Audibles at the Line: Week 10
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 Lions 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.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 46 at Carolina Panthers 23
Bryan Knowles: If coming off of the shellacking against the Saints wasn't bad enough, the Buccaneers had a terrible Saturday -- stuck on the tarmac for seven hours thanks to a variety of plane issues. This is definitely the sort of preparation you want when trying to bounce back from a terrible performance.
Scott Spratt: I expect a 30-point Tampa Bay win, Bryan! Meanwhile, if that happens, that will make maybe the one somewhat interesting early game (of just five) pretty boring. This could go very well for Masters Sunday!
That said, heavy winds in Green Bay and Cleveland could make for some entertainment.
Scott Spratt: Ronald Jones just fumbled after a catch for the second time in two weeks. If you group those and outright pass drops together, then Jones has I think eight fumbles/drops on catches this season. Why is he still playing so much? They have Leonard Fournette!
Bryan Knowles: The Panthers take advantage of that Ronald Jones fumble -- thanks to Riverboat Rhule. Thanks to some inaccurate passing from Teddy Bridgewater, it looked like the Panthers would go three-and-out, but they opted to try the fourth-and-3, hit Robby Anderson to get into the red zone, and scored a touchdown a couple plays later. Gotta take chances as an underdog! Panthers up 7-0.
Scott Spratt: That touchdown was a delightful play. First, Teddy Bridgewater threw a duck. Then Colin Thompson made his first ever NFL catch for the touchdown. And then, Taylor Moton spiked it right into teammate Trent Scott's face!
Colin Thompson with his first NFL TD as we strike first in this game!pic.twitter.com/6RT2f1rD4V
— PantherNationCP (@PantherNationC1) November 15, 2020
By the way, does anyone want to guess where Thompson went to college? You should only need two guesses given head coach Matt Rhule's scouting profile.
Cale Clinton: Thompson was one of the few players who made the transition from the XFL to the NFL. Thompson was a member of the Tampa Bay Vipers, only targeted twice in his entire XFL tenure for one reception and 13 yards. By default, he has already had a more successful NFL career.
Scott Spratt: If you had Colin Thompson and Cameron Brate with the first two touchdowns, cash your ticket.
Bryan Knowles: Tom Brady is definitely looking better today than he did last week, so people hoping he had magically turned into a pumpkin (or turkey, I suppose -- 'tis the season) can hold their horses for another week. I don't know how the Panthers are going to slow down Chris Godwin or Mike Evans, and I'm beginning to get the sense that the Panthers don't know how they're going to do it either.
Bryan Knowles: I know our party line is that screens are terrible, and that's backed up by the data. I'd like to add a caveat, however -- a screen to the side of the field where the cornerback has just blitzed is a fairly solid play. DJ Moore and a set of linemen basically had no one to block on their way to the end zone. Better to be lucky than good, one supposes!
We want Moore pic.twitter.com/RMJIzpFJPd
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) November 15, 2020
14-7 Panthers late in the first, and we may have our interesting game of the early window,
Scott Spratt: Talk about full circle. The offensive lineman Trent Scott who had the ball spiked into his face just absolutely pancaked a Bucs defensive back on a DJ Moore touchdown. Check the bottom of that video.
Scott Spratt: Leonard Fournette didn't help his case as the more sure-handed Bucs back by dropping an absolute bunny. Maybe if you have two backs fighting over passing-down work, you don't have any?
Bryan Knowles: GRONK SMASH. Rob Gronkowski's biggest play with the Buccaneers: a 44-yard gain into the red zone, which included about 10 yards after smashing through an attempted tackle attempt. Gronk may not be the Gronk of old, but that brought back some memories. It set up a touchdown a few plays later, and we're tied at 17 with 30 seconds left in the half.
Just a comparison of the passing games here. The Buccaneers can't stop the Panthers from completing passes -- Bridgewater is 13-for-14. Brady has been a little bit less accurate, going 16-for-21. But Carolina's averaging just 8.2 yards per completion; the Buccaneers are at 11.3. Lots of dink-and-dunking from Carolina -- though it's working, mind you.
Scott Spratt: Counterpoint on the Panthers' dinking and dunking:
DJ Moore running the "Circle Post" or the "Clown" route, once made famous by Steve Smith. Moore does a great job of selling the corner route for 3 steps with his eyes.
(Called incomplete upon review, but the route was cold) pic.twitter.com/Mq9yIS7bCd
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) November 15, 2020
That aggressive downfield look would have gotten the team into field goal range to try to go up 20-17 at halftime. However, a review determined that DJ Moore didn't have control as the ball touched the ground. So this one is tied at intermission.
Vince Verhei: So what has happened to Tampa Bay's defense? First eight games: 66% completion rate allowed, 7.0 yards per throw, 11 TDs, 11 INTs, 27 sacks. Six quarters since then: 83% completion rate, 7.6 yards per throw, 6 TDs, no INTS, just one sack. Obviously, part of what happened was "Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater," but neither of those guys looked this good in their first game against Tampa Bay.
Aaron Schatz: Regarding the Tampa Bay defense, it may be somewhat schematic. The Bucs defense wasn't great in Week 1 against New Orleans either, and remember, Joe Brady worked for the Saints before he went to LSU so there are some similarities between the New Orleans and Carolina offenses. Although Carolina sure throws the ball deep more often than New Orleans does.
Bryan Knowles: My first thought was that the Bucs' defense was at least a little bit being carried by turnovers. 15.2% of their defensive drives in the first half of the season ended with an interception or a fumble; the NFL average was closer to 11%. They were tied with the Browns and Chiefs for most drives ending in turnover. However, they only allowed scores on 39.4% of their drives which didn't end in turnovers; below the NFL average of 48.2%. So that theory isn't explaining everything, though I would imagine getting fewer turnovers isn't precisely helping them over the past six quarters.
Scott Spratt: Has the Bucs defense really been that bad today? The Panthers scored their first touchdown because Ronald Jones fumbled the ball to them in the red zone. Seems like things could go differently in the second half.
Bryan Knowles: They have zero sacks against a very average pass-blocking line (14th in adjusted sack rate) and allowed Bridgewater to start 13-for-13 passing. I'm not going to say they're having a disaster out there, but they haven't really stopped Carolina from doing what they want to do.
Scott Spratt: The Bucs had a sack from Kevin Minter that got turned into a first down by a questionable roughing the passer penalty. The Panthers also extended one drive with a fourth-down conversion. Seems like the Panthers are pretty lucky to be where they are in this one.
Bryan Knowles: The longest offensive touchdown of the year was Derrick Henry's 94-yard romp against Houston. I say "was" because after a punt pinned the Buccaneers back at their own 2-yard line, Ronald Jones just goes straight up the middle. The Panthers get a hand on his shoe about 10 yards downfield, but that's not enough -- 98 yards for the score.
Jones joins Tony Dorsett, Derrick Henry, and Ahman Green as the fourth man to have a 98-plus-yard touchdown run in NFL history.
Aaron Schatz: Link to Jones' 98-yard touchdown:
RONALD JONES 98-YARD TD RUN
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 15, 2020
Tampa Bay misses the extra point to make the score 26-17. First Carolina play on the next drive, Teddy Bridgewater misses Jason Pierre-Paul dropping into coverage on a zone blitz and throws it right to him for the first Carolina turnover of the day.
Scott Spratt: The Panthers just tried their fourth fake punt of the year. And while the first three were successful, the punter draw wasn't quite as effective.
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) November 15, 2020
Whatever you thought of the Bucs defense in the first half, they've been excellent in the third quarter. They've limited the Panthers to 34 yards and forced two turnovers, one an interception and the other on downs.
Vince Verhei: I don't have any words strong enough to express my loathing for Carolina's pump-fake-and-draw fake punt that's asking Joseph Charlton to run for a first down on fourth-and-6. Fox had a cool montage prepared of all of Carolina's other fake punts this year ... but that's just all the more reason for Tampa Bay to be prepared for the fake. That's not just a Burn That Play, that's a Set The Whole Building Ablaze to make sure we never draw up anything like that again.
Scott Spratt: It wasn't quite DK Metcalf, but great hustle tackle by Sean Murphy-Bunting.
Trenton Cannon gets the @Panthers inside the five with a 98-yard kick return!
— NFL (@NFL) November 15, 2020
I'm not sure I've ever seen a kickoff return get that far without scoring. Hate it for Trenton Cannon, but Cannon does at least have one career NFL touchdown.
Aaron Schatz: The Panthers score after the kickoff return as Bridgewater just barely stretches his whole arm with the ball slightly going past the plane of the goal line. Then they make the smart move: down 32-23, they go for two EARLIER rather than later, in order to maximize their chances of "winning the game" instead of just maximizing their chances of "staying within one score." Now they know: They need two more scores.
Scott Spratt: Teddy Bridgewater was blindsided by a sack that took him out at the legs. He's on the sideline being evaluated, and Temple product and XFL star P.J. Walker is in at quarterback.
Teddy Bridgewater went to get checked.
P.J. Walker is in at QB for the #Panthers
Here's what happened.pic.twitter.com/K8vVfszEZd
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 15, 2020
Scott Spratt: Breaking news! Tom Brady has tied the all-time passing touchdowns record.
Cale Clinton: With the 46-23 final, we've got another Scorigami! Believe it's the sixth of the 2020 season.
Philadelphia Eagles 17 at New York Giants 27
Vince Verhei: Giants get creative to take a 7-0 lead on their first drive. Third-and-3 in Eagles territory, they run a wideout in jet sweep motion left to right at the snap, then fake a handoff to a running back going right to left, and after those two decoys, Daniel Jones flips to Evan Engram on a middle screen. That sets up Jones' own 34-yard touchdown run where he keeps the ball on a zone read with a lead blocker coming across the formation to clear a path. That's a neat wrinkle in the option game that is probably pretty common in college, but I'm seeing it more often in the NFL.
Scott Spratt: So Daniel Jones can run 34 yards without falling down but can't run 85 yards, Vince? I think we're narrowing in on his range.
Vince Verhei: Giants are just rumbling all over the Eagles so far. They're up to 94 yards rushing in two drives. Daniel Jones is their preferred red zone rusher, as he keeps the ball on first and second down inside the Eagles' 20. That sets up Wayne Gallman's 2-yard touchdown plunge on fourth-and-1 from the 2 on the first play of the second quarter. Jones has been sharp through the air too, completing six of seven passes even with Darius Slayton going to the sideline after a catch. Bad Daniel Jones, like we saw against Tampa Bay on Monday night, is real bad. But this good version of Daniel Jones, yeah, this looks like a guy you can build around. Giants lead 14-3.
Scott Spratt: The Eagles entered the week with the No. 10 DVOA run defense, so I think this is a bit of a surprise.
Vince Verhei: Giants still lead 14-3 at the half. It might have been more if Joe Judge were a little more aggressive. He punted on fourth-and-2 from his own 23, which, OK, very few coaches would go for it there, and Riley Dixon boomed a 71-yarder that was downed at the Eagles 6. But next drive, the Giants had a fourth-and-1 across midfield, and instead of going for it they tried a hard count and ended up taking a delay of game and punting. They had one more chance in the first half, a fourth-and-14 at the Eagles 47, but Jones was sacked on his Hail Mary attempt.
Fortunately for them, the Eagles can't get out of their own way. They're 0-for-5 on third downs, they've fumbled a snap, and they've taken seven penalties, most of them presnap on the offense. They're pretty lucky to only be down by 11 points, honestly.
Bryan Knowles: The Best 2-7 Team You'll Ever See (Source: Dave Gettleman, and very much NOT DVOA) just missed Boston Scott, who takes a fairly simple handoff and romps 56 yards for the score. The Giants still lead, 14-11.
Can we pass a rule saying that you have to at least finish .500 to make the playoffs? Please?
Vince Verhei: Some sweet blocks by pulling linemen on that long Scott touchdown run (which was reviewed to see if he stepped out of bounds and upheld):
Ohhhhhhhhhhh I see you Kelce. Watch the center pull and get himself a sweet cut block to clear the way for this touchdown pic.twitter.com/sC3Vyr7H6g
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) November 15, 2020
Vince Verhei: And the Giants quickly answer. Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate beat Nickell Robey-Coleman and Avonte Maddox for a pair of jump-ball big plays, and Gallman punches in a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 1. Giants go back up 21-11 barely five minutes into the third.
Vince Verhei: Suddenly we have a shootout here and a very interesting decision. The Eagles get the third touchdown of the first 10 minutes of the third quarter, this one a 5-yard score by Corey Clement. (The running backs are saving the Eagles' day -- they had another fumbled snap, this one with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, but Miles Sanders scooped up the loose ball and scurried for a first down.
Then things get interesting. Down 21-17, the Eagles go for two. I'd love to know the thinking there -- I guess the upside is that a field goal puts you ahead instead of tying the game, while the downside is that at least you know you need a touchdown instead of a field goal. Unfortunately for them, it's the downside, as Wentz is sacked and the lead stands at 21-17.
Next Giants drive, they again try a hard count on fourth-and-1, and again end up taking a delay-of-game and punting. The announcers point out the Eagles have jumped on the hard count a few times today, but not when it matters most, I guess.
Vince Verhei: EDJ has Philadelphia's Game-Winning Chance at 39% for kicking the extra point, 38% for going for two. So technically a poor decision, but really a coin flip. Interesting.
Aaron Schatz: We should point out that GWC is for Philly's second two-point conversion attempt, after they made it 21-17. The EdjSports model liked them going for two when they made it 21-9 on the previous touchdown.
Vince Verhei: Giants win by a final score of 27-17. Both teams have won three games now, but the Eagles are still in first place -- 3-5-1 beats 3-7. Washington just tied the game against Detroit -- they'll get to 3-6 with a win. Cowboys are on a bye at 2-7. The NFC East, everyone!
Washington Football Team 27 at Detroit Lions 30
Bryan Knowles: Quality NFC East Play alert.
Washington had the ball inside the red zone -- the 14-yard line, specifically. They then lost 10 yards. And then 14 more yards. And then punted. It's great that Alex Smith is back, but that's vintage, 2005-era Alex Smith play.
Carl Yedor: Matthew Stafford seemed to hurt the thumb on his throwing hand at some point on an earlier drive and is now going to be re-entering the game with a tape job. He hasn't had an opportunity to really throw since sustaining the injury, but it's definitely something to monitor now that Detroit has the ball back. Detroit probably isn't going anywhere this season, but if the Lions are forced to turn to Chase Daniel or David Blough for an extended period of time, a late-season playoff charge may not be in the cards.
Stafford doesn't look any worse for the wear on this drive though. He was a little off on a touch throw down the left sideline intended for T.J. Hockenson, but outside of that he's still delivering the ball where it needs to go. Detroit caps off the drive with a touchdown to Marvin Jones to make it 14-3.
Cale Clinton: Washington is doing just enough for me to keep my eyes on this game. Ron Rivera makes the decision to go for it on fourth-and-8 in the red zone, then doubles down to go for it on fourth-and-13 after a false start penalty. Alex Smith converts, and J.D. McKissic punches it in for Washington's first touchdown of the day to make it 24-10.
It's a shame that Aqib Talib's first appearance in the booth has to be this game. From the small amount of time I've spent watching this game, I've really enjoyed his contribution to the coverage. He adds a lot by bringing in a player's perspective, often points out schematic nuances in the secondary I otherwise wouldn't notice, and has done a good job of keeping this game light and entertaining. Not enough to actually make me focus on this game, but enough to make me check back in pretty regularly.
Bryan Knowles: And now, Cale, the Football Team is making a Football Game out of this one. Washington forces a quick three-and-out, and then has maybe their best drive of the season-- an 11-play, 84-yard march, almost all on the arm of Alex Smith. He's up to 30-for-36 for 271 yards; it's the seventh game of his career with 30 completions, and all of those saw him sling it at least 45 times. His personal record is 34; with 11:21 left in the fourth, you'd assume he'd break that.
24-17 Lions still, mind you.
Cale Clinton: Turns out I'm going to be listening to a lot more of Aqib Talib's commentary!
Scott Spratt: After a Lions field goal, Alex Smith has 2:33 to complete a game-winning drive down 27-24. Should the Lions be happy that the Falcons and Chargers exist and draw the bulk of the attention for blowing big leads? Or would the Lions rather at least have that coverage?
Scott Spratt: Now that Aqib Talib is announcing games, should we change his nickname to Call Hawk?
Scott Spratt: Was this defensive pass interference call on Desmont Trufant justified? You be the judge!
— (@B_R_R_D) November 15, 2020
If it hadn't been called, the Lions could have taken a knee and won. As it stands, Washington has the ball inside the Lion's 30-yard line with 36 seconds left.
Cale Clinton: Regardless of how this game finishes, this is a prime example of why the recent shift in how NFL teams approach fourth down matters. Down 24-3, on a fourth-and-13 in the red zone, Ron Rivera had two options: send your field goal unit out to take the relatively safe chip-shot field goal, or take a chance and go for the first down. If Washington settles for the field goal, the ball game probably ends there. Detroit spends more time running out the clock, and even if Washington scores on their next two drives like they did, they probably wouldn't have the time to put together this final drive while down 7.
Instead, Rivera chose to take the risk and went for it. Washington erased a 21-point deficit, and now they're in a position to either win this game outright or take it to overtime if they fail to score a touchdown. That's the whole point of being a head coach: putting your team in a position to win football games.
Bryan Knowles: That was not pass interference by any definition of the rule I am aware of. But the Lions' fans rage should be at least a little dampened by the fact that the Lions had a 24-3 lead in the third quarter. And now, barring a dramatic bomb in the last 16 seconds, we're going to overtime. Matt Patricia, what is it you say you do here?
Bryan Knowles: And we're NOT heading to overtime! A roughing the passer call gets the Lions to midfield, and sets up a 59-yard attempt for Matt Prater -- and he wins the game!
The NFC East, everybody!
Aaron Schatz: Holy mackerel. Washington and Detroit were going to overtime but Chase Young committed a roughing the passer penalty with 12 seconds left. That put them one pass from field goal range, and they got that pass 9 yards to Marvin Jones, and then a 59-yard field goal on a knuckler from Matt Prater and the Lions win 30-27.
Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at Green Bay Packers 24
Andrew Potter: A bit of a surprise after one quarter in Green Bay. Jaguars punter Logan Cooke is the MVP of the first 15 minutes, but the Packers simply haven't had anything going on offense. Outside one very questionable pass interference call against Myles Jack that went for 29 yards, Green Bay's longest gain is just 10 yards and they have only one first down that wasn't by pen--
Scrap that entire email. First play of the second quarter is a 78-yard strike down the right sideline to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, where he weaved across the field to the end zone. 7-3 Green Bay. The Packers have been struggling to get their passing game going against the league-worst DVOA defense in these windy conditions, but normal scheduling appears to have resumed now.
Vince Verhei: For a while there I had this game on upset watch. The Packers were off to a slow start -- their first three drives all ended in punts, with only one first down between them. The fourth drive was much better though. On the first play of the second quarter, Marquez Valdes-Scantling gets one-on-one against Sidney Jones and beats him on a deep post. Aaron Rodgers hits his receiver in stride, the three Jaguars defenders who try to make a tackle all get in each other's way, and Valdes-Scantling zips into the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown. Packers up 7-3.
Cale Clinton: Through one quarter, the fact that we have nothing to talk about is actually something we need to talk about (if that makes sense).
Green Bay, on paper, is much better than this Jacksonville Jaguars team, but they've yet to show it this afternoon. The Packers have posted two three-and-outs already in their first three drives. Their longest drive of the quarter was a penalty-laden mess, with their longest play being a very questionable DPI call against Myles Jack that resulted in a 29-yard gain. That gift from the referees was ruined by a 15-yard chop block penalty, taking them out of field goal range and forcing them to punt.
... and as I write this, Aaron Rodgers launches a 78-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Doesn't erase the fact that the Packers have gotten off to very slow start, but it is a reminder that they're still playing the Jaguars.
Vince Verhei: Dots on the MVS touchdown. I am mainly including this because they are now showing which way each player is facing -- watch the way Jarrod Wilson (26 for Jacksonville) gets turned around trying to make a tackle.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling dots!
He had a 25% chance to score at the time of catch, according to Next Gen Stats. The 1 in 4 shot hit. pic.twitter.com/neR4Q07kfX
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 15, 2020
Bryan Knowles: Andrew mentioned punter Logan Cole was the Jags' MVP of the first quarter. Well, give Keelan Cole, punt returner, the award for quarter No. 2, as he pulls off a 91-yard punt return to give the Jaguars the 10-7 lead early in the second.
The Packers came into today ranked 13th in overall special teams, but 25th in punting and, more importantly for today, punt coverage. Came back to hurt 'em today.
Andrew Potter: Not The Game MVP so far is Davante Adams, who has four catches on six targets for 9 (count 'em) yards. The two incompletions were passes that he had in both hands, but dropped on contact from the cornerback.
Andrew Potter: Of course, immediately after that, the Packers get Adams free on a crosser to triple his yardage total and move them into the red zone. Two plays later, Aaron Rodgers scrambles into the end zone to retake the lead. That was by far Green Bay's most impressive drive of the game.
Bryan Knowles: Maybe don't turn that upset alert off just yet. Davante Adams' no-good very-bad day continues, fumbling the ball and giving the Jags possession inside the red zone. It takes 'em a couple cracks at it, but Jake Luton finds Keelan Cole for his second touchdown of the day, and it's 17-all once again.
At the very least, that guy who bet $90,000 to win $9,000 that the Packers would win is not having the best Sunday.
Cale Clinton: The mistakes continue to pile up in Green Bay. Pinned back at their own 2-yard line, a 26-yard completion to Davante Adams ends up coughed up and in the hands of Jacksonville because of some lackadaisical ball control from Adams. The turnover and short field results in Keelan Cole's second touchdown of the afternoon, and just like that the 1-7 Jaguars and 6-2 Packers are currently knotted up at 17.
Vince Verhei: Upset Watch is now officially on for this game as the Jags have taken the lead in the fourth quarter. Sidney Jones redeems himself with this interception of Rodgers:
PICK!@SidneyJonesIV gets his 2nd INT of the season.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) November 15, 2020
Which set up Chase McLaughlin's 31-yard field goal for a 20-17 lead. The good news for Green Bay is that it could have been worse -- James Robinson looked liked he had scored a touchdown, but had it called back on penalty for the second time today. The bad news for Green Bay is that Davante Adams has left with an ankle injury and is questionable to return.
Andrew Potter: Sidney Jones has made highlight play after highlight play today, building on his highlight reel from his previous four starts. The young Jaguars pass defense is bad, but the former Eagles second-rounder may well be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Vince Verhei: So the bad news for Green Bay wasn't that bad -- Davante Adams returned to the game and caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to put Green Bay back up 24-20. Biggest plays on that drive were back-to-back plays for Aaron Jones -- the first he fumbled (forced by Sidney Jones), but was fortunate that the ball bounced out of bounds before the Jaguars could recover. Next snap, he ran for 20 yards to the Jacksonville 24.
Vince Verhei: Third-and-1 for Green Bay at their own 23, up by four with 2:37 to go. Announcers are debating the call and Brock Huard says you can't throw the ball here. Um ... why not? The Jaguars still have three timeouts left, so there's not much benefit to running for no gain. But running for no gain is exactly what they do, JK Scott's punt goes only 30 yards, and the Jaguars take over at their own 47, down 24-20, with plenty of time left.
Vince Verhei: Green Bay's pass rush put this one away. They sack Luton on back-to-back plays on first and second down, the latter of which induces giggles as Luton stumbles out of the pile for seven steps before going down. The same thing almost happens on fourth-and-forever, but Luton was at least able to keep his balance and get a pass off ... incomplete out of bounds, way short of the sticks. Alas.
Houston Texans 7 at Cleveland Browns 10
Cale Clinton: The most exciting thing out of this game's first half isn't even that exciting, but it's something I've never seen before. The Houston Texans line up for a 47-yard field goal attempt, but instead direct snap it to kicker Kai Fairbairn, who punts the ball 26 yards and pins Cleveland inside the 5.
Dave Bernreuther: After a penalty, with time winding down in the super-exciting 3-0 first half, the Texans call a bland running play to Duke Johnson instead of taking a knee.
Kevin Stefanski called a timeout. He only had two, so he couldn't possibly be trying to force a punt and gain a possession. I can only assume that he did this to scold them for their foolishness, risking injury to a player.
On second-and-18, the Browns call ANOTHER handoff to Duke Johnson ... and Stefanski again calls timeout.
With six seconds left on third down, the Texans kneel out the half. Which they should've done two plays earlier. I really hope a writer asks Stefanski about this after the game, because I can't see why on earth he'd have called those timeouts if not to humiliate Romeo Crennel.
With the weather involved, his game was the world's most popular "under" bet, to the point where it started to feel like an over just to be contrarian. Halfway through, contrarians are angry. What's interesting is that it really hasn't seemed like the offenses are that hurt by the wetness or wind. Other than Jarvis Landry's shoe flying off his foot on the final Browns play of the half, we haven't seen too much slip-n-slide or awful throws; just two not-so-good teams playing not-so-good football somewhat slowly. Each team has had four possessions thus far, and the Texans left points on the field on one long drive when they failed on fourth-and-goal on a hopeless designed keeper for Watson. The Landry shoe play may have cost the Browns points as well; hard to know for sure if he'd have been in place to catch Baker Mayfield's dart of a pass on the play if not for that.
Tom Gower: First-half recap:
That sums up the feel of 30 minutes of 3-0 scintillating football better than I could. There was much more done offensively in the first 30 real-time minutes of the broadcast, when we got the Bucs and the Panthers while waiting for kickoff in Cleveland, than there was in the following 30 football minutes. Myles Garrett is having an excellent season and made a number of positive plays, most notably stopping Deshaun Watson for a loss when the Texans went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2. The bootleg pass game is virtually gone from the Cleveland pass offense. Even when they try it, it's a sort of half-boot, because they know that defenses know Mayfield is much more effective if you let him get completely outside the pocket, so he only managed it a couple times in the first half.
That boot denial plus the nasty weather of the sort that made Browns-Raiders a couple weeks ago a low-scoring game has let the Texans align more to protect the run. Cleveland has still run the ball effectively at times (there was one Kareem Hunt run that should have gained 4 yards that should have then gained 8 yards that ended up gaining 17 yards thanks to Hunt and some shaky tackling), but it hasn't been overwhelmingly so.
Dave Bernreuther: Just as my smile from Tom's video subsides, Baker Mayfield escapes the grasp of Corey Liuget in the backfield ... and promptly falls down, slips-on-banana-peel style. And the broadcast is zooming in on pigeons on the field. At least they're not Detroit!
(Detroit, of course, has reached the end zone multiple times today.)
Tom Gower: The hero this game wants, the hero this game deserves:
If you're not watching the Browns-Texans game and wondering how that is going. pic.twitter.com/96heOM6N9K
— Asinine Punk (@riversmccown) November 15, 2020
Bryan Knowles: A touchdown! I didn't think those were legal in this matchup!
Bailed out by a pass interference call on third-and-8 (and, to be fair, with plenty of nice running from Nick Chubb), the Browns march down the field to take a 10-0 lead, which seems absolutely insurmountable considering the quality of both teams in this game.
Vince Verhei: Wait a minute, this game is already over? It started 30 minutes late and still finished before WAS-DET, JAX-GB, or TB-CAR!
Bryan Knowles: Small mercies, Vince. Small mercies.
Dave Bernreuther: After the Texans refuse to kneel out the first half, the Browns kneel out the second half and the game, after Nick Chubb intentionally runs out of bounds at the 1 after breaking a big one instead of scoring a touchdown. Texans bettors cover +4.5. That's amazing.
Tom Gower: We made it to the fourth quarter in less than two hours, and to the two-minute warning in two hours, 28 minutes. But both teams used timeouts in the final two minutes of the game, pushing this contest to 2:35. I'm pretty sure 2008 Week 17 Titans-Colts, which took just 2:33, remains the fastest game of the 2000s.
Rivers McCown: Uh, what's there to add besides the pigeon being the star of the show? The Texans ran Deshaun Watson intentionally four times, which was by my count two more times than they've done the last four weeks combined. Watson's completion to Randall Cobb with a guy on his leg is ridiculous and deserves linkage.
Deshaun Watson continues to overcome circumstance. pic.twitter.com/YUWhgdgsfy
— Asinine Punk (@riversmccown) November 15, 2020
My full details for this game are here.
Justin Reid called me an asinine punk on Twitter. Good thing this team fired it's head of PR, folks!
Los Angeles Chargers 21 at Miami Dolphins 29
Cale Clinton: Hot start to this one! Miami forces a three-and-out on the Chargers' opening drive with a 13-yard sack, then blocks the ensuing punt and recovers the ball at the 1. Salvon Ahmed punched in the layup touchdown.
Bryan Knowles: Is Dolphins Throwbacks versus Chargers Powder Blue + Yellow the best-looking matchup of the day?
... is it the best-looking matchup of the season?
Either way, it's Miami who has the early advantage, with a 14-0 lead as we approach the end of the first quarter. The Chargers had actually stopped the Dolphins and forced a field goal, but an offsides penalty gave them a new set of downs from the five, and Tua Tagovailoa eventually found Jakeem Grant to give the Dolphins a big early lead.
Cale Clinton: Miscues by the Chargers in special teams have really put them in a hole early. The Chargers' blocked punt was the result of a mishandling of the snap by punter Ty Long, giving Miami's rush enough time to get in and block the kick. Now, Los Angeles forces Miami to kick a fourth-and-1 field goal in the red zone, but Quenton Meeks is caught offsides and gives Miami a fresh set of downs from the 5-yard line. Both mistakes resulted in Miami touchdowns.
Dave Bernreuther: We should probably not say "forced" a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 10. That's a choice, and it's probably not the right one. They just happened to get lucky and pick up the four extra points. I was also not a fan of the zone defense against trips on the Grant touchdown play, as it created a very easy read for Tua in a three-on-two matchup on that side. As long as they didn't run an in-breaking route, the Phins were guaranteed to have an open receiver there. The Chargers are beating themselves as effectively as any team I can recall.
Reverse jinx alert! Just as I type that, the Dolphins botch a snap in the red zone and Nick Vigil recovers and drags Tua halfway down the field to put the Chargers back in the game.
As for your uniform question, Brian, I prefer the white pants for the Chargers with the powder blues. If this was a teal throwback against the yellow pant/white jersey set, I'd probably agree.
Scott Spratt: The Dolphins entered this week with the No. 29 DVOA run defense but may be on the rise after stopping the Chargers on second- and third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Chargers are lining up to go for fourth down!
Cale Clinton: The duel of two explosive rookie quarterbacks hasn't generated many fireworks from either one. Coming into this game, Justin Herbert had never thrown for fewer than 264 passing yards in a single game. With two minutes left in the third quarter, he has accumulated just 120. Both Chargers touchdown drives consisted of drives that heavily favored rushing (10 of 11 plays and eight of 11 plays, respectively). However, Herbert has accounted for both of L.A.'s touchdowns, one rushing and one passing. As for Miami, Tua Tagovailoa is 14-for-24 for 167 yards. The two touchdowns he has thrown for have gone for a combined 4 yards.
Cale Clinton: In more unexpected irregularities in this game, Miami kicker Jason Sanders has missed his first field goal of the season. Sanders came into this game as the only kicker with at least 12 attempts and zero misses. He was 19-for-19 before the 47-yarder failed to connect.
Cale Clinton: Despite their best efforts, the Chargers have lost another one-score game. Herbert's best drive of the game brought the game within 8 points, but Devante Parker was able to recover the onside kick and ice the game. Los Angeles continues to find new ways to lose close games. This time around, you can find the answer pretty easily: it's tough to win games when you bury yourself in a 14-0 hole less than three minutes into the game.
Buffalo Bills 30 at Arizona Cardinals 32
Bryan Knowles: See, I knew Josh Allen wasn't a good quarterback; he obviously should have been shifted to receiver. Allen catches a throwback from Isiaiah McKenzie to give the Bills a 7-3 lead.
Allen getting a receiving touchdown this early opens the possibility for the rare passing/rushing/receiving trifecta, which has happened 10 times since 1950. Full credit for anyone who can name someone who's pulled that feat off.
Scott Spratt: If this quarterbacking thing doesn't work out, Josh Allen may have a future at wide receiver.
WR Josh Allenpic.twitter.com/WC5ofwPyX1
— Sporting News Canada (@sportingnewsca) November 15, 2020
Cale Clinton: Despite just having 5 yards rushing so far this week, Kyler Murray has broken the franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback that he set last season.
Kyler Murray has officially broken his own franchise record for rushing yards in a season by a QB (544 in 2019).
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) November 15, 2020
On a separate note: for someone who isn't watching this game, what an AWFUL way to phrase this Tweet.
Scott Spratt: I can't figure out if Kliff Kingsbury is an aggressive coach. He just went for a fourth-and-6 from the Bills' 48-yard line, which Kyler Murray converted. But if there is a pattern to his decision-making in those situations, I can't pick it up.
Aaron Schatz: Kingsbury went for it, what, four different times on fourth down last week? Until he decided not to go for it and tried that fateful field goal that Zane Gonzalez missed at the end.
Tom Gower: Yeah, I think "coaches have a (consistent) risk profile" is something we imply as analysts more than is often actually the case. There are exceptions, where we know analytics people are highly involved in the process (Philly, most notably), but I'm not sure it's generally true.
Vince Verhei: To answer Bryan's trivia question from earlier, I'm pretty sure Mark Brunell has pulled off the pass/run/catch TD trifecta. My next guesses would be Walter Payton, LaDainian Tomlinson, and ... Marcus Allen maybe?
Scott Spratt: Should we guess Roger Craig too? He seems to be the answer to a lot of those versatility questions.
Bryan Knowles: LdT and Payton both pulled it off, but Brunell has not; he never caught a pass. Allen would be the first quarterback to pull off the feat.
Tomlinson and David Patten are the two to do it in the 21st century; it has also been done by Hall of Famers Payton, Frank Gifford, and John Henry Johnson, as well as Dan Reeves, oddly enough.
Vince Verhei: Oh, you know what, I think Brunell did it in college at Washington. I think that's what I was thinking of.
Aaron Schatz: And on the subject of Kliff Kingsbury and aggressiveness, he just kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 3 so the score is now Buffalo 13, Arizona 9.
Scott Spratt: He also kicked from fourth-and-goal from the 5 on the Cardinals' opening drive.
Aaron Schatz: It feels like the Bills should be leading this game by more than 16-9, although it's not like everything has gone their way. They've needed three different 50-plus-yard field goals from Tyler Bass and they've gotten a bit lucky that Patrick Peterson has dropped two possible interceptions. But their offense is moving the ball better than Arizona's. Allen is doing a good job against Arizona's blitzes while on the other side, the Bills defenders are keeping everything in front of them and Kyler Murray has had a few plays where he had nothing open and had to try to scramble. Most of those scrambles were surprisingly short until the last one, which led to that last fourth-and-goal field goal from the 3 that I mentioned.
Also interesting to note that the Bills are using a similar game plan to last week even though Arizona doesn't have an unbalanced defense like Seattle does. The Bills have only four running back carries in the first half.
Aaron Schatz: Corey Bojorquez just shanked a punt badly, just 12 yards. Cardinals got the ball at the Buffalo 30 and went three-and-out, getting only a field goal to make the score 23-19.
Aaron Schatz: On the Bills' next drive, Patrick Peterson came off what looked like bracket coverage on Stefon Diggs, drifted back a little bit, and finally picked off a Josh Allen pass. Third time's the charm.
Aaron Schatz: Kyler Murray with 28- and 15-yard runs on zone-read options, the latter one for a touchdown that gives Arizona a 26-23 lead. In between there was a DPI on veteran cornerback Daryl Worley, whom the Cardinals seem to be picking on. He was just activated and the Bills are missing players at the position due to COVID.
Scott Spratt: I think we may need to expand the "show all Lamar Jackson highlight runs" rule to include Kyler Murray. Here is that second touchdown Aaron mentioned.
Kyler Murray making it look easy.pic.twitter.com/PSGNkL3AHf
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) November 15, 2020
Aaron Schatz: The Bills get a gift when the ball bounces off the hands of Larry Fitzgerald falling backwards and into the arms of Jordan Poyer.
just brutal bad luck on this interception for the Cardinals. Ended up being like a soft toss to the DB. pic.twitter.com/oLaaopxzq3
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) November 15, 2020
Scott Spratt: Granted that pass was way behind him, but Larry Fitzgerald still dropped that pass. Sportradar had charted him with just seven drops since 2017. That 2.4% drop rate was third-lowest of 114 wide receivers with 100 or more targets in that time, behind just Phillip Dorsett (1.3%) and Cole Beasley (1.9%).
Aaron Schatz: Honestly, I don't know if I would have charted that as a drop. That was a tough ball to catch.
Aaron Schatz: Bills follow up the interception with a drive that includes four penalties for 35 yards and ended up with third-and-33. They did not convert that, although a screen to Stefon Diggs went for a surprisingly good 21 yards. Still 26-23 Arizona.
Aaron Schatz: Josh Allen threw another pick, but the Cardinals went three-and-out taking almost no time off the clock, so Buffalo gets it back with 3:35 left. Their final drive was heavily dependent on Cole Beasley, covered by Byron Murphy. Two third-down conversions and a second-and-13. And then from the Buffalo 21 with 39 seconds left, Stefon Diggs comes out of the slot and gets a little past Patrick Peterson and angles into the end zone. Allen puts it right on him and the Bills take a 30-26 lead.
Bryan Knowles: Josh Allen just threw a perfect pass to Stefon Diggs -- could not have been placed any better, just a thing of beauty -- and the Bills are up 30-26 with 34 seconds left. That would be a heartbreaking way for Arizona to lose; what a throw.
Tom Gower: [33 seconds of game time later.] I'm sorry, Rivers.
Scott Spratt: DeAndre Hopkins! What an unbelievable grab!
Aaron Schatz: Somehow DeAndre Hopkins just caught a Hail Mary pass in between three different Bills defenders. I have no idea how he did that and how the Cardinals came back to win this game. We have to get some video of this one.
Bryan Knowles: Oh my god. Last shot for the Cardinals; Kyler Murray forced to roll to his right and just heave it up, and DeAndre Hopkins outjumps THREE Bills to come down with the touchdown! Holy...
— NFL (@NFL) November 16, 2020
32-30 after they went for two and failed.
Aaron Schatz: They didn't fail on the two-point conversion, they knelt on the ball to prevent any kind of blocked extra point that could be returned for two by the Bills.
Vince Verhei: Here we see DeAndre Hopkins outjumping every Buffalo defender ever -- I think Nate Odomes and Mark Kelso are in there somewhere -- for the win.
3 defenders around him.. Deandre Hopkins don't care.. btw, what a play by Kyler to keep it alive. pic.twitter.com/pz29PR2VUj
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) November 16, 2020
Aaron Schatz: You know you try to watch a game closely and analyze each team's strengths and weaknesses and what they are doing against each other and then you reach a play like that to end the game and all you can say is "jzjkidghsdgkh!!!!"
Cale Clinton: The Cardinals may be my favorite team to check out on Twitter immediately after wins. The first time I noticed it was when Budda Baker hopped on to say "DK HAWKED MY ASS" following the win against Seattle on Sunday Night Football. This week, Kyler gave us some insight into his thought process on the Hail Murray:
Shiiiiiiiiiiiiid..... Hop down there somewhere! @DeAndreHopkins
— Kyler Murray (@K1) November 16, 2020
Vince Verhei: So, here's a Tweet from ESPN Stats & Info saying that Hail Marys have been completed 9.7% of the time over the past 10 years. That's higher than I would have guessed, and it invites the question ... shouldn't teams be trying Hail Marys a lot more? Shouldn't every team with a third-and-long near midfield just try a Hail Mary before punting? I don't know what the expected touchdown rate is on drives that have a third-and-10 at the 50, but I'd guess it's got to be less than 10%.
Scott Spratt: Just thinking out loud. I'm curious how deep a pass has to be to be considered a Hail Mary.
Second, I'd guess the fear is that Hail Marys can lead to strip sacks and defensive scores.
Tom Gower: We're early in the second half of Sunday Night Football, and I'm still trying to decide what I think of this game. Josh Allen made some critical mistakes. His two near-interceptions to Patrick Peterson that Aaron mentioned earlier didn't appear to be good throws; the one PatPete got was more about him than a mistake by Allen. The second pick to Dre Kirkpatrick could have been a game-ender. Cole Beasley, who has been way more valuable than I would have guessed, had a strong game, really helping Allen out on some not so great throws. And then Allen had an absolutely fantastic throw to Stefon Diggs for what I thought at the time would be the game-winning touchdown.
And then Arizona ... had that Diggs score stood up, I would have written about how this was such an aggravating loss for the Cardinals for the second week in a row after that nonsense against Miami last week, about how Kyler Murray and the run game were working well and the great 10-minute stretch to turn it from 23-9 Buffalo to 26-23 Arizona but maybe the Cardinals should be creating more space in the passing game, and they really squandered the opportunity after the Kirkpatrick interception, and Kingsbury's previously mentioned non-consistent sense of risk, and heck even the way they used their last timeout, on an 8-yard gain with 26 seconds left that had no chance of getting out of bounds or a huge chunk of yardage. But then they hit the Hail Mary, and I'll leave all the details to the fans and just savor the amazement of DeAndre Hopkins just beating three defenders for the football because he's DeAndre Hopkins and they're not.
Seattle Seahawks 16 at Los Angeles Rams 23
Carl Yedor: Seattle's (relative) defensive strength is its run defense, so if the Rams are able to move the ball effectively against them on the ground in addition to what they are likely to accomplish through the air, this could be another long Sunday for Pete Carroll and company. On the Rams' first drive, they saw some success on the ground up until the goal line, where Seattle managed a tackle for loss. Seattle escapes the Rams' opening drive allowing only a field goal, but keep an eye on the ground game today. The Rams' play-action deep shots will likely be lethal, as we already saw from Cooper Kupp, but if they have the rushing attack to complement it, Los Angeles could be in for an explosive day.
Bryan Knowles: Jamal Adams has gone to the locker room, which is not ideal for a Seahawks defense which already is threatening to set records for pass defense futility.
However, the Rams' defense doesn't exactly cover themselves with glory on their first drive of the game. Russell Wilson is capable of breaking down even really good defense; leave people open and, well, the Seahawks are going to shred you. Both Greg Olsen and Freddie Swain make big plays, leading to an Alex Collins touchdown, and I'm not sure how far down the list of Seattle playmakers you would have to go to get to that particular trio. 7-3 Seahawks lead, midway through the first.
Scott Spratt: Alex Collins took all three of the Seahawks' carries on their opening drive and scored a touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) November 15, 2020
It may seem like forever ago, but Collins averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 212 attempts for the Ravens in 2017. He was sixth in rushing DYAR and eighth in yards after contact per attempt that season. He isn't Marshawn Lynch, but he does seem to me to embody that attitude the Seahawks love at running back.
Bryan Knowles: With eight carries already, I'm fairly sure the Rams have run the ball more times than the Bills did in the first half against Seattle last week. In fact, I think they got there with four rushes on their first drive.
But yes, it's the pass defense that is letting Seattle down; they've already allowed 124 yards and it shows no signs of slowing down, as the Rams jump back to a 10-7 lead. We may have a shootout here today.
Vince Verhei: The Bills had three runs in the first half last week, all in the first quarter. One of those was a Josh Allen scramble. Then they had three more runs in the third quarter -- one of those was an Allen scramble too.
Vince Verhei: So the first four drives of this game:
- 10 plays, 70 yards, LA field goal
- Seven plays, 78 yards, SEA touchdown
- Seven plays, 77 yards, LA touchdown
- Five plays, 20 yards and counting -- Seattle has a third-and-2 at their 45 at the end of the first quarter.
Yup. That's a 2020 Seahawks game. Even more so because starting corners Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar are both out today. Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde are both out too, but Alex Collins is off to a good start -- five carries for 22 yards and a score.
And now Russell Wilson has converted that third down with a throw over the middle to Tyler Lockett.
Carl Yedor: Seattle had fourth-and-12 on the Rams' side of the field, and they, like most teams in that situation, elected to punt the ball away, hoping that pinning the Rams deep would allow the defense to get them the ball back at some point without allowing a score. Well, so much for that. Ben Baldwin's fourth-down go-for-it/punt model had the decision as a tossup, but with Seattle's defense struggling so much, maybe they should just consider not punting anymore. I'm only half-joking, and I'm not the only one to think that, even with how radical the idea sounds.
This game is far from over, as the Seahawks answer the Rams' most recent touchdown drive with a field goal to cut the lead to 17-10, but it speaks to a broader issue with this year's group. For a team that had designs on making a deep playoff run, the defense is going to be what holds them back in the long run.
Scott Spratt: I guess Jamal Adams is back in because he just strip-sacked Jared Goff and forced a turnover.
Bryan Knowles: And then the Seahawks gave it back with what might be the worst interception of Russell Wilson's career. He had all day ahead of him to run, but he instead tries to force it into the end zone, and he's picked off. What on Earth was he thinking?
Vince Verhei: That's nine interceptions for Wilson this year. His career high is 11, in both 2016 and 2017.
Bryan Knowles: The Dots on the Russ INT. Just ... that's all day to run!
I can't believe Russ threw this. pic.twitter.com/7ICIUXczLe
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 15, 2020
Scott Spratt: Andrew Whitworth just suffered an apparent knee injury and was carted off. He turns 39 in less than a month, so who knows if he'll be able to come back from this one. You hate to see it.
Derrik Klassen: Watching Seattle fall back into "Russ has to be perfect mode" is so frustrating. It looks different now in that the perfection has to manifest in leading a shootout because of the defense rather than scraping out a half-decent offense because the rest of the supporting cast is so bad, but it's still frustrating. Feels like every week it just shrinks the margin for error Russell Wilson is allowed to play with.
Vince Verhei: After 20-some minutes of the kind of game we expected, this game got very weird in the second quarter following that turnover exchange. The Rams punted for the first time following Adams' second sack of the day (he now leads the team with 5.5 sacks this year -- and he missed four games). That sack came on the play Whitworth was hurt -- he got hit on the side of the knee, which bent the way it's not supposed to. Wilson then put together a very clunky two-minute drill, badly mismanaging pressure, taking sacks he didn't need to, and wasting timeouts. He bailed himself out with few miracle completions, and really got bailed out by Jason Myers, who finished the half with a Seahawks-record 61-yard field goal. So the Rams are up 17-13 at halftime in a game that feels like it should have a lot more points than that.
I've got to think the ... let's say vulnerable state of Seattle's defense is affecting Wilson's mindset. He knows he needs to score virtually every drive, so he's pressing the issue and taking more risks than he ever has before. That quarterback styles thing I do every year in Quick Reads, Wilson is always a sure thing to show up in the bottom left as a guy who avoids turnovers but gives up tons of sacks. That's going to flip this year, and he'll probably be up in the Jimmy Garoppolo area.
Whitworth's injury could change everything, but so far the Rams have mostly done what they want to today. Even with the sacks, they're averaging 8.8 yards per passing play. But they're also averaging 5.0 yards per carry against a defense that has been pretty good against the run this year. If they can run when they need to, that's going to help them deal with Seattle's boom-or-bust pass rush.
Carl Yedor: Whitworth going down could be a huge loss for the Rams moving forward, even at his advanced age. We'll see if it has a major impact on this particular game or not because Goff tends to struggle when he doesn't have a clean picture in front of him, but if that's how Whitworth's career potentially ends, it would be a heartbreaker.
After Whitworth's injury, Seattle forced a punt, and the Seahawks were able to drive to the very edge of Jason Myers' field goal range. I say the very edge because Myers set a career high (and franchise record) with a 61-yard field goal to end the half. Seattle gets the ball first in the second half, so we'll see quickly if Wilson can be sharper after the break.
Scott Spratt: Yeah, Carl. We should probably add that the Rams entered today first in adjusted sack rate (3.5%) and second in adjusted line yards (4.99). And Whitworth had blown just four blocks on 519 snaps according to Sports Info Solutions.
Vince Verhei: How not to win a football game in the year 2020: Wilson scrambles on third down but comes up a football length short of the line to gain. With Seattle's quarterback and Seattle's defense, this is a no-brainer decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 at your own 42, right? Wrong! Pete Carroll throws the challenge flag even though there's no evidence for the call to be overturned.
OK, what the hell, you took a shot, NOW you for it on fourth down, right? Wrong! You send the offense out there to bark for 30 seconds, nothing happens, you take a delay of game, and then you punt!
So that's a timeout and 5 yards of field position lost, with no benefit, and you're begging for another miracle (any stop for this defense is a miracle).
Carl Yedor: That fourth-down sequence was hard to watch. Clearly, Carroll understands that he cannot trust his defense, but he doesn't let the offense try to gain what looked to be about a foot.
Bryan Knowles: I wonder how much of the Seahawks' defensive problems are predictability -- the Rams seem to be very good at running screens to the opposite side of blitzes.
It's 23-13 after a pass interference penalty gives the Rams the ball on the 1 -- they do miss the extra point, so it's just a 10-point lead, but the Seahawks are beginning to be in trouble here. You can never count on their defense to get any sort of stop.
Vince Verhei: The Rams offense needs six snaps to get to the point on the field where they would have been has Seattle gone for it on fourth down and failed. Eight snaps later they're in the end zone, Malcolm Brown's second score of the day. That's thanks in part to a DPI on third-and-goal -- that's not technically a third-down conversion, but the Rams had two third-down conversion on that drive, including a wide receiver screen to beat a blitz on third-and-long just like the Bills had against Seattle last week. When you need to blitz to generate pressure, your blitzes become predictable and easy to exploit. Rams have now converted eight of 10 third-down plays today. They miss the extra point (they have been horrible kicking for points this year) but still lead 23-13.
Carl Yedor: This is Sean McVay's fourth year as head coach of the Rams, and for that entire period, the Seahawks have relied on turnovers and Los Angeles mistakes to prevent points. In their first meeting in 2017, the Seahawks held them to 10 points, but they needed five turnovers to do that with a defense still led by the Legion of Boom. For the five games since then, they haven't allowed fewer than 28 points (today is obviously still pending). Seattle's only other win in that time period required a missed field goal in the waning seconds. I'm not sure what changes need to be made as far as personnel/defensive scheme against the Rams, but clearly there need to be some. After the 2017 season (when they missed the playoffs), Seattle made wholesale changes at both coordinator positions as well as reverting to its heavy-run-first philosophy, but it should not take missing out on the playoffs again to spark that on the defensive side of the ball this year.
Vince Verhei: The Rams have always been Russell Wilson's boogeymen, even back to the Jeff Fisher days. Coming into today, he's 7-9 against the Rams, 85-54-1 against everyone else in the regular season.
Ethan Pocic is also out for today's game, and Kyle Fuller has played well today all things considered -- we haven't mentioned Aaron Donald's name yet. But he just botched a shotgun snap and the Rams recovered at midfield. Up 23-13 in the third quarter, Rams have a chance for a killshot here.
Vince Verhei: Rams recover an onside kick and win 23-16. Defenses really dominated after L.A.'s last touchdown -- their last four drives were three punts and some kneeldowns, while Seattle went punt, fumble, interception, field goal. If Wilson just runs the ball instead of throwing a pick in the first half, their last drive is probably a try for a tying touchdown instead of a meaningless field goal.
This was a really confounding loss for Seattle because in a lot of ways they played well in the areas they usually struggle and vice versa. They forced four punts, tied for their season-high. They got sacks, they got a turnover. But their own offense couldn't hang on to the ball, and they really struggled with pass protection. They just had a ton of mental mistakes and bad decisions -- a delay-of-game before Wilson's second pick, the lost challenge and lost timeout on the Wilson play, the punt on fourth-and-inches, the way they let the clock run on L.A.'s last drive without calling timeout (they've still got one -- do they think they can save it for next week?)
This loss and Arizona's win creates a three-team 6-3 logjam atop the NFC West, a tie that will be broken on Thursday night when the Seahawks host the Cardinals. No exaggeration to call that a must-win for Seattle -- a loss would leave them out of the division lead with two losses to Arizona and one to the Rams. Seattle has now lost three out of four; if that streak jumps to four out five, we can pretty much write them off as any kind of playoff threat this year.
Carl Yedor: One thing working in Seattle's favor moving forward is their remaining schedule, but as far as the team's actual quality goes, I agree with Vince's assessment that they likely aren't much of a threat to win the NFC. Seattle still has a game each against Arizona and the Rams, but the other five games are against Philadelphia, Washington, San Francisco, and both New York teams. Although with how they've played lately, the defense might cost them one of those games as well.
Vince Verhei: This Tweet just ran by my timeline and reminded me what a big game Darious Williams had for L.A. -- two interceptions and this play to save a touchdown.
Darious Williams caught air for this save
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 16, 2020
San Francisco 49ers 13 at New Orleans Saints 27
Bryan Knowles: This has been a game of special teams disasters.
The Saints muffed a punt, leading to a 49ers field goal. The 49ers, not to be outdone, allowed a 75-yard kickoff return and muffed a punt of their own, leading to all 10 Saints points.
It's a 10-10 game midway through the second, and both special teams coordinators should be very, very upset right now.
Bryan Knowles: The Saints were also helped by this roughing the passer call. Now, I know I'm somewhat biased, but, uh ... no?
Well guys... we found it. The worst roughing the passer in NFL history. pic.twitter.com/PTGxVeqV3L
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) November 15, 2020
Cale Clinton: Special teams has been the only reason the New Orleans Saints have crossed midfield in this first half. Deonte Harris' 75-yard kick return set up New Orleans' first field goal of the afternoon (on a 3-play, -6-yard drive). The Saints' subsequent offense drive ended in a punt, but the 49ers elect to get out of the way of it and Ken Webster fails to escape. The ball bounces directly into Webster's facemask and the Saints resume their drive at San Francisco's 21-yard line, eventually leading to an Alvin Kamara touchdown.
Bryan Knowles: Scary sight in New Orleans, as Tre'Quan Smith takes a shot to the head and lies motionless on the turf for a few minutes -- he's able to jog off under his own power, but that was a frightening couple moments.
As for the actual football game, the Saints are up 17-10, taking advantage of good field position after the 49ers are stuffed on fourth down at midfield. It feels weird to say, but the 49ers are much better passing than running at the moment; Jerick McKinnon is a pretty clear step down from Raheem Mostert or Tevin Coleman. Still, after their relative performance last week, being down only seven with 1:15 left in the first quarter isn't the worst situation for the 49ers to be in. They've got to start taking advantage of their opportunities, however, or the Saints are going to pull away in the second half.
Cale Clinton: Here's a rare statistical oddity that illustrates just how hard it has been for New Orleans to move the ball on offense.
Alvin Kamara had 3 rushes for -4 yards and a TD in the first half.
He joins Chad Henne as the only other player this season to have negative rush yards with a rush TD in a half this season. pic.twitter.com/6GG1Gx3Yyw
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 15, 2020
New Orleans' three scoring drives have started at the San Francisco 25-yard line, the San Francisco 21-yard line, and the New Orleans 43-yard line. The Saints have yet to orchestrate a drive longer than six plays.
Bryan Knowles: Um. Drew Brees was beaten up in the first half, but stayed in. But it's Jameis Winston coming off the bench to start the second half? That's ... interesting.
Brees has his helmet on and is standing on the sideline, so I don't know what the hell is going on.
Bryan Knowles: There have been three muffed punts in this game. I don't recall ever having seen that before! Weird, weird game on special teams, on both sides.
Denver Broncos 12 at Las Vegas Raiders 37
Cale Clinton: As we head into halftime, this game has really been defined thus far by the points left on the board. The Las Vegas Raiders have had multiple scoring opportunities jeopardized by bad penalties. A 60-yard punt return touchdown by Hunter Renfrow was taken off the board by an illegal block in the back, and the subsequent drive ended in a three-and-out. The Raiders also had another opportunity after a Drew Lock interception was returned deep into Denver territory, but the drive died when a fourth-and-1 conversion by Josh Jacobs was nullified by offensive holding, creating a fourth-and-11 that also pulled Las Vegas out of field goal range.
As for Denver, their best opportunity to score a touchdown was dashed away after a Lock rushing touchdown was taken off the board because of a holding call on Noah Fant. The next play, Lock threw an interception in the end zone to end the half. Lock was 13-for-25 in the first half with two interceptions. The Broncos have had nearly every one of their drives end because of third-down plays that end in incompletions, interceptions, and passes completed short of the sticks.
Scott Spratt: Add another missed opportunity to your tally, Cale. Darren Waller just dropped what would have been an easy 55-yard touchdown.
Darren Waller trying to make sure Derek Carr and Jon Gruden never try to throw deep again. pic.twitter.com/RRHJMg5yyJ
— Tyler Bischoff (@Bischoff_Tyler) November 15, 2020
Cale Clinton: The Raiders defense has officially doubled their interception count on the season. Las Vegas entered this game with three interceptions through eight games. They've now picked off Lock three times today, the most recent giving Las Vegas the ball on Denver's own 11-yard line.
Cale Clinton: This one's all but over. Las Vegas won this handily, and they could've won by even more. One interesting note for the Raiders: this will be the third straight game where Las Vegas rushed for more yards than they've passed for. Coincidentally, they'll be on a three-game win streak once the clock hits zero on this one.
It makes sense why the Raiders have relied so heavily on the run. Using today as an example, both Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker averaged more than 5 yards per carry this afternoon, with two touchdowns each. Derek Carr, on the other hand, was 16-for-25 for 154 yards and no scores, a rate of 6.1 yards per attempt. The leading receiver for Las Vegas, Darren Waller, amassed just 37 receiving yards. The passing game looked its worst on third down today. On 14 third downs this afternoon, Las Vegas elected to pass 12 times. They converted on just five of those attempts.
Baltimore Ravens 17 at New England Patriots 23
Scott Spratt: Wow, are Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson really the only two quarterbacks to win Heisman Trophies and NFL MVPs? That seems like it will start changing over the next decade.
Scott Spratt: If defensive tackle Brandon Williams can't make it back into this game, that could be a really big deal. He is the keystone of the Ravens No. 1 DVOA run defense. And as of the two-minute warning of the first half, the Patriots have run 15 times versus eight passes. This is the exact game script that gives the underdog Patriots a chance to pull the big upset.
Aaron Schatz: They're missing Calais Campbell too, and the Patriots are definitely moving the ball on the ground. The big difference between this game and last year's Ravens blowout is the missing players on Baltimore's offensive (Marshal Yanda retiring, Ronnie Stanley injured) and defensive (Williams, Campbell) lines.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots just took a 13-10 lead on a WR option pass, backwards pass to Jakobi Meyers who then launched it high in the air to Rex Burkhead in the end zone who was just past Baltimore's Patrick Queen. Missed the extra point though. I didn't think this game would be close at all, and the Patriots may actually go to halftime with a lead.
Scott Spratt: NC State continues to be an NFL quarterback factory! Slot receiver Jakobi Meyers just threw a bomb worthy of Russell Wilson.
— Jack Aylmer (@Jack_Aylmer) November 16, 2020
He's Julian Edelman's replacement in more ways than one.
Cale Clinton: The NFL's interception leader J.C. Jackson flexes his ball-tracking skills, icing the Ravens before halftime and picking off his sixth pass of the season. Miami's Xavien Howard briefly shared the INT crown with Jackson after picking off Justin Herbert this afternoon, but that was obviously short-lived.
Scott Spratt: Damien Harris just got to 100 rushing yards in the first two minutes of the second half. Sony Michel may never come off injured reserve at this rate. Harris entered the week with an 18.0% rushing DVOA. Michel finished below average each of the last two seasons.
Aaron Schatz: Why do the Baltimore Ravens run Wildcat when Lamar Jackson is their quarterback?
Scott Spratt: I'm not sure, Aaron, but it sure didn't work on that fourth-and-1 from the Ravens' 48-yard line. Mark Ingram couldn't handle the shotgun snap, and the Patriots are another dominant rushing drive away from maybe putting this game away against a team that historically has struggled overcoming the significant deficits they've faced.
— Slightly Biased (@BiasedSlightly) November 16, 2020
Aaron Schatz: I'm not a big fan of the Patriots' decision to kick a field goal to turn a two-score lead (10) into a two-score lead (13) on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
Scott Spratt: Yeesh, and that looked like a significant injury to tight end Nick Boyle. I think the Ravens would take the loss if they could just end this game right now. Already trailing the Steelers and Chiefs in the standings, they were tracking toward a wild-card berth anyway. But they've lost some critical players tonight that could hurt their chances the rest of this season.
Aaron Schatz: Ravens are on a drive to try to win this game, down 23-17, and the Patriots just rushed two men on third-and-3. It doesn't shock me that Lamar Jackson was able to scramble for a few yards on that.
Scott Spratt: It may not have seemed hard for him, but Lamar still made it look really cool.
Lamar Jackson is a super hero 👀 pic.twitter.com/qHNZSo6Ejm
— DynastyChrisS 📈🗣🏈👀 (@DynastyChrisS) November 16, 2020
Cale Clinton: Back-breaking error by the Ravens that you really can't chalk up to anything but the elements. A botched shotgun snap rolls on the turf past Lamar Jackson and ends up resulting in a 16-yard loss for Baltimore. Not the first time it has happened this game.
It has seemed like the Patriots have been on the ropes for most of the second half, but that certainly helped New England's chances of maintaining this lead.
Aaron Schatz: The Ravens get the ball back one last time with 65 seconds and 83 yards to go in a monsoon. My god is it raining hard.
Carl Yedor: By the end of the game you could barely see some of the players it was raining so hard. Baltimore tried to pick up a first down and get out of bounds so that they could set up for a crazy lateral play, but J.K. Dobbins had the presumably incredibly slippery ball go off his hands, giving it back to New England. Technically that would qualify as a drop, though it's hard to fault anyone for dropping a pass in that tsunami.
Scott Spratt: I assumed a win here would dramatically increase the Patriots' playoff chances, which sat at 6.9% entering today. But they have four of their next five games on the road with their one home game coming against the dangerous Cardinals. If their objective is to avoid a seventh loss -- which would be a second loss from here forward -- the Patriots still face a very difficult challenge.
Cale Clinton: Minutes after the game, Gillette stadium looks like this:
and just like that the weather cleared up pic.twitter.com/DwTyz9r9B3
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) November 16, 2020
... does Bill Belichick actually have a weather machine?