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09 Nov 2015

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails 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 turn into (if they can).

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

While these e-mails 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 Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors 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.

Green Bay Packers 29 at Carolina Panthers 37

Vince Verhei: If I'm an NFC North general manager, I'm getting a mobile quarterback just for playing against Green Bay. It's been years now, and it seems like they're never prepared for the possibility that a quarterback might tuck the ball down and run. Cam Newton had a pair of big scrambles on the Panthers' opening drive to set up a field goal.

On offense, Packers aren't asking anyone to win one-on-one matchups early. Most of the running is off misdirection, with motion to one side and the runner going the other. Most of the passing is off play-action and/or Aaron Rodgers rolling out. The one time they were in a third-and-long situation, Rodgers was besieged by multiple rushers, and though he made a brilliant play to avoid one or two, he couldn't avoid three or four.

Andrew Healy: Devin Funchess gets more than half of his previous season yardage on a 52-yard post where Cam Newton looked left and then made a great decision and an incredible throw of which only a couple of guys are even capable. He sometimes throws off his back foot with all arm when it's not necessary. Here, the pocket was not entirely clean in front of him. All arm, 52 yards downfield, right on the money. Great catch by Funchess, too, with the defender all over him.

After an Eddie Lacy fumble, a very strange first-down call by the Panthers. Joe Webb comes in to run the Wildcat. Loss of 1 and the Panthers end up missing a field goal after two incomplete passes.

More love for Cam Newton coming. Green Bay blitzes on third-and-7 from the 39. Beautiful deep ball to Corey Brown. That play is about the injuries in the Packers' secondary. Undrafted rookie Demetri Goodson was in coverage there, and left wide open exactly the throw that Newton likes to make in any spot, but particularly in that spot.

The Packers were driving to score the touchdown that might have tied the game at the two-minute warning after coming back from 37-14 down to make it 37-29. On fourth-and-goal, the play seemed designed to go to Randall Cobb on a rub to the right flat. Cobb appeared to come wide open, but Rodgers didn't go there. Instead, he ended up throwing in desperation and I'm not sure who the target was. Looked like that one should have worked.

Washington Redskins 10 at New England Patriots 27

Aaron Schatz: We thought that Washington might pull out all the stops with David strategy to try to beat the Goliath Patriots today. Instead, it's the Patriots who use a surprise onside kick after their first touchdown -- and recover. I don't recall the Patriots ever using the surprise onside kick strategy before.

Halftime report from Washington-New England:

Most of this game has felt about as one-sided as you would have expected from the 14-point line. Patriots' offense essentially moved the ball at will. It seemed like receivers were open on pretty much every pass play, and the running backs couldn't be tackled. The only problem came with two turnovers in the first half. Julian Edelman fumbled after a catch that would have converted third down, and then the really unexpected one -- Tom Brady threw his first non-tipped interception of the year, in the red zone on third-and-8. Misread coverage and threw the ball right to linebacker Keenan Robinson.

Washington finally got things going on its final drive of the first half. 16 plays, 75 yards, 7:43 off the clock. Ended with a field goal. There was some good play design, like a package play with trips left that gave Kirk Cousins the option to either throw a screen to Jamison Crowder or hand off to Matt Jones. Pats were all over the screen, but left a wide open right side to hand to Jones for 10 yards. Jones has had steady gains throughout this drive. Alfred Morris is apparently around here somewhere but Jones is getting the majority of the playing time and looks good.

Pats screw up time management when Washington gets to first-and-goal from the 9. They tackle Jones for a 2-yard loss on first down but don't call timeout. As a result, they get ball back after field goal with 13 seconds and two timeouts instead of about 50 seconds and one timeout. 17-3 at halftime.

Spoke to Matt Chatham at halftime, he had a good reason why Pats might not have called timeout to get ball back at end of first half. Sebastian Vollmer has been announced as "questionable to return" with a head injury and they may have wanted to take halftime to figure out how they're going to handle the offensive tackle situation for the rest of the game.

Pats start second half with Cameron Fleming at left tackle, and Bryan Stork -- last year's center, just off IR -- at right tackle.

Injuries get worse for the Patriots in the third quarter, as Dion Lewis makes a couple guys miss on a screen pass and then goes down with a knee injury. We'll have to see what the report is after the game but he did manage to walk off the field without help. At that point, the Patriots seemed to go into a very unfamiliar mode: "run out the clock, let's get out of here without anyone else getting hurt" mode. Of course, even that strategy is gaining big chunks of yards because a) Washington's tackling is awful, especially when LeGarrette Blount is powering over defenders, and b) if you are using a right tackle as left tackle, a center as right tackle, and an undrafted rookie at center, there's probably going to be better run blocking than pass blocking.

In my earlier comments, I forgot to mention all the drops by the Washington receivers -- something like four just on Washington's first two drives, including Kirk Cousins' first pass which bounced off Pierre Garcon's chest, way up into the air, and was caught by Logan Ryan on the tip drill for a pick. Anyway, the drops came back to hurt Washington some more in the third quarter. The receivers are really not doing Kirk Cousins any favors. Both running backs are averaging just 2.5 yards per carry although Jones now has 11 carries to Morris' four. Jones looks like he's making more guys miss, although sometimes it is in the backfield. Patriots' run defense has been much improved, in part because of the arrival of Akiem Hicks from New Orleans a couple weeks ago.

Tennessee Titans 34 at New Orleans Saints 28 OT

Andrew Potter: Tennessee just scored on one of those plays that make me rage-quit Madden because they're too unrealistic. Marcus Mariota, with four free Saints rushing at him, throws a terrible ball up for grabs into double coverage. Either of Jairus Byrd and Keenan Lewis should intercept it, but instead they knock it up in the air and it falls into Delanie Walker's hands with neither of the defensive backs now in position to tackle him. 20-odd yards later, Walker has a 59-yard receiving touchdown. Your Saints defense, ladies and gentlemen.

Andrew Healy: What a terrible decision and throw that was by Mariota. Felt like a punt.

Mariota completes another pass to Delanie Walker that was deflected and gets the Titans close to the goal line. This one a less crazy single deflection. It leads to an easy touchdown to Walker on the next play.

Tom Gower: A couple things we expected to see from this game: something different from the Titans offense with Ken Whisenhunt, and some Saints offensive success against a Titans secondary down a couple cornerbacks. Drew Brees has 232 yards passing at the half and has picked on about every Titans defensive back. He found Brandin Cooks over Perrish Cox, who has appeared to be limping at times after a hamstring injury had him listed as probable to play. But Coty Sensabaugh had a nice breakup on one third down (flag picked up with no explanation, thanks Jerome Boger) and Brian Orakpo made a play on C.J. Spiller in space on another third down, plus a fumbled punt. Still, 21 points on five drives.

For the Titans, they've gotten some good fortune. Andrew mentioned Delanie Walker's long touchdown that two Saints defenders had an opportunity to intercept. The Saints brought a blitz, and with a defensive back bearing down on him Mariota back-footed one. I think Walker was supposed to run a corner route, but stopped to try to locate the ball, thus two Saints and no him in the area. The second touchdown included a ball tipped by an underneath zone defender that still made its way to Walker.

But beyond the luck, we have seen the offense look the best it has since at least the Colts game in Week 3. They've gone away from 11 personnel (eight snaps in the first half, six in the two-minute drill), Mariota hasn't taken any big hits (the Walker touchdown, he got the ball out and the defensive back pulled up to avoid the personal foul), and they've just looked, well, proficient. Antonio Andrews has had some holes and taken advantage of them, and they've actually let him try to do that at times. I wasn't really enjoying watching Titans games of late, but this one is entertaining me through 30 minutes.

Andrew Healy: Under three minutes left at 28-28, Brandon Browner commits what I think is his 16th penalty of the season now, maybe six more than anyone else. This time, it's interference on Delanie Walker where it looked like he maybe could have just made a play on the ball. That gives the ball to the Titans on the Saints' 31-yard line. A killer holding call pushed the Titans back to the 41, then two runs from second-and-19 lead to a 55-yard field goal attempt. Mike Mularkey pulled a Fisher in playing for the very long field goal attempt. Ryan Succop hits the crossbar and the Saints are now in position to kick their own winning field goal. Really would have liked to have seen the Titans give Mariota a chance there rather than settling for those runs.

Tom Gower: I guess I should say something about what happened in the second half. Saints were stopped on a third-and-1 run, Drew Brees threw a pick in the end zone, they scored a touchdown the next drive, and holding penalty and a sack got them the next drive, and their final shot ended in a field goal attempt.

Around the middle of the third quarter, the run game stopped working for the Titans. The final 12 carries of the game gained 28 yards, 15 of those on a single run. But play-action still worked, and Marcus Mariota was crisp and efficient in the short to intermediate area. The Saints were still DVOA's 32nd-ranked defense, including against the pass. Between those, it was 28-28 and the Titans had the ball on the edge of field goal range. A hold negated their first decent run in a quarter and pushed them back, so that series went run-run-run-run before Ryan Succop was sent to try from 55 yards. He hit the crossbar. That meant the Saints, with no timeouts (Sean Payton had used his in that sequence), were at the 45 in a tie game with two minutes to play. They made it to field goal range, got sacked, got back into field goal range, and the 46-yard attempt was deflected.

The Titans won the toss, and found the end zone. Most of the drive was Mariota and the Saints pass defense, including an amusing play where veteran blocking tight end Craig Stevens fell down after a 6-yard reception. No Saints defender touched him when he was on the ground (the linebacker, I believe, jumped the pass), and he got 18 yards after the catch. A few plays later, Mariota rolled right, Anthony Fasano leaked out to the left, and there were no Saints defenders to screw things up.

Takeaways: protection was a priority. Mariota was not sacked at all, and only hit twice, one of those on a hit that drew a roughing the passer penalty. The tight end-heavy personnel groupings continued in the second half. By my count, the Titans were in 12 personnel 31 times and 11 personnel 14 times, and those numbers would be even more lopsided without hurry-up situations. The Saints defense stinks. Drew Brees is still good; if my emails reflect that it felt like the Saints offense was more successful than the score indicated (and they scored 28 points with Brees throwing for almost 400 yards), they're right. DVOA will probably love him since Tennessee was fifth in pass defense heading in. Like Brees, Mariota was 28-of-39 and scored four touchdowns (one of Brees' came on the ground). The kid really has a chance to be a good quarterback, which is about all you can ask for and say at this stage of the game. Oh, and I mentioned this on Twitter, but this non-divisional win means it is no longer possible for the AFC South to be won with a 4-12 mark. Woohoo!

Miami Dolphins 17 at Buffalo Bills 33

Andrew Healy: Love the decision by Dan Campbell to go for the touchdown from the 1-yard line with two seconds left in the first half, trailing 19-7. Don't love the play call. It looked to me like the call was a Lamar Miller run to the right with the Bills overloading the offensive left. Instead, they end up with a slant to Dion Sims that Stephon Gilmore breaks up. Not exactly the ideal matchup for Miami.

Aaron Schatz: While I love Campbell's decision to go for the touchdown, I don't know why they never used their last timeout of the half. Lamar Miller caught a pass on first-and-goal with 29 seconds left and was tackled in bounds. Instead of calling the third timeout so they could get two or three pass plays to the end zone, Miami let the clock run all the way down to five seconds left before the next play. That was DPI in the end zone, which set up the decision to go for it on first-and-goal from the 1 with two seconds left. But they could have had more chances.

St Louis Rams 18 at Minnesota Vikings 21 OT

Andrew Healy: Really interesting decision to try the two-point conversion by Jeff Fisher when the Rams score a late first-quarter touchdown to make the score 10-6. The Todd Gurley run is unsuccessful, but I like the decision when you have Gurley and when they're behind. It's early but this should be a low-scoring game.

Jeff Fisher was probably thrilled that he got the chance to attempt a 61-yard field goal. It was fourth-and-13, so it was not a crazy decision. And Greg the Leg even made the kick.

Caught one almost unbelievably poor throw from Teddy Bridgewater with Mike Wallace all alone over the middle.

Aaron Schatz: The problem with having an offense based entirely around the run is that if you have to come back in the final minute without timeouts, you're sort of screwed. You know, unless, the other team hands you field position with a mediocre punt and a DPI flag. The Rams got the ball on their own 39 with 1:14 left and no timeouts and got a couple of midrange completions against zones plus a 17-yard DPI penalty on rookie Vikings corner Trae Waynes. That was enough to get them into field goal range even though they couldn't hand off to Gurley. Greg Zuerlein 53-yard field goal sends it to overtime.

Their previous drive was made up of seven runs: four by Gurley for 37 yards, one by Mason for no gain, and two 1-yard losses by Tavon Austin. That set up Zuerlein for a 48-yard try but the wind blew that one wide. It's really a one-man offense right now.

The other problem with an offense built entirely on the run: if the blocking gives way on first down and you end up in second-and-long, you're screwed. Gurley loses 6 on the first play after the overtime kickoff. Rams go three-and-out. Marcus Sherels gets a long punt return and puts the Vikings on their own 49. That's pretty close to field goal range. Adrian Peterson mostly does it with runs. Vikings win. Now we'll see how much time Teddy Bridgewater will miss after the Rams' Lamarcus Joyner hit him in the head on a tackle while Bridgewater was sliding at the end of a fourth-quarter scramble.

Scott Kacsmar: I saw people bashing Mike Zimmer for "taking the wind," but it was a great game to kick off in overtime. Yeah, Todd Gurley is something else, but you're not afraid of Nick Foles leading a long touchdown drive there. And you're not too confident in your offense with Teddy Bridgewater out to do the same so why not kick off, play good defense, and only need a field goal?

Oakland Raiders 35 at Pittsburgh Steelers 38

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers are on pace for nearly 800 yards. Converted a two-point try for the fourth time this year to take an 11-7 lead. Dropped three passes on the opening drive, but have looked very capable of moving the ball in this one. Antonio Brown already has an incredible toe-tapper on the sideline, adjusted to a bomb, and broke a tackle on third down to convert in the red zone. Just making plays everywhere and DeAngelo Williams looks very solid in place of Le'veon Bell.

Raiders had a quick opening-drive touchdown of their own, but Derek Carr has been off on a few throws since. Michael Crabtree made great catches on two passes, but the passes led him out of bounds. The shootout still looks very possible here, but there have been a few good passes defensed in the secondary by both teams.

Vince Verhei: Early on, Carr was asking Crabtree to make a lot of toe-tapping grabs on the sideline. One was complete, but two were caught out of bounds to set up a punt. I know we have never tracked passes like that that are caught, but have we ever done a leaderboard for passes that were incomplete but caught out of bounds? Are there quarterbacks or receivers who tend to get a lot of those over the course of the year?

Scott Kacsmar: I believe "caught OOB" or "receiver OOB" is in the charting as a type of incompletion. Only a few of those last year from what I remember.

Andrew Healy: Can we make a rule not to do two consecutive measurements when the spot ends up in almost exactly the same place as the previous play?

Scott Kacsmar: Tough start for Amari Cooper, but it's not hard to catch a touchdown when no one covers you in the end zone. To call that blown coverage would be putting it lightly. Coverage hasn't all been terrible on Antonio Brown, but he is dominating this game with 180 receiving yards at halftime. You usually see a guy go quiet in the second half when that happens, but I'm not sure Oakland has an answer today for Brown.

We almost went a full half without a penalty, but Taylor Mays interfered in the final minute with Heath Miller.

DeAngelo Williams has two touchdowns and looks good, but my favorite play of the half was this block he put on Aldon Smith.

Steelers nearly had a touchdown on a fumble recovery, but former Raider Mike Mitchell only re-established one foot in bounds before he recovered the ball. Oakland's punt was partially blocked, but the Steelers had a quick three-and-out with Darrius Heyward-Bey getting the only target on the drive. The old Raiders helping out the new Raiders. Another busted coverage from Pittsburgh's defense led to a game-tying touchdown drive. It's troubling when you're seeing linebackers as some of the closest defenders on these plays.

Martavis Bryant is not playing well right now. He dropped a 50-yard bomb that could have possibly gone for a touchdown. On the very next play, Roethlisberger floated one to Brown that was intercepted, but Latavius Murray fumbled the ball back to the Steelers. He was still down after the play as the game went to commercial. The Steelers can't cover very well, but they have some defensive backs capable of stripping the ball this year.

Aaron Schatz: Bryant may not have been playing well most of the game but he had a great play on a wide receiver screen that gives Pittsburgh a 28-21 lead. Had one blocker, rookie tight end Jesse James (who was split wide), and looked dead to rights with three defenders around him, but made two Raiders miss on the way to the end zone for a 14-yard score.

Scott Kacsmar: Unbelievable stuff in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger gets carted off after injuring his foot on an Aldon Smith sack. Brown fumbles a punt and the Raiders are back in business. Steelers are practically watching their season slip away here.

New York Giants 32 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18

Rob Weintraub: Tremendous job by Jameis Winston to fly into the end zone on the scramble to get the Bucs within two. But then he airmailed the conversion try and his receiver could not make a spectacular grab. Bucs trail 20-18 with nine minutes left.

Atlanta Falcons 16 at San Francisco 49ers 17

Vince Verhei: I don't think, when the 49ers promoted Blaine Gabbert ahead of Colin Kaepernick, they were looking to get more rushing yards from the quarterback position, but so far Gabbert has done more with his legs than with his arm. Following two three-and-outs, the 49ers get a 12-play, 82-yard touchdown drive that included one Gabbert scramble for 10 yards on first-and-10, and another for 9 yards on second-and-goal from the 10. That set up Gabbert's play-action 1-yard touchdown to Garrett Celek. Big play of the drive was a 41-yard completion to Quinton Patton, who caught the ball on a shallow cross from left to right, then reversed course and went all the way back down the other sideline for 30-some yards of YAC. Kendall Gaskins also converted a fourth-and-1 run on the drive. With Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush sidelined, it's Gaskins, Shaun Draughn, and Pierre Thomas running for San Francisco today.

49ers add a field goal to go up 10-6. Forgot to mention that Anquan Boldin is out today too, so Atlanta really is losing to San Francisco's second string. Not surprisingly, 49ers are using a very conservative game plan. I don't think Gabbert has completed a pass more than 7 or 8 yards downfield. Falcons, though, are playing just as conservatively on defense, rushing three or four and dropping back into deep zones. I'd be bringing plenty of pressure and forcing Gabbert into mistakes, because, you know, he's Blaine Gabbert.

Welp. Gabbert hits Celek for another touchdown, and the 49ers now lead 17-6. That's more points today than San Francisco has scored in four of their last six games, and it's not even halftime yet.

Atlanta needs only three plays to get back in the game. Matt Ryan hits a deep pass to Julio Jones for 54 yards, a short one to Jacob Tamme for 7, and then a 24-yard catch-and-run to Devonta Freeman for the touchdown. Freeman has been a non-factor on the ground, with 1 yard on six carries. No other Falcons have carried the ball, but Ryan has already thrown 21 passes.

Aaron Schatz: If Gabbert actually turns into a league-average starter with San Francisco... it's hard to think of a good precedent there. There are plenty of quarterbacks who have come back from horrible rookie seasons and become reasonable or even successful starters. Matthew Stafford, Kyle Orton, Donovan McNabb. But it's hard to think of quarterback in the last three years who was so far below average for three straight seasons and then went to another team and actually developed into a reasonable starter. Alex Smith may be the one guy, although he didn't have to go to another team to finally become a useful quarterback, he just needed a lot of turnover in the coaching staff, and a lot of new teammates.

Scott Kacsmar: I think I'll go with "same old disappointing Atlanta defense" before I start buying into Blaine Gabbert. Shaun Draughn has 50 rushing yards on 10 carries. Quinton Patton has 70 receiving yards. Garrett Celek has two touchdowns. This is the skeleton crew for the 49ers cleaning up right now. It was too lazy to credit Dan Quinn for "turning around Atlanta's defense" in that hot start, because they still needed to come back in those games after some defensive breakdowns. The offense had been turning it over like crazy since the New Orleans game. The Falcons still have plenty of holes and problems on both sides of the ball.

Vince Verhei: Gabbert finally tries a deep pass and should have a completion, as Jerome Simpson is wide open on a seam route and the pass hits him square in the chest -- and then bounces away, and Phillip Adams is able to reel in the interception. Poor Blaine.

I'm with the others, this says a lot more about Atlanta's defense than it does about Gabbert or anyone in San Francisco. Gabbert hasn't done anything special aside from a handful of scrambles to turn sacks into runs. However, when you factor in the Vernon Davis trade, the 49ers are out their top quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end from opening day -- and they're having their way with the Falcons' defense.

Aaron Schatz: Atlanta just kicked a field goal down 4 with less than 3:00 left. On something like fourth-and-goal from the 1. They deserve to lose to Blaine Gabbert.

Tom Gower: I don't even know what to say about that decision. I mean, let's assume Dan Quinn is good at making decisions of that sort. What sort of chance of gaining 2 yards or whatever such that that decision makes sense? NYT 4th down bot's site doesn't seem to have the specific calculations for today's games (as of when I just checked it). Maybe 10 percent? Less? But kicking a field goal requires you to move the ball otherwise, which means for that decision to be internally consistent you have to think your offense is much worse closer to the goal-line than it is farther out. I don't know. I'm not sure I want to know.

Rob Weintraub: I dunno, seemed like a defensible call. Had two timeouts plus the warning and, as you say, Gabbert at quarterback. Amazingly enough Gabbert, up 17-16 late, with the bootleg scramble to convert a huge third down at the two-minute warning. Falcons down to one timeout left, gonna be tough to get a field goal try barring a Niners mistake. Came down to one play and Blaine came through.

Vince Verhei: Lost in the discussion about Atlanta's strategy is that they were only in that position because Blaine pulled a Gabbert, trying to force a pass to a well-covered Vance McDonald, throwing it right to Vic Beasley. 49ers had two turnovers, two punts, and no points after halftime, with no second-half drive gaining more than 32 yards. He's still Blaine Gabbert, is my point.

Tom Gower: Brian Burke has chimed in with a piece on ESPN. He actually has the break-even at 15 percent, so higher than I thought.

Denver Broncos 24 at Indianapolis Colts 27

Aaron Schatz: The Broncos look like they're bringing pressure as usual, guys are in Luck's face, but he's standing tall in the pocket and the coverage is not as good as it was last week. Broncos' offense does not look good; in particular the ground game went nowhere the first couple drives.

Scott Kacsmar: Here's a wild-ass theory: Peyton Manning approaches these games with the Colts as an opportunity to show he can still make the big throws down the field. This is the third time in four meetings he has been targeting those deep sideline plays, which has been one of the strengths of the Colts on defense since 2013. The one time he didn't was last year's season opener when Denver built a 24-0 lead with a lot of Julius Thomas down the middle and seam. There is no way Denver could be studying the film and stats and thinking these deep passes are the way to beat this defense, yet that's what Manning has usually tried against them. And it's not working again. Emmanuel Sanders did just drop one though on a second down.

Rob Weintraub: Man, Andrew Luck is tough. Takes a huge sandwich shot, shakes it off, and throws a touchdown pass to Ahmad Bradshaw on the next play. Reminds me of last year when Vontaze Burfict blasted him right inna labonza...and it was Tez who had to be helped off the field.

Aaron Schatz: Broncos run defense has looked more like itself in the second half. But so has the Colts defense. Man, who the heck woke up Owen Daniels today?

I know we're all generally against the field goal to go up 6, but I think it's a better idea than usual for the Colts here. It's one thing to prod the other team into being more aggressive when they have time and timeouts. But the Broncos will have 25 seconds and no timeouts, and Manning really can't throw deep.

Oh wait never mind. Ridiculous stupid penalty on the Broncos on the field goal attempt. Game over. Undefeated season over for Denver.

Vince Verhei: Undefeated season over for Denver, AND Manning doesn't get the 3 yards he needs to pass Brett Favre's career record. Colts intercepted Manning at the Denver 49 with 6:06 to go and managed to run out the rest of the clock. That's pretty amazing actually -- just the eighth time all year a team has started a drive outside its own 40 and held the ball for six minutes or more.

Obviously, stupid Denver penalties had a lot to do with that. I like Aqib Talib running into a shoving match to poke a Colts player in the eyes. Like Roddy Piper, only he didn't get away with it.

Philadelphia Eagles 33 at Dallas Cowboys 27

Aaron Schatz: Collinsworth makes an interesting point that the Eagles should have trouble with teams that like to run the ball a lot because they like to use ex-cornerbacks as safeties, and those guys can't necessarily always come up and tackle. But I don't know if that's really an issue with the Eagles specifically, at least for Malcolm Jenkins. He's a pretty good run defender.

The Eagles are finally getting running yards. We're not in "DeMarco Murray has eight carries for 1 yard" territory anymore, and Ryan Mathews just ran in for a touchdown to make it 14-7. But it still feels like the Chip Kelly offense would work a lot better with a mobile quarterback to draw some of the attention of the defense.

This is the first time all year I've watched the Eagles and the opponent wasn't picking on Byron Maxwell all game. Cole Beasley just caught his second touchdown to make it 14-14, he's got six catches for 72 yards. Dez Bryant has only two catches so far, though one of them went 51 yards.

I'm so glad we're not going to have an "is it a catch/is it not a catch" controversy about that jump ball that Dez Bryant caught in the end zone to make it 21-21. On the other hand -- I'm a little surprised there was no offensive holding call on Doug Free during that entire Matt Cassel scramble.

Tom Gower: OK, so Dez wasn't making many plays until Matt Cassel's "No no no no no no no no no no no YES!" moment. It's neat to have players who can completely bail out your quarterback from what appear to be really terrible decisions.

Even with the long kickoff return setting up the score, 21 points against DVOA's third-ranked defense with a backup quarterback isn't too bad, not that it'll be enough to win this game.

Scott Kacsmar: Not sure Dez Bryant gets some of these DPI calls if the game was in Philadelphia. But I guess he's "old enough" for Ed Hochuli.

Aaron Schatz: The DPI call against Byron Maxwell with 30 seconds left and the Cowboys trying to make a fourth-quarter comeback was terrible. Maxwell was going for a pick and if anything, it was Dez Bryant who was interfering with Maxwell trying to get to the ball, not the other way around.

Tom Gower: Great game of inches moment on the game-winning touchdown pass, as Cian posted a screenshot on Twitter of just how close Greg Hardy was to bringing down Sam Bradford. But he got the ball out in the nick of time, Jordan Matthews won the physical battle and that was that.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 09 Nov 2015

113 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2015, 5:57pm by chemical burn


by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 1:02pm

Vikings-Rams was a battle of the wounded, with Quinn and Long not playing, against the Vikings patchwork o-line. The Vikings were down to their 3rd string middle linebacker by the end of the game. If Bridgewater doesn't go next Sunday (the unflagged cheap shot on Bidgewater's knees, about 2 seconds after the ball left his hand, was worse than the head shot, that was flagged and knocked him out), I'd almost rather see rookie Taylor Heinicke play, who showed some promise in preseason, over Shaun Hill, just to see the unexpected.

by lokiwi :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:22pm

Was thinking the same thing watching Hill struggle to hand the ball off. They have to know that Hill gives them almost no chance to win. Might as well go with the higher variance rookie.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:32pm

I didn't see the shot to Bridgewater's knees but I was watching when he got knocked out. It was a dirty play. The DB tried to claim afterwards he didn't know he was going to slide. But somehow he was able to get his elbow down and deliver a forearm to Bridgewater's chops.

In another note, why has Jeff Fisher remained a head coach for so long? This is his 21st season, and he's taken his teams to the playoffs 6 times. His teams seem to be more noted for plays above than actually winning games. They haven't really even finished strong at the end of the past few seasons so you can't even use the "momentum" argument. I guess the only argument is that he's over .500 for his career, which is largely based on those 6 years in the playoffs. Which are the only years his teams finished over .500.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:37pm

It's not like Tennessee has done anything since he left. He's good at keeping teams losing at a respectable rate.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:45pm

The head shot was at least in the barely possible range of not being an intentional attempt to deliver a illegal blow to the noggin, as unlikely as it is. The shot to the knees, however, was quite plainly an attempt to injure, well after the ball was out of Bridgewater's hand.

I'm not the biggest Fisher fan, but once you consider how dysfunctional the ownership of the Oilers/Titans was, and how poorly the cap was managed, which Fisher did not have authority over, I'd have to say he has been above average as a head coach. I don't know what to make of his reputation for coaching his players to attempt to injure. I've seen it come from enough people with substantial experience to not dismiss it completely, but I'd think it would be reflected in his players getting greater than normal personal fouls, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:02pm

I thought with the head shot the guy clearly moved his body while diving in order to make sure he caught Bridgewater in the head. It was an ugly, ugly hit, and I don't think there's any question it was intentional.

I saw something today which said within the last 16 games, the Rams have injured four starting QBs. Carson Palmer's ACL, took out Drew Stanton's knee, and hurt Big Ben's MCL and knocked him out for five weeks. Presuming that is correct (I haven't bothered to double-check), that means the casualty rate for opposing QBs is 25% over the last season.

Tell me again how Gregg Williams is no longer coaching his defenses to hurt opposing QBs?

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:19pm

Thanks for the stat - I was thinking the same thing. It's not just Jeff Fisher and his (perhaps questionable) head coaching style and locker room culture. It's also Gregg Williams, of the 'bounty system'.

It got me thinking; if a defender commits an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for what appears to be 'targeting' the QB, should the league move to not only flag for 15 yards, but also eject the player?

Think of this scenario; coaches, GMs, and owners want wins. They need wins to make playoffs and get shiny trophies. There are only 16 games in the regular season. So how long is it before some coach thinks 'Hey, we're up against an offense that we can't hang with; let's bring up one of our practice squad safeties, make him the NFL equivalent of a hatchet man, and get their QB out of the game in the first half.'

It's not that improbable, is it? Unless the penalty (player not only fined (afterwards), but ejected with no on-field replacement) outweighs the potential benefit (make team play their backup QB).

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:18pm

There are rules in place already to deal with this sort of thing - the Palpably Unfair Act - which basically allows the Referees to do whatever the heck they want - from awarding a fieldgoal all the way up to calling the game as a forfeit.

The NFL's code of conduct also allows (the NFL contends) the commissioner to do whatever the hell he wants if it affects the integrity of the game - which this sort of thing actually would.

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:23pm

So, with the Rams developing a bit of a habit of targeting opposing QBs, when are the refs - or the NFL - going to start calling this? You know the refs won't until they have absolutely no choice, there's no precedent and they appear to avoid the responsibility of making significant and controversial on-field calls.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:27pm

Has any referee ever invoked the Palpably Unfair Rule? If every a play deserved it, the hit on Bridgewater did. It was an elbow to a sliding QB that immediately knocked him unconscious. A defender isn't even supposed to touch a sliding QB, and somehow this guy smacked his head with a forearm.

Isn't this exactly the kind of hit the NFL keeps telling us it cares about?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:19pm

I'm about 99.5% sure that the head shot was deliberate, conceding about a .5% chance that he was merely trying to get an illegal shot in, and just happened to hit him in the head. It isn't often you see a guy celebrate allowing the qb to scramble for a 1st down. The shot to the knees was a 100% certain attempt to injure.

At some point the players need to tell their union's management that the union represents the guys getting hit as much as the guys doing the hitting.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:31pm

I find it interesting to see how things have gone almost full circle with QB slides.

I remember back in the mid-80s they introduced that rule because QBs used to get hammered by defenders.

It was essentially a compromise that QBs make it clear that they'd be sliding and defenders can't hit them. They never tried to eek out extra yards.

These days young QBs have become much more willing to go head-to-head with defenders or leave it until the last moment before sliding.

From watching the video of Bridgewater I don't think it was obvious whether he was going to slide, try to juke the defender or just go head-to-head. But once he started to slide, the defender made a bad job of avoiding the big hit, maybe when for the cheap shot.

Would like to see the NFL re-emphasise that the QB has to make it clear they will be sliding if they don't want to be hit.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:20pm

As far as I'm concerned - I'd like the NFL to not penalize these players unless it's very obvious that the quarterback has given himself up.

The driver of these collisions is - as you said - almost always the quarterback trying to eek out an extra couple feet, which goes against the whole point of the rule (Trading maximum yardage for safety)

by bsims :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:29pm

I'm with you. The way it's officiated, defenders are asked to do too much and quarterbacks too little. Both parties should be responsible for avoiding a hit, but it doesn't seem like quarterbacks are held accountable for their end.

I remember Jay Cutler looking like he was going to slide a few years ago, then trucking the defender. Talk about coming full circle, the rule as it's enforced now makes it easier for quarterbacks to take cheap shots on defenders.

Here's a url of the Cutler slide fakeout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48pQbggAcD0

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 6:04pm

I'm hesitant to load the zebras plate with more judgement calls, but if you can flag a punt returner for faking a fair catch signal, 15 yards for faking a slide seems about right.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 6:24pm

Protection should be applied similar to the protection a QB gets after a pass. So the defender should get about two steps and if you want the protection of a slide then you need to go down before that.

The hit on Bridgewater was a bit late but I don't think it was egregiously so since it looked like he was already committing to the hit as Bridgewater started his slide.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 6:32pm

It really looked to me like he changed the position of his body, in response to Bridgewater's slide, to increase the amount of contact.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 6:46pm

Yeah, I'm sure he made sure to hit the sliding Bridgewater. I'm less sure that he went for the head since everything happens so fast. I'd put that more like 80-20 though.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:29pm

I don't see how this can be blamed on the union. You're not contending that QB's don't have enough influence in the union, are you? Star QBs rule the NFL, and that includes the union.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:51pm

I didn't blame it on the union. I implied the union goes to bat for players accused of illegal contact with more energy that it does for players subjected to illegal hits. The union has as much ethical obligation to protect the player who gets his ankle stepped on, for instance, as it does to protect the interests of the plsyer who does the stepping. I'm really not trying to criticize the NFLPA as much as I ma simply recognizing that sometimes the union is in an inherently unteable situation, when two players have conflicting interests.

by bsims :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:47pm

The union, based on history, certainly does not seem to be interested in protecting players from other players. Their primary interest seems to be increasing their power against the NFL, and that means challenging every punishment the NFL hands down. Oftentimes, I think the players and the NFLPA are more united by a common enemy than a common interest.

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/10/2015 - 6:32am

All the union is doing is providing representation to players who are subject to league discipline. If two players are being sanctioned for fighting, the NFLPA will help both; it's not that they're favoring anyone. The union's not doing anything for the guy who gets stepped on because they have no role there (unless there's some kind of medical grievance, in which case they'll be happy to help).

by Travis :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:31pm

It's not just QBs - don't forget the repeated late hits on Odell Beckham last year.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:23pm

If you break down Fisher's career and see it as an owner ...
- took over as interim coach in 1994
- Three solid 8-8 seasons while you're in the middle of a franchise move.
- 1999 13-3 breakout year, first and only Super Bowl appearance by franchise
- 2000 13-3 best record in the league
- Continued success through to 2002-03 with another AFC Championship game appearance

So by this point you've got to be thinking he's a fairly decent coach. And then Peyton and the Colts start to get very good just as your franchise QB (Steve McNair) begins to get to the end of his career so making the playoffs is going to get that little bit harder.

Finally a couple of crappy years but it's time to reload and you pick up Vince Young - the next big thing.
- Franchise rebounds to 8-8, 10-6, 13-3 (for a THIRD time).

So we're now 13 years into Fisher's career and I'd say there are good solid reasons why you might keep him on.

Then 8-8 again in 2009 and 6-10 in 2010 and finally you decide you can't wait any longer.

On the one hand I agree he never did fulfil the team's promise by lucking out like Tom Coughlin has done but he's also not been a terrible coach.

One day people may ask how Marvin Lewis managed to be in Cincinnati for 13-years with just six 1-and-done efforts in the wildcard round of the playoffs and never more than 11 wins in a season.

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:27pm

'One day people may ask how Marvin Lewis managed to be in Cincinnati for 13-years with just six 1-and-done efforts in the wildcard round of the playoffs and never more than 11 wins in a season.'

I'm guessing that can be summed up as 'success is relative'. For Cincy and their history - that qualifies as very successful.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:23pm

The Bengals have made the playoffs 4 straight years, probably going to be five this year. Irregardless of the playoff failings, that's the best streak the Bengals have ever had, and it's a longer streak than Jeff Fisher has had. So Lewis' teams have been consistent. By the way, chances are he wins more than 11 this year.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:32pm

We have an NFL in which John Fox was fired less than 12 months after making the Super Bowl. Keeping a head coaching position for any length of time is noteworthy. Nor is winning a title a guarantee of a job (look at Billick and Gruden - Jon Gruden has openly campaigned for a lot of coaching jobs in the last ten years and gotten no nibbles).

by coboney :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 10:26pm

Also Lewis really helped rebuild that team's culture and serves as defacto GM, AND serves as Mike Brown buffer. Lewis as a coach is only solid but imo its the other stuff he does for cincy that makes him a must keep - namely he makes the franchise functional from the mess they used to be.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:17pm

Bridgewater sliding reminds me of the one thing I thought Ponder did well. He always dove head first. I remember him saying that QB's who slide feet first are far more vulnerable to injury even with the supposed protection they have sliding feet first. I think he's right, and you get more yards going head first.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 1:04pm

Re. Miami going for it at the end of the half - it was undoubtedly the correct call with them trailing by two scores. But one of the key factors in going for it on the goal-line is backing the opponent up against their own end zone should you fail, which is obviously irrelevant at the end of the half. We know 2 pt. conversions are about a 50/50 shot, thus probably slightly less with a good defence like the Bills, and an average offence like the Dolphins. So in terms of expected points it was probably a wash.

It really was an incredible sequence of events in the final few minutes in Indy that lead to Manning not breaking the record. When the refs flagged for holding on the FG attempt I almost felt as though somebody had instructed the moment to be carried over until next week. A desperation play with 30 seconds left would perhaps not have been fitting....

by Boots Day :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 1:23pm

It would have been funny if Manning had broken the record on a six-yard checkdown to the Broncos' 32-yard line with 14 seconds left in the game. Do you think they would have stopped the game then and there for a whole ceremony?

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:18pm

Funny, I hadn't thought about that angle, although of course the nine route would have been more likely at that stage in the game, even into double coverage.

I did think the Broncos got jobbed on the late penalties, in particular the phantom holding call on the field goal.

by Steve B :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 1:11pm

No commentary on the finish in Pittsburgh? Carr ties the game on his second TD pass to Crabtree with about as good a throw as you'll see, but AB makes one more big play to win the game for the Steelers. Brown and Williams become the first pair of teammates with 300 and 200 total yards respectively in the same game.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 1:13pm

I thoroughly expected the Giants to annihilate Tampa yesterday just due to ODB against Tampa's lousy secondary, but the game was actually close throughout (it was 26-18 until the last play of the game, where the Bucs' panic "lateral the ball around the field" resulted in Mike Evans throwing across the field to LOGAN MANKINS of all people, who dropped the balls and the Giants picked it up and ran it in). Tampa's secondary played a pretty good game.

Mike Evans, who has been very sure-handed, I believe dropped SIX passes, most of which were right in his hands. It was raining, but I have to imagine he's got some kind of injury problem, just because it was insane how he was dropping the ball. Maybe he wanted to show some kind of solidarity with JPP by pretending he had half a hand and kept trying to catch with only three fingers. No clue, but it was just ridiculous. Seriously, the guy normally has quite good hands, but I've never seen somebody drop the ball like that.

Very much seemed like a game Tampa could have won with less stupidity. Evans had his drops, both Bucs RBs fumbled on plays where the defense didn't really even try to force a fumble, it just sort of dropped out. I think Tampa was within the 10 yard line five times, and got four FGs out of it plus Winston's one really impressive rushing TD. I mean, a win would have been nice and all, but . . .

My team isn't a complete dumpster fire! I'm not utterly embarrassed to be a Tampa fan! We're just kind of bad instead of a complete, utter laughingstock!

No, seriously, I find that genuinely exciting. It's been like two full calendar years since I felt that way.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:55pm

Everything's relative. I'm not even that depressed about the Lions' terrible season, because when I take the long view, 2 playoff appearances in 5 seasons is tremendous, compared to the 0 playoff appearances in 11 seasons that preceded.

by E :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:54pm

Re Evans, I have never seen a guy finish with such terrific stats (8 catches for 152 yards) have such a bad game. Watching live, at one point I was wondering if the Bucs needed to bench him even though he was already over 100 yards in the 3rd quarter. Most of his drops came in the second half when they needed him most. Incredibly, his final drop came one play before the last one - he actually dropped the ball with the Giants allowing him to catch it because he was too quick to look for the desperation lateral. On 2nd down the Bucs went to the other side of the field, where Evans was not the receiver but got the first lateral and then pitched to Mankins(!)

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Evans probably will have the lowest DYAR ever for a WR who went for over 150 yards.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:55pm

Evans had six drops yesterday. I did a bit of hunting, and found a site that said that, prior to yesterday, he had two drops this season, and four of all last season. So, yesterday, he literally doubled his career total for drops. Bucs Nation is full of people freaking out about how terrible Evans is and how they never thought he was any good, and WHY DO I READ THAT SITE AFTER A LOSS anyways, no idea what was up with him. He's typically a kid with really solid hands, and don't know if he was hurt or maybe his dog died early Sunday morning or what, but I have never seen anybody magically develop a case of the drops like that. Completely unlike anything he has ever done before.

To be fair, one of the reasons Evans had so many targets is there's nobody else to catch the ball. Evans has clearly been the #1 all year, but the #s 2-3-4 as planned for the season were Vincent Jackson (out this week and last, maybe more), Louis Murphy (blew his ACL two weeks ago), and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (hasn't played since week one). The other WRs who played yesterday were Donteea Dye (two career receptions prior to yesterday) and Adam Humphries (five career receptions prior to yesterday). TE Cameron Brate caught a pass, which I believe was his fifth career reception. There is nobody else to throw to.

Granted, this is part of what has made Winston's performance over the last month or so pretty impressive. He's got a completely denuded WR corps, and is still playing well.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:19pm

Do you think Winston played well yesterday? PFF put him in the worst of the week. I didn't watch the game or any highlights, so I'm just curious.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 6:23pm

To be fair, PFF's grade was -1.6, which means their admitted definition of worst is "slightly below average in a week full of good QB play". I don't think Winston played great yesterday, but I thought he played pretty well. He was plagued by Mike Evans turning into Captain Ham Hands, a receiving corps which is pretty functionally a receiving corpse, and the running game largely evaporating outside of one really long Charles Sims run. He missed a couple deep throws, but there wasn't a whole lot going on on offense. So, I don't think yesterday he was great, but he's a rookie playing with one viable pass-catching threat, two other rookies blocking for him, and he's having to try to keep up by scoring points to help account for a patently terrible secondary on the other side of the ball. Winston was a train wreck for his first few games, and he's really improved.

Also, I watched Josh McCown last year. My definition of "pretty well" admittedly involves grading on a pretty significant curve.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 8:04pm

Thanks. I thought him making it onto the worst list was a little surprising, given how everything has gone for him the last couple of weeks.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 1:28pm

Also, Vikings-Rams, with so many starters not playing, made me think it may be illuminating to have a mid-season piece on adjusted games lost.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 1:44pm

Steelers won but Raiders still in fine shape. Peyton manning losing again to old team. Usually fails. Never beat Florida gators. Usually has problems wtih Pates. New deal is loing to clots. Thank you

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:26pm

The Raiders played a pretty poor game and still hung with Pitt on the road. They definitely have a chance to wiggle their way into the playoff picture.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:40pm

Well, it seems like the potential Wild Card teams might be:

AFC East: Bills/Jets/Dolphins (all flawed in all sorts of ways)
AFC North: Pittsburgh (who will be lacking Bell all year and Big Ben at least part of it)
AFC South: *barely stifles giggling*
AFC West: Raiders, or Chiefs if I'm drunk.

I guess the Jets, presuming the QB situation doesn't destroy them can get in, but Ben's foot injury could make things pretty ugly for Pittsburgh. The AFC is pretty clearly Cincy/NE/Denver, and very few other teams are even approaching marginal mediocrity. I'd say Oakland has a pretty strong change to make the playoffs this year.

by Steve B :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:03pm

Word going around is that Ben's injury isn't as bad as initially feared and he could well be back for the game vs. Seattle following the bye week.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:43pm

Raiders have got the head-to-head over the Jets.
Steelers have got the head-to-head over the Raiders.

Put the Raiders down for 9-7 or 8-8. They've got three tough games in the Broncos, Packers and Vikings as potential losses (although Vikings next week so may not have Bridgewater back). Their other games should all be won if they're really playoff calibre - Chiefsx2, Chargers, Lions, Titans.

by Steve B :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:53pm

I think it's going to be very tough for them to sweep KC.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:49pm

Not a bad result for a West Coast team playing in the eary Sunday slot in the eastern time zone.

by jklps :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 1:56pm

I'm glad the Patriots took the time to use the game as a preseason game and "get the onside kick on tape", but really you just need to play normal mediocre at best football to beat my Washington team.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:03pm

The Redskins can beat teams that show up and play mediocre football. They're a middling team, not a terrible team. And they can certainly play better than they did yesterday. The Patriots didn't force the Redskins to drop all of those passes. And that's not what they do most weeks.
It was a bad sign when Gruden said they'd have to play "perfect" to beat the Patriots. Nobody can play perfect football. Teams that do well against the Pats are the ones that show up loose and don't act intimidated.

Though you also have to have a good team.

by jklps :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:13pm

Jay Gruden and the idea of a perfect team simply don't mix...

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:09pm

On the first two drives, 'Skin receivers turned roughly 100 yards and at least 3 points into two incompletions, one interception and -7 points. That played a huge role because NE was clearly concerned about their OL even before Vollmer went out.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:01pm

Mia/Buf Bills used Miami's poor lane discipline to gash the defense. Miami in mid-3rd had chances at the lead but Tannehill can't convert 3rd downs. Bills probably wish they played Miami every week. Does Miami play a 16 game road schedule? Nov 22 will mark the third game in Miami this season. Nov 22! I think Dan Campbell would make a nice mid-major college coach for someone next season. AFCeast update. The question about the Pats remaining this season is if/when people give their assistants a chance at a head coach job at any level. These guys deserve it. Jets QB situation looks better than advertised last week and Pit/Oak ended perfect for them so they got back in solid wild card standings. Buf is still alive because they play the Jets twice still. Miami is playing for 2026 or so. That might be too soon, however.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:12pm

FWIW, the 'Fins played a "home" game at Wembley.

I agree about Campbell. He'd be at least a good college coach - I'm not sure he's up to the challenge of coaching in the NFL. But there aren't many who are these days.

The biggest question about the Pats is why their offensive line decided to make fun of that old gypsy woman. She's taking her time exacting her revenge, one lineman at a time. Luckily undrafted center David Andrews apparently wasn't there that day. He's playing every snap in every game for an elite team and he wasn't even drafted by anybody! How did that happen?

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:21pm

Andrews was seen limping out of the locker room last night with his knee wrapped. No, this is not a joke.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:54pm

Have the Pats actually come up with the fabled offense that minimizes the effect of OL quality?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:02pm

It appears to boil down to "have Tom Brady at QB".

by RickD :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:36pm

They've gotten quality play from the OL. They just have no depth whatsoever. They had the same issue last year, once Stork came back. We hoped that drafting two guards (in addition to picking up Andrews as an UDFA) would help with the depth, but they've had an incredible number of injuries this year.

The new OL coach Gugg is doing an incredible job. (It's his second season but he's still 'new' since Scarnecchia was on the staff for the better part of three decades.)

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:22pm

Their Offensive Line Coach's name is Gugg? I really need to write the Dream Quest of Unknown Foxboro now.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 7:15pm


Must be the first Lovecraft reference in a while, and, given the reference to DQoUK and Boston, the best in a long while.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 8:07pm

Believe it or not, I've been thinking about writing a prose poem called that for a while. Now I have to get it done, what with Gugg and all.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:51pm

Its pretty well known fast release QBs help out their Olines. Manning in his prime and Marino in his prime simply got the ball out fast and thus didn't take many sacks. They also were great at finding open receivers in the flats. The graphics on Sunday really showed how the Pats quick release offense has neutralized oline problems. The major problem with the Patriots offense is that most teams can't run many successful 13-15 play drives over and over. Most defenses are designed to force teams to grind it out waiting for a 3rd down mistake. The thing is Brady just does make many mistakes these days. So without Brady they'd probably be in rougher shape. With him they are likely going to the Super Bowl.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:23pm

I was quite surprised by how bad Atlanta looked on both sides of the ball. I was expecting at team that Quinn had whipped into shape but the only guy who looked really good was Jones, it was a bit disappointing, Beasley had a nice play on his pick too.

by bingo762 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:34pm

"The tight end-heavy personnel groupings continued in the second half. By my count, the Titans were in 12 personnel 31 times and 11 personnel 14 times,"

According to you, Saints give up about 7 rec for 70 yds per game to TEs(4th worst in the league). Which is why I traded for Delanie Walker with Travis Kelce on a bye in my fantasy league

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:42pm

Despite the uproar in the "Any Given Sunday" comments, it sure looks like Denver's performance last week had as much to do with Green Bay issues as it did bye week improvement on their part.

by Robert Weintraub :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:43pm

Mea culpa from me on the Falcons/Dan Quinn call at the goal line. I was listening on the radio at that point while making dinner for the kids, and good 'ol Wes Durham said something about being "just inside the five." So I assumed that was the field position, not just outside the one. Not sure what he was referring to but obviously not the ball spot for 4th down.

Quinn probably still should have gone for it on 4th and 5, but at least I could see the logic in kicking when the Falcs offense was so predictable and ineffective the Niners were laughing about it postgame. On the one, however, obviously you go for it every time. Quinn also challenged a never-gonna-be-overturned spot on a Niners 4th down conversion earlier, which cost a dearly needed timeout.

There are much bigger problems than in-game decision making in Atlanta. The Falcons have been terrible for five weeks, though managing to win twice in that span (over Washington in OT and Tennessee--minus Marcus--in a 10-7 thriller). Kyle Shanahan got the job for his prior work in rehabbing ailing running games, and before yesterday he's been successful in that department, but there is a real question about the passing attack. SF sold out to take away Davonta Freeman yesterday, apparently secure in the knowledge that even with a couple of practice squadders in the secondary Atlanta wouldn't beat them over the top. And they were right.

Brian Finneran, ex-Falcs wideout turned local sports radio guy, was in SF and said today that some Niners people were astonished at how basic and easy to counter the passing attack was. Word from one of his sources was to the effect that Atlanta was like a blind man throwing darts on the midway--eventually you might hit something of value (because you have Julio Jones) but otherwise it's just guesswork and hoping. Considering Shanny was a hot head coaching candidate just a few weeks ago, that's a downturn comparable to Colin Kaepernick on the other sideline. Roddy White has been utterly marginalized--clearly there is something going on behind the scenes, because he gets no looks at all. He has no speed left but if his play has deteriorated that badly--which I doubt--just release him rather than having him call "summit meetings" after games, which he did on Sunday.

Matt Ryan is either playing hurt or has taken too many hits, because his accuracy is way down--even his completions often force the receivers to check their stride or go to the ground for the catch. About the only time the Falcs looks cohesive is during hurry-up stages, when Ryan calls the plays at the line. But Shanahan stubbornly refuses to use no-huddle other than in actual late-game or half situations, though it was a staple in previous years due to Ryan's pre-snap intelligence.

And Quinn or no Quinn, there is still no pass rush, which has been true since the day John Abraham was pushed out the door.

From 5-0 to 6-3 and sliding while other wild-card contenders are rushing past them. Atlanta needs the bye week badly, but their issues seem systemic and not easily fixable. The sked is soft but they aren't good enough to take any team for granted, as we have seen the last month.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:39pm

Kyle Shanahan was a hot head coach candidate a few weeks ago? Somebody needs to talk to some Redskins fans about that one.

Falcons started the season looking very strong but they've really fallen back since the Redskins game.

by Southern Philly :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:34pm

He was probably the hot coordinator when they were 5-0.

Then reality hit.

by jklps :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:38pm

I am a Redskins fan and believe Kyle Shannahan is fine as an offensive coordinator, assuming you have an above average QB. Nothing in the last few weeks from Atlanta changes that.

Some "fans" of teams believe anyone who never worked out for their team can't possibly coach well elsewhere. It is not like the Redskins have been setup with decent players to coach the last decade...

by rageon :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:43pm

And Dion Lewis had been such a good story to start the year. Dang.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 2:49pm

It's official :(. NE has IRd Lewis.

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:03pm

There goes Christmas...

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by Steve B :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:57pm

Not good news for them, but the only real potential "game changing" injuries on their roster are Brady, Gronkowski and maybe Edelman. They're still the favorite, just maybe not by quite as much.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:33pm

I like Lewis - and this is definitely not good news - but I'm not going to worry about it too much until we see some dropoff in their offense. The Patriots seem to be able to find good 3rd down backs almost at will.

Vereen cost some capital, but both Woodhead and Lewis were other teams cast offs.

by TomTerrific :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:37pm

The PFW crew here, who pay close attention and are fairly thoughtful, had essentially come around to the view that Lewis was the third most valuable asset on this team, after Brady and Gronk. Without Lewis, I think they're still more likely than not to make the SB, but it knocks their chances down by about 10-15%. So that's significant.

OTOH, lose Gronk, and you likely aren't making the SB. Lose Brady and you are one-and-done in the playoffs at best.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:49pm

Whoa! That's ridiculous.

Lewis has a lot of talent, but he's nowhere near the 3rd most valuable asset on the team. Do the PFW crew consider defensive players at all?

Lewis has 49 rushes and 36 catches this season. In eight games. That's about six rushes and 4.5 catches per game. Meanwhile Chandler Jones is leading the NFL with 9.5 sacks, Collins and Hightower are outstanding at LB and Malcolm Butler has become a legit CB.

My "most valuable" list would be
1. Brady
2. Gronk
3. Collins
4. Jones
5. Edelman
6. Hightower
7. Vollmer
8. Butler
9. etc

Maybe Lewis get in at #9. He will be missed, but he's still only slightly above "fungible RB" in the Pats' system. He's better than the other guys, but the other guys can do the job, too.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:25pm

Wouldn't McCourty have to be high on that list? I'd put him higher than Butler, at least.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:35pm

I don't watch the Pats that closely, but theya are on TV almost every week, but whay I have seen of Lewis had been pretty impressive. He has outstanding quickness and agility alooked to be becoming an excellent receiving back and OK at rushing. I have no opinion on his blocking skills or blitz pick-up except to say he looks pretty small to be blocking anybody but a DB.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 7:17pm

I would put Gronkowski above Brady.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 7:26pm

I'd put every asset I own and ever have owned on it that the team disagrees with you. :)

by Athelas :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:43pm

As much as I love Edelman, the drop from him to Amendola is not significant, according to those who watch the team most closely.

They don't have a similar player to Lewis however.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:59pm

Gah, getting tired of the "small, white WRs are fungible" thing. (Went through that before with Welker/Edelman.) The difference between Edelman and Amendola is noticeable.

Amendola can do a lot of things that Edelman does. He's not quite as good at getting open or at collecting YAC. And the one thing he absolutely cannot do is run a route on the other side of the field from Amendola. Having more WRs is better.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:03pm

I see a Clone Wars theme developing!

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:27pm

Edelman and Gronk killed the Jets, Amendola kept the Jets in the game with his drops. Have to agree with you there, RickD.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:32pm

You are thinking of LaFell, Amendola actually had a great game against NY.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:34pm

You're right, Jesus, the Pats have a lot of good receivers. Stinks about Dion Lewis, liked him.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 11/10/2015 - 12:39am

"You're right, Jesus, the Pats have a lot of good receivers."

Or maybe they have a QB and offensive system that just gets the most out of them.

by Athelas :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:36pm


by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 3:32pm

"Collinsworth makes an interesting point that the Eagles should have trouble with teams that like to run the ball a lot because they like to use ex-cornerbacks as safeties, and those guys can't necessarily always come up and tackle. But I don't know if that's really an issue with the Eagles specifically, at least for Malcolm Jenkins. He's a pretty good run defender."

Off the top of my head, other players who made that transition:
Corey Graham
Aaron Williams
Ty Law
Ronde Barber
Charles Woodson
Rod Woodson

Not exactly a bunch of Sabbies.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:26pm

You forgot Ronnie Lott.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 4:36pm

It really sounds like nonsense to me - I think you'd be hard pressed to find many Safeties playing in the NFL who hadn't at one point been corners (Either in college or HS).

It's a bit like complaining that an older shortstop won't be able to play 2nd base.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:05pm

Allow me to say how much I love the fact you define terrible safety play as a "Sabby".

by TomC :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:53pm

Except that in this case, because he is specifically referring to terrible safety play against the run, I maintain a better phrase would have been "a bunch of Contes."

by bsims :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:57pm

I'll spare you all my "inCONTEnent" jokes, but believe me, after 4 years of watching him try to tackle running backs, I have a lot of them.

Generally pretty good when the ball was in the air, though.

by Sakic :: Tue, 11/10/2015 - 9:31am

Leroy Butler was also drafted and played as a corner for his first couple of years before the Packers turned him into pretty good safety.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:02pm

I see Jordan Hicks is nw on season-ending IR, due to torn pectoral. Has the particular injury skyrocketed in frequency, or is it simply my perception? If it has skyrocketed in frequency, why? Overdeveloped pectorals, perhaps aided by widespread, and still largely undetectable, use of HGH?

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:31pm

Tendon injuries in general -- pectoral, Achilles -- are way up, because as players get bigger and heavier and more explosive, the tendons holding everything together don't. More and more load on the same threads continually increases the chance that those threads will break.

by Travis :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:34pm

The Giants' Johnathan Hankins also went on season-ending IR due to a torn pectoral suffered in yesterday's game.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 8:50pm

Come on now, we all know it's only those nasty Russian athletes who are doping!

by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:24pm

I was just reading about Jets v Jags and Chris Ivory had 23 rushes for 26 yards. WOW! Digging further I found he had 15 rushes for 1 yard or less. On the positive side two of those 1 yard rushes were for TD's. This is a craptacular example of NFL coaches not giving up on the run.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 5:33pm

Not giving up on the run almost cost them a victory. The three runs near the end of the first half helped jump start the Jaguars chances with a three and out, setting up Bortles' first touchdown pass. They were also unable to run out the clock twice at the end. Honestly, the Jets haven't been able to run the ball well at all the last three games, but the passing offense has actually been ok to good, even when Geno was playing. The Bills haven't stuffed the run well this year, but I expect Rex to shove everyone at the line of scrimmage, and also try to run a lot against the Jets front as well. They should have scheduled this game for Thanksgiving, because there will be a whole lot of stuffing going on.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 7:50pm

Also in it will be giant turkey named rex Ryan

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 10:26pm

Uh-oh. Every word is spelled correctly.

by bubqr :: Mon, 11/09/2015 - 6:38pm

For all the criticism Byron Maxwell has received, he's playing quite well, and better than I expected for sure. That DPI call was a joke.
On another positive note, Bradford is actually playing...solid football? It would help if any of his WRs could create amore than 5 inches of separation. Matthews is not a #1 WR, Huff still looks lost and/or drop balls, and M.Austin/R.Cooper should not be anything more than #4/#5 WRs. Eagles badly need Agholor to be healthy.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/11/2015 - 1:32pm

Are you serious about Bradford? He's 28th in both DYAR and DVOA - and he's dropped in recent weeks. If "better than Ryan Mallet and Colin Kaepernick" is the definition of "solid football" I guess I can agree. To me, the Eagles are headed squarely for the nightmare scenario: he looks to be on pace for a 4,200 yard, 20TD, 15INT kind of year - if they sneak into the playoffs, gah! The Eagles and their fans are going to be talking themselves into paying $15 million a year (and with the new cap, that's the low side) for the next three years to guy ranked at the bottom of the DVOA charts...

(Also, it's tough to be surprised when a player who is a known penalty machine like Maxwell continues to draw penalties. Don't want a flag there at the end, don't yank on Bryant's collar coming out of his break. A yanked jersey gets called for holding every time.)

by bubqr :: Wed, 11/11/2015 - 5:58pm

I am serious, I think he is playing as an average QB at the moment, or maybe even more. He has a horrendous receiving corps, reminiscent of the early McNabb era. Between the drops, overall lack of speed and (as a direct consequence) lack of separation, I think it might be the worst in the NFL.
For all the criticism I've thrown at him early season, his last 2 games have been his best.
Next season: I am a bit ashamed to say it, but I'm VERY intrigued by a (probably) humbled down RGIII.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/11/2015 - 8:56pm

What?! He was HORRIBLE versus Carolina! 205 yards on 54 dropbacks! 55% completion rate, no TD's and an interception. To me, the Carolina game was a perfect demonstration of all his limitations and why he isn't an NFL-caliber starter. I'm genuinely shocked you thought that game showed any kind of ability and/or improvement on his part.

For next year, I'm hoping whatever they choose to do at QB is either short-term or cheap, so whoever takes over for Kelly in 2017 isn't hamstrung by his awful GM work. Humbled RGIII actually probably fits the bill. I just don't want Kelly dropping $18 million on a QB since his player evaluation at the position is obviously for shit or spending a high pick since the picks under his regime have mainly been disappointments, especially in the higher rounds.

by bubqr :: Thu, 11/12/2015 - 9:57am

Bringing up the stats on a game where the Eagles had something like 25 drops will not convince me otherwise. We can debate what was actually his level of play, but calling him horrible on that game is also shocking to me. He moved quite well in the pocket, threw a bunch of good passes and generally took good decisions with the football.
His WRs that game were Miles Austin, who as a reminder was cut by the BROWNS, an injured Riley Cooper, knowing that even a healthy version of himself should not be starting, an overmatched Jordan Matthews(who is responsible for the INT you mention), and Josh Huff, who, well, is Josh Huff(and dropped a TD).
That has to be the worst receiving corps in the NFL, which on top of that had a pretty rough night even by those standards.
Oh, and Jason Peters went down during the game, which pushed Matt Tobin to LT.

Sam Bradford was the least of our issues on that game, and yes, I do believe that he played solidly. You can't just ignore the horrible supporting cast. That was truely HORRIBLE, not Sam's play.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/12/2015 - 2:36pm

Look, I agree the WR corps are awful (although having watched a few Rams, Ravens and Panthers games this year, I don't think they're the worst in the league) and the o-line is a mess, but what's the bar being set for Bradford? I feel like because expectations for Bradford, Maxwell and Murray have imploded, anytime they're not crapping in their own shoes, that Eagles fans are now saying "hey, not bad!" I mean, he has not been good by any measure this year and all the stats show he has been extremely consistent in his shittiness - I really think it's your expectations that have changed, not his performance.

Anyhoo, as I've said, my real worry is they decide he's shown "enough" to sign him to a new deal. I really think his raw stats will look ok (although not with so many INT's) so I have a real worry about them committing to a guy who is mediocre at best and horrible at worst for the next three years. That's my worry and unwillingness to see any silver lining with him. They've got 8 more games of this extremely expensive rental and then they have to decide on making a massively expensive purchase or not. I'd rather the whole "hey, his numbers look terrible and he's a mess on the field, but his supporting cast is terrible" shtick be reserved for Colin Kaepernick defenders (Kaep at least showed upside on the field at one point - Bradford never has!)

We have 5 and a half seasons of intel on Bradford: he's frequently injured and extremely mediocre. Some disputable improvements that don't translate into on-field production are not enough to warrant a reassessment. (Although, I feel like you're coming at it from a more pragmatic angle - i.e. you've given up on the team and its immediate future in a way, so you're more patient than I!)

by bubqr :: Thu, 11/12/2015 - 5:13pm

Look - I agree that part of it is lowering expectations, but still, he's no top 5 QB, but probably average at the moment.
But to be honest: I'm 100% with you on not signing him this offseason based on what he's shown so far: our team is not good enough to win the SB with an average (assuming he stays at this current level) QB. If we want a chance at the title with this roster/coach, we need to take some risks and go for the high variance choice (Kaep/RGIII being the only ones I see, the latter having my clear preference, as I never really believed in the former).
You are right that I've given up a bit on this team: we barely won against freaking Matt Cassel, and we needed Sean Lee to pick up an injury as well to do so. What's the upside even if we make the playoffs? Longer term, how can we trust Chip the GM? Even as a coach, after 2 seasons spent seemingly discovering new plays every week, he seems to slowly "join the ranks". Where's the "genius" gone?
In the last 12 years or so, I don't think I've been as pessimistic about the Eagles' future as I am now.

And let's not bring the Sixers, where my undying support of the process is eroding each time I see Okafor playing defense, trying to grab a rebound, or Noel attempting a jump shot

by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/12/2015 - 5:57pm

I'm glad I don't watch basketball except casually. The whole Hinkie thing would make my head explode.

As for Bradford, calling him mediocre is awful kind based on 2015, but if you put this year in the context of his career, I'd concede he's probably somewhere around the 20th best QB in the league, which counts as mediocre if nothing else.

I'm definitely super pessimistic about the Eagles' future, but think there's still a glimmer of them being able to turn it around - basically they need to implode and build on what they have rather than do anything radical this off season. I've been saying since May that they probably had enough a base left over from what Reid built to go 10-6 again this year (especially with a weak schedule that has turned out to be even weaker than expected) but that 2016 would be the real make or break offseason. They have limited cap space already and big questions with Peters, the QB slot, CB, Thurmond, the d-line, what to do about Murray versus Mathews, TE. If they botch the upcoming offseason, that's when they set themselves up to be a 6-10 type team for years to come. I mean, Carroll, Thurmond AND Biggers are all free agents next year. Curry AND Thornton as well. They also can't punt for another year on TE because in 2017 both Celek AND Ertz are FA's. Celek and Cooper take up a combined $10 million in cap next year, but I don't see how they can cut either.

Their commitment to Bradford is the most precarious piece. They already wasted a 2nd rounder on him. Paying him even $13 million a year will sink them. If he wins a playoff game, forget it, he'll be getting multi-year offers in the neighborhood of $16 a year from multiple parties - and you know how idiotic and consistently fleeced Kelly is when a bidding war starts.

(Also, Byron Maxwell is currently their highest paid player under contract for 2016. You just can't screw up contracts that badly and not have it come back to bite you. He knows they have no leverage next year too because of the FA status of the other CB's. There's a significant chance Maxwell and Murray are their highest paid players for several years. (I think they'll get Peters to restructure.))

by Athelas :: Tue, 11/10/2015 - 7:29pm

"Rob Weintraub: Man, Andrew Luck is tough. Takes a huge sandwich shot, shakes it off, and throws a touchdown pass to Ahmad Bradshaw on the next play."

Yes he is.

by greybeard :: Wed, 11/11/2015 - 9:37pm

His kidney on the other hand...