compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren’t going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team’s game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we’re personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
Atlanta Falcons 39 at Dallas Cowboys 40
Scott Spratt: I shouldn’t complain given where we were two months ago, but it’s going to be difficult to keep up with nine early games and a golf major. If I accidentally call Matt Ryan Matt Wolff, you’ll know why.
Aaron Schatz: Atlanta-Dallas? Scott! I figured I could trust you to be watching Tom Brady against Carolina! Now I may have to watch that instead of Denver-Pittsburgh.
Scott Spratt: Haha no, I have the Panthers-Bucs game on. But that comment was Falcons-related.
Derrik Klassen: First major “who the hell is that” for me this year: who the hell is Brandon Knight?
Scott Spratt: Brandon Knight was a pretty good Kentucky point guard. Hope that helps, Derrik.
Derrik Klassen: Scott, I think that’s a better answer than I’m going to get anywhere else so I’ll take it.
Bryan Knowles: I’m watching this one on a smaller screen, but it looks like Dallas is really struggling with Tyron Smith, Cam Erving, and La’El Collins all out; Atlanta has been getting fairly consistent pressure. The last time the Cowboys played a game without Smith, I believe Prescott was sacked eight times and it knocked them out of the postseason. They’re struggling without their starters out there.
And, thanks to a Prescott fumble on his first sack of the day, the Falcons jump out to an early lead. Some nifty athleticism from Calvin Ridley to snag the pass and tiptoe into the end zone for the 7-0 Atlanta advantage.
Bryan Knowles: The Cowboys can’t hold on to the ball! This time it’s Ezekiel Elliott who gets the ball jarred loose, giving the Falcons the ball back very quickly. And then, Hayden Hurst just leaks out into the flat and zero Dallas defenders come with him, leading to one of the easier 40-plus-yard touchdowns you will ever see. 14-0 Falcons midway through the first quarter, as the Cowboys’ new Crisco sponsorship seems to be backfiring.
Rob Weintraub: Not sure if you are referencing a couple years back when the Falcons clubbed the Smith-less Cowboys. That was the famous Adrian Clayborn six-sack performance.
Meanwhile no one covers Hayden Hurst and he has a simple walk-in score. 14-0 Falcs.
Cale Clinton: Dallas really can’t be making it much easier for the Falcons. Two straight lost fumbles and a poorly executed fake punt has resulted in three straight Falcons drives starting at the Dallas 22-yard-line, Atlanta 48-yard-line, and Dallas 29-yard-line. The result: two touchdowns and a field goal.
Now, Dallas’ fourth (!!!) fumble of the half sets up Atlanta at the Dallas 40-yard-line.
Rob Weintraub: Note to the TV crew … in Falcons-Cowboys Zeke met Damontae Kazee at the goal line, and guess who won? Elliott by KO.
20-7 Falcs, still very early second quarter.
Bryan Knowles: Second touchdown of the day by an uncovered receiver. I would think covering Calvin Ridley would be my second-highest priority when defending the Falcons, but I suppose that’s why I’m not a defensive coordinator. Two-point conversion fails, but it’s a 26-7 Falcons lead midway through the second, as the Cowboys risk being blown out of the building.
Is the Football Team going to have a two-game lead on the division after two weeks?
Scott Spratt: Calvin Ridley’s 9.6% touchdown rate since the start of 2018 is the highest by a wide receiver with 100 or more targets. Maybe cover him?
Bryan Knowles: Well, things might not QUITE be over in JerryWorld. Dallas comes out of the locker room on fire. CeeDee Lamb has been getting open against what we thought would be a questionable Atlanta secondary — a big 37-yard reception on third down kept the drive alive. The touchdown came on a zone read keeper by Dak Prescott, and it’s 29-17 early in the second half. Cowboys NEEDED that.
Rob Weintraub: Julio Jones flat-out drops a touchdown bomb thrown by fellow wideout Russell Gage, leading to a punt. Circle that if the Boys pull out a comeback.
Clearly, only Mo Sanu is allowed to complete wide receiver passes…
Cale Clinton: In the lead-up to this week, a lot of people pointed at one statistic when citing potential success for the Cowboys offense: on 35 pass attempts, Russell Wilson threw into zero tight windows against the Atlanta secondary.
So far in this game, the lackluster coverage has come from Dallas’ defense. Calvin Ridley (six catches, 95 yards, two touchdowns) and Hayden Hurst (3-46-1) have averaged 3.44 and 3.83 yards of separation, respectively, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Rob Weintraub: Andy D. sighting! Dak knocked out, Dalton throws on first-and-goal, throwaway. Wisely he hands off to Elliott on the next snap, 29-24 Atlanta.
Rob Weintraub: Check that, Zeke may have been short…
Rob Weintraub: Indeed, he was short, so Dak comes back in and plunges for the score. Of course Dalton screws up the big day for the 2015 Bengals!
Bryan Knowles: Zeke was, in fact short. It was set up by a bomb out to Amari Cooper, who found plenty of room to work against Atlanta’s “secondary.” Smart to take the shot after the failed trick play by the Falcons — and if the pass was better, it’s probably a touchdown, not just a 58-yard reception.
After an incomplete Dalton pass, Dak comes back in, concussion protocol or no concussion protocol, and sneaks in to pick up the score. The extra point makes it 29-24, as Dallas has been looking better ever since they realized you have to hold on to footballs.
Dave Bernreuther: Andy Dalton’s helmet is noticeably newer and shinier than any of his teammates. It looks like they just took it out of the packaging.
Bryan Knowles: Score answered. I think it’s really notable that the Falcons have kept going for it on fourth downs. I believe they were 0-for-4 last week, and that’s enough to make most coaches never try it again. But today they’re 2-for-2, including a 19-yard reception for Julio Jones on this drive, and a few plays later, Russell Gage makes this a two-score game once again, 36-24 early in the fourth quarter.
Bryan Knowles: Dallas tries their second fake punt OF THE DAY. It’s also their second failure of the day, and it probably ends the game for the Cowboys.
Mike McCarthy, your offense is allowed to try things on fourth down! That’s a legal strategy!
Aaron Schatz: Dallas ran two fake punts today and both failed?
Bryan Knowles: Yup — an underthrow in the first quarter, and then a run up the gut on fourth-and-5 with the game more or less on the line just now.
Dave Bernreuther: It’s a two-score game so it’s not nearly as consequential as last week’s call against Gallup, but CeeDee Lamb just blocked Keanu Neal downfield, shoulder to chest, and they called a blind-side block and brought back a nice catch-and-run play for the Cowboys.
What happened to only calling the clear and obvious ones?
Vince Verhei: OH MY GOD DALLAS’ ONSIDE KICK RECOVERY.
It took forever but they got it and can win with a field goal!
Bryan Knowles: Dallas recovers an onside kick, without a tee, that somehow, someway rolled 10 yards. The Falcons didn’t dive on the ball because it looked like it was going to die at 8 yards, but the weird spin kept it going, and the Cowboys pick it up without any contest! 39-37 Atlanta with 1:49 left, so a field goal wins it…
Rob Weintraub: Scott Hanson rightly compared that bizarro onside kick to a ball that starts foul and rolls fair at the last second.
No excuse for Atlanta not jumping on it though I suppose the spin was off-putting.
And here’s Legatron for the win … good!!!!
Cannot wait for the local reaction tomorrow…
Dave Bernreuther: McCarthy played for the field goal there and deserved to lose for it, but Greg the Leg wins it. And my prediction at the end of the first somehow comes true.
Aaron Schatz: And that, my friends, is why you go for two early. By not getting the two-point conversion, the Cowboys knew that they had to score twice, which gave them the opportunity to try the onside kick, which they recovered, and they kick the field goal to win the game. If they kick an extra point after the earlier touchdown to go down 39-31 and *then* miss the two-point conversion, the Cowboys lose this 39-37.
Vince Verhei: Here’s the nucking futs onside kick recovery:
[email protected] recover the onside kick!
: #ATLvsDAL on FOX
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/gdttfTQjuY pic.twitter.com/v6qAfH36hX
— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2020
So after that, the Cowboys get a first down at the 30 with no timeouts and more than a minute to go … and they settle for the long field goal, with two short runs and a spike on third down to stop the clock. That’s terminably conservative coaching, but McCarthy gets away with it as Greg Zuerlein hits a 46-yarder to win.
Dak Prescott: first player in NFL history with 400 yards passing and three touchdowns rushing in a game.
San Francisco 49ers 31 at New York Jets 13
Bryan Knowles: The starting pass-catchers in this game will be Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Brandon Aiyuk, Jordan Reed, Breshad Perriman, Chris Hogan, Braxton Berrios, and Christopher Herndon. I could probably put together a worse group of receivers, but I’d really have to try.
Bryan Knowles: But who needs pass-catchers? First play from scrimmage is a simple pitch to Raheem Mostert who runs up the sidelines 80 yards for the score. He had a 76-yard touchdown last week too, so apparently, scoring range is the entire field for him.
Scott Spratt: The 49ers also led the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns from at least 10 yards away from the end zone. That’s a nice benefit of having only backs with sub-4.40 speed.
Vince Verhei: Guys, I’m starting to suspect this Adam Gase fella may not be a particularly good football coach.
Bryan Knowles: So, in the first 10 minutes of this game, Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas have been carted off the field, and Jimmy Garoppolo is having his leg examined. They’re already missing George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, and Weston Richburg.
Vince Verhei: It might not show up in the numbers, but this has been one of Garoppolo’s best games in a while. He’s out there with all his best receivers out, hobbling around on one leg, but he’s evading the pass rush and finding guys and converting third downs. Just hit a touchdown to Jordan Reed to go up 14-3.
Bryan Knowles: Something to watch for future 49ers games. George Kittle can do everything, and with Kittle out, the 49ers are being pretty predictable with their tight end usage — Ross Dwelley is in on most running plays; Jordan Reed is in on most passing plays.
The 49ers most recent drive started with ANOTHER 70-yard touchdown run for Raheem Mostert, but that got called back for holding. Fine, they say, we’ll do this the hard way, and put together their most complete drive of the season — 15 plays, 67 yards, with Reed scoring his first touchdown since 2018 to cap it off. The hobbled Garoppolo is 8-for-8 for 77 yards and a touchdown so far; nothing spectacular, but on target and letting his (remaining) playmakers make plays.
14-3 49ers lead, midway through the second quarter.
Bryan Knowles: And now Breshad Perriman is down for our third injury stoppage of the game. This is being played by Battle Royale rules, right? Last team with any players standing wins?
Bryan Knowles: A late hit give the 49ers new life — and it’s about the fifth serious hit Jimmy Garoppolo has absorbed today. The 49ers turn that late hit into Jordan Reed’s second touchdown of the day, as Garoppolo is up to 14-for-16 for 131 yards and a pair of scores. Reed stepping up in a huge way with George Kittle ailing on the sidelines.
I would not be stunned at all if Nick Mullens comes into this game early, maybe even in the third quarter if the 49ers get another score/stop combo. Garoppolo is gimpy, and with everyone else getting hurt, there’s no need to risk him out there much more. Raheem Mostert just walked into the locker room before halftime, too — you gotta have SOMEONE healthy left for next week!
21-3 lead with 11 seconds left in the first half, and I don’t much fancy the Jets chances to make this one interesting.
Vince Verhei: Nick Mullens has indeed taken the field for San Francisco to open the second half.
Bryan Knowles: And Mostert has been ruled out, too.
I do wonder how much of this is “it’s 21-3 and everyone’s hurt” versus “can’t continue,” but both were banged up quite badly in that first half.
Vince Verhei: Jerick McKinnon just ran for a 55-yard gain to convert a third-and-31.
I’m getting more and more convinced that this Adam Gase fella may not be a particularly good football coach.
Bryan Knowles: After a Nick Mullens interception sets them up in the red zone, the Jets kick a field goal to turn a three-score game into a different three-score game.
When is Adam Gase fired? Is 5 p.m. too early? Do we wait until Monday?
Dave Bernreuther: In a small window, the colors of these two teams’ jerseys are reminding me of growing up watching New York feeds in the ’80s, back when I sort of liked both New York teams and the 49ers. And I love it.
The game, otherwise, well … not so much. The 49ers have lost half their roster to injury already. The Jets are the Jets. While I’m actually sort of happy to see Berrios taking snaps, since he goes to my gym, I do agree with the notion that they aren’t exactly sending a murderer’s row of skill position players out there (and now Hogan is apparently out too).
But have no fear, guys, because they have Adam Gase and his genius offensive mind in charge. So when they face fourth-and-goal at the 6, down 24-3 with more than half the third quarter gone, they’ve got a good play in mind to close the gap, right?
Of course they do. A field goal. The gap has been closed. It’s now 24-6.
Bryan Knowles: Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas did, in fact, tear their ACLs. Jimmy Garoppolo has a high-ankle sprain; that should cost him at least a month, I’d assume.
It may be worth noting that the artificial turf in New York has been in place for two weeks, and the 49ers have to play there again next week.
Rob Weintraub: That Meadowlands turf is a bigger risk to the players than Coronavirus. Worse, incredibly, than the old cement at Giants Stadium. San Francisco should refuse to play there next week.
Vince Verhei: Dear God. That’s just crushing for San Francisco.
Carolina Panthers 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
Scott Spratt: The Bucs went three-and-out on their first drive, so the only excitement in Tampa so far is that one of the goalposts looks like it’s about to fall over. Maybe that will help Joey Slye there. His leg is bigger than it is accurate.
Scott Spratt: Wow, you don’t see that every Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater was trying to set up a screen pass to Christian McCaffrey, but he sailed it, and it was intercepted by Jordan Whitehead. Anyone ever seen a running back screen interception before?
Scott Spratt: Phew, after Ryan Jensen’s block in the back erased a decent LeSean McCoy gain, Tom Brady threw a couple of line-drive passes. The first was a 50-yard completion (half in the air) to Mike Evans in a hole in the zone in the middle of the field. The second should have been a touchdown, but Brady’s beloved Scotty Miller couldn’t squeeze the pass in the end zone. Brady is looking physically strong.
Also, there’s Ronald Jones’ first touchdown. I’m not sure he’s going to score three today since the team’s other backs are involved, but I wouldn’t want to bet against him either. He’s certainly in my DFS lineups.
Vince Verhei: That Jones touchdown was set up by some curious play calling. On third-and-9 in the red zone, the Bucs went with a give-up screen to LeSean McCoy. The play was predictably stopped to set up fourth-and-3, but the Panthers got called for a personal foul to give the Bucs new life, and they capitalized.
And as I finish typing that, I look up and there’s Mike Evans getting a touchdown on a deep curl. What happened? How did they even get the ball back?
Cale Clinton: On the Brady-to-Evans connection Scott just referenced, Evans ran the same skinny post that resulted in Brady’s first interception as a Buccaneer. Didn’t ease up on the route, found space, and ended up with a big gain. Seems like the two finally worked out some much-needed timing.
Scott Spratt: Turnover No. 2 for Teddy Bridgewater, this time on an Antoine Winfield strip-sack. This looks like a mismatch with last year’s fourth-worst pass-blocking line (8.6% adjusted sack rate) and last year’s No. 6 DVOA defense. Brady immediately capitalizes on the turnover with a touchdown pass to Mike Evans. 14-0 Bucs, Week 1 forgotten.
Vince Verhei: Just saw a replay and I’m not sure what you’d call that route Evans ran on his touchdown. A deep back-shoulder fade?
Scott Spratt: Ronald Jones just flat-out dropped a handoff on the exchange with no Panthers player near him. With most teams on track to win a game by multiple scores, that might not be a big deal. But the Bucs have already used a lot of McCoy and Leonard Fournette today. We’ll see if Jones comes back out there when the Bucs get their next offensive possession.
Dave Bernreuther: Just run a play, Matt Rhule. Come on.
(The Panthers line up in a punt formation, down 14-0, from the Bucs’ 34 with just shy of 2 yards to go. As I’m yelling “way to wave the white flag,” they run a fake … perhaps one of the most predictable punt fakes I’ve ever seen. Predictably, it fails. I thought the point of that whole front office transformation in Carolina was to get rid of thinking like that.)
Scott Spratt: The Panthers just tried a fake punt from the Bucs’ 36-yard line. The Bucs were not fooled. Safety Jeremy Chinn took the direct snap and got stuffed in the backfield. Technically speaking, that’s the Panthers’ third turnover on four possessions.
In contrast, Bruce Arians just called a flea-flicker that Brady aired out for 36 yards to Justin Watson.
Aaron Schatz: At some point I’m going to have to go back and look at numbers on how often fake punts and field goals are successful compared to regular plays from the same down-and-distances. Anecdotally, it certainly seems that a regular pass with your regular quarterback is going to have a better chance of being successful. But I know that fake punts are based on seeing something on film where you think you have an advantage, it’s not really based on any kind of cost-benefit analysis.
Bryan Knowles: The dots on that flea-flicker are good. Platonic definition of wide open.
Wanna see an open receiver? Bucs flea flicker pic.twitter.com/JJNKECZVZv
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 20, 2020
Dave Bernreuther: A few plays later, the Bucs run a flea-flicker, and the Panthers are totally fooled. Brady has looked great overall, but that throw cost them a touchdown on the play, as he underthrew Justin Watson (who?) by enough that Watson had to stop, wait, and go to his knee to bring it in.
No matter, as Uncle Lenny takes it in soon after to put the Bucs up 21-0. This one is about to lose my interest fairly soon if the Panthers don’t put it together on this drive before the half.
Scott Spratt: Fournette with a short touchdown, rushing score No. 2 for the Bucs against the Panthers today. That’s five in six quarters allowed by last year’s No. 32 DVOA run defense.
Vince Verhei: Those dots confirm what my eyes saw live: that was a dreadfully underthrown ball by Brady. Should have been a walk-in touchdown. Instead Watson had to go 60-to-0 just to catch the ball on his knees and get tackled. Obviously didn’t matter in the long run, but not ideal.
Scott Spratt: Robby Anderson fumbled away the Panthers’ fourth turnover at the start of the second half, but Brady immediately threw an interception on a route miscommunication with Gronk. Maybe reps aren’t all of the issues there? Either way, that was Gronk’s first target today.
Scott Spratt: I think Cyril Grayson may be off the Bucs’ hands team.
Cyril Grayson was widddeee open and let the ball bounce off his helmet. pic.twitter.com/CVJjQsIWVX
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 20, 2020
Vince Verhei: Well, hey now. I spent most of the third quarter working on improving my viewing experience…
It took an annoying amount of work but my setup is much better this week. pic.twitter.com/jWc8TTTqtj
— Vincent Verhei (@FO_VVerhei) September 20, 2020
… and in that time, the Panthers have rallied to at least make this a game. Tom Brady threw an interception on the first play of a drive, and Christian McCaffrey has since run for a pair of touchdowns. The latter came on fourth-and-2 — hardly a bold call to go for it there, given the score, but they had a nice play called, a speed option out of a shotgun set, and McCaffrey took the pitch and scored from 7 yards out. That was a 13-play, 93-yard drive. Still more than 13 minutes to go, Bucs still lead 21-14.
Scott Spratt: I didn’t think anything of Christian McCaffrey limping off the field after his previous touchdown, but Mike Davis is on the field. Meanwhile, Bridgewater just found a wide-open Robby Anderson down the left sideline. The Panthers just crossed midfield driving with a chance to tie. What are the Bucs doing?
Scott Spratt: Nope, there is the Panthers’ fifth turnover. False alarm.
Dave Bernreuther: I was thinking the same thing, and then after that play, I started to say “the Panthers have a chance here, how funny would that be — ” just as Bridgewater threw one behind his guy that ended up intercepted.
I really like Teddy but if he can’t make that throw on time, they’re going to end up regretting that contract.
Scott Spratt: Some Panthers fans regretted the contract the moment it was signed, Dave!
Cale Clinton: Interesting note for Carolina’s receiving corps. With 10 minutes left to play in this game, the Panthers’ current leader in receiving yards is Robby Anderson with 199 yards on 13 receptions. Take away his longest catches of each game (75 yards vs. Las Vegas, 39 yards vs. Tampa Bay), and his yards per catch shrinks from 15.3 to 7.7.
Scott Spratt: And LeSean McCoy joins Grayson and Scotty Miller on the Bucs’ all-hands team:
LeSean McCoy’s day is done. #Brady #Bucs #GoBucs pic.twitter.com/r5LrhpoEhk
— CHRIS TORELLO (@TorelloSports) September 20, 2020
That was the second dropped Brady touchdown today. This one resulted in a field goal, but the Bucs are still up 10.
Scott Spratt: After all my dumb hands team jokes, Gronk was the Bucs player who fielded the Panthers’ onside kick attempt. He made it look easy. Which it was because onside kicks are pointless now.
Long Leonard Fournette run will seal this. And seal the second straight game with three opposing rushing touchdowns for the Panthers.
Vince Verhei: That’s notable, Scott, because everyone on earth knew Tampa Bay was running, and the Panthers STILL gave up a 46-yard touchdown run. That run defense may be worse than last year’s.
Scott Spratt: Mike Davis has six catches for 59 yards. Christian McCaffrey, system running back.
Scott Spratt: The NFL should retroactively give Kawann Short a couple of defensive player of the year awards.
Jacksonville Jaguars 30 at Tennessee Titans 33
Rivers McCown: Hot fire from Jonnu Smith and the Titans offense on the first drive. Smith is uncovered off a play-action where he kinda snuck through the trash for a huge gainer. Second-and-9 after a Derrick Henry carry, Ryan Tannehill gets a lot of time in the pocket and Smith adjusts to a ball thrown high for the touchdown over Andrew Wingard in man.
Rivers McCown: Jaguars drive past midfield, convert a fourth-and-3 on a nifty little Gardner Minshew play where he ducked inside to get the contain player to bite, then went back outside. Minshew gets picked off on a deflected catch attempt by Collin Johnson. Titans drive again and punch it in to Corey Davis, 14-0. Tennessee’s run game hasn’t even looked that good. And now we see what the game script territory holds for the Jags.
Rivers McCown: Arthur Smith’s offense has been humming. Derrick Henry hasn’t been providing the top-top rush game so far, but Tannehill is getting plenty of clean pockets to laser into tight windows. Way too early to regression-watch and it’s the Jaguars defense but, no A.J. Brown either and they haven’t missed a beat. Jags tried to squib a kick at the end of the half and wound up accidentally onside-kicking it to the Titans, and so naturally after last week’s struggles Gostkowski nails a 50-plus-yarder at the gun to put the Titans out front 24-10.
I like a lot of the little pieces the Jags have on offense. Minshew’s scrambling, DJ Chark’s route-running, Laviska Shenault’s game is really impressive. But I don’t trust that defense at all.
Cale Clinton: Just a headache-inducing series of events to close the half in Tennessee. 21-7 Titans with less than a minute to go. Gardner Minshew fails to connect on three straight passes inside the red zone, settling for a field goal on the Titans 17-yard-line. Josh Lambo then goes with a poorly kicked squib and gives Tennessee possession at midfield. One Tannehill pass and a 51-yard Gostkowski field goal later and the Titans go into the locker room up 24-10. A missed fourth-and-10 results in the same point differential.
Derrik Klassen: Did Chris Thompson just score a touchdown on a wheel route under playcaller Jay Gruden? What year are we in?
Vince Verhei: Turning this game on late. The Jaguars scored touchdowns on three straight drives to tie the score 30-30. Titans had a third-and-8 at the Jaguars’ 42. Announcers are pointing out this is no man’s land and likely four-down territory. But Tannehill tries a running back screen to a target surrounded by defenders, and the pass is incomplete. Titans punt, and Jaguars start at their 11 and about five and half minutes to go, needing a field goal to go ahead.
Rob Weintraub: Crucial “eye of the beholder” pass interference call on Myles Jack has the Titans on the edge of winning field goal range late in a 30-30 thrilla.
Rob Weintraub: Spoke to soon on the “winning” part. Gostkowski hits a 50-yarder but still 1:36 left (with no timeouts) for Minshew Magic.
Vince Verhei: The Titans fail to get another first down following the Jack penalty. The game is only tied because Stephen Gostkowski, who missed approximately 20 kicks on Monday night, missed an extra point earlier. But Gostkowski comes in here and connects from 49 to put Tennessee up 33-30 with 1:36 to go, Jaguars out of timeouts.
(I should note that Gostkowski also hit a 51-yarder at the end of the first half.)
Bryan Knowles: Ooh, tip ball from Minshew falls into Harold Landry’s hands, and the game will end.
The Jaguars are going to be Red Zone favorites all season long — their offense is sparkier than most were predicting, and their defense isn’t going to slow anyone down. Entertaining bad team alert!
Rob Weintraub: No magic from Minshew — deflected pass is picked at the line by my favorite “wish he was a Bengal,” Harold Landry, to ice it for Tennessee.
Denver Broncos 21 at Pittsburgh Steelers 26
Aaron Schatz: Quick update: Drew Lock questionable to return with a right shoulder injury. Jeff Driskel in.
Carl Yedor: Pittsburgh takes advantage of a Drew Lock fumble to drive down the field and open up the scoring with a short James Conner touchdown. After missing most of last Monday’s game against the Giants due to an ankle injury, Conner has taken every running back carry for the Steelers so far. So much for Benny Snell forcing his way into the lineup (even though he did impress in relief of Conner last week).
On that fumble, Lock sustained some sort of injury, so Jeff Driskel is now in for the Broncos. Against a fearsome Steelers defense, that seems less than ideal, but Driskel did complete his first attempt to Jerry Jeudy for a healthy gain.
Rob Weintraub: Roethlisberger has a sure end zone picked dropped and two plays later the Steelers score. Then, as mentioned, Lock is knocked out and old Bengal Jeff Driskel comes in.
Speaking of former Stars in Stripes, both Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones score touchdowns within moments of each other. Nice afternoon for the 2015 Bengals so far.
Aaron Schatz: Scott, think you’re about five years too late on your Bengals history there.
Scott Spratt: T.J. is forever, Aaron. Championship.
Rob Weintraub: I half expect Bob Trumpy to have a touchdown grab today…
Scott Spratt: Not that JuJu Smith-Schuster is bad by any stretch, but are the Steelers going to let him walk in free agency anyway? They just hit on receivers every time they draft one. The latest is Chase Claypool, who is enjoying his NFL breakout today with an 84-yard touchdown.
84. Yards. To. The. [email protected]_BigBen7 | @ChaseClaypool
#DENvsPIT on CBS pic.twitter.com/joAKC0p7cz
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 20, 2020
Aaron Schatz: Halftime, Steelers up 17-3. I’ve spent most of this game trying to watch the offensive lines. Elijah Wilkinson at right tackle is getting killed for Denver. Has been beaten on a couple of sacks, and a pressure by T.J. Watt that forced Drew Lock out of the pocket and led to another sack. So far, Jeff Driskel doesn’t look much different than Lock looked in his limited time before his injury. On the other side, I expected the right side of the Steelers’ line, both backups today, to give up a lot of pressure but not that I’ve noticed. Ben Roethlisberger looks good so far. Yes, he has had a couple of passes knocked down, and a couple of overthrows, but he’s managing the offense well and isn’t responsible for a couple of drops. He aired it out almost 50 yards on a deep pass to Chase Claypool that went for 84-yard touchdown, his deep arm looked great.
Aaron Schatz: So much for the nice things I said about Roethlisberger, TERRIBLE pass for an interception. He had all day to throw but everyone was covered, and instead of throwing it away on third-and-16 he tried to make something happen and underthrew a floater to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Justin Simmons came down with it easily.
Scott Spratt: I saw that out of the corner of my eye, Aaron, and I just assumed it was a free play. Not so much.
Rob Weintraub: Roethlisberger has all day to throw, finally tosses, and Justin Simmons makes a tremendous interception. On the return, Roethlisberger is about to get clocked by a blocker but at the last second turns his back and flops like my son off the high dive. Natch, he gets rewarded with an illegal block penalty. Must’ve worked on his acting chops while out last season…
Rob Weintraub: Jeff Driskel was not, in fact, on the 2015 Bengals, but he tosses a touchdown pass to Noah Fant, and then goes right back to Fant for the octopod.
17-14 Pitt, and Denver is riding missed opportunities from earlier.
Aaron Schatz: According to the announcers, the momentum in this game switched at halftime, but the Pittsburgh defense did not receive the memo. Yes, Driskel managed to lead a touchdown drive for Denver, but on the last drive the Steelers stuffed the Broncos: incomplete, loss of -2 pass, gain of 1 pass, and then a botched snap on a punt out of the end zone for a safety. But maybe the Broncos have gotten that momentum back! Benny Snell just fumbled the ball away, so Denver will get it back down 26-14 with 9:40 left.
Rob Weintraub: Jeff Driskel is still money: he leads a touchdown drive for Denver to get within five at 26-21.
Aaron Schatz: Maybe I spoke too soon. Broncos move the ball well in the drive after the Snell fumble. Nice of Driskel to find an open KJ Hamler for 18, a couple of smaller gains, then Melvin Gordon on the right side of the end zone for the touchdown. The Denver offensive line has also played better protecting Driskel in the second half. 26-21 Steelers.
Aaron Schatz: Roethlisberger with a bad series after the Steelers get the ball back. Second-down pass is batted down, third-down pass is behind and too low to Dionte Johnson. Steelers punt, Broncos take ball back with 6:08 left.
Aaron Schatz: Something goes wrong for Denver and the back does not block a safety blitz on fourth-and-2, and that’s a sack. Not game yet, Denver has three timeouts and can get the ball back here if the Steelers can’t get a first down.
Aaron Schatz: Never mind, James Conner first down and more, and this game is over. Credit to Jeff Driskel. The Broncos offensive line played better in the second half of this game, and Driskel took the opportunity to play reasonably well. He found a lot of Noah Fant, four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown today including a 22-yarder where he got his feet in on the sidelines and that got the Broncos halfway to a touchdown that they never scored because of the fourth-and-2 sack.
Rob Weintraub: Just as I’m starting to believe in Jeff Driskel and Denver, they leave a totally unblocked blitzer (Terrell Edmunds, of the footballing Edmunds) for a free run and sack on fourth-and-2. Now THAT was Bengals-esque…
Detroit Lions 21 at Green Bay Packers 42
Rob Weintraub: Aaron Jones just caught a short touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers and did the most profoundly sad Lambeau Leap of all time, with no fans. Not sure if they played the “bang on the drum all day” song in the empty stadium…
Rob Weintraub: Great route by Pack tight end Robert Tonyan (I think a former Lion?) as he runs a corner route which he suddenly breaks off and turns in front of the defender to grab an on-time throw by Rodgers. 17-14 Pack right at the end of the half, which is the first lead with time on the clock for Green Bay over the Lions since 2018, even though they swept Detroit last year.
Rob Weintraub: Long touchdown run for Aaron Jones and the Pack are up 10. This time, the Lambeau PA does blast the bang on the drum song, but it is drowned out by an artillery barrage straight out of the Battle of the Bulge.
Bryan Knowles: I’ve been grousing about my fantasy running backs all day, as the Jones boys (Aaron and Ronald); Ronald fumbling and being replaced by Leonard Fournette, and Aaron held to eight carries for 35 yards against the Lions. But Aaron just went completely untouched through the Lions defense for a 75-yard score. Did someone forget to tell the Lions defense the second half had started?
The Lions were once leading this game 14-3. It’s now 24-14 Packers early in the third quarter.
Rivers McCown: Obviously a Jump To Conclusions statement, but I think the thing I’ve been most surprised with early is how much better Green Bay’s offense looks this year. With almost no offseason additions of note that are playing.
Buffalo Bills 31 at Miami Dolphins 28
Scott Spratt: The Dolphins-Bills feeds on my Sunday Ticket switched the Steelers-Broncos like 20 minutes ago, and I’ve been trying repeatedly to get the former back on. Turns out the power is out in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Huh. That also doesn’t happen every day. The 49ers-Ravens Super Bowl is the only example I can think of.
Aaron Schatz: I believe power just went out in the truck, the game continued.
Scott Spratt: Ohh, that makes more sense. And is much funnier.
Bryan Knowles: We’re in a lightning delay now, so this game is going to take a while. Funny — we had issues with a lack of electricity early, and now we have too MUCH electricity.
Scott Spratt: And now there’s a lightning delay in Miami. Clearly we were not meant to watch this game.
Scott Spratt: Don’t look now, but this game is happening, and the Dolphins just took the lead 20-17 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter!
Vince Verhei: Guys, I … I’m starting to believe Josh Allen may actually be A Thing. On the two drives after Miami took the lead, he went 6-of-8 for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He did have a bad overthrow on a deep ball that could have been intercepted, but otherwise was just dropping dime after dime, the prettiest a rainbow to Stefon Diggs on the sideline. Obvious “Dude, it’s Miami” caveats apply, but that was a bunch of pretty throws in a short time.
Bryan Knowles: Allen took a significant step in accuracy and decision-making between his rookie year and Year 2, and looks to have done the same in Year 3. That’s all you can really ask from your starter!
Cale Clinton: Last week, Josh Allen recorded his first 300-yard game against the New York Jets. With that 46-yard touchdown to John Brown, Allen currently sits at 417 passing yards. No better way to follow up your first 300-yard game than putting up your first 400-yard game.
Minnesota Vikings 11 at Indianapolis Colts 28
Cale Clinton: After Kirk Cousins is sacked in the end zone by DeForest Buckner, the Vikings have officially made it three straight regular-season games where they have taken a safety.
Dave Bernreuther: I thought the line on this one should’ve been MIN -3, not +3, and thought that was one of the easier bets I’ve seen. Instead, Cousins took another safety (right after I joked about how fun it’d be if he did, and boy what a horrible result for analytics after Frank Reich chose to punt on fourth-and-7 in positive territory and that ended up being the result) and the Vikings have really done almost nothing, even as the Colts struggle badly, for the second week in a row, to finish. Seems like every drive crosses midfield easily, but ends in a field goal.
Still, when you score two or three points every time and the other team does nothing, you can build an insurmountable lead. And finally they break through with a touchdown pass to Zach Pascal, which makes it a 25-3 game in the fourth quarter, which makes this a bet badly lost for me. But in a good way. 1-1 is what I expected for this Colts team, just not this way, and I’m quite OK with losing the bet.
Los Angeles Rams 37 at Philadelphia Eagles 19
Dave Bernreuther: I give Jared Goff a lot of guff — a LOT — but right now he’s the better of the two quarterbacks from that draft on this field. Carson Wentz’s accuracy is really starting to concern me. Driving — finally — down 21-9 as the half nears an end, on third-and-5, Wentz has an open Zach Ertz in the flat (ish) and just plain throws it over his head, Josh Allen-style. That’s inexcusable.
So the Eagles decide to punt … which works to their advantage anyway as Cooper Kupp muffs it, and the Eagles have a shot to end the half with points after all.
Dave Bernreuther: Just as it’s starting to look like the Eagles could turn the tide, Jared Goff throws one of those perfect passes to a very open Tyler Higbee, and the Rams pull way ahead again. Higbee, who I have rostered in countless DFS showdown contests in the past and been disappointed, now has three touchdowns in a week when I am not playing. Sounds about right.
Rob Weintraub: I always want to write Kyler Higbe, the great old Brooklyn Dodger, when Higbee does something good…
New York Giants 13 at Chicago Bears 17
Vince Verhei: Haven’t seen much of this game, but the first half was not a good one for the Giants. Saquon Barkley has left with a knee injury. Daniel Jones has passed for 73 yards and an interception. Mitchell Trubisky has thrown touchdowns to Darnell Mooney (who?) and David Montgomery, and the Bears lead 17-0.
Scott Spratt: I think Mooney was a power forward for Texas Tech, Vince…
Scott Spratt: A little Carolina-adjacent on Carolina-adjacent crime as former Panthers cornerback James Bradberry makes an amazing sideline interception of former Tar Heels quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Maybe he should have been a receiver!
James Bradberry INTERCEPTION!!!! pic.twitter.com/3myralxZef
— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) September 20, 2020
Rob Weintraub: The Bears, up four late, go for it on fourth-and-1. Trubisky’s throw is deflected by a Giants defender, right to Bears lineman Bobby Massie for the key conversion.
Bryan Knowles: I, too, enjoy to draw up the “deflect the ball and complete the pass to my offensive tackle” call on fourth-and-1.
Rob Weintraub: Trubisky can’t move them much further, however, and the Bears miss a long field goal at the two-minute warning. Somehow the Giants can pull this one out.
Rob Weintraub: Jones’ last ditch pass from the Bears 10 with four ticks left … incomplete! But late flag as fake crowd goes wild … OPI! Bears escape!
Bryan Knowles: Rather than taking two shots at the end zone, the Giants ran a 3-yard out with eight seconds left. Just one throw into the end zone, and you have to question the play calling from Joe Judge and Jason Garrett.
Washington Football Team 15 at Arizona Cardinals 30
Scott Spratt: Are we still doing the “sorry, Rivers” thing? Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins, 7-0 Cardinals.
Vince Verhei: Somebody should alert Washington that DeAndre Hopkins is a major part of Arizona’s offense. He had 14 catches in Week 1, yet somehow, on Arizona’s first drive today, he’s all alone in the end zone on third-and-goal, and Kyler Murray hits him for an easy touchdown. That was Arizona’s third third-down conversion on that drive.
Rivers McCown: I would like an apology, but from Bill O’Brien.
Vince Verhei: Dots on the Hopkins score. Nobody on the Football Team ever even acknowledged him.
I guess 41 froze Landon Collins (26)? Left Hopkins completely uncovered. Via Next Gen Stats. pic.twitter.com/ZzIMSMHSCz
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) September 20, 2020
Rob Weintraub: Can I change my Super Bowl prediction to Baltimore-Arizona? Because no one can stop Kyler Murray — an insanely slick touchdown run and the Cards are up 14-0. Murray is like a mini-me Lamar, with much better deep passing. Good lord.
Vince Verhei: Sure, Rob, nobody can stop him … if you ignore the interception and three-and-out he had on Arizona’s last two drives. But yes, Chandler Jones bailed him out by sacking Dwayne Haskins and forcing a fumble on first-and-goal, and then Stephen Sims fumbled another ball back to the Cardinals on a punt return, and Murray did scamper for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Cards up 14-0 on the last play of the first quarter.
And, to your point, on Arizona’s next drive Murray hits a bomb to Andy Isabella for 54 yards. The drive stalls there, but Zane Gonzalez hits a 49-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.
Vince Verhei: We’re in a bit of deja vu here. Murray hits another deep pass (a 49-yarder to Christian Kirk, who made a great play to get his second foot down in bounds) but then a red zone penalty turfs the drive and leads to another field goal. But 20-0 should be plenty against a Washington offense that can barely function — Haskins has been sacked four times so far.
Scott Spratt: Friendly reminder that Dwayne Haskins easily led football with a 12.5% sack rate in his rookie season. No other regular starter was over 10%.
Vince Verhei: Washington, down 20-0, just punted on fourth-and-2 from their own 44. This will likely be my last report from this game — if they’re giving up, I am too.
Scott Spratt: Washington may be the one team whose offense is bad enough relative to their defense to make that punt make sense. Too bad there probably isn’t any defense that can stop Murray.
Vince Verhei: OK, I was wrong. I had to come back to point out that after that punt, Kliff Kingsbury — whose team is ahead by three touchdowns — went for it on fourth-and-1 ***at his own 27***. And then called THIS:
Kliff Kingsbury just called a triple option reverse with backup QB Chris Streveler on fourth down from his own 27 up 20-0. Kliff Kingsbury is a true king. pic.twitter.com/sfq1kbcnc8
— Bobby Football (@RobPaulNFL) September 20, 2020
Most entertaining playcaller in the NFL and I don’t think it’s close.
Unfortunately Murray was called for intentional grounding on the next play and the Cardinals ended up punting anyway. But still.
Bryan Knowles: I’m fairly sure the Cardinals are cheating. Kyler Murray has Noclip on. That, or the Football Team just can’t make a tackle to save their lives.
Rob Weintraub: Another Kyler trot-in score from 21 yards out, and I reiterate — CANNOT be stopped!
Contained for a spell? Sure. But not stopped.
Carl Yedor: I guess it’s a good thing that the Arizona chapter where we (I) mentioned that we (I) didn’t feel like they were a playoff team yet mentioned that Murray making a leap was possible and would likely be the driving force behind that sort of a run. Granted, it’s Washington, but Washington gave Philly all kinds of problems last week.
Vince Verhei: This is bad defense at least as much as it’s good offense, but either way, yes, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
This is becoming Kyler’s signature play. @K1 #AZCardinals
: #WASvsAZ on FOX
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/PT9nGfNcus pic.twitter.com/3BlHRAlyj8
— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2020
Carl Yedor: Ron Rivera challenged something that I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen before. After a checkdown on third-and-medium to set up fourth-and-5, Rivera throws a challenge flag to see if Arizona had too many men on the field, which they did! This gives Washington a short third down instead. Haskins then converts the new third down, leading to a touchdown for Antonio Gibson. Two-pointer fails, so it’s 27-15 now.
Kansas City Chiefs 23 at Los Angeles Chargers 20 (OT)
Bryan Knowles: Woah, Justin Herbert is starting! I heard nothing about that leading up to this game!
Vince Verhei: Starting at quarterback for your Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert.
Bryan Knowles: Word is that Tyrod Taylor has a chest injury and was questionable to play in this one. I wonder how real that injury is, but one way or another, Herbert is the starter. And he already has his first NFL touchdown, running the ball in to give the Chargers an early 7-0 lead. Big passes to Joshua Kelley and Austin Ekeler as he, like Philip Rivers before him, leans on his running backs in the passing game.
Aaron Schatz: Chargers are eating the Chiefs’ offensive line alive early on, especially Joey Bosa against Eric Fisher.
Rob Weintraub: Three funny moments in this one:
- On the field — Herbert bootlegs, plants, and his shoe explodes. He still manages to get the throw away, though it sails out of bounds.
- In the truck — A pre-produced piece going on about Kansas Ciyt’s great offense has a fogged window effect to emphasize how Andy Reid’s face shield provides less than optimal visibility.
- In the booth — On second-and-10 in Kansas City territory, L.A. runs for 5 yards. “That gets them into field goal range!!” Jim Nantz yells like it was the final, dying moments of the Super Bowl. “What a great call — that gets you points with a field goal!!” Tony Romo yells, nonsensically. Sure enough, L.A. goes for it on fourth-and-5, eschewing those Romo points, and throws incomplete.
Meanwhile, Joey Bosa and Co. are dominating Kansas City so far.
Vince Verhei: Chargers still lead 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. Chiefs just punted for the third time. As Aaron noted, Mahomes’ protection has been overwhelmed, and he’s currently 2-of-8 for 14 yards. Might this be the first bad game of his career?
Bryan Knowles: A Patrick Mahomes scramble might help dull the Chargers pass rush some — a lot tougher to pin your ears and try to flatten the quarterback when he can dash 15 yards downfield.
The Chiefs get on the board on a nice play design. Three different routes attacking the left side of the Chargers defense; someone was going to slip free. Turns out it was Travis Kelce, but if it wasn’t him, Mahomes had Clyde Edwards-Helaire open in the flat, as Sammy Watkins (I think) cleared out the coverage. Harrison Butker misses the PAT(!) so it’s 7-6 Chargers midway through the second quarter.
[email protected] drops it in to @TKelce #ChiefsKingdom
: #KCvsLAC on CBS
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/PT9nGfNcus pic.twitter.com/jJuSaJF14Q
— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2020
Dave Bernreuther: It would be very Tyrod Taylor to be usurped early — again — in an even more ridiculous manner than the last; this time, apparently an injury during warmups. What amuses me is that while setting up the TVs for my in-home sports bar this morning, I mentioned (out loud, of course, because dogs know English) to Herbert the Pervert — the lazy old man pictured in last week’s Audibles — that he had a namesake in the league, but that it wasn’t quite his time yet. (And then I had the Seinfeld Herbert-Hebert scene stuck in my brain for a solid half hour.)
I’m not that high on him as a prospect, honestly, but I am rooting for him, if only for the stupidest of reasons. So far, he looks pretty good for a first start. Nothing amazing, but I like what he has done so far, and more importantly, I like what they’re doing with him, including going for a fourth down in no man’s land, where sure, Michael Badgley had a perfectly good chance since it’s indoors. The lack of reaction to his shoe falling off was also a point in his favor.
The possible touchdown pass that he underthrew and allowed to be broken up, though, was a point against him. It’s the back of the end zone; miss high.
Bryan Knowles: This is the kind of day we were promised from Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley. They have combined for 171 yards already as we approach the two-minute warning. The Chiefs have not helped their own cause out, whiffing tackles — and getting trucked when they do make tackling attempts, good lord, do not attempt to bring down Justin Herbert without a tank.
I wonder how much of the Chiefs’ early defensive struggles come from the sudden quarterback change, but Herbert’s looked … OK. Not great, but he’s operating the offense well, and just threw his first NFL touchdown pass to give the Chargers a 14-6 lead.
Vince Verhei: Herbert hits Jalen Guyton in the corner of the end zone for a 14-6 lead. Key play of that drive was Joshua Kelley running for a first down on fourth-and-1 just across midfield. Savvy by Anthony Lynn to play aggressive against the Chiefs and Mahomes, who are scary as ever despite their struggles so far today. On the play before that, Herbert scrambled but took a big hit a yard short of the conversion. I thought that was a foolish play, considering Taylor’s also out today, but Herbert popped right up while Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens was the one who stayed down and left the game. Chiefs can hardly afford to lose any talent at that position.
Vince Verhei: Chiefs just punted for the fourth time in the first half. They only punted three times against Houston last week. They averaged exactly three punts per game in 2019.
Aaron Schatz: Some of the defensive problem for Kansas City comes from injuries; they’re down to three healthy cornerbacks. But the offense is clearly a bigger issue than the defense right now and the issue is the offensive line getting completely overwhelmed and Mahomes not having the time to set up to pass accurately.
Bryan Knowles: It’s 14-6 going into the half. 14-6 Chargers. That’s a surprise, but the Chiefs offense hasn’t really gotten into a groove all game long. Yes, the Kansas City offensive line is having problems but, as Geoff Schwartz pointed out on Twitter, this isn’t all the offensive line. Mahomes is holding onto the ball and drifting out of the back of the pocket rather than stepping up into clean air. That was something he struggled with during his first few starts, and it has raised its head again today as the Chiefs’ many, many weapons haven’t been as open as perhaps he’s used to. I mean, you never count the Chiefs out; they could score 35 points in the third quarter without breaking a sweat. But the Chargers holding on would probably be the upset of the week for most people.
Cale Clinton: In games that Pat Mahomes has started, the Chiefs have only punted five-plus times in a game five times. Two of those games have come against the Chargers.
Aaron Schatz: Given that Philadelphia (+1.5) was the only favorite to lose in the early games, Chargers winning would be the upset of the week for ALL people.
Vince Verhei: The Chargers’ deep-completion-and-lateral on the last play of the first half goes nowhere, and it’s still 14-6 at halftime. Mahomes has not been sacked, but the pressure is clearly affecting him. He’s 8-of-19 for 60 yards. Even on their one scoring drive, it was mostly Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darwin Thompson running (plus Mahomes’ own scramble) that got them there.
I’m not sure what to say about Herbert. I mean, he’s clearly playing well and hasn’t made any bad mistakes, but there’s something about him that still looks … well, like a rookie quarterback making his first start who is still very much figuring out how this works.
Scott Spratt: Woah, CBS showed a graphic that this is the first time the Chiefs have trailed at half in 15 games. That’s crazy. It seemed like they were down multiple scores every playoff game.
Vince Verhei: Scott, I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic, but they WERE down multiple scores in all three playoff games. But they were ahead or tied at halftime in all three of them.
Scott Spratt: Yeah, I’m not sure my brain fully processed how quickly they erased all of those deficits. I guess the Chargers should try to keep scoring.
Aaron Schatz: I think Herbert has been better than maybe we’re giving him credit for. He just zipped one downfield to Keenan Allen, with a pass-rusher in his face, that was just past the outstretched arm of Tyrann Mathieu and came down perfectly in Allen’s hands. And that was the second pass of two that turned second-and-24 (after a sack) into a new set of downs.
Aaron Schatz: There’s a rookie decision by Herbert, throwing into traffic across his body instead of taking an easy scramble for a first down.
Rob Weintraub: Just moments after Tony Romo goes and compares Herbert to Kyler Murray, based on three quarters of decent but hardly scintillating play, the rookie rolls left, blows off an easy first-down run, and heaves one across his body deep, which gets picked by L’Jarius Sneed. Herbert will learn from that, but will ($10 million per year) Romo?
Cale Clinton: The Herbert interception changes things, but headed into the fourth quarter, I just wanted to share something I found. If this eight-point margin holds, it will be the largest loss of Patrick Mahomes’ career. The biggest loss in a Mahomes start was Week 16 of 2018, when the Chiefs lost to the Seahawks 38-31.
Patrick Mahomes has never lost a game by more than one score
Bryan Knowles: And he still might not! It took all day, but Mahomes finally hit a big shot, a 50-yard laser to Tyreek Hill to make this a two-point game. Even during his worst game as a pro, Mahomes is capable of magic.
Bryan Knowles: Similarly incredible jump-pass bomb from Mahomes to Tyreek!
Vince Verhei: Yup. This was also a jump pass. No feet on the ground, 54 yards, touchdown. It was reviewed, confirmed as a score, and then Chiefs got the two-pointer to tie the game at 17.
: #KCvsLAC on CBS pic.twitter.com/YnbSjcxwf5
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) September 20, 2020
Vince Verhei: Tell you what, Herbert sure has no fear of contact. Third-and-1 scramble, two defenders waiting at the line of scrimmage? No problem, just hit them harder than they hit you and move the sticks.
Dave Bernreuther: Third-and-goal nearing the end of the game, and Herbert just didn’t see the wide-open throw to Hunter Henry in the back of the end zone at the top of the screen. Not horrible in a first start, and he didn’t make a horrible decision instead, but a three-point lead with three minutes left against Mahomes is not nearly the same thing as a full touchdown.
Bryan Knowles: The Chargers drain 10 minutes off the clock but only get a field goal out of their trip to the red zone. Some gutty running by Herbert to keep things moving, and he’s over 300 yards passing now, but the Chiefs tighten up at the end. You have to kick the field goal there to take the lead with less than three minutes left, but that can’t feel good with Patrick Mahomes coming back onto the field.
Bryan Knowles: Going to overtime has to feel like a win for the Chargers. Mahomes was in full-on Mahomes mode on that last drive — hitting long passes, converting a third-and-20 with his legs — but a couple of penalties on the Chiefs’ offensive line nullified some big plays and, more importantly, drained some clock. It means the Chiefs ran out of time in the red zone, and had to kick the game-tying field goal.
Overtime in SoFi. This should be fun.
Bryan Knowles: Fourth-and-inches from the 34-yard line, and the Chargers punt it.
No, no, no, no, no. Don’t give the ball back to Mahomes.
Aaron Schatz: Chargers made a mistake by punting.
[email protected] is exactly right!
The #Chargers would gain 6% in pre-snap win probability by going for it on that fourth & 1 in OT.#KCvsLAC #ChiefsKingdom #BoltUp
— EdjSports (@edjsports) September 20, 2020
Cale Clinton: Obviously it’s his first start, so I don’t completely blame them, but I’ve seen Justin Herbert muscle for extra yards on enough runs today to trust his ability to pick up the fourth down.
Aaron Schatz: Chiefs, on the other hand, go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Chargers 46.
Vince Verhei: But then, apparently, are about to kick a 52-yard field goal on fourth-and-1. I’d go for it.
Bryan Knowles: And instead, they false start! Oh no, Chiefs…
Vince Verhei: I’d definitely go for it on fourth-and-6 instead of a 58-yarder.
Vince Verhei: Well, what do I know?
Bryan Knowles: Butker nails the 53-yarder, but it’s nullified by a false start. He nails a 58-yarder, but he’s iced. And then he nails ANOTHER 58-yarder, and the Chiefs escape by the hair of their chinny-chin-chins.
Wowza. I am glad I didn’t have to make the decision to kick or go for it there; that was SUCH a hard call.
Carl Yedor: … but Butker still hits the 58-yard attempt (twice because of an Anthony Lynn icing timeout) to seal the win for the Chiefs.
Rob Weintraub: Fun game but the fake crowd noise was horribly produced and modulated but the truck. Interfered with the game, in my opinion. And Romo was pretty poor, again in my view.
Baltimore Ravens 33 at Houston Texans 16
Bryan Knowles: Bill O’Brien with a bit of an uncharacteristic head-scratcher, going for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 34-yard line, trying to complete a little screen pass and failing. That leads to a couple of big grabs from Mark Ingram and a touchdown catch for Patrick Ricard and a 10-0 lead for the Ravens early in the second quarter.
I’d love to see the decision tree O’Brien uses for making his go-or-punt decisions.
Aaron Schatz: I think the problem with O’Brien is more the inconsistency in when he goes for it. Because that was definitely the right move by the numbers, even if it did not work.
Houston goes for it on fourth & 1 at their own 34-yard line.
Some people might not like that decision, but it was the correct one.
Going for it with only a yard to go gives the #Texans 3.6% more chance to win the game.#BALvsHOU #WeAreTexans
— EdjSports (@edjsports) September 20, 2020
Bryan Knowles: That’s it exactly. I know that when it’s a fourth-and-go for it, John Harbaugh probably will. Kyle Shanahan probably won’t. Bill O’Brien? It seems to vary from game to game, and even quarter to quarter.
All I really ask for is a consistent philosophy.
Rob Weintraub: It’s Richard Nixon’s Madman Theory brought to the NFL sideline.
Scott Spratt: Really sneaky Marcus Peters pick.
SEE BALL, GET BALL @marcuspeters
: CBS pic.twitter.com/3W4Uqa3OFZ
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2020
The Texans couldn’t afford to turn the ball over multiple times against the Ravens, but they’ve done that and now trail 20-7.
Vince Verhei: Rivers is apparently too busy putting these Tweets together to share them here, but this throw by Deshaun Watson is unreal. Jumping backwards and puts this right where it needs to be 30-some yards downfield. If this happened in a video game people would call this a glitch.
Preposterous throw by 4. pic.twitter.com/gmiQmEcLmp
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) September 20, 2020
Rivers McCown: I think the Texans defense played … really well against Lamar Jackson for three quarters. They sacked him four times, he looked uncomfortable in the pocket. They held the Ravens to 10 carries for 44 yards in the first half. Jackson uncharacteristically missed an open Marquise Brown in the end zone. All the elements to an upset were brewing on that side of the ball. But then they called a horrific defense against the Mark Ingram fourth-and-1 where to the left of the center there were five other linemen, and a fullback. They for some reason decided to play just six players on the play side. It was a back-breaking touchdown. The offense is just completely busted. They can’t deal with blitzes and not having Hopkins has somehow made them worse in that regard. They have no deep balls. They can’t afford to give away 14 points on that fourth-down try and the Keke Coutee fumble-six. I wrote about 1,500 more words about this game on my website, but that’s the tl;dr of it:
New England Patriots 30 at Seattle Seahawks 35
Scott Spratt: Oh, man, this is terrible. James White’s father was killed in a car accident that also has his mother in critical condition. White is obviously inactive tonight.
Sad news to report. Patriots’ RB James White’s father was in a car crash today and did not survive. His mother was also in the car and is in critical condition.
White’s father, Tyrone, was a captain with the Miami-Dade Police Department.
James was told and is inactive tonight.
— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) September 20, 2020
Bryan Knowles: Russell Wilson’s second pass attempt of the game is tipped, intercepted, and returned for a touchdown. Somewhere, Pete Carroll quietly turns off the burner; cooking is clearly very dangerous.
And let me be the first to say how much better the Patriots’ new uniforms look in white than they do in blue.
Scott Spratt: Greg Olsen, who dropped the pass that became the interception return, had dropped just 15 of 286 catchable targets since 2015. That was tied for the ninth-lowest drop rate of the 45 tight ends with 100 or more catchable targets in that time.
Scott Spratt: I think Patriots linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley is too slow to be the Wilson spy. Wilson juked him out of his shoes on that 21-yard carry.
Carl Yedor: Before that play, I was thinking aloud about why New England was opting for zone over man. They may not think they have a good enough athlete to spy Wilson at linebacker, but I’ll defer to the Patriots experts in this thread for comment on the athleticism of the linebacker corps here.
Vince Verhei: The pick-six was really a shame, because otherwise Seattle has been moving the ball with great success considering the opposition. Seven first downs in their first 16 snaps, six-plus yards per play, overcame a first-and-25 to get that touchdown. I’d still call that a great start.
Cale Clinton: Damiere Byrd played in 88% of snaps in Week 1 and wasn’t targeted once. This week, he has hauled in the first two completions tonight, both for first downs.
Carl Yedor: At a macro level, these teams have almost stylistically swapped since the first time the Wilson-led Seahawks faced off with New England. In 2012, the Patriots had a high-flying offense and a fairly unexciting defense while the Seahawks were run-heavy and had an excellent defense anchored by its defensive backs. Now, the tables have essentially turned, though New England isn’t working with a rookie quarterback, and to be clear, it isn’t a perfect match.
Bryan Knowles: I don’t think I’ve ever seen three flags on the same hit before, but Quandre Diggs’ helmet-to-helmet shot was about as clear as I’ve ever seen.
Vince Verhei: Yeah, I’m absolutely fine with Diggs being ejected for that. He and Harry both could have been hurt on that hit.
Scott Spratt: Part of that lack of Byrd targeting in Week 1 was probably just lack of targeting anyone. Newton only needed 19 pass attempts and only 15 that targeted wide receivers or tight ends.
Dave Bernreuther: I loved the decisiveness on the fourth-and-3 there. Both in deciding to leave the offense on the field and in the play call and pass. Great job by N’Keal Harry to hang on to that while being concussed.
Pretty sure Cam Newton just scored twice there. I’m also starting to wonder if he could score 15-plus this year if they want him to.
That’s an amazing stat: Cam Newton now has as many rushing touchdowns as O.J. Simpson or Herschel Walker. Wow.
Cale Clinton: The Pre-Designated Celebration Zone is new this week, right? I mean it gave us this really cool moment following the pick-six, where Devin McCourty honored James White…
Devin McCourty honored teammate James White, who tragically lost his father in a car accident today. His mother is in critical condition. Sending love to the White family. pic.twitter.com/FTTJFk477s
— NFL (@NFL) September 21, 2020
…but I really don’t like the concept in general. There’s something really unnatural about it. I think the McCourty celebration was the best-possible first celebration it could’ve gotten.
Vince Verhei: As Mike Reiss pointed out, New England’s personnel on that touchdown (the one that counted) was seven offensive linemen, two tight ends, a fullback, and Cam. They’re not even disguising what they’re doing and I love it.
Vince Verhei: Chase Winovich obliterated Carlos Hyde so badly on that third-down sack I thought he was unblocked. Only on replay did I realize that Winovich turned Hyde to dust like Thanos before chasing Wilson into his teammate’s arms.
Chase Winovich sending Carlos Hyde to Tacoma pic.twitter.com/r5oFCh3Ds6
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) September 21, 2020
Bryan Knowles: Uh-oh. Losing Diggs was bad enough, but if Marquise Blair is out, too, that’s a pretty big hole that Belichick will definitely attack. Who’s the next man up at free safety, Neiko Thorpe?
Scott Spratt: Could the Seahawks play first-rounder Jordyn Brooks at safety? I know he’s 240 pounds, but he’s a great athlete, and the Patriots are going full jumbo on offense.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots just ran QB power on third-and-9. They’re going to do some weird rushing things this year.
Vince Verhei: Lano Hill is not a very good safety — if he was, they wouldn’t have traded for Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams — but he is a safety. Now, if he gets hurt, I have no idea what they do. Full-time goal-line defense?
Bryan Knowles: I believe Bill Belichick said that Wilson was the best deep-ball passer in the league this week. Well, add a point to that column, as he just found DK Metcalf, beating Stephon Gilmore, for a 54-yard bomb. You won’t see a prettier pass today.
Vince Verhei: The ball was actually a hair underthrown, and as a result, Stephon Gilmore actually hit Metcalf early … but Metcalf did my favorite thing a wide receiver can do: shrug off interference and catch the ball anyway.
Vince Verhei: Third-and-8, Patriots try a SHOVeLL sweep to Burkhead. Play loses yards and then Nick Folk misses from 51. But to Aaron’s point earlier, the Patriots really don’t have any third-and-long options in their playbook, do they?
Carl Yedor: New England starts the second half with a field goal drive featuring multiple third-down conversions. On one, Jamal Adams had Newton dead to rights, but Newton managed to shake him off and find Edelman.
Seattle responds with a drive featuring some chippiness with a shoving match on the sideline between Stephon Gilmore and DK Metcalf. Those two have been locked up when the Patriots have been in man coverage. Seattle caps the drive with another touchdown on a deep ball from Wilson, this time to David Moore. Moore had to toe-tap while running backwards into the end zone, kicking the pylon as he got his second foot down in bounds.
Aaron Schatz: We can throw this in when we talk about the David Moore touchdown.
Russell Wilson & David Moore’s 38-yard touchdown had just a 6.3% Completion Probability, the 2nd-most improbable completion since 2018.
Moore had 0.8 yards of separation from Jason McCourty and was 0.4 yards away from the sideline when the pass arrived.#NEvsSEA | #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/q3scdUDOhi
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 21, 2020
Aaron Schatz: Patriots have been throwing the ball a lot more in the second half. Possibly trying to pick on an injured Seattle secondary? Just paid for it when Newton threw an interception to Quinton Dunbar.
Vince Verhei: Part of it is the injuries in Seattle’s secondary. Part of it is also that they can’t run for crap. 2.2 yards per carry at the point of the Quinton Dunbar interception (including Cam’s sneak and kneel at the end of the first half).
New England’s offense really feels unique in the NFL. It’s the closest thing the league will ever see to the flexbone. It’s not just run- and option-heavy, but all the passing plays are built off play-action and slow-developing routes. It really shouldn’t work as well as it has, but Newton is still very good and making it go.
Cale Clinton: Cam Newton has definitely been testing the passing game further downfield, and he has had success doing so. Up until the interception, Cam was 7-of-8 for 110 yards on passes beyond 10 yards from the LOS according to Next Gen Stats. That number makes up 33% of Cam’s passing attempts, but 61% of his production through the air.
In Week 1, Cam was 3-of-4 for 54 yards, representing just 21% of total attempts and 34% of production.
Cale Clinton: With that touchdown pass to Freddie Swain, Russell Wilson currently has more touchdowns this season (eight) than he does incompletions (seven).
Something tells me that streak of zero MVP votes ends this season.
Vince Verhei: New England’s jumbo personnel is just about unstoppable in short yardage, man. It worked on third-and-1, and it worked on first-and-goal for the “play-action” touchdown pass to Jakob Johnson. But on the two-point try they bring in all these wide receivers (bah!) and still run Newton, and the Seahawks aren’t fooled and Adams stuffs Newton for no gain. Patriots got too cute there. They were doing great just muscling Seattle around.
Tom Gower: After the touchdown pass to Chris Carson made it 35-23, Russell Wilson has thrown 10 incompletions this season. Three of them, tonight, were pure throwaways with no intended receiver listed. One of them was the pick-6 to Gregg Olsen. The other six incompletions with an intended receiver have all been thrown in the direction of DK Metcalf.
Vince Verhei: That’s a nine-play, 65-yard touchdown drive for Seattle that eats up nearly four and a half minutes of clock. They’re now up 35-23 with less than five minutes to go and this one should be on ice. Wilson twice making masterpiece throws to beat the blitz — once on the third-down conversion to Lockett, then on the touchdown to Chris Carson. His anticipation is just otherworldly — so many times he releases the ball before his man is even open, and then when it’s eventually caught it’s right in the bucket with no defender in sight.
Cale Clinton: Cam Newton’s fourth rushing touchdown this season has officially eclipsed all but one of Tom Brady’s season rushing touchdown totals, tying Brady’s career high of rushing touchdowns set in 2012.
Newton is on pace for 32 rushing touchdowns this season. Brady’s career total as a Patriot is 22.
Aaron Schatz: OK, I love the Seahawks letting Russ cook but what was the point of a deep shot when you basically needed 1 yard to ice the game?
Vince Verhei: Well damn. Wilson incomplete on third down and Newton’s getting the ball back with 1:42 and two timeouts left and a chance to drive 80 yards and win.
Sure would be great to have a pass-rusher right now.
Aaron Schatz: Cam Newton is great but Seattle finally figured out how to stop QB power from the 1.
Carl Yedor: L.J. Collier failed to make much of an impact at all in his rookie season last year, so that stop he came up with (along with Lano Hill) is probably the biggest play of his career thus far.
Bryan Knowles: You can’t blame the Patriots for the call; the Seahawks just made the better play.
Hell of a game.
Vince Verhei: And the answer is “have third-string safety Lano Hill submarine the fullback in the backfield and cut off the path to the outside.”
I’m happy Seattle is 2-0. But good god in heaven do they need to find some kind of pass rush. Newton probably had an easier time in the pocket tonight than he did in Carolina’s Super Bowl year.
Tom Gower: Lano Hill diving in and Collier beating Michael Onwenu (I think) made the play. Pats have counters off what you do to that play, as we saw earlier, but they went with the base version and the Seahawks beat it. Fantastic ending to a great game.
Carl Yedor: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Seahawks and Cowboys combine for 80 next week (though that’s obviously a lot).
Vince Verhei: For the second week in a row, Jamal Adams leads Seattle in both tackles and sacks. Tonight, he was their box safety, their edge rusher, and sometimes their centerfielder. They really are using him like a combination of Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Jadeveon Clowney. It’s something to behold, man.