitive team.

31 I'm pretty sure that's a…

I'm pretty sure that's a reference to the rooting interests of the writers.  It might still be outdated, but not in the way you think.  Aaron might be the lone Patriots fan these days, and Vince the lone Seahawks fan, when previously, there were several more.  I still don't believe anyone on the staff is a Bills fan, though, so the Bills part is likely still relevant.

66 There's usually a good…

There's usually a good amount of Bills fans on FO for whatever reason (myself included), so at least there usually tends to be a better-than-average amount of comments directed about the team after Audibles gets posted.

That being said, I was disappointed there we no Audibles from Thanksgiving day to give the Bills their due. After all, that was probably their biggest win in the last 20 years besides from the luckbox game Fitzpatrick had vs the Patriots 7 or 8 years ago. But beating the Cowboys on a national stage with a flawless performance by JOSH ALLEN and a obvious coaching mismatch of McDermott vs Garrett to me was the best Bills game I've witnessed in my 30 years of existence, hands down. It felt so sustainable because it was spearheaded by a QB/Coach combo and there were no lucky breaks. If anything, the Cowboys were the benefit of some absolutely bogus calls. 

That being said, I am a Bills fan and I fully expect them to lose the next 4 games and miss the playoffs entirely. This performance came somewhat out of nowhere and I'm still holding my breath to judge if they've actually arrived. At the very least, this team is extremely fun to root for, cohesive, and full of upstanding citizens that represent upstate New York immaculately; a fan can ask no more. There is no poetic justice in sports, evidenced by the loathsome pond of scum in New England that has dominated the NFL for the past 17 years, but this year, hopefully the good guys will come out on top.

70 Bills in playoffs

As a Saints fan, an AFC team like the Bills is one I can root for w/o betraying my own team. The Bills really only have to beat the Steelers to make the playoffs. That would give them the tiebreaker over the Steelers, and the worst case scenario is they would be tied with them. Mathematically, that would practically clinch a playoff spot (could be some weird tiebreaker scenario where they lose, I guess). Right now, the Bills losing out is the only scenario where they might miss the playoffs--and I don't see them losing to the Jets. In scenarios where the Titans win out, two of their games would be against the Texans--so the Texans would probably miss the playoffs b/c of a collapse. 

Sure, you never want to go bragging about something that might not happen--but at this point, the Bills look very likely to visit KC or HOU on WC weekend. Neither of those scenarios look like fun, but 10-11 wins and the playoffs is nothing to be ashamed of. Not to mention, it makes Buffalo look like a place where a free agent might want to play the next few years without the Bills paying a premium. 

72 These are just my musings,…

These are just my musings, but I think the lack of following of the Bills is the perception that they are a slightly above average team unlikely to go anywhere interesting. They also don't have any particularly interesting skill talent that usually attracts audiences and they are like you said controversy free.


One of my big issues is how sustainable are they going forward. The defense should be competent again next year due to good coaching and talent, but I keep getting a Bortlesesque vibe out of Allen. I don't myself like running QBs and the bills offense isn't in the same time zone as the Seahawks or Ravens. I worry about them next year.

73 I wish more NFL talent…

I wish more NFL talent evaluators felt the way you do.  Then I wouldn't have to see my team struggle with Kyler Murray/Russel Wilson/Lamar Jackson every other week.  I wouldn't have to imagine the troubles they'd have with Josh Allen/Patrick Mahomes/Deshaun Watson/et. al.  Our poor suffering d-linemen would have a target every week, dang it.

75 I am changing my views…

I am changing my views slowly, but a lot of it is based on experience from the past. Most scramble first qbs don't pan out for whatever reason. 

I should add - there is a difference between a qb who is able to move around and a qb that is scramble heavy.

Over his 2 seasons, Josh Allen has a 3 to 1 ratio of passes to run, or about 25 percent of the time. Wilson is around 20 percent over the last two years, but higher earlier in his career. Lamar Jackson is at nearly 50 percent over a career.

These are way above the numbers for players like Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers - their run to pass numbers are around 8 percent. Peyton manning, the figurative human statue,  was around 5 percent for his career and is closer to Mahomes than Mahomes' is to Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen.

Deshaun Watson is around 18 percent for his career. 

In any case - I consider Wilson the outlier - the kind of player who can run efficiently and throw efficiently while avoiding injury. There might not be another player in history that could straddle that so effectively. Lamar Jackson is doing it now at even more extreme level and maybe that's the new norm. Or maybe he's another giant outlier. 

My basic position - a running qb is going to take far more hits per snap than a quick delivery quarterback. And its the injuries that I worry about, especially for Lamar Jackson if he's going to keep up an insane 45+ % of his dropbacks being runs. 

Maybe I'm being a romantic about the traditional drop back passer, but I still believe its the best route to the most consistent and excellent of offenses. 

76 Avoiding contact is a talent…

Avoiding contact is a talent/skill, and some running qbs have it, while most don't. Just like some pocket passers have quick releases, while most don't. My least favorite qb is an immobile pocket passer with a slow release, which may seem obvious, but guys like that (Byron Leftwich,for example) do get taken in the 1st round..

86 No, I'm talking about how…

No, I'm talking about how quickly the ball is airborne once the target is decided upon. How big wind up guys like Leftwich get taken so high is beyond me, and I hated Jamarcus at LSU, before he was high and fat. All the yappers talking about how impressive his Pro Day was, and I just couldn't get it.

87 According to sources, Al…

According to sources, Al Davis wanted to find the next great black quarterback. The article heavily implied that race played a huge factor in the decision.


Its probably politically incorrect to say, but I find that justification repugnant. Can you imagine the howling that would occur if Davis chosen a white qb on those grounds?


If Al Davis was trying to be charitable for a disadvantaged group, he'd have been better off donating the money to actual poor people instead of handing an undeserved, massive payday to Jamarcus. 

88 Well, absent some sense of…

Well, absent some sense of the source, that's really gossip, and who knows the truth of it. The way the guy was raved about, in any case, I'm pretty sure he was going top 5 at worst. All I could see was a looonnnnggggg wind-up.

90 Al pretty openly prized…

Al pretty openly prized speed uber alles, and Russell had that.

Yeah, Leftwich had a release that started on Saturday and finished on Monday. I can't really think of anyone else who was so comically slow, though.

92 Lamar Jackson

1. Jackson will absorb more hits, but it may be that many of them will be "angular" rather than "direct" (hard to describe what I mean, but I think those terms help one visualize it) because of his ability to change direction so abruptly.  This is just an impression, I don't have data to back it up--was RGIII similar in running style?  I saw very little of him, but he seemed to get injured a lot. 

2.  Many traditional drop back passers are injured while being sacked, when a foot or ankle is stepped on, etc.  Is there a way to study comparative injury rates, or is the sample size of 'running' quarterbacks too small?

3.  If Jackson continues to play at his current level and leads his team to a Super Bowl victory or two, but has his career cut short from injuries sustained because of his style, is that a trade-off you are willing to take--(a) as a Baltimore fan, (b) as a football fan, or (c) as Lamar Jackson?

Does it depend on whether Jackson's career is cut short after he signs his second/non-rookie contract? 

93 1) I don't think there is a…

In reply to by young curmudgeon

1) I don't think there is a person in the world, including in Baltimore, that has done a rigorous study on Lamar Jackson's angular hits relative to the average - so as of now its unanswerable


2) The point isn't that only scramble qbs get injured. As you rightfully point out, qbs get injured while in the pocket. But. qb hits are directly correlated with the type of qb. Quick throw drop back pocket passers get hit much less often than scramble first players. Its the total amount of hits that concerns me, not where the hit occurs. 


3) If nothing changes,  is this a good thing for everyone? For Jackson, it depends on how much he weighs a sb vs career earnings, though frankly I bet most nfl players are much happier with tons of cash than a Lombardy trophy or two. If this potentially causes a short career, he definitely should not be ok with it.


For the Ravens, its complicated but I think they too need to be thinking long term. The value of an elite qb isn't what he brings within each season - a sb is largely about the supporting casts because in the playoffs, the difference isn't between qbs but the respective teams and who happens to be lucky/less injured. The value of a qb is how long the window is. An elite qb gives you a ton of bites at the apple and you just hope one or two years things align. The Ravens are rightfully in the midst of an awesome season, but they really need to think hard about maybe shifting his style in the offseason to preserve his health. That's my take. 

108 One thing you have to look…

One thing you have to look at, though, is how those runs have changed for Allen over the course of the last 12 games.

Last year it was pure scramble, with a very few designed QB runs and a lot of Hero Ball.

At the beginning of this year, there was some Hero Ball and some signs that he was becoming more Wilson-esque (or maybe Newton-esque, anyway).

Now he does it when it's a clear advantage.

I think it's sustainable, and I wasn't expecting much out of the draft pick. The kid learns, though, and isn't that what you really want out of a QB at the end of the day?

79 Subjectively, I think Allen…

Subjectively, I think Allen is going to be better than a Bortles or a Trubisky or even a Mariota. I can't remember one of those guys dismantling a defense on primetime or being a player you watched where came away thinking "that was the best player on the field" like Thursday. His game was seriously that impressive. This is me being a Bills homer, but Allen doesn't lack the confidence of those weak-willed nancy boys.

I agree that Bills offense is nowhere near the Ravens or Seahawks, and Allen really isn't in the same stratosphere as Mahomes/Jackson/Wilson, but that's an unfair comparison and he was the biggest project coming out of the draft. We forget because we've seen so many immediately great QBs that sometimes it takes awhile, and this is especially going to be the case for some extremely raw but talented dingus from Wyoming who hasn't received proper coaching his entire life. He has shown a clear upward trajectory and improvement on certain throws, plus has cut back on his turnovers massively, unlike a Winston who is just never going to get it.

That being said, I don't know if Allen will be elite/MVP caliber player ever because of his inconsistency. The comparison everyone makes is Cam Newton, which I think is accurate. But even more accurate and best-case scenario, is Ben Roethlisberger, who never won an MVP and was spotty at times with his accuracy and decision-making, but mostly figured things out after coming from a small-school. I think worst case, he's Kirk Cousins or Joe Flacco who can run and provides extra value that way.

I think the Bills are sustainable in the same way those old Ravens/Rivera and Newton Panthers/Vikings type teams are, in the sense they'll be good, but never super threatening every year because of their volatility. They can definitely get lucky any given year, though. McDermott's defensive regression was supposed to be coming the last two years and hasn't; if anything, the D is better. We have 80 million in cap space next year and a GM who isn't shortsighted. There is a plan built around growth and maximizing players' potential. They've definitely been the benefactors of an easy schedule this year, but I don't think they'll end up being like the one-and-doners of Chicago and Jacksonville the last few years.

97 Allen's been steadily…

Allen's been steadily improving since he was drafted;  Bortles never showed anything like that, at least until totally managed by Marrone in 2017 (only having to read half the field on plays).  That doesn't look like the way Allen's playing to me

99 Bortles did actually improve…

Bortles did actually improve hugely in his second season, albeit from an horrifically low starting point. His advanced numbers also again jumped from season 3 to 4, albeit, as you mention, performing an extremely limited role for a team with a great defense. 

There’s clearly a lot of context there to explain the statistical improvement, which disguised the fact that he was never on the path to becoming a proficient long-term QB (and it isn’t hindsight to say that; I distinctly recall the ‘garbage time’ punchlines). But still, the numbers don’t lie, the relative improvement was real. There must, after all, surely be a reason he lasted nearly 5 years as a starter beyond blind faith from the team that drafted him. Completely terrible QBs don’t last that long, no matter where they are drafted. He serves as a cautionary tale for organisations (and their fans) of desperate, rose-tinted evaluation of a player on whom they have pinned their hopes and dreams.


33 We will see

In reply to by muscle417

The Bills next three weeks are, Ravens, Steelers, Patriots, and then Jets. The next three weeks are going to show how interesting a play off team they are going to be.  

61 I suspect that Gase is going…

I suspect that Gase is going to keep his job.  Between the injuries (and teenage kissing diseases) and the occasional molly-walloping of decent teams there is probably enough for the Johnsons to talk themselves into keeping him around despite getting blown out by the Bengals.


Also, the Bills have a tendency to just hand the ball to Frank Gore on dive plays once they get a two score lead.  What they did to the Cowboys is pretty much the limit of what constitutes a blow-out for them.

69 As a Bills fan, I was hoping…

As a Bills fan, I was hoping the Jets would keep winning so Gase can keep his job for another year or more. Losing to the Bengals is a horrible look, though, so I'd bet he next year, tops.

McDermott seems to be excellent at preparing and gameplanning, but in his in-gametime decision making has been pretty lackluster at times. I'd compare him directly to coaches like Zimmer in that regard. He does a decent job of identifying when to go for it on 4th downs, but in general isn't aggressive enough with a lead or trying to score points in 2 minute drills before the half. This might be explained situationally because (besides last game) his QB is prone to mind numbingly stupid turnovers at any moment and his defense is top-notch, so there is no reason to risk it. It hasn't come back to bite him at all, but I hope it's something that improves in the future when/if it's evidenced Allen can be trusted or the defense regresses---not a lasting personality trait.

29 Earlier in the season it…

Earlier in the season it seemed hard to figure the Packers out, but it's Week 13 and the same pattern keeps repeating itself: scripted offense looks great on the first couple of drives, after that they get stuck in the mud. Defense allows lots of yardage, but will take the ball away when the opposing offense is willing to give it to them. It's nice to see them win a game by a comfortable margin against a bad team, but they're right on track for a wild card weekend exit.

65 I have to agree with that…

I have to agree with that assessment. They're either ending up with the 3 seed or the 6 seed if Minnesota catches them. A 6 seed would travel to Minnesota. A 3 seed would host... well, probably Minnesota as SF/SEA and NO seem locked into 1-2 and 5.

The Vikings are very possibly the Packers' most likely WC match-up. Just a matter of if it's at home or not. 

50 I thought the unheralded key…

I thought the unheralded key to the BAL-SF game was special teams. The Ravens had:

- a 62-yard punt downed at the 1 yard line.
- an 18-yard punt return.
- a 49-yard field goal.

In addition, the 49ers missed a 51-yard field goal. The teams were mostly pretty even in the first two phases (if anything the 49ers were slightly better, averaging 6.4 yards/play to 4.6), and the turnovers were even, but the Ravens' special teams edge was enough to win them the game.

63 Eh, those first two plays…

Eh, those first two plays didn't matter that much. SF got out of the shadow of their own end zone after Baltimore's punt, and then Baltimore's punt return came after that but they ended up failing on 4th down, giving SF great field position. If either of those two special teams plays turned out differently and everything else stayed the same Baltimore would have just punted on 4th down instead. Also, 6.4 yards per play is significantly better than 4.6.

The difference in making the two 50-yard field goals was crucial of course, as well as where each team fumbled the ball. SF fumbled near their own 20, while Baltimore fumbled near SF's 20, which led to Baltimore getting 7 points off the turnover and SF only getting 3.

67 YPP, but from highlights

IMO, the difference in YPP is that the 49ers had some explosive plays (both their TD's, for example) whereas the Ravens longest play was their first TD to Mark Andrews of 20 yds. Sure, everyone wants explosive plays--but, just from the highlights, I think that the Ravens had more plays that were successful (per FO's definition) than the 49ers did--both in number and percentage. IMO, it begins to wear on a defense psychologically when they feel like they can't get off the field.

I am curious--did the 49ers have a play in the red zone? 

68 San Francisco has, so far…

San Francisco has, so far this season, only had trouble with mobile QBs.  They've destroyed pocket QBs.  If their super-power holds up, they should do well against the Saints next week.  Here's hoping they play some combination of Vikings/Packers/Saints in the playoffs and Patriots in the Super Bowl. 

71 mobile QB's versus Saints

I was talking to my Bears fan co-worker about this. I am genuinely curious how much Sean Payton will use Taysom Hill this week, for that exact reason. Not that Hill is a better QB than Brees, mind you--Hill at QB is a pretty guaranteed option/RPO style play. But with the tiebreaker for HFA on the line, you pull out all the stops.

(I am not saying that the winner of SF/NO is guaranteed HFA--there are a few other games for each team. But NO already has the tiebreaker over SEA, and SF has the tiebreaker over GB; SEA vs MIN is tonight--and both of those teams still can win their division. Going to be interesting!)

94 The 49ers ascent has caught…

The 49ers ascent has caught out the schedulers this year. Ok, so the Ravens/49ers game looked like nothing special at the start of the season, and Deshaun Watson vs. The Patriots was never going to be flexed from prime-time this week. But this coming weekend there was surely an overwhelming case for switching the 49ers & Saints with the Seahawks & Rams on Sunday night? They are basically playing for the NFC's #1 seeding, what could be bigger? And it's not as though the two teams have come out of nowhere: they have been leading the conference for several weeks.

(Indeed what exactly are the rules around flexible scheduling? I figured this late in the season it was fully in play, but I could be wrong.)

95 Pass interference

There were two reviews of DPI in the OAK-KC game. One was a challenge by Reid of a non-call, the other was mentioned in the Audibles as an automatic review of an INT. To me, and I'm biased as a Chiefs' fan, the level of DPI was roughly the same on both plays. I thought DPI should be called on both, but that aside, I thought both should be called the SAME.

For me, a cynical take was that the first call (no DPI) was allowed to stand because it had no major impact (incomplete pass on 2nd down, Chiefs still have the ball just outside the RZ), but the 2nd call (no DP) was overturned because the impact was significant (turnover in the endzone). A different but still cynical take was NY will overturn a call when it's an automatic review but is less likely to overturn in response to a coach's challenge.

While the review of one of the calls was underway, Steratore started riffing on "layers of subjectivity" in calling interference. That probably tells us all we need to know about what constitutes interference.

104 Panthers can't stop the run…

Panthers can't stop the run due to having all their DT's injured and are losing games due to their undrafted backup quarterback not getting it done. So the solution for ESPN's David Newton is to waive Cam Newton and fire Ron Rivera. It's possible Tepper is as stupid as David Newton, but I hope not.