Jets Shock the Bills; Buccaneers Stay Alive
NFL Week 9 - This Week 9 edition of Walkthrough covers every single game from NFL Sunday, including:
- Tom Brady lulling the Rams—and the world—to sleep before his latest feat of fourth-quarter magic;
- The Tennessee Titans giving the Kansas City Chiefs much more than they bargained for on Sunday night;
- The Green Bay Packers pioneering new methods of self-immolation against the Detroit Lions;
- The New England Patriots embarrassing yet another young quarterback and his dysfunctional team;
and much more!
Let's go straight to the action, starting at the Meadowlands.
Game Spotlight: New York Jets 20, Buffalo Bills 17
What Happened: The Bills overlooked the Jets.
More accurately, the Bills tried so hard to deliver an early-round knockout that they kept the Jets in the game.
Josh Allen threw a pair of inexplicable interceptions as part of an over-aggressive game plan. Zach Wilson handed off to Michael Carter and James Robinson; scrambled; avoided mistakes (mostly); and distributed short passes against a defense that kept blitzing straight into his protection. Throw in a missed field goal and some tough luck on bouncing-ball plays and you get the formula for a classic Bills upset.
What it Means: The Bills are now 0-2 in the AFC East and 4-2 in the conference. They are positioning themselves to lose opportunities for home playoff games and a first-round bye, and they are doing it with sloppy, Chiefs-style losses. The Bills can beat wild-card-tier opponents such as the Jets just by executing properly instead of trying to secure an MVP award for Allen or turning every Sunday into a "statement." Not every play needs to be a 40-yard dime or a strip-six, fellas.
The Jets successfully protected Wilson from himself for another week; Wilson executed the sort of game plan a team draws up for a third-string rookie. The Jets are coming dangerously close to talking themselves into Wilson, not just for 2022 (fine, this is a fun little run) but beyond (potentially cataclysmic for a team that keeps improving everywhere else).
A four-turnover Wilson meltdown might be cleansing and beneficial in the long run. If only there was some opponent with a long-established track record—reinforced just two weeks ago—of doing such a thing to Jets quarterbacks.
What's Next: The Jets face the Patriots again in two weeks, after their bye.
The Bills host the Vikings in Week 10 in what (giggle) could be billed as (snicker) a Super Bowl preview (falls to the floor and hyperventilates with paroxysms of laughter).
Walkthrough Breaks Down Every Single One of Sunday's Games
Don't get used to this, dear reader. It was only possible because six teams were on bye, the Eagles played on Thursday night, and Philly bars were so quiet and empty for some unknown reason on Sunday that Walkthrough had unprecedented control over the televisions.
New England Patriots 26, Indianapolis Colts 3
Every fan who has ever fallen in love with the preseason fourth-quarter run-around rando quarterback and insisted that he's better than the starter should be forced to watch Sam Ehlinger for three hours, if the Geneva Convention allows such torture.
Ehlinger could not find an open receiver if you gave him a tricorder. His arm makes Tua Tagovailoa look like Josh Allen. He runs just well enough to fool you into thinking that the read-option might work. (It won't.) He's Taysom Hill, but puny and a step slower.
At one point in the second quarter Frank Reich schemed up an early-down play-action floater to the running back as a "let's get a confidence-boosting completion" play. Ehlinger overthrew it. The Colts averaged 1.9 yards per offensive play on Sunday, their lowest figure since 1977, according to the television broadcast. They would have been better off with Matt Ryan just falling forward like a felled redwood for 6 feet per pop than Ehlinger.
Reich and Chris Ballard are clearly involved in some spiteful little power struggle at quarterback, and both are willing to lose their jobs if it means sabotaging the other. Yes, this is how NFL decision-makers (even "good guys" such as Ballard and Reich) actually think when things go pear-shaped. And no, the Colts are not "tanking on purpose." They're creating an atmosphere so depressing that quality young players are going to want out.
The Patriots excel at beating up on utterly dysfunctional opponents such as the Colts, and they have a knack for somehow facing eight of them per year.
Kansas City Chiefs 20, Tennessee Titans 17 (OT)
It's Daylight Savings Time and Walkthrough is getting sleepy. So take it away, ESPN's Stephen Holder!
I don’t know if the Titans are gonna win this game, but here’s what I do know: Mike Vrabel gets more out of his team than just about any coach in the NFL. Every. Single. Year.
— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) November 7, 2022
It's hard to take the Titans seriously as anything more than a worn-down late-model edition of the Titans we have been watching since 2018. They'll win the AFC South by a mile, then get clobbered by the first AFC opponent they face that doesn't beat themselves. Still, it was fun to watch them out-fundamental the Chiefs for three quarters. Malik Willis remains unready to do anything but win games by running the read-option against the Texans, but at least he's getting some non-disastrous (until overtime, anyway) game experience.
The Chiefs nearly endured a repeat of their Week 3 loss to the Colts: they lost the line of scrimmage battles, outsmarted themselves a few times, and nearly lost to a team playing hide-the-quarterback. Patrick Mahomes got them out of trouble with a few magic tricks, and Willis ran out of plays he knew how to execute midway through the second quarter. The Chiefs won't be so lucky next time, but they averted a catastrophe.
Anyway, the proper takeaway from a Sunday when the Bills lost, the Chiefs survived a scare, the NFC's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen aged another five years, and every team in the league looked vulnerable is clearly that THE EAGLES ARE A FRAUD THEIR SCHEDULE IS SOFT THEY'RE GONNA BE EXPOSED BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Seattle Seahawks 31, Arizona Cardinals 21
The Seahawks are like one of those Pac-12 teams that West Coast college football fans swear is awesome and could lick Georgia given a chance. Then Walkthrough watches them and thinks, they're fine and fun to watch, but come the hell on.
We want to climb aboard the Geno Smith Love Train. We really do. But when we see highlights such as this, we don't see precision touch passing, but a junk-baller on a hot streak who is going to be in trouble once he stops getting called strikes while painting the corners:
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) November 6, 2022
Like many successful NFC teams during the Brady/Rodgers/Stafford apocalypse, the Seahawks are winning because they are better than disaster artists such as the Cardinals, who swan-dove into self-parody on Sunday with a premium assortment of their signature aborted snaps, defensive lapses, low-protein micro-passes, randomized play-calling, and second-half sacks. The Seahawks have the makings of a team that would get smoked by a true contender, but there aren't many of those in the 2022 NFL. The Seahawks won't face one until they visit the Chiefs on Christmas Eve, though next week's European adventure against a still-stout Buccaneers defense should at least stress-test the tolerances of the Geno-led offense.
As the NFC continues down its topsy-turvy path, some spunky surprise contender is bound to fall off the playoff chase. With their win over the Giants in Week 8 and a solid victory on a Sunday when the Falcons couldn't beat an opponent with 0.5 wide receivers, the Seahawks are positioning themselves to not be that team. For now, that's as good as they have to be.
Miami Dolphins 35, Chicago Bears 32
Everything Walkthrough wrote about the Dolphins last week remains true, right down to the sustainability of the "underthrown deep ball" tactic. Newcomer Jeff Wilson (79 total yards, one receiving touchdown) adds an effective jab to their all-haymaker offense.
The Dolphins did go 0-of-2 on fourth-and-short, with a pair of ugly incompletions to Durham Smythe. Mike McDaniel should try not to overthink things on fourth down: hand off if the safeties are deep, take some YOLO shot to Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle if they crowd the line, and never ever ever scheme specifically for Durham Smythe.
Justin Fields ran for 178 yards and a touchdown, keeping the Bears in the game with his legs. What little passing game the Bears have is exclusively set up by his rushing threat. A quarterback that runs as effectively as Fields (408 yards in four games is Randall Cunningham-level stuff) deserves a better supporting cast.
Speaking of which: Chase Claypool caught 12-yard and 1-yard passes and rushed for 4 yards. Look for him to nearly double that production as he's integrated more fully into the Bears "system."
Detroit Lions 15, Green Bay Packers 9
Anyone who self-destructs as creatively and ritualistically as the Packers did on Sunday is clearly crying out for help. Back-to-back goal-line interceptions in the first half? A 1-of-4 fourth-down conversion rate? Someone please take the Packers into a quiet room and ask them what's really wrong.
One thing currently wrong with the Packers: Romeo Doubs and Rashan Gary left Sunday's game with injuries and did not return. Doubs' absence does not explain or justify the David Bahktiari goal-line pass, but it did precipitate it: with Randall Cobb also out, the Packers have a weaker receiving corps than even the Bears. Gary is one of the leaders of the Packers' Not As Great As the Preseason Hype Defense; the Packers cannot afford any losses on that side of the ball. Check midweek injury reports and your favorite hip-hop artists' social networking timeline, then gauge your Packers pessimism appropriately.
For their part, the Lions did an outstanding job of not interfering with the Packers' elaborate feat of autoerotic asphyxiation.
Los Angeles Chargers 20, Atlanta Falcons 17
On the one hand, this was the gutsy win that those of us who think Justin Herbert (the Twitter Teflon Kid) might be a smidge overrated needed to see. Playing without Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the Chargers could not move the football until Herbert completed a 25-yard pass to Josh Palmer near his own end zone to spark a 83-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter and get the Chargers into the game.
Herbert later set up the game-winning field goal with another strike to Palmer after a Chargers drive into scoring position was interrupted by some vintage Falconing:
WHAT just happened in Atlanta?!
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2022
So yes: resilient stuff from a battered quarterback with almost no one to throw to and an offensive line full of rookies and pipkins.
On the other hand, beating the Falcons at the last second is like getting an A in gym class: it just proves that you showed up and tried a bit, and it should not be celebrated as too great an accomplishment.
Minnesota Vikings 20, Washington Commanders 17
All the negative things folks say about the Philadelphia Eagles—they're an above-average-at-best team coasting against a mid-major schedule, for instance—are actually true of the Vikings. Most folks know this, of course, but pointing out that the Vikings are still the Vikings doesn't exactly drive engagement.
The Commanders took a 17-7 lead and nearly broke the game open with a pick-six, but defender Benjamin St. Juste was flagged for pass interference on the interception. After the Vikings drove for a field goal a few plays later, Taylor "Fire High" Heinicke overthrew Logan Thomas (these Walkthrough nicknames reveal truths) for a Harrison Smith interception to set up a Dalvin Cook touchdown. The Vikings then got to run seven plays inside the Commanders' 6-yard line to munch the clock with 2:35 to play, taking points off the board at one point when the Commanders were flagged for unnecessary roughness on Greg Joseph's first (successful) game-winning field goal attempt.
The Vikings visit the Bills next week, host the Cowboys in two weeks, and face the Patriots on Thanksgiving in a traditional holiday Kirk Cousins Prime Time Humiliation Showcase. That slate of games should correct the Vikings' course after two months where it felt like they played the Colts every week.
Cincinnati Bengals 42, Carolina Panthers 21
Joe Mixon single-handedly won tens of thousands of fantasy weeks, the Bengals beat an opponent just trying to stay comfortable until January, and the P.J. Walker phenomenon ended the same way it did in 2020 and 2021, with Walker proving he's a big, fast USFL quarterback.
Walker is now eligible for the Tyler Thigpen Tape-Nerd Obsession Hall of Fame. Brett Rypien remains the frontrunner to be the next Walker, though keep your eye on Skylar Thompson and Sam Howell.
Jacksonville Jaguars 27, Las Vegas Raiders 20
The Raiders blew their third 17-plus-point lead of the season, which should not be possible. Their second-half time of possession was 10 minutes and 55 seconds. This was the early game Walkthrough paid the least attention to; every time we looked up in the second half, Trevor Lawrence and Christian Kirk were converting on third-and-medium.
If Nathaniel Hackett blew three 17-point leads he'd already be working at a Colorado Bed Bath & Beyond after weeks of merciless roasting. But we all assume Josh McDaniels knows what he's doing as a head coach because he used to work with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
The Jaguars have found their level: better than the Raiders, not as good as the Broncos, not really relevant in 2022.
And we saved the worst for last.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16, Los Angeles Rams 13
What Happened: Two absolutely dreadful teams played a gruesome football game, and the lords of television forced us all to watch it because those teams used to be good and have famous quarterbacks. It looked like the most expensive JV game in human history, or a Thursday nighter from mid-October. Anemic offenses, dropped passes, 23 total failed third-down conversions, dreadful late-game Rams clock management and play calling: this game had it all.
The dreadful team with Tom Brady won thanks to a last-minute touchdown drive after 59 minutes of creaky incompetence, sentencing the world to another month of Brady's not really washed up because he doesn't look like my foggy memories of Peyton Manning throwing absolutely nothing but pick-sixes in 2015 conversations.
What it Means: The Buccaneers and Rams are terrible and should both be irrelevant, but the Bucs will make the playoffs because their toughest division foe is the freakin' Falcons.
With little else to talk about, let's check in with the ol' Tom Brady Regret Index!
- Brady has now beaten two teams (Cowboys and Falcons) with an even or better record for 600 Brady Bucks.
- He has beaten two teams with losing records for 400 Brady Bucks
- He has lost to two teams with winning records for -500 Brady Bucks
- He has lost to three teams with losing records for -1,500 Brady Bucks
- His Buccaneers have scored 28-plus points once for 100 Brady Bucks
- They have scored 10 points or fewer twice for -100 Brady Bucks.
- He has been sacked 14 times for -1,400 Brady Bucks.
That puts Brady and -3,400, counting the -1,000 he started the season with. That's some intense regret! But that final Bucs touchdown drive was worth an 800-point swing in Brady's favor! Imagine how much regret he would be suffering if the Rams had mustered a single fourth-quarter first down.
Seriously, the Rams and Bucs need to get flexed out of spotlight television windows as often as possible for the rest of the season.
What's Next: The Bucs face a tough test against the Seahawks, but of course it's in Germany at 6:30 a.m. Seattle time. The Rams host the Cardinals in a game that should be banned from all airwaves.
Lots and lots to get to!
Defender of the Week
Matt Judon recorded three sacks against the Colts. Josh Uche also recorded three sacks for the Patriots, but Judon shares an award with no one.
Judon was also flagged for roughing the passer in the first quarter in what amounted to a "don't hurt the sad puppy" call, and the first positive Colts offensive play of the game—a 12-yard pass on third down midway through the second quarter—got nullified because Braden Smith tried to block Judon by his neck.
Offensive Line of the Week
Joe Mixon rushed for 153 yards, four touchdowns, and a bajillion fantasy points. The Bengals took the Panthers out of the game before halftime. Let's hear it for Jonah Williams, Cordell Volson, Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La'el Collins. Are they finally coming together the way the Bengals hoped they would? Let's see the Bengals line play well against a real team first!
Honorable mention goes to the Jets offensive line: Duane Brown, Laken Tomlinson, Connor McGovern, Nate Herbig, and Cedric Ogbuehi. The Bills threw everything they had at this cobbled-together unit in an effort to spark some Zach Wilson hilarity, but the Jets line held the Bills to two sacks while the Jets hammered out 174 rushing yards.
Special Teamer of the Week
Should it go to Jonathan Jones for this sweet blocked punt which took away what little will to live the Colts had left?
Pats Punt Block! @Patriots
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2022
Or should it go to Bobby Wagner for his hop, skip, and a blocked field goal?
Bobby Wagner times the jump to block the field goal! 💪 @Bwagz
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2022
Hmm, Wagner's a future Hall of Famer, his play was cooler, and the game he was in was closer. But Jones also had a pick-six, so he deserves to walk away with something this week.
How about this: Wagner gets Special Teamer of the Week, while Jones gets the first-and-only Walkthrough All-Purpose Contribution of the Week award.
The Colts are so terrible they actually make the rest of us work harder.
Buccaneers punter Jake Camarda also earns honorable mention for averaging 59.5 yards per punt on six punts, pinning the Rams at the 9-, 19-, 11-, and 11-yard lines on four of the kicks.
Burn This Play!
You knew Aidan Hutchinson's interception of Aaron Rodgers' goal-line airball to left tackle David Bahktiari was coming, right?
AIDAN HUTCHINSON INT
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2022
The design of the play is not horrendous. Bakhtiari does get wide open, and Rodgers would have delivered a better pass if backup guard Zach Tom had not whiffed blocking the Lions defensive tackle. This would be a fun little play on second down, or leading 17-3, or when trying to manufacture a touchdown pass for an inexperienced quarterback or cross up a superior defense.
Throwing to a left tackle on fourth down in a tie game when you have a Hall of Fame quarterback and are facing one of the NFL's worst defenses is the football equivalent of aneurysm.
Honorable mention goes to this Jets reverse. The play design is awesome! But perhaps the rookie wide receiver should be discouraged from pump faking multiple times.
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) November 6, 2022
Yep, that play was executed by the winning team.
Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else's Highlight
Chiefs defenders Leo Chenal (54), Willie Gay (50), Nick Bolton (32), Derrick Nnandi (91), and Juan Thornhill (22) all spun around, ricocheted off one another, and ended up on the turf during this Chigoziem Okonkwo catch-and-run. Outstanding execution, fellas!
Not bad for a screen pass 🔥 @ChigTweets
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2022
Rando of the Week
DANGER, DANGER ZACH WILSON. Runner-up Rando of the Week is the camera dude in the gray long-sleeve shirt and cap—who looks a little like Matthew Stafford's schlubby cousin—tasked with reeling in the overhead FOX television camera after it went full SKYNET during Jets-Bills.
— Fierce (@FierceIndepend1) November 6, 2022
But the real Rando of the week is this individual, who speaks for many disgruntled Packers fans.
RIP to the season we should’ve gotten rid of 12 before the season.
— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) November 6, 2022
For those of you who don't keep track of such things, Lil Wayne is a receiver the New Orleans Saints signed to their practice squad to replace Lil'Jordan Humphrey. Per Adam Schefter, the Packers tried and failed to trade a first-round pick for Lil Wayne before the trade deadline. That may be why he is so mad. Everyone else has stopped caring about the Packers. Quite possibly including the Packers.