Week 6: Chiefs Back on Track, Cardinals Still Unbeaten

Kansas City Chiefs RB Darrel Williams
Kansas City Chiefs RB Darrel Williams
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.

Miami Dolphins 20 "at" Jacksonville Jaguars 23 (London)

Scott Spratt: Your interest in watching the 30th and 31st teams in DVOA play in London at 9:30 a.m. or earlier in America may vary, but I was curious to see how Tua Tagovailoa looked in his return from injured reserve with his broken ribs. Well, so far, so good. On the Dolphins' opening possession, Tagovailoa led a 13-play, 70-yard touchdown drive and converted third downs of 9, 6, and 4 yards. And maybe more importantly, he looked capable and comfortable facing pressure, moving around in the pocket, and even scrambling.

With a win today before their bye, the Dolphins could reenter the AFC wild-card race. The AFC does not seem to have seven standout teams, and the Dolphins are moving from the sixth-hardest opening schedule by DVOA to the second-easiest the rest of the season.

Scott Spratt: That was cool. The Dolphins brought in Jacoby Brissett for a third-and-1, presumably to sneak for a new first down. But instead, Brissett play-faked and delivered a 25-yard rope to Durham Smythe.

Scott Spratt: Haha, this is Tagovailoa's first trip out of the United States. The broadcast painted a fun picture of his getting a passport and being excited as a tourist.

Scott Spratt: Good lord, Marvin Jones.

I probably should mention that the Dolphins' top two corners Xavien Howard and Byron Jones that represent the normal strength of their defense are inactive today. But I'm not sure anybody would have stopped Jones on that leaping touchdown grab.

That late touchdown drive closed the halftime gaps in score to 13-10 and yards to 259 and 169 in favor of the Dolphins. I think those margins fairly represent the difference in quality of these teams, but both teams could have done more on offense in the opening half. The Dolphins settled for field goals on a pair of red zone trips, the first of which was sabotaged by an offensive holding penalty. Meanwhile, the Jaguars lost a long James Robinson run to a facemask penalty on the opposite side of the field and have dropped at least three passes, the first of which from Dan Arnold would have netted Jacksonville a first down inside the red zone. These teams are bottom-10 in defensive DVOA like they are in offensive DVOA, and neither is doing much with pressure to disrupt the pair of promising young quarterbacks.

Scott Spratt: I lost track of the second half while updating projections, but it seemed pretty wild.

  • Christian Wilkins strip-sacked his former Clemson teammate Trevor Lawrence to force a turnover.
  • Tua Tagovailoa threw a baffling interception the very next play with no offensive player within 10 yards of a defender.
  • The Dolphins went for a fourth-and-1 late but called a shotgun handoff and failed to convert. It was a zone-read play, but I don't think anyone was following Tagovailoa there with his broken ribs.
  • Practice squad promotee Matthew Wright made 54- and 53-yard field goals on the Jaguars' final two drives to tie and then win as time expired.

Crazy stuff!

Minnesota Vikings 34 at Carolina Panthers 28 (OT)

Scott Spratt: Sam Darnold threw an interception on the first play on a bad decision to throw from the left side of the field to the right sideline. The "Darnold has turned back into a pumpkin" theory is looking strong early in Carolina.

Vince Verhei: Sam Darnold's first play of the day may be the worst interception of the year.

Scott Spratt: Following that stellar Sam Darnold start, Haason Reddick punched a Justin Jefferson catch out for a fumble that the Panthers turned into a touchdown in short order. The Vikings have had a pair of red zone trips—the first after the Darnold interception—but have settled for two field goals. Mike Zimmer did not go for a fourth-and-2 from the Panthers' 7-yard line.

Bryan, if you like offense, I would recommend you watch any game but this one.

Bryan Knowles: Way ahead of you, Scott! The Vikings seem not to be aware you can throw the ball past the sticks on third down, or go for it on fourth down when you fail, so, you know, that's fun.

Scott Spratt: Does it count as a revenge game if Chris Herndon scores a touchdown while playing Sam Darnold?

Scott Spratt: The Panthers just tried to call two consecutive timeouts. John Fox, is that you?

J.P. Acosta: It's almost halftime, and Sam Darnold has completed ... five passes. Not exactly an efficient offense right now for the Panthers.

Scott Spratt: Michael Strahan was ranting for 20 seconds about a quarterback failing to live up to expectations with good supporting talent and how it might be time for a change, and I couldn't figure out if he was talking about Sam Darnold or Kirk Cousins.

Scott Spratt: Hey, the Panthers actually recovered a loose ball in the end zone this week! Last week, Jalen Hurts successfully batted the high snap back out of the end zone for a safety that made a major difference in end. This week, Kenny Robinson scooped the Frankie Luvu blocked punt and scored to put the Panthers up 17-12 halfway through the third quarter.

Scott Spratt: Hey, J.P., Sam Darnold finally got his sixth completion with four minutes left in the third quarter. Sadly, DJ Moore fumbled after the catch and the Vikings have the ball back after just scoring to go back up 18-17.

J.P. Acosta: Will he get to 10 completions before the end of the game? Find out next week on Dragonball Z!

Bryan Knowles: Sam Darnold HAS gotten to 10 completions. He also has yet to get to 100 yards, and has suffered yet another turnover, fumbling on a sack to give the Vikings the ball with a 28-17 lead and 8:30 left in the game. And with that, I think all the early games are essentially over; it hasn't exactly been a great day for competitiveness so far.

Vince Verhei: Somehow, this is simultaneously the only competitive game of the early window and yet also the worst game of the early window. Vikings miss a long field goal on fourth-and-4 from the 32. Panthers then answer with a field goal of their own, set up by a 30-yard Darnold scramble that is their longest gain of the day. Vikings still lead 28-20 but there's 4:41 left as this battle of dueling incompetence refuses to go away and die.

Scott Spratt: The Panthers were in a fourth-and-10 in their own end zone when Sam Darnold found Ian Thomas of all people for 41 yards.

Why is this game still happening at 4:23? Woof.

Bryan Knowles: Not just a fourth-and-10, but a fourth-and-6 a few plays later, setting up a game-tying touchdown! Each team is trying to blow this one, and they're both failing!

Scott Spratt: The Panthers needed 96 yards plus a two-point conversion in under two minutes? Sure, it definitely makes sense that happened.

Vince Verhei: OH GOD THEY'RE GOING TO OVERTIME. Darnold hits DJ Moore for 25 yards on fourth-and-6, then Robby Anderson for a 7-yard touchdown, then Tommy Tremble for the two-point conversion. Panthers had a bunch of drops on that drive too.

Vikings still have 42 seconds and two timeouts, so I guess overtime is not guaranteed.

J.P. Acosta: Sam Darnold's statline is absolutely hilarious: 17-41, 200 yards, a TD, and a pick. Peak Sam Darnoldness.

Scott Spratt: He wasn't good, J.P., but his receivers also dropped at least seven passes. It was rough.

Dave Bernreuther: This is now the fourth game of six this year that Kirk Cousins has led an end-of-game drive into field goal range in very little time. Greg Joseph is 2-of-4 on the kicks, however, and we all get exactly what we wanted: overtime!

Bryan Knowles: And now we have a missed 48-yard field goal, so it's still a tie. I suppose there's one second left, so maybe we'll get some crazy, end-of-game nonsense, but it looks like we're headed to OT.

Vince Verhei: 40-plus attempts with only 200 yards? It's an Osweiler! Though I assume he'll get at least 1 yard in overtime and lose it.

And yes, of course, the Vikings played for the long field goal, with 6- and 8-yard completions on their last two throws, and then missed the kick. Of course they did.

Bryan Knowles: Osweiler had four "Osweilers," tied for second all-time with Sam Bradford. Joe Flacco and Bernie Kosar each had five.

This would be Darnold's second, after Week 1 of 2019, an ugly game against Buffalo.

Vince Verhei: And it is, because Carolina never gets the ball in overtime. Second-and-13 at the Carolina 27, and I'm certain we will see two runs and a kick, but no! Cousins drops back and finds K.J. Osborn for the score, and the Vikings win.

For reference, as I type these words, the second quarter between Arizona and Cleveland just started.

Aaron Schatz: Here's your end of the MIN-CAR game:

Kansas City Chiefs 31 at Washington Football Team 13

Bryan Knowles: I have this, not Ravens-Chargers, on my main screen to start the day, because I like offense, and a battle between two of the five worst defenses in football seems like a good choice to see some offense. Plus, if the Chiefs really are In Trouble™, then Washington is the kind of feisty opponent they should let hang around. If they are, in fact, basically the same Chiefs team we have seen the past few years, they should pull away early. We'll see what happens!

"What happens" at the moment is a three-and-out for the Washington offense, followed by a 95-yard march for a score by Kansas City that saw the Chiefs convert a fourth down at midfield when they weren't busy getting 15-plus-yard passes to Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and something called a "Jody Fortson." Ah, the priors, they are reestablishing themselves.

7-0 Chiefs.

Aaron Schatz: Somehow Tyreek Hill just turned another ball off his hands into a Patrick Mahomes interception.

Bryan Knowles: Kansas City implodes? They turn the ball over for the second time today, with Mecole Hardman fumbling on an end around (remember, no Clyde Edwards-Helaire today!), and then the defense obliges by allowing a 16-yard gain on a screen pass on third-and-16, giving Washington new life. They then terribly blow a coverage on Ricky Seals-Jones, who gets behind everyone and rumbles 39 yards for a score, and Washington takes a 13-10 lead in the waning moments of the first half. Those alarm bells ringing a little louder in Missouri at the moment.

Vince Verhei: Video of that comical Ricky Seals-Jones score:

Bryan Knowles: Is this the worst play of Patrick Mahomes' life? For context, it's third-and-1 in field goal range with the Chiefs down three.

Vince Verhei: I apologize to Sam Darnold for accusing him of throwing the worst interception of the year.

Bryan Knowles: Somewhat astonishing stat here. Mahomes is already up to eight interceptions this season (yes, two were Hill drops, and another bounced off of shoulder pads, but they're still interceptions). The only Chiefs quarterback with more interceptions in his first six games in the past 20 years was Matt Cassel with nine in 2012, which happens to be the franchise record during NFL play (Cotton Davidson had 11 for the AFL's Dallas Texans in 1960).

Andy Reid said he spoke with Mahomes a little bit this week about trying to do too much and, well, I think that's a decent description of Mahomes' play so far this season. He's so exceptionally great that he feels he can do anything—and is usually right. But with the defense crumbling, and a lack of weapons around him, he's putting everything on his shoulders—he feels like they need a touchdown every single drive, and that's not great for decision-making. Don't get me wrong, it's working more often than not; again, he's Patrick Mahomes. But it just looks like he feels he has to do something exceptional on nearly every play, and there are times when he just needs to go down and regroup for the next play, and we're kind of seeing the worst parts of it today.

That being said, anyone feel confident in Washington's chances with a 13-10 lead at the half? No? I didn't think so.

Bryan Knowles: Of course, one of the reasons Patrick Mahomes believes he can do anything is, well, most of the time, he's right. He had a nifty jump pass that would be ill-advised for about 79 quarterbacks in the NFL today to convert a third down before hitting Tyreek Hill for a touchdown a few plays later to give the Chiefs a 17-13 lead. He had a short field to work with, too, because Washington had missed a 42-yard field goal. For all that has been rightfully said about Kansas City's defense, they have held Washington to three field goal attempts—and I think "held" is an appropriate descriptor, as the closest one was a fourth-and-5. If the Chiefs do hold on to win this one, those few stops will make the difference.

Bryan Knowles: And just as the main CBS feed switches over, Damien Williams punches the ball in for his second touchdown of the game, moving this one to a double-digit Chiefs lead as well. Washington has been unable to take advantage of Kansas City's struggles, and the Chiefs aren't going to struggle all game. Kansas City is up to 400 yards offense, they're outgaining Washington 6.8 to 4.9 on a per-play basis. It's only the mistakes and turnovers that are keeping Washington in this one, and they have been absolutely unable to make Kansas City pay.

Los Angeles Rams 38 at New York Giants 11

Vince Verhei: Kadarius Toney gets three catches for 36 yards on New York's first drive, which ends in a field goal and a 3-0 lead. That includes two first downs, one on third-and-14 after a Daniel Jones strip-sack that New York recovered. But now he has gone to the locker room and been declared out with an ankle injury. So no Toney, no Kenny Golladay, no Saquon Barkley. Good luck, Mr. Jones.

Bryan Knowles: Comedy of errors on fourth down, here. The Rams line up to punt, and no one covers gunner Ben Skrowronek. Skrowronek does the Rams' secret signal for a fake punt, which is waving his hands around like a madman. Joe Judge catches it, and audibly yells from the sideline to watch the fake, to which the Giants special teams responds by not moving even the tiniest of bits. Johnny Hekker hits Skrowronek for the first down, but everything's called back due to offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties—no explanation as to who committed the fouls, or what the fouls were, mind you—wiping everything off the board, so forget that entire last paragraph, I guess.

Vince Verhei: Still 3-0 at the end of one. Giants went for it on fourth-and-1 in their own territory, but Jones was stuffed on a sneak. Rams then went three-and-out, but appeared to convert on Johnny Hekker's latest fake punt. The Giants left one of the gunners completely uncovered, but were very fortunate that the pay was wiped out by offsetting penalties. Rams have now punted twice in two drives. They're having lots of trouble in pass protection—they have given up two sacks in the first 15 minutes after giving up only four in their first five games.

Bryan Knowles: Alright, so Los Angeles finally gets on the board, but it's still just a 7-3 game. Time for the Giants to respond—they can't afford to go to 1-5 if they're even going to pretend to have relevance this season. This looks like the time for Daniel Jones and company to shine, depleted offense or not. Time to put together a long, confident drive to show the Rams just who they are!

Incomplete, decent run, false start, sack-fumble giving the Rams the ball inside the red zone, and a touchdown four plays later for Los Angeles. 14-3, Rams in the second quarter.

Vince Verhei: OK, second quarter looks a little more like what we expected coming in. Rams drive 66 yards in six plays for a touchdown—big plays from Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, and Sony Michel on the drive to set up a Robert Woods score. Then Jones is strip-sacked *again* and this time the Rams recover, already in the red zone. They get to a fourth-and-1 at the 3 and go for it, and Stafford hits Kupp for the touchdown. Rams up 14-3, still eight minutes till halftime.

Aaron Schatz: Sean McVay went for a fourth down! Will wonders ever cease? The touchdown to Kupp came on a fourth-down go!

Bryan Knowles: The last four Giants drives have gone three-and-out, sack-fumble, three-and-out, interception, for a combined total of -5 yards. We haven't had a drive go farther than 20 yards since there were 10 minutes left in the second quarter, but that hasn't mattered because the Giants keep giving the Rams the ball in excellent field position. The Rams convert Daniel Jones' interception into a score, it's 21-3, and this game, and the Giants' season, is over. Man, that was an interesting game for about a quarter, right?

Los Angeles Chargers 6 at Baltimore Ravens 34

Aaron Schatz: Excellent pass-protection for the Ravens early. Lamar Jackson has big pockets and time to throw. And when everybody is covered, he just takes off and avoids tackles and does something like run 21 yards on a first-and-20 scramble. Ravens just got their second touchdown on a handoff to Le'Veon Bell and lead 14-0.

Bryan Knowles: Baltimore goes up 14-0 after a Le'Veon Bell rush as the Ravens are already up to 8.4 yards per carry. Is the Ravens offense a particularly bad matchup for the Chargers? They were 31st in rushing defense DVOA coming in, and, well, they're playing like it.

Aaron Schatz: Chargers and Ravens just exchanged picks. Jackson pick was particularly egregious, right into the arms of Kyzir White in the middle of the field. Just completely didn't see him, I think he was a robber in a Cover-1.

Scott Spratt: From the sideline view, it looked like Jackson was just throwing it at Kyzir White.

Aaron Schatz: Chargers follow up their pick with a huge launch downfield to Mike Williams and then Jared Cook in the right corner of the end zone for six. And then do the Chargers miss the XP? Of course they do! 17-6 Ravens.

Aaron Schatz: Chargers went for fourth-and-1 on their own 19, down 24-6. Probably the right move. Miscommunication on a pass to Jalen Guyton. Late-down regression has hit the Chargers big time today.

Scott Spratt: Brandon Staley going for two fourth downs in his own territory? Great! Justin Herbert throwing both passes to a receiver with Marlon Humphrey in coverage? Not great!

Vince Verhei: That is all going to lead to an annoying amount of I-told-you-so this week, but it helps a little that the Chargers held the Ravens to field goals after both of those failed fourth downs.

Aaron Schatz: Ravens coverage has also been very strong today, and not just Humphrey.

Aaron Schatz: Chargers pass rush can barely sniff Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews has been constantly open. Just caught a third-and-10 conversion.

Aaron Schatz: Then Ravens score on speed option around the left side. Each running back has a touchdown today. Time to watch other games.

Vince Verhei: And with that score, CBS switches me to the Kansas City-Washington game. Not that I blame them, but I definitely did not see that coming after last week's Chargers game.

Aaron Schatz: Just one last word on this game, and the idea of late-down regression.

  • Chargers, third down, Weeks 1-5: 33-of-68 (49%)
  • Chargers, third down, today: 3-of-12 (25%)
  • Chargers, fourth down, Weeks 1-5: 7-of-8 (88%)
  • Chargers, fourth down, today: 1-of-4 (25%)

Cincinnati Bengals 34 at Detroit Lions 11

Vince Verhei: Bengals lead at 10-0 at halftime of a real barnburner. The two teams have combined for 10 first downs, seven punts (including six three-and-outs), seven penalties, and two turnovers. Lots of pass breakups, so a good game if you're playing in an IDP league, I guess. Bengals did get a long Chris Evans touchdown and a bomb to Ja'Marr Chase to set up the field goal but otherwise have done barely anything. Still more than Detroit, though. Jared Goff somehow has only 38 yards on nine completions, which does not make for enthralling television.

Bryan Knowles: Detroit came into this week 32nd against running backs in the receiving game. They have allowed two touchdown passes to running backs today—one to Chris Evans in the first half, and now a 40-yard Joe Mixon catch-and-run on fourth-and-1 to give the Bengals a 17-0 lead early in the third quarter. Mixon was escorted down the field by Ja'Marr Chase, so I guess they did draft a blocker in the first round this year, just like everyone wanted them to.

Dave Bernreuther: I put this game on side-by-side with the Rams for comedic effect. It did not disappoint, and I didn't even see Matthew Stafford do anything all that great. Goff showed why they made the trade, though, looking pretty much useless and averaging less than 4 yards per attempt. I was really interested in seeing how this one went for the Bengals because their defense really impressed me in defeat last week, getting after Aaron Rodgers on almost every series. Not exactly a recipe for success for Jared Goff.

But hey, at least they didn't get shut out ... down 27-0 in the red zone in the fourth quarter, Dan Campbell keeps the goose egg off his resume with a 35-yard kick. Congrats on the moral victory.

(Ah, a bit of redemption on the next drive: before a few lingering, very sad fans, D'Andre Swift punched in a touchdown. I will rescind about 10% of my sarcasm from the previous sentence; down 27, they should still have gone for it on fourth-and-9.)

Green Bay Packers 24 at Chicago Bears 14

Vince Verhei: I turned to this game just in time to see Justin Fields hit Darnell Mooney for a 5-yard touchdown pass that cut the Green Bay lead to a tenuous 17-14 margin. Well, no matter. The Bears lost track of Davante Adams deep down field and it looks like he has scored, but he is ruled out of bounds at the Chicago 21. Again, no matter—three plays later, Aaron Rodgers runs in a touchdown and the Packers lead extends to 24-14.

Dave Bernreuther: Aaron Rodgers has given the Packers a bit of breathing room with a rushing touchdown after the Bears drew within 17-14. I think they'll be OK, but the Packers really need to clean up their red zone defense. Including today's two scores, Packers opponents are a perfect 15-of-15 on trips to the red zone this season.

Not 15 times scoring points, mind you. 15 touchdowns.

It's supposed to be easier to defend the shorter field, guys!

Vince Verhei: Bears had a first down at the Packers 32 but then Fields was sacked twice in the next three plays. That left them with a fourth-and-26 just barely across midfield, and down two scores with less than three minutes to go, they had to go for it. The Hail Mary failed, the Packers take over, and this one's done.

That's four sacks on the day for Fields; that continues to be a problem for him and the Bears. What's not a problem is running back. No David Montgomery, no Damien Williams, no problem—sixth-round rookie Khalil Herbert rushes for 97 yards and a touchdown, adding two catches for 15 yards.

Houston Texans 3 at Indianapolis Colts 31

Dave Bernreuther: Indeed, someone on staff watched this one. I loved the third-and-3 deep ball to Parris Campbell that the Colts clearly called knowing they'd be going for it on fourth down. Just a great ball from Carson Wentz and everything about the sequence was great. What I found interesting was that the play-action didn't even fool the Texans' safeties. Replays showed them retreating the entire time ... and yet somehow Campbell still just ran right past them.

I didn't love that Jonathan Taylor had what should have been a long touchdown run ruined by a terrible downfield block by Michael Pittman. That was weak, especially since Taylor was both directing Pittman AND actually pushed him in the direction of his man. Even with the help, Pittman whiffed the block. Come on, Michael. You're gigantic. Learn how to block.

The Colts showed last week that they can put it together on offense and look like a quality football team. They did it again this week (and welcome back to T.Y. Hilton!), but it's hard to say it means much since it was the Texans (sorry, Rivers). They also showed last week that they aren't quite there yet when it comes to stopping the pass ... despite the final score here, I'm not so sure they made a ton of progress on that front, either. It's hard to tell, given the opponent.

Rivers McCown: Here's what I wrote about my garbage team.

Thanks Dave, sorry to contribute to you giving up a first for Carson Wentz.

Arizona Cardinals 37 at Cleveland Browns 14

Scott Spratt: The Cardinals are playing without their normal center Rodney Hudson—not to mention their head coach—and it showed up in the red zone there. An early snap hit Kyler Murray on the shoulder and trickled behind him. But no worries, Murray jumped on it and then hit Christian Kirk for a touchdown on third-and-19.

Bryan Knowles: Near-disaster for Arizona on their first drive as Kyler Murray was looking away when the snap came, causing it to fly over his head and set up a third-and-goal from outside the red zone. Of course, because everyone on the Cardinals has hit their 95th percentile outcome this year, Murray recovers on the next play to hit Christian Kirk, who is in bounds by millimeters, to give Arizona the 7-0 early lead. Who needs a head coach?

Vince Verhei: Do we know which offense leads the league in aborted snaps? Is it the Cardinals? I feel like they have a lot. I know they had two last week, and another one just now on second down in the red zone for a loss of 14. No matter, because on third-and-forever, Kyler Murray calmly hits Christian Kirk on a deep out for the score.

Kyler Murray: bad at catching snaps, very good at throwing footballs.

Aaron Schatz: Arizona was in fact your leader with four aborted snaps through five weeks! One was on a punt.

Vince Verhei: An epic egg-laying for Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland offense so far. Their first four drives:

  • Three-and-out.
  • A big play to Donovan Peoples-Jones and facemask on Arizona get them into the red zone ... where they go on to take a sack on fourth down.
  • Two plays, sack-fumble, Arizona recovers.
  • Three plays, interception where Mayfield throws above and behind his receiver. There's a review to see if Robert Alford stepped out of bounds on the return, but the turnover is going to stand.

So the Cards take over in Browns territory, but can't do anything with it as Takk McKinley sacks Murray on third down. Matt Prater's 51-yard field goal try juuuuuuust sneaks in past the upright and the lead goes to 20-0. And it seems I am looking at the Raiders and Broncos to give me just one good game this afternoon.

Bryan Knowles: Nice for Cleveland to show up to this one. The good news is that the Browns finally got on the board; a healthy dose of Kareem Hunt opening things up enough for Mayfield to hit Donovan Peoples-Jones for a score to make things 20-7. The bad news is that Odell Beckham came up clutching his arm after a catch earlier in the drive and has gone into the blue medical tent, and not in a way that makes it look like he's coming back.

Scott Spratt: Baker Mayfield just completed an end-of-half Hail Mary touchdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones, and the look on Kyler Murray's face was priceless. "That's my thing, dude."

Bryan Knowles: Mayfield, of course, set up for that Hail Mary with three passes in a row for less than 10 yards. Seems like it's probably more efficient over the long run to go 20-20-20-15 instead of 5-7-6-57, but then I'm not a professional NFL quarterback!

23-14 at halftime, and the Browns should thank their lucky stars they're within single digits.

Dave Bernreuther: That was the first Hail Mary I have seen in a while that didn't involve over-the-top blatant pass interference. The Cardinals let Peoples-Jones box them out and high-point the ball without grabbing or tackling him (or making all that much of an effort to play the ball either, really).

That changes the complexion of this game a LOT.

Vince Verhei: Browns offense spent most of the first half throwing up all over themselves like the most embarrassing guy at your bachelor party. Even on the Hail Mary drive, they only ran five plays in 43 seconds because they kept wasting time with short completions in bounds, and one incompletion nearly turned into a tip-drill pick.

And yet ... the Cardinals have had their share of luck too. Murray is up to three fumbles now, but Arizona hasn't lost one yet. The Browns lead in total yards (201-188) and yards per play (6.9 to 5.1). The Cardinals got one field goal on a zero-yard drive and another on a drive that lost 5 yards. They're only ahead because of turnovers, red zone performance, and penalties—the Browns have committed seven of them, resulting in four Arizona first downs.

The Cardinals are up nine and they're going to get the ball first in the third quarter and will probably win the game, but this hasn't been their best day either.

Vince Verhei: Dots on the Hail Mary are ... interesting. Cardinals have seven in coverage against four receivers, which should be a mismatch. But the Browns go 3x1, and three defenders go to the one guy on the right, and there's a linebacker covering air in the middle of the field, so it's really three-on-three at the catch point. Seems like they bungled the defense on that one.

Bryan Knowles: Oh no. Mayfield goes down and fumbles, but that doesn't matter right now—he has stayed down, and the doctors were immediately waved onto the field. He left the field under his own power, but he was in pretty obvious pain. Case Keenum is the backup.

Vince Verhei: First half opens with three straight three-and-outs. Fourth drive of the half, Browns are driving, as Peoples-Jones is almost single-handedly keeping them in this game. But just across midfield, Mayfield scrambles and fumbles, and the Cardinals recover. That's five fumbles in this game now, and Arizona has fallen on all of them. Worse, Mayfield came into the game with a bad non-throwing shoulder, and it looked like he fell on it awkwardly and was taken to the dreaded blue tent. Case Keenum is warming up.

Bryan Knowles: I am going to suggest that covering DeAndre Hopkins is probably your first priority when playing the Cardinals. Probably your second and third priority, too. Instead, Denzel Ward passes him off to play ... nothing, as Hopkins was the only receiver on that side of the field, and the safety passes him off to ... no one in particular, and Hopkins is left standing all alone in the back of the end zone. Easy pitch-and-catch, 30-14 lead, and Cleveland is on the ropes.

Vince Verhei: Mayfield has returned to the field following that Hopkins touchdown. Not sure if that matter for today, but it's good news for the rest of the year.

Vince Verhei: I think it was Odell Beckham making some of those earlier catches I was crediting to Peoples-Jones. But he can't do it all. On fourth-and-4 in the red zone, down 16, they throw a slant to Beckham, but he can't hang on. Still 11 minutes to go, but this has not looked like a team that can afford to miss on scoring chances like that.

Vince Verhei: Cards take over after that fourth-down stop and put together an 11-play, 93-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes and ended with an A.J. Green touchdown catch to put this one on ice. Murray had his FOURTH fumble of the game on that drive, but Arizona recovered again. Gonna be fun explaining why he's outside the top 20 in Quick Reads this week.

Dallas Cowboys 35 at New England Patriots 29 (OT)

Bryan Knowles: The podcast was very, very down on the Patriots' chances in this one—where's that fabled New England bias, guys?—but the Patriots just took an early 7-0 lead. The Cowboys went for it on fourth-and-inches in their own territory and got stuffed. In fact, the Patriots stuffed Elliott on third-and-1 and fourth-and-inches for the short field.

The ensuing drive is the Damien Harris show, running for 21 yards to get New England into the red zone, and then lining up as quarterback from the 4 to plunge in himself for the early score. No doghouse for Harris, I guess!

Aaron Schatz: Patriots take an early 7-0 lead after Ezekiel Elliott fails to get a yard twice on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1. Long 21-yard run for Damien Harris, 9-yard pass to Jonnu Smith, 4-yard touchdown direct snap to Harris. Interesting that the Pats were pushing the Cowboys around with their backup offensive line, with Michael Onwenu and Isaiah Wynn not starting today even though they both came off the COVID list this week.

Bryan Knowles: Bill Belichick referred to Dalton Schultz as the Cowboys' best receiving option in the leadup to this one. I assume he did not mean Schultz's ability to track tipped balls, but Prescott drilled one off of Cedrick Wilson's hands, which flew 10 yards downfield right into Schultz's hands. Hey, better to be lucky, right?

And good. Lucky and good. Prescott and the Cowboys began picking apart the Patriots' pass defense on that last drive, finding Schultz twice for big gains, Cooper for another, and Blake Jarwin in the end zone to tie things up. That was, if anything, too easy.

Bryan Knowles: Two deep passes! On one drive! You spoil us, Mac Jones. A four-play drive which averages 18.8 yards per play is pretty nice if you can keep it up. Jones' touchdown pass to a falling-down Hunter Henry gives the Pats the lead back, and we have had three touchdowns in about 10 minutes of gametime. This is what I was expecting from Kansas City-Washington, not Dallas-New England.

Dave Bernreuther: Interesting first few drives so far ... not a ton of defense happening. The broadcast pointed out that that was the Cowboys' first touchdown against the Patriots in a full decade—since 2011. To that I'll add that in barely 10 minutes of game time, the Mac Jones Patriots have already scored more than the 2019 Tom Brady Patriots did last time the Cowboys came to Foxboro.

My only conclusion from any of that is just that the new 17th game being added is very confusing; I always liked the ease of remembering the last time teams crossed conferences, and the whole DAL@NE happening twice in three years is throwing me off.

The last drive got a major boost by a Trevon Diggs personal foul, when he obviously retaliated against Cam Newton (errr, N'Keal Harry ... also confusing: the new numbers!) and gifted the Pats a red zone spot. But Jones is starting to make the decision to cut the former owner of that No. 1 jersey look smart; I know he's still doing some rookie things, but it seems like every time I look up these past few weeks, he's also doing seasoned-veteran type things. The pass two plays before the penalty, for instance, were great ones.

Aaron Schatz: Just about to write that the Cowboys had open receivers on every play, and it wasn't going to get any easier with slot corner Jonathan Jones out with an injury and replaced by special-teamer Justin Bethel. Then Bethel slapped away a pass to Noah Brown in the end zone, right into the hands of Kyle Dugger for a Patriots interception. So they get the ball back, up 14-7, even though Prescott is 13-for-16 with 161 yards.

Scott Spratt: That would have been Jakobi Meyers' first-ever touchdown catch after 116 receptions in his career. Instead, it was wiped out by a penalty, and then Mac Jones lost the ball on a strip-sack. Sad times for Meyers.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots get a touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers called back on holding on James Ferentz. Then Randy Gregory absolutely brutalizes right tackle Yodny Cajuste and slams Mac Jones to the ground, ball comes loose, Dallas recovers. Patriots offensive line was playing pretty well up until those two plays, but that's quite the turn of events on two huge offensive line mistakes.

Aaron Schatz: Here's the Gregory hit. Totally legal, and massive.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots pass up fourth-and-one foot from their own 35 and the punt gets blocked. Dallas now set up inside the red zone. Belichick used to be the most aggressive coach in the league on fourth downs. Now the league has totally passed him by on that aspect of the game.

Dave Bernreuther: I'm with Romo on the spot of the ball after the third-down completion to Meyers; it looked like he reached forward well over the line to gain, but the ref spotted it a full yard short. From his vantage point back at the line of scrimmage, that's at least defensible, given the angle, but that's pretty terrible. The spot leads Belichick to elect to punt ... and it's blocked. That's a horrible swing based on what appeared to be an officiating error.

Dave Bernreuther: "Reached forward" isn't the best way to say that, now that I rewound. While airborne, Meyers was twisted around and appeared to catch the ball a bit past the 36, with his body roughly straddling the line. I have seen far more generous "forward progress" awarded on comeback-type catches. And it looks to be closer to a full yard than a foot short where they spotted it.

Aaron Schatz: Oh my god, the Patriots just stuffed the Cowboys on four straight plays from the 1. Elliott twice, then Prescott, then Prescott lost control of the ball trying to go over the top on fourth down and what was originally called a touchdown got flipped to a fumble and Patriots recovery in the end zone. Wow. What a stand.

Bryan Knowles: Full credit, full credit to New England's short-yardage defense so far today. Lots of stuffs on X-and-short plays—the stuff to set up the first touchdown, and now four straight stuffs from the 1. Heck, from the inches. A heck of a goal-line stand right there.

Aaron Schatz: Let the record state that the prevailing opinion on Twitter seems to be that Prescott was in on third down and the officials made a mistake to call him short of the goal line. And that should have been a booth review, since it was the final 2:00.

J.P. Acosta: I feel like I say this because of their defensive reputation, but the Patriots holding Dallas' offense to 10 points thus far is really impressive. And it looks like they're primarily in man coverage.

Aaron Schatz: To go back to Dak on third down, here's a video for people who want to argue about it:

Bryan Knowles: Hey, the Cowboys decided not to call a "smash right into the line in a tight formation" play on X-and-1! Back down to the goal line after a pass interference, they go three-wide, line up CeeDee Lamb against Jalen Mills, and let their quarterback make a play. Touchdown, 17-14 Cowboys.

Bryan Knowles: I think the Patriots may have found a weakness in Dallas' run defense. They just had a 13-play drive; eight of the 11 plays that actually gained yards had the Pats (mostly Harris) steamrolling over the Cowboys' front. With so many backups in on New England's offensive line, that's a surprise, but hey—don't knock it if it works. Patriots take a 21-20 lead with 6:23 left in the game; the upset is a-brewin'.

Aaron Schatz: Maybe the most important offensive drive of the season for the Patriots and they just passed the test with flying colors. They went 70 yards in 13 plays to take a 21-20 lead, first NFL touchdown by Rhamondre Stevenson to cap it off. A couple of big holes for steady runs, including a 21-yard carry by Damien Harris. Jakobi Meyers with a third-and-9 grab where he got smacked (legally) and kept the ball in his hands. Offensive line kept Randy Gregory off of Mac Jones, helped by Dallas dropping Gregory into coverage on Hunter Henry a couple of times.

Carl Yedor: That last drive by the Patriots was a great example of bully ball. Smart run on third-and-medium catching Dallas in a blitz look that would have also set up a short fourth-down attempt had it come up short of the marker.

Bryan Knowles: Mike McCarthy settles for a 51-yard field goal on fourth-and-less-than-one ... and the kick never had a chance. Wow. The Patriots looking to run some clock now.

Aaron Schatz: It wasn't listed as a block in the play-by-play but it sure looked to me like Justin Bethel got a hand on that kick to send it wide left.

Bryan Knowles: Oh my! And Mac Jones bails the Cowboys right back out; the ball sliding right out of Kendrick Bourne's hands to Trevon Diggs, who does. Not. Stop. Pick-six, and it's 26-21 after the two-point conversion fails. WOW.

Aaron Schatz: Cowboys make up for it when the Patriots finally decide to be aggressive, empty the backfield ... and the ball goes right off Kendrick Bourne's hands into the hands of Trevon Diggs for a pick-six. How do you throw to a guy covered by Diggs when you need to kill clock? Even if you think it was the right move to be aggressive and throw and try to get the first down, why throw to THAT GUY?

Scott Spratt: Should Diggs have slid down before the goal line there?

Aaron Schatz: Interesting question, Scott, considering what happened on the next play. Kendrick Bourne—covered by Diggs!—75 yards to the house!

Bryan Knowles: There's an argument, Scott, though I tend to say go ahead and score the points when you're losing. They just horked a field goal and got stuffed at the line, and...

... and they get the ball back anyway, as Jones finds Bourne for a 75-yard touchdown on the very next play, and what on Earth is going on?

Scott Spratt: Correction: should Bourne have slid down there?

Aaron Schatz: Bourne definitely should NOT have slid down. There's a difference between sliding when you need a field goal and sliding when you need a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Here's Damontae Kazee as the high safety for Dallas going after ... a pick maybe? And totally out of position on the Bourne touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: Bad timeout usage by Dallas! After a big gain gets them to fourth down in field goal range, the Cowboys take a timeout with 24 seconds left. Sure, they kick the field goal and tie things up—but now the Patriots get the ball back in a tie game!

Scott Spratt: I guess Bill Belichick isn't any more confident in Mac Jones' ability to convert on a fourth-and-3 now than he was a couple of weeks ago.

Bryan Knowles: The Patriots punt it away from midfield on fourth-and-3 and never see the ball again. The Cowboys probably "deserve" the win, considering how they had two turnovers in the end zone earlier in the game, but this has to feel like a major missed opportunity from New England.

Aaron Schatz: Cowboys make it downfield and I thought they would go conservative and play for the field goal, but nope, touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb ends it. Another heartbreaking close loss for the Patriots, definitely felt like they had this one when the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (still never explained) knocked Dallas back to its own 45 right before the end of regulation. They let up the 24-yard pass to put it in field goal range, then the drive in overtime. Very disappointing.

Aaron Schatz: Also, no pass rush today at all. Not even Matthew Judon got close to Prescott. Even when they blitzed they couldn't get close to him. No sacks at all on 51 pass attempts.

Las Vegas Raiders 34 at Denver Broncos 24

Vince Verhei: Thanks to the Chargers' loss, the winner of this game is going to be in first place, and at halftime, it looks like that's going to be Las Vegas. Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater have had similar opportunities (21 dropbacks for Carr, 20 for Bridgewater), but the Raiders passer has been much more productive (13 completions for 210 yards and two scores) than his Broncos counterpart (12 completions for 99 yards and a tuddie). Biggest star of the game has been Maxx Crosby with 2.5 sacks. Raiders up 17-7 and it could be worse—Daniel Carlson had a 43-yard field goal try bounce off the upright and out. Still, he hit from 50 yards, so it evens out.

Bryan Knowles: Tied for first place, at least. The Chargers would have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Las Vegas, and the conference -ecord tiebreaker over Denver. Tiebreakers don't matter all this early, I suppose, though it also lets you say the Chiefs will be firmly in last place.

Vince Verhei: Yes, I meant to say TIED for first place.

Vince Verhei: Kenyan Drake had a 31-yard touchdown catch earlier, and just added a 19-yard touchdown run. It's 24-7 early in the third. It's not over yet, but this has been an impressive showing for the Raiders, who had every reason to fall apart and instead came out with what looks like it's going to be their biggest win of the year.

Seattle Seahawks 20 at Pittsburgh Steelers 23

Carl Yedor: If Seattle is going to succeed tonight, they are going to need the team's skill players to help out Geno Smith in his first start replacing Russell Wilson. Seattle went three-and-out on its first drive, but they were a bit more capable of moving the ball on the second possession courtesy of a few nice plays by some role-players. On a third-and-long, Smith checked down to passing game back Travis Homer, who then subsequently made a few Steelers defenders miss en route to a 27-yard gain. On the following play, wide receiver Penny Hart came up with a nice toe-tapping catch on the sideline to move the chains again. Seattle's drive stalled out thereafter, keeping this a 0-0 game, but the Seahawks offense showed some surprising signs of life against a tough Pittsburgh defense.

Vince Verhei: So, to recap Seattle's first two drives:

  • Line up to snap the ball on third-and-4. Get interrupted by a dumbass fan running onto the field. Line up to snap the ball on third-and-4 again. Call timeout coming out of the stoppage. Throw a short completion to punt on fourth down. Good thing you called that timeout! Otherwise you would have been punting from a little farther back!
  • Third-and-5 at the Pittsburgh 38. That's no man's land, obvious go-for-it territory. Do they run to make the fourth-down attempt shorter? No, a pass, and it's incomplete. Then Pete Carroll cannot resist his fetish for punting in opponent territory. They intentionally take a delay of game to make their punt look slightly less cowardly. Michael Dickson's punt is excellent and should have been downed inside the 5, but incompetent coverage men grab the ball and take it into the end zone for the touchback.

I am not enjoying this first quarter.

Scott Spratt: You can sum up the Seahawks' first quarter by the fact that Cam Newton is trending on Twitter.

Bryan Knowles: I'm fairly sure that Najee Harris lined up against Benson Mayowa is a slight mismatch. Easy pitch-and-catch for the touchdown and the 7-0 lead.

Carl Yedor: I had been wondering how long it would take Pittsburgh to get a drive going against Seattle's leaky defense, and a poor punt by Michael Dickson gave them a prime opportunity with a short field. Najee Harris gets the score after motioning into a mismatch in the slot against Benson Mayowa. Seattle then punts again (better from Dickson this time), and Pittsburgh can really create some separation here with another score.

Bryan Knowles: Is Eric Ebron the most random person to have three rushing touchdowns in his career? He's gotta be on the shortlist: five rushes, -6 yards, and three touchdowns in his career.

There are a couple other players who have three rushing touchdowns on single-digit carries (Brian Dowling, a quarterback with the 1972 Patriots, and safety Nolan Cromwell, who did it with the Ray Malavasi Rams), but they both had at least seven carries and positive yards.

These are the things I think about during a pretty boring half of football.

Tom Gower: Not only that, but Ebron's three rushing touchdowns have been with three different teams! The Lions, the Colts, and now the Steelers.

We're at halftime. The Seahawks have officially run 21 offensive plays for 65 yards. Whatever the backup quarterback first-start bounce may be, we haven't seen it tonight. The Steelers offense looks no more effective than it has in the recent games I have seen (Ben Roethlsiberger has completed 18 of 23 passes but none of those have gained more than 12 yards, and the total is 119 yards), but the game feels much more lopsided than the 14-0 score.

Vince Verhei: Seattle came into tonight averaging a league-low 4.9 plays per drive. Tonight's drives, not counting the kneeldown: 3, 7, 3, 4, 3 plays.

Seattle's defense came into tonight allowing 6.7 yards per drive, more than all but two other teams. Tonight's drives for Pittsburgh: 3, 5, 6, 8, 14, 3 plays.

In other words, this is just like every other Seattle game this year, where the Seahawks either score right away or punt right away, then watch their opponent grind out one first down after another with no ability to stop them.

What we're going to see over the next month or so is just how rotten most of this roster is, and how they have been carried by a Hall of Fame quarterback for quite a while now, and without that Hall of Fame quarterback they have about a half-dozen plus players across the rest of the team. And one of those guys is a punter, who is having a bad game tonight.

Bryan Knowles: Well, the Seahawks offense woke up in the second half—or, perhaps more accurately, the Steelers defense went to sleep. I'm still trying to figure out how no one tackled Gerald Everett on his 41-yard reception; he should have been stopped immediately and the defense just sort of ... didn't tackle him. And before that it was Alex Collins, just running right up the middle over and over again, and the Steelers had no answer. All of a sudden, it's 17-14 Steelers, and we have a ballgame.

Vince Verhei: Travis Homer breaks out for a 26-yard gain on the last play of the third quarter, bringing their team total to 128 yards. Pretty surprised they gashed the Steelers so much—Pittsburgh's defense was much better against the pass than the run coming into the week.

Vince Verhei: A Roethlisberger soap-dish pass is replay-reviewed to a fumble and Seattle recovery in Pittsburgh territory. Seahawks have all that MOMENTUM! the announcers love to talk about, but a holding penalty moves them back, and a loss on a wide receiver screen moves them back more, and they end up not even getting a chance at a go-ahead field goal, and then the punt goes into the end zone for a touchback. Sigh.

Bryan Knowles: Well, of course the punt went into the end zone. Far too much MOMENTUM! behind it, naturally.

Tom Gower: The game just ended with the Chris Boswell field goal. It has been 54 minutes since I last got an Audibles email. I don't know if the rest of us are asleep, stupefied, or just at a loss as to what we should contribute to something that is meant to record what just happened. That, or something related to the Darrell Taylor injury situation. Best wishes to him for a speedy recovery, and I was glad to head the NBC broadcast report that he had movement in his extremities.

After not calling a run play in the second quarter, the Seahawks came out and ran the ball extremely well in the third quarter. They tied the game at 17 despite a vintage Geno Smith sack for double-digit yards. As noted, they started at the plus-35 and ended up punting. The Steelers got a go-ahead field goal. The Seahawks fumbled twice in the last 25 seconds of regulation and recovered both fumbles. The Seahawks tied the game and forced overtime. Geno Smith took another vintage sack for double-digit yards at a time where the Seahawks might have gone for it on ... yeah, I know, Pete Carroll, it's fourth-and-3, it's a punting down. The Seahawks got another snap. Geno Smith fumbled, and the Steelers kicked a field goal and made it to win. A bit like New England's offensive performance earlier today, which involved sustained moments of competence with long periods of inactivity, I don't know if this was a good(-ish?) game or a bad one that ended up competitive.


86 comments, Last at 19 Oct 2021, 4:44pm

#1 by big10freak // Oct 18, 2021 - 6:38am

—once David Bakhtiari returns even with Myers think GB puts Runyan at right guard with Lucas Patrick at center.  Newman has let free rushers in multiple games along with minimal push on run plays. 

—GB punter’s strong kick coupled with wind results in a punt that goes 60 odd yards then bounced some more into end zone for an 82 yard punt.  That makes the Packers dreadful coverage unit a non factor.  Good plan!


—Packer fans were screaming in 2020 that Dillon was a terrible pick   Watching that kid combine some juke ability with his obvious power don’t hear too much complaining now   Dillon and Iones complement one another perfectly in running styles with both able to catch the ball


—Kenny Clark playing half the time at end is a revelation   Kudos to Joe Barry assuming this was his idea   

—the secondary being a hodgepodge due to injuries is the likely reason Robinson is uncovered down the middle of the field but luckily the rush forced Fields To tuck and run

—Fields as he showed at OSU is one tough and strong player   Super hard to get down Good runner   Combination of “lookout” blocking by line, good coverage and Fields still learning results in more scrambles than anyone on the Bears want   Only minor concern is the terrible body language and expressions from Fields   Had a Jay Cutler vibe   

—the officiating was random   As in wildly random calls made clearly unrelated to what actually transpired   Packers offsides no call   Offensive pass interference that didn’t happen   Offensive holding on standard NFL blocking technique   Just a very weirdly handled games by refs


— pleased GB matched Chicago’s toughness   This Packers team is flawed   But it is definitely not soft   Good to see



Points: 0

#4 by big10freak // Oct 18, 2021 - 7:18am

Rodgers caught a pass and ran for a first down.  He caught a punt and ran FORWARD.  (to date sideways or backwards has been the approach).  If GB fixed his internal compass that could be a big help to the team.



Points: 0

#35 by dank067 // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:03pm

I'm still worried about the front 7 - they've played three of the worst offensive lines in the NFL over the last 3 weeks, and I think it's a little easier to look "tough" against clearly inferior competition. I won't be shocked if another team with a better offensive line tries to run them over like the Saints did, but hopefully the effort and energy level have improved since Week 1, even if they're bound to lose their share of reps.

Points: 0

#50 by Wifan6562 // Oct 18, 2021 - 1:32pm

I think you’re right that their recent success is overstated. However, I think their early lack of success was also overstated. They’ve been good (not great) at generating pressure throughout the year. They’ve been in close games so opposing offenses have run a fair amount but without huge success. A team like the Ravens would probably give them fits because of the front 7, but I’m not sure if there is another team that could “49ers” over their run defense in the playoffs.

Frankly, I’m much more concerned about the secondary than the front 7. That unit already wasn’t good before everyone got hurt - and they’re really just feeding off of stupid mistakes by the opposing quarterback. Fields really gave them some gifts in this game. That won’t happen against the top teams. 

Points: 0

#51 by big10freak // Oct 18, 2021 - 1:51pm

But I think folks might be working too hard in being objective.  Don’t be The Ringer podcast where the Packers are frauds and would get taken to the woodshed by Chicago.   Reminded me of way back when the Bears beat GB like 31-17 mostly because a nobody linebacker Dante Jones was gifted some turnovers with Tom Jackson solemnly folding his hands and telling viewers that Brett Favre could not be a starting quarterback in the NFL because he “didn’t know how to play the game”


GB has its flaws, absolutely.  But there is still top talent on offense, the o line is GB’s superpower, the defense seems to be well coached and improving  (wait, what?) and management is working hard to churn the roster to spackle the gaps while starters get healthy.  

But injuries have things teetering on the edge. If Clark misses any time that is almost certainly tue breaking point for the D.  

Points: 0

#73 by Wifan6562 // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:02pm

Ultimately I think that DVOA is accurate on the Packers. There are reasons to think that they will improve, but equally as many reasons to think they will regress in other areas to offset those gains. And considering they’re pretty “middle of the pack”, that’s a lot of things to go right for them to be a legitimate contender. 

And if Aaron Rodgers is reading this, please do some crazy stuff to prove me wrong. I would love that. 

Points: 0

#2 by Raiderjoe // Oct 18, 2021 - 6:48am

Cromwell's touchdowns alll  may have come on fake field gosls as Cromwell was placekick holder. Goood hands. Also wishbone waurtbeack in college for a spell afterr starting out as safety

Points: 0

#71 by Bryan Knowles // Oct 18, 2021 - 7:33pm

At least one of them came on a fake, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if all three did.  He was one of the best athletes in the league at that point in time.

Points: 0

#3 by BlueStarDude // Oct 18, 2021 - 7:05am

"everything's called back due to offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties—no explanation as to who committed the fouls, or what the fouls were, mind you"

That was SO frustrating. Incompetent broadcasting. There was also an unexplained unsportsmanlike penalty in the Dallas game, but at least in that case it was one of two Dallas penalties on the play so the difference didn't matter so much. The Rams/Giants penalties had a huge effect on the game, and—nothing, no even attempt to explain.

Points: 0

#28 by theTDC // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:09am

Actually not broadcasting. McVay after the game admitted that he had no idea why the calls were made. He even said that he couldn’t give his opinion on that, because it would result in a fine.

I’m just baffled that the officials didn’t take the time to explain to the head coach what the calls were for.

Points: 0

#5 by BlueStarDude // Oct 18, 2021 - 7:25am

According to Nance and Romo the Dak non-TD (before the fumble) couldn't be reviewed because "you can't see the ball" — lol, apparently Dak could have taken the snap, lost the ball somehow before he (like everything north of his calves for crying out loud!) clearly crossed the end zone, then magically regained it (without any kind of scrum) where he was found—more than halfway into the end zone. Good job, refs—thank goodness for those eyes in the (NY) sky.

Points: 0

#6 by Arson55 // Oct 18, 2021 - 7:53am

I'm a Cowboys fan so I can't even pretend to be unbiased. But Tanier in the Walkthrough Recap implied (heavily) that it was a clear touchdown, and he's an Eagles fan so it can't entierly be my bias. I spent the rest of that game incensed about the refs seemingly just ignoring a Cowboys TD. Up until the Diggs pick at least..the rollercoaster of the Diggs pick 6 followed by the whatever the hell it was that Kazee was doing on the next play mostly snapped me out of it. That Kazee...attempt at a pick?...was just terrible and soul-crushing. I might have expected something that ugly from a Cowboys safety before this year.

Points: 0

#9 by Pat // Oct 18, 2021 - 8:46am

I think part of the problem is that not only could you not see the ball, you also can't see Prescott's knees clearly, so it's not entirely clear if/when he was down. To be clear I think it's freaking obvious that Dak had to have scored there, it's just that I don't know how you write rules to make it clear other than say "use your freaking brain."

That's one of the problems with the idea that putting a chip in the ball will make a huge difference. It's rarely just the position of the ball that matters (this one might be an example where it is, that ball might cross while his knees are visible) - it's usually the position of the ball relative to something else happening, and you don't have tracking on those other things, either.

Points: 0

#10 by big10freak // Oct 18, 2021 - 8:49am

The chip in ball is MUCH harder than folks think due to the body/ball position being intertwined as you point out.  With current tech the backs/qb/receivers would have to be “wired up”.  And is that setup contact resistant?   

have spoke to people who have worked this challenge. It’s not easy 

Points: 0

#13 by Pat // Oct 18, 2021 - 9:41am

Yeah, I think the biggest problem is perceptional. Having a time-synchronized IMU with some other locator with centimeter-scale precision (which is already tough!) or something in a ball could certainly help if you were trying to figure out what most likely happened. But the refs don't like to work that way. When you're determining if a receiver went out of bounds, you look for green between their foot and the sideline paint. There's your indicator. When a player dives for the endzone, is the ball inside or outside the pylon? There's your indicator. The refs would want a perfect "ding" indicator for when the ball crosses the endzone line, and it's just not that easy.

In this play, I think it might've been, but plays like this are pretty rare. And I don't think it's even guaranteed in this case.

have spoke to people who have worked this challenge. It’s not easy 

Yeah, I know the engineering difficulties for something like this from first-hand experience. I think it's hard for people to understand that, believe it or not, the best way to get positioning information is still optical, by far. You want to know what the orientation/position of an object is, you take a picture of it with optical indicators. All other positioning systems suck in comparison. Drives me nuts when people just talk about "sticking a chip" in a ball - we're already measuring the game with some of the most advanced sensors on the planet, and those don't prevent controversy.

Points: 0

#70 by Wifan6562 // Oct 18, 2021 - 7:09pm

All of this is so true. 

Difficulties aside, this is a very solvable problem. If the NFL had any interest in solving this problem, it would already be done. We saw what happened after they implemented the PI reviews after the Saints debacle. There are so many examples of similarly obvious incorrect calls that they refused to overturn. They want to simply defend whatever decision the officials made, no matter how obviously incorrect, unless it’s truly 100% black and white to where they can’t use any argument to defend it. 

Admittedly, a conspiracy theory inbound from here on out:

I don’t think the NFL wants to fix this issue. The constant controversy surrounding officiating gives fans hope that their team is “just a couple unlucky calls away from winning”. I think the NFL sees a low level of officiating errors as an overall positive to their bottom  line. The goal is to have enough errors to give hope but not too many that people disengage - and I think we’re in that sweet spot. So I do think that they could fix it and I’m positive that they won’t. Maybe some day this formula will change as it gets more and more embarrassing that they aren’t using 21st century technology to improve officiating, but that seems far away. All it would take for MLB to do this for balls/strikes is to place a speaker behind home plate that said “ball” or “strike” upon getting signaled by whoever is broadcasting the game. If they aren’t compelled to do it, the NFL won’t be either. 

Points: 0

#72 by Will Allen // Oct 18, 2021 - 7:48pm

If a call is not "truly 100%  black and white" wrong, how can it be "obviously incorrect"? Does not "obviously incorrect" mean it was "truly 100% black and white", and vice versa?

Points: 0

#74 by Wifan6562 // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:16pm

Reference the Dak Prescott discussion from this thread. 
Or the vast majority of the PI challenges from 2019 that weren’t changed. Here’s one of the many articles on it with plenty of clips: https://www.sbnation.com/platform/amp/nfl/2019/11/19/20970010/nfl-pass-interference-replay-reviews-challenges-deandre-hopkins

All of these are obviously incorrect. None of these are 100% black and white because of the subjectivity inherent in the rule book. 

Points: 0

#82 by David // Oct 19, 2021 - 5:21am

I agree that the NFL don't want to change things about officiating particularly, but I strongly disagree about why.  I firmly believe the default position of the league is to back the officials.  Nobody, in any job, likes being second-guessed.  Being second-guessed by millions of people, based on tools to which you don't have access (in the moment), must suck.  If you keep picking apart the on-field officiating, people will stop doing it, and the sport stops.

Officiating may be good, bad or indifferent, but it must be respected by the players (and the coaches).  To do otherwise will make the sport impractical (in the long run).  That means some awkward situations of defending poor calls, but I think this is the league's general view.

It's certainly what I would do, were I in that position.  I would actually go further, and remove instant replay entirely - I personally believe it detracts from the sport, and I'm more interested in the game being interesting than 'correct'

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#83 by Wifan6562 // Oct 19, 2021 - 9:04am

Have you ever had a manager who was wrong and just wouldn’t admit it? I mean, video evidence level of obviously wrong? Did you respect s/he more or less because of that stubbornness? Assuming your answer is the same as mine, then why would refs be different? 

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#84 by Pat // Oct 19, 2021 - 10:34am


Difficulties aside, this is a very solvable problem. If the NFL had any interest in solving this problem, it would already be done.

Yeah, again, I don't agree that it's a "very" solvable problem. It's improvable, sure. Absolutely. But from a practical standpoint I don't think it's "solvable" - there are always going to be situations where the technology's just gonna be "yeah, no idea."

The difference between the problem in the NFL and MLB balls/strikes is no contest. The MLB problem is a high-school science project. Two good cameras and a fast computer and you're done to more precision than you would ever need.

The NFL problem is hard enough that there's no research-level stuff out there that would do it. On average, maybe, but I mean, here the ball's going into the world's biggest disaster of a multipath problem. I just don't think you'd ever be able to be confident the ball crossed with RF tracking. Maybe you could do it with dead-reckoning and an IMU, but then you've always got a chance to confuse the hell out of it by yanking it around.

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#20 by RickD // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:30am

I don't know how a chip in a football is supposed to tell us whether the knees are on the turf or not.

Really, visual evidence is the way to go here. Unless you want all the players on the field to be wired up like fencers.  But even then the technology would have to be able to endure all the physical abuse of a game of football. 

At some point fans have to understand that the system isn't going to be able to perfectly locate a football under a pile of bodies.

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#22 by Pat // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:39am

I think in this specific instance it's actually quite possible that a tracking chip would've said "yeah, it's across" when visual evidence would've shown his knees were clearly not down.

But really, this is a pretty unique instance - and the side judges should've called it a touchdown as soon as they realized Prescott hadn't been crumpled like a ball.

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#41 by PackerPete // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:38pm

How many chips would be needed on the ball? If the ball need only break the plane, a chip would be needed on each end of the ball. 

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#47 by DGL // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:48pm

In reply to by PackerPete

Since it counts if any part of the ball crosses the plane, you'd need chips on the entire surface of the ball (or more practically, immediately under the entire skin of the ball).

Which is another way of saying what others have, that optical sensing makes more sense (like goal line technology in soccer).

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#52 by LeedsViking // Oct 18, 2021 - 1:55pm

As long as the football is of a known shape and size - and since NFL balls are standardised and inflated to a set pressure (Patriots notwithstanding) then the ball's geometry is known. So as long as you have a chip at each end of the ball, that defined the long axis of the ball, and the position of the ball geometry in space can be calculated from that. Which means you can calculate where all the points on the balls surface are, and figure out if the surface has crossed the plane.

(The chips don't need to be at the tips - just symmetrically located on the long axis).

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#54 by Pat // Oct 18, 2021 - 2:17pm

and since NFL balls are standardised and inflated to a set pressure (Patriots notwithstanding) then the ball's geometry is known.

Well, no, obviously the ball deforms when held with pressure. But that's probably pretty small.

So as long as you have a chip at each end of the ball, that defined the long axis of the ball, and the position of the ball geometry in space can be calculated from that.

With 3D location of each point, theoretically, yes, but that wouldn't be a smart way to do it (and you *definitely* would want it at/near the tips, where the lever arm's maximized). Instead, you'd just want 1 location and orientation. Orientation is easy to measure precisely: you'd be better off with 1 locator + 1 orientation measurement. Trying to do it through the difference between 2 position measurements would likely be really bad (since the error ellipses of both of them are likely correlated).

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#63 by RickD // Oct 18, 2021 - 3:51pm

and since NFL balls are standardised and inflated to a set pressure (Patriots notwithstanding)

Pop quiz: what is the ideal gas law?



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#48 by Pat // Oct 18, 2021 - 1:10pm

In reply to by PackerPete

No, it's any part of the ball, not just the tips.

But assuming you're okay with the issue of the ball deforming under stress, a single point track plus something like a gyro/IMU/etc. to manage orientation would be enough. But all of this is still heavily simplified anyway. "Chips" don't detect locations - they do it either optically (which obviously wouldn't work here) or via RF  - which is not easy to get significantly better than centimeter-scale accuracy because, well, at GHz the RF physically is multiple centimeters, and in addition it's tough to prevent multipath issues. Or they dead-reckon the location via an IMU and an initial position fix, but that won't work due to drift.

There are a bunch of published papers on people trying to build ball-tracking systems, which typically end up with around tens-of-centimeter scale accuracy. Which might sound OK, but keep in mind 15 cm is half the length of the football.

When you're watching games on TV with those high-def zoom-ins, you've got way better precision than that. The best option, really, is probably a combination of some kind of an internal highly-reflective IR coating to track the ball visually when it's not crowded and an IMU internal to the football to do extrapolate beyond, but that'll obviously have uncertainty.

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#60 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Oct 18, 2021 - 3:38pm

Accurate to a couple centimeters is still way more accurate than we have right now On these sorts of plays. 



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#64 by Pat // Oct 18, 2021 - 3:57pm

I... don't agree?

Again it's not "couple" centimeters (as in 2-3) it's something like 10-15 cm, or about half the length of the football. Even with Dak completely covered there I'd be able to locate the football to within +/-0.5 footballs.

I'm... actually kindof skeptical that you could get the RFID stuff accurate enough in that kind of a situation. That's a lot of bodies. And even an IMU-type situation might be sketchy with the forces the ball's undergoing. 

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#19 by RickD // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:26am

There was no visual angle that showed where the ball was.  There was no way a video review could have overturned the ruling on the field. The replay officials cannot just infer the location of the ball from "where they think it probably is".  

It doesn't matter if he has the ball in the end zone if he was brought down in the field of play.

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#7 by Q // Oct 18, 2021 - 8:08am

The Packers are a weird team, they do not blow teams out, they just slowly outplay them over the course of games. Under Lafleur, they usually win by like 3-10 or lose by 25+. 

They are also oddly overlooked despite going to 2 straight NFC Title Games and Lafleur being like 31-6 I think in the regular season so far. I don't think they are the NFC favorites, but their performance despite missing 3 possible All Pros (Alexander, Smith, Bahktiari) is very promising for the future if they can return.

I think they are highly dependent on matchups. They seemingly have had 0 chance against teams that are great vs the run, so TB is an auto loss if they meet them. That seems to be their only unwinnable NFC opponent for them.

***Allowing 15 straight Red Zone TDs to start the year has to be a record. That has to eventually regress to the mean.....

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#12 by ChrisLong // Oct 18, 2021 - 8:55am

Bahkitari coming back is going to make a huge difference for the offense. Means Jenkins can go back to G where he is best and Newman can go back to the bench. If the Packers can get back their Pro Bowl-caliber players in the secondary, this just might be their year.

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#15 by big10freak // Oct 18, 2021 - 9:45am

Just that observers think they know this team and figure the same limitations exist which means come playoff team the team will confront a team that exploit the issues.

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#30 by dank067 // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:43am

They really got rolling on offense and won plenty of blowouts last season. The explosive element in the passing game just hasn't been there to anywhere near the same extent so far this season and they're not scoring red zone touchdowns at a historic pace again. I guess the red zone part isn't too surprising, but it is a funny mirror issue of the fact that they have done nothing but allow touchdowns in the red zone on defense.

I think the offense can still pick up some steam from where they are right now. They don't have anyone who can replace MVS's pure speed - he will hopefully be back soon. And they haven't had the same "luck" with OL injuries so far this season in terms of finding guys they can just plug and play and move around. Obviously it hurts when your two best guys are the two who have missed the most time. They've definitely had issues protecting in spread and empty sets, so if they can shore things up on that front I think that should be helpful. And they will have to pick up the pace on offense, because the schedule gets a lot more difficult soon. Would be nice to see them win a 35-17 type of game against Washington next week heading into the mid-season stretch.

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#57 by Wifan6562 // Oct 18, 2021 - 2:36pm

I hate to say it, but great teams don’t consistently win close against weak opponents. The Steelers game was really the only blowout win (no, I’m not giving the Steelers credit for garbage time TDs that make the final score look closer).

I think it’s actually been a problem that they’re so balanced on offense - I imagine this may be an unpopular opinion. Jones is great but every time he runs, Rodgers doesn’t throw, which is a negative for overall efficiency even though Jones is better than just about everyone at his position. They’re also running a lot with a lead, and they’re predictable enough that they need 2-3 third down conversions to get a TD when leading in the second half. Those play calls are not giving them an opportunity to extend leads. This is a recipe to allow teams back in. Bad teams aren’t taking advantage, but this is not a good sign for their playoff chances in my opinion. If I’m correct on the play calling being a problem, then they could theoretically correct it and do well. I’m not taking that bet, but I want to be wrong. 

Edit: for clarity, the Packers called a pass on 62% of total plays this season, I’m advocating for 65-75% for a team led by Aaron Rodgers. That’s similar to Mahomes and Brady. 

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#59 by big10freak // Oct 18, 2021 - 3:18pm

And certainly not now with multiple good to really good players not on the field come game time.


But the team is gutting things out in the interim.  There is a chance the team gets much better as injured players return.  



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#66 by jheidelberg // Oct 18, 2021 - 4:10pm

Hell no!!  Not with me it isn't.  I'll go a step further.  The Chiefs got better with Edwards-Helaire injured.  Maybe they will use their 55% DVOA pass game more.  Edwards-Helaire in large part cost the Chiefs both the Ravens and Chargers games with lost fumbles.

Rodgers 31% pass DVOA vs -10.5 DVOA on run plays, Jones was a bad signing, too much cap space, too many runs.

I believe that the Cowboys would be better without Zeke Elliott (too much cap space, too many 9% DVOA runs vs 41% DVOA passes).

Russell Wilson, SEA 48% pass DVOA -2% run DVOA.

Kyler Murray, AZ 41% pass DVOA vs -8% run DVOA

Of course Tampa throws the most passes of them all with old man Brady at 52% DVOA instead of running -3% DVOA.

FO calls the Ravens three running backs the 2016 1st round fantasy picks.  I call them the three old geezers that don't fumble.  I never thought that losing the top 3 running backs would be a problem, and it is not.  Now the Ravens use more of their 37% pass DVOA than run the ball.  Who needs J K Dobbins and Gus Edwards when you have Lamar Jackson?

With QB's Mahomes, Rodgers, Prescott, Wilson, Murray, Brady and Jackson you can run out the clock with a lead by passing and QB runs (except Brady run must be QB sneak).  The only problem that teams with no run game have is that they will convert a lower percentage of 3rd and 4th and 1 or 2.  

If you have a great QB use him use him use him, Tampa has this figured out.

Running games help teams with bad offenses cover up their bad or rookie QB's (see JAX, NYJ, CHI).

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#68 by jheidelberg // Oct 18, 2021 - 5:13pm

You are correct I should never accuse the Jets of succeeding at anything.

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#77 by Wifan6562 // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:07pm

Yeah, I don’t understand why a good team would pay any running back. The Packers once rode Samkon Gado to almost 600 yards and 6 TDs in half of a season after losing all of their running backs. A good offensive line combined with rookie deals and/or league minimum RBs is enough to keep teams honest and allow you to throw the ball, which is what great offenses do. 
None of this is a slight on Jones who is a great RB. It’s more of an indication of how much more efficient passing is versus running. 

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#69 by DisplacedPackerFan // Oct 18, 2021 - 5:26pm

Yep I went way longer than I thought, so you get some headings to help readability for anyone who wants to wade in.

Play Calling and this group of receivers
The play calling is what keeps GB in games. GB has one receiver who can consistently create separation on his own without massive help from the scheme. That is Adams. Teams know this and tend to double and triple team him, he can still beat that because his feet are amazing, but most of the time when he is wide open it's because of how the plays have been called that let the scheme get him open. The rest of the time when he is barely open or still covered that is Rodgers accuracy and Adams great body positioning and solid hands.

MVS has great speed and is getting better at not getting thrown off but he is still very easy to misdirect. A good DB can neutralize the speed advantage most of the time so even he needs scheme help. The fact that he can't reliably get himself open is why Rodgers seems less accurate to him. Rodgers needs to spend a tick longer to verify before throwing. If he could create his own space like Nelson could his numbers would be even better (not on the level of Nelson because he doesn't have Nelsons body control but he could threaten 1000 yards a season instead of 600. Health of course is an issue this year.

Lazard I still have trouble figuring out. I've done a little review and I think we've heard less from him this because of the offensive line issues. The dude is 6'5'' 230lb range. He has been used like a TE, close to the line, chipping the end before releasing and stuff like that. It's not stuff you see a WR asked to do a lot, but he can do it. Even still I had issues figuring him in previous seasons when he was healthy. Sometimes he is great at getting himself open, other times he is just blanketed and I haven't really tried to figure out what the issue is. It's obvious with MVS that you can easily mess up his feet and he is bad at fighting off hands.

Tonyan has always been below average at creating space and after last year teams are paying more attention to him and he isn't sitting in space with no one within 3 yards of him anymore.

I haven't watched Cobb closely this year but part of what he had been losing before Green Bay let him go the first time was his amazing change of direction ability which allowed him to create separation. I don't think a few more years of general aging and football wear and tear has helped that. Also he is still learning the offense which is vastly different than McCarthy's. Amari Rodgers is a rookie in a new offense with a QB who has actually said "I don't have time to teach him the things he needs to know." So getting Rodgers trust even if he can do the job Cobb does significantly better will not be easy. Not saying Rodgers would be better but neither feels like they are integrated into the offense and I can't give a proper assessment of their weaknesses.

What about that offensive line?
So that comes back to just how important is the offensive line? For the explosive passing game on this team it's a pretty big deal. There are two either or type of things this offense, with this set of receivers, needs. It either needs time for someone who is NFL average or worse at creating separation to get open or for a scheme to allow someone to get open deep. Or it needs extra players running patterns to screw up coverage to allow someone to be open early and have space to do something after the catch for a big gain. If the line can do it's job without help both of those are easy to get. This line with the injuries can't. They give it a go and we get the first couple series against the Bears. So they change play calls to buy more time, they keep in extra protectors, they have to give something up for that, and the deep passing game is the easiest thing to give up, especially with MVS out with injury because you don't have him to help open things up so it's easier to key on Adams the only real threat in the deep game when scheme and/or time are limited.

So this play calling issue?
You need a short area attack (be that runs, screens, quick outs) to keep linebackers and safeties honest. Since the game is played with human beings and not robots, previous plays have an effect on future plays. Safeties do cheat a step closer to the line, linebackers do react more slowly to a TE releasing into the flat if he has been blocking on the last 5 plays. LaFleur calls games with this in mind and the offense has always been designed to be deliberate and take it's shots when they show up. Those shots can show up when a player wins a one on one match-up (which this team is not good at) or when the play call generates it. It's one of the slowest time per play offenses in the league and that is by design too, they want the players to get a good look at the defense, they use a lot of motion to help with those reads. They want Rodgers to be able to audible when needed. It does lead to more wasted time outs than I would like at times, but I generally get why.

Also a general note on this offense and passing/rushing splits. The 2019 version called passing plays about 63% of the time (a passing play basically being an actual attempt or a Rodgers rush since Rodgers doesn't get a lot of designed runs or even kneel downs). 2020 called passing plays about 58% of the time. 2021 is back up to around 62%. Which of those offenses scored more and had more blowout wins? Not a fair comparison I know. While the personnel is mostly the same the offensive line is not. It's also not doing the running game any favors this year either so it's not as effective at it's job and Rodgers has been throwing more to try and make up for it. Most of those extra throws are to the only reliable target, Adams. His target percentage is way up this year. I haven't added the last game but he was getting like 37% of all targets vs the 28% he got under LaFleur in the past 2 years (or the 28% he got under the last year of McCarthy).

What does all that summarize as?
Well this team isn't super talented on offense. They are talented at some of the right the positions, especially when healthy. But they have known flaws and clear talent gaps and I think coaching and a HoF QB are mostly covering them up. It's been a 10 win team talent wise that keeps winning 13. That isn't a fluke but they need mistakes or unsustainable levels of play from some players to beat the best. You can win a SB with that, but other teams don't have to fight it as much. It's also why good short area defenses can crush this team. The offense is designed to use that area to open everything else up. If that is all taken away (and it takes lot to do that, which TB has) it's hard to just switch to always attacking deep, especially with the lack of deep threat talent. Adams is good but he isn't particularly fast so double coverage works well to stop him deep a lot of the time. Of course he is so good he can beat short area double coverage still. That's part of why the team clawed back into the NFCCG despite playing against their kryptonite. They stuck with the plan and got some great play from players and managed to open things up again.

People talk about the Rams beings a Gods and Clods team. But look at this roster closely and they are a clear example too. They have 2 great offensive linemen in Bahktiari and Jenkins (both who have been hurt) and then a bunch of guys. That works fine when you can play the 2 great players they can help elevate the rest. But this year they haven't been able to and the patchwork has needed help from players who aren't linemen or changes to play calling to prevent a disaster. They have an amazing QB which helps a lot, probably more than anything else helps actually. They have one of the best WR in the game and then a bunch of guys. They don't have a receiving TE, even with what Tonyan did last year, that was healthy o-line letting the scheme do whatever it wanted. He's got excellent hands, but he has never worried a defensive coordinator beyond "don't lose sight of him". Last year the scheme could force players to lose sight of him or not be in position to cover him, it can't do it this year because of the state of the line and because only Adams need extra attention. Jones is an above average running back, but he really isn't anything special, he's top 10 talent wise probably, it's not an insult, but there are other running backs that if I could get them would do more in this offense. There are lesser backs that could do nearly as much, part of why I didn't like his contract. I love watching him play, but I think the money could have been better spent somewhere else.

A note on defense.
The defensive side of the ball has been getting even more talent added but is still thin. When healthy I think this is a top 10 secondary talent wise. When healthy I think this is an above average edge unit. Campbell alone has made ILB at least NFL average if not better and Jaylon Smith might elevate it more, or he might not juries still out.

But the defensive line. The line is Kenny Clark and hope. Though I admit some of that hope my be real this year, it's hard to tell because of how bad their opponents offensive lines have been recently.

So when healthy the talent, if the coach doesn't waste it, could be poking around a -7% DVOA hanging around 10th. Of course it's not healthy. I count King as CB 3 at this point, but we have been playing with CB2, 4, and 6 I think. We don't have Za'Darius. To be real though, most secondaries have no depth because safety and corner are both hard to play in the NFL and there just aren't enough people that can. I think every team that can actually defend the pass is screwed if they lose their top corner. Teams like Jax, KC, Seattle, Detroit don't really count because they are screwed even with their best players, in part because there just aren't enough to go around. TB might be an exception too but they play the pass by not letting the QB do anything in the short area and by pressuring him so that deep stuff is still harder.

I know you can't get numbers for this, but I think coaching is probably worth -5% to +5% DVOA on each side of the ball for a -10% to +10% overall. Maybe it's a wider range or maybe the floor is lower and a bad coach can drag talent down even farther but good coaching can only elevate you so much an asymmetrical application seems quite likely. Regardless I think this offense has been getting that +5% bump. I don't know about the defense yet. Part of me thinks I'm seeing some good coaching decisions there. Part of me thinks I'm just seeing decent talent winning against crap offensive talent. Yes that means I think a QB is worth more than a coach because they can have a larger effect, but even they can't save you if the rest of the talent is garbage.


Edit: Fixed a few typos, clarified a few statements.

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#78 by Wifan6562 // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:54pm

I appreciate the thorough analysis that you provided here! I agree with you that they’re doing a lot of things well in order to accommodate for talent gaps. And I think Lafleur is doing a very good job. I just think that the offense could be a little bit better by going from 60% called passes up to 65-70% called passes. I think that would still be enough runs to keep defenses honest, but would allow them more plays with that more efficient pass game. Furthermore, I think they focus too much on killing clock through running when up in the 4th quarter - which is allowing teams to mount comebacks too easily. They shouldn’t be relying on Jones or their defense to close out games - they should be relying on Rodgers. 

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#8 by Ben // Oct 18, 2021 - 8:27am

Even though there was only one comment on the Colts game, it pretty much covered everything. 

The Colts offense isn’t very efficient, but Wentz at least has a semblance of a deep ball. There were three long completions by the Colts this game. Even though the receivers had to slow down and wait for the ball giving the defense time to recover, at least the throws were made. I’m precious seasons Phillip Rivers couldn’t throw it that far and Jacoby Brissett wouldn’t throw it that far. 

While a bad pass rush can make a secondary look bad and a bad secondary can lead to no pass rush, I’m pretty confident at this point that the Colts have both no pass rush and a bad secondary. 

I can maybe see some small glimmers of hope for David Mills as the Texans QB. He’s not going to be Watson by any means, but he seemed pretty accurate and has good speed on his fastball. His two interceptions came on misreading an underneath linebacker coverage and using that fastball on a sideline go route instead of putting some air under it to get over the DB. Those are rookie mistakes that can be fixed. It’s hard to judge QB play against the Colts defense, but it looked like he could at least turn into a cromulent Kirk Cousins type starter (to damn with faint praise…)

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#80 by Bobman // Oct 19, 2021 - 1:53am

Maybe I am misinterpreting, but I thought they were very efficient. The stats read a bit like the Manning days:  half the opponent's offensive plays but more yardage and 28 more points on the same number of drives. Yards per play almost double.  No turnovers.  That's pretty efficient, no? (of course, I am comparing them to the Texans, so I suppose there's a curve.) 

Not sure how Wentz ended up 11/20 (not too efficient) when he started out like 7/9...  It's amazing what pass pro will do for a guy--the only other QB I can recall standing so upright and stiff legged like that to deliver the long ball is Brady (particularly the Campbell bomb).  I see those straight knees and get queasy.  (As a wrestling coach I tell the kids I never want to see their knees extended when standing.)  Underthrown balls are more likely to result in a DPI, so there's a very slight silver lining there.  

Remember, the OL is still a patchwork and missing an all pro guard, and the receiving corps is not all there, nor will it ever be, I suppose. (Exit Parris Campbell, enter Mike Strachan. The Colts go from a team of smallish "finesse" receivers ten years ago who would never get a guy over 6-1 to work out right, to a team with almost all guys over 6-3 now with Paschal, Pittman, and Strachan. And 5-10 Hilton to keep them grounded.)

The passing D is a definite concern, but again, in last week's game they were down three CBs and one S, IIRC, as well as their 1st round pass rusher.  I'm hoping that with a little health and weaker opponents, they'll edge closer to average on D and top 10-12 on O. Still no match for the Titans, unfortunately.

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#11 by JMM // Oct 18, 2021 - 8:52am

"...I'm still trying to figure out how no one tackled Gerald Everett on his 41-yard reception; he should have been stopped immediately and the defense just sort of ... didn't tackle him. ..."

At some point, it became fashionable for defenders to run into ball carriers headfirst, or more properly, shoulder first, without the inconvenience of trying to use their arms to grab the ball carrier. I once heard a defender say this avoided shoulder or arm injuries. This practice has been demonstrated by the Steelers secondary for some time. I hope is isn't coached and it is stopped.

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#45 by mansteel // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:43pm

I once tried to tackle this way as an undersized high-school-aged American playing rugby in England (where I lived at the time). Predictably, I bounced off the guy...errr, lad...who kept going, and as I was picking myself up one of my teammates/friends yelled at me, "It's not bloody pinball, Yank!" (and yes, the English do use the word "bloody" a lot--or at least did in the 1980s--it's not just a stereotype). I learned my lesson immediately...strange that you see so much of that tackling technique in the NFL. I assume it's taught in order to stop a ballcarrier in his tracks rather than let him drag you forward for a yard or two, but there's obviously a big downside.

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#14 by johonny // Oct 18, 2021 - 9:45am

I don't know how many times I have to watch the punt hit a Jags player in the finger? They showed it in super slow mo close up and it's clearly bent backward. Yet we all knew they were never going to overturn the play. That's pretty much how the NFL rolls these days. Refs save Tom Brady mid-play, but don't really give much effort in a game between two terrible teams playing not so good football. Miami is terrible. They also traded their 1st round pick next year so there's no sucking for a top 5 player. Eagle fans must be happy (if Eagles fans allow themselves that emotion). Miami is not an attractive team for an established coach, the front office clearly eats young coaches alive, and their scouting department has been a shambles for years. My guess is, they stay the course and suck.  

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#16 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Oct 18, 2021 - 9:58am

I've gotten really frustrated over the last couple years with how conservative BB has gotten. 10 years ago the Patriots were winning a lot of games by essentially stealing a possession at the end of the first half - get the ball back with a minute left, run hurry-up, and sneak in a field goal or touchdown against a tired defense whose coach isn't paying enough attention. 

For the last 5 years or so, the amount of time he's willing to kneel out seems to be getting longer - and even with Brady in the last couple of years he was regularly kneeling out close to 2 minutes. 

The Patriots got the ball with 1:30 left in the first half - and they kneeled it out. Did that cost them the game? Maybe, maybe not - but its a major tactical blunder in games like this. And punting at midfield on 4th and 3 to a team you'd given up 500 yards of offense to, in do-or-die overtime?

Harris's 18-101 looks great on paper - but I think the success rate is going to end up much lower than people expect. The whole middle of the game was marked by drives petering out after short runs into stacked lines. I get trying to protect Mac Jones, but frankly, when you hit the 4th quarter and your QB is 10/11 for 150 yards, and you're losing, that's a problematic gameplan.

We saw similar shit with the patriots back in '08 - where about game 6 they stopped trying to hide Cassel and the offense got much better pretty much instantaneously. BB was a much more aggressive coach at that point though - so I'm worried we're gonna see these super conservative non-productive gameplans most of the season.

Points: 0

#24 by RickD // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:45am

BB doesn't do the play calling at all.  Most of your criticisms would be more aptly aimed at Josh McDaniels.  The exception is the curious decision to burn the last 90 seconds of the first half without trying anything is on BB.  Clearly that shows a lack of confidence in the offense.  He'd never have done that during the best years of the Brady offense.  

I think the running offense was fine, and the passing offense was OK, with the exception of Agholor's drop, Mac's pick, and the terrible failure of the officials spotting the ball on Meyers' apparent first down. The offense will continue to improve.

The defense just isn't good at all. And I don't have confidence in that coaching staff.  I fear Bill might have a blind spot when it comes to his son.  His respect for Matt Patricia continues to confuse everybody.  I would put Jerod Mayo in charge of the D.  Couldn't get worse! 

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#43 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:40pm

I didn't say anything about BB calling plays. 

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#62 by RickD // Oct 18, 2021 - 3:48pm

complaining about the Pats being "too conservative" are talking about play calling.

But...this isn't about play calling?

"We saw similar shit with the patriots back in '08 - where about game 6 they stopped trying to hide Cassel and the offense got much better pretty much instantaneously."

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#56 by mrchainsaw81 // Oct 18, 2021 - 2:34pm

You don't get forward progress when not being contacted by a defender - in this case the ball is spotted exactly where it is when the receiver is first touched by the defender - a yard short of the first down marker. One of the few good calls in a game full of bad ones.

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#25 by joe football // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:47am

I mean we know that they lost so might as well have done something different in retrospect, but they had a fumble lost and pick 6 in like 20 something dropbacks so it's hard to say some wariness about slinging it wasn't warranted

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#42 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:39pm



They also produced twice as many yards on those dropbacks as they did running the ball.  And the Patriots rushing offense has been coughing up the ball an awful lot this season. 



Gotta take risks when you're not the best team on the field. 


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#17 by peterplaysbass // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:01am

Michael Strahan was ranting for 20 seconds about a quarterback failing to live up to expectations with good supporting talent and how it might be time for a change, and I couldn't figure out if he was talking about Sam Darnold or Kirk Cousins.

Pretty sure he was talking about Eli Manning

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#18 by mehllageman56 // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:23am

As a Jets fan, that late Geno Smith fumble saddened me.  Nothing seems to go right for that guy.  I'm happy that the Jets pick is looking better and better, but still would prefer if Smith did well.

So I went back to playing my NCAA 11 game with the Geno Smith I created and recruited to West Virginia, and beat Mississippi State 133-0, with his 9 total touchdowns (and a 60 yard run).  I look forward to beating Alabama and Tom Brady in the SEC championship game.

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#32 by Jetspete // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:45am

this will be the second time in his career Geno helps us get a top ten pick 

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#21 by RickD // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:37am

Agree with Aaron about the Pats' lack of pass rush.  When they used a four-man rush, Dak had 8+ seconds to wait for receivers to get open. When they brought extra guys (which was the pattern in the late game), the coverage simply couldn't keep the Cowboys' receivers covered very long.  

I don't know what the solution needs: better pass rushers or better coverage.  Probably some of both.  Losing Gilmore is a big blow to the secondary. Judon has been terrific this season, and Wise was pretty good yesterday at drawing penalties on the Cowboys.  But they really need more from a four-man rush.  

I've probably gotten spoiled watching the local (WFT) team.  Their problem isn't the rush so much as the coverage.  

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#23 by Will Allen // Oct 18, 2021 - 10:44am

Watching passing attacks that are ineffectual until deep into a game makes me wonder if anybody has tried to find a true correlation between snap counts of pass rushers and  opposition passing success. Do teams with deeper pass rush rotations benefit more in the last 5 minutes of a game, than they do in the first 55 minutes? 


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#26 by mehllageman56 // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:02am

Given Buffalo's defensive success this year, I would say yes, except that the turning point is probably earlier on, maybe the beginning of the fourth quarter.

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#27 by Will Allen // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:07am

I'd be kind of surprised if nobody has tried to collect the data yet, 30+ years after Bill Walsh was informing sportswriters that the 4th quarter pass rush was the the most important element to winning NFL games.

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#29 by mehllageman56 // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:20am

Oh, I'm sure someone in the NFL has that data... at least in Buffalo.

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#33 by big10freak // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:53am

Dom Capers would speak of the need to have depth of pass rushers for that very reason.  That rushing required a combination of burst and strength that he thought more taxing than run defense (not that GB did much run defense at the end of his tenure)

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#37 by Will Allen // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:12pm

In reply to by big10freak

Not convinced it made a difference for the Vikings yesterday, but I think it has overall this season. Hunter is on track for 17 sacks, and Griffen (who I knew would still be productive) is on pace for 12, so they are both having good years. However, they both, I think were on the field for every defensive snap, which ain't great, especially for a guy in his 30s, like Griffen. Didn't the Packers burn out Peppers like that a couple of times?

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#38 by big10freak // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:17pm

Peppers snaps were closely monitored until December when his role was expanded.  But this was done in collaboration with the player as Julius was adamant about being on the field more often.

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#44 by Will Allen // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:41pm

I try not to 2nd guess depth chart or snap count decisions, because if you don't see guys practice, you're just too ignorant to have a confident opinion, but a pass rusher being on the field  for nearly every snapp is not great, and Zimmer knows it. He's not been reluctant to rotate when he's been confident in his depth. They really need a young guy to step up, pretty quickly.

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#46 by Pat // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:44pm

Yes, off topic, but:

Hunter is on track for 17 sacks,

...and yet he'll still be completely ignored by 90% of the NFL media. I really feel bad for Hunter. I've seen him listed as the 10th best edge rusher. 10th! Are people freaking blind? Like, I'm high on Chase Young too, but, c'mon, putting him above Hunter is wacko.

What the heck is it with people ignoring Minnesota defensive linemen?

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#49 by Will Allen // Oct 18, 2021 - 1:11pm

The team has had 4 defensive linemen from the past 55 years of play inducted into the HOF, so some guys have been recognized, and Allen is almost a certainty at some point. But you're right; Williams was arguably more valuable than Allen, and Hunter's lack of recognition is bizarre.

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#31 by Jetspete // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:44am

can anyone explain what happened to the Redskins defense? this was supposed to be a superior unit, and it is arguably the most disappointing unit in the league vs expectations.

also, I'm not sure who's calling plays but I'm not sure I've seen worse designed screen passes than what WFT was running in the second half yesterday.  

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#34 by DraftMan // Oct 18, 2021 - 11:59am

The last time anyone saw the "Redskins defense" on the field, they were getting blown out in Dallas 47-16 in the 2019 season finale. Only giving up 31 points is downright respectable by that standard.

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#40 by AFCNFCBowl // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:33pm

The secondary and linebackers are dreadful and are constantly letting guys run wide open down the field.

The pass rush has actually been solid (not as good as last season but still top 10 in pressure) but when receivers are so open it doesn't matter.

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#53 by apk3000 // Oct 18, 2021 - 2:06pm

Personally, I've never really felt the Skins' defense was very good. The secondary always seemed to be living on the edge relying on drops and bad throws instead of actual good defense. Never really thought they could make a stop when they need it.

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#61 by RickD // Oct 18, 2021 - 3:46pm

Basically the secondary is terrible.




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#36 by mrh // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:09pm

Darrell Williams, not Damien, had 2 TDs for KC yesterday.

Re "something called a 'Jody Fortson'".  So obscure that his PFR entry is under "Joe" Fortson.  Undrafted big (6'3" 230 Lb) WR out of Valdosta St, hung around on the Chiefs practice squad for 2019-2020.  Rumored in KC press to always be making a splash play in practice or preseason.  Told to bulk up and convert to TE, which he did and made the 53-man squad this year.  Apparently was a big deal with lots of coaches and players congratulating him on making the team at last.  A feel-good story of hard work and perseverance, played sparingly (54 offensive plus 55 ST snaps) as the TE3 or TE4 in the first five games, catching all 4 of his targets for 20 total yards and 2 TDs.  Yesterday he made a spectacular leaping 27-yard catch on the opening drive.  On his 10th snap of the day, coming off the LOS, he went straight to the ground.  Ruptured Achilles, done for the year, and given his marginal status, possibly for his career.  Very sad ending if so.

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#39 by Will Allen // Oct 18, 2021 - 12:30pm

There is reason to think that when guys with smaller builds (by NFL standards) quicky add muscle mass, they significantly increase their chance of catastrophic tendon and ligament injury. I suspect it played a role in Bridgewater's knee explosion. Once again, the worst part of football is the injuries.

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#55 by mrh // Oct 18, 2021 - 2:17pm

Yeah, my wife and I were talking about that muscle vs. tendon/ligament issue right after Fortson got hurt

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#58 by barf // Oct 18, 2021 - 2:51pm

Came here to talk about both of these items. Thanks!

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#79 by luvrhino // Oct 19, 2021 - 1:03am

"Brian Dowling, a quarterback with the 1972 Patriots..."

Brian Dowling isn't just an obscure quarterback.  He's best known as being the inspiration and the namesake of the Doonesbury character B.D.  He was a classmate of Garry Trudeau's while they were at Yale.

Dowling was also Yale's QB during the famous Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 game.

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#85 by mrh // Oct 19, 2021 - 12:28pm

Thanks for posting this, I meant to do it but got all Jody Fortson and forgot.

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#86 by luvrhino // Oct 19, 2021 - 4:44pm

I read Audibles so late that I was surprised no one had yet to mention the Doonesbury link in the comments. 

Audibles was the only time I recall seeing Dowling's name without Doonesbury being mentioned, though it's reasonable that the Audibles crew missed it given the context in which his name came up as part of a quirky stat.

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