Burrow-ing Into The Year of the Fatal Flaw

Tennessee Titans ER Harold Landry
Tennessee Titans ER Harold Landry
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Conference Championship - Andrew: WHAT A WEEKEND. Disastrous collapses. Stunning comebacks. Three walk-off field goals and one walk-off touchdown, every game decided on the final play. Three road wins versus just one home victory, with bye weeks counting for absolutely nothing. After we bemoaned Super Wild Card Weekend last week, the divisional round more than made up for it.

Bryan: This may be where you're expecting an exhaustively researched, heavily cited chart of "the best divisional round weeks" or something like that, but I mean, come on. All four games ended in walkoff scores. You had an astounding shootout for people who love offense. You had a classic Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field game. You had a run at one of the biggest comebacks in postseason history. You had a team advancing to the conference championship game for the first time in over a generation. Unless you happened to be a fan of one of the four eliminated teams, I'm really not sure what more you could ask for. Competitiveness, variety, history, comedy—everything you could possibly want in an NFL weekend was here. I'm exhausted just remembering it.

Andrew: Everything you could want except sleep, in my case. Totally worth it. I don't think I have ever seen a four-game weekend that competitive.

Bryan: It's weeks like that which remind us why we love this stupid, stupid sport.

Andrew: And in finest Scramble tradition, it's the stupidity of the sport that draws our focus. We hereby present to you, dear reader...

Scramble's Guide to Postseason Success in 2021

... or something like that. Because seriously, postseason success this weekend did not look like postseason success from previous years.

Bryan: Or even regular-season success, mind you! All four teams moving on to the conference championship round did so despite some truly mind-boggling statlines, flaunting traditional theories on "how you actually win football games."

Andrew: I suppose it's only appropriate, in the Year of No Great Teams, that every single one of our final four had to overcome the sort of flaw that would usually be fatal to a contender's chances.

Pass Protection is Passé

Bryan: For instance! Teams that allowed seven or more sacks in a single game had gone 24-186-3 since the 2002 realignment. That's a winning percentage of .124. So-called "experts" will tell you that it's very difficult to win football games when your quarterback is becoming one with the turf. So the Bengals wisely didn't allow seven sacks; they skipped all the way up to nine.

Andrew: Nine sacks is an astonishing figure. That's only the third time one quarterback has ever been sacked nine times in a playoff game, though the fifth time a team has allowed nine sacks.

Bryan: The Bengals finished the season 31st in adjusted sack rate, so the fact that Tennessee was able to cut through them like butter shouldn't be all that surprising. Joe Burrow doesn't exactly help himself out, mind you—he holds on to the ball forever and does not react well when pressure gets into his face. And by "does not react well," I mean "is prone to running 10 yards backwards out of field goal range before being flattened." And it's this propensity for taking back-breaking sacks which explains why the Tennessee Titans are moving on … wait, what?

Andrew: It turns out, it really helps you overcome a nine-sack performance when your opponent throws three interceptions and you only throw one. Even though Ryan Tannehill threw a touchdown pass and Joe Burrow didn't, Tannehill's final interception gave Burrow one last chance at the game-winning points, and the boot of Evan McPherson sent the Bengals through. You don't get a much worse example of a missed opportunity than your defense literally posting a record-tying performance and your offense blowing the game with 28 seconds left at home.

Bryan: In the sorting algorithm of "dealing with pressure," sacks are pretty damn low, but better than literally throwing the ball to the other team. And it's helpful that when Burrow wasn't lying on the ground, he was throwing the ball to Ja'Marr Chase.

Andrew: Clearly, though, the Bengals are doomed in the next round, because Melvin Ingram and Chris Jones are a far superior force to Jeffrey Simmons and Harold Landry. Frankly, Burrow will be lucky if the Chiefs don't dig him a hole to match his name and collectively stuff him in it.

Bryan: And even if they advance, they'll be met by one of the top eight teams in adjusted sack rate coming out of the NFC. So clearly, this weekend proved the Bengals cannot win the Super Bowl.

Scoring is for Sissies

Bryan: Later on Saturday, we had a somewhat feeble offensive performance to watch. Teams that scored zero offensive touchdowns had gone 102-774-2 since the 2002 realignment. That's a winning percentage of .117. So-called "experts" will tell you that the most efficient way for your team to score points is with the ball in the hands of your offense. In Kyle Shanahan's continued attempt to revolutionize the game, he eschewed that strategy in Green Bay.

Andrew: To be fair to him, compared to putting the ball in the hands of Jimmy Garoppolo, putting the ball in the hands of Green Bay's special teams is a much more proven recipe for postseason success. Just ask Brandon Bostick.

Bryan: What do you suppose the odds are for a team to have a punt and a field goal blocked in the same game? It's got to be worse than 1-in-500. Maybe not 1-in-1,000? Maybe somewhere in the high triple-digits?

Andrew: For a random team, or for the 2021 Green Bay Packers? Because my goodness, any team that can take the worst special teams crown away from the Chargers in such convincing fashion is capable of just about anything. And the greatest irony, as we'll get to in the awards section, is that the Packers failed at the one aspect of special teams they weren't usually failing at in the regular season.

Bryan: Putting the ball in Aaron Rodgers' hands seems like a much worse recipe for success, as San Francisco found out back in Week 3. But then again, the 49ers' defense wasn't the 49ERS DEFENSE back in Week 3, and they were able to pressure Rodgers on over 30% of his dropbacks, which seems pretty good! They didn't let Rodgers have time to collect himself and take his shots.

But Garoppolo, man. He's a polarizing player, which is the polite way of saying "he's not as good as his numbers indicate." Don't get me wrong, he's one of the best 32 quarterbacks in the world and should be starting somewhere, but watching his injured arm float wobblers through the snow on Saturday was not exactly the most comforting thing in the world for, oh, any random neurotic 49ers fan. A win is a win is a win, especially in the playoffs, but oy.

Andrew: As you note, failing to score points on offense is usually a losing strategy. San Francisco did considerably better against the Cowboys in the wild-card round, but their fatal flaw was exposed in Green Bay. Clearly, they are not a serious contender either.

Bryan: Yeah, can you imagine what would happen if Jimmy Garoppolo was matched up against, say, Patrick Mahomes in a Super Bowl? That has to be one of the signs of the apocalypse, somewhere right before a plague o'er the land.

… oh. Well, clearly, that can't happen, so we have no reason to worry.

Running Backs Don't Matter

Andrew: The 49ers were rewarded for victory in Green Bay with a trip to slightly warmer climes, somewhat closer to home, and a much more familiar opponent. However, that opponent had issues of their own on offense. Since 2002, teams with four or more turnovers are 111-844-2 for a winning percentage of .117. However—and this is crucial—the Rams took the correct approach to turning the ball over. Teams that have four turnovers but no interceptions are a substantially superior 5-10, good for a .333 winning percentage. The Rams alone have three of those five wins, versus only one loss. That's better than their usual win rate over that span! Apparently, fumbling is not only irrelevant in Los Angeles, but is actually desirable.

Bryan: I thought the Rams would survive their turnovers and stave off the Brady comeback … until the Cam Akers fumble with less than three minutes to go, when the Rams were just trying to run some clock. That's the point where I became a Brady believer; that whatever dark eldritch magicks have kept him not only playing but thriving well after the point where his knees should have fused solid was going to bail him out yet again.

Andrew: Maybe that's what finally prompts his retirement, as those rumors have intensified like a gathering storm this week. When he gets all the breaks and still doesn't win the game, that's finally what convinces him he doesn't need the hassle anymore.

Bryan: Then again, he did his part. The Bucs brought a lot of pressure on the final Rams drive—I have seen it described as Cover-0, though there's some disagreement there—and Matthew Stafford was able to find Cooper Kupp twice for huge gains to set up a game-winning field goal from their injured kicker. I'd say that's a great argument for prevent defense … an argument which held up about three hours until the Sunday nightcap.

But Matthew Stafford advances while Tom Brady goes home. What a strange world we live in. Had Josh Allen won, we would have been writing about the history of playoff quartets without championship rings. Not having a Brady or a Rodgers in the championship round—not to mention a Roethlisberger or a Manning or any of the other giants that have dominated the playoff field in the 21st century—is odd, and a little refreshing, honestly.

Andrew: Even with Mahomes, the field is a little on the raw side. Though it is the second time in three years we have had a final four with only a single ring between them (in 2019, Mahomes didn't yet have his, and Rodgers was the one-ring representative) so maybe this was the moment the buck finally finally passed. That makes Mahomes our Rodgers equivalent—somehow, he's already just one playoff win short of Drew Brees' career total, and could end this postseason one short of Rodgers'.

Bryan: And how about that NFC West, huh? Three playoff teams, and two of them will only be eliminated by other teams from the NFC West. We said before the season the division had the highest possible ceiling, and, well, yeah.

Of course, that means the Rams have to play the 49ers again, whom they just lost to in a Week 18 matchup that was closer than it probably should have been, per post-game win expectancy. And were blown out by in Week 10. And have lost six straight games against. And now they have fumbling issues. Hrm.

Andrew: And yet, the Rams are still favorites for the game. So they're playing a team they can't beat, with one running back who has fumbling issues and another they didn't trust enough to put into the game over the guy with fumbling issues. They can't hold a lead, either: the Buccaneers scored 14 points in the final four minutes to tie the game after scoring just 13 in the rest of the game. They, too, can't possibly win the Super Bowl.

Defense is for Dummies and Time is an Illusion

Bryan: Our numbers here are a little shakier, because Stathead's play search finder is very good, but not impeccable. But after careful search, we believe that teams that allowed a go-ahead touchdown with 15 seconds or less left in a game had gone 0-54 since the 2002 realignment, for a winning percentage of, uh, .000. Even if you expand that out to 30 seconds, they're just 4-107 (.037).

Andrew: We are more confident in the numbers that state teams who allow five touchdowns or more are just 75-909 (0.076) over that span, and teams that allow 36 or more points are just 65-1,003 (0.062). But the Chiefs didn't just defy the odds against the Bills, they defied reason, sense, and time itself. That's not bad for an evening's work. We knew Patrick Mahomes was inhuman. We didn't yet know he was a Time Lord.

Bryan: I am having trouble thinking of a better game that I have ever watched, at least under the current flavor of exciting games.

Andrew: More exciting? No chance. That final two minutes was the greatest two minutes of football I have ever seen, and I can't imagine how any other two minutes of action could be better. Funnier, sure—the ButtFumble game had a funnier two minutes, but that wasn't what most observers would consider good. This was otherworldly.

Bryan: They scored 31 points after the two-minute warning! We saw 38 games this season where the two teams couldn't get to 31 combined! Maybe you still put, say, Super Bowl XLII (helmet catch, 18-0 goes down) or XLIX (Malcolm Butler at the goal line) or LI (28-3) over it because of the scope of the game, or maybe you're a fan of the game's rulesets from a different era (The Ice Bowl, The Greatest Game Ever Played, The Catch), and that's all well and good and totally justifiable. But with the way the sport currently is, I'm not sure you could draw up a better, more entertaining game than what we all saw on Sunday.

Andrew: And those games are famous for specific plays, really, or individual drives at most. This was four scoring drives in two minutes, three of them lead changes and the other sending us to overtime. It was madness.

Bryan: Per ESPN's win probability numbers, three of the six biggest offensive plays in postseason history (or, at least, since 1999 when their numbers started) happened in this game. Astounding.

Andrew: Sure, we can be picky about end-game strategy—and believe me, we will be!—but what. A. Game.

Bryan: But even as good as Patrick Mahomes is, even with the quick-strike attack they have, you can't expect them to manage 15-second game winning drives on a regular basis, right? There's putting yourself behind the eight-ball, and then there's letting your opponents sink all their stripes before you even pick up a cue.

Andrew: Absolutely. I reiterate: 36 points allowed. Five touchdowns allowed. Those numbers result in a loss well over 90% of the time. The Bills may be the greatest postseason offense not to have won the Super Bowl, but the Chiefs clearly have a major flaw, especially if Tyrann Mathieu doesn't clear the concussion protocol in time for the AFC Championship Game.

Bryan: It's not like the Bengals ever took advantage of the Chiefs' secondary before, right? Or like a pass rush has ever ended Kansas City's run in a Super Bowl? Or Sean McVay has ever been able to win a shootout against Mahomes?

Andrew: Clearly, the Chiefs too are far too flawed to win the Super Bowl.

The Key to Success

Andrew: The old rules no longer apply. The teams that had success last weekend passed on pass protection, botched ballhandling, sneered at scoring, dismissed defense, and contemned the clock. Every single one of our final four is fatally flawed, and every single one is here on merit. This championship weekend will either see all four advance, or nobody.

Bryan: In which case we will be proven right, and no one will win the Super Bowl! That's just the obvious result when you apply some plain and simple logic to what we saw this weekend. It's the rational response to what has clearly become an irrational world.

In truth, and I think most independent observers are with me here, there's a clear favorite. As a 49ers fan, I am not scared of the Rams, and I am not scared of the Bengals—that's not to say I'm guaranteeing a win over either, mind you, just that I'm not frightened of either of them. I'm frightened of the Chiefs. Because anyone can sack the Bengals a zillion times, as they have repeatedly shown. Jimmy Garoppolo is capable of throwing a pick-six to any defensive back in the league. The Rams have spent the last half of the season experimenting with just how many turnovers they can give up and how many comebacks they can withstand. It took an exceptional Buffalo Bills offense, playing at the height of their powers, setting postseason records for receiving prowess, to put a scare into the Chiefs. Everyone's flawed, but some flaws shine brighter than others.

Andrew: We haven't even commented yet on the fact that the other three teams are all staffed from Sean McVay's Starbucks Fraternity, which means we're down to Andy Reid versus The World. It's a measure of how great Patrick Mahomes is that Reid would still get my vote, especially with the only quarterback ever to have beaten Mahomes in the postseason (Tom Brady) out of the way.

Bryan: Or maybe, just maybe, we'll finally see the crowning of someone from the Shanahan/McVay tree, the offensive gurus that have taken the league by storm. Maybe this is the year potential success becomes actual championship glory. After all, Rodgers and Brady have stepped aside for the next generation. Maybe this is the year Reid does, as well.

Playoff Fantasy Update

Bryan: It's a two-horse race, with another horse limping along in the rear-view mirror.

2021 Staff Playoff Fantasy Challenge
  Bryan Rivers Scott Vince Andrew Aaron Dave
QB Patrick
Mahomes
84.9 Josh Allen 83.25 Tom Brady 38 Matthew Stafford 59.2 Dak Prescott 23.4 Aaron Rodgers 11.25 Kyler Murray 3.45
RB Derrick Henry 12.2 Elijah Mitchell 25.6 Aaron Jones 26 Joe Mixon 34.1 Leonard Fournette 31.7 A.J. Dillon 2.5 Damien Harris 4.7
RB Darrel Williams -1.6 James Conner 9.4 Josh Jacobs 16.7 Sony Michel 7.8 Ezekiel Elliott 4.1 Devin Singletary 36.85 Tony Pollard 4.6
WR Amari Cooper 18.4 Stefon Diggs 14.7 A.J. Brown 25.2 Cooper Kupp 48.4 Tee Higgins 18.6 Mike Evans 52.6 Davante Adams 18
WR Van Jefferson 11.5 Ja'Marr Chase 39 Julio Jones 12.2 Odell Beckham 30.3 Cedrick Wilsom 11.2 Allen Lazard 1.6 Tyreek Hill 48.5
WR Jakobi Meyers 10 Deebo Samuel 31.3 Breshad Perriman 1.5 Tyler Boyd 16.6 Mecole Hardman 21.6 Byron Pringle 34.6 CeeDee Lamb 3.6
TE Dalton Schultz 15.9 Dawson Knox 28.8 George Kittle 13.1 Travis Kelce 49.5 Rob Gronkowski 26.6 Tyler Higbee 16.7 Zach Ertz 5.1
K Harrison Butker 19 Evan McPherson 35 Ryan Succop 17 Matt Gay 24 Greg Zuerlein 8 Mason Crosby 4 Matt Prater 6
DEF Chiefs -1 Bills 1 Titans 9 Rams 9 Cowboys -1 Packers 6 Buccaneers 9
TOT 169.3 268.05 158.7 278.9 144.2 166.1 102.95

Vince is in first place with a complete roster remaining, placing him in a fantastic position going forward. Going all-in on one team is a great way to finish either first or dead-last, as both Andrew and I can attest to in recent years. With the Rams withstanding a blast of Brady magic on Sunday, however, Vince is in the catbird seat, even if he's kicking himself for taking the wrong Los Angeles running back.

But don't count Rivers out just yet. Sure, losing the Bills gutted his roster, but grabbing 126.75 points from a team for just two games worth of work puts him in a very solid position himself. He has the 49ers' complete running game remaining, as well as the best traditional receiver left standing in Ja'Marr Chase. If the 49ers knock off the Rams, Rivers can still bring this thing home; a 10-point deficit really isn't all that much in the grand scheme of things. If the 49ers and Bengals win, I think you can chalk this one up as a Rivers victory. If only the 49ers win, it will depend on the magnitude of the 49ers' rushing attack. If the Rams win, Vince trots home.

Bryan is the only other player with a quarterback intact, and having Patrick Mahomes always gives you a chance. The problem is, it's really just Mahomes; Darrel Williams was a healthy scratch, the Chiefs defense has scored negative points, Van Jefferson is good for one big play a game, and Harrison Butker is a kicker. Mahomes is great, but 110 points is probably too much to make up. Though, again, if you had to pick one player to make that climb, you'd take Mahomes, right?

Aaron, Scott, and Andrew are almost surely out of the running for the title, though they remain in a tight race to avoid the bottom half of the table. With one or two receiving options each, any of them could make a move on each other with one solid day—and if the Chiefs fizzle against the Bengals, they might even be able to claim third place. But the Packers losing crushed Aaron, and the Buccaneers loss effectively knocked both Scott and Andrew out of serious contention. It's about saving face now.

And then there's Dave, who is disappointed he hit triple digits. Tyreek Hill is good and all, but I'm fairly sure Dave has last place sewn up; the first seventh-place finisher in Staff Fantasy League history.

Best of the Rest
Bryan: We'll talk about the magnitude of Gabriel Davis' day in the Fantasy Player of the Week session, but suffice it to say that if you wanted to win the Best of the Rest competition, you needed him—he had the best PPR day in playoff history, and it turns out that that's a very useful thing to have.

That puts JGov in the catbird seat, one of the eight managers who rode with Davis this year—and one of the five that paired him with Joe Burrow to boot. He ends up ahead of those other four players because he still has six of his nine slots alive, most in the competition—so not only has he picked the highest scoring-player and highest-scoring quarterback in the competition, but he has kept himself above water with live bullets at nearly every position. Yes, he'll miss Davis (64.2 points this year), and Tyler Johnson (9.5) fell out this week as well, but everyone else is still alive, including Burrow (35.9) and Robbie Gould (26) as he moves to the conference championships. He's your clear favorite going forward.

Only one team is out of players entirely, but quite a few more are down to, for example, just Joe Burrow, and are thus blocked by other teams who have Burrow but also more points and active players. As a result, only nine players still have live rosters if you're looking for the top spot.

JGov's sextet of Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Cam Akers, Brandon Aiyuk, Robbie Gould, and the 49ers defense blocks most comers—but not, it should be noted, the teams in second and third place. Fizz and Friends has C.J. Uzomah and the Bengals defense alongside Burrow and Edwards-Helaire. StMedard is in a little rougher shape with just the Bengals defense to go along with Burrow, Akers, and Edwards-Helaire, but that is, technically, a unique lineup; a Rams-Bengals Super Bowl could be his ticket to the championship. All three also rostered Gabriel Davis, so they're front-runners by a significant margin.

Deeper in the standings, you have some unique lineups for AlecB (Burrow, Derrick Gore, Aiyuk, Uzomah, Gould, and the Bengals), Vrao81 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Gould, and the Bengals) JCYPess (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Aiyuk, Uzomah, and the Bengals) and Simon2 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Akers, Uzomah, and the Bengals). It's all just variations on a theme, but none of the top three quite manage to cover them entirely. It's hard to imagine the exact series of results required for any of them to take the top spot, but they are all at least still breathing.

And then, near the bottom of the standings, you have MGilson96 (Akers and Josh Gordon remaining) and JW124164 (Jeff Wilson, Aiyuk, and the 49ers defense remaining). Suffice it to say, I'm not high on their hopes, but they have at least a wild card still standing.

Your top 5!

1. JGov: 196.2 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Akers, Aiyuk, Gould and 49ers DEF remaining)
2. Fizz and Friends: 186.7 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Uzomah and Bengals DEF remaining)
3. StMedard: 180 (Burrow, Akers, Edwards-Helaire and Bengals DEF remaining)
4. Bronco Jeff: 173.4 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Uzomah and Bengals DEF remaining)
5. KevKumpf: 156.6 (Burrow and Edwards-Helaire remaining)

Weekly Awards

Keep Choppin' Wood
Candidates for this prestigious award were plentiful across the weekend's games. We saw Ryan Tannehill throw three interceptions as the No. 1 seed Titans fell at home to the unfancied Bengals, his final one coming with 20 seconds left in a tied game to set up Cincinnati's game-winning field goal. Had the Titans won instead, we could have blamed a Bengals offensive line that allowed a playoff record nine sacks. We saw Cam Akers come very, very close to giving the game away for the Rams against the Buccaneers, with two lost fumbles in critical situations and the week's worst DYAR for a running back. However, the Buccaneers then lost the game on a stunning defensive play call that matched a safety against the league's most productive receiver for a 44-yard completion on the game-winning drive.

However, nothing—nothing—can surpass the infamous Packers special teams, who claim this award for the second time this season. Back in Week 15, it was a catalogue of errors that doomed the team against the Cowboys. On Sunday, it was just a single game-changing calamity:

The 49ers don't even do anything special here: they don't run any games at the line or sell out for the block, presumably content to get the ball back with over four minutes remaining. They simply rush the standard five at the snap, with a sixth player joining the rush after checking his coverage responsibilities. However, the interior of the punt protection folds like a deckchair, barely slowing Jordan Willis on his rush toward Corey Bojorquez. After the block, we are treated to the comical sight of eight Packers players looking around for the ball as it drops in front of Talanoa Hufanga, who returns it unchallenged for the game-tying score. Green Bay's league-worst special teams have been an issue all year, but the punt unit was the one aspect of special teams where the Packers had positive value in the regular season. They chose a heck of a moment to catch up with the rest of the squad.

Bryan: Allow me to break the award format for a moment by noting that it was not a single game-changing calamity, though the punt block was clearly the big moment. Allowing a blocked field goal to end the first half and a 45-yard kickoff return to a team that was having real trouble moving the ball also contributed to the worst special teams game of the year by DVOA. A true nightmare of a day from a unit every Packers fan was dreading coming into things—but I think even they didn't expect it would go this badly.

Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game
The Bills-Chiefs game was a classic for the ages, and one strategic element that helped make it so was the early aggression of Bills head coach Sean McDermott. On the opening drive, McDermott's team went for it on fourth-and-2 at midfield and fourth-and-goal from the 1 en route to a touchdown that whet the appetite for the shootout to come. Alas, McDermott didn't stay aggressive throughout: on reflection, we suspect he might rethink his decisions to punt on fourth-and-4 from the 49-yard line and even fourth-and-1 from his own 34 against the league's best offense. Kansas City scored a touchdown on each of the ensuing drives, so McDermott's team didn't even get full value out of the punts. However, that early aggression still merits this award. It's just a pity that somebody had to lose this game.

John Fox Award for Conservatism
It seems clear to us that Derrick Henry was not at full strength on his return from injury this past Saturday. Tennessee's talismanic tailback averaged just 3.1 yards per carry against the Bengals, with a long gain of just 9 yards and as many stuffs as first downs. Meanwhile, backup D'Onta Foreman, who was effective in Henry's stead during the regular season, had just one gain shorter than 9 yards, broke off a 45-yard run on his second carry, and gained 66 yards on just four attempts compared to Henry's 62 yards on 20. We're not necessarily saying Foreman should have taken the majority of the touches, but Mike Vrabel and his staff gave five times as many carries to the less effective player in a game his team lost by a very narrow margin.

Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching
Thirteen seconds isn't very much time at all. Heck, you can drain that all on one play if you execute it badly enough, as Mike McCarthy could attest to. In the most optimistic of scenarios, it's time for three plays that run clock. Down three points, that probably meant two quick passes and a field goal attempt for the Kansas City Chiefs, which is exactly what happened. But the Bills didn't have to let that happen. They could have killed one of those plays by kicking short on the kickoff, eating some precious seconds off of the clock on the return, rather than sailing the ball out of the back of the end zone. Sure, there's always the chance that the Chiefs could have gotten a return going and ended up with better field position, but would you rather have the ball in Patrick Mahomes' hands or the hands of a returner? The Bills saved the maximum amount of time for Mahomes, and the rest is history. It's a missed trick for Sean McDermott and Heath Farwell, and one they had control over, unlike the overtime coin flip.

'Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo' Fantasy Player of the Week
Good lord, Gabriel Davis. 201 yards and four touchdowns, an absolutely insane performance that needs to be remembered forever, even as it comes in a losing effort. Davis' 52.1 PPR fantasy points are, by my calculations, the most ever in the playoffs, beating out Keith Lincoln's 1963 AFL Championship Game (329 combined yards rushing and receiving, seven receptions, but only two touchdowns for 51.9 points). Heck, forget the postseason; it cracks the top 30 in PPR days of all time (though it doesn't quite catch Jonathan Taylor's five-touchdown day against the Bills earlier this year). You may be going home this week, Gabriel, but you do so with your head held high.

Garbage-Time Performer of the Week
No.

Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week
This can only be another shout out to Gabriel Davis. In Buffalo's defeat in Kansas City, Davis became the first player since Jerry Rice to have 200 yards and four touchdowns in a single game, and the first player ever to do so in the playoffs. Davis has had big games before: this was the third 100-yard performance of his two-year career. He has had strong playoff performances before: he caught 4-of-4 passes for 85 yards in the wild-card victory over Indianapolis a year ago. But he has never come close to this as a pro, and probably never will again.

Game-Changing Play[s] of the Week
Yeah, we can't pick between the various ending plays of the Kansas City-Buffalo game. Four different plays in the final two minutes would have won this award over anything the other three games put up, and five more would be in with a shout. And remember, all the games were good—it's just the Chiefs and Bills taking things to a whole different level. We're just going to put all the biggest ones here for posterity's sake, though I'll side with the 64-yard touchdown by Tyreek Hill as being the biggest individual play, if only because it covered the most ground. But I mean, come on. Three go-ahead touchdowns in the final two minutes of regulation! My god.

Weekly Predictions

Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week
All picks are made without reference to the FO+ picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Records to Date:
Andrew: 9-11
Bryan: 8-12

Bryan: I expect the NFC Championship Game to be a one-score contest no matter who wins, and so I'm staying clear of it when making this pick. I'll instead take Kansas City (-7) as they appear to be shifting into full-on juggernaut mode, at least on offense. I feel like for the Bengals to beat them, they have to put up at least 35 points, something they have only done three times this season. Cincinnati beat Tennessee in part because the Titans offense made mistakes the Bengals could capitalize on. I just don't see that from the Chiefs in their final form.

Andrew: I know it's boring to match picks, but at this stage in the season, it's tough to make them different without being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. Kansas City is the best team remaining in the postseason. They just disposed of the second-best team remaining. I know the Bengals beat them just a few weeks ago, but that was in Cincinnati, in the regular season, by a very narrow margin in a game where Ja'Marr Chase was unplayable. Expect the Chiefs to have a better plan for Chase this time around, and to know better than to punt in plus territory late in the game. Kansas City (-7) over Cincinnati.

Comments

54 comments, Last at 02 Feb 2022, 9:03pm

1 but the Chiefs clearly have…

but the Chiefs clearly have a major flaw, especially if Tyrann Mathieu doesn't clear the concussion protocol in time for the AFC Championship Game.

Part of me wonders if that ends up actually being an advantage for Kansas City - he's a huge part of their defense, and if they know he's not going to play, Cincinnati could be facing a situation they can't really prep for (obviously the comedy in game wouldn't happen again with a week to prep) which... isn't a great situation for them to be in.

Or, at least, it would be if Burrow wasn't preternaturally calm and Chase wasn't really good at football. Like I said - just a part of me.

Super-torn on this one. Normally I'd say "2nd year QB+rookie WR" would be in trouble with unexpected looks, but Burrow and Chase make me think they'd really like Mathieu back.

2 Unless you happened to be a…

Unless you happened to be a fan of one of the four eliminated teams, I'm really not sure what more you could ask for. 

I'm a Lions fan pissed that the Bungals no longer keep worst-place occupied for us.

3 But the Bills didn't have to…

But the Bills didn't have to let that happen. They could have killed one of those plays by kicking short on the kickoff, eating some precious seconds off of the clock on the return,

I mean, isn't the assumption here that Bass is actually a good enough kickoff guy to be able to do that? I honestly have no idea - the majority of his kickoffs are touchbacks and even most of the ones that aren't are typically ones where the returner brings the ball out for some insane reason. (You want to talk about inefficiency in football, there's a place to go. Never in my life would I allow a returner to bring the ball out of the end zone)

If I'm the Chiefs and they kick short, I'm totally telling the returner to let it bounce and hope it goes into the end zone. I kinda doubt kickers can direct a ball on a kickoff such that it kicks backwards like punts do. And if it's way short, you just call fair catch. No time off.

I don't really think it could've cut time off the clock, but maybe it could've resulted in the Chiefs starting farther back. Of course screwing with a kicker's routine could also result in it going out of bounds, which would be waaay worse.

11 I think the focus on the…

I think the focus on the kickoff is misplaced. As you noted, it could have been far worse. It's the post kickoff defense that should be excoriated, especially since they had MULTIPLE timeouts to discuss and strategize 

12 Mostly agree. I think it's…

Mostly agree. I think it's pretty clear they did strategize - it's not like the defense looked confused and out of place or anything, it was just wrong. Don't think it made sense to worry about a Hail Mary quite as much as they did.

I also think Kelce should absolutely be an offensive coordinator when he retires, too. Hell, probably both of them.

14 I think it's pretty clear…

I think it's pretty clear they did strategize - it's not like the defense looked confused and out of place or anything, it was just wrong. Don't think it made sense to worry about a Hail Mary quite as much as they did.

Right, the strategy they employed was for a totally different situation - one where KC had 0-1 timeouts instead of 3. Barring a defensive penalty, KC was going to have 3 plays, maximum. And the 3rd was going to be a field goal attempt or a Hail Mary. They acted as if running out of bounds was a concern, but it absolutely wasn't. They rushed Mahomes like they wanted to hurry his throw, but then they didn't actually cover the guys he would make a hurried throw to. The only way that would have worked is if they somehow unsettled Mahomes enough for him to miss a wide-open receiver or force a drop, which is an outrageous gamble.

 

I can almost understand if they rolled out that defense on 1st down, saw Tyreek gain 20 yards and then said "Woah, that didn't work. They only need 15 more to give Butker a chance here" and used the time out to tighten up on 2nd. But then they gave up 25 more.

I've honestly gotten more mad about it as the week has gone on.

15 On the other hand

There's no game-theory, what's-the-other-guy-going-to-do element to the kickoff decision.  If you kick deep for a touchback, you're unilaterally deciding that KC will have 13 seconds at the first snap of the ball.  Your defense when they run that play that interacts with what they decide to do, and could be better or worse depending on how it influences those decisions.

Soft zone was bad because KC decided to run what was effectively a WR screen, but one in which the blockers didn't have to start blocking anyone until they were 10-15 yards downfield.  And perhaps BUF should have known that KC would do that when they saw the defense - but if they came out in press man and Hill put a move on his guy, caught a 15 yard slant, and took it to the house (as happened literally one minute of game time earlier) then everyone would be excoriating them for not playing zone where the other defenders would be in a position to tackle after the catch.

Choosing to kick deep was an unforced error; getting beat by their offense was something that KC had to make happen.

17  If you kick deep for a…

 If you kick deep for a touchback, you're unilaterally deciding that KC will have 13 seconds at the first snap of the ball. 

I don't understand. KC can always end up with 13 seconds at the first snap of the ball, barring a squib kick which isn't cleanly handled. Call a fair catch, boom, no time off the clock. And if the ball ends up within say 10 yards of the end zone, you just let it go and if it bounces to the end zone, same result. Clock doesn't start until the kicking team touches the ball first.

Trying to kick short to force a return is more about trying to make them decide between field position and time. But there's no guarantee there.

Soft zone was bad because

The Kelce catch was an incredibly soft zone - that was probably significant overkill. They could've cut those zones at least by at least half. They definitely didn't need two defenders that deep right at the snap.

38 Yeah, that

If you kick high and relatively short (I think an NFL kicker has the skill to kick the ball so that it will come down between, say, the 5 and 20 yard lines), you force the Chiefs to decide whether to (a) fair catch, meaning no time off the clock but likely 10-20 yards worse field position than a touchback; (b) run the kick back, taking time off the clock in exchange for yardage, with some small upside benefit of a big return but a likely larger downside risk of a penalty on the return meaning worse field position and time off the clock; or (c) let the ball bounce and trust it'll go into the end zone, which will likely lead to a touchback and no time off the clock, but has a non-trivial chance of very bad things happening if it doesn't - best case, you field the ball and fall down at something like the 10 yard line (same as if you'd fair caught it); worst case, the coverage team gets downfield while the ball is bouncing around and there's a scrum, which means the clock is running and you might not even end up with the ball.

Forcing the other guy to do something is rarely a bad idea.

39 Trying to kick differently…

In reply to by DGL

Trying to kick differently carries the risk of accidentally kicking the ball out of bounds. And I don't know about the NFL kicker skill part - they're not punters. If they had more of a "distance target" skill set it'd be easier for them to screw with normal kickoffs, and they don't.

From what I've read/heard, kickers don't have a ton of control of trajectory other than left/right because the tee's so close to the ground, and out of bounds kickoffs typically happen when the kicker's approach is screwed up. So in some sense it's like asking "why didn't QB X throw it sidearm like Mahomes?" Because even though it's possible, and some can do it, for most QBs, delivery's a mechanics thing.

43 I think it happens pretty often

Anecdotally, it's not uncommon to see a kicker drop a kick around the 5 yard line, and at another point in the same game (kicking the same direction) put one seven yards deep into the end zone.  It's plausible that the difference is something like quality of contact or how much adrenaline the kicker had pumping at that particular kick, but given the degree to which specialists work on precise repetition of every nuance, it seems more likely to me that it's intentional.

I've never talked to (or been) an NFL placekicker, though, so I could be wrong. 

48 Anecdotally, it's not…

Anecdotally, it's not uncommon to see a kicker drop a kick around the 5 yard line, and at another point in the same game (kicking the same direction) put one seven yards deep into the end zone.

I really don't think that's intentional. Kickoffs are pretty much them hitting it as hard and strong as they can. Generally I think that variation is just natural in terms of overall strength and the fact that drag matters way more. Just way different than, say, punts, which are much more controlled overall.

Realistically I think the only two options you had were a normal kickoff (which that was) and a squib, and the squib idea really would make me nervous.

I mean, if a kicker could accurately place things, I think you'd see that show up a lot more.

51 I mean, the only reason we…

I mean, the only reason we're talking about it is because we know what happened. But at the time, trying the higher variance play (the squib kick) would have sounded weird, to say the least. If, for whatever reason, the network had gone to commercial break after the Bills score, half the audience would surely have changed the channel and not bother to check back.

40 is that Buffalo didn't even…

is that Buffalo didn't even force the Chiefs to execute.  

That play to Kelce is harder than it looked. Kelce split the two defenders exactly and Mahomes hit him just about right as he was there so he'd get as much YAC as possible. And he wasn't even under zero pressure either - he actually threw the ball a shade early because the pressure was there. And I think he did it all without even glancing towards Kelce and he waited until he had baited the Will to turn away from Kelce (which is partly why there was so much space).

The throw looked easy because everything that led up to it was perfect.

46 Not forcing KC to execute

was referring to the kickoff, not the subsequent plays.  They absolutely had to execute on the two pass plays; but my point was that BUF kicking the ball deep meant that KC got the ball on the 25 with 13 seconds without having to do anything (including making the returner think about what to do as the ball is coming down - catch and run, fair catch, or let it bounce).

In general, I think it's a good idea to give your opponent the opportunity to screw up, especially in a game situation that is uncommon.  (Like, there's almost never a game situation where "let the kickoff bounce at the five yard line because it will probably go into the end zone, and when it does, chase it down for a touchback" is the right decision.)  

47 Well, yeah, but I also think…

Well, yeah, but I also think it's a good idea to not give yourself a chance to screw up, which is my point. Can you imagine how bad it would've been if the Bills had tried to kick it short and instead it went out of bounds?

certainly don't know the relative likelihood of those two things.

19 Soft zone was bad because KC…

Soft zone was bad because KC decided to run what was effectively a WR screen, but one in which the blockers didn't have to start blocking anyone until they were 10-15 yards downfield.  And perhaps BUF should have known that KC would do that when they saw the defense - but if they came out in press man and Hill put a move on his guy, caught a 15 yard slant, and took it to the house (as happened literally one minute of game time earlier) then everyone would be excoriating them for not playing zone where the other defenders would be in a position to tackle after the catch.

They don't have to play press man specifically, a man/zone combo would also have been an option. And further - vs. Tyreek on the previous drive they had to play traditional defense. KC had a minute remaining. Vs. this situation, they could have pulled two guys off the LOS and used one of them to jam Hill at the line with another guy over the top - so who cares if the first guy gets burnt?

20 and used one of them to jam…

and used one of them to jam Hill at the line with another guy over the top - so who cares if the first guy gets burnt?

Well, I mean, jamming Hill at the line's not going to do anything, this isn't going to be a rhythm pass - you don't have enough of a rush for that. All you're going to do with that is just waste a guy.

Zone really is a good option in this case. It's just the ridiculous softness that's the issue - the safeties are literally 30+ yards downfield. And a soft cover 2 versus that alignment's just really bad, which is what Kelce noticed - the seam route's just got truckloads of room, and god only knows what the weak side safety's supposed to be defending.

edit: to be clear, keep in mind Kelce caught the pass at the 42. In stride. He picked up another 11 yards there! A tighter zone would've easily cut that down, or heck even cover 3 likely would've done it since the seam wouldn't've been gaping open.

21 Well, I mean, jamming Hill…

Well, I mean, jamming Hill at the line's not going to do anything, this isn't going to be a rhythm pass - you don't have enough of a rush for that. All you're going to do with that is just waste a guy.

In a normal situation, you're right. But you can put a guy who's much bigger than him, like AJ Klein or something, who has almost 60 lbs on Hill. Yeah, he'll get burned once Hill gets free, but even holding him up for a fraction of a second eats valuable clock, forces him to run sideways a bit to get around you, or forces Mahomes to throw the ball to a less capable receiver. All of those are wins. If you manage to knock Hill off his feet or shove him OOB, that's a huge win for the defense and what's the worst case? A defensive holding call? People suggested doing that anyway.

The Chiefs reached the 31 with 3 seconds left. If you can stall 1-2 seconds off of each play, the game is over. And if you can hold them back even 4-5 yards per play, the FG is massively more difficult. These tiny margins are enormous.

41 but even holding him up for…

but even holding him up for a fraction of a second eats valuable clock, forces him to run sideways a bit to get around you, or forces Mahomes to throw the ball to a less capable receiver.

If you do press/zone, the zone guy behind him's gotta be at least 10-15 yards off, and as soon as Hill sheds the blocker he's got the sideline. You do zone on plays like that because if you give up the sideline they can just walk down the field. Sideline plays are faster than inbounds plays with a timeout.

edit: I shouldn't sound quite so definitive here because I don't think what you're suggesting is worse than what the Bills did, just not what I'd do. I don't quite mind the zone look they had but it was stretched nearly a factor of 3 more than normal, and if you're going to do that, do cover 3 rather than cover 2 so it's more adaptable. And even then jeez, you don't need it that soft.

And if you can hold them back even 4-5 yards per play,

Holy cow, if you can hold the Chiefs to 4-5 yards per completion ever, you're awesome.

49 Oh, whoops. Yeah, that I…

Oh, whoops. Yeah, that I totally agree with - that's what I was saying anyway, the zones were just way too soft. Compressing them by jeez, by a third or a half would've still had the same deep shot protection, but would've given up way less yardage.

24 This

Either the catch had to be contested, or a player had to be in position to tackle him immediately. To be allowed an uncontested catch plus YAC was fatal.

4 I realize it seems like…

I realize it seems like Kansas City has morphed into their final form, but I had a bad feeling that February the 13th will see Aaron Donald or Joey Bosa forcing Mahommes into the woodchipper.  Again.

8 Given your success rate in…

Given your regular-season success rate in your Weekly Predictions, I now predict the 49ers make the Super Bowl, Nick Bosa makes the winning play on a strip-sack and afterwards credits his brother for telling him a tendency the team had.

13 Styles make fights, and the…

Styles make fights, and the way we played that game was a really poor match for what KC was doing. Buffalo had, IMO, three key weaknesses on defense:

1) We had a tendency to overrun on rush defense, which left us very vulnerable to cutbacks. If you go back and look at Johnathan Taylor or Damien Harris' long runs a number of them came because a giant hole appeared on the back side and they exploited it. This was not so important in the KC game, but it caused us some losses which put the KC game in KC.

2) Behind Tre White, we do not have a ton of pedigree in our cornerbacks. Taron Johnson is a former 4th round pick, Jackson was a 7th rounder, and Wallace and Lewis were UDFAs. We didn't have any physical freak DBs who could take on KC's wideouts, which left us vulnerable to crossers. Zone concepts involve a ton of coverage handoffs, and behind Wallace is a ton of inexperience. And in Man they just get outrun. See also: The crosser that ended the Tampa game. Hill's last minute TD was another example.

3) We do not have a single beastly pass rusher in the Bosa, Garett, Watt mold. We roll them like hockey lines. The problem was that when our top line (Addison-Philips-Oliver-Hughes) was off the field, our pass rush tanked entirely. Further, our ends rush really far upfield. Against rookie QBs who aren't really aware what's going on behind them or slow QBs who can't do anything about it, its fine. Against mobile vets like Mahomes or Tannehill, they just slip right out through the cavernous B gap and escape on foot.

 

So KC hits two of our weaknesses directly, then you add it garden-variety bad tackling and poor situational awareness and off we go.

22 Doesn't it seem line the O…

Doesn't it seem line the O-line/D-line advantage on the NFC side is even larger than the QB advantage for the AFC side? This feels like the 80's all over again with everyone focusing on the new Marino/Elway/Kelly dominating some crappy Williams/Rypien/Simms NFC East dog that is clearly better on defense than the AFC counterparts. Maybe the NFL has changed the rules too much and there is no point in trying without an elite QB. The biggest mismatch in this upcoming SB seems to be getting quietly ignored by everyone while we just sit here in awe of the incredible passing offenses we just witnessed on the AFC side. Mahomes has had his worst games against teams that pressured him consistently. Burrow got sacked 9 times against Tennessee. Seems like the 2 remaining NFC D lines could be a massive problem for either of these teams in the SB.

23 I mean, three of these teams…

I mean, three of these teams have been in the Super Bowl within the last three seasons, and we saw the NFC team defense put up a valiant effort in two of them and nearly win the game by itself. So I think that's quite a reasonable take. I was simply referring to how KC's offense dominated Buffalo specifically, because I've watched the latter all year.

27 Oh yeah after reading that…

Oh yeah after reading that 538 article about the Bills defense and watching it get a bit softer after White went down made me concerned. You guys seemed to rely a lot on manufacturing a pass rush to get pressure. Compare that to SF and LAR who were almost always sending 4 and getting top 5 sack rates. The 2021 Bills defense reminded me a lot of the 2019 Patriots defense in the limited time I was able to watch. One of the best safety duos I have ever seen though. Poyer and Hyde were incredible all year and a huge reminder that the probowl is an awful measure of greatness.

31 They actually rushed four a LOT

Leslie Frazier hates sending the blitz, and I hate watching him let quarterbacks stay comfortable in the fourth quarter, when the blitz is most likely to disrupt their timing and mess with their internal clock after 45+ minutes of relative safety. They Bills sent four all season and finished T-7th in adjusted sack rate at 7.6% with ... checks notes ... the Rams! The Niners were fourth at 8.0%, a difference of 1 sack every 250 attempts.

I'm not suggesting the Bills' pass rushers are as good as those as those of the Rams and the Niners, because they most certainly are not. They need a real finisher, and I'm optimistic Brandon Beane will get his hands on the right veteran. But the difference on the field wasn't that great this year. Some of that is opponent-dependent, but the Bills don't try blitzing Mahomes anyway. As we saw on the first drive of the game, the pass rush did get there, but they couldn't quite finish, and Mahomes made some great shimmies and shakes on his way to few shoestring-tackle escapes. If this game had been played in Orchard Park, I suspect the front four would have gotten to him more than once. Fingers crossed we can find out next year.

32 Dang should have done my…

Dang should have done my Bills research on the sack rate. I think I was biased by the games I watched. I just saw they had 11 of their 42 sacks from guys who weren't lineman and assumed they blitzed a lot. The 49ers only got 5 of their 48 sacks from non-lineman. Seems like the Bills just got home at a higher rate on the blitzes they did send so I can see why it would be infuriating.

35 Just to be clear

I’m not suggesting the Bills should blitz Mahomes. They don’t do it, and it’s generally worked out well for them. They need better linemen who can finish all those sacks they nearly had on Kansas City’s first drive last Sunday. 

26 The Bills certainly had matchup deficiencies in this game

But I think it's a bit unfair to say that what they were doing "was a really poor match for what KC was doing." With 1:54 to go, Patrick Mahomes had 190 yards passing, and the Chiefs had 358 yards total. After Allen's last go-ahead touchdown, when each team had finished its ninth drive of the game, the Bills had run 63 yards for 422 yards, and the Chiefs had run the same number of play and gained a grand total of 11 extra yards. I'd take matching numbers on the road almost every time in the playoffs, especially if they came with a late lead. If the Bills had simply played better defense on the last drive of regulation, they would have won.

Unfortunately, there's really no matching up with Hill. The Bills could use an edge rusher who can not only win his pass rushes, but get home afterward. But saying that the way they played the game was a "really poor match" seems like a statement colored too much by the way the game ended; I think it's fairer to say that Kansas City has better top-end talent outside of quarterback.

Anyway, after last year's playoff loss at Arrowhead, I felt that if the two teams switched quarterbacks, the Bills would have won. This year, I didn't feel that way at all; I felt as if the Bills would have lost by even more. Instead, if you just flipped Hill for Diggs, the Bills likely would have won this game going away. If you swapped Hill and Kelce for Hill and Knox, Mahomes would have been playing this game in Orchard Park and would have been run off the field, because dealing with Diggs is simply easier than dealing with Hill and his crazy speed. Mahomes has the advantage of playing for Andy Reid and throwing passes to one of the fastest NFL players ever and a first-ballot HoF tight end. Mahomes and Allen are both upper-echelon talents, but every little bit counts, and I think Patrick has a better setup right now than Josh does (and has for the last several years). If I were Brandon Beane, that's what I'd be working on: giving Allen a few twitchy players who can impact a game like Tyreek Hill can, even with the understanding that they won't be able to do so to the same degree.

Bit of a ramble, but it's been that kind of a day.

30 Their roster is truly disgusting

And they keep building it in that direction. I always end up comparing them to the Golden State Warriors in that they turn everything up to 11. Hill and Mahomes (and Allen) are very much like Steph Curry in that you can have what would normally be considered a perfect defense drawn up, and you'll get torched when Hill takes a simple slant and races for the other sideline, Curry steps back and drains a 27-footer, Mahomes or Allen throws some crazy-angle pass that makes them seem like amazing NBA point guards who just happen to play quarterback, etc.

The Bills need to take more pages out of that playbook.

9 I had a feeling I might be…

I had a feeling I might be doing well in Best of the Rest with multiple 49ers and Burrow, but I totally forgot I had Gabriel Davis in my lineup. Nice! Thanks for the write-up. 

16 They could have killed one…

They could have killed one of those plays by kicking short on the kickoff, eating some precious seconds off of the clock on the return, rather than sailing the ball out of the back of the end zone. 

This is a stats site. Aaron has admitted he's never run the stats on squib kicks, and by all appearances, neither has anyone else.

Essentially, if KC has the ball at or beyond their 44 with 8 or more seconds left; or at the Buffalo 31 with 3 or more seconds left, they win the exchange versus reality.

The two worst case scenarios are:

  1. Huge return and/or unintentional onside (drilled the up man) recovered by KC, resulting in KC with the ball around the Buffalo 45 or better with lots of time.
  2. KO OOB. Tampa did this twice while trying to kick short. This would have given KC the ball at the KC 40 with 13 seconds left, 15 yards better than they had; and/or 5 seconds faster than they got here in reality.

We're all assuming a squib would be perfectly executed and achieve an optimal result. Mind you, Buffalo assumed this same thing for their defense. But we don't know how successful squibs actually are, because we haven't looked.

\pooches are more dangerous because they can be fair-caught.

18 . . . contemned the clock

Contemned!

Way to show off the vocabulary!  Admit it: you really enjoy Shakespeare.  Don't worry, you won't be treated with scorn or contempt if you do.*

 

* contemned means "treated with scorn or contempt". Something I didn't know till I looked it up a couple of minutes ago.

28 But after careful search, we…

But after careful search, we believe that teams that allowed a go-ahead touchdown with 15 seconds or less left in a game had gone 0-54 since the 2002 realignment, for a winning percentage of, uh, .000. Even if you expand that out to 30 seconds, they're just 4-107 (.037).

The Falcons allowed a go-ahead touchdown to the Kyle Orton Bears in 2008 with 11 seconds left, and then came back to win. Video here. This game shows up on your 30 second list. I guess the time there is the time remaining at the start of the go-ahead touchdown play rather than after the touchdown, so the CHI-ATL game and this week's BUF-KC game both miss the 15 second cutoff.

34 This is in fact something we…

This is in fact something we noticed while doing the search (the start time thing, not the Falcons thing), but opted to leave out to avoid a lengthy digression and/or having to check all the plays with, say, 20 seconds remaining to see how long they actually took.

 

In recognition of your find, I'll throw out the other digression we felt didn't fit in the article: the 2003 Buccaneers.  In Week 2 against the Panthers, the Buccaneers got the ball back after the two minute warning, trailing 9-3.  Brad Johnson promptly marched the Bucs down the field with Karl Williams, Michael Pittman, Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell all making huge plays, with McCardell scoring a touchdown as time expired.  Game over, right?  No!  The Panthers managed to block Martin Gramatica's extra point, and later scored in overtime to win the game despite allowing a touchdown while leading by less than seven points with no time left on the clock.

We couldn't include it as it wasn't actually a go-ahead touchdown, as the Buccaneers never actually went ahead.  But it showed up, and I learned about it, and now you know about it as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26Lz9K7RxIY

36 2018 Patriots kicked a FG to…

2018 Patriots kicked a FG to go up 5 with :16 left against the Dolphins in 2018, and then gave up a multi-lateral Hail Mary.

52 Best of the Rest

For what it's worth (not much), I also have a path to victory via Byron Pringle, though winning it from 4th is a long shot.

53 You actually don't, because…

In reply to by Bronco Jeff

You actually don't, because Pringle was an ineligible selection -- Aaron took Pringle in the staff draft proper.

So I've been calculating your points without Pringle and with just a blank at wide receiver, because I didn't catch it in time to reply to you that you needed to replace your WR3.