Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

Week 10 Open Game Discussion

It's a rarity, but the best game of the week is on Thursday night, as Cam Newton faces Pittsburgh for just the second time in his career when the 6-2 Panthers visit the 5-2-1 Steelers. Only three other games this weekend (Saints-Bengals, Patriots-Titans, and Seahawks-Rams) feature two teams at .500 or better. Use this thread to discuss them all.


117 comments, Last at 13 Nov 2018, 7:25am

4 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Pittsburgh offense can do no wrong through a quarter and a half. First offensive play of the game was a long TD to Smith Schuster on the slot fade, and it hasn't really gotten much harder since then. Everything has been working, even cute stuff like a true reverse and a couple of empty backfield fullback screens.

Carolina is moving the ball pretty well, but Pittsburgh has been getting just enough pressure to disrupt their drives. Pittsburgh has always had a deep playbook of funky five man blitzes, which has to make them a tough team to prepare for on a short week.

7 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Carolina throws a swing to McCaffery and there's one there. On that entire side of the field for Pittsburgh. That's got to be the easiest 20 yard touchdown of his entire life.

8 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Carolina just finished a long touchdown drive, and Pittsburgh starts their drive with super-raw rookie tailback Jaylen Samuels in the backfield. He runs unproductively for two straight plays. I really don't get their RB rotation strategy. This is when Connor would be about the least tired he'll be all game. Relieve him in the middle of a long drive! It doesn't make any sense to relieve him when he just had a 15 minute breather with the defense on the field.

Oh, but Pittsburgh hits AB for an easy TD down the sideline. I guess I shouldn't be complaining about the offense.

9 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Aikman called the pick six by Cam illadvised. I disagree, it was a guaranteed safety and then good field position for Pittsburgh with a high likelihood of a score. Trying to avoid a very bad situation by doing something high risk is sometimes a good idea.

12 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Totally agree. And it was too early for anyone involved to know how unstoppable the Pittsburgh offense would be for the entire first half.

Incidentally, I have been blissfully unaware of Aikman's dumb shit because I've been listening to goofy British dudes try to pronounce "Juju Smith-Schuster. " I think the UK feed is a lot of fun, even if my girlfriend thinks I'm crazy for it.

17 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

I agree it's debatable not cut and dried like aikman said. Percentages based on guesses. If he throws the ball there's a 50% chance of an int and 75% chance of TD, 25% chance of FG so expected points are 3. If he takes the saftey Pitt scores TD 10% of the time and FG 25% for expected points of 3.5. These % are probably way off but Aikman can think about it before spouting.

32 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Bingo. Scramble, take the sack, throw it away, even for an intentional grounding, but do not retreat to the end zone with a Watt coming at you unimpeded, even if it is only Grammy Watt.

I've not seen much of Cam this year, but I did not see the guy with improved situational awareness and vision everyone has been talking about. Every team is going to throw up a clunker now and again, but situational awareness isn't really supposed to have high variance. There were a bunch of times when the defender was right in front of his grill and he didn't seem to see him.

I also saw Cam complete the 13 passes in a row at one point, but that's a different thing from what I'm talking about. I won't entirely credit scheme for a lot of those completions, but that can be a factor. Regardless, seeing guys in your face isn't supposed to be a on again, off again skill. No doubt he was under heavy pressure all game, but he definitely made it worse.

45 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

I agree 100% and tried to make this point as well. The Cam interception cannot fall under the description of 'poor decision' or 'illadvised', simply because there were no good options on the play. It's one of those busted plays which put the QB in a position of essentially zero outs. I agree that Cam made the best possible choice in trying to ground it in the vicinity of receiver; better to attempt an incompletion than settle for an automatic safety. It's simple math considering there was no guarantee an interception would have been made even though it may have been likely.

13 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Unless something changes with Carolina's OL's protection, there's no way the second half is going to be competitive.

I haven't seen much Pittsburgh and no Carolina this year before this game. I'm really surprised how much consistent pressure Pittsburgh is getting on Newton, quickly. I don't know whether to credit Pittsburgh or blame Carolina. Or both.

14 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Kind of seems like it's more Carolina to blame, honestly. Watt was completely unblocked on both his strip sack and on the pressure leading to the pick-six. If you find yourself leaving the opponent's best pass rusher unblocked multiple times per half, you've got a problem.

39 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

There were times Carolina moved the ball on Pittsburgh, too. McCaffrey and Newton could make the offense look really, really good on some types of plays. So, yeah, I could see Carolina mounting a furious come back.

Over the course of a full game, though, if that's typical Panther OL play, then the playbook is going to get really, really thin. Last night, pretty much any play that required more than a couple of seconds to set up was being blown up before it had any chance of success. The one reverse they ran was almost a huge loss, if Samuel doesn't make a great play to avoid Dupree, who's in position to tackle him almost as soon as he gets the hand off. And about the only "long" passes that were working were YAC plays off quick throws.

42 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

I don't know if I would call their offense shaky, they're not in the same tier as the Chiefs or Rams but they came into last night a solid 5th in offensive DVOA, albeit against the easiest schedule of opposing defenses. (Nice to be in the same division as ATL, TB & NO.) I think the bigger problem and more obvious takeaway from last night is that their defense isn't as good as their reputation.

46 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Carolina's defense clearly has holes, most notably in their lack of edge pressure from the defensive line, but I wouldn't draw too many conclusions from this performance. 21 of Pitt's points came on plays consisting of a pick 6, a busted coverage by Bradberry on the 1st play of the game, Jackson simply getting beat by Brown 1vs1. Busted Coverage and huge scores by All Pro receivers happen in this game, you just don't expect them to occur on a consistent basis. The most concerning aspect of the Panthers defense is that they can't generate pressure without blitzing, so their secondary will be stretched at times. Overall I like that they don't commit too many avoidable penalties (discipline!) and are pretty reliable at clamping down in the redzone usually. Not easy to score against the Panthers down there.

15 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Lame decision there from Riverboat Ron. Middle of the third quarter, down four scores throws a give-up WR screen on 3&17. I guess he's just trying to get on the plane home at this point.

18 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Looks to me that Ben starts to slide as Reid starts to commit to the tackle. Not sure if there's really much he could have done there to avoid getting ejected.

34 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Agreed. He also seemed to adjust in mid air I've it became a slide. He did hit him as he flew over, but it sure looked incidental. They have to call the penalty, but I did not understand the ejection. I guess it's just a zero tolerance policy now. (Although, as I say that, I know it's not true. I've seen plenty of worse contact not even be flagged. Hell, go look at the Baker Mayfield slide in, I think, the Tampa game. The ref went so far as to announce over the PA that hitting him in the head was okey-dokey.)

48 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

The most egregious ref moment of the night was the no call on the Watt hit on Cam (which caused the fumble). This should have been a textbook penalty according to the rules. Watt could have easily lead with his shoulder pad and made a formed tackle around the midsection, instead he intentionally torpedoed himself into Cam's shoulder/neck region, helmet first. One of the most dangerous hits that can be put on a QB and they don't call that? And then the commentators don't even point it out after all questionable flags we've seen from QB contact? This hit should not have even been questionable.

22 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Tried to watch Storm / Kremer feed, but they seemed a little amateurish and got into a long conversation about Leveon Bell, a horse which has joined the choir invisible and requires no more beating. Switched to the British guys, who were sort of ok, but whose understanding of the game seemed rather lacking. Couldn’t face the platitudes of Buck and Aikman. Don’t have enough Spanish to appreciate that option. Finally turned the sound down so far that I’m not really listening, but the house isn’t utterly silent. Evidently, football announcing is hard.

Glad to see Dobbs in, always think the second string guy needs game experience.

Panthers weren’t playing that badly, then things just quickly fell apart. Sometimes that just happens.

Don’t know if it’s due to Fichtner, but Steeler offense does seem more varied and vibrant. Although I did see the dread wide receiver screen early in the game.

27 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

I don't mind the WR screen in the early downs. I think Pittsburgh gets 3-7 yard gains off it about as consistently as they do running between the tackles. It's the WR screens on 3&long that always drove me nuts, it's basically deciding to gain 5 more yards before you punt. That angle of the gameplan seems to have largely left with Haley.

Also, the multi-announcer thing is never going to be a complete success until the additional crews are better integrated into the production. Since they were working off the Buck-Aikman video footage, the alternate crews were having to guess what replays were coming and what they were supposed to emphasize. It was a bit jarring to see a player circled on the telestrator with neither announcer even mentioning him.

28 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Do we all agree that Thursday games after Sunday games are a bad idea? Thursday games for two teams coming off a bye week, sure. But not these short work week games.

Maybe Carolina gets blown out in Pittsburgh anyway, and last night's performance has nothing to do with the game being on Thursday night. But it sure felt like we were robbed of a potentially interesting match up.

Does anyone have any stats on whether Thursday night games are more likely to be big wins for the home team, compared to Sunday night or Monday night games? I'm curious about the prime time vs prime time comparison, in case being on national TV somehow influences the team performance. I'd also exclude Dallas and Detroit Thanksgiving games, as they might skew the data given the relative amount of Dallas and Detroit content would go into the mix.

30 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

The best argument for a 2nd bye week, or even a 3rd, and playing the Super Bowl on President's Day Weekend, is that nobody would have to play on a Thursday, or in London, without having a bye the previous week. I think the players would like it, as would the networks, what with ratings rebounding. They really ought to do it.

31 For Will Allen:

Happy 29th anniversary of this:

This would be perfect for the Rick & Morty crew to convert into a scene. That rant is basically how Morty sounds when he gets worked up.

35 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

Every once in a while a bad coach makes a single decision that is so bad that I think the owner should come down down and fire him on the spot. Riverboat Ron has had a number of those over the years, but none more so than leaving Cam in the game down 52-14 in the fourth quarter.

Riverboat Ron is the poster child for what happens when a solid team that wins it all causes you to keep a mediocre coach. You end up with so many years of underachieving.

Unless Mike McCarthy is already on that poster.

40 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

I was trying to figure out if that was a confidence thing. Get a scoring drive out of the offense (more likely in garbage time), then sit your starters on a relative high.

Not saying that's the right approach vis a vis the risk of injury, but it was the only reason I could think of for continuing to run the starters out there in the fourth quarter.

41 Re: Week 10 Open Game Discussion

In Carolina's case, without even the nice memories of having won a Super Bowl in the first place.

Although I wonder, has Carolina really underachieved under Rivera? They're still in good shape for their fifth playoff appearance in 8 years, which would also be 5 in the last 6. Maybe the 7-8-1 season shouldn't really count, but that's a respectable run, especially in the more-competitive NFC.