Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry
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.

Cleveland Browns 7 at Pittsburgh Steelers 38

Cale Clinton: Minkah Fitzpatrick's first interception of the year goes all the way back for six. Not sure where Baker Mayfield was looking on the throw. His target was already in tight coverage as is, but Fitzpatrick simply saw and waited to jump the route and take it to the house.

Vince Verhei: It's the end of the first quarter, and I hope you started the defenses today. In addition to his pick-six, Baker Mayfield has been sacked twice, with only two completions. The Browns had a second-and-3 at the Pittsburgh 36, but then Mayfield was sacked, and they ended up punting on fourth-and-10 from the 43 -- a 29-yard punt with a fair catch at the 14. And just now, very early in the second, they had a second-and-4 at the 37 and ended up punting on fourth-and-9 from the 42, with a fair catch at the 12. These mistakes right at the edge of scoring range are probably going to end up hurting them badly.

Or maybe not, because while Ben Roethlisberger has avoided turnovers, but he's only 2-of-8 with a sack himself.

Vince Verhei: And the Steelers offense very quickly gets a touchdown after that last Cleveland punt, driving 88 yards in only seven plays. The biggest of those was a 36-yard gain by Chase Claypool, adding to his Rookie of the Year resume by burning Terrance Mitchell deep down the left sideline inside the 5. James Conner punched it in from there, following a pulling lineman into the end zone for a 17-0 lead.

The Browns have only 46 yards in four drives and need to get something going in a hurry.

Vince Verhei: Was there an outbreak in Cleveland I missed that caused the Browns to miss a bunch of practices? On third-and-12, Mayfield escapes the grasp of T.J. Watt, but still panics and lobs a bad pass off one foot in between two receivers, and Cameron Sutton makes an easy interception. Four plays later, there are two Browns defensive backs in the area of James Washington, but they both stand and look at each other as Washington goes uncovered into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown and a 24-0 lead. This was one of my most anticipated games coming into the weekend, but I just turned it off with five minutes left in the first half to watch the Bears and Panthers instead.

Dave Bernreuther: Mayfield got away with another pick too, heaving one into coverage toward Odell Beckham. There was illegal contact on Joe Haden on the play, though, so it was a free play and forgivable. Especially down 24-0.

Cale Clinton: The Cleveland Browns have had their moments on their four-game win streak, but there still seems to be a great divide between them and the Pittsburgh Steelers. This Steelers defense has managed to hold Kareem Hunt to 3.7 yards per carry, keep Baker to a 50% completion rate while intercepting him twice, and prevent Cleveland from scoring a touchdown longer than any team has done so this season.

Bryan Knowles: Baker Mayfield has been pulled, Case Keenum is in at quarterback.

The Browns were on our list of worst-ever 4-1 teams, though that came with a bit of an asterisk. That asterisk may not be there on the list of worst 4-2 teams.

Chicago Bears 23 at Carolina Panthers 16

Scott Spratt: A penalty on the opening kickoff pinned the Panthers down inside their 10-yard line. Teddy Bridgewater took a sack on second down and just avoided a safety. But he was too bold on third-and-19 and threw the ball into traffic in the middle of the field. It's deflected and intercepted, and now the Bears are on the doorstep of a 7-0 lead just a few minutes into this one.

Scott Spratt: Since that interception, the Bears have gotten to third down, taken a timeout, taken a delay of game after their timeout, and then the Panthers have taken a timeout. So I think I've found the best-played game of the day.

Scott Spratt: I was really confused by the constant love the analyst in this game was giving to Jimmy Graham, even while rookie tight end Cole Kmet scored a touchdown. But I just realized the analyst is Graham's former Saints teammate Jonathan Vilma, so mystery solved.

Scott Spratt: The EdjSports team called out the Bears for punting on a fourth-and-1 from the Panthers' 46-yard line, a 5.0% Game-Winning Chance sacrifice. But the Panthers have now kicked field goals from the Bears' 3- and 2-yard lines today. Not great.

Vince Verhei: Wow, Scott, maybe I should put the Browns and Steelers back on.

Scott Spratt: This game continues to feature unbelievable offense, but not in a good way. On back-to-back-to-back plays, Mike Davis lost a fumble to start the Bears in the red zone.

Nick Foles gave it right back to the Panthers with a terrible balloon-ball interception while backpedaling.

And then Teddy Bridgewater threw a pick-six that was nullified by a pass interference penalty.

Scott Spratt: Robby Anderson had an awesome, diving 39-yard catch to put the Panthers in Bears territory.

But the Panthers opted to try a field goal on a fourth-and-5 from the 36-yard line, and karma pushed that attempt wide right.

Scott Spratt: I may need a ruling from you, Bryan. Can we make fun of the Panthers' run defense for allowing a Nick Foles sneak for a touchdown? It was technically a rushing touchdown, but it came after a missed field goal gave the Bears good field position and after the Panthers stopped David Montgomery on consecutive carries on the 1-yard line. But the kicker: that was the Bears' first points all season in third quarter. What say you?

Bryan Knowles: I think you can give the Panthers' run defense a pass; any time you have to stop multiple rushing attempts from the 1, the odds are heavily in favor of the offense, no matter how porous your defensive line is.

That being said, I'm sure we can find plenty of other reasons to mock the Panthers' run defense.

Scott Spratt: I love that Mike Davis scored another touchdown, but that opportunity was set up on this play that they called defensive pass interference on Jaylon Johnson. Completely unjustified.

Vince Verhei: Panthers down 23-16 late in the fourth quarter. Teddy Bridgewater throws deep to DJ Moore, but it's incomplete, and the Bears take over at the two-minute warning. Game over, right? Wrong! The Bears go run on first and second down to bring up third-and-2, but then pass (?!?!) and Foles throws incomplete. The Bears only killed 15 seconds, and the Panthers are getting the ball back with a timeout.

However! On first down, Bridgewater is intercepted by DeAndre Houston-Carson. Chicago, despite their best efforts to give this game away, are going to move to 5-1.

Scott Spratt: Well that was a roller coaster. DJ Moore nearly made a spectacular catch on a fourth-and-1 with under two minutes left. The Bears got the ball back and needed one first down to end it. Instead, they ran into two timeouts and threw incomplete on third down. A punt gave the ball back to Teddy Bridgewater with a minute and a half, but then he immediately threw a game-sealing interception. That sequence neatly captured the essence of the entire game.

Baltimore Ravens 30 at Philadelphia Eagles 28

Vince Verhei: Baltimore's first touchdown today was so fun. Just Lamar Jackson doing Lamar Jackson things. It looked like a basketball play, with Jackson cutting back and forth like a point guard dribbling between his legs, then dishing off to a forward on a backdoor cut to the hoop.

Bryan Knowles: The Eagles moved the ball effectively on their first drive! That is, they moved it very effectively backwards, absorbing a sack and then losing 6 yards on a running back screen. So, you know, that's less than ideal.

Their first defensive stand was a little better, fording Baltimore into a pair of third-and-10-or-mores. That's a good start for defending the Ravens offense! Unfortunately, Lamar Jackson was able to rather effortlessly convert both of those third downs, making it look far too easy. Philadelphia also did a good job covering a play inside the 10, forcing Jackson to improvise! Unfortunately again, Jackson might well be the best quarterback in the game at improvising, sort of shoveling the ball back to Nick Boyle for a touchdown and the early 7-0 lead.

Vince Verhei: We should add that the Eagles nearly converted a third-and-23 on their first drive when the Ravens blew coverage on John Hightower, but Hightower dropped what should have been an easy catch.

Dave Bernreuther: Not watching this one but saw the highlight and just wanted to mention how much I appreciate Vince's awesomely descriptive, uh, description of it as a basketball pass.

Bryan Knowles: Carson Wentz does fumble a lot -- he just put the ball on the ground for the fifth time this year -- but I think I'm going to credit that one to the Baltimore defense primarily. Wentz kept the ball on an option play, and DeShon Elliott just ripped the ball right out of his mitts as he was taking him to the ground. I'm not sure Wentz, a quarterback with ball-handling issues, a bad back, and a bad knee, would be a designed running threat for me, but that was more Elliott being ballhawking than anything else. Give the Ravens the ball inside the 25-yard line, and the inevitable happens a few plays later -- Ravens have a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Bryan Knowles: (Replying to Vince's last comment in the Browns-Steelers game) Could be worse, Vince -- I've been watching Eagles-Ravens, and the Eagles just got back to positive yardage for the day after a Jalen Hurts run.

There are some, uh, interesting games in this first window.

Vince Verhei: This suddenly became the most intriguing game of the day. The Eagles' first six drives resulted in five three-and-outs and a lost fumble. On their sixth drive, they finally get a first down ... when Jalen Hurts comes in and gains 20 yards on a designed quarterback run. He stays at quarterback and runs for another first down on second-and-2. The next play they try a double-pass screen -- Hurts takes the snap and throws backwards to Wentz at wide receiver, then Wentz throws forward back to Hurts. It's just a 2-yard gain on first-and-10, but hey, they're trying something new. A false start puts them back at second-and-14, but Wentz goes back to quarterback and hits Travis Fulgham for a 20-yard gain, and the Eagles now have a first down in Ravens territory at the two-minute warning.

Vince Verhei: Oh, Eagles. They get to a second-and-2 at the Ravens' 21 and then, I guess unhappy with all the success they had with Hurts, they take him off the field. Second-and-2, Miles Sanders is open in the end zone for what should be a touchdown, but he looks over his outside shoulder first, then turns back inside and ends up dropping the ball -- at least the second enormous drop by Philadelphia today. Third down, they hand off to Sanders for a gain of 1. Fourth down, they go with a quarterback run, but instead of Hurts, it's Wentz on the sneak -- and the Ravens stuff him and still lead 17-0.

Scott Spratt: I think Wentz has more yards of dropped passes than actual yards passing (54) at pretty much the end of the first half.

Cale Clinton: Really didn't have this game on my radar with the cramped early slate, but pretty surprised to check in on Baltimore at halftime. Up against the No. 30 defense in total DVOA, Lamar Jackson has under a 50% completion rate. He currently holds the highest yards per carry of any rusher with 6. Baltimore's longest play on offense went for 17 yards on a completion to Devin Duvernay. The Ravens have also already amassed two three-and-outs.

If Baltimore's defense wasn't as successful as it has been throughout the first half, I'd be a lot more worried. The Ravens held the Eagles to five three-and-outs on their first six drives, with the lone other drive ending with a lost fumble on the opening play.

Scott Spratt: A few agonizing non-catches at the end of this first half. First, edge rusher Pernell McPhee.

And then Travis Fulgham nearly pulling down a Wentz Hail Mary.

Scott Spratt: He is Houdini!

Vince Verhei: After a long field goal at the end of the half was missed, it was going to take a miracle for the Eagles to score ... and a miracle they got. Miles Sanders takes a handoff up the middle and bursts down the sideline for a gain of 75, but DeShon Elliott knocks the ball free. But it bounces into the end zone, where J.J. Arcega-Whiteside falls on it for the touchdown.

Down 17-6, Eagles do the smart thing and go for two, and they bring in Hurts to run an option play. But it goes horribly wrong and is stuffed for a loss, and it's still 17-6.

Before that, by the way, the Ravens used nine plays to drive only 35 yards and eat up nearly seven minutes of clock. This game's not close to over, but that was an impressive job of killing time without actually going anywhere.

Bryan Knowles: Still probably too early to call this one over, but you don't need to grind clock if you just keep finding the end zone. Lamar Jackson just ran the read-option and went untouched 37 yards into the end zone. Special credit goes to Nathan Gerry, who may still be trying to figure out who has the ball. Just entirely befuddled.

Vince Verhei: Should we just make it a rule that we link to all of Jackson's big runs? I'd be fine with that. Officially, he's up to 79 yards on the ground, but it feels like about twice that.

Vince Verhei: This game wasn't close in the second half, but I was afraid that if I turned away, I would miss Lamar Jackson doing something amazing. Instead, the Eagles have rallied, with their second miracle touchdown of the day:

Then they forced a Baltimore three-and-out, and they're taking over with more than three minutes to go down 30-22, plenty of time to somehow tie this and send it to overtime.

Vince Verhei: Well, holy crap. Wentz is just crossing his fingers and throwing up prayers, and the football gods keep answering them. Fulgham and Marcus Peters are both on the ground when a deep pass hits the turf, Peters is flagged for a 49-yard DPI. Second-and-2, instant pressure up the gut chases Wentz out of the pocket and he lobs a duck near the middle of the field, and Richard Rodgers comes down with it for a first-and-goal. Miles Sanders runs for 5, and Philly has a second-and-goal at the 1 at the two-minute warning. Hurts comes back onto the field, but Wentz keeps it on the sneak and scores. Potential game-tying two-point attempt to come.

Bryan Knowles: And said two-point attempt fails, as Boston Scott and Carson Wentz seemed to have a disagreement on who would get the ball in the mesh, and the Ravens swarm and tackle. Pending the onside kick, Baltimore should hold on in a game that was closer than it had any right to be after the first half.

Aaron Schatz: Eagles blow the two-point attempt in what looks like a read-option where Wentz and the running back sort of run into each other and can't get separated after the mesh point and so Wentz gets tackled at the line of scrimmage.

Vince Verhei: Eagles keep Wentz on the field and run another option play, but it goes no better than the Hurts attempt and Ravens still lead 30-28 and are probably going to escape here.

Vince Verhei: Ravens recover the onside kick and Jackson runs for one more first down and that's game.

What's amazing is that while it felt like a blowout from start to finish, you could argue that the Eagles should have won today. They beat the Ravens in first downs and total yardage. But they left tons of points on the board -- that failed two-pointer, the missed field goal at the end of the half, that failed fourth-and-1 play just outside the red zone. Flip any of those plays and they probably win.

Vince Verhei: I just want to point out that if Andy Dalton and the Cowboys lose to Arizona on Monday night -- and they are currently one-point underdogs at home -- they will fall to 2-4 ... and they will still be alone in first place in the NFC East.

Bryan Knowles: An open question, maybe for the next playoff sims -- what are the odds the NFC East winner has double-digit losses? Because while unlikely, it seems easily within the realm of possibility.

Dave Bernreuther: I will be rooting for this, just the same as today I rooted for a nine-field goal game from Brandon McManus.

Perhaps I am a bad football fan with the wrong priorities.

Washington Football Team 19 at New York Giants 20

Bryan Knowles: The Giants have benched first-round pick Andrew Thomas. He wasn't on the injury report or anything, so unless there's something we don't know, that's a performance move. They're starting third-round pick Matt Peart at left tackle instead, which tells you how well their draft class is going.

Carl Yedor: In a game of stoppable force meets movable object, the worst and second-worst offenses by DVOA have both moved the ball decently well on their opening drives. However, Washington bogged down at the New York 30 and missed a field goal, and the Giants got a bit further but still had to settle for a field goal. Through most of the first quarter, it's 3-0 Giants.

Bryan Knowles: I think we're all done with the Kyle Allen experience at the moment. James Bradberry read him like a book, picking him off and setting the Giants up in great field position. I can't think of a solid reason to NOT have Alex Smith in the game at this point in time.

And even the Giants can't mess up great field position (...probably). Daniel Jones stands up against the blitz and throws a dime to Darius Slayton in the end zone for the 10-0 lead -- the first Giants passing touchdown since Week 1. I mock the Giants and Jones plenty, but that was actually a very nice play by Jones, knowing he was going to take a shot and still placing the ball exactly where he wanted to.

Bryan Knowles: I slammed him earlier, so credit where credit is due -- Kyle Allen threw a beautiful fade to Logan Thomas in the back corner of the end zone to cut the Giants' lead to 13-10 at the end of the first half.

The two worst offenses in football have begun to start moving -- three straight 70-yard drives for the two teams. The problem, however, has been finishing -- Washington kicked a 35-yard field goal to cap off their first long drive; and the Giants upped them by having Graham Gano kick a 20-yarder. You're 0-5, you have the ball on the 2-yard line, what the hell are you doing? Argh!

I do want to point out an interesting Riverboat Ron situation on that last drive, though. The Giants had stopped the Football Team, forcing a punt on fourth-and-9 from the 45. That went down to the 1, which is about as good a punt as you want -- but the Giants were flagged for running into the kicker. That's not an automatic first down, but Rivera decided to take the penalty and attempt the fourth-and-4! It worked, keeping the drive alive. You could make a strong argument that better special teams decisions/play might have the Giants up 14 points right now rather than a three-point lead. Kudos to Rivera for taking what was basically an even gamble, per EdjSports' GWC, and grumbling towards Joe Judge, who appears to be Not The Answer, at least at this point.

Dave Bernreuther: I saw that sequence, Bryan, and can't help but wonder just how many coaches would have accepted that penalty. I wasn't rooting for Washington in this one, but after that call I definitely was. Even if the actual math on it made it an even gamble, you're a bad team losing to a terrible team. Nothing to gain by playing it safe there. Great call by Rivera.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, no, Kyle Allen!

Washington marches down the field and scores a touchdown, making the score 20-19 with 36 seconds left in the game. But you're a terrible team, playing a second terrible team, so who wants overtime? Ron Rivera opts to go for two and the win!

Kyle Allen's first read is covered, and he rolls to his left. He absolutely can run that ball into the end zone -- or at least, has a very, very good chance. But he pulls up, wanders back in the pocket, and throws a bad pass that hits the ground, and the Giants are going to win.

What a terrible football game.

Vince Verhei: Speaking of two-point conversions, the Football Team is down seven when Kyle Allen hits Cam Sims in the left corner of the end zone with 36 seconds to go. Ron Rivera opts to go for two and the win, but Allen can't find anyone in the end zone despite scrambling to buy several extra seconds. Giants recover the ensuing onside kick attempt and are going to get their first win of the year, 20-19.

Dave Bernreuther: I know the result wasn't there, but I love it, Ron Rivera. Cheers to you.

Denver Broncos 18 at New England Patriots 12

Dave Bernreuther: Patriots get really lucky after a bad giveaway by Cam Newton. It was a tipped pick on a screen, sure, but it struck me as an incredibly lazy play by him. He really should've seen the lineman there, but just slowly tossed it into the receiver's arms anyway instead of either backing away from him first or looping it up over top. Luckily for them, Drew Lock made a horrible throw on third-and-2 on the ensuing drive so the Broncos only got a field goal. The Broncos are defending the Patriots really well through the first two series.

Cale Clinton: New England certainly looks like a team that hasn't been allowed near a football in nearly two weeks. The offense has been unable to get anything going thus far. The Patriots have accumulated a -0.49 EPA/play through the first quarter, per RBSDM. In the passing game, James White has been the lone player with catches, and Cam Newton has been pressured early and often when dropping back. The defense looks closest to their usual form, but still is showing signs for concern. 70% of Drew Lock's 97 passing yards so far have come on two long plays. Some well-timed pass breakups have stopped this game from falling out of reach, holding each Broncos drive to just a field goal.

Aaron Schatz: Remember on Tuesday when the Titans looked like practices are totally unnecessary and dominated the Bills? The Patriots don't look like that. They've also had three big injuries so far. The worst is probably losing Jermaine Eluemunor, the right tackle. They already were down two starting offensive linemen AND the backup center, and now they're down a right tackle as well.

Vince Verhei: I've noticed Newton hanging in the pocket for an eternity a few times today. The sack where Eluemunor got hurt was one obvious example, but there have been two or three other times where I've been internally screaming at him to just throw the ball somewhere. I don't remember seeing him do that too often before -- is that something I've missed? Or is he just having a bad game today?

Scott Spratt: Newton was notorious for having transparently good and bad games with the Panthers. But those tended to strike me as mechanical, possibly as a result of injuries. I don't remember him being sluggish with his decision-making.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots look awful but are being kept in this game by Denver's inability to finish drives. Broncos just kicked their fifth field goal to make it 15-3. Patriots defense has had lapses in coverage while the offense is going nowhere with the current offensive line.

Dave Bernreuther: The Patriots are down five-to-one in scoring drives, but are still down by two scores. Ordinarily, this is the kind of game where we all consider it just a matter of time before they come back. Today, though? Not so much. With the third quarter drawing to a close, the Patriot offense finally -- finally! -- gets something going and moves across midfield, which feels like a huge accomplishment with the way things are going ... so naturally a nice Newton-to-Ryan Izzo catch-and-run turns into ... a fumble. Broncos ball.

Ouch. Like many others, I did NOT see this one coming. Even without the practice time, I expected a Bill Belichick team to come out with something stashed up their sleeve and dominate a Drew Lock team. And while it's not exactly a huge shock that that's not the case... yeesh. That fumble is just a killer.

Dave Bernreuther: What're the Edj numbers on declining that penalty on third-and-4 to instead let McManus attempt a 54-yarder? WIth the way the scoring in this game is going, I was leaning very strongly toward accepting the penalty and forcing Drew Lock to run a third-and-14 play from close to midfield.

McManus 6, Patriots 1, and I don't care how immature it is, I'm now rooting for him to keep kicking. Assuming Aaron's heart could handle it, my ideal outcome is now a 27-27 game that heads to overtime. It'd be like a whole new kind of scorigami.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots with their third turnover of the day as Justin Simmons just slightly tipped a Cam Newton pass so it went behind N'Keal Harry and into the arms of Bryce Callahan. Denver will have a chance to get a seventh field goal, or theoretically a touchdown, but let's be honest, it will be a field goal.

Vince Verhei: That's six field goals in six drives for Denver. No touchdowns, no punts, no turnovers, no fourth-down failures. They have been a perfect field goal machine.

And Newton's ensuing pass is tipped and intercepted and the Broncos take over in New England territory, perfect position to go seven-for-seven. I haven't watched a lot of this game but it feels like Denver is tipping a ton of Newton's passes.

Aaron Schatz: Rewinding to Dave's question about the Patriots declining a Denver penalty so the Broncos could kick a field goal:

  • Fourth-and-4 at NE 36: DEN GWC 79.1% on a FG attempt but 79.7% going for it
  • Third-and-14 at NE 46: DEN GWC 79.5%

So, if the Patriots believe the Broncos are going to kick the field goal, they made the correct decision to decline the penalty.

Dave Bernreuther: 0.8 between all three options? Man that's close!

Vince Verhei: Aww, man. DaeSean Hamilton drops a deep pass down the right sideline on third down ... and the Broncos punt from the 39-yard line rather than try a 56-yard field goal. BOOOOOOOOO!!!

Aaron Schatz: Finally, a touchdown after a long scramble by Cam Newton, a power run by Cam Newton, and then a sneak by Cam Newton where Newton just barely reached the ball over the goal line. That makes it 18-9 Denver. Patriots went for two, which was the smart decision because you need the information earlier rather than later: will you need a touchdown to tie (18-11) or a touchdown and field goal to win (18-9). They didn't get it when the Broncos covered the only two receivers in routes and everyone else blocked Newton from getting into the end zone.

Vince Verhei: I don't know who the color commentator for this game is, but he's convinced New England should have gone for one. It's maybe the dumbest argument in all of sports. Put aside the benefit of knowing how many points you need -- the point is, down nine, you're going to need a two-pointer at some point to tie the game. What difference does it make if you try it now instead of later? What's the benefit of waiting?

Dave Bernreuther: It's kind of terrible that they're making Belichick throw the flag here for what should have been an obvious Newton touchdown. The Pats correctly go for two -- better to know now, plus of course all the math -- and man, that one really felt like all the talk of "the Pats lack weapons" from the past year-plus came home to roost in one play. The play-fake to James White should've worked and opened someone up, but it didn't. Newton still made himself some time in the pocket, but still, nothing. You could almost see him shrug his shoulders and say "fine, I'll do it," but some good tackling left him short.

Drew Lock just dropped a snap and then threw the ball directly to J.C. Jackson on consecutive plays, and now the Patriots are in business with five minutes left. I wonder if Vic Fangio is starting to wish he had taken the 56-yard field goal earlier when Vince (properly) booed the punt.

Aaron Schatz: Someone in my Twitter feed responded to me by saying that it is easier to get the two-point conversion later rather than earlier. So people do really believe that. I don't see why the Denver defense is going to be easier to score against at 18-16 than they are at 18-9.

Bryan Knowles: It's well known, Aaron, that defenses are better defending against teams with odd numbers of points. That's just science.

Vince Verhei: Well, I'll say this for Drew Lock, he's fearless. Right after throwing a bad interception to set up that Denver field goal, he comes out slinging and chucking balls deep under pressure. Unfortunately he's chucking balls deep into double-coverage, and this one's intercepted too, and the Patriots take over near their own 30 down 18-12.

Cale Clinton: For so long during this game, an 18-3 deficit felt so out of reach despite being just a two-score lead. To just get within a touchdown of the Broncos lead, New England needed an offensive drive where Cam completely took over and an interception returned 30 yards to set up a field goal drive. A second consecutive interception by Drew Lock has now made this game feel competitive for the first time all day.

Bryan Knowles: We're positive Drew Lock isn't Jay Cutler with a new haircut, right?

Dave Bernreuther: The Patriots, using the information gathered by failing on the two-point conversion, quickly kick the field goal to get to 18-12, get another (!) Drew Lock interception, and then run one of my favorite plays of the year: a backward pass to Julian Edelman all the way across the field to the right, followed by a pass all the way back across the field to the left to James White, who then rambles across midfield and has the Patriots driving with the possibility of winning.

That sequence alone should be enough to forever silence critics of the "go for it sooner rather than later" strategy ... but sadly, I am sure it will not.

Vince Verhei: That 22-yard gain on the Edelman-to-White screen pass was A) New England's longest offensive gain of the day, and B) nearly identical to the Wentz-to-Hurts screen in the Eagles game, just with the quarterback as a blocker instead of a receiver.

Dave Bernreuther: Game-changing play by Kareem Jackson to trip up James White on a screen. White he had loads of room to run ahead of him on that if he hadn't been tackled.

No matter, though, as the Patriots whip out another trick play, and Julian Edelman hits Cam Newton in stride, Cam the receiver hurdles a defender and stays in bounds, and the Pats go from the field goal target line (why are they showing that when it's a six-point game inside of two minutes?) to a first down near the red zone.

This game has gotten a lot more interesting than the field goal-fest it was earlier.

Bryan Knowles: Dave, I think your best play of the year has been upped, with Edelman taking the ball on an end around and finding Newton to get the ball into what CBS is calling "field goal range." In a six-point game. Y'know, useful information.

Scott Spratt: I'll one-up your Edelman-to-White completion with an Edelman-to-Newton one.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots follow up the Edelman-to-White screen with a "Philly Special"-style Edelman-to-Newton pass where Newton outmuscles tacklers to get a first down.

Unfortunately, Newton isn't doing as well as the quarterback. The Broncos are blitzing him non-stop and he's not getting the ball out. Just took a bad sack to make it third-and-17 in a must-have drive.

Vince Verhei: Broncos force an incomplete pass on fourth-and-10 to win. Monstrously aggressive call by Vic Fangio, blitzing both safeties from deep in the secondary. Newton had an open receiver for a first down, but couldn't complete the pass under a heavy rush, and that's game.

Scott Spratt: Much like Tom Brady, I didn't realize that Newton incompletion was on fourth down until I saw the Broncos celebrating.

Aaron Schatz: Newton misses N'Keal Harry wide on fourth-and-10 and this game is over. Denver dominated the trenches on both sides of the ball. We knew that the Patriots had offensive line injury/illness issues, so maybe that Denver defensive dominance was not a surprise. But the other side is a surprise, because Denver's offensive line had played poorly this year, especially in run-blocking, as I wrote at ESPN+ this week. Broncos were 31st in adjusted line yards coming into today but their running backs (mostly Phillip Lindsay) combined for 127 yards on 31 carries.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 at Indianapolis Colts 31

Dave Bernreuther: The Colts are making Joe Burrow look pretty good so far. I am not surprised.

After a Jack Doyle fumble, the Bengals move easily into scoring range for a fantasy leech touchdown in five plays by Gio Bernard. On the ensuing drive, the Colts punt on fourth-and-1, and now Burrow has moved the Bengals to the doorstep again. He started 5-of-7 for 86 uncontested yards in the first quarter before losing a touchdown to a Joe Mixon drop on third down, but it didn't matter, because Zac Taylor correctly went for the ensuing fourth down, and Burrow burrowed his way into the end zone. It's 14-0 Bengals in the first. In Indianapolis.

I'm beginning to think that it's possible that maybe the Colts aren't very good.

Aaron Schatz: The Colts have the No. 1 defense in the league so far. Making Burrow look good is definitely a surprise.

Dave Bernreuther: The TV crew for this game has been absolutely awful so far -- several examples already of difficulty pronouncing words and crafting sentences, inaccurate calls, etc. -- but they just ran a commercial intro talking about Ken Anderson, so I am going to call myself a fan of the Fox E-crew on the whole.

Burrow hits Tee Higgins for 67 on the final play of the first quarter. Nothing too good or bad to say about the Colts or Rock Ya-Sin on that play; he got beat, but not horribly, but it was a solid throw by Burrow, who was clearly inspired by the Anderson segment.

Derrik Klassen: This Bengals/Colts game is giving me life for a few reasons. Not only do I find Joe Burrow a fun quarterback to root for, and I love when rookies have themselves a day, but I can not stand watching that Colts defense. I know they have been good this year, but the way they play, with all the bland two-high shells and not asking their cornerbacks to play football -- I just can't stand it. Cool to see an offense, an unlikely one, taking advantage of them.

Cale Clinton: One thing that has killed Indianapolis thus far has been the allowance of big-gain pass plays by the Colts secondary. Indy boasts the No. 1 passing DVOA of all NFL defenses; breaking it down further, they rank 11th in DVOA against No. 1 wide receivers, second covering No. 2 wide receivers, 10th covering other wide receivers, and fifth covering tight ends. Today, however, tells a different story. Through the Bengals' last three offensive drives, the Colts defense has allowed catches of 22, 23, and 67 yards on successive drives. Joe Burrow is averaging 15.3 yards per pass attempt; despite the fact that he has yet to throw for a touchdown today, the Bengals' three rushing touchdowns have been set up by Cincinnati's potent passing game.

Scott Spratt: We are a lot less of the way through the season, but the Colts could be pulling a Patriots from last season. They reached No. 1 in defensive DVOA on the strength of performances of the Vikings (eighth in offensive DVOA), Jets (28th), and Bears (26th) in particular. That isn't a grouping of all bad offenses, but the Colts may be equipped to dominate poor offenses more than effectively limit better offenses. What do all of you Colts-watchers think?

Aaron Schatz: Except the Bengals were 27th in offensive DVOA coming into this week, so they have been one of those poor offenses.

Dave Bernreuther: As we sit in the midst of another official review delay -- the first one being on the Joe Mixon run that they couldn't not call a touchdown -- I want to point out that even as I have been a snarky angry fan about the Colts' play so far, I still take issue with Derrik's comment just now about the Colts defense. (Am I taking two contrarian stands on the same topic at the same time right now? Fair question.) There's nothing wrong with two-high shells and zone coverage when it's warranted, and sometimes against a team with the skill talent that the Bengals have -- even with a diminished A.J. Green -- while missing your defense's quarterback (Darius Leonard), this is a fine strategy.

I don't really buy the No. 1 DVOA thing yet either, given the competition and what I've seen, but we have also seen that this team can play man and harass people effectively too; heck, we pointed it out last week as the linebackers were blanketing the Browns, even in defeat. We're in year three of Matt Eberflus' defenses showing us that the zone-plus-effort model can work nicely at times. It's not really the defensive calls that I've found lacking here. Plus, let's give Burrow the credit he deserves. Sometimes things just don't work. Also, the main failing today has been less about the defense than about the offense, which had run nine plays on three drives to that point in helping the Bengals out to that 21-0 lead.

As I type this, the ruling on the field that Frank Reich challenged is upheld. I don't love it, but I understand it, because of the initial call and the fact that Hilton did move the ball a bit, even under control, as his left foot came up. Dean Blandino correctly called that "that's 'stands' language" and I agree. I think it was a catch, but you can't overturn it. Even with that result, though, with the way the offense had been going, I like the challenge by Reich. At 21-0, you're already in "hope for a momentum shift" mode, plus it's a bit of a vote of confidence in his guys.

Which clearly "paid off," as Philip Rivers hits Marcus Johnson on a deep ball, which is very meanly spotted down at the 1 before a Tim Tebow-style touchdown by former Gator Trey Burton. I'm a very well-documented opponent of non-quarterback trickeration type plays, but when you've struggled in the red zone the way these Colts have, it's hard to complain. 21-7 Colts.

GREAT play design and call on the ensuing possession from Zac Taylor. Burrow gives to Tyler Boyd on an end around, which naturally draws the weakside linebacker over to track him (ignore the broadcast replay that circled the right end; it was the WILL that got blocked). Receiver Mike Thomas feigned a route and instead completely wiped him out, though, opening up a huge amount of space for Boyd to run before the defensive backs caught up to him. 25-yard gain, and that's the kind of play that beats any defense. 15 free yards after a Rock Ya-Sin suplex (and a LEGIT one at that, and given that the whistle was blown after he had already started the tackle, I'm not really a fan of the call) two plays later, and the Bengals are in business for the fourth time this half.

Dave Bernreuther: I've seen the Colts' pick of Jonathan Taylor get a lot of grief online, and maybe things haven't come together completely for him, but man was that wheel route out of the backfield just now a thing of beauty. He slipped out, Rivers placed the ball perfectly, and only a good tackle kept him from scoring on the play.

Anthony Castonzo's penalty wipes out a touchdown that T.Y. Hilton could really have used, but it doesn't matter; on the next play, Rivers finds Trey Burton, who tapped the toes like, well, T.Y. Hilton, for his second score of the game.

I should be a bad angry fan more often; since I started speaking negatively, the Colts have looked great. As it stands right now, at 24-14, I'm looking for in-game lines I can take for them to win this one outright.

Bryan Knowles: And the Colts' comeback continues! Indianapolis scores their third touchdown of the second quarter, with Rivers finding Zach Pascal on a little post route for the score.

This was 21-0 in the first quarter, and it looks like it's going to go into halftime at 24-21. There have been a ton of teams coming back from three-plus scores this season; I should go back and see if that's an actual new trend in 2020, or just observational bias. Either way, we've got a football game at Lucas Oil -- thank you, Bengals defense, for making at least one game in the early window interesting.

Cale Clinton: A lot can change in a quarter. A beautiful twisting catch by Zach Pascal caps off the Colts' third-straight touchdown drive, bringing the score all the way back to 24-21 going into halftime.

Dave Bernreuther: Remember when I said the Colts weren't very good? Maybe -- just maybe, a little bit -- I was just being a cynical pessimistic fan.

The first quarter was all Bengals, absolutely. But there are four of those things. And my what a turnaround in the second one, even with a dropped pick by linebacker Bobby Okereke. Rivers is almost to 300 yards passing, and the calmness with which he just climbed the pocket before perfectly placing a ball to Zach Pascal in the end zone is why they paid for him and had optimism coming into the season. That was beautiful. And this on a drive coming down to the gun where even I wouldn't have been too critical of a field goal attempt.

Dave Bernreuther: Not a great sequence for Pascal, who already had one OPI (that cost Hilton 20 yards in a game in which he is thus far completely snakebitten). On second down, he takes another OPI on a push-off, then on third down, Rivers -- whose decision-making has been absolutely perfect since I spoke negatively earlier -- waited and waited and waited before finally checking down to Pascal ... who would likely have still been 4 or 5 yards short of a first down anyway ... but he accidentally stepped out of bounds and cost them at least the idea of going for a fourth-down play. Definitely still some things to clean up there. (Rigoberto Sanchez, naturally, drops another perfect punt in there, and the Bengals will start inside the 1. The Colts' run of punter excellence from Pat McAfee to Sanchez is on par with their run of quarterback luck from 1998 to 2018.)

But man, what a day for Hilton. After some failed targets early on, he started to get open, and Rivers hit him ... for the play ruled out-of-bounds that was probably but not definitively a catch. Then Rivers hit him for a touchdown, which came back on Anthony Castonzo's ineligible man downfield call. A 20-yard catch-and-run came back on Pascal's first penalty ... and Hilton sits, officially, with the best looking 0-0 line on four targets that I've ever seen.

Great throw by Burrow to dig their way out of trouble in the end zone, finding A.J. Green wide open over the middle. That was a play where Darius Leonard's presence may have affected the defensive alignment and/or call.

Dave Bernreuther: Rock Ya-Sin got away with one just now. A.J. Green got way behind him but Burrow put a bit too much air under it and left it short. While the announcers questioned Green for not high-pointing it, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt for knowing that it made Ya-Sin more likely to commit DPI, since he had no clue where the ball was ... and on first glance, I thought he did anyway ... but he got just enough of the ball to keep Green from catching it. Flacco special narrowly avoided, but Ya-Sin celebrated like he won the play. He did not.

The Bengals get a long field goal after Burrow makes a Rivers-like play from the pocket, ducking some pressure and finding the outlet for enough yards to avoid a punt. It's 27-21 now and Jonathan Taylor already has the Colts into field goal range headed the other way after two big runs.

Aaron Schatz: OK, people watching this game. Did something change with the Colts defense after the first quarter? Or are they doing the same stuff against Burrow and just having a way better time with it?

Dave Bernreuther: Good question, Aaron. Honestly, to my eyes it has just been sample size and a small shift in luck; The Bengals have still had some guys open, Burrow has still hit some throws and hasn't made any rookie plays, and aside from a great play by DeForest Buckner on a third down to end one drive a series ago, there hasn't been some new and sudden improvement from the Colts defenders or huge game-changing play; Okereke dropped an interception in what would've been the Bengals offense's worst play of the game so far. The biggest difference, really, has been the Colts offense getting things going.

Now THERE is some luck, though ... Randy Bullock just doinked a go-ahead field goal. I guess with eight minutes left, that's not a huge swing in the probabilities, but between the points and the field position, it still hurts. Rivers just overthrew the ensuing deep ball -- would've been a touchdown if completed, too -- so maybe the luck is already evening out.

Oh, there's Hilton, finally officially getting on the scoresheet! An 11-yard catch finally gets him some action that counts, and the Colts are in field goal range. In a four-point game in the four-minute drill, now is where we'll get to see how Burrow handles that No. 1 defense.

Dave Bernreuther: So ... I was critical of the defense. Derrik was critical of the defensive calls. And on the final drive of a four-point game, the Colts send pressure all over the place and play man. And while Burrow handled it well, and Green made a GREAT catch on fourth-and-9 to *barely* convert, what we saw was a defense that can play man. Green's catch was while blanketed; it came after a great play in coverage on third down by Okereke [I think], who can definitely play, and then the game was ended by a good play in coverage and a pick by Blackmon.

Hat tip to Joe Burrow, who played well. The Colts escape, but end up not making up any ground at all, because Derrick Henry is a freak.

Cale Clinton: A little context for how good Philip Rivers was in that second quarter. Colts scored three touchdown during that 15-minute window, whittling a 24-point deficit down to three points before half.

Dave Bernreuther: To a man, the Colts all talked about how calm they kept things after the first quarter today -- Philip Rivers correctly mentioned that they had only run eight snaps when it was 14-0, and in that way this game very much resembled that 2002 playoff game where the Jets steamrolled young Peyton Manning 41-0 and gave fodder to his non-fans through no fault of his own. They had a Dungy-esque calm, up and down the sideline, even down 21-0, and Frank Reich deserves a ton of credit for that. In the end, the defense showed up, the offense played well, and more importantly they actually finished drives for the first time all year, and they got the win we all expected, although it wasn't easy.

I think as time passes, opponent adjustments and more film -- not to mention letting the promising rookie grow -- will eventually tell us that this was not the league's best D, nor are the Burrow Bengals a bottom-five (or -six) offense, and clearly those first three drives represent an extreme. Still, all the credit in the world to Zac Taylor -- who has taken some heat online -- and Joe Burrow, who really only made one or two bad plays today against a defense that ended up playing pretty well without its leader. Their record isn't great, and their defense is surely not going to get any help this week when the stats get run, but as 1-4-1 teams go, the Bengals look like they're in pretty good shape going forward.

Houston Texans 36 at Tennessee Titans 42 (OT)

Bryan Knowles: I'm not entirely sure the Texans' defense has ever seen film of the Titans' passing offense, or any modern passing offense for that matter. Ryan Tannehill is just slicing through them like butter -- he's 14-for-19 for 149 yards and three touchdowns already in the first half, as the Texans seem more than happy to drop into really safe zones that Tannehill can carve apart at his leisure . Houston seems unable to communicate, unable to stay in their zones, unable to comprehend play-action, and unable to tackle. Other than that, things are going fine.

21-7 Tennessee late in the second quarter.

Bryan Knowles: Well, don't count out the Texans just yet. Houston's defense finally manages to hold, and the ensuing field goal attempt is blocked. That seems to have clunked the switch in the Texans offense that allows passing attempts on first down, with Deshaun Watson hitting Darren Fells for a couple of big gains. A DPI brings the ball to the 1, and after some time-wasting trickery, the Texans just line up and plow forward with David Johnson for the score. Let's see DeAndre Hopkins do that!

21-17 Titans still, but the game is back into competitive territory, midway through the third quarter.

Cale Clinton: And the Texans take the lead! Ryan Tannehill had no feel on J.J. Watt whatsoever, leading to the strip-sack. After bouncing 21 yards downfield from the original line of scrimmage, Houston finally recovers the ball at Tennessee's own 4-yard-line and sets up Randall Cobb's second touchdown of the season.

Bryan Knowles: Just checking -- allowing a 94-yard rushing touchdown is bad, right?

Zach Cunningham decides to defend the clogged A-gap and not the wide-open one, Derrick Henry accelerates through the gap, and no one's catching him with a head of steam -- it's impressive for a man of that size to be outrunning multiple defensive backs, but that's Derrick Henry for you. The two-point conversion makes it 29-23 Titans, and the Texans defense reverts to form.

Vince Verhei: The dots on Henry's long run. This is mesmerizing.

Bryan Knowles: And the lead goes right BACK, as this game has officially jumped into crazytown. Two plays after the 94-yard touchdown, Deshaun Watson has all day in the pocket and finds Will Fuller 50 yards downfield, basically uncovered. The pass is a little underthrown, but there's plenty of time for Fuller to adjust and make the catch, and it's now 30-29 Texans!

Cale Clinton: For how excited I was about Cleveland-Pittsburgh, this game may be the divisional matchup of the weekend. The complete erasure of a 21-7 deficit by Houston, a 94-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry, a two-play 75-yard touchdown drive by Deshaun Watson, and now a leaping interception by the Texans. I can't wait to see the win percentage graph when this is over.

Bryan Knowles: Interesting decision in Houston! The Texans drive and score again, getting to a seven-point lead. Romeo Crennel then decides to go for two to put the game away for good, but the attempt fails, leaving Tennessee down just a touchdown with 1:50 left. I can't wait to see the numbers on that one, because the extra point would have moved it to an eight-point game. I know that's technically "one score," but forcing the two point conversion is a big point!

Andrew Potter: There's even more to it than that. The touchdown came on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, leading by one point. I'm pretty sure the vast majority of coaches would have kicked there to force the other team to score a touchdown to win, but Crennel's side went for it and scored.

Aaron Schatz: From EdjSports: "We liked the PAT over the 2-Pt conversion (91.5% GWC to 90.5%)"

Bryan Knowles: And the failed two-point conversion comes back to haunt the Texans. Ryan Tannehill and company march 76 yards in nine plays, including a somewhat borderline touchdown to A.J. Brown in the back corner of the end zone. It is possible Brown doesn't get his left foot down in time, but it's really, really close --and the call on the field stands. The extra point ties this at 36, and we're going to go to overtime.

I did not see overtime coming after how this game started, I will admit.

Bryan Knowles: The Texans might lose this game because they can not stop Derrick Henry. He's up to 204 rushing yards, and just took a screen pass 53 yards to bring the Titans into easy field goal range.

And then Jeremy McNichols runs for 17 more, to bring the ball into the red zone. Oh, that Texans defense...

Vince Verhei: This is with the benefit of hindsight, but after watching the last two Tennessee drives in this game, I understand why Romeo Crennel had no faith in his defense to stop a two-point conversion. I also would have given Deshaun Watson a chance to win the game.

Cale Clinton: 22 rushing attempts, 212 yards, two touchdowns. With the direct snap to ice the game in overtime, Derrick Henry's all the way back.

Dave Bernreuther: I have nothing to say about this game other than that at some point, Ryan Tannehill deserves credit for being really, really good, and not just because they've got Derrick Henry or a clever scheme. His ball placement is really, really good (even the pick I saw him throw was well-placed, although he shouldn't have thrown it), and one of these days maybe he'll get some recognition for it.

The game where Henry goes over 200 yards -- again -- and wins it by dominating overtime against a great effort by Watson and the Texans, though, means that maybe now is not the appropriate time for that.

Tom Gower: Have to contradict you on the interception, Dave, because Tannehill missed that throw. He had plenty of space open in the middle of the field to hit Kalif Raymond and threw it deeper without leading him into space. It stood out because he has been so good this year. I mean, he was only average on third-and-long last year while setting records on play-action. This year, he has been great. And he has even stopped getting sacked all the time (fifth in adjusted sack rate coming in), something that was still happening last year. The two the Texans had today -- Watt against backup left tackle Ty Sambrailo right after Taylor Lewan got hurt, and the fumble-sack -- were both big plays, but he attempted 41 passes so it's not like two sacks were a lot.

But they were almost enough to cost the Titans the game. Brett Kern's only punt was on the game's opening possession, but Tennessee was still looking at potentially being down nine points with less than two minutes to play thanks to Tannehill's two turnovers and, yes, Stephen Gostkowski. The blocked field goal was a protection breakdown and didn't appear to be Gostkowski's fault. The miss from 37 yards following a third-and-13 draw play, I didn't see a similar sort of exonerating factor. Had the game gone differently, we'd be talking about that call.

Of more consequence was Kai Fairbairn's missed extra point at 23-21. Had he made that, the Titans would likely have kicked the extra point instead of getting a two-point conversion, so we'd be looking at 28-24 instead of 29-23, so had the game otherwise proceeded similarly, Houston scoring a touchdown at the end would have sealed it without any two-point conversion drama.

Defensively, neither team had too many answers. Jeffery Simmons and J.J. Watt were doing their best to carry their teammates, but couldn't do it alone. I'm sure Rivers will say more about this, but Zach Cunningham was not good today, most significantly playing a role on Derrick Henry's 94-yard touchdown run and getting lost in space in Henry's long overtime reception, continuing a string of unimpressive play after his contract extension. The Titans also didn't show away from attacking Justin Reid. Houston changed things up some; the Titans' first two touchdown passes were similar plays with different defensive strategies (zone coverage and man), neither effective. Tennessee's defense had a couple more bright moments (the Texans did punt three times!), but otherwise proved too easily exploited through the air and, like Houston, with not much of an effective pass rush.

At the end of the day, the Titans get the win and set up a huge game next week against fellow unbeaten Pittsburgh.

Dave Bernreuther: I went back to watch that throw after you mentioned that, Tom, and as usual you're right; the throw was up the seam instead of into the open space, and could've been completed. Either way, I think that's a throw only very good quarterbacks complete, and the fact that we're starting to look at him as the needle-threading type that can (and he is -- there was another one early in the game that I recall seeing where he slid left in the pocket and threw short over the middle between two linebackers to the only possible spot that'd have resulted in a completion) means that maybe he is getting his due.

Cale Clinton: Win Probability graphic for the game. Lot of whiplash in the fourth quarter.

Dave Bernreuther: Here's the other Tannehill throw I was remembering ... turns out he didn't shuffle left, just sorta leaned that way as he threw (into heavy pressure too), but man what touch to Anthony Firkser for a big gain under duress:

I feel like he has made throws like that a lot more often than people have noticed.

Rivers McCown: I wrote about this game at length here.

Man, I'm bummed, the offense actually played well outside of a particular player named Da. Johnson -- no, no, too obvious, let's call him David J -- and the dedication to designing inside run plays for him that go nowhere. At 1-5, it's pretty much season over.

One thing I want to point out that is wildly relevant to the discussion about going for it: even on the drives where the Titans were stopped, it wasn't because of anything the Texans did. They punted one time the whole game, had one kick blocked, and missed another. On all three of those drives, penalties by Tennessee created first-and-20 or first-and-15. This back seven is dreadful outside of Bradley Roby this year, and even he has given up a lot in the red zone. And yeah, as Tom said, yet another sterling performance by Zach Cunningham, a guy who got a huge contract extension before the season and who is flailing in his reads and football process. Brett Kollman even suggested that Cunningham is tipping rushes.

Well, who wants to make some hypothetical trades? What do I have to do to get your favorite team out the door with a slightly used Whitney Mercilus?

Atlanta Falcons 40 at Minnesota Vikings 23

Scott Spratt: The Falcons are -39 in point differential with Dan Quinn and +20 without him through a half.

Bryan Knowles: The Falcons may be winless, but they are also Quinnless, which may be a net gain.

Though if you're looking for Falcons Collapse signs, Justin Jefferson just reached the ball into the end zone while being tackled, reclining on a Falcons cornerback as he stretches for the score. 23-7 Falcons, which would be a safe lead for any team that wasn't, y'know, the Falcons.

Bryan Knowles: Just to wrap back to this one, I somehow suspect that even the Falcons can't blow a 40-15 lead with 2:11 left in the game. I mean, I'm mostly positive. I think.

Cale Clinton: Assuming they don't, both interim coaches in 2020 will have picked up the win in their first game. Both Romeo Crennel's win over Jacksonville last week and Raheem Morris' win today over Minnesota were the first of the season for their respective teams.

New York Jets 0 at Miami Dolphins 24

Dave Bernreuther: We've already gone over the TV scheduling dynamics and why the nine-two game alignment exists (although it's refreshing to note how many other pundits hate this on Twitter too), but Miami is uniquely screwed by it today. It's a FOX doubleheader day, with the battle of the Bays on tap as the national 4 p.m. game, even in the TV guides ... but the Miami market blacked it out opposite the Dolphins home game anyway and is showing a nature show. So my home market, instead of Rodgers-Brady and two NFC contenders, gets Flacco-Fitzgerald after a 1 p.m. local window of only the Bears-Panthers game.

I guess it still beats the greater NYC market, but man, that's awful.

This week alone may make the (huge and otherwise unnecessary, since I never watch TV) two-year DirecTV contract expense worth it for me.

(Oh ... I should talk about the game? OK ... Um, it's 7-0 Dolphins at the end of the first. I don't know how. I'm sure that I am not alone in not even caring.)

Dave Bernreuther: The Jets just punted from the 40. Touchback plus personal foul means they netted 5 yards, as the Dolphins now start the drive at the 35.

It was fourth-and-18, so no criticism there ... but still, that's so Jets.

Bryan Knowles: I'd call this the Adam Gase revenge game, but I'm not sure which team's players have a bigger grudge against Gase at this point.

Vince Verhei: I think we just saw the entire Jets season summarized in three plays. They have a third-and-2 at the Miami 24 and it looks like Joe Flacco has completed a pass to Breshad Perriman for a first down, but Ryan Griffin is flagged for offensive pass interference. So now it's third-and-12 at the 34, but the snap is fumbled and it results in a loss of 6. So they punt on fourth-and-forever and Braden Mann's punt bounces softly at the 3, but Vyncint Smith can't make the play to down it, and it goes into the end zone for a touchback. Worse, Harvey Langi is called for a 15-yard facemask. Put that all together, and it goes from the Jets having the ball at the Miami 24 to the Dolphins having the ball at their own 35.

Dolphins then drive 65 yards in seven plays, Ryan Fitzpatrick hitting Preston Williams for a 3-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead, but Miami's fortunes aren't nearly as entertaining as New York's follies.

Cale Clinton: Before punting from the 40, the Jets had the ball set up on the Miami 24-yard-line. A run for no gain, an offensive pass interference call, and a Flacco fumble force a punt, with a facemask call against the Jets setting Miami up on their own 35-yard-line.

11-yard loss of field position without a turnover or missed field goal. They're doing this to themselves at this point.

Dave Bernreuther: It gets better. After the Dolphins touchdown, Vyncint (that cannot be a real spelling!) Smith muffs the kickoff and is forced to bring it out. He's stuffed at the 8. This third down, Flacco actually gets to catch the snap, but ultimately he would've been better off if this one had missed him too, as he gets eaten alive by Christian Wilkins, who was more or less completely unblocked. Is there any amount of money that's worth this if you're Flacco? Who would blame him if he pulled a Vontae Davis at halftime?

Scott Spratt: Defending Jeff Smith with Xavien Howard is like driving a Lamborghini to go to the grocery store.

Vince Verhei: The Dolphins have started three straight drives in Jets territory. Two of those still resulted in punts (the Jets do have a semblance of a front seven, which will probably keep them off the worst-ever lists), but the third was a touchdown when New York left Adam Shaheen completely uncovered in the middle of the field for a 43-yard gain, and Durham Smythe (who sounds more like a powerful Gotham City businessman than an NFL player) followed with a 4-yard touchdown catch, Fitzpatrick's third scoring toss of the first half.

Vince Verhei: The Jets followed the Smythe touchdown by going three-and-out and punting on fourth-and-2. Why am I watching this?

Bryan Knowles: To see if the Jets become the first team to fire their coach at halftime?

Bryan Knowles: Pictured: Hyperdrive.

Cale Clinton: Remember when Adam Gase declared that the Jets offense was going into "hyperdrive?" I think about it constantly.

This season, the Jets rank 31st in yards per game and last in the league in points per game, per ESPN. Today, the Jets are averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per play. For reference, no other team that has played today finished with a rate lower than 4 yards per play.

Bryan Knowles: It's decently rare to average under 3 yards per play. It only happened seven times in 2019.

Three of those games belonged to Adam Gase's Jets.

Dave Bernreuther: As much as I had hoped for the hero move of a halftime retirement, Joe Flacco came back out for the second half. On second-and-12 he ran around and took a sack that made Joe Douglas facepalm from the booth and on third down he threw it immediately out of bounds.

The Jets haven't even come close to mounting a drive or sniffing points in this one. There is only one way that this game can end now: with Gase calling for a cowardly field goal as regulation ends to avoid the shutout (which Zac Taylor actually did last week without catching nearly as much criticism here as he should have).

Vince Verhei: Here's Douglas in the first half.

Tom Gower: Joe Douglas screenshot:

Vince Verhei: Offense for the Jets! The Dolphins open the second half with a field goal. Jets take over, and in his first game and first carries in a Jets uniform, Ty Johnson runs for 8 and 34 yards. (In 17 games with the Jets, Le'Veon Bell's longest run gained 19 yards.) On third-and-1 after that, however, Flacco is called for intentional grounding and a 13-yard loss. Sam Ficken then misses a 55-yard field goal attempt, and the Dolphins still lead 24-0.

Dave Bernreuther: Well, OK, the Jets got a field goal attempt, and it wasn't just a "keep the shutout off the resume" type -- it was fourth-and-14 from the 37. Ficken missed it, and it looked to have been blocked.


Dave Bernreuther: I don't have the sound on for this one, so special thanks to CBS for their graphic just now that shows us just how awesome both these teams are: They're now a combined 0-18 on third down in this game.

Vince Verhei: OK, I'm glad I stuck with this. Marcus Maye just made one of the best interceptions I've ever seen, catching the ball off his ass and behind his back.

The team that brought you the Butt-Fumble now produces the Butt-Interception.

Cale Clinton: The third down the Jets picked up is most likely inconsequential in the grand scheme of the game's outcome, but it should be noted that it is the first third-down conversion of the day for either team. I believe that makes teams a combined 1-for-20 on third down today.

Scott Spratt: That was awesome, Vince. It reminded me of the catch Antonio Freeman made for the Packers back in 2000.

Vince Verhei: *Sigh*

Third-and-4 in field goal range. Joe Flacco -- who is not, say, Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers or Kyler Murray or any one of a dozen other mobile quarterbacks -- fades back and back and back and scrambles and tries to escape and is eventually sacked for a loss of 28. Not a typo. Twenty. Eight. He has now completed 15 passes for 118 yards and given back 38 yards on three sacks.

Carl Yedor: Joe Flacco just took one of the funnier sacks I've seen this season. He tried to do some variation of the Russell Wilson spin-out but didn't cover enough ground to elude the second onrushing defender. It resulted in him running 28 yards backwards before being taken down for a loss on what was third-and-4.

Dave Bernreuther: Lost in the hilarity of the butt-interception is how bad a throw it was. It was never open, he couldn't have been thrown open, and even if he could've, it was left short and easily defended. Come on, Fitzpatrick.

BIG NEWS: After Joe Flacco throws a third-and-3 pass 10 yards over his receiver in the end zone, Adam Gase shocks us all and doesn't even think to send the field goal unit out. The pass is broken up, and with 2:27 to go -- it can't be kneeled out because the Jets have all their timeouts -- the shutout remains and Gase didn't just go for the resume-padder. It's a very, very, VERY minor thing, and he still has no business being the coach tomorrow ... but still, good for him.

Bryan Knowles: Get ready for even more comments on this terrible game, because Tua Tagliovoa has entered the game for his first NFL action!

Cale Clinton: For those of us brave enough to sit through 57-plus minutes into this game, we get a nice treat to cap the game off: Tua has officially taken the field for the first time as a Miami Dolphin.


I mean, there's less than three minutes left and a 24-0 lead, but hey. Tua Time!

Vince Verhei: Tagovailoa completes a pass to Jakeem Grant to convert a third-and-7 and takes knees to finish this one off.

One last note: the dots on Flacco's mega-sack. Guys ... it was max protect. Seven blockers on five rushers. Eric Rowe still came in virtually unblocked (not a great effort by La'Mical Perine) to ruin the play and Emmanuel Ogbah eventually finished Flacco off.

Cale Clinton: Capping this game off on a happier note, here's Tua taking in his first NFL appearance following the game:

Green Bay Packers 10 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38

Scott Spratt: Aaron Rodgers just went Hingle McCringleberry after running in a touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: Ah, technically Rodgers did his celebration after being stopped at the 1! He wasn't touched, but the refs ruled it as the quarterback giving himself up. I don't know how you give yourself up while diving for the end zone, but I guess I don't get the snappy black-and-white striped shirt.

The Packers run it in the next play -- the Bucs, minus Vita Vea, might have some troubles there today -- to take the 10-0 lead towards the end of the first quarter.

Bryan Knowles: Aaron Rodgers had yet to throw an interception this year, as he's having a career renaissance. Well, that streak is over -- Jamel Dean was just sitting on the route to Davante Adams, jumps all over Rodgers' pass, and runs it back 32 yards for the touchdown. 10-7, and the game has been joined.

Cale Clinton: Rodgers' third-ever career pick-six (!!!) gets taken to the house by Jamel Dean, and we've got ourselves a 10-7 game. First interception thrown by Rodgers in his last 157 pass attempts, per the broadcast.

Scott Spratt: Aaron Rodgers just threw a pick-six. That'll grab attention because of how rarely Rodgers throws interceptions of any kind. But I recommend you take note that the Bucs have the fourth-best DVOA pass defense to join their third-ranked DVOA run defense.

Vince Verhei: That's just the third pick-six of Rodgers' career, and his first since 2017.

His counterpart today, Tom Brady, has thrown 18 in his career, including four in his last seven games.

And there's almost pick-six No. 4 for Rodgers, as Mike Edwards intercepts him and runs it back to the 2. Ronald Jones scores from there and the Bucs are suddenly up 14-10.

Cale Clinton: A little more context for just how rare Rodgers' lack of pick-sixes really is.

Now, Rodgers has thrown two picks on three pass attempts; he had a hand in preventing it from becoming career pick-six number four.

Bryan Knowles: And now Rodgers has thrown two interceptions. This one really wasn't his fault -- coverage was tight, but the ball hit the receiver in the hands. Carlton Davis takes the tipped ball back to the 3, and Ronald Jones takes it in the next play to give Tampa the 14-10 lead.


Bryan Knowles: This is only the 19th game in Rodgers' career with multiple interceptions. Oddly enough, it's his third multi-interception game against the Buccaneers.

Dave Bernreuther: Rodgers just threw another pick -- and almost another six, to boot -- but it's hard to blame him for that one, as it hit his guy in the hands. Ronald Jones takes it in immediately, and I'm sort of curious about the defensive call on that one, as nobody was even in position to play that gap at the goal line, which strikes me as sub-optimal strategy, and just like that the Bucs have seized the lead.

Scott Spratt: Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis entered this week at third and eighth of the 82 cornerbacks with 10 or more targets allowing just 3.7 and 4.4 yards per target this season.

Aaron Schatz: I understand that Tampa Bay is winning 21-10, but their offense really isn't moving the ball that well. I know that Mike Pettine defenses are supposed to be weak against the run, but maybe the Bucs should consider a pass on first down sometime? The one time they passed on first down, it was a play-action short tight end screen that only got 4 yards. Ronald Jones currently averaging 3.0 yards per carry.

Bryan Knowles: A good time, perhaps, to note that the Packers were 29th in defensive DVOA entering this game. They're not designed to be able to come back from the offense turning the ball over on a regular basis.

There were no huge plays on the Buccaneers' latest touchdown drive -- the biggest play was probably the 15-yard facemask on Brady on a third-and-6 they converted anyway -- but it was death by a thousand paper cuts. The touchdown came when the Packers rushed three on third-and-goal, leading to at least two Packers defenders standing around with nothing to do. Brady finds Tyler Johnson for the score, and the Bucs jump to a 21-10 lead late in the second...

Scott Spratt: That is rookie Tyler Johnson's first career touchdown, but he's starting to play enough that he'll probably score some more this season. After playing 31% and 33% of offensive snaps in Weeks 3 and 4, he played 79% last week. And he was one of the standout value 2020 draft picks according to Playmaker Score.

Carl Yedor: Just got caught up on these, but I'm paying closer attention to Green Bay's interior running game with Vita Vea out. The massive third-year nose tackle was a major part of Tampa Bay's top-three rushing defense, and it could be a potential weak point for them today. Jamaal Williams had a big run through what looked like the B-gap, but outside of that one play, Tampa has kept the Green Bay rushing attack bottled up for the most part. They may have to lean more on the pass now down 21-10, but it seems like an area that they could have exploited to greater effect in a more favorable game script.

Dave Bernreuther: Brady's effort to scoop the low snap on the touchdown pass bears noting; that's hard to do with that kind of speed and grace. That wasn't knee-height, either, it was toe-height. And he made it easy and still went straight to his target for the score.

That's not even meant as an age-related dig at Brady, by the way. (I promise.) I'm a year younger, and I'm not even out of shape. Bending over, especially that quickly and precisely, is a freaking chore. And we saw Flacco struggle with a better snap about half an hour ago.

It does work well, though, as a segue into mentioning just how absurd it is for Brady to be playing as he is at this age. It also worked very nicely as a segue into Troy Aikman talking about the difference in how he takes shotgun snaps now, which he teased early in the game. That's a pretty good catch, and good for him to working back to it, because I definitely assumed he forgot.

Bryan Knowles: Gronk smash! The former WWE 24/7 champion scores his first touchdown since 2018, as the Packers are beginning to get washed away...

Dave Bernreuther: Considering the opposition, that was a better second quarter from Brady and the Bucs than Rivers and the Colts put up earlier this afternoon. Seems like it was only about half an hour ago that we were all joking about Rodgers' McCringleberry and the Bucs (and their No. 2 defensive DVOA) were not playing especially well. Since then they've been steamrolling the Packers and it feels like Rodgers hasn't even been able to complete a pass. Meanwhile, Brady has completed almost all of his, Gronk is getting involved, and just like that, the Bucs are running away with it.

Also, just because nobody has mentioned him specifically: Lavonte David is really good. He's all over the place. Strange how much he tends to fly under the radar.

Aaron Schatz: This is Rob Gronkowski's comeback game as a receiver. Now at 78 yards with a touchdown. I wonder how much that has to do with O.J. Howard being done for the season, and Brady would rather have Gronk as the top receiving tight end instead of Cameron Brate. Oh, and Ronald Jones finally ran for more than 2 yards on a first down, getting 25 yards on his last carry.

Vince Verhei: 42-yard DPI on Josh Jackson in coverage against Scotty Miller puts Tampa Bay at the 2, and Ronald Jones runs it in from there for a 38-10 lead.

I was, as always, wrong about a lot of things this year, but I think I was most of all wrong in underestimating the Tampa Bay defense. They were sixth in defensive DVOA last season. I thought was the result of a fluke season by Shaquil Barrett and they were likely to decline. Instead they've gotten much, much better.

Carl Yedor: Interior rushing update: even down 28 points, Tampa Bay has been swarming at the point of attack and not allowing much of anything. This has been a really impressive showing from the Bucs.

Dave Bernreuther: It wasn't anywhere near as bad a throw as the butt-interception in the other game, because at least it made sense to throw and was just left a bit short ... but man did Tom Brady get away with one there. Not bad, though, when you can net 40 yards on perhaps your worst throw of the game. But man ... if you're Josh Jackson, how upsetting must that be, to not only play a ball so poorly that it hits you directly in the helmet and you don't even know to play it, but to also end up penalized for 40 yards?

This one was over even before that sequence, though. David Bakhtiari is now ruled out of the game, Rodgers is running for his life and his stat line is absolutely representative of his play, and the Bucs are just dominating them in both directions. What a dud of a late window this week. Hopefully tonight can give us a quality game.

Cale Clinton: Hats off to self-described "blocking tight end" Rob Gronkowski for his best game in a Buccaneers uniform. Through three quarters, he has caught his second-most receptions this season with five catches, highest total receiving yards with 78, and his first touchdown since joining Tampa Bay. With Chris Godwin 30 yards behind Gronk in receiving yards today, this would also be the first time with the Buccaneers that Gronk has led his team in receiving yards.

Certainly not close to his ceiling, but I'm happy to see Gronk having fun.

Dave Bernreuther: Vince, I'm with you. They were good last year, and Todd Bowles has always been good (though perhaps underrated due to his ill-fated head coaching stint), but I too expected them to regress some.

They haven't. They look great. Rodgers' numbers today are awful and even the completions and yards he has gained have been hard earned. They're doing a lot of talking about the jawing between Rodgers and Ndamukong Suh, but what they ought to be talking about is how well Suh and his linemates have been playing. At least for today, this is prime Suh, not afterthought Suh, and the rest of the defense has also been playing well too.

So naturally, down 28 in the fourth quarter and starting from the 12, the Packers open a drive with a handoff ... hard to say I blame them for throwing in the towel, though. After racing out to the 10-0 lead, they've gotten dominated. I'd be in the mood to head home too.

Dave Bernreuther: We may all have stooped fairly low by having so much to say about a horrible Jets-Dolphins game as this feature game gets away from us ... but at least we're not Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, who are stuck without an alternative TV and are now forced to fill air time by spending several minutes talking about Derek Jeter's house and swamp ass.

Oh, and now they're talking about Brett Favre, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen's arm strength. Stay tuned for the last two minutes of this game after commercial, when we discuss whether Uncle Rico can throw the ball over them mountains!

Tom Gower: Unfortunately, this wasn't a good game for discussion generation. The Packers seemed like they were in total control, then the Bucs were in what looked like strong control and it completely morphed into total control, but without a single player having a huge performance. Ronald Jones had over 100 yards rushing, but the dominant theme of the Bucs run game was ineffective first-down runs. We've seen Brady-Gronk plenty of times before. That was a bit of a surprise given what Gronk had looked like earlier this year, but these plays were mostly precise passes against reasonable coverage, not vintage Gronk. And the Packers didn't have a good defense, which is why we were lower on them than other people (including those Aikman alleged had the Packers as Super Bowl favorites or maybe one of them), so it wasn't a surprise when the Bucs started having some success moving the ball.

Los Angeles Rams 16 at San Francisco 49ers 24

Bryan Knowles: Plan one for Jimmy Garoppolo: never let him pass the ball beyond the line of scrimmage. Maybe one day, the idea of passing and running will be a distinction set in the past, and we'll sort plays by where the ballcarrier got control of the ball, but until that day...

Garoppolo was 4-for-4 for 69 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive, each pass going for negative air yards. Yowza.

Bryan Knowles: Sportradar has Garoppolo with -20 air yards on that opening drive. That's the lowest on a touchdown drive in at least 10 years, which I believe is as far back as their database goes.

Carl Yedor: Solid pass breakup by Jason Verrett on third down there for San Francisco. He wasn't expected to be a starter for the 49ers heading into the season, but he has stepped in and held down the fort with the injuries in the San Francisco defensive backfield. After playing in a total of six games from 2016 through 2019 because of injuries (seriously), he is finally getting a chance to play. Still 7-0 San Francisco after two drives for each team.

Aaron Schatz: Time for a ridiculous fumble call. The Rams player touches Jerick McKinnon on the helmet as he's going down. Then he gives the ball up willingly because he thought he was down. If they give this to the Rams, it is close to the worst call I've ever seen.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, thank God, better thinking prevails. Not a fumble.

Bryan Knowles: I ... may have woken the neighbors yelling at the refs for the interminable delay and the obvious reversal. Possibly.

Carl Yedor: Bizarre situation here. Jerick McKinnon looks pretty clearly touched down on a short run, but he drops the ball while he's laying on the ground. The Rams scoop up the ball and take it the other way, getting down into the red zone, but surely the officials see on replay that McKinnon was touched down, right? Right? Well, as the broadcast returns from commercial, we see a livid Kyle Shanahan on the sidelines and we hear from the officials that they will be reviewing the play (again?). Ultimately, they get the call right, but that was a very strange resolution to what should have been pretty simple.

Bryan Knowles: Kyle Shanahan is usually very conservative on fourth downs, but the rolls the dice on fourth-and-2 from the Rams' 44. The Rams cheat up, expecting yet another run/run-like substance, Garoppolo hits George Kittle about 10 yards downfield, one guy misses, and he's off to the races. 14-0 lead for the 49ers early in the second.

That sound you hear is the greater Bay Area releasing a breath they've been holding for two weeks or so.

Bryan Knowles: Hell of a catch by Robert Woods at the end of that last drive -- Jaquiski Tartt had good coverage, but Goff threw a laser and Woods hauled it in. Good drive in general for Woods, adding in the two runs which got the Rams into the red zone to begin with. Extra point misses, so it's still a 14-6 49ers lead, but the Rams needed to get off the turf some, there, so that's a nice drive.

Scott Spratt: An offensive holding penalty will erase the memory of this, but Raheem Mostert just threw one of the best stiff-arms I've ever seen.

Scott Spratt: Well, now I'm going to have nightmares about a Jimmy Garoppolo Terminator, so thanks for that SNF.

Bryan Knowles: Don't worry; you can avoid a Jimmy Garoppolo Terminator by standing more than 6 feet from the line of scrimmage.

Scott Spratt: Skynet must not care about their robots blending in among actual humans making their Terminators look like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jimmy G.

Bryan Knowles: Time of possession is somewhat overrated -- both teams alternate with the ball, so it's not like you're costing someone possessions -- but when you've got a 20- to 8-minute deficit, and a regular presence in the running game, that has to begin to leave a mark.

The 49ers got the ball back with 9:03 left in the second quarter and drained nearly eight minutes off the clock on their way to a Garoppolo-to-Brandon Aiyuk touchdown and a 21-6 lead. This is far from over -- remember the Rams roaring back in the second half against the Bills? -- but the Los Angeles offense hasn't really had time to get anything going yet.

Bryan Knowles: One for the old-school Football Outsiders fans here. A hook and lateral behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-long? Burn that play.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Donald with no tackles in the first half. "Daniel Brunskill plus rotating second 49ers lineman" is doing very well against him tonight.

Vince Verhei: I would add that NBC's halftime video had one clip where three men, including San Francisco's best receiver, were dedicated to blocking Donald. There were two linemen doing your standard double-team, and Kittle behind the two of them, just eyeing Donald in case he got through.

Bryan Knowles: 21-6 at the half, as the Rams have only managed 102 yards of offense to this point. I know we've marveled in past weeks how good the Rams have looked in everything other than the first half against the Bills, but it is worth noting that it was just against the NFC East. Not that they weren't impressive or that those games don't count for some reason, but I'll be very interested to see how they come out in the second half. Any good team can be off every now and again, especially against a division rival, but I think we're still trying to get a grip on just how much of the Rams' success was opponent-driven, as opposed to internal.

As for the 49ers, well, that offensive strategy they pulled out in the first half isn't going to work very well playing from behind, but as long as they have a lead, bring on the touch passes and running game, one supposes.

Bryan Knowles: The 49ers are still thin, especially on defense. Jaquiskit Tartt comes out, Marcell Harris comes in and immediately whiffs a pair of tackles. On offense, Raheem Mostert has been ruled out with a groin, and the 49ers haven't been able to move the ball since. Something to keep an eye on going forward.

But as I type this, and the Rams get to a fourth down at the 2-yard line ... Jason Verrett manages to get his hands on the ball with the rare valuable fourth-down interception! Trying to picture where the 49ers would be right now without Verrett is a frightening prospect. So happy he's healthy and playing again.

Aaron Schatz: All of a sudden midway through the third quarter, the Rams' offensive line blocking can't be stopped. Darrell Henderson runs for 11, 0, 13, then a DPI penalty, then Henderson again for 9, 4, and 7. But then Henderson loses a yard on second-and-goal, and the Rams chose to pass on third and fourth down ... Cooper Kupp can't catch it on third, and Jason Verrett intercepts it on fourth. I'm a little surprised the Rams didn't try another run on the third or fourth. And the thing about the interception is it means the 49ers take the ball back at the 20, not at the 2.

Vince Verhei: That is Jason Verrett's first interception since 2016. Only played nine games since (including three this year). Good for him for coming back from so many injuries.

Bryan Knowles: The Rams get a touchdown late to make it a nine-point game ... and kick the extra point to make it an eight-point deficit. Sean McVay had to go for two there, really. Just had to.

Aaron Schatz: The Rams just keep taking small bits and small bits and Goff finally goes deep and hits Josh Reynolds for 40 yards. Maybe we have a comeback? The Rams kick the extra point, so they'll wait to try the two-point conversion if they manage to score again.

Carl Yedor: I appreciate that Cris Collinsworth is defending the go-for-two after the first touchdown down 15 argument here. The two of them essentially went point-counterpoint just there, and while I disagree with Al Michaels, I appreciate that the broadcast crew did not just dismiss it out of hand.


97 comments, Last at 20 Oct 2020, 5:55pm

1 Pleasing to witness a couple…

Pleasing to witness a couple of dominant defensive performances yesterday. Steelers over Browns didn’t surprise me. That Steelers front is never going to get pushed about in the run game, so it was reliant on Baker, who from what I have seen this year is, sadly, trending towards bust territory. He throws an accurate ball, but the decision making and poise are badly lacking. In year 3, that is a big concern. Not entirely sure how dominant this Steelers defense can be, but they are certainly equipped to smother bad/mediocre offences. The Ravens games should be fun. 

Didn’t watch Bucs Packers closely, but that is an eye opening result. The Bucs defense is fast and fun, highlighted by the two LBs David and White.

The Titans averaged 9.5 yards per play over 60 plays. That’s....good? Can’t have happened often - a display that dominant would ordinarily lead to a blowout, and subsequent clock killing to suppress efficient, I guess?

7 I saw both games. An even…

I saw both games.


An even handed analysis would say Baker was playing a tough defense that put him under a lot of pressure. On the other hand, leaving aside both ints which were horrendous, the hallmark of a good qb is about steadying the offense and finding ways to tilt the matchups in your favor; ie make Pittsburgh weary of sending jailbreak blitzes because you can exploit certain parts of the field if they do. Sadly, he and the offense were overwhelmed. This is my first time watching Baker this season so maybe he's better than this, that's not the impression I've been getting from everyone else. The Browns are set up for success so it's unfortunate that they appear to have missed on the quarterback yet again. Oh well, got to go back to the roulette wheel.


Rodgers struggled with the blitz all game. Just never had an answer for it other than doing a Patrick Mahomes impression of drifting into the pocket. Unfortunately, those just led to sacks. 


The Bucs D is good, but Rodgers had a terrible game. He forced deep throws into coverage over and over again. It might have been the worst I've seen him play.

64 Baker

Here in the UK we’ve had Rob Ryan as a studio analyst the past few weeks, and he has been scathing of Baker, saying he sees a QB completely incapable of operating from the pocket, and somebody he would be delighted to coach against. And whilst I think Stefanski knows what he’s doing, there’s a limit to what an offence can achieve with play action rollouts/bootlegs alone, especially when the QB is not a threat to run himself. 

71 I’ve seen a lot of people…

In reply to by BJR

I’ve seen a lot of people ready to write off Mayfield as bust, but IMO that’s a bit premature.  He was raised by wolves (really idiotic and incompetent wolves) his first two years in the league.  He’s had 6 games with competent NFL coaching (with a truncated training camp).  Also, he had a pretty impressive rookie year even with the Hugh Jackson/Gregg Williams/Freddie Kitchens 3 headed hydra.  I wouldn’t rule out Stefanski being able to salvage him.  Brett Favre was a knucklehead until MIke Holgmren got his hands on him, and even then it took like 3 seasons before he reached his full potential.  

72 Basically:

Basically, the "make sure if I'm cut, I sign a 1 year contract to backup Mahomes" theory of career progression.  


In all honesty, Mayfield would probably have quite a bit of success in SF's offense or LAR's offense.  I'm really surprised the offensive staffs for either team aren't being constantly rated.  They take bottom tear QB starters and build offenses that can hang with Russel Wilson's Seahawks or Mahome's Chiefs.  If football made any sense... every team in the league without a near HOF QB would be coached by a Shannahan or McVay disciple. 

76 Teams have tried this…

In reply to by gomer_rs

Teams have tried this approach. A bunch of guys have gotten hired on the basis of once having stood near Shanahan or McVay.

\your best bet remains a Reid disciple.

74 I sincerely hope Baker turns…

I sincerely hope Baker turns it round because I like his attitude and, goodness, do Cleveland fans deserve it. And I agree his coaching, last year in particular, has been shambolic. 

There are no excuses now, however. They've hired a highly regarded offensive coach, and surrounded him with talent. He'd better start picking up quickly. 

2 Packers really, really…

Packers really, really struggled yesterday. I think they struggle most with the teams that have invested in fast off-ball linebackers that can do it all because their offense is so predicated on lateral movement, mismatches, and play action.

To combat that I really think they should consider trading for another WR, because they need to develop a counter or they will get stomped by these teams again and again. If they fall behind in the second half they have to be able to mount a comeback.

If I were them I’d have my eye on a mid- or late- round pick for a rental of Kenny Stills as Barnwell keeps suggesting, or perhaps Chris Conley or Keelan Cole from the Jags.

3 " Patriots follow up the…

" Patriots follow up the Edelman-to-White screen with a "Philly Special"-style Edelman-to-Newton pass where Newton outmuscles tacklers to get a first down."

Are we just gonna call *every single* "throw to the QB" pass a "Philly Special" now? Why...?

That was a reverse with a WR pass option (the option part I'm guessing at, but Edelman was staring straight at the defender who could've taken Newton). The QB leaked out after handing off. Philly Special was a direct-snap to an RB with the QB motioning to the end of the line of scrimmage, simulating an audible.


25 That's what I mean! Those…

That's what I mean! Those two plays were completely different, and in fact, this play - the Cam Newton catch - that was the dropped catch play from Super Bowl LII! So why are you calling it Philly Special? Instead, say, "hey look, the Patriots actually executed that play from Super Bowl LII that Brady dropped!" Or give that play a name, like "New England Perfectly Ordinary."

Snap to shotgun QB, who leaks out to the right after handing off to an RB. WR on the right runs a clear-out route (in the SB, he had a defender at the line, here, the defender was off the line, so slightly different routes). OL blocks left. Toss to Edelman coming as if a WR reverse, if the defender crashes down on Edelman, toss to the open QB. Exact same formation and blocking. 

Philly Special's a run-heavy (2TE, 1 RB, 2 WR) set, with 2TE/1WR tight to the left side and the single WR to the right split wide.  QB motions to a flanker/slot to the right. Direct snap to RB, 1 TE comes in to receive a toss in an apparent reverse, with the other TE coming over as a lead blocker. Split WR to the right runs a clear-out route for his defender. QB leaks out to the right, wide open.

Big difference is that Philly Special's much faster developing (thanks to the direct snap to RB and QB already at the line). And since it's a goal-line play, the other TE coming as a lead blocker sells the reverse a bit more and means there's no rush to the passer.

Philly Special's a goal line/short-yardage play, and is pretty much a "one time use" thing due to the "fake audible" deception. The Patriots play is slower developing and can be used repeatedly - there's no real "deception" - pay attention to the QB and it's just a normal reverse.

30 It feels like NE actually…

It feels like NE actually runs this a fair amount.

Does Edelman ever actually run the reverse? It seems like this is always a pass.

\Mind you, we live in a reality where announcers don't know the difference between a reverse and an end-around.

35 Yeah, I dunno if there's a…

Yeah, I dunno if there's a real option there, or if it's just intended to look exactly like a reverse. The Patriots have certainly run true reverses before with the QB blocking (there's a famous play where Brady gets destroyed on a block for Edelman on a true reverse, and also one where he sprung N'Keal Harry last year).

That being said those plays are out of a slightly different formation, which surprises me a little, because there's no reason you couldn't run this play as a pure reverse. The Patriots' two reverse attempts I could find both have two WRs running clearing routes on the (eventual) play side.

4 2nd place!

Miami ends the day in second place! Never in my wildest dreams did I think they'd be that good this year. They get a whole 2 weeks to enjoy it. As my brother text me "The 49ners are beating the Rams. Maybe Miami doesn't suck so bad after all?" I honestly don't know anymore. They don't run very well. Fitz is an interception waiting to happen, but the defense turnaround feels real. Let's see what happens versus a decent Rams team in two weeks.  

6 Let's not get carried away…

In reply to by johonny

Let's not get carried away.

I didn't think Miami would see .500 again this year either, and they're vastly improved from last year, but...While I throughly enjoy the stomping of the Jets, good grief they're terrible. That whole second half was a bin fire by both teams.

If Miami get the draft right next year then 2021 could be genuinely exciting, but I have a hard time finding 8 wins this season.

On that note, let's hope the Texans continue to suck...

12 The best part of yesterday

Was watching the Texans go for two thinking, tanks Romeo!  To be really exciting Tua has to be the guy he's hyped to be. Right now, we don't know. Although Tannehill sure looks good. It turns out he was making Gase look good and not the other way around. Too bad we found out too late. 

I really don't know. Miami moved up to 12th last week and will likely hold that spot at least with this performance. The Rams Cardinals stretch will tell us a lot about this team. I really think Fitzpatrick can beat anyone and lose to anyone. He's so streaky that it probably caps the potential this season. Still they might hit their over in win total this year. Their December schedule is filled with scary good teams. But that's ages away. 

5 "Aaron Schatz: Remember on…

Aaron Schatz: Remember on Tuesday when the Titans looked like practices are totally unnecessary and dominated the Bills?

Well. I mean. That's one interpretation. To be fair, we are talking about a team where we know the players held their own practice outside of the facility when they weren't supposed to at *least* once. I'm just sayin...

8 jets special teams

what made that whole sequence so maddening as a fan, is that the jets had to punt at all.  Two years ago the jets had above average special teams, highlighted by long distance extraordinaire Jason Myers and Andre Roberts.  Macaganan let both go to save cap room...even though the jets are always in the league leaders in cap use the money to sign the now departed Bell.  Who kicked a 55 yard field goal 2 weeks ago at same stadium? Jason myers!

Not mentioned in your writeup, Frank Gore somehow got 12 touches yesterday.  For an 0-5 team trying to put an offense into 'Hyper-drive," what good is it let Gore on the field let alone take 12 touches away from Perine or Johnson? Douglass better get the memo to Gase fast to see what we have in Perine, because if they cant find one winner in his first draft, Douglass wont be given a second.

And as an aside, the most frustrating part of this season is watching a renaissance of rookie WRs light up the league while ours cant see the field.  

9 The Jets are embarrassingly…

The Jets are embarrassingly awful, but I'm not sure it's too big of a surprise. The offense was bereft of talent to begin with and then they got hurt. And the are playing Joe Flacco, who on his best days wheezes out at 24 point effort, but on most days can barely cross the 17 point marker.


11 And as an aside, the most…

And as an aside, the most frustrating part of this season is watching a renaissance of rookie WRs light up the league while ours cant see the field.

looks at name to see what team you support

You're... a Jets fan, and that's the most frustrating part of the season? I mean... not to rub salt in the wound, but if he was on the field, how would you even know the difference? Couldn't you just scribble "MIMS" on the back of the WR from some uncatchable pass from Darnold/Flacco? Or just imagine Mims split out wide with a "why did I go back to Baylor" look on his face as a snap's fumbled away?

78 I was actually vaguely…

I was actually vaguely impressed at the way the Jets defense maintained their effort levels to the end, and prevented the scoreline from getting wildly out of hand. I suppose Greg Williams deserves some credit for that, he seems a capable motivator. I'm sure if he took over from Gase now they could eek out a couple of wins somewhere, but I suppose that isn't what the organisation wants.

10 It's interesting that during…

It's interesting that during a record-setting offensive year, there were so many rough qb games. Rodgers, Baker, Wentz, Cousins, Goff, Flacco(not a surprise).


Maybe a random blip or perhaps defenses are finally turning it around?

13 Bucs Defensive Regression

This is the disadvantage of looking at analytics vs. scouting. You could say Shaq was a fluke and JPP would get old, but Lavonte’s still in his prime and more importantly: Vea, Whitehead, Edwards, SMB, Dean, Davis, and White were all due to keep improving as young players in their second year in a complex scheme, and Winfield Jr.’s pedigree to not be a typical rookie.

24 You realize other than…

You realize other than Lavonte David being an elite player and in his prime, the rest of your statements are assumption based as well. Shaq's season came out of nowhere. JPP hasn't looked great in years. The rest of the group were promising, but lots of promising players never quite pan out the way teams hoped. And the pedigree argument is hilarious. I guess Phil Simms' genes skip a generation or two or three. 

15 On back-to-back-to-back…

On back-to-back-to-back plays, Mike Davis lost a fumble to start the Bears in the red zone.

RBs are fungible. Davis is totally a 1:1 replacement for McCaffrey.


34 I totally fell for the D…

I totally fell for the D'Ernest Johnson waiver wire bandwagon in fantasy, simply because I needed bodies when CMC went down, but I think we're also seeing Nick Chubb's value and non-fungibility right now.

18 Musical moment

Was I the only one who heard "Regression!" to the tune of "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof?

44 [Bryan] Regression,…


Regression, Regression! Regression!

Regression, Regression! Regression!

[Mike and Aaron]

Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,

Feed a running back and wide receiver?

And who has the right, as master of the house,

To have the final word at home?

Josh Allen, Josh Allen! Regression.

Josh Allen, Josh Allen! Regression.

[Rivers and Cale]

Who must know the way to make a proper home,

A quiet home, a run-first home?

Who must raise the team and defend the pass,

So Crennel's free to read the holy book?

The Watson! The Watson! Regression!

The Watson! The Watson! Regression!

[Bryan and Scott]

At twenty-three, I started QB school. At twenty-five, I demanded a trade.

I hear they've picked a bride for me. I hope she's pretty.

Oh Garoppolo! Regression!

Oh Garoppolo! Regression!

[Dave and Vince]

And who does Flores teach to mend and tend and fix,

Preparing me to yield to whoever Gailey picks?

Fitzgerald! Fitzgerald! Regression! 

Fitzgerald! Fitzgerald! Regression! 

19 The Bears go run on first…

The Bears go run on first and second down to bring up third-and-2, but then pass (?!?!) and Foles throws incomplete. 

If you can't run the clock out without a first down, you need to strategize for a first down instead of just running clock. A failed run would only have burned 15 seconds on the drive, too, and 1:45 is an eternity.

51 Agreed. I was not surprised…

Agreed. I was not surprised to hear Jonathan Vilma make this argument on the broadcast, but I was surprised to see it on FO. The problem was with the 3rd down play call and Foles's awful pass, not with the decision to pass it. (And yes, I know about the stats of running vs. passing on 3rd and short, but the Bears atrocious run blocking invalidates those arguments.)

57 The pass hit Robinson in the…

The pass hit Robinson in the hands, didn't it? It might not have been ideal but IIRC it should have been caught.


Overall, I agree with you fine fellows--passing wasn't a problem. Getting the first down was the imperative. And given how poorly they ran overall in that game, I'm not upset with a pass call.

58 Looking at the tape, you are…

Looking at the tape, you are correct. I was mixing up that play with the previous 3rd down pass which was thrown well short of the sticks (even though it was 3rd and 3) and at Robinson's feet. The one at ~1:45 could have been farther in front of Robinson, because Douglas gets a hand in front of it and either knocks it down or at least distracts Robinson (can't tell which because all-22 isn't available yet). But not an awful throw.

21 Put aside the benefit of…

Put aside the benefit of knowing how many points you need -- the point is, down nine, you're going to need a two-pointer at some point to tie the game. What difference does it make if you try it now instead of later? What's the benefit of waiting?

I'm curious how the game-theory works here. Do opposing teams play differently up 9 versus up 8 versus up 7? Which state do you want?

31 I think the more interesting…

I think the more interesting question is that the analytics-types are assuming that there's no cost to using a 2-point play, and I'm not sure that's true. Those plays are high-value - if you burn one trying to get 2 points early and it costs you a TD later, that's a worse situation.

Think about it: down 15, score a TD, go for 2 and get it. Then get down to the 2-yard line, 4th down, and fail. Now you're down 7. If, instead, you had kicked the PAT and used that play in the second situation, now you score a TD and fail the 2PT conversion. So you're down 2.

I think if you put any finite-resource value on short yardage/2 point plays, it very well might wash out the value of going for the 2 point on the first TD. Especially because most comebacks fail, so in a season-long analysis, going for it on the first TD might be a losing strategy.

(again, all of this is predicated on short-yardage goal-to-go plays having intrinsic value).

37 Partly me, I think someone…

Partly me, I think someone else brought it up. I mentioned it on Twitter when Aaron did.

This argument is strengthened considering it's literally what Doug Pederson said:

"Doug Pederson on WIP on failed 2-pt conversion: We had exhausted all of our red zone plays by that point. In retrospect, should have called our last timeout to pick a better play."

Of course, Philly media is like "what are you talking about, you only have a few red zone plays??" but I'm pretty sure this is how football works in general.

If coaches have a limited # of red-zone plays and they're confident that reusing them is bad, then going for 2 point conversions early is horribly stupid. Most of the time, comebacks fail. Burning a resource before you know if it's needed is really, really bad.

38 There might be a limited…

There might be a limited amount of successful 2-pt plays, but you don't know in advance which ones they are, so I don't see how it matters. Sure, there might be a trick play you really like, but it's very unusual for a team to use even one trick play in a single game, let alone two, let alone two than run from the same situation.

46 I see a debacle of a play…

I see a debacle of a play and I assume they ran a successful play earlier, but I still don't see how running a successful play earlier dooms your second attempt. I mean, apologies because I know you are a fan, but those were the Eagles.

49 This was their fourth 2…

This was their fourth 2 point attempt, and the head coach literally said that they had exhausted all of their red zone plays at this point.

Edit: so let's actually do the math. You saw that play - its chance of success was literally zero.

The first 3 2-point plays had a 66% success rate. So if they had instead done PAT, PAT, 2-point attempt, 2-point attempt, they would've had a 33% chance of winning, as opposed to the zero they ended with. Or you could say well, if those had a 66% chance, they actually had a 4% chance of hitting all 3, in which case the PAT at the end would win.

So that's a 4% win chance, which is still lower than the 16% chance of tying and going to overtime.

65 Yup. Four TDs, four 2 point…

Yup. Four TDs, four 2 point conversions. Two failed, so 28 points.

As for how many you work on, it's not like 2 point conversions are special plays: they're just goal line plays. So really, there's a chance you'll need one or two for every TD. That's why it's not a crazy argument that it might be counterproductive to go for two early. The additional information can help strategy, but reducing scoring chances counters that. So it easily could be a wash.

90 No exhaustion of red zone plays

A team had used up all their red zone plays at this point???  A team should only be so lucky as to be in the red zone so often as to use up all of their plays.  If the coaching staff does not have 4 two point conversion plays they should coach high school (no insult meant to high school coaches, many of whom likely have more than 4 two point conversion plays).

Please, the Ravens busted up the play, the chances of this play working are not zero.  You are missing some variables on this play:

1.  The line could actually have made a block

2.  Good defense although difficult in today's NFL is still permitted.

You are missing some variables on your prior analysis of two point conversions:

1.  Elliott could miss one of the two extra points, if attempted

2.  The Eagles could score on all 3 of the prior two point conversion attempts, then just need an extra point to go ahead.

93 Oh, I love it when a…

Oh, I love it when a response is predictable. From literally 2 inches above:

This argument is strengthened considering it's literally what Doug Pederson said:

"Doug Pederson on WIP on failed 2-pt conversion: We had exhausted all of our red zone plays by that point. In retrospect, should have called our last timeout to pick a better play."

Of course, Philly media is like "what are you talking about, you only have a few red zone plays??" but I'm pretty sure this is how football works in general.

97 Exhausted all of our red zone plays

I did catch that in your initial statement, now that you have clarified, Pederson's statement appears absurd.  Was that really his statement?  And now I have looked up, "Exhausted all of our red zone plays and there it is, WOW!"

He used no red zone plays in the first half, then scored on a 74 yard play, so still no red zone plays.  

He has exhausted all of his red zone plays, but give him a 30 second time out and he will think of a better play.  How do you exhaust all of your red zone plays?   You should be exhausted from scoring so much if you have run that many plays in the red zone.  

Maybe you were incorrect a few weeks ago when you said Pederson thinks he has a good team (when playing for the tie).  I would expect that if he thinks he has a good team he would have more red zone plays .  Actually I think that this was just a gaffe in the heat of the moment of a press conference.


43 It's not about trick plays

It's about the D being able to tell exactly what's coming.  For example, iirc, that's what did in the Pats' two-point attempt at the end of the game against Seattle in Week 2.

66 I'm not sure, but I think:

I think this is a play calling philosophy.  I think some play callers have highly specific situational play calls... which Peterson clearly appears to, but others just play concepts, regardless of where they find themselves... i.e. I need 3 yards, run play.

My example, as an avowed Seattle fan is of course the Seahawks... Seattle with Darrel Bevel at OC appeared to be a set piece play calling system.  Given certain conditions they would call a specific sub-set of plays.  You could almost call when their "shot plays" would come and they would also run a certain amount of 1 receiver fades and rubs in the redzone.  The most famous of which would be the last play of SB XLIX.

However, under Schottenheimer they appear to be calling their regular concept combinations in the redzone.  For example the game winning Touchdown against Minnesota didn't appear to be anything other than a simple Air Raid style "Mesh" play, which is the pass first spread offenses's equivalent of an I formation's HB ISO.  A high percentage establishing play that's useful in any on schedule down and distance.

73 That would be relatively…

That would be relatively rare in the NFL, I would think.  The compressed space of the end zone changes defensive player alignments and eliminates some receiver routes.  You can't threaten a big play to create space for a 3-yard run the same way you can at midfield.  There may be some "regular" plays that could be fitted to work near the goal line, but many likely require a goal line version of the play, at least.

89 Even if a play looks the…

Even if a play looks the same, that doesn't mean the stems/routes/blocking assignments are identical. They're obviously not, for the reasons you mention. You don't worry about linemen getting downfield to block linebackers, for instance.

The other thing is that even if the offense's play is the same, the defense is obviously different. So even if you line up and try to run a play you run anywhere on the field, everyone's going to have to do something different because the defenders are in totally different positions.

91 As long as you are running concepts...

As long as you are running concepts, rather then specific plays, you still don't have to worry about "burning plays".  Especially if it is the exact same play call you would make anywhere on the field.  Because, then you get more information how the defense is going to defend a given formation and can switch concepts into or out of the play call.

That may sound crazy, but once again, Seattle fan... and Brian Schottenheimer does use such a modular play calling system where he choses formation, anti man concept on one side, anti zone concept on the other side.

I think WC type teams tend probably tend toward calling specific plays (Peterson is a Reid disciple), while Air Coryell teams with their 3 digit play calls can probably call concepts, and the adoption of college spread tactics is almost entirely concept calls rather than set piece calls.  The space constraint in the Redzone is obviously greater when facing pro players then college players.

92 "However, under…

"However, under Schottenheimer they appear to be calling their regular concept combinations in the redzone.  For example the game winning Touchdown against Minnesota didn't appear to be anything other than a simple Air Raid style "Mesh" play, which is the pass first spread offenses's equivalent of an I formation's HB ISO."

OK, so if we straight assume it's mesh, even in this case, the play is functionally different: both safeties are noticeably closer to the line of scrimmage, and the reads need to change. So for instance, the left side receiver crossing to the right doesn't put nearly as much pressure on the deeper safety: after all, the receiver on the corner route's never going to take him that far away. And similarly, the receivers can't set the mesh too deep anyway, as the linebackers are close.

That's kinda what I mean - if the Seahawks would run this play a bunch near the red zone, it'd be easy enough to figure out Wilson's keys, and cheat - make it look like you're doing one thing, and break off once he commits. Anywhere in the rest of the field, Wilson's keys don't matter that much because it's just a fundamentally hard play to defend. Near the end zone, the defense has an advantage because of the compressed space.

95 I think the part of my argument not communicated:

I think the part of my argument not communicated is that concept play calls are usually modular.  It only takes two receivers to run a "Mesh" concept.  The information gained by the offense from running a Mesh concept the first time can influence what other calls, for the other 3 pass catchers, are used the second time.

If the defense tries to key on the look, you can adjust your concept to the defense.

Concept calling probably is slightly lower probability on a specific play overall, but any information you give the defense is equally valuable to any information gained from the defense.  Modular concept play calls don't have one specific counter because the conflicted defender can change.

75 Thanks.  I've got to admit…

Thanks.  I've got to admit this obviously Belichick should have gone for two way of thinking has been bothering me for about 24 hours now, and I've been hoping that someone with a better statistical analysis background than me (which is more or less everybody in the commentariat) could explain it to me in small words.

I mean, I get it....more time to make decisions is better than less time, as is more data points than less.

But it seems the baked-in assumption is that a 2-point conversion down by 9 with 8:30 left on the clock is going to be have an identical success rate as a 2-point conversion down by 2 with 30 seconds left, and I don't think that's true.  The implied thinking is that we need one 2-pointer and if we don't get it now, that means we wouldn't have gotten it later, so it's better to accept our failure now to better adjust strategy.

On the other hand, going and failing to get two points after the Newton sneak guarantees the Patriots will need two more possessions.  The Patriots are creating a harder path to victory.

Assuming for the exercise that an extra point is a 90+% success, it seems intuitively that the better play is to kick it and keep it a one-possession game.  Even if the kick is missed, nothing is lost, compared to a failed 2-pointer.  If the Patriots get the ball back still down by 8, great.  Score the touchdown and decide on what your game-hinging play is going to be, with the offense feeling confident and the defense reeling.  And we haven't talked about things like the defense getting winded, players getting hurt, or other factors that could possibly make the 2-pointer easier at the later time (Hey -- More information is good after all!)

It seems the only good reason to go for two at the earlier juncture is to win the game with a 2-pointer later if you don't want to take your chances in overtime, but I haven't seen that justification espoused yet.

I feel like a heretic in this company going against "analytics", but it's not matching up to logic.  At least not mine, anyway.

79 That begs the question, why…

That begs the question, why does attempting the two-point conversion on the second TD has a better chance than on the first TD?

Also, "On the other hand, going and failing to get two points after the Newton sneak guarantees the Patriots will need two more possessions.  The Patriots are creating a harder path to victory."

But failing after the second TD guarantees they will lose the game.

80 In a vacuum, neither…

In a vacuum, neither conversion has a better chance than the other.  They are two, unrelated things.  Therefore, in my view, the thought that "we'll we might as well try for it now, because we'll be better off should we fail" doesn't make sense to me.

Clearly, failing after the second TD guarantees they will lose the game.  But taking the one point after the first TD makes it much more likely they'll get an opportunity to win the game.  You're only asking your defense to get the ball back once, whereas that's the best-case scenario if you try for 2.

82 So let me be clear that I'm…

So let me be clear that I'm kinda getting to the point where the whole "go for two early, it's obvious!!" argument seems incredibly simplistic and arrogant. So I don't actually entirely agree with it anymore. But, to explain:

The "in a vacuum, they're identical" is actually the problem, because that mentality's being extended to the entire game. That's the point: if there's no difference between the 2 point attempts, then obviously you should go for it early, because there are different decisions you would make if you fail.

For instance, consider being down 15, with 4 minutes left. You score a TD, go for 2, and fail. Crap. Now you're still down by 2 scores. Down 2 scores, with 4 minutes left. You need to onsides kick. Which has a crap chance of succeeding, sure, but it's an option.

Now consider being down 15, with 4 minutes left, and you score a TD and kick the extra point. At this point, you're now down 1 score, so you kickoff, stop them, and get the ball back with 2 minutes left. You drive, get a TD, go for 2, and miss it with no time remaining. Crap, you lose.

Obviously going for it first adds on the win chance of "onsides kick, get the ball, score fast, get the ball again at some point." That's why everyone's saying going for it on the first try is better.

But taking the one point after the first TD makes it much more likely they'll get an opportunity to win the game. 

The logical mistake you're making here is that the goal isn't to leave yourself an opportunity to win the game as long as possible. It's to actually win the game. If you assume that 2 point plays are identical at all points, and have no resource cost, going for it early increases your chance of winning because it allows you to do crazy crap in the case where you fail.

Now, all that being said: the reason why I think it's all silly and pointless is that the "options to win" that you're adding are extremely low probability, which means if there are any external factors that would influence things (for instance, going for 2 later means you see the other team's defense more as well!) then that could easily overwhelm any tiny benefit.

In other words, this seems an incredibly strange hill for analytics-types to choose to die on. I mean, for instance, I could make the exact same argument that if you're down by 10, you should kick the FG as soon as you get in field goal range, and screw the TD. You need to know early if you're going to miss the FG or not. I actually think the reasoning for that is much better, actually, because time becomes a factor.

84 Sincere thanks for the…

Sincere thanks for the explanation.  I know you're quite good at these calculations.

The logical mistake you're making here is that the goal isn't to leave yourself an opportunity to win the game as long as possible. It's to actually win the game. If you assume that 2 point plays are identical at all points, and have no resource cost, going for it early increases your chance of winning because it allows you to do crazy crap in the case where you fail.

This is, obviously, an important distinction, but I think one necessarily flows from the other.  I'm sure there's mathematical equations that apply, but without getting into all that, it sure seems that kicking extra point-getting ball back-scoring touchdown-scoring two point conversion is an easier row to hoe than missing two point conversion-getting ball back-scoring-getting ball back-scoring and not any more difficult than scoring two point conversion-getting ball back-scoring touchdown-kicking extra point.  So I guess what it boils down to is that by kicking the extra point after the first TD, you avoid the worst case scenario of only getting 6, and you still have an equal chance at the optimal scenario of getting 8 after the next TD.  Scoring a touchdown to turn a two-score game into a two-score game seems like something you want to really avoid in a comeback attempt.

Now, all that being said: the reason why I think it's all silly and pointless is that the "options to win" that you're adding are extremely low probability, which means if there are any external factors that would influence things (for instance, going for 2 later means you see the other team's defense more as well!) then that could easily overwhelm any tiny benefit.

Yes.  I strongly agree with this also, even if I'm way off base with the other.

87 "So I guess what it boils…

"So I guess what it boils down to is that by kicking the extra point after the first TD, you avoid the worst case scenario of only getting 6"

The entire point here is that that "worst case scenario" (scoring 6 and not 8) is present in the math no matter what, because you're down 15. That scenario is forced to be present. If you kick the XP first, your chances to win are still mostly dependent on making that second two point conversion.

"Scoring a touchdown to turn a two-score game into a two-score game seems like something you want to really avoid in a comeback attempt."

Well, yeah, but you're still gaining points. There really is a difference between being down 15 and being down 9, even under time pressure.

That's kinda the key. If you assume going for 2 early/late doesn't matter, going for it early doesn't affect your chances of winning when you get the 2, but it can affect your chances when you do not. But that assumption is a big one, even though many people in analytics just flat out assume it's a trivial one.

The one thing I will say is that if you're not worried about "burning plays" and you're trailing by multiple TDs... I'm not sure I see the downside in just freaking always going for 2. You're losing. You need points. Yes, going for 2 is a risk, but... you're losing. That's the point when you should take risks.

96 The entire point here is…

The entire point here is that that "worst case scenario" (scoring 6 and not 8) is present in the math no matter what, because you're down 15. That scenario is forced to be present. If you kick the XP first, your chances to win are still mostly dependent on making that second two point conversion.

Agreed, but this way you only need the defense to get the ball back once, not twice.  I think that's what's getting lost in the analysis.  Football is very interdependent, and you could be the Greatest Show on Turf, but if you're on the sidelines watching the defense struggle, it's not worth much.

It's not a perfect analogy, and possibly not even a good one, but I feel the same way when I see a shootout situation in hockey or soccer, and the coach puts out their best penalty-taker last.  Why?  By the time their turn comes up, it might be irrelevant to winning.

Well, yeah, but you're still gaining points. There really is a difference between being down 15 and being down 9, even under time pressure.

Certainly.  It's better to need a touchdown and a field goal than to need two touchdowns.  Both require multiple possessions, though. 

Again, thanks for indulging.

88 Path dependence...

I think one of the things that's being overlooked by this discussion is the path dependence of play calling.  Most offenses, when given the option, would take a series of high percentage 3-10 yard plays to drive down the field for a Touchdown, but those type of drives often burn 5-9 minutes of game clock.

However, if you know that you MUST score quickly then you can alternate your play calling between medium risk 8-15 yard plays and shot plays.  Such a scoring drive often only takes between 2-7 minutes of game clock.  The extra information can dramatically change the offensive play selection.

Finally, kicking the FG down between 11 to 9 points in the 4th quarter.  If the game clock is less then 4 minutes you ABSOLUTELY should kick the FG first.  Because then you can kick the ball deep on the ensuing kickoff and don't need to attempt an extremely low percentage onside kick, and makes the potential need of an extremely low percentage hail Mary less likely.

94 I don't think anybody has…

I don't think anybody has challenged the wisdom of kicking the FG early.  I think most people understand the value of that, although I personally think it really depends on where the ball is on the field.  If I'm inside the 10-yard line, I'm not kicking the FG until 4th down. 

81 "But it seems the baked-in…

"But it seems the baked-in assumption is that a 2-point conversion down by 9 with 8:30 left on the clock is going to be have an identical success rate as a 2-point conversion down by 2 with 30 seconds left, and I don't think that's true."

I think you've identified the discrepancy there.  The analysis does assume that the chance of success on the 2-PAT is the same either now or later, so better to find out as soon as possible whether you've succeeded.  Because if you fail - now or later - then you need a third score either way.  However, if you feel like the odds are not the same, you could validly come to a different conclusion about whether to go for 2 after the first TD.

Out of curiousity, why do you feel like that isn't true?  Are there some factors you perceive that could make it easier to score the 2-PAT after the 2nd TD?

I'll suggest that the other baked in assumption is that knowing you need a 3rd score, it's assumed that you can then call plays in order to give you a better chance at that third score.  This to me is a more dubious proposition.  You may have the information that you need a 3rd score, but not be able to do anything about it.  It doesn't make knowing earlier worse, but it may limit the value of knowing earlier.


83 "Out of curiousity, why do…

"Out of curiousity, why do you feel like that isn't true?  Are there some factors you perceive that could make it easier to score the 2-PAT after the 2nd TD?"

Increased information. Same argument as why you go for it early: the more you play, the more you see the other team's defense, the more likely you're going to identify something you can exploit.

22 Vince Verhei: That 22-yard…

Vince Verhei: That 22-yard gain on the Edelman-to-White screen pass was A) New England's longest offensive gain of the day, and B) nearly identical to the Wentz-to-Hurts screen in the Eagles game, just with the quarterback as a blocker instead of a receiver.

Interesting statement. Like Hurts, Edelman was a QB in college. Edelman has actually thrown more passes in the NFL than Hurts has. Hurts' primary usage has actually been as a RB so far. He has more rushes than passes and receptions combined.

Dave, I think your best play of the year has been upped, with Edelman taking the ball on an end around and finding Newton to get the ball into what CBS is calling "field goal range." In a six-point game. Y'know, useful information.

It's not stunningly useful, but does have some value. If you screwed things up from there (say 4th-20, from the 34), kicking the 51 yard FG and then onsiding was still an available tactic. 

23 I wonder if Indy's defensive…

I wonder if Indy's defensive style works by making QBs consistently execute solid plays. This tends to get crushed by QBs who will happily murder you via papercut (Manning, Brees, Brady, Rodgers, even Carr or a Pennington), but exposes teams with shaky QB decision-making or WR talent (Chicago, Jets, Minnesota, Browns).

Cincy is a weird example of a bad offense. They can't really run and their line sucks, and their WRs are questionable. But Burrow generally makes the right play if you give him time. Indy's system might function by exploiting bad QBs or at very least confused passing games. But if you aren't getting pressure on a QB who makes good decisions, even a bad passing game can hurt you, if it's not the QB who is shaky.

I'm really curious how they would match up against the Rams or Titans.

26 Watched the Dolphins-Jets …

Watched the Dolphins-Jets "highlights", and one of the highlights in the game was a screen pass on 3rd and 18 that got three yards.  No good defensive stop, no huge pressure, just a few yards on 3rd and long.  I think that basically says everything about that game in that it counts as a "highlight".

All hail Joe Flacco, who turned a solid playoff run years ago into quite the career.  Looking forward to seeing how historically bad that game really was.

27 Butt-ception was the clear…

Butt-ception was the clear highlight of that game, with the Flacco "giga-sack" (hat-tip: Travis) as an commendable second. Completing the podium was the brief taste of Tua, with an honourable mention to the the combined 3-26 third down conversion rate.

This game was awful.

40 Sure it was awful, but you…

Sure it was awful, but you could make a very entertaining highlight reel if you focused on Flacco doing something awful and in particular on his tendency to run towards his own endzone when under duress -hint, that sack wasn't the only time!

48 you could make a very…

you could make a very entertaining highlight reel if you focused on Flacco doing something awful

So, basically, just re-watch the entire game when the Jets were on offense?  Sorry, that needs some sarcastic quotes; "offense"?

39 I enjoyed The Ringer…

I enjoyed The Ringer pointing out that because there were only two games in the afternoon slot, NFL RedZone was forced to show the Jets-Dolphins game in full whenever the Packers-Bucs game was on break.

28 Maybe one day, the idea of…

Maybe one day, the idea of passing and running will be a distinction set in the past, and we'll sort plays by where the ballcarrier got control of the ball, but until that day...

In some far-distant future, late-career Drew Brees will be mixed up with an option wingback.

36 Is the NFC East the worst division ever?

I have been thinking about the NFC East. Collectively, is this the worst division ever? My football watching goes back a while, but not long enough I suppose. The only real contender was the 2010 NFC West, which finished with the 7-9 Seahawks winning the division. I am too lazy to look up the 8 DVOAs, but subjectively, it feels like this group of NFC east teams on net are somehow, unthinkably, worse than those 4 NFC West squads. Its amazing to realize the previously winless Giants are only 1 game back from division leader. 

45 It's pretty close. DVOA…

It's pretty close. DVOA considers 2020 Dallas much better than 2010 SF (-1 versus -12). NYG and Philly are pretty close to Arizona and Seattle (-29 vs -28). Washington is worse than the Rams (-24 to -16).

But it's pretty close! I look forward to seeing which terrible division winner nevertheless wins a home game against New Orleans.

47 Going just by 2020 Week 5:…

Going just by 2020 Week 5:

2010 NFC West: SF -12.4% (25), STL -15.9% (26), SEA -24.3% (30), ARI -33.5% (31), avg -21.5% (28th)
2020 NFC East: DAL -1.3% (16), WAS -23.9% (28), NYG -28.5% (29), PHI -30% (30), avg -20.9% (26th)

My instinct suggests the WAS/NYG game's probably a push, and Philly's rating will likely go up 5-10%. So pending Dallas that'd put them probably a noticeable gap above.

However, by DVOA, the 2010 NFC West isn't the worst average DVOA, just the worst average ranking. For instance, beyond even the 2010 NFC West is:

2004 NFC West: SEA -2.4% (16), ARI/STL -23.7% (29/30), SF -43.1% (32), avg -23.2% (27th)

Seattle finished with a 9-7 record, but keep in mind that nearly all of the NFC was horrible that year. So their win-loss record was propped a little. (Similarly, keep in mind the NFC East is playing probably the best two divisions in the league this year, the NFC West and AFC North. So their records are depressed a little.)

55 Similarly, keep in mind the…

Similarly, keep in mind the NFC East is playing probably the best two divisions in the league this year, the NFC West and AFC North. So their records are depressed a little.

Well it goes both ways. The AFC North and NFC West are a combined 13-1-1 against the NFC East and 11-7 against all other divisions, so their records are also inflated from playing the NFC East.

60 Aren't you just making my…

Aren't you just making my point? You've got 3/8 divisions covered: if the AFC North + NFC West are above 0.500 against the remaining 5, it's fair to say they're significantly above average. In which case the NFC East only facing those two means their records are depressed more than the AFC North/NFC West's are inflated.

69 I declare Eagles NFC East Champions

You really think Philly's rating goes up 5-10%?  We will see tomorrow.  If I understand DVOA correctly, DVOA is not impressed by getting so many of the yards in the game on just a few plays as is not predictive of future success. 

Just watch Captain Kirk fly the length of the field against Dallas, so I figured I would get on and talk with with you Pat.

$80 million worth of Zeke Elliott fumbles. Andy Dalton, Washington, NY Giants.  Fly Eagles Fly!!!  6-9-1.

NFC East Champs!!!   Its lining up.



77 "You really think Philly's…

"You really think Philly's rating goes up 5-10%?"

It was ballpark-y assuming Baltimore and Philly had roughly similar VOAs. After seeing Quick Reads, I'm not so sure any more. It wouldn't take much to pull up a -30% DVOA after 5 weeks: a single game at 0% would roughly do ~5%, under the rough assumption that the games are equal-ish (should be, by number of plays). Scoring 28 points on 14 drives (2 points per drive) against a defense allowing 1.43 points per drive should be semi-positive on offense, and I figured allowing ~2.14 points/drive against an offense scoring 2.51 points/drive should also be.

However I guess the majority of Baltimore's defense is coming from rush defense, so that might explain Wentz's low value there.

85 We get a DVOA answer tonight

This one is simple, they are at negative 30, so we will soon know how kindly/unkindly DVOA viewed this game. VOA without opponent adjustments would be interesting to see as a starting point without the number 1 vs number 30 team playing each other. Of course, the opponents adjustments will change from the first five games so that is part of the factor.  I'm not sure, you may be right on this one about the 5-10% improvement, it will be interesting, but I will still take the under.  People in Baltimore are tearing the Ravens apart for this game (well you know how sports talk radio is), but I do not feel that the Ravens played a poor game at all.  When you start a game with five 3 and outs (yes the Hightower drop was all on the Eagles and not Ravens defense) and a turnover on six possessions, that is amazing in this era against any offense. I think that this is a game that the Eagles will get more negative VOA than Ravens positive VOA as the Eagles self destruction on drops was very hurtful.   

The Ravens destroyed the Eagles on special teams, Tucker making 3 long field goals and Elliot missed a 52 yarder, in addition to the Ravens strong advantage in the punt and punt return game (UGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH punting!!!  Blah).  These don't show up in yardage stats. So with all things being truly even, the Ravens should win this game. (well we could talk penalties, a whole other discussion).  Again so many of the Eagles yards were on a few plays.




50 Seeing Lavonte David…

Seeing Lavonte David actually get some recognition is maybe the best thing about the Bucs' current success; sure, football geeks know who he is, but he's a hugely unknown quantity to most casual fans.  If he played on a team with a bigger market instead of stumbling through eight seasons of vaguely football-related dumpster fire in Tampa, I don't have any doubt he'd be a very well-known player.  Too bad Gerald McCoy got put out to pasture before the team actually had some success, he lived through this debacle even longer.

52 As a lifelong Chicagoan, it…

As a lifelong Chicagoan, it is in my genes to love watching quality LB play. David has always been a favorite, and the show he & White put on yesterday made me weep with joy. (Helps that it was against the Pack, too.)

54 I'll raise you one better…

I'll raise you one better. If Lavonte David played for a higher profile team, he'd probably be a HoF candidate. The guy shined despite the defense overall being an unmitigated disaster.


Tampa Bay's run in the cellar went mostly unnoticed, probably because it never devolved into comedic mockery the way the Jets, Browns, and Dolphins have recently. 

68 A lot of people have changed how they think about LBs...

No longer Mike/Will/Sam but rather on-ball/off-ball... so OLBs that play Edge are compared to DEs and on ball OLBS, and OLBS that play more traditional off-ball LBs are compared to Mikes like Kuechly or Wagner.

Another great OLB that gets lost in the on-ball/off-ball distinction is Seattle's KJ Wright.

53 Feel free to ignore

...'cause this is pretty far in the weeds. A play near the end of the first half in CHI-CAR confused the hell out of me:

2nd & 10 at CAR 42

(0:23 - 2nd) (Shotgun) N.Foles pass short right to J.Graham pushed ob at CAR 36 for 6 yards (J.Chinn).PENALTY on CAR-R.Douglas, Illegal Use of Hands, 5 yards, enforced at CAR 42 - No Play.

First: Why would the Bears accept a penalty that puts the ball at the 37 instead of taking the play that put them at the 36 (and stopped the clock, because the receiver went OOB). Eventually I realized they were trading the one yard to get the few seconds of clock back. OK, but why wasn't the penalty assessed at the end of the previous play (i.e., why didn't the Bears get the ball at the 31)? Compare to this play from the first quarter:

1st & 10 at CHI 43

(9:47 - 1st) T.Bridgewater scrambles up the middle to CHI 33 for 10 yards (R.Smith).PENALTY on CHI-J.Johnson, Illegal Contact, 5 yards, enforced at CHI 33.

What's the difference between those two plays? That led me to the NFL rules digest online, which cleared up the facts, if not the reasoning:

BASIC SPOTS OF ENFORCEMENT Article 5 The basic spots of enforcement (3-11-1) are: (a) The previous spot for a forward pass (8-6-11); a scrimmage kick (9-5-1); or a free kick (6-3-1) (b) The dead ball spot on a running play (14-1-12). (c) The spot of snap, backward pass, or fumble (8-7). (d) The spot of the foul (14-1-4 and 14-1-13). (e) The succeeding spot for dead ball fouls. When such a foul by the defense incurs a penalty that results in the offensive team being short of the previous spot, the ball will be advanced to the previous spot.

Somehow I never knew the spot rules were different for running and passing plays, and I can't say I understand it at all. Can one of the rules mavens explain?


59 Not the clock

I think that the Bears accepted the penalty because it made it 1st and 10 instead of 3rd and 4. If the Graham catch had resulted in a 1st down (e.g., b/c it was 2nd and 5), then the Bears take the play. Considering they were looking at a ~53 yard FG if the 3rd down play fails, versus a ~54 yarder if they were to kick on 1st down after the penalty (obv. not), the one yard is negligible. However, having 1st down allowed them to run 2 plays before taking and making the FG attempt.

86 Can we get rid of time of possession stat?

I checked the Ravens - Eagles box score before making a prior post.  The Ravens had 67 plays, the Eagles 64.

Ravens TOP:  36:30

Eagles TOP:   23:30

You can get a lot of time of possession by using a run play and then false starting/illegal formation.  The Ravens had some of that in this game.

Time of possessions tells you very little about a football game.