Week 3: Justin Tucker Saves the Ravens, Chiefs Can't Save Themselves

Baltimore Ravens K Justin Tucker
Baltimore Ravens K Justin Tucker
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a 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.

Los Angeles Chargers 30 at Kansas City Chiefs 24

Scott Spratt: This game is a matchup of two bottom-five teams in run defense DVOA, but two drives into the game, Patrick Mahomes has been the only ballcarrier to take advantage. He has already scrambled twice for 22 yards, one of which came on a free play with a Joey Bosa offsides.

Mahomes just threw an interception, but it was a tipped ball. No need to panic, people.

Scott Spratt: The Chargers didn't get anything out of their interception of Mahomes, and then Ty Long shanked a punt 24 yards to give the Chiefs the ball back at midfield. The Chargers special teams: still got it!

Scott Spratt: Joey Bosa was questionable for this game with an ankle injury, and he just looked like he re-aggravated it.

The silver lining for the Chargers is they just punched a Tyreek Hill completion out for their second forced turnover of the day. Hopefully for their sake, they will turn this one into some points.

Scott Spratt: The Chargers did manage six points out of that second turnover. Check out Justin Herbert's bizarre body contortion on his touchdown throw to Keenan Allen. Crazy.

Meanwhile, Tristan Vizcaino pulled the extra-point attempt wide left. The Chargers special teams: still still got it!

Derrik Klassen: Justin Herbert is playing really efficient football thus far (8-of-10 with one of those incompletions being a drop), but the offense needs to be able to get work on the ground so the burden of quick-game can be relieved from the passing offense. Chargers running backs have five carries for 8 yards through their first three drives, with the longest run between them being just 4 yards. That's an embarrassing look given how poor we know the Chiefs' run defense to be. We'll see if they can get it sorted out as the game continues. Have to imagine the Chargers won't continue to get bailed out by off Chiefs turnovers in the red zone.

Scott Spratt: And Clyde Edwards-Helaire just fumbled! That's the Chiefs' third turnover of the day, and it comes after Edwards-Helaire cost the Chiefs their win over the Ravens last week with a late fumble.

Scott Spratt: Joey Bosa came back in at some point, but now Derwin James is out with a shoulder injury. The Chargers may win today, but I'm not sure if it's going to help or hurt their prospects for the playoffs.

Vince Verhei: It's halftime and I have had this game on, but I don't have much to add to what has already been said. The Chargers are taking away the big play and making the Chiefs dink and dunk, and the Chiefs are moving the ball but keep making bad turnovers. And the Chargers are moving the ball, like they usually do, but they're delivering in the red zone for once. So, L.A. up 14-3 at halftime.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs get the second-half kickoff and march down the field and score. Patrick Mahomes touchdown pass to Jody Fortson (great catch of the back half of the ball as it nearly flew through his hands) on third-and-goal. Chargers still up 14-10 but Kansas City, of course, is not going to go away easy.

Vince Verhei: Chargers go three-and-out and Kansas City gets another long touchdown drive, with Mahomes throwing a touchdown to Edwards-Helaire, and KC goes up 17-14. The Chiefs, like Thanos, are inevitable.

Vince Verhei: Chargers go back up 21-17 early in the fourth as we have got a good old-fashioned AFL shootout now. L.A. turns down a game-tying field goal attempt from the 28-yard line, wisely realizing you can't beat Kansas City with field goals, and Herbert converts a fourth-and-4 with a completion to Keenan Allen, then finds Mike Williams in the right side of the end zone for a touchdown.

Scott Spratt: The Chargers may regret not extending Mike Williams last offseason because he just caught his third touchdown of the season to put the team back up 21-17. Williams led all wide receivers with 2.1 expected touchdowns entering the week, and he also converted on a two-point conversion today.

Bryan Knowles: And, of course, the Chiefs come right back, never seeing a third down on a 12-play touchdown drive.

We have had five drives in the second half so far; four of them have been 70-plus-yard touchdown drives. The defenses may still be in the locker room.

Scott Spratt: In this week's installment of Chiefs game theory, the Chiefs just retook the lead at 24-21 and will kick the ball back to the Chargers with 6:43 left in the fourth quarter. That's substantially less time than the Ravens had last week, and I think the Chargers have to try to drain the entire clock here on one last scoring drive. What do you guys think?

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, Scott—it's score in 90 seconds or less, or score in 6 minutes or more, and I think anything in the middle there is probably bad for their overall chances.

Dave Bernreuther: I think that after Justin Herbert hits Williams for almost 45 yards on the first play, they're going to have a REALLY hard time draining another 6 minutes off the clock, Scott.

Scott Spratt: Wow, the Chargers almost scored a touchdown to retake the lead with 2:30 left, but they committed another illegal shift penalty. Remember that's what took one of their two penalty-nullified touchdowns away last week, and they committed one earlier today on a fourth down. Not great.

Bryan Knowles: The Chargers were 31st in red zone offense DVOA coming in; KC was 28th in red zone defense DVOA. A true stoppable force versus moveable object game.

Scoring a game-tying field goal with 2:14 left is probably not ideal, in terms of that Chiefs strategy we were talking about earlier, Scott!

Bryan Knowles: One more tidbit: That was the first time all season a Chiefs opponent had had the ball in the red zone and failed to score a touchdown. If there was ever a time for a stop...

Scott Spratt: That's putting all of your eggs in a third Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble, Bryan.

Scott Spratt: Haha, and I'm wrong again! Patrick Mahomes just overthrew a third-down pass pretty flagrantly, and the Chargers picked him off for their fourth forced turnover of the day.

Dave Bernreuther: ANOTHER turnover! Near midfield too. The Chargers might fail on their red zone attempt and still manage to win this one, on the road, and send the Chiefs to a 1-2 record.

And here I thought this was just another quality Chargers team that'd be cursed to a losing record.

Vince Verhei: I cannot believe the Chargers threw on second-and-4 AND third-and-4 to set up a long field goal attempt. Even if this kick is good, Mahomes will have 48 seconds and a timeout to get a tie.

But the Chargers are GOING FOR IT?

Bryan Knowles: Oh no, the Chargers line up to go for it on fourth-and-4, but false start. Now they're out of field goal range!

Bryan Knowles: Too much going on to cover. To recap:

  • The fourth-down pass was incomplete, but the Chiefs committed pass interference and kept the drive alive.
  • Rather than run the clock out and kick a field goal, the Chargers score a touchdown, leaving 32 seconds left on the clock.
  • But they miss the extra point! So they're up 30-24, with 32 seconds left, and Patrick Mahomes getting the ball back. Can't be comfortable!

Scott Spratt: I was confused at first when Tony Romo said the Chargers should down it at the goal line. I thought he meant spike the ball, which didn't make sense since Mike Williams had gone out of bounds to stop the clock on the previous play. But he meant take a knee to keep the clock running. Instead, the Chargers threw another Williams touchdown with 32 seconds left. And of course, they missed the extra point and now Mahomes has a chance to go the length of the field for a win.

Vince Verhei: The Chargers just scored a terrible go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown. I'm apoplectic about how Kansas City is going to get this ball back with 30 seconds and a timeout because the Chargers, with timeouts, refused to run the ball even once. On first-and-goal from the 4, I'm taking knees and trying a field goal with zero seconds left. Instead they get a touchdown but miss the PAT (well, I guess the figgie would not have been automatic). And Mahomes has time for a miracle.

Dave Bernreuther: This is all going according to plan. So after the false start, the Chargers end up getting a first down anyway via penalty on DeAndre Baker. Then, with first down inside of field goal range, they ... throw the ball. Twice. First on a back-shoulder fade, shy of the end zone, which stays in bounds, and then to the end zone for another Williams touchdown.

That definitely deserves an award of some sort. Huge cajones there. I love it.

Bryan Knowles: And while we're all briefly distracted by game-winning league-record field goals, Mahomes' last-ditch Hail Mary falls incomplete. The Chargers win, the Chiefs fall to last place in the AFC West.

I think we can say that our model was too low on the Chargers this year, yeah? I mean, it hasn't always been pretty, but beating the Chiefs on the road is worth several tons of kudos, and Justin Herbert looks great. Now, if they could just figure out how to line up properly...

Scott Spratt: Apparently Andy Reid was feeling ill and left Arrowhead in an ambulance.

Arizona Cardinals 31 at Jacksonville Jaguars 19

J.P. Acosta: Rondale Moore had a huge punt return that set the Cardinals up in plus field position, and Kyler Murray takes it in from the goal line to put Arizona up 7-0. The Cardinals are too fast on the edges for Jacksonville to keep up this early.

Vince Verhei: Most notable sequence in the first quarter to me came after a Jaguars punt pinned the Cardinals at their own 1. With no breathing room, Arizona put Kyler Murray under center, which looked as weird as you'd imagine. Must have felt weird too, because the Cardinals went three-and-out and punted the ball back to Jacksonville, who took over near midfield.

No worries, though, because early in the second quarter, Jacob Hollister bobbles a pass in the red zone and Byron Murphy comes down with the interception to end the scoring threat.

J.P. Acosta: Just as everyone expected, this has been a defensive struggle. Since scoring on their second drive, Arizona hasn't been able to convert a third down.

J.P. Acosta: Trevor Lawrence is still very good, folks. Led a one-minute drive before halftime that ended in a great touchdown pass to DJ Chark under pressure. 7-7 with 21 seconds left in the half.

Bryan Knowles: Gus Johnson needs to announce everything ever. If I were to design a play for Gus Johnson to call, it would probably be an Arizona attempt at an NFL-record 68-yard field goal as the half expires, with it coming up short. And then Jamal Agnew could catch the ball with his heels on the end line, and return it 109 yards for a touchdown. If only such a play could actually happen.

J.P. Acosta: Oh my God Matt Prater tried a 68-YARD field goal to end the half. Jamal Agnew took it from the back of the end zone all the way into the end zone to end the half. Josh Lambo missed the XP but it's 13-7 Jaguars.

Scott Spratt: Sunday Ticket popped that highlight play with text that said Matt Prater missed a 109-yard field goal attempt. I'm not sure whether the reality was more or less exciting.

J.P. Acosta: Every game Gus Johnson calls turns into Big 12 chaos.

Dave Bernreuther: And just as I type about regretting still giving the Colts main TV (and thus, sound) status, Bryan makes me regret it even more by telling me what I missed by having this game on a tiny screen without sound.

Gus (after either Fring from Breaking Bad or the rat in Cinderella, depending which of us you ask) was heavily in the running for the new dog's name already, so I'm going to take it as a sign that Gus Johnson gave us a good memory from today and consider it done. The new old dog is Gus. (Welcome, Gus!)

Vince Verhei: Can we talk about Kingsbury's decision to try the 68-yarder? It's the end of the half, not the end of the game. That's 4 yards longer than the NFL record. I'm sure Prater has hit them from there in practice, but in game action, you're probably more likely to give up seven points there than get three. Not that we should have expected the worst-case scenario, but it seems like a risk you only take in desperate situations.

Bryan Knowles: Well, Matt Prater likes kicking those things. He attempted another long bomb (62 yards!) in the 2018 preseason ... which was also returned 109 yards for a touchdown.

Scott Spratt: The EdjSports win probability model estimated Matt Prater would only make that kick 2.4% of the time. I bet that's a hard number to project though, especially since Prater spent most of his career in the thin air in Denver.

Vince Verhei: We should add that Prater himself is the record-holder at 64 yards, so he had as good a chance as anyone to hit from 68.

J.P. Acosta: The Cardinals opened the second half with the ball … and three plays later turned it over. Kyler Murray threw an interception to Andrew Wingard, the first Jaguars turnover created this season

Bryan Knowles: The Jaguars just had a "we dare you to stop us" sort of drive. Eight plays, 75 yards, every single one of them a rush—Robinson for 66 and the score, Lawrence for 3, and Hyde for 6. That was just an "our guys are going to beat up your guys" sort of drive—from the freaking Jaguars!

They miss their second extra point of the day, of course, but that still means they have a 19-10 lead late in the third quarter.

Vince Verhei: Big day for that Jaguars offensive line. They're now up to 127 yards rushing with a whole quarter to go and they haven't given up a sack today.

Bryan Knowles: I think you'll probably be talking some Josh Lambo in the Loser League column this week, Bryan.

Bryan Knowles: Ah, rookie Trevor Lawrence has come back. He just floated a ball that Byron Murphy was all over, returning it for a score and a 24-19 Arizona lead. Lawrence has now had two interceptions in each of his first three weeks in the NFL. Per RedZone, the only other teams to pull that off were Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning, so I suppose an INT-heavy beginning isn't exactly the end of the world.

Vince Verhei: Jaguars had that great all-run drive, just manhandling the Cardinals on the ground. Then their next possession they try to get cute with a flea-flicker and that pick-six was the ugly result.

Vince Verhei: I questioned Kliff Kingsbury's aggression earlier, so I'll praise him for his aggression late. Cards have a fourth-and-1 inside the 5, up 24-19 in the fourth quarter. Instead of taking a sure field goal to turn a one-score lead into a one-score lead, they go for it and Murray keeps and converts on a run that looked like a designed scramble, if that makes any sense. James Conner goes on to score from a yard out and Arizona goes up 31-19 with less than seven minutes to go.

New Orleans Saints 28 at New England Patriots 13

Bryan Knowles: Terron Armstead had to be helped off the field on the Saints' second drive. If there's good news, I suppose is that it appears to be an arm injury rather than something with his leg or knee. Saints have a vet in James Hurst to replace him, but considering how Winston struggled with pressure a week ago, that's worth monitoring.

So far, the Saints seem to be happy with dinking-and-dunking their way down the field, like they did in Week 1. After the two teams exchange punts, the Saints ran an 11-play, 69-yard drive where Winston did a good job finding some holes in New England's zone as they slowly marched down the field. It ends with Winston dodging pressure and hitting Kamara for a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

Aaron Schatz: Saints take a 7-0 lead on their second drive. Patriots playing more zone than they usually do and they were letting the Saints find guys in the holes, particularly Deonte Harris for a 12-yard gain to convert a third-and-10 and then Alvin Kamara wide open on an angle route to score the touchdown for 7 yards. Mac Jones took two deeper shots on the Patriots' first three-and-out, so at least they're trying to get the ball downfield a little more.

Aaron Schatz: Aldrick Rosas is keeping the Patriots in this game by himself, thanks to two missed field goals. Otherwise, Saints are dominating on both sides of the ball. Their defense is pressuring Mac Jones on nearly every pass play and he doesn't look good reacting to it. Patriots are doing OK on the run except that James White is out of the game and was carted off with a leg injury after running for one of only two Patriots first downs so far today. When Saints are on offense, they're eating up the Patriots' zones and after a couple of early run stuffs, their running game is getting regular yardage as well.

Bryan Knowles: Mac Jones had been getting some praise for not throwing an interception through his first two games, unlike Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. Well, that streak is over. Jones was clobbered as he threw, the ball fluttered into P.J. Williams' hands and then, uh, chaos breaks out. Williams returns the ball inside the 10 and gets hit, fumbling the ball forwards. The Saints recover it in the end zone, and it's called a touchdown on the field, but then there's confusion about advancing the ball on a fumble and change of possession and Williams being down, and the finally rule that the Saints get the ball at the 9-yard line.

Jones should have eaten the ball and taken a sack, so you can blame him for that, but his offensive line collapsed in front of him; pressure gave him the opportunity to make the bad decision. Jones has already been hit six times today, and frankly, I think that count might be a little soft.

The down-by-contact ends up not mattering, though it really looks like it should. On third down, Winston was being wrapped up by yet another Patriots defender and chucks the ball into the end zone himself—same kind of decision Jones just messed up on. But for the second straight time, a Saints player comes down with the ball—Marquez Calloway has it, and the Saints are up 14-0 with less than two minutes left in the first half. Bizarre, bizarre play.

Scott Spratt: From what I have seen, the Patriots have had some open deep receivers the first couple of weeks, but Mac Jones has chosen to take a lot of lower ceiling throws. He's a rookie, so that's OK. But I think Jones has been more conservative than Josh McDaniels wants him to be.

Bryan Knowles: You're absolutely right, Scott. Jones had just six deep pass attempts in his first two games, and most of them were at just about the 15-yard cutoff for official NFL play-by-play. He's nearly at double digits today, so I suppose that's a good sign for his development. Now, if he could just complete some...

Bryan Knowles: Mac Jones may have just had his best throw in the NFL so far, hitting Jakobi Meyers for 27 yards. That's part of the Patriots' best drive of the day as they march 72 yards into the red zone before everything seizes up. Two runs with Brandon Bolden slamming into the line, and then a four-yard pass on third-and-11, sets up fourth-and-7 inside the 10. With the Patriots down 21-3, this might be the ballgame here ... and Belichick chooses to send out the field goal unit. The 26-yard kick is good, but that feels like game, set, and match for the Pats; a white flag field goal if I have ever seen one.

Vince Verhei: Patriots close to 21-13, and Sean Payton responds by rotating quarterbacks. Jameis Winston stays on to throw passes and even convert a third-and-1 on a sneak, but Taysom Hill also runs a lot of option plays to grind clock. And the combo works as Hill scores a 4-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 28-13. I am very pro-Winston in this particular quarterback duel, but I don't hate the idea of using Hill as a "closer" to finish out wins.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 at Pittsburgh Steelers 10

Bryan Knowles: The beginning of this game, a real barnburner if I have ever seen one: three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, interception, interception. Total net yards: -2. The AFC North, everybody!

Finally, 10 minutes in and on the sixth drive of the game, the Bengals decide to be the first team to play some offense today. Joe Burrow hits Ja'Marr Chase for 15 yards for the first first down of the game (at 5:20 left in the first quarter!), and then hits Tyler Boyd on a little route that should have been down at the 10; enough for a first down but not much more. But Boyd bounces off of three Pittsburgh defenders and somehow stays on his feet, racing the remaining 10 yards for a touchdown. 7-0 Bengals, late in the first.

Vince Verhei: The Steelers have had the ball four times: three punts and a pick. Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 10 passes, completing five for 17 yards—not per catch, total. He has also taken a sack.

More ineffective passing game: Vanderbilt against Georgia yesterday, or Pittsburgh against Cincinnati today?

Vince Verhei:The last two drives neatly encapsulated the state of the Pittsburgh offense compared to the rest of the league. The Steelers finally got a touchdown, but it took them 15 plays and eight and a half minutes to drive 86 yards. They had to convert three third downs; their longest play gained 20 yards. They're struggling to get explosive plays.

Then Cincinnati gets the ball back and takes less than 30 seconds to score, this time on Ja'Marr Chase's weekly home run play.

Vince Verhei: Ben Roethlisberger just threw this very, very bad interception.

That set up Chase's second touchdown of the day and a 24-7 Bengals lead.

Vince Verhei: It got lost in all the insanity of the last hour, but I do want to point out the exact point this game was decided, because I think it's telling. The Steelers had a fourth-and-10 in the red zone, down 24-10 with about three minutes left. Obviously, they go for it … but Roethlisberger's pass is a quick swing to Najee Harris behind the line of scrimmage. And it's not because Harris was wide open — he was immediately hit for a loss. When it's fourth-and-ballgame and you can't even threaten the line to gain, it's time to do some serious soul searching as a franchise.

Bryan Knowles: Vince, I gotta add something on Najee Harris; something that might well come up in Quick Reads. Harris had 14 catches on 19 targets for 102 yards.

His 7.29 yards per reception ties an NFL record low for anyone with 100-plus yards in a game, matching Christian McCaffrey in 2018. I'm not going back into our database for targets in the 1980s, but since 1992, Harris' 5.37 yards per target is tied for fifth-worst for anyone with a 100+ yard game, behind some "we'll keep chucking the ball to Roddy White/Chris Carter/Randy Moss and hope it eventually works" days. That trio might be slightly better as the focal points of your passing attack than Najee Harris.

Dave Bernreuther: But they were 12-0 last year, Vince!

(I'll never, ever understand that one.)

I had that game on the bottom TV, and every time I looked down, Roethlisberger was doing something terrible. While Terry Bradshaw spent the between-games show making excuses for him and blaming the line, they need to face the reality that my SportsGrid business colleague Cam Stewart pointed out earlier today: that Steelers offense is bad.

Including sacks, Ben dropped back 62 times for a net of 297 yards. That's awful. I know they were a "short pass instead of run" offense last year, but today they targeted Najee Harris out of the backfield NINETEEN times.

NFL defenses are going to solve that puzzle. Quickly.

Scott Spratt: I don't think that's fair, Dave. Diontae Johnson missed the game and then JuJu Smith-Schuster left early with a rib injury. What were the Steelers supposed to do?

Dave Bernreuther: I didn't realize that about JuJu. So I guess I don't have an answer ... they had one strength, and it was gone, and I'm the last person that'll say you should run more often in today's NFL

But that's still not a good offense, and at least part of it is that the quarterback probably shouldn't still be in the league. They're not the only team that played without their best wide receiver today.

Rob Weintraub: You know, I feel kinda bad beating this Steelers team. Their offensive line is poor, the offense is just checkdown theater, and Ben looks ancient. Sure, Cincy dominating them in Heinz Field is nice, but this was a cat toying with a wounded mouse.

(Child, please...)

Who else had the Bengals of all teams ending Pittsburgh's 75-game sack streak? Yes, they were without T.J. Watt and others, but these are the supposedly OL-helpless Bengals, who usually turtle at the sight of black and gold. They were just fine today. Give Joe Burrow a lot of that credit—he was doing plenty of adjusting up front, and must have done the job well. Two plays stood out—his audible to a 2020 style quarterback draw that looked plenty like his old self, followed by getting all day to throw on the second touchdown to Chase.

Ja'Marr of course now has four TDs in his first three games as a pro, and his bomb at the end of the half really signaled that this was Cincy's day. Pittsburgh almost always scores on the Bengals at the end of the half, and they did today too—but this time they were answered with authority. Heck, Chris Boswell even missed a kick, the first time he has missed one against Cincy in his career! And Logan Wilson, whose pick last week almost enabled a miracle comeback, had two more today. He's not a kinetic linebacker in the mold of Devin Bush but is a far superior pass defender and has stepped up his overall play this season. And Jackson Carman, rookie guard, played a mostly clean game and had at least one flattener (word?) that I saw.

No, the Steelers aren't good. But all I know is the Bengals have now beaten them twice in a row.

Washington Football Team 21 at Buffalo Bills 43

Vince Verhei: Bills go up 14-0 early in the second on a pair of Josh Allen touchdown passes, one to Emmanuel Sanders, one to Zach Moss. Each touchdown drive lasted eight plays; they also had a 10-play drive that ended in a failed fourth-and-2 at the Washington 35. Meanwhile, Washington has had two possessions and went three-and-out on both of them. So, it's early, but Buffalo has looked awfully dominant so far.

Vince Verhei: Washington finally gets a first down on a Terry McLaurin reception … but two plays later Jordan Poyer jumps a sideline pass by Taylor Heinicke and returns it into the red zone. Allen soon delivers touchdown pass No. 3, this one to Dawson Knox. It's 21-0 now; the Bills are currently on a 59-0 run dating back to the fourth quarter of Week 1.

Vince Verhei: Antonio Gibson was done with that Buffalo scoring streak.

Bryan Knowles: It's a windy day in Buffalo. So Dustin Hopkins' ensuing kickoff gets caught in the wind, and blown back for the coverage team. And so there was a pileup to try to get the loose ball. And at the bottom of that pile? Dustin Hopkins.

Hopkins basically kicked a 60-yard onside kick to himself, which is not a sentence you normally hear.

Vince Verhei: Video of that very long onside kick:

That set up Heinicke's touchdown scramble. This game went from 21-0 to 21-14 in barely three minutes of game time.

Vince Verhei: Bills have extended their lead to 36-14 at the end of the third quarter as their defense has just been throttling Washington most of the afternoon. Since their last touchdown, the Football Team has punted four times and thrown an interception while picking up only two first downs. Buffalo has gotten four touchdown passes from Josh Allen and a trio of Tyler Bass field goals and this one looks done.

Indianapolis Colts 16 at Tennessee Titans 25

Bryan Knowles: The big news in this one so far is health. A.J. Brown is on the sideline after pulling up a little gingerly on a route. Didn't get hit that I saw, so that's almost surely a hamstring; he has not returned. To make things fair, Quenton Nelson is also on the sideline; he got caught in a pile at the line of scrimmage and ended up getting rolled up on. Not good news for either team involved.

In other injury news, Carson Wentz! He's got two (2) sprained ankles, but is holding up ... well, alright. At the very least, he doesn't look worse than he did last year on two healthy ankles, so there's that. He doesn't seem to realize he has two sprained ankles, in that he keeps trying to move around to extend plays and is, uh, not succeeding. But it doesn't matter for now. Ryan Tannehill threw a ball right to Darius Leonard, giving the Colts a short field, and they were able to dink-and-dunk their way down the field to tie the game at 7 on a Nyheim Hines run. My fantasy team thanks them.

Rivers McCown: I was too kind to Carson Wentz in FOA 2021.

Dave Bernreuther: Don't forget Kwity Paye, Bryan; he's out for the game as well.

I don't have a ton to say about this one. I was going to make fun of James Lofton for how he pronounced Bobby Okereke—rhymes with "carrot cake"—but here in the second quarter they actually just explained that everyone, right down to the Colts PR staff (and the people that I know), had been saying it wrong all along and that's actually how it's supposed to be. So ... Bobby O'Carrotcake it is.

That's really the most interesting thing about this game to me so far. I don't enjoy watching Carson Wentz play football. Neither, it seems, do my dogs.


(And yes, I did maybe just say that so I could brag about my newest senior rescue—the old dude in the corner, who arrived two days ago after three weeks in the shelter—and how well he has adjusted.)

Kenny Moore just got the Colts' second interception of the half … that's somewhat interesting. The ball hit Chester Rogers right in the chest, and now with under a minute left in a half that nearly saw the Titans waltz to a 21-7 lead, the Colts have a short field, two timeouts, and a chance to tie.

Or perhaps not a short field, because Carson Wentz takes another bad sack. Can't put that one on the ankles at all either.

Dave Bernreuther: A play after the sack, Wentz shows perhaps even worse pocket presence than before, ducking and running when it wasn't necessary, finding open space, but chucking the ball away anyway rather than resetting his feet. The Colts get bailed out by an illegal contact call, however, and then on the next play hit Michael Pittman over the middle to the 31.

The *Titans* call a timeout, leaving the Colts with one left and 17 seconds to go. What do they do? Hand it off and center the ball to kick a field goal. Huh?

Wentz was limping a bit during that timeout, so I suppose it's possible that he couldn't have made a throw downfield. But come on. That's terrible. There was time for two shots at the end zone before kicking. (Or, more likely because it's Wentz, there was time for one sack and a timeout before kicking.)

I'm having a hard time keeping the Colts on my main screen.

Rivers McCown: They're smart dogs, Dave.

I get that he isn't healthy and the broadcast booth pretty much said "he woke up in throbbing pain every day this week," but, uh, why would you play someone who is this limited?

Dave Bernreuther: As the third quarter draws to a close, the Titans win a challenge on Parris Campbell's non-catch and Carson Wentz takes one of those third-down sacks that they'll blame on the line for not picking up but is still the quarterback's fault for not throwing the damn ball. After a punt, Xavier Rhodes takes a 30-yard DPI near the end zone to basically give away any hope the Colts had in this one. Mike Vrabel properly goes for two after a Jeremy McNichols touchdown, and with the amount of time that each drive has been taking in this game, a two-score lead with 12 minutes to go ought to be enough.

Wentz actually made his best throw of the game, across his body after fleeing the pocket to his left, hitting Zach Pascal for 27, followed by a penalty and a nice long catch-and-run into the red zone for Nyheim Hines, so I might be in full on reverse jinx mode here.

But the 2021 Colts show up again in the red zone. A near miss off a fingertip, a draw, and an absolutely terrible throw on third down by Wentz lead to a 24-yard field goal attempt. The Colts are within a score, but they need a stop. Against the Titans and fourth-quarter Derrick Henry.

Tom Gower: We're now at halftime of the Sunday night game, and I'm still trying to think about what seems like an obvious question: what, exactly, was the Indianapolis Colts' plan to win today's game? The implied belief, from what they actually did, is that Carson Wentz gives them the best option to win even if it meant spending what felt like every snap in shotgun (actual number: 44/57, 77%), able to attempt only a limited game plan, with Wentz struggling to make quick decisions and trying to extend plays even though playing through two sprained ankles meant he had almost no mobility, with trouble running any sort of power run game of the kind you might use to hide a limited quarterback, and with Wentz's injury (and yeah, some offensive line issues) limiting his ability to take shots downfield in the passing game. I mean, it's a way to do something. Kind of. Sort of. I go back to when I was on the Twitch stream with Aaron and Mike in the offseason and openly wondering about whether Jacob Eason ranked as the league's worst backup quarterback situation, an exceptionally curious problem to have when your quarterback has Wentz's injury history.

To win this game, the Titans basically had to not lose it. I thought this might end up a low-scoring game, with Tennessee sticking to a mostly ineffective run game forever and ever and thus limiting their offensive output. Derrick Henry didn't end up with a particularly efficient day (I haven't run success rate numbers yet, but he ended up right at 4.0 yards per carry on 28 attempts and Next Gen Stats had him at -1 Rush Yards Over Expectation after last week's +88), but Ryan Tannehill was solid on third downs and scrambled effectively when the opportunity presented. Really, after a three-and-out, the Titans were stopped by their own mistakes. And fortunately for the Colts' "don't you have an actual idea?" plan, they did. Just-signed-off-the-practice-squad tight end Tommy Hudson got caught up in the trash on one of the crossing routes the Titans had used successfully to attack the Indy defense and Darius Leonard got a gift interception. A mistake by Chester Rogers led to the second interception. A fumble by 2020 UDFA Nick Westbrook-Ikhine in the red zone (the sixth of the season in a Tennessee game, and the sixth not recovered by the Titans) stopped them again. But those were their only non-scores (excluding the final kneeldown drive) after that first drive, so it's hard to be too critical of the offensive performance. And with games against the Jets and Jaguars the next two weeks and the rest of the AFC South winless outside it, this could be a boring AFC South race by the time the Titans start their much more interesting stretch in mid-October.

Baltimore Ravens 19 at Detroit Lions 17

Bryan Knowles: Marquise Brown is having himself a day but, uh, not in a great way. Brown has dropped three passes this game, at least two of which would have gone for touchdowns. He keeps getting wide open; you just have to wonder how much longer Baltimore will be going to him if he can't pull in balls placed right in his hands.

Ravens are up only 10-0, as the Lions continue to be the Good Bad Team, playing teams tougher than expected.

Scott Spratt: I thought that might have been a persistent issue for Brown, Bryan, but it doesn't seem to be. Brown has dropped just 5.4% of his catchable passes since the start of 2019, less than half the rate of the positional leaders with 100 or more targets in that time. I guess it's just a bad day.

Better to have those against the Lions than other teams, I guess.

Scott Spratt: Apparently the Lions are up 17-16 with 26 seconds left. I have no idea what happened. I just know that I love Dan Campbell.

Scott Spratt: Justin Tucker is going to try a 66-yard game winner. I haven't checked the EdjSports model, but I think it's at least 50/50.

Bryan Knowles: And while we're all watching the Chiefs-Chargers finish, Dan Campbell's Lions have come back from a 13-0 deficit and have managed to earn a 17-16 lead. That forces the Ravens to try a 66-yard game winning field goal, and Justin Tucker has already missed one today.

But he doesn't miss that one! Off the crossbar, and through! What a kick by Tucker, and the Ravens ESCAPE!

Scott Spratt: Tucker!!!!!!!!!! The 66-yarder hit the crossbar and flipped over and in! Ravens win!

Scott Spratt: Tucker, I assume: "Are you not entertained???"

Bryan Knowles: Not just a game-winner, but the longest field goal in NFL history. Justin Tucker. Never a doubt. My god.

And full credit to the Lions—they nearly came back against the 49ers, they had a halftime lead against the Packers, and then they made the Ravens need an NFL record to win. They are this year's Good Bad Team. Should be lots of optimism going forward about Campbell, if not necessarily about the roster.

Dave Bernreuther: Whoa. I thought all the games were over, but flipped to Detroit because of that email. I had no idea that was a 66-yard kick. What an amazing and completely under-the-radar way to win a game. Congratulations to Justin Tucker.

Carl Yedor: What in the world Justin Tucker! A new NFL record! I thought for sure after the Ravens were unable to get out of bounds on the long fourth-down conversion that they were too far away, but Tucker cares not for mortal expectations.

Chicago Bears 6 at Cleveland Browns 26

Tom Gower: I wasn't watching this game all the time, but it was on the TV adjacent to the Colts-Titans game and from what I saw, Justin Fields has the same unwillingness to make a quick decision, even if it's just that "this play isn't working, so I'm going to throw a low-risk, low chance of completion pass." There was one play in particular where it was a guaranteed three-step drop, Jason Peters threw a cut block, and Fields just didn't throw the ball and got sacked. And that wasn't the only play like that. And, yes, rookie quarterback, NFL defensive linemen are physical freaks who can run you down from behind even if you are pretty quick in your own right. No, the Bears offensive line isn't great. Yeah, he's a rookie, and the speed of the game is legitimately that much faster and it takes rookies time to adjust. I call it rookie/backup processing speed for a reason. Maybe Matt Nagy wasn't doing anything to help Fields in terms of three-step routes and design (or worse, he was doing the Mike Mularkey asynchronous route-drop nonsense where the quarterback has no choice but to look like an idiot because he has reached the top of his drop and all his receivers are still running their routes). But that requires a more intensive analysis of the game than I was able to devote to that game live.

Miami Dolphins 28 at Las Vegas Raiders 31 (OT)

Bryan Knowles: Miscommunication in Las Vegas helps the Dolphins out early. Derek Carr was looking for Foster Moreau across the middle, except Carr led him, and Moreau stopped. That meant the only receiver in the area was Elandon Roberts, who took it back 85-yards for a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

Yes, yes, I know, an 85-yard pick-six is a yawn-inducing play compared to what we have seen elsewhere, but hey, gotta start somewhere.

Vince Verhei: Dolphins jumped ahead with a long pick-six by Elandon Roberts after Derek Carr and Foster Moreau were on different pages. Raiders quickly get the ball back and get a fourth-and-1 at their own 34. They call timeout, and given time to think about it, they decide to go for it, but Peyton Barber is stuffed for no gain. I can't find video, but based on the description it sounds like a straight dive play.

So Dolphins take over already in field goal range and Malcolm Brown scores on a 24-yard touchdown shortly thereafter. Dolphins have a surprising 14-0 lead.

Scott Spratt: The Raiders and Dolphins entered this game back-to-back with the 19th and 20th DAVE ratings. I wouldn't find a Dolphins win surprising.

Bryan Knowles: Cue the Men Without Hats.

The Raiders are forced to punt, and they make a great play to down it at the 1-yard line. A personal foul moves it back to the one-half-yard line, so this is as shadowy of one's own goalposts as you can possibly be.

What play call do you use to get out of this? Why, a wide receiver screen, of course! Jaylen Waddle catches the ball 3 yards deep in the end zone, where he is immediately tackled. Safety! 14-2, Dolphins. Stop throwing screens!

Vince Verhei: Everything about this play sucks.

Bryan Knowles: Management tip: when one of your employees goes above and beyond and salvages a project, you should take steps to reward them in the future.

For example, Peyton Barber fumbled at the goal line, but Alec Ingold was able to pluck it out of the air and keep the ball for Las Vegas. On the next play, Derek Carr finds Ingold for a 1-yard touchdown pass. Derek Carr: successful manager.

14-12 Raiders late in the second.

Bryan Knowles: It took Vegas a while to get into gear offensively, but their defense did more than enough in the first half to keep them in it while things got cranked up. Miami has had six drives so far; they have scored on just one of them. Can't ask for much better than that.

Meanwhile, after starting with a pair of punts, a pick-six, and a turnover on downs, the Raiders have found their gear. Lots of Hunter Renfrow, including the touchdown on third-and-9. The announcers have been riding hard on "third-and-Renfrow" today, and, well, there's a reason he has earned that nickname. Raiders take a 19-14 lead midway through the third quarter.

Scott Spratt:

  • Step 1: Trade Khalil Mack for draft picks.
  • Step 2: Draft running back Josh Jacobs with one of the acquired first-round picks.
  • Step 3: Sign another running back in Kenyan Drake with a contract that makes him the 15th-highest paid back by average annual value.
  • Step 4: Give Peyton Barber more touches than Drake in Week 2 and 3 with Jacobs sidelined.
  • Step 5: Start 3-0.

Football is easy, guys.

Bryan Knowles: I had this one written off with the Raiders up 25-14, but since then, Miami has driven back with a field goal and a touchdown with a two-point conversion to tie things at 25. The Raiders had a chance to ice this one; they stuffed Miami on fourth-and-1 on the Las Vegas side with less than five minutes left, but the offense went three-and-out, even losing 16 yards in the bargain. That gave Miami just enough time to march down for the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion, with Brissett succeeding on two out of three plays at the goal line to make this one a contest again. Overtime, here we come!

Bryan Knowles: The Raiders take the overtime kickoff and hit some quick big plays—Henry Ruggs for 16; Bryan Edwards for 32—to get them right on the edge of the red zone. But then, Carr breaks down, with a pair of incomplete passes forcing the Raiders to settle for the 38-yard field goal (as all the Vegas -4 betters tear their hair out).

With 6:27 left in the game, I am now rooting for the "double-field-goal-overtime-tie" scenario.

Scott Spratt: And here is Jacoby Brissett escaping pressure and completing a 27-yard pass on a fourth-and-20 down by three in overtime when anything less than 20 yards would have ended the game.

Even the backup quarterbacks are insanely good in the NFL.

Bryan Knowles: Brissett's heroics lead to a field goal, and the chance for the tie is alive, with just 2:43 left in the game...

Aaron Schatz: Raiders seal it with a long pass to Bryan Edwards, who had a big day, and a couple of big runs by Peyton Barber, who even more surprisingly had a big day. They end up kicking the game-winning field goal from the 3 to win 31-28.

Seattle Seahawks 17 at Minnesota Vikings 30

Bryan Knowles: It is entirely possible that DK Metcalf might be a problem for Minnesota. Seattle's first drive saw Metcalf catch three passes—a 17-yard gain, a 27-yard gain, and a 10-yard touchdown. And the Vikings weren't particularly close to stopping him on any of those plays. 7-0 Seattle early, and that was FAR too easy.

Vince Verhei: First quarter ends with Seattle up 10-7. Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins are a combined 13-of-15 for 152 yards and two touchdowns. It feels like every Seahawks game ends in a close win and every Vikings game ends in a close loss, so I expect this one to be close throughout.

Bryan Knowles: Kirk Cousins has now thrown three touchdowns in the first half. Alexander Mattison is up to 96 first-half yards. Seattle's defense is ... well, they're playing football. I can say that much for them. They are on the field and lining up. What they're doing after that is slightly less impressive.

21-17 Vikings at the half, so I'm taking suggestions now as to how Minnesota will blow this and Seattle will pull off their usual fourth-quarter magic. Tip-drill interception, fumbled back to Seattle in field-goal position, perhaps?

Scott Spratt: Put me down for a long Tyler Lockett touchdown, Bryan. Lockett was too quiet in that first half. It makes me suspicious.

Vince Verhei: Only drives in that first half when either team failed to score:

  • A Vikings punt after Cousins tried to throw a third-down pass with one shoe on.
  • A missed field goal for Seattle.
  • The end of the half when Seattle ran out of time.

Seattle came into the game giving up 90-plus receiving yards per game to running backs, worst in the league by more than 20 yards. Mattison leads the Vikings with five catches for 60 yards in the first half. Most of those were on screens. Just YAC upon YAC upon YAC.

Vince Verhei: Vikings up 24-17 and driving at the end of the third. Seahawks only had five plays in the whole quarter, a short drive that ended in a punt. Seattle's defense just can't get off the field. Only stop they have had in the second half was a third-down strip-sack by Darrell Taylor that forced the field goal. But Cousins is usually dropping back and find plenty of peaceful, quiet space in the pocket and making easy throws to wide open receivers in holes in zones.

Vince Verhei: Vikings just kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1. That keeps it a two-score game at 30-17 and leaves Seattle a glimmer of hope, where a touchdown would have put this one to bed. But that shoeless throw by Cousins in the first half remains the only drive on which the Vikings have not scored. Just a putrid game for Seattle's defense, coming off that terrible second half/OT against Tennessee last week.

Vince Verhei: Penny Hart somehow got open in the end zone on fourth-and-long at midfield, but Wilson's pass was a little underthrown and Hart ended up dropping it. Seahawks exhaust their timeouts getting the Vikings to third-and-long right before the two-minute warning. So, hand off and punt, right? Nope, third-and-long is automatic for Minnesota today, so Cousins throws to Justin Jefferson for the conversion and that's game.

Worst game Seattle has played in a long time drops them to 1-2 behind the Cardinals, Rams, and 49ers, none of whom have lost going into San Francisco's Sunday night game. They play at San Francisco in Week 4, then host the Rams on Thursday night in Week 5, and we're already in must-win territory.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 at Los Angeles Rams 34

Vince Verhei: We're through one quarter in Los Angeles with five punts and zero points scored, though the Rams will start the second quarter with possession just outside the red zone. Each team has dodged a major bullet so far. For L.A., DeSean Jackson got open behind the defense, but Matt Stafford's pass was just a bit late and/or underthrown and Ross Cockrell was able to break it up. The Bucs, meanwhile, had Rob Gronkowski open on a deep corner route, but Tom Brady's pass was about 6 inches too deep and Gronk couldn't hold on despite getting both hands on it.

Scott Spratt: The Rams just went 95 yards for a touchdown on the drive Vince mentioned and looked pretty good doing it. Matthew Stafford was 8-for-8 passing, and while none of the passes were deep, the Rams look like they may have a running game proxy in their short passes to Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee to replace an actual running game that probably wouldn't work against last year's No. 1 DVOA run defense.

Bryan Knowles: And the scoreless streak ends as the Rams draw first blood. Sean McVay really loves him some Tyler Higbee, and more to the point some Tyler Higbree screens; Higbee caught four passes on that 95-yard touchdown drive, including both a first down and a touchdown on screens. Now, I said earlier that teams should stop throwing screens after the Miami Debacle, but McVay's screens are, well, schemed in some way. Rather than just throwing the ball out to the edge and hoping a receiver can beat a corner, these are screens to a tight end on the inside behind multiple blockers. I'm still not in love with them as a concept, but they have gotta be higher-percentage than going one-on-one out wide.

Aaron Schatz: Jamel Dean was injured for the Bucs so we're starting to really feel the questions about the Tampa Bay depth. That puts them down two cornerbacks with Sean Murphy-Bunting also out.

Aaron Schatz: Buccaneers march it back up the field to tie the game 7-7. So far, it seems like the Bucs' completions are usually blown coverages or receivers beating their guy, while the Rams' completions are much more about scheme—either getting a guy wide open in a zone or shorter passes with a cavalcade of blockers like the Tyler Higbee touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Now the Rams head back up the field to make it 14-7 with a couple of passes to a wide-open Cooper Kupp including the touchdown. I know how Todd Bowles likes to play it but I don't know if the Bucs' secondary is healthy enough right now for Tampa Bay to blitz this much.

Bryan Knowles: Tyler Higbee's up to five catches already; he has been a fairly integral part of the Rams' game plan to this point. But he came up lame on that last Rams drive; that's something to watch going forward.

Also something to watch: all the injured Buccaneers defensive backs. Jamel Dean is now out, so that Bucs are missing two starting cornerbacks. That leads to Cooper Kupp being left wide open for a touchdown as the Rams take a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter.

Bryan Knowles: McVay said, coming into the game, that he had to try to find a way to get DeSean Jackson more involved in the offense. Stafford had missed Jackson on a couple bombs in the first half; some underthrows on what would have been touchdowns.

He didn't overthrow him THERE. Mike Edwards came up as if he was expecting Jackson to stop running. Jackson did not stop running. 75-yard touchdown pass and the Rams have a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter. That one has been just waiting to happen.

Bryan Knowles: That was Jackson's 10th touchdown of 75-plus yards, which moves him into the top 10 all time, along with a bunch of return men and then also Tyreek Hill. (Devin Hester, Ollie Matson, Dante Hall, Bobby Mitchell, Timmy Brown, Josh Cribbs, Tyreek Hill, Eric Metcalf, and Gale Sayers)

Aaron Schatz: Edwards slipped and fell, too. The Bucs had a good defense called to stop the deep pass, and Edwards fell, and that was that. DeSean Jackson is just too fast for anyone to catch up to.

Bryan Knowles: Gronk goes down with an injury, so instead Brady hits Cameron Brate for a 17-yard catch-and-run to the goal line. The Tampa Bay depth at their skill positions is just crazy. The touchdown comes on a Brady sneak, and man, remember when that was a play we saw nearly every week? It has died down a little as, y'know, the man is 44 years old, but he's still got it when he needs it. 21-14 Rams.

Scott Spratt: I guess we're going to see how the Bucs fare with some injuries this year after suffering the fewest adjusted games lost in 2020.

Bryan Knowles: Another bomb to DeSean Jackson—this one a measly 40 yards—and then Cooper Kupp shakes Carlton Davis out of his shoes with a precise fake in route, cut back outside for the score. I swear, I could watch Rams games with just an iso camera on Kupp at all times; the Rams line him up all over the field, and he's doing some incredible work with his routes so far this year.

28-14 Rams midway through the third as this second half has been more what we expected out of this game.

Aaron Schatz: Rams go up 28-14. Stafford hit a crossing DeSean Jackson who ran upfield for a 40-yard gain, almost all yards after the catch, with Carlton Davis desperately trying to catch him. Then Cooper Kupp, open again, 10 yards, touchdown. Jackson has been huge today, and he stretches the defense to the point where I'm not sure what Tampa Bay is supposed to do. They're not getting enough pressure with just four pass-rushers, and if they blitz there will be open guys. Then again, they aren't blitzing and there still are open guys. The Rams are good at scheming.

Aaron Schatz: Bucs' depth at the receiver position is pretty ridiculous. Tyler Johnson was our Playmaker sleeper last year and he's the fifth wide receiver for the Bucs. Made two big catches on a field goal drive, including a beautiful one where he had to turn around and locate the ball in the air quickly after finding the hole in the corner of Cover-2. Bucs stall out in the red zone though—Brady threw it just out of the reach of the outstretched hands of Gronk (returned from his injury) on second down and throwing it away on first and third downs. 31-17 Rams.

Scott Spratt: Troy Aikman: "You build a lead with the passing game and then you keep a lead with the running game."

That's a really nice distillation of a major tenet of football analytics. I'm only surprised by the source.

Vince Verhei: Troy's a reader!

Scott Spratt: I was just typing up a thought about the Bucs leaving Tom Brady in on a two-minute drill down by 17 points. It seemed like a bad idea for potential injury reasons. But it looks like Giovani Bernard is the important player who got hurt on the drive. He caught a short touchdown pass but got hit in the knee as he went head over heels into the end zone.

Scott Spratt: The Panthers are alone in first place in the NFC South and possibly No. 1 in DVOA. Cancel the rest of the season.

Tom Gower: Going back through the box score, and thinking about this game, what stands out to me isn't so much the feeling that the Rams ended up really dominating this game (which is totally understandable, because they were up for two-plus scores almost the entire second half), but instead just how good Matt Stafford was on third downs. Some of them were short (they ended up 5-for-5 with no more than 3 yards to go), but not all of them. The DeSean Jackson touchdown to start the second half came on third-and-10. Ditto the Robert Woods completion on the next drive (and the Jackson catch-and-run later in the drive was third-and-5). If one or two of those plays comes out differently and the Rams are just good on third downs instead of exceptional, this game could have felt differently than it did. Full credit to Stafford and his receivers for making those plays, but outside of the Bucs' complete inability to run the ball, I'm not drawing any grand conclusions off of it and not adjusting my general beliefs about Tampa Bay.

Green Bay Packers 30 at San Francisco 49ers 28

Bryan Knowles: The 49ers are wearing the red version of their 1994 throwbacks, which are in turn 1955 throwbacks. They look so much better than the white ones. I may be the only person to think this, but I am dying on that hill.

Coupled with the Browns' AAFC throwbacks earlier today, and it has been a good day for alternate unis.

Bryan Knowles: Packers coming out quick—not having Rodgers hold the ball long, which makes tons of sense considering they have three backups on the offensive line. The Packers' receivers have found some room to get open deep against the 49ers' secondary, with Davante Adams just running some unstoppable routes. It's 10-0 late in the first quarter and the 49ers need to figure out something in their secondary sooner rather than later.

Scott Spratt: Aaron Rodgers has now thrown 10 touchdown passes from the 1-yard line since the start of 2020. That's twice the total of the next closest quarterback, Tom Brady.

Scott Spratt: That Jaire Alexander interception was like when a baseball is hit high and hard into right-center field and the camera is following the centerfielder the whole time and then, suddenly, the right fielder enters the frame and makes a ridiculous catch.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Jones just went up the middle for 3 yards to make it 17-0 right before halftime. Packers have done an excellent job of getting the ball out quick enough to limit the problem of their inexperienced offensive line. On the other side, the 49ers haven't been able to hide their inexperienced cornerbacks. Davante Adams is killing rookie Deommodore Lenoir with back-shoulder catches.

Bryan Knowles: Aaron Rodgers is having an Aaron Rodgers-esque day. 16-for-18 for 184 yards and a touchdown, and that's not including a couple of huge pass interference calls that gained an additional 50 yards, converting some key third downs. The Packers' reserve linemen are doing a great job holding up against the 49ers' line, and that's giving Rodgers all the time he needs to pick apart the secondary.

Shanahan is frustrated on offense. He has begun working without a tailback, with Trey Sermon playing second banana to Kyle Juszczyk. George Kittle is the 49ers' leading rusher, which should tell you all you need to know about how the 49ers' offense is ticking. But then again, Shanahan isn't helping things—he opted to punt on a fourth-and-1 at midfield, after which the Packers marched right down and scored. Something's gotta change, and soon, or else this one will become a blowout.

17-0 Packers with 1:02 left in the first half.

Carl Yedor: The 49ers just have no answer for Davante Adams, though that is not exactly a unique situation around the league. Seven catches, 73 yards, and no sign of letting up. Not having Jason Verrett out there can't be helping matters, but whenever Green Bay needs a play, Adams is unsurprisingly the guy. Green Bay is now up 17-0 with a minute left in the half, and if the 49ers don't answer quickly between their end-of-half drive and the opening drive of the second half, things could get ugly.

Scott Spratt: I don't want to be the "Play Trey Lance" guy, but Lance does seem like a solution to a specific 49ers problem in their lack of a running game with Raheem Mostert and Elijah Mitchell out injured.

Bryan Knowles: I will, in fact, be the "Play Trey Lance" guy!

J.P. Acosta: It's not only that the run game isn't there: it isn't explosive. Outside of the Kittle rush there haven't been many holes for big running plays

Bryan Knowles: Trey Lance: One play, one touchdown, 17-7 game at the half.

Play Trey Lance.

Scott Spratt: Kyle Juszczyk just motioned from wide to under center to take a quarterback sneak? Cool, I guess, but don't quarterback sneaks work basically always without the fanfare?

Bryan Knowles: That's Kyle Shanahan, troll. All eyes on Lance, just sneak Juszczyk in to screw with all of us.

The first drive to start the second half is more what I was expecting to see out of San Francisco all day. Four different players ran the ball—Sermon, Juszczyk, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk—and that kept Green Bay off balance enough for Garoppolo to make short pass after short pass. Garoppolo finds Aiyuk in the back of the end zone, the score is 17-14, and it looks like a football game has broken out in Santa Clara.

Bryan Knowles: A third big pass interference call, all on third downs, keeps the Packers' drive alive. This one, at least, was without question—the first two were ticky-tack, but Fred Warner was draped over his guy on that last flag.

Deommodore Lenoir has played well up until tonight, but not only is he struggling with Adams, but he just made a huge mistake, misunderstanding the coverage and letting Marquez Valdes-Scantling get wide open for the touchdown. 24-14 Packers early in the fourth.

Bryan Knowles: Jerome Boger is really making an impact on this game, which is less than ideal when you're the ref. The 49ers got bailed out by a pass interference call—I guess what goes around, comes around. Of the five big PI calls that we have had so far in this game, two of them should have been PI. It's really changing the feel of this game, and not in fun and exciting ways.

Oh, the 49ers turn the PI into a touchdown after a somewhat questionable catch ruling—the ball hit the ground on a Mohamed Sanu catch, but it was ruled that he had control of the ball. A few plays (and a few penalties!) later, the 49ers find the end zone and it's 24-21 Packers with 7:48 left. Set up for a good finish, if flags stay in pockets.

Aaron Schatz: Boger's crew just missed a clear helmet-to-helmet hit on Davante Adams.

Aaron Schatz: After Jimmy Garoppolo's terrible backwards pass under pressure/fumble, Matt LaFleur kicks the field goal that goes up 6. NEVER KICK THE FIELD GOAL THAT GOES UP 6.

Bryan Knowles: The penalties are driving me nuts. Ward should have been flagged for 15, and maybe even tossed, for that shot on Adams. Then, the Packers had a questionable roughing call on Garoppolo, and just ... argh. I guess it's evening it up from the bad calls earlier, but I don't want to see a game where both teams are getting shafted by the refs! Boger's crew is embarrassing themselves tonight.

Anyway, on the field, after the kick to go up six, the 49ers drive down the field, with Deebo Samuel basically magically willing the ball into his hands, and Kittle steamrolling over people, and we have a 28-27 49ers lead with 37 seconds left. Rodgers gets the ball back, but has no timeouts.

Good finish to a frustrating game.

Aaron Schatz: You know the Packers are throwing to Davante Adams. How can you not put extra coverage on Davante Adams???

Bryan Knowles: Just some great play by Rodgers to finish the game. The 49ers play soft, and Rodgers finds Adams twice over the middle of the field and races down to get both spikes off. That's some phenomenal play, considering the Packers had no timeouts left. Mason Crosby nails the 51-yarder and the Packers walk away with a 30-28 victory.

Story of the game for me is still the terrible ref job on both sides, both at least we got some great classic Rodgers passes to finish us off!

Tom Gower: The ending of that game was nuts, just completely nuts. Jimmy Garoppolo's throwing the ball backwards. Matt LaFleur is going for field goals, and it worked? Kind of? Maybe? George Kittle is making defenders look silly, like normal. Deebo Samuel is bailing out Jimmy G with contested catches. And Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers, and he's good enough at being Aaron Rodgers to get away with big play hunting even when sometimes he shouldn't. And Jerome Boger and company, a constant factor in the first 58 minutes (that Jimmy G pass to start the touchdown drive sure didn't look forward when I rewound to check, but Green Bay was out of timeouts and couldn't challenge), weren't much of one the final two minutes, or at least I didn't notice them then.

Macro-level view, coming in, I thought the Packers would get shredded on the ground by the 49ers run game. And the 49ers had some offensive success at times, and the Packers have their weak links on defense. But overall, this was a more consistently effective defensive performance than I was expecting. Starting their third-string left tackle and having him get his lunch eaten by Nick Bosa on the opening drive, it seemed like it might be a long night for the Packers offense. But no, the 49ers only ended up with the one sack and two quarterback hits (barring later stat updates, of course) on 33 passes. It wasn't always pretty, and almost losing a game it felt like you controlled is exasperating, but it's still a good win for the Packers that I didn't expect them to get when the game kicked off.


145 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2021, 12:07pm

#1 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 8:06am

Part of what makes football so unique is the impact of kicking performance. Guys who don't look much like other football players, doing something that no other players do, for a tiny sliver of the total game, just have a gigantic impact, week after week. And there seems to be very little impact made by coaching, compared to other positions. I can see why it drives other players, and head coaches, bonkers.

Points: 0

#2 by andrew // Sep 27, 2021 - 8:25am

I'm sure others have pointed it out, but one of my immediate thoughts were that this was the second time the Lions have lost a game by the longest field goal ever kicked to that point, and by identical 19-17 scores to boot (pun intended).



Points: 0

#10 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:09am

Yes, first was by Tom Dempsey 41 years ago.  I can't wait until 2062, when the Lions lose 19-17 on a 68 yard field goal.

The only worse gut-punch would be if they have a lead on the Rams in week 7 (don't laugh, the Colts had a lead on the Rams last week), only to have Stafford get a 4th quarter comeback against them.

Points: 0

#14 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:33am

Oops, yes, my math was wrong.  I doubt I'll be around in 2072 to witness history then....

Points: 0

#3 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 8:27am

Scott Spratt: Apparently the Lions are up 17-16 with 26 seconds left. I have no idea what happened. I just know that I love Dan Campbell.

Bryan Knowles: Not just a game-winner, but the longest field goal in NFL history. Justin Tucker. Never a doubt. My god.

And full credit to the Lions—they nearly came back against the 49ers, they had a halftime lead against the Packers, and then they made the Ravens need an NFL record to win. They are this year's Good Bad Team. Should be lots of optimism going forward about Campbell, if not necessarily about the roster.

Love Dan Campbell? This year's good bad team?

You did not see the entire game, you like this -43% DVOA team?  You love the coach?

Wait until you do the DVOA for this game, the Ravens gained nearly 2 yards per play more than the Lions.  This with Marquise Brown roaming unguarded through the Lions secondary with 3 drops including 2 TD's, which was mention by Bryan Knowles.

You did not see what led up to the ending, the Lions having scored TD and TD on their only two drives of the second half, drove freely into the red zone.  When needing only a 1st down and a FG to win, they run 3 straight times and get stuffed, kick the FG and leave the Ravens over a minute. No effort at all to get a 1st down to run out the clock before kicking the FG.  

So, after two sacks and a 4th and 19 the Ravens get a conversion and a 66 yard FG.  Yes the Ravens should have gotten a 5 yard delay of game knocking them out of FG range, but a sleeping referee, preceded by a Sleeping Lion defense gives Tucker the chance.

More Lions 1st half ineptitude:  They force a fumble on a punt return, recover it, but the play is nullified by a penalty on a gunner staying out of bounds too long.

They allow a 3rd and goal from the 18 wide open completing for a TD (Brown was not the receiver so no drop here).  Duvernay, who saved the Ravens last week by recovering the Williams fumble for a TD was on the receiving end.  Also, a great comeback from Duvernay after his punt return fumble was nullified by a Lions penalty.

You may love Dan Campbell and believe that Detroit is a good bad team (again -43 DVOA coming in), but I'll take my chances against this pitiful squad of incompetents every week. His coaching strategy at the end of the game was as bad as his team.  You only need to add the word defense to this well known song, and you will have what teams sing once the finish off the Lions.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion defense sleeps tonight
In the jungle, the quiet jungle
The lion defense sleeps tonight

Uyimbube, uyimbube, uyimbube, uyimbube
Uyimbube, uyimbube, uyimbube, uyimbube
Uyimbube, uyimbube, uyimbube, uyimbub


This is their 2021 resume:

Blown out week one by SF, make furious rush due to a lucky onside kick recovery, still lose by 8.

Lead at halftime in week two and get totally blown out in the second half.

We have covered week 3 enough.

How much opponent adjustment upward are you giving this team for DVOA?  Coming in to week 3, the combined DVOA of the three opponents that the Lions have played is barely positive.

Points: 0

#6 by ChrisLong // Sep 27, 2021 - 8:45am

There is no DVOA yet, that -43.0% number is likely to change once VOA is changed to DVOA

Points: 0

#20 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:05am

You are correct, no DVOA just VOA but opponents adjustments wont help much as Ravens GB SF VOA is not great.

Points: 0

#7 by JimZipCode // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:02am

On two occasions the Lions lined up on 4tth-&-short to draw the Ravens offside – and they false-started.

They cost themselves the opportunity to capitalize on a Ravens punt-muff, by committing a dumb spec teams penalty.

Jared Goff looked like poo-poo for three quarters. 

Ravens dropped a pick-6 on a Burn-this-play worthy handoff / passback to Goff, that turned into a mere incomplete. 

Add in the drops by Ravens receivers, and the overturn that awarded Jamaal Williams a TD even though his shin is clearly down short of the goalline, and that's a 3- or 4-TD swing in favor of the Lions.  They should've been blown out.

I mean, credit to them for hanging in and battling.  Their pass rush started to get home, and late in the game the Ravens had absolutely no answer for D'Andre Swift out of the backfield.  They discovered some resolve and poise in the 4th quarter: that's valuable.  But overall this Detroit squad is not a good team, and they didn't play particularly well. 

Points: 0

#9 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:05am

The Jamaal Willams TD was a 50-50 call, and it was on 2nd down...they had a high probability of scoring anyway.

.  "But overall this Detroit squad is not a good team...."

Ummm, nobody thinks they are?  You can be scrappy and play hard when you're bad.

Points: 0

#120 by JimZipCode // Sep 28, 2021 - 9:01am

The Jamaal Willams TD was a 50-50 call...

Then it shouldn't have been overturned.

I mean, I disagree that it was a 50-50 call.  CBS freeze-framed a shot where Williams' shin is down, and he's half a yard short of the goal. But, stipulating that it was 50-50 – that is not the standard for overturning a call on replay. 

The iniitial call on the field was that he was stopped short.  The replay needs to be a helluva lot more than "50-50" to overturn the call on the field.

Points: 0

#24 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:15am

I forgot in my posts both yesterday and today all of the monumentally inept plays in this game.  David Letterman’s staff would have to leave some out just to make a top 10 list of massively inept plays in this game.

Points: 0

#8 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:03am

All good points, but some counterpoints:

-The Lions defense, which was already bad, have two undrafted rookies and a 5th round rookie starting on defense due to both injuries and benchings.  What did you really expect?  Bill Belichick himself probably would have turned in, at most, a marginally better performance.  Yes, Brown was wide open twice due to busted coverage (one was the fault of the undrafted rookie pressed into service, not sure who was at fault on the 2nd one).  Some of that might partially be offset by the nullified Ravens fumble (if you're going to say that's ineptitude, you have to say dropping sure touchdowns is ineptitude also....and how about the uncalled delay of game penalty?).  I quite frankly expected the Ravens to score in the 30s, maybe even in the 40s.  Instead, a decent performance by the front 7 combined with some luck kept the game within reach towards the end.  

-I don't trust Jared Goff in the redzone with the game on the line.  I don't blame Dan Campbell for not trusting him either (I actually wanted them to draft Justin Fields instead of going with Goff, but maybe I was wrong about that).  Weighed against the chance of a game-losing interception/sack-fumble or incomplete passes leading to preserving time/timeouts for Baltimore, I think the final decision was defensible.  You don't have Matt Stafford, Marvin Jones, or Kenny Golloday anymore.  Kalif freakin Raymond is their WR1, for God's sake! 

--As far as Campbell's in game decisions, he's been uber aggressive on 4th downs, and is 3/4 on coaches challenges (if you think that sort of thing is meaningful)

-This roster is awful, and it will be awful for while.  Why is it surprising that a potential Super Bowl contender soundly outplayed them according to advanced metrics, and why should that be laid at the feet of the coaching staff?  The secondary failed on the 4th and 19 (the 3rd and 18 TD was another blown coverage by a bad player who won't be starting next year), but they failed because they're untalented and overmatched, not because they're poorly coached (at least I don't think they are...Aaron Glenn and Aubrey Pleasant are very highly regarded coaches around the league).

Points: 0

#23 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:12am

But if your coach like you does not trust Goff in the red zone with the game on the line, what hope is there for this team?  They needed one first down, no one was asking for a TD in 2 plays here.

That truly is my criticism, he was aggressive on 4th and 1 and as Jim pointed out, they false started twice.  How does go for 4th and 6 sound?

Points: 0

#27 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:27am

"what hope is there for this team?"

For the team, as constructed, in 2021?  None!  This is a multiyear rebuild, and the front office realizes that (shedding expensive veterans from the previous regime, not being profligate in free agency, starting sub-25 year old players all over the roster, etc). Jared Goff is a bridge at best (IMO).  Now I don't know if they FO thinks that yet, but I bet they will after a few more weeks of his current level of play.

I was actually not that upset with the loss (in another thread I said I reacted the same way to the 2015 Rodgers Hail Mary loss...I just shook my head and laughed out loud):  Some of the young players showed promise (Sewell, Derrick Barnes, AJ Parker, etc), the team didn't appear to quit despite being down double digits to a possible SB contender, and they didn't ruin their draft position.  Overall, the best outcome if you're playing the long game.  It's unfortunate that Sam Howell and Spencer Rattler appear to be pulling a Jake Locker.

Points: 0

#105 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 3:46pm

I root for the Orioles I understand the multi year rebuild process while being a current train wreck.  Actually makes sense to rebuild with Goff, why have a rookie and have him be the conductor of the train wreck like what Jacksonville and the Jets are doing.

Goff can go down with the sinking ship and in a few years, draft QB of the future.

Points: 0

#11 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:20am

Bad team but has some close losses to good teams and a lot think he's great. 

Gets old quick.

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#40 by RickD // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:01am

The Ravens had an uncalled delay of game penalty on the seccond-to-last play.  Had it been called, Tucker would have needed to hit a 71-yard FG.

So any feeding frenzy on the Lions should stipulate that the refs screwed them to allow Tucker's FG try. 

As for Dan Campbell, he's taking over for a terrible coach, and he's three games into his tenure.  So maybe a little patience is in order. 

Points: 0

#106 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 27, 2021 - 3:50pm

"As for Dan Campbell, he's taking over for a terrible coach, and he's three games into his tenure.  So maybe a little patience is in order."

I would also add taking over a team with a borderline expansion-level roster, but otherwise you summarized it much more succinctly than I did.

Points: 0

#110 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 5:25pm

You are so level headed, part of these train wreck team’s problems is that they try to appease the fan base with a quick fix.

I am confident that the Orioles are on the right track despite being the worst team in baseball.  Yes, I am rooting for them to lose the next 6 games to clinch the number 1 pick.

You are correct, some patience is in order here, maybe the Lions are on the right track too.  We will only know in 2023 or 2024.  I was way to harsh on my original post.

Points: 0

#111 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 27, 2021 - 5:40pm

I came into the season expecting 2-4 wins (especially with the brutal schedule), so none of this is surprising to me.

Part of the reason bad franchises stay bad, is that they refuse to acknowledge, coming into each season, that they're bad.  It's like the first step in overcoming addiction (admitting to yourself that there's a problem).  The Detroit Pistons realized this too and just came off a 20 win season. But now they have some promising young players and just drafted a coveted player at #1 overall.  Sounds like the Orioles also realized this.

I can't tell you if Dan Cambpell will end up being a good coach.  Maybe he'll end up sucking (the Lions franchise history suggests this is more likely than not).  All I can tell you is that the W-L results (or the DVOA) in 2021 won't tell us one way or another.

Points: 0

#113 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 7:23pm

That is the hard part, when you have the right guy and staying the course or knowing that you have the wrong guy and must start over.

It works this way for the players too.  Its early on for Darnold but maybe the Jets had a competent QB all along.

What is different today is that we know how to franchise build.  Being a bad team can be a springboard to being a good team.  You are right, first you must know that your team is bad. Thus, do not add 3 veterans to get you from 4 wins to 5-6, that strategy is useless.

My concern is that analytics has changed competitive balance.  Once upon a time you always tried to field your best team, now a team like Houston knows to trade away any valuable piece like Cooks.

Another problem is attendance.  I refuse to pay money to watch the collection of garbage that the Orioles threw out there, so I went to two minor league games of Oriole AA team Bowie to watch the players that will turn the team around in two years.  We do not have that in football.

Points: 0

#118 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 28, 2021 - 7:52am

"Thus, do not add 3 veterans to get you from 4 wins to 5-6, that strategy is useless."

That had been the Lions front office strategy for the entire century thus far, so it was a relief this year to see them penny-pinch in FA, getting a handful of buy-low younger players on short/cheap contracts, while letting some of the expensive starters either walk, or cutting them.

Points: 0

#135 by Steve in WI // Sep 28, 2021 - 3:26pm

As a Bears fan, the most frustrating thing has been watching them act in 2019-present like they are a strong playoff team just a QB away from being a Super Bowl contender. When in reality, they are a borderline playoff team solely because of an aging and expensive defense that with each year becomes less and less able to keep the abysmal offense in games. And every win-now move they've made just kicks the can further down the road if and when they do decide to rebuild. (Which of course is almost impossible now unless Fields is a bust, since if he's good but the team sucks the obvious strategy will be to patch holes around him rather than truly rebuild).

It pains me how easily the Bears could have been 4-12 last season instead of 8-8, because then they might have realized the Pace and Nagy suck at their jobs and fired them, and a new GM and coach could have drafted Fields without trading up and understood that it's a full rebuild.

Points: 0

#122 by JimZipCode // Sep 28, 2021 - 9:17am

I can't tell you if Dan Cambpell will end up being a good coach.

I saw signals in both directions, in the game.  The backwards-pass play, and the two false starts on 4th-&-short, and the dumb spec-teams penalty that cost them the Ravens fumble – those all led me to think they were a poorly-coached team.  Goff looking like a rookie at times.  Ravens WRs running free thru the secondary.

But! The Lions really showed some poise & resolve in the the 4th quarter. They found a couple things that worked, and they pounded away at them.  Used them to leverage themselves into the lead.  That's a helluva sign of a well-coached, cohesive team.

Points: 0

#144 by JimZipCode // Sep 29, 2021 - 5:44pm

Ravens WRs running free thru the secondary.

I've been watching clips on Ravens twitter the past couple days, and one recurring them has been how well the Detroit front seven played.  Perfect execution of scrape-exchange and other tactics to attack the option runs; good pass rush; etc.

I might have gone a little overboard in criticizing how "well coached" the Lions actually appeared to be.

Points: 0

#145 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 30, 2021 - 11:37am

That was my impression, too.  The front seven played really well (Jackson was under pressure a lot, and was mostly contained from a rushing standpoint other than one big run), but the secondary kept screwing up over and over again.  On the 4th and 19, a 2nd year undrafted corner who’s a converted safety passed off Sammy Watkins instead of staying with him…this is even after Detroit called a timeout to make sure they had the defensive call correct!

Points: 0

#4 by Todd S. // Sep 27, 2021 - 8:37am

Hold on, Dave.  You're not naming the dog after Gus the field-goal kicking mule, aka Robo-Kicker?



Points: 0

#12 by andrew // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:25am

Dog the dog run into walls with its head?

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#15 by mansteel // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:41am

I'm loving the Justin Fields hype train--I have to think it was responsible for the Bears only being a ridiculous +7, a line that would have been too low even if Dalton were starting. But a good team like the Browns -7 at home against a rookie QB who couldn't win the job in preseason making his first start? Why yes, I will have some of that, thanks very much.

Mind you, I didn't expect Fields to be 1-passing-yard, significantly-worse-than-Davis-Mills bad. I know, the Bears' o-line didn't help. No doubt about that. Maybe the playcalling was bad, too, but it's hard to know how good a play design is when the result is a QB who stands in the pocket waiting to get sacked most every time and is late with the ball when he does throw it. He was as overmatched as I've ever seen a QB be. At least now people will stop talking about how stupid Matt Nagy is for not playing him over Dalton.

Points: 0

#17 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:52am

All those first team reps for a guy that was never going to be a long term option. 

No crap a veteran is better than a rookie. It's not about the first few weeks.

Points: 0

#26 by mansteel // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:21am

I think you're making an inference that I'm not intending. I certainly don't think one game (or month, or even season) tells us anything definitive about how Fields' career is going to go. I'm saying that from the time he was drafted he got an inordinate amount of love in the media, which in and of itself is fine, but that's morphed into "He should be starting ahead of Andy Dalton" and even, "He surely can't be any worse than Andy Dalton", the latter of which is absurd and the former highly questionable unless you think the Bears should just punt the season (I would disagree--their roster is too good elsewhere for that). And this overreaction affected the line this weekend and made the Browns -7 as easy a bet as you're going to run across all season.

Points: 0

#31 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:37am

Cam was cut and Jones just threw 3 picks to the Saints. Of course rookies will struggle. Doesnt mean Jones should be benched. The point was Andy Dalton isn't Favre or even Alex Smith. This is how people learn. As if losing to the Rams with Fields is any different than what actually happened.

-7 is was an overreaction? Huh? To what? That's huge. Was it -20??? What did you expect it to be? 

Points: 0

#56 by mansteel // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:29am

I do the "guess the lines" thing and if I'm way off I check my assumptions. I had this one at Browns -10. When I saw -7, I gave it some thought and put the discrepancy down to the fact that I expected Fields to look like an overmatched rookie and many other people thought he'd be quite good. If he's awful, that's an easy win. If he does a few good things but is inconsistent and makes a backbreaking mistake or two (the most likely scenario, I thought), then 7 points is too low since the Browns are a good bit better anyway (and at home). If he's as good as a lot of people seemed to think he would be then I take an L. I was pretty comfortable with that.

Points: 0

#60 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:47am

give out lines like that? Only week the bears had more than this past one was week 1 and that was +8. And they didn't cover (thanks superior experienced Dalton, Fields would lost by 22 instead of 20, great...).

Either way, some games end up not close but lines are rarely 10+. Backdoor covers kill. Good for you but idk what that line was "overreacting" to.

Points: 0

#39 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:57am

I will admit, I was on team start Justin fields because starting Andy Dalton felt like a road to nowhere.

However I'm in agreement with your overall assessment of how Fields played. It just completely blows up anything you want to do on offense. And I guarantee three more weeks of this and Matt Naggy probably is going to get fired.

I think if Fields is this unplayable next week, it may be worth sitting him down. At this rate he's going to get hurt.


Points: 0

#99 by Steve in WI // Sep 27, 2021 - 2:28pm

Andy Dalton's DVOA the prior 3 seasons was 5.2%, -10.6%, -16.7%. If Fields being no worse than Andy Dalton, even in his first NFL start, wasn't a safe assumption then the Bears had no business trading up for him period. The real issue is that a team in 2021 thought Andy Dalton was a viable starter (and the fact that the Bears were already salary-committed to a placeholder QB who was actually marginally better than Dalton in 2020 just makes it comically bad).

I'm willing to listen to the opinion that it might be better for Fields's personal development to sit on the bench for a while, but I am not at all interested in viewing it through the lens of comparisons to 2021 Andy Dalton or the 2021 Bears W-L record because this is a team whose absolute ceiling is about 9-8. This is why I hated that Pace/Nagy were allowed to take another big swing on a QB because I think a new GM and coach would have understood that their #1 priority is developing Fields.

Points: 0

#108 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 4:17pm

If Fields being no worse than Andy Dalton, even in his first NFL start, wasn't a safe assumption then the Bears had no business trading up for him period.

Rookie QBs are, in general, worse than those numbers. Even the ones that turn out well.

(and the fact that the Bears were already salary-committed to a placeholder QB who was actually marginally better than Dalton in 2020 just makes it comically bad).

This, really, is the kicker to me. I don't think Foles was actually that bad last year. If they had just stuck with Foles and said "yeah, Nick's going to start" I would've been fine with it. Signing Dalton was a fair waste, especially if they signed him because they didn't think they were going to get a top QB. If you didn't think you were, just stick with Foles for the year anyway.

Points: 0

#41 by RickD // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:04am

Fans think that it's really, really important for the rookie to get in-game snaps.  But I'm not seeing it as particularly crucial.  A lot of QBs have developed just fine starting out as a backup - Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes are only the most obvious examples. "First team reps" are overrated - fans don't like acknowledging this, but most player development happens during practices, not during games. 

Points: 0

#42 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:07am

The thing is, it's hard to know unless you put the QB out there. Justin Herbert was on the bench but then was forced into action and it looks like he should have been the starter from day one. Perhaps Mahomes would have been an upgrade as a rookie over Alex Smith.

I didn't know what to expect from Fields yesterday, but I thought there was an ok chance he'd look as good as Dalton and a slim but not absurd chance he'd look good. He then surprised me and looked putrid. 

Points: 0

#55 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:26am

The thing is, it's hard to know unless you put the QB out there. 

It's hard for us to know. It's not hard for the coaches to know. If it is, they need to be fired.

Justin Herbert was on the bench but then was forced into action and it looks like he should have been the starter from day one. 

Why? The Chargers didn't make the playoffs last year. They got butchered by New England. They weren't going anywhere last year. Herbert looked great for a rookie, but there were a bunch of times he still absolutely looked like a rookie. I mean, the team's wins came over Cincinnati, Jacksonville, the Jets, the Falcons, and the Broncos: plus an overtime win over the Raiders (good job!) and a victory over the Chiefs backups. 

And Tyrod Taylor looked really good for the first two weeks (... and then got injured, of course, again). Why is it so hard to believe that Taylor was outplaying Herbert in practice?

Points: 0

#58 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:33am

"And Tyrod Taylor looked really good for the first two weeks (... and then got injured, of course, again). Why is it so hard to believe that Taylor was outplaying Herbert in practice?"

Its not, but that's not really the point I am making but it actually highlights my point.

Tyrod might have been outplaying Herbert in practice, but on the field, there was an 11 percent gap in DVOA. That suggests that reading into the practice performance was a mistake. 

On the other hand, clearly Fields looking lost and being outplayed in practice works in the other direction.

I am taking an agnostic approach by saying it's not clear to me one way or the other and making judgements like it is feels only after the fact.

Points: 0

#61 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:48am


Tyrod might have been outplaying Herbert in practice, but on the field, there was an 11 percent gap in DVOA. 

Taylor had 32 passes. Herbert had 623. An 11% gap in DVOA isn't a gap when there's a factor of 20 difference in # of snaps. The error bar on Taylor's DVOA is way bigger than the difference between them. Don't believe me? Chargers offense standard deviation, last year: 4.4%. This implies an expected standard deviation 4x bigger in a single game, or 17.6%.

The fact that Taylor even looked okay stresses my point. The Chargers almost certainly would've gotten the exact same results with Taylor that they got with Herbert. The main reason to leave Herbert in was just economic, considering the fan struggles the Chargers have.

Points: 0

#65 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:54am

I'm not denying that there's more noise in smaller samples, I work as a data scientist.

My point was, tyrod Taylor serves no purpose in the long run for the chargers. Herbert is their future. So even if tyrod is only slightly better than Herbert, it would still be better to have gone with Herbert, and not for economic reasons. Herbert is your future and one that unlocks a far better ceiling than tyrod.

As an aside, I find your statement 

"The Chargers almost certainly would've gotten the exact same results with Taylor that they got with Herbert"

And this statement

"The error bar on Taylor's DVOA is way bigger than the difference between them."

Contradictory from a statistical point of view. You can't make the statement "almost certainly" and then explain away their mean difference due to variance. You know variance implies results can go in the opposite direction as well?

Points: 0

#75 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:31pm


Contradictory from a statistical point of view. You can't make the statement "almost certainly" and then explain away their mean difference due to variance.

Nope. You're misunderstanding the logic. You used their difference to suggest that the results on the field proved something ("but on the field, there was an 11 percent gap in DVOA. That suggests"). But a comparison of 10+/-4 and 0+/-16 doesn't prove that. They're totally compatible measurements. Those wouldn't budge a probability distribution at all.

I'm just using the fact that the results were even comparable as evidence. As in, the only way things would've been dramatically different is if Taylor had been horrible and starting for some reason. He wasn't. Therefore, the performance gap offers no evidence.

Points: 0

#76 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:36pm

Yes but it doesn't imply that they would be equivalent. That's my point. The standard deviation is so large such that to render the means insignificant from a statistical point of  view, but that doesn't imply that the point estimates are equal with a high degree of certainty, which is exactly the what the statement, "Almost certainly" is implying. 

Points: 0

#78 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:46pm

which is exactly the what the statement, "Almost certainly" is implying. 

I said they "almost certainly" would've gotten the same results. Not the same performance. As in, they would've been good enough to beat the bad teams, and not good enough to beat the good ones. Probably would've won the same games.

Wasn't comparing what their final stats would've been. I was comparing the team.

Points: 0

#79 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:50pm

But that result ultimately is inconsequential to the question at hand. Which is, since Tyrod is beating Herbert in practice( we have no idea to what degree); does that imply that he should be starting? From what we observed, the answer to me is an obvious no even if full season Tyrod ends up with a DVOA at or even slightly better than Herberts(I don't believe it would have been because even matching Herbert's DVOA would have been a career high). Which is why I said, just saying the rookie is being outplayed in practice is not by itself a convincing argument. 

Furthermore, my point remains, this whole ready/not ready is really an after the fact narrative. None of us knew how Fields would play and we are all responding now to after the fact judgements. 

Points: 0

#85 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:21pm

Which is, since Tyrod is beating Herbert in practice( we have no idea to what degree); does that imply that he should be starting?

I think you're misunderstanding the reasoning. Unless the difference is so large that it changes the outcome of the season (in other words, if Taylor's awful), there's no reason to start Herbert. He'll be much better in the second year, and playing him the first year just exposes him to injury in his least valuable year. 

 If you replace the qbs as the only thing in this hypothetical experiment and the results stay the same, that strongly implies you think their overall efficiency will stay the same

No, it really doesn't. Again, Herbert got demolished in the Patriots game, and in general played pretty bad in the Buffalo and Miami games. Basically any time they faced a defense where there was enough of a book on him. The Chargers would've been less competitive in a few of their games (the Bucs game, the Saints game) and more competitive in others (the Patriots game, definitely). It would've looked different, but had the same results. 

But they still weren't going to be a contending team, and if you're not... what the heck are you doing risking the best years of your rookie QB?

Points: 0

#87 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:29pm

See my comment below. You are assuming there is 0 benefit to playing as a rookie that can't be equivalently made up by staying on the bench and getting practice reps. But since we can't see the counterfactual and the fact that QBS have succeeded just fine starting from jump, presupposing this fact is completely unwarranted. 


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#97 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 2:08pm

You are assuming there is 0 benefit to playing as a rookie that can't be equivalently made up by staying on the bench and getting practice reps.

Yeah. Because if there is any benefit to starting earlier, it's so weak that it doesn't show up in data at all.

I'm not saying there's a benefit to sitting. I'm saying there's no benefit to playing early. Which means it's completely reasonable to let coaches make the decision based off of whatever they see. If it doesn't seem to matter in aggregate, you trust the guy with more information.

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#109 by Raiderfan // Sep 27, 2021 - 5:20pm

A shout out to Pat and theslothook for their erudite argument that no doubt isreplicated in every sports bar in the country on a weekly basis.

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#112 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 6:02pm

Lol, I think you are in the minority :)

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#123 by Pat // Sep 28, 2021 - 9:29am

Yeah, but what I actually argue for is way more boring than most people do. I'm not arguing for starting QBs or sitting QBs. I'm saying it totally doesn't matter (on average!), so whatever the coach wants to do is fine.

Specifically in the Bears case I don't know why people wanted Nagy to start Fields. Either you trust Nagy's decision making, and he's doing the right thing for the team, or you think Nagy's an idiot - in which case you don't want Fields to be playing while he's coaching anyway! See Sunday!

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#126 by bravehoptoad // Sep 28, 2021 - 11:09am

Either you trust Nagy's decision making, and he's doing the right thing for the team, or you think Nagy's an idiot....

An classical dilemma!  The easiest way to defeat this one is to do what's called "escaping between the horns," which means rejecting the disjunctive premiss.  In short:  when forming an opinion of Matt Nagy, there are more than two options.  Opinions of Matt Nagy, or of any human for that matter, are likely to be much more nuanced than that.

It would make for an odd person, one who either trusted everyone they met completely or thought they were idiots.


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#130 by Pat // Sep 28, 2021 - 12:09pm

Yeah, yeah, false dichotomy. I should've framed it more as "I don't understand the Bears fans who think Nagy's an idiot and want Fields starting." If Nagy's an idiot, you don't want Fields starting. Even that's a bit silly, though, since obviously they actually want Nagy to not be an idiot.

But it's more like I don't know how anyone can look at this year's Bears and think "this looks like a team that a rookie QB should be given a shot with! Jason Peters is totally the right guy to keep a rookie upright!"


It would make for an odd person, one who either trusted everyone they met completely or thought they were idiots.

We're talking about football fans here. I'm not sure there are other options.

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#47 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:12am

Some guy named Brady appears to have turned out well despite not getting a start until pretty deep into his 2nd season.

(edit) oops, pretty early in his 2nd season. Jaysus, it was two decades ago!

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#52 by BJR // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:25am

It's also time for fans to admit that they do not get the benefit of witnessing what happens on the practice field. I initially thought it was a mistake the Bears not starting Fields. But after yesterday it is palpably obvious he is not ready, and everybody on the Bears' staff knew it. Likewise Trey Lance in SF. Coaches are in the best position to observe and evaluate, and aren't always acting entirely out of naked self-interest.

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#57 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:31am

Yeah, I pretty much gave up 2nd guessing depth chart decisions decades ago. If you don't see how guys prepare during the week, it's just impossible to have an informed opinion on who should be starting.

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#103 by theTDC // Sep 27, 2021 - 3:20pm

Saw this firsthand on the rams. Jared Goff was absolutely not ready to start in year 1. Even the idiot Jeff Fisher knew better. Then he started and the result was arguably the worst rookie season ever. 

If you don’t watch practices, you don’t really know.

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#53 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:25am

You name the guys I already mentioned and who they were replacing. Dalton is neither Favre or Smith. 

And for every example of that there's counter examples of Peyton, Herbert, etc. Herbert also specifically looked like his system was in place with Tyrod before he got hurt. 

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#74 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:30pm

This is the "nature/nurture" argument. Both of those guys were drafted by good teams, which makes any QB's life easier.

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#18 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:53am

but it's hard to know how good a play design is when the result is a QB who stands in the pocket waiting to get sacked most every time and is late with the ball when he does throw it.

Seriously, people can hate on Matt Nagy all they want, but... Ryan Pace signed Jason Peters to solve their OL injury problems. Yeah, maybe Nagy's part of the problem there - if Peters comes in for a workout and Nagy tells Pace "no, he looks good, this'll work," sure, Nagy's part of the problem too. But Pace totally has to take most of the blame there. 

The Bears problem absolutely looks like dominantly personnel issues. I certainly don't think Nagy's helping, but the best coach in the league wouldn't be able to turn that team into an actual contender.

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#16 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 9:45am

God, I hated the Raiders-Dolphins game. Not because the Raiders nearly found a way to make Mike Tanier right (although I did not see "bizarre miscommunication pick six followed by uncharacteristically bold and terrible go-for-it failure" as the way the Dolphins could get in the game). Not because Brissett played a totally textbook Brissett game (more rushing than net passing yards all the way to the 4th quarter!) before, with two minutes left in the game suddenly realizing "wait... maybe if I throw the ball, guys will catch it!" (Before Brian Flores suddenly forgot the only reason his team was even remotely in a position to win was because they had converted ludicrous 4th down chances).

No, I hated it because I had to follow the end of the game on the idiotic ESPN game tracker, showing exactly how awful their win % chance is. Seriously. 4th and 20, don't convert and you lose - and they think the Raiders have only a 70% chance to win the game. (Yes, yes, I know they converted it). The conversion chance alone is lower than 30%!

That game, though, totally demonstrated why I don't bet. I was extremely confident the Raiders were the better team, regardless of their "back to back DAVE ratings." Sure, with Tua it might've been a game, but Brissett is just not a good quarterback, regardless of Mike Tanier's "spark" belief. And the Raiders absolutely were. 6.1 yards/play versus 4.2 yards/play. 4.2! Are you kidding me?? Nearly a two yards difference per play! The Dolphins should've been demolished. 1.9 points per play difference typically translates into a 13-point margin.

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#64 by RevBackjoy // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:49am

That 85-yard pick six was about a 10-point swing. 3+10 equals... 13!

But that's nothing compared to the Browns' 4.2 YPP advantage over the Bears (5.36 vs 1.12). They shoulda won by 30+!

Then again, the Vikings were outgained by 1.3 YPP against the Hawks, despite winning comfortably and pretty clearly outplaying them, so that metric ain't everything.

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#73 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:22pm


But that's nothing compared to the Browns' 4.2 YPP advantage over the Bears (5.36 vs 1.12). They shoulda won by 30+!

They would've, if they'd been trying to score touchdowns in the 4th quarter (okay, after the one that crossed). Two pass attempts, 14 runs. Kinda thinkin' they had other priorities there.

Then again, the Vikings were outgained by 1.3 YPP against the Hawks, despite winning comfortably and pretty clearly outplaying them, so that metric ain't everything.

Winning comfortably's a stretch. The final win was comfortable, but the game absolutely looked like anyone's ballgame at halftime (I'd hardly call any game where you're ever down by double-digits "comfortable"). Main difference is that the Vikings just flat out shut down the Seahawks in the second half, and some of the Seahawks success was pointless since it got killed by the clock. Knock out those two drives and it's much closer.

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    #100 by RevBackjoy // Sep 27, 2021 - 2:47pm

    Yeah, good points. The Vikings' last clock-killing drive gained 16 yards on 6 plays, which also depressed the total. But these caveats actually reinforce my point: you have to filter out garbage end-of-half plays and late-game intentional clock-killing borderline-give-up runs to really get a sense of how effectively teams were able to gain yards "when it counted".

    I confess to have watched only the 2nd half, during which they moved the ball at will and totally stifled the Hawks. Obviously, Seattle dominated the start of the game: TD-FG-TD, then a missed FG, then nada the rest of the game. But yeah, anytime you trailed by 10, it's hard to say the win was that comfortable- with the possible exception of the Chiefs during their SB run.

    As a Vikings fan, it was reassuring to finally see them display some vestige of defensive competence, after a pretty rough start to the year. Overall, they've looked pretty good so far. But man, that walk-off game-losing FG miss versus the Cardinals was a killer. I have a strong feeling it will narrowly cost them a spot in the postseason. Alas!

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    #101 by RevBackjoy // Sep 27, 2021 - 2:51pm

    P.S. Per EdjSports, the Dolphins managed 2 of the Top 5 Most Impactful Plays (the 4th & 20 pass and the successful 2-pt conversion)! Plus the pick-six, which I'm guessing was in the Top 10. Despite all that, they lost! I supposed that's partly due to the decision to kick on 4th & 2 in OT, which was the #2 worst coaching decision of the week.

    I bet the Raiders creamed them in DVOA.

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    #80 by Boots Day // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:55pm

    A big reason the Browns didn't blow them out even more was that they went for it on fourth down on their first two drives, and failed both times. Good for Kevin Stefanski for not giving up on that strategy - the Browns did convert a fourth down later in the game.

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    #19 by johonny // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:04am

    Waddle set a record for least yrds gained by a receiver  with 12 or more catches. A completely made up stat but he had a sad amount of yrds given 12 catches. Miami needs to figure out the forward pass. It's not just about having fast people, its about attempting to get fast person the ball downfield. They had two perfectly good DPIs not called down the stretch, I assume because the refs figured they weren't actual attempts at deep passes, but attempts to get DPIs. I assume both OC are on the hot seat all season at this point. 

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    #21 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:08am

    Now we just need a Steelers receiver to catch 12 or more so that this record is broken.

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    #86 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:26pm

    I cannot believe they're sticking with that strategy. It didn't work in the game they *won*.

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    #93 by johonny // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:56pm

    The stat excluded RBs, so I assume the futility of dump passes to RB is common. The shear amount of dump passes to a WR however is more rare. In Waddle's case a trade up in the first round worthy of stat. 

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    #140 by KaosTheory // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:33pm

    I looked this up on PFR and had this whole thing ready about how actually two players had fewer yards on 12 catches... then I realized they're both RBs and you specified receivers.

    For those curious, Vince Workman had 50 yards and Brian Westbrook had 46.

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    #22 by BJR // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:11am

    Not to try and rain on Justin Tucker's parade, but I feel it might be time for the league to something to make field goal kicking more challenging (e.g. narrow the goalposts, or weight the kicking ball?) At this stage, when an effective offence such as the Ravens/Packers requires a field goal to win/tie with any semblance of time remaining, there is little suspense; it feels like a shock if they don't do it. The offence doesn't even have to play efficiently to get within range for these kickers. How are you going to stop 4 down mode Aaron Rodgers from completing a couple of 15 yard passes without committing a penalty? 

    Of course it is incumbent on opposing coaches to realize this and manage their strategy better (looking at you Dan Campbell!). And perhaps I will receive replies from others saying they find the kicking game interesting/suspenseful. Personally I don't and would prefer it's impact to be lessened. 

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    #29 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:31am

    I've long thought that narrowing the posts 20-25% would improve the game, but it may be it actually confers more benefit to those few teams with a consistently excellent kicker.

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    #32 by Joe Pancake // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:43am

    I've long thought they should make kicking field goals more difficult, but I've kinda come off that position of late. In part it's because offenses have become so much more efficient at moving the football. This has devalued field goals, and so it's still paramount for teams to play for the touchdown. A field goal is usually a win for the defense.

    An exception to this is in the endgame when field goals can win the game. In these cases teams have to get savvier with how they manage the clock and how they play defense at the end of the game, and I'm interested to see if they can do it.

    I wouldn't object to narrowing the goalposts, but I'd much rather see the NFL do other things first (like having a designated replay official, not on the field, who can adjudicate calls in 15 seconds and relay them into the head ref via earpiece -- if I can do this from my sofa and be correct virtually 100% of the time, a train professional can as well).

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    #38 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:56am

    I wonder if starting at the 25 instead of the 20 after touchbacks has had any measurable impact on winning field goal drives in the last minute of a game.

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    #63 by BJR // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:49am

    A small impact I'm sure. It's really a perfect storm of rule changes + ever more efficient offences + ever better kicking, which threatens to make these end-games too predictable. 

    I wholeheartedly agree with the crowd that, in general, coaches need to aggressively adjust their strategy to avoid facing these situations. But the bigger picture is the distortion of balance between offence/defense. Funky strategies are great, but when they (should) become the norm it suggests there might be a problem.

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    #70 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:14pm

    Maybe because the team I root for most hasn't had good kicking performance in a decade, and has some crushing playoff losses due to kicking disasters, but I've long desired that kicking performance have a lesser effect on outcomes. How to do that isn't clear to me, however. Like I said above, narrowing the posts might actually confer greater advantage to those teams with consistently excellent kickers.

    Since touchbacks are encouraged and onsides kicks discouraged anyways, I really wish they'd do away with kickoffs, and make the PAT the determiner of field position and possession after a td, and just give possession at the 35 after a successful field goal. That would incent 4 down offense and going for tds.

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    #115 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:54pm

    Will is correct, narrowing the posts would make Tucker even more valuable relative to other kickers. If Tucker had a post that were dead center he would hit it at least 1/3 of the time.   Imagine how many more game losing FG’s there would be from 40 and in by teams like the Chargers over the years.  

    Game ending kicks would simply be missed more often if you narrowed the posts, but the kicker will still decide the game on last play of game attempts.

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    #119 by BJR // Sep 28, 2021 - 8:15am

    Narrowing the posts was just an off-the-cuff suggestion. Still, Tucker is clearly an outlier when it comes to kicker performance. Very few kickers significantly outperform the average in the long run. 

    Narrowing the posts would force teams with problematic kickers to become more aggressive on offence throughout the game, which wouldn't necessarily hurt them. And would certainly make the game more exciting. 

    Perhaps weighting the kicking ball is a better suggestion as it pertains to end game situations, just to specifically limit the range, rather than punish inaccuracy. 

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    #54 by af16 // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:25am

    I want to see coaches more aggressively try the "let the opposing team score a TD" strategy.

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    #25 by StuffedWhiteRabbit // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:17am

    I heard it mentioned on commentary yesterday that Brady was at one point over 300 yards passing without a TD. In the end he finished with 432 yards passing and one passing TD.

    Might be one for Quick Reads but I’m struggling to think of another game where a QB has generated so many yards for so few points. 

    It’s a bit like the inverse of Winston in week 1. 

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    #66 by IlluminatusUIUC // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:54am

    In reply to by StuffedWhiteRabbit

    I don't pay for Stathead, but QB games of >400 yards and <=1 TD returned twenty results, including this Fitztragic masterpiece (https://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201811110tam.htm) 400 yards passing and 3 team points.

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    #95 by RevBackjoy // Sep 27, 2021 - 2:07pm

    That box score is incredible. Check out the drive chart: 2 missed FGs, 2 fumbles, 2 picks. 10 drives, 501 yards, 50.1 yards per drive, and that's including 2 drives that started with :20 or less in the half. They marched up and down the field the whole game, yet managed to score fewer points than yesterday's Bears and their 1.1 yards/play!

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    #96 by RevBackjoy // Sep 27, 2021 - 2:07pm

    At least the turnovers and missed FGs explain the lack of scoring for the 2018 Bucs. The thing about yesterday's game was that the Bucs marched up and down the field and never turned the ball over, yet still scored relatively few points. I guess it's hard to win games when your D gives up scores on 6 straight drives.

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    #69 by fynsta // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:08pm

    In reply to by StuffedWhiteRabbit

    Of course there have been such games. It just requires the RBs to take the goal line opportunities. It does not mean "so few points" automatically, because those drives can still end in TDs (just not passes). That's why I'm not a big fan of using the passing TDs as such a big indicator of QB play.

    Anyways, here is the result on stathead. Stafford leads the list with 443 yards in a 2012 game.

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    #28 by RevBackjoy // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:30am

    Your hounds are adorable, Dave! Are they German Shepherds?

    Potential caption for your photo: "WARNING - Indianapolis Colts unfit for human or canine consumption"

    Points: 0

    #30 by Joe Pancake // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:31am

    Another week of some questionable clock/game management by NFL coaches.

    Do you think we ever reach a point where almost all coaches do the obvious, analytically smart move almost all the time? Maybe it's for the better that we aren't there yet -- that's basically how MLB is now and it's made the game less fun to watch. Sometimes irrationality makes things interesting!

    A few I noticed.

    The Chargers scoring the TD instead of burning the entire clock for a chip shot field goal. I don't care how much you distrust your kicking game. A 19-yard field is a much better proposition than giving Mahomes the ball back with more than 30 seconds on the clock.

    The Seahawks punting on 4th & 7 near midfield down two scores in the 4th quarter. I don't know who formulated this law (Bill Barnwell?), but it's almost a near certainty that when teams in this position punt on a moderately difficult 4th down, they will face a much more difficult 4th-down attempt later in the game (cue the highlight of Penny Hart dropping the ball).

    Never kick a field goal to go up 6, indeed.

    Not a coach's decision but if Juszczyk doesn't fight his way for that last yard into the end zone the 49ers almost certainly win the game.

    Points: 0

    #44 by BJR // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:08am

    Simultaneously, the Chiefs should have been letting them score (they did concede the TD on first down, but it definitely wasn't deliberate).  

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    #33 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:49am

    I mentioned this is in the walkthrough, but Justin Fields was unplayable bad. It was painful.

    However the story of this season for me so far is that all of these rookies have looked bad; and most have looked unbelievably bad. I expected one or to suck hard, I did not expect all three to play this awfully, especially Lawrence. Time will tell what to make of this, if anything. You can't imagine they'll continue to play this badly for much longer. 

    But from historical perspective I can't really remember a rookie class looking this awful.

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    #48 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:15am



    However the story of this season for me so far is that all of these rookies have looked bad;

    Mac Jones doesn't look bad. He looks like a rookie. I mean, okay, yesterday he looked bad, but, y'know, the Saints will probably end up with a top-10 defense.

    Fields, Wilson, and Lawrence don't surprise me in the least. There's literally nothing they can do - they got drafted onto teams that have extremely poorly built offenses. I thought Lawrence might have a chance because there's just less inertia there - the Jaguars have been really overhauling things. But obviously if you rip everything up and rebuild, there's no guarantee that the next build won't be awful if they guy hiring people is still bad at recognizing good football decisions. Soon as I saw how limited Dalton looked, I knew immediately Fields would be a disaster.

    But from historical perspective I can't really remember a rookie class looking this awful.

    Volume. 5 QBs taken in the top half of the draft - good chance they're gonna all look bad. '99 had McNabb (-52%), Couch (-28%), Akili Smith (-47%), McNown (-5.4%), and Culpepper (didn't play).

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    #59 by Pat // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:37am

    Well are any of these teams worse than the Bengals last year?

    The Bengals are a weird team to understand. They're not incompetent. They're cheap. They can build good teams - they just can't keep them, or do the whole "mortgage several years into the future to seriously build a contender" (I'm lookin' at you, Tampa/New Orleans) thing. And it's made even worse by the fact that they're in a seriously well-run division, what with the Steelers and Ravens (and of course I very much liked what Dorsey did with the Browns). If the Bengals suddenly decided to spend money, they could easily become a contender.

    The Jets, Jaguars, and Bears are just different in that sense. They've all been mismanaged (on offense at least) for years.

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    #67 by bravehoptoad // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:56am

    Yeah, and it was supposed to be such a great QB class.  Such a great class that Kyle Shanahan spent three 1s this year on a QB rather than take a chance on next year's QBs. 

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    #90 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:37pm

    I think we've all just had a couple of lessons in how guys who look bad at the beginning can get better if they commit to it, so I wouldn't write them all off yet. Having said that, there's always a Rosen or Leinart...

    Points: 0

    #124 by Pat // Sep 28, 2021 - 9:32am

    Such a great class that Kyle Shanahan spent three 1s this year on a QB rather than take a chance on next year's QBs. 

    Yeah, that's a bad way to think. The quality of the other QBs has no bearing on the trade or the quality of Shanahan's pick. Only 2 decent QBs came out of the 1999 class, but Couch/Smith/McNown's failures don't say anything about Culpepper or McNabb.

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    #127 by bravehoptoad // Sep 28, 2021 - 11:19am

    No, but they say a lot about Shanahan.  The reason he traded so high--to 3 when 6 and 11 were obviously available--is that Shanahan wanted time to freely study the prospects without dissimulation.  He traded away that much draft capital because he believed in the class, not any one individual.  What it really speaks to is the hubris of thinking that with enough time and information, he could pick the best prospect available.  He was so confident in his opinion that he traded an extra first-round pick to go to 3 instead of 6, when at 6 he could have had whoever fell of Fields or Jones or Lance.  Shoot, it turns out he could have saved 2 first-round picks and just traded up one spot to 11 and had the same options. 

    If the 2021 QB class isn't all that, it's another piece of evidence that Shanahan was too proud of his assessments, because he clearly thought it was.

    Points: 0

    #34 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:50am

    Really happy to see Bridgewater and Stafford off to excellent starts. Of course, Stafford's success is completely predictable, whereas Bridgwater was much less certain, and the Broncos are going to have much tougher competition down the road. Still, curb-stomping  a bad team is what good teams do, so there's reason to hope for a great season for Bridgewater.

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    #35 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:52am

    I thought the TB Rams game was closer than the score would indicate. 

    Ill also say, after watching Bears Browns, it was a pleasure to watch a much better played football game. Tom Brady is still astonishing me. He makes decisions extremely fast, his arm is still good and he's not afraid to take hits despite being an octegenarion by NFL standards.  I'm not sure I can name another athlete that's been this good at this age.

    Points: 0

    #43 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:07am

    Gordy Howe is the only guy that immediately comes to mind as a potential contender. Howe never had the benefit of teammates trying to protect him from violent collisions.

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    #46 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:11am

    Another thought occurred to me. There have been occasions where Tom Brady has looked miserable and cooked to the point where it seemed like it just had to be age.

    I remember his game against the Vikings in 2014. He was so bad that day and looked so old. And then there was his playoff game against the Titans in 2019. 

    In 2013, Sam Monson famously declared Brady on the decline. I didn't go that far, but he definitely looked worse in that season.

    This suggests Brady is more dependent on his supporting casts than he used to be. But for what reasons?

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    #51 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:19am

    Because he's old. He had great fortune that an otherwise excellent roster, with an excellent offense-oriented head coach, was in the QB market last year.

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    #98 by Will Allen // Sep 27, 2021 - 2:17pm

    I think Tampa's roster is better than was Denver's when P. Manning arrived there. In particular, I think Tampa's offensive line is much better. Manning schemed around it very well, but they really had some weak links.

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    #117 by LionInAZ // Sep 28, 2021 - 12:13am

    On Will's note of protecting QBs, I want to give Sony Michael huge credit for a flying-from-out-of-the-frame block on a TB rusher who might have levelled Stafford on a throw late in the game. I don't remember now, it might have on Kupp's 2nd TD.

    Edit: after seeing the highlights, it wasn't on Kupp's 2nd TD. 

    Points: 0

    #37 by bravehoptoad // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:52am

    A true stoppable force versus moveable object game.

    Isn't that, like, literally every force and every object?

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    #45 by RickD // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:10am

    I'd say every object is "moveable" because, in fact, every object moves.  Even the slightest gravitational field will move objects.

    I'd hardly say every force is "stoppable."  Again - gravity.  We needn't even consider the unreality of stopping the force of a nuclear explosion.

    If we want to get pedantic about these things.  

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    #72 by bravehoptoad // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:20pm

    In reply to by RickD

    Okay, I've got to give you gravity. 

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    #132 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Sep 28, 2021 - 1:10pm

    This is one reason I find FO's football discussions more readable than most sites.  Here, even die-hard fans are willing to concede that gravity exists.

    Actually, that's unfair, as on most sites fans are willing to concede that gravity exists, they're just unwilling to concede that it applies to their team too.


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    #138 by bravehoptoad // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:18pm

    Shoot, between you and Pat, I'm just sitting here busting my guts.

    I'd been thinking of mechanical forces, of course.  But gravity!  Strong force!  Weak force!  THE METAPHOR FALLS APART!!!

    Points: 0

    #139 by Pat // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:33pm

    No way, man. You can totally stop the strong, weak, and electromagnetic. That's easy. Really just gravity that's the issue.

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    #49 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:15am

    Responding to people above. I think most of us had the Lions pegged as one of the worst teams this year. I bet there was more optimism for the Jags and Jets. 

    So in that lense, the Lions have far exceeded expectations, especially when you consider they've played a tough sled of teams thus far.

    So to echo Joey Harrington above, the fact that analytics still think this team is quite bad isn't the point at all. And does it mean anything going forward? Who knows but I'd rather be a plucky bad team than one who gets rolled every week which is the alternative. How would you feel about your coaching staff then?

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    #62 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:48am

    Also for those who didn't see it. Mike Greenberg's rant on the Jets was hysterical.

    I also admit to following chase Stuart on Twitter in small part to his Jets commentary. See what you will about the Jets fans, they are a loyal bunch.

    Points: 0

    #68 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:00pm

    Replying to a bunch of people on the topic of QBs and practice. There seems to be this sentiment that there is almost 0 opportunity cost to not starting your rookie QB. That, in effect, they gain the required benefits through practice but with none of the lasting damage from being thrown in an actual game.

    But following this logic, why not have them sit for two years? Is there a diminishing return effect at work? Maybe but I don't know, almost certainly no one does. And that's the point - people keep bringing up examples but we don't have any clean counterfactuals to work with.

    Rodgers showed a steady incline in his dvoa numbers every season until he captured his MVP. One could imagine he would have arrived there earlier if he had been the starter week 1. We will never know.

    Also, its hilarious to see Matt Nagy get ripped for this. When he doesn't play Fields and instead plays Dalton, he gets laughed at as a self serving coach who has is own personal interests at heart. He then plays Fields and gets ripped because he didn't do enough to get Fields ready. I guess because we are fans (or paid to scream nfl analysts) that logic is never spared. 

    Points: 0

    #121 by BJR // Sep 28, 2021 - 9:06am

    I don't think anybody would put it as bluntly as saying there is zero opportunity cost. Clearly it is impossible to replicate an actual game environment on the practice field - particularly mid-season, when players are never going to be at full speed between games. 

    There are other aspects; Fields may not be showing the necessary acumen/application in the film room, weights/conditioning room, or some other aspect of game preparation. 

    Overall I'm an advocate of the sink or swim approach with a young player. There is no sense in being over-cautious with a player who is pre-ordained to play before long anyway. But not if the results are obviously going to be disastrous. Players have their own individual learning curves - which are particularly steep in the case of a rookie QB - and it is logical that some may benefit from not being overwhelmed too soon. 

    The incentives faced by Head Coaches can somewhat distort this, but in this case I'd say it seems Nagy has been proven correct. 

    Points: 0

    #125 by theslothook // Sep 28, 2021 - 10:52am

    I agree with this overall. I guess the part that I'm a little fuzzy on is how much can you know from practice if the QB is going to faceplant like this.

    This is an imperfect comparison, but I was told that Zack Wilson and Trevor Lawrence were both lighting it up in the preseason. Which I then assume perhaps incorrectly that they must have been lighting it up in practice as well. Or at least performing to expectations. In which case this suggests that practice is a fairly meaningless barometer in most cases for determining how your QB will fare in a game.

    All that to say, I tend to take the view that you're never going to know unless you start the player. 

    Points: 0

    #129 by Pat // Sep 28, 2021 - 12:05pm

    In which case this suggests that practice is a fairly meaningless barometer in most cases for determining how your QB will fare in a game.


    I don't understand your logic at all. Wilson and Lawrence were doing well in practice... compared to who? Mike White on the Jets, who's never thrown a pass in a game? And what does it matter in the Jets and Jaguars cases? They were declared the starters like, immediately. Obviously everything you hear out of preseason is going to be glowing reviews and puppies and butterflies. Need tickets sold!

    Figuring out what an organization really thinks of a player is super-hard. It's a lot of reading tea-leaves and figuring out who's saying what. There's a reason some reporters get paid a lot of money.

    Points: 0

    #141 by theslothook // Sep 28, 2021 - 7:02pm

    I didn't watch the preseason, but pff does grade it and they mentioned more than a few times how sterling Lawrence and Zach Wilson were. 

    That obviously has proven to be a poor predictor of regular season performance. And I made the point that if they can look good in scrimmages against live opponents, it stands to reason they might also look good in scripted practices which are presumably easier than playing in the preseason against real opponents. Maybe you think that link has no basis whatsoever and that's fine, but it was the vein of argument I was making. Which leads me to my general point, how well one looks in practice might not be that informative of how he will look out there in a real game.

    Points: 0

    #143 by Pat // Sep 29, 2021 - 11:40am

    I didn't watch the preseason, but pff does grade it and they mentioned more than a few times how sterling Lawrence and Zach Wilson were. 

    Yeah, the statistical correlation between preseason performance and regular-season performance is essentially gone at this point now that teams barely play starters. Used to be pretty significant (like, 15 years ago - so not that far before). Not anymore.

    PFF grading the preseason is just for the clicks.

    And I made the point that if they can look good in scrimmages against live opponents, it stands to reason they might also look good in scripted practices 

    If a coach can't tell how a player looks in practice (well, and in film study) will translate to a game, he's a bad coach and needs to be fired.

    Ever since the mid-2000s, preseason game performance correlations with the regular season have been diminishing to the point where they're basically gone. And at the same time, inter-squad scrimmages/practices have been going way up in frequency.

    Why? Because the preseason games don't tell them nearly as much as the scrimmages.

    There's no real evidence on the sit/start argument. Again, coaches/GMs have come out and said this as well. The entire idea that you have to see how he plays in a game to tell if he's good or not is totally foreign to me. It makes zero sense. If a coach can't tell, I don't want that coach on the team. At all. Ever.

    Points: 0

    #131 by BJR // Sep 28, 2021 - 12:22pm

    I feel like those two were pre-ordained to start from day 1 regardless. Neither team kept a backup of any worth on the roster. Regarding lighting it up in pre-season/practice, I think that just speaks to the incomplete picture we get from our armchairs/media snippets. On top of this, both these rosters are bereft of talent, alongside rookie head coaches, so it's especially tough to work out where to attribute the bad play. Unfortunately, when you're made the #1/2 overall pick, that's the deal.

    In Chicago there was at least the prospect that the team might be ok with solid, veteran QBing, rather than torpedoing the season with an obviously ill-prepared rookie (they did reach the playoffs last season, I know it seems far-fetched....)


    Points: 0

    #133 by jheidelberg // Sep 28, 2021 - 3:01pm

    I saw on the bottom line that Foles, Fields, or Dalton may start.   As the saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks you have no quarterbacks, so if you have 3 quarterbacks do you have negative 1 quarterbacks?

    Points: 0

    #136 by Pat // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:11pm

    Yeah, that's just been terrible reporting. The question asked was "if Andy can't go, is Nick under consideration, or is it just Andy and Justin?" The reason why it's bad reporting (and a dumb question) is that Fields was injured on Sunday, so obviously if both Dalton and Fields can't start due to injury, obviously it's going to be Foles.

    Nagy's response was entirely focused around the health of the players - it's obvious that's all he was talking about. No mention of how they practice, or making a change, or whatever. Flat out started by saying "we know where Nick's at, health-wise."


    Points: 0

    #142 by Will Allen // Sep 28, 2021 - 11:19pm

    I'm really out of the loop, but if the Bears blocking is as poor as FO Commentariat describe, this decision becomes pretty cold-blooded; which guy's severe injury/concussion is least harmful to this team going forward?

    Points: 0

    #77 by DIVISION // Sep 27, 2021 - 12:41pm

    He's on a team with very little talent on either side of the ball, lead by a college coach making the transition to the NFL.

    I'm not sure what people expected.

    He's going to have a rough season with some glimpses of greatness.

    The Jags gave a great effort against the Cardinals.

    Let's see if they have that same energy against the Bengals on Thursday night.

    Points: 0

    #88 by LondonMonarch // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:31pm

    I think he has looked pretty good. Obviously one cannot completely ignore the errors but I think with a rookie QB it makes more sense to look at the things they do well than the things they do badly. Many (not all - hi Jameis!) rookie QBs who show playmaking ability but are a bit mistake-prone are able to iron that out. Whereas I can't think of many who seemed to lack firepower to start and subsequently developed it.

    Points: 0

    #83 by vrao81 // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:02pm

    No thoughts about the broncos curb stomping of the jets, or the falcons last second win over the giants? 

    Points: 0

    #84 by theslothook // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:04pm

    discord suggested the falcons giants deserved to have two losers and the Jets offense was thoroughly abysmal that its better not to get into it. 

    Points: 0

    #92 by justanothersteve // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:52pm

    Please read the third paragraph in the introduction for an explanation on why those games aren't mentioned. 

    Points: 0

    #89 by Peregrine // Sep 27, 2021 - 1:37pm


    When it comes to late game situations, I prefer the stoplight approach: green, yellow, red.  Keeps it simple.

    In Niners-Packers, on their final drive the Niners were in "green" the entire time.  They had plenty of time on the clock, the timeouts, they had a reasonable distance to their needed score within a reasonable number of plays.

    The Niners' problem was that they scored too fast and never put Aaron Rodgers into "red."  I say his name because the dude is still the most ridiculous magician in the NFL (although Mahomes is close).  For many other teams / QBs, they would have started that final drive in "red," but Rodgers / Adams were solidly just in "yellow."

    Now I get it that you score a TD when you can, because there's no guarantee that you'll score one later, but it's incumbent on the coaches to work the clock and perhaps adjust some play calls to ensure that the opponent takes over at "red" instead of "yellow."

    Points: 0

    #94 by Joe Pancake // Sep 27, 2021 - 2:05pm

    To this point, if the time stamps at Pro Football Reference are to be believed, the 49ers could've let about 15 more seconds total burn off the clock on the two plays immediately proceeding their touchdown. (In which case we are probably looking at an Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary attempt instead of a FG attempt.)

    It might be too much to ask a player like Juszczyk to go down at the 1 instead of scoring (even though I suspect that would've significantly increased their win probability), but it's not too much to ask to bleed clock as much as possible when you are holding all three timeouts.

    A Kyle Shanahan-led offense not bleeding the clock correctly--when has that ever happened?

    Points: 0

    #102 by Boots Day // Sep 27, 2021 - 3:19pm

    Remember, they needed a touchdown, not a field goal. I don't think you ever want to assume a touchdown, even from the one-yard line. If Juszczyk had gone down at the one and the 49ers proceeded not to punch the ball in from there, or did something like take a holding penalty that moved them back to the 11, that would have looked pretty awful. 

    Points: 0

    #114 by jheidelberg // Sep 27, 2021 - 10:34pm

    I understand that you do not want to assume a TD, but I never want to assume that I will stop Aaron Rodgers with that much time left.  So my vote is go down at the 1.

    Points: 0

    #116 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 27, 2021 - 11:05pm

    Take the points and trust your defense. The graphic they brought up, Rodgers was 4/12 in similar situations. Even if they get in FG range, he had another 4 of the drives end with a missed FG (all with Crosby). FG is far from guaranteed. 

    Only thing you can do is let the clock go down another 11 sec but asking the player to kneel at the one, no more no less, is a lot. 

    Points: 0

    #104 by SandyRiver // Sep 27, 2021 - 3:21pm

    I'm always surprised teams don't use all the play clock in situations like these.  Reminds me a bit of SB51 - once the Falcons scored their 4th TD they never should've snapped the ball with more than 5 seconds on the clock.   All else being equal, the Pats then would've probably had a minute or less to cover 90 yards.  (Just one of several inexplicable late-game decisions.)

    Points: 0

    #107 by Peregrine // Sep 27, 2021 - 3:57pm

    Well, my nickname here is Peregrine, so that should tell you how I feel about Shanahan's clock management.

    But yeah, it can be ridiculous to expect a player to intentionally try to not score a touchdown (except in some very specific situations).  The onus there is on the coaches to ensure that the players are set into motion at the right times.  Shanahan had full control of the "stoplight" last night and he flubbed it.

    Points: 0

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