Mon. Oct 19th, 2020

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Audibles at the Line: Week 3

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Audibles at the Line: Week 3

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Tailgate Party Time

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.

Chicago Bears 30 at Atlanta Falcons 26

Bryan Knowles: We had our first real COVID scare of the season, with A.J. Terrell being put on the COVID list last night, and some frantic contact tracing going on to make sure the rest of the Falcons defenders were OK. Fortunately, we can confirm from our advanced tracking numbers that no Falcons defender has come within 6 feet of anyone this season, so everything looks to be alright.

On a serious note, this is the first real test of the NFL’s procedures with regards to the ongoing pandemic. MLB couldn’t make it through the whole season without cancelling some games, as travel is difficult at the moment. Fingers crossed that Terrell, his teammates, and everyone else ends up OK.

Scott Spratt: I think you deserve to miss your field goal attempt if you don’t try to convert a fourth-and-5 against the Falcons from their 27-yard line. And Cairo Santos did!

Scott Spratt: And then taking over on downs, Matt Ryan immediately hit Calvin Ridley for a 63-yard catch without Julio Jones playing. Two players later, the Falcons are up 7-0.

Scott Spratt: Make that 6-0. Kicking is hard.

Scott Spratt: I think we knew the Falcons defense was bad. They are 28th with 15.5% defensive DVOA through two weeks. But Mitchell Trubisky just scrambled up the middle and gained about 40 of his 45 yards before a defender was even within 5 yards of him. We’ll just have to see if the Bears can actually score a touchdown on their third red zone trip so far today.

Bryan Knowles: The plague on second-overall picks continues. Nick Foles has come in to replace Mitch Trubisky at quarterback.

Oh, not because Trubisky was hurt, mind you. More for the ugly interception he just threw, setting the Falcons up in the red zone. BDN time in Chicago.

Scott Spratt: Nick Foles touchdown or interception? You decide!

Dave Bernreuther: As I read that and turn my attention to that game, Foles — who is wearing a tinted visor, which is very odd — throws to the end zone, and if ever there was a simultaneous possession type of play, this was it. Both teams are celebrating. Two refs signal touchdown, while another waves his arms incomplete. Darqueze Dennard is running around with the ball like he just scored a touchdown himself… I have no idea what the right call here is, but it looked a lot to me like Dennard had a better claim to that ball than Allen Robinson did. This one is going to review and even with a two-minute commercial break to sort it out I have no idea which way they’ll rule.

Scott Spratt: Play of the day so far today. Nick Foles throws the ball up to triple coverage, it somehow gets through for a Jimmy Graham reception. He fumbles. Anthony Miller picks the ball up. He fumbles, but the Bears somehow still end up with the ball on the doorstep of the end zone.

A few plays later on fourth-and-goal, Foles finds Miller for a touchdown. Probably too little too late for the Bears, but maybe Foles could be earning the starter job going forward.

Cale Clinton: 3:00 left in the third, backed up in their own end down two scores, and Chicago chooses to open their drive with a short run for a 1-yard loss.

Ben Baldwin’s RBSDM lists the Bears as last in the league on early-down passes, throwing on 40% of those plays.

The drive ends with a punt.

Scott Spratt: Annddd Miller’s catch was not a catch. Turnover on downs. Nothing is going well for the Bears today.

Scott Spratt: The Falcons didn’t take kindly to the Bills nearly taking their corner. With some stellar tackling, they’ve allowed the Bears back into this game at 26-23 with a bit more than four minutes left.

Bryan Knowles: While we were all talking about the Bills becoming the Falcons, we forgot that the Falcons themselves are the Falcons! This was a 26-10 Falcons lead before Trubisky was benched, but Foles has led the Bears to two consecutive touchdown drives, and it’s only a 26-23 Falcons lead now, with 4:18 left. Atlanta can’t do this AGAIN, can they?

Dave Bernreuther: They’re certainly trying… Clinging to the three-point lead, they’re taking false start penalties on third down (at home in an empty stadium) and then Matt Ryan overthrew a wide open Olamide Zaccheaus. The Bears have the ball and four full minutes to work with.

Scott Spratt: The Falcons threw on all three downs of their next possession and went three-and-out. The Bears have the ball back with four minutes and are probably going to win.

Cale Clinton: Atlanta really needs to learn how to close games. Following up last week’s collapse, Atlanta allows a touchdown to make it a one-score game with 4:20 to go. On the proceeding drive, the Falcons miss two short passes, push themselves back with a false start, then overthrow a deep ball. Really left scratching your head way too often with this team.

Bryan Knowles: Nick Foles takes a hit in the backfield, but finds Anthony Miller lost in coverage for the go-ahead touchdown. This can not be happening.

Bryan Knowles: And then Matt Ryan airmails a ball, and Tashaun Gipson comes down with the interception. Falcons still have two timeouts but, this Can. Not. Be happening.

Aaron Schatz: Next Gen Stats says the Bears were down to 2.0% win probability in this game. EdjSports’ model had the Bears at 5.8% when they brought in Foles to replace Trubisky and 1.3% when there was 9:05 left in the fourth quarter. For the Falcons to lose leads like this in two straight weeks is just nuts. How on earth are the Chicago Bears 3-0?

Cale Clinton: I’d love to look at an archive of Win Probabilities by Play just to see if any other franchise in the NFL collapses as often and as spectacularly as the Atlanta Falcons.

If this was any other franchise, I would ask how you could ever come back from this. I would say they should blow the whole thing up, sell off assets to acquire picks, liquidate the coaching staff, and completely start from scratch.

This isn’t a typical franchise. This is the Atlanta Falcons. This is all just another Sunday for them.

Los Angeles Rams 32 at Buffalo Bills 35

Andrew Potter: As is my usual Sunday routine, I opened Game Pass and skimmed the list of games, trying to guess what would be blacked out in the UK. Texans-Steelers looked the safest bet, followed by maybe Raiders-Patriots. Figured I’d be safe with Rams-Bills, but no! We live in strange times.

(Meanwhile, my grandad’s beloved Leicester City is destroying Manchester City 4-1 at the Etihad. Very, very strange times.)

Dave Bernreuther: Second-and-9 on the opening drive and Josh Allen shows the best pocket presence I can remember seeing him have… albeit in a clean pocket with a four-man rush. Nice footwork, no unnecessary scrambling, slight shuffle to space on his left, and then a dart… straight into tight coverage for an incompletion. The Bills punt two plays later, but I just found that worth noting. It’s the kind of pocket he would usually bolt from for no reason. Which is what I expected a lot of with Aaron Donald doing Aaron Donald things.

The Rams’ first possession looks pretty darn good so far coming back the other way.

(The football, that is. The all-blue uniforms look godawful.)

Bryan Knowles: I’m watching this one in part to see how the Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs deep ball connection is working with my own eyes. So far, I’ve been left wanting — just one target Diggs’ way, a wide receiver screen that ended up hitting the ground after initially being ruled a touchdown. Overall, though, Allen has impressed so far, not only this season but this game. As Dave mentioned, his pocket presence looks very sharp, and while he still isn’t going to win any accuracy competitions, he has thrown some absolute darts. He has made significant progress between Year 2 and Year 3, just as he did between year 1 and Year 2. That’s all you can really ask for, right?

It helps, of course, that the Rams seem incapable of stopping Devin Singletary, who is averaging 6 yards a carry in the first quarter. That gets the Bills down to the 1-yard line, where they have the aforementioned incomplete pass to Diggs. The next play is another apparent touchdown to Diggs, but offsetting penalties make them do it again. Third time’s a charm, though, with Allen hitting Lee Smith to give the Bills the 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Dave Bernreuther: I should compliment Josh Allen more often, because then he does Josh Allen things that make me laugh. Such as in this case, running a wide receiver screen to Diggs on the 1, throwing it directly into the turf.

After wasting an unusually long time on the review, the Bills get to run another play, and after running straight backwards, Allen hits an uncovered Diggs (again) in a throw that shows off the arm strength they (over)drafted him for, falling backwards from about the 15… and that one comes back on offsetting penalties. A fake over-the-head snap (direct to Singletary) goes nowhere, but they finally get in on the fourth try, with Allen hitting Lee Smith. This time the points count, and it’s 7- 0 Bills (the Rams joined the missed field goal parade after their first drive).

Vince Verhei: It took several, several tries, but the Bills got into the end zone. Devin Singletary looked like he had scored from the 13, but they marked him down at the 1. Second-and-goal, Allen hits Stefon Diggs on a wide receiver screen for an apparent score, but the pass is ruled incomplete on replay. Third-and-goal, Allen backpedals about 15 yards but finds Diggs all alone in the end zone, but the score is wiped out by offsetting penalties. So, third-and-goal again, the direct snap to Singletary is stuffed. They go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1, and Allen finally finds Lee Smith for the 1-yard score and a 7-0 lead.

(And I like the all-blue Rams unis. They are for sure better than the all-greys at least.)

Bryan Knowles: Vince, I too would rather slam my fingers in a door than get stabbed in the gut. The Rams redesign was such a downgrade from one of the most classic and unique sets in the league. The NFC West’s sartorial standards are rock-bottom.

Bryan Knowles: Goal-line running back Josh Allen!

After a (bad) Jared Goff interception, Allen immediately hits Gabriel Davis along the sideline, who has to pull off some nifty footwork to stay in bounds but manages to hang on for a 40-yard shot. A few plays later, Allen bullies his way to the left to get the ball to the 5, plunges up the middle to get the ball to the 1, and then goes around right to get the score and the 14-0 lead. Fun, fun offensive set there from Buffalo.

Vince Verhei: I wanted to watch this game to see how Allen performed as a passer, but let’s not forget how effective he can be as a runner. The Bills take over following a Jared Goff interception when he forced the ball to a well-covered Van Jefferson, and they get one big passing play when the Rams leave Gabriel Davis totally uncovered. They work to a second-and-5 from the L.A. 11, and Allen finishes the drive with three straight designed runs — 6 yards on a speed option keeper, 4 yards on a quarterback draw, and a 1-yard touchdown on another option play.

Haven’t really seen a ton of actual pocket performance so far from Allen — the offense has been all screens and the one blown-coverage Davis play — but hey, it’s working.

Dave Bernreuther: I thought for sure that Sean McVay would be better prepared to help Goff succeed against the Bills’ defense than Josh Allen would be against Aaron Donald. Enough to hammer the Rams moneyline beforehand, and enough to feel good about it after that first Rams drive, even with the missed kick.

Since then, though? Not so much. That Goff pick was terrible. The sack he took was terrible. And on this current drive they look almost like they’re pumping the brakes and just calling run after run.

Then again, that works pretty well when you’re running well, and they’re just gashing the Bills so far on this drive. Wouldn’t surprise me (and yes, I’m rooting for it … never thought I’d find myself rooting for Goff) to see a nice play-action strike to get them back in the game.

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, the Bills are for real. After the Rams are forced to settle for a field goal in the red zone, the Bills march right down the field behind deep passing from Allen, hitting both Davis and Cole Beasley for back-to-back 20-plus-yard gains to get the ball down to the 4. Allen then rolls out, and Tyler Kroft is as wide open as you will ever see in the NFL; easy pitch-and-catch for the touchdown and a 21-3 lead with 38 seconds left in the half.

The Bills’ front line is just giving the Rams zero time to work with; I’m surprised McVay hasn’t pulled out some screens or something to try to alleviate it. Meanwhile, the Rams defenders seem just utterly confused out there, and Allen and company are taking advantage. Beating the Jets and Dolphins? Meh. Clobbering the Rams, on the other hand … I’m impressed.

Dave Bernreuther: At this rate Josh Allen’s 300-yard game streak might end on account of it being a blowout win, not due to coming back to earth against a solid defensive Line. A well-placed sideline ball to Cole Beasley sets them up near the goal line yet again and when the Rams elect not to cover Tyler Kroft, the Bills take a 21-3 lead near the half. I did not see this one coming.

I’m still not ready to call Josh Allen good.

But man … it’s getting harder.

Bryan Knowles: Allen is definitely being helped by Brian Daboll calling some great designs to this point in the season, but Allen is taking advantage of it. His accuracy has improved significantly, and while I’ll be interested in seeing what happens when a great defense shuts down some of these open receivers, there were points last year and definitely the year before where Allen would have sailed those guys by 20 yards. He can hit the broad side of a barn now, and with that arm strength and those legs, look out.

Vince Verhei: Just adding to the consensus here, but yeah, I’m surprised with how dominant Buffalo has looked today. Their offense has been very QB-friendly, with lots of easy throws on screens or wide-open guys downfield. I’ve only seen one big-boy throw from Allen — that dagger down the sideline to Beasley was capital-N Nice — but again, if it’s this effective, no need to change things up and force more difficult throws just to make a point to critics.

Biggest news for L.A. might be some clarification in their muddled backfield. Malcolm Brown got the start, but has only three carries for 6 yards; his meaningless 4-yard gain on the last play of the half is his longest run so far. Second-year man Darrell Henderson, meanwhile, has a dozen carries for 68 yards.

Dave Bernreuther: A dart to Diggs — and a well-placed one, at that — makes this one 28-3. The Bills aren’t the Falcons, so this one is over, and I’ll shift focus to ask: Why on earth wasn’t Stefon Diggs just penalized for punting the ball into the stands?

Bryan Knowles: McVay tries to get something going to start the second half, but a fourth-and-4 from midfield ends up falling as Goff can’t find anyone to get the ball to. Can’t blame the decision at all — to get back in this one, the Rams will have to pull something out of their hat, and that requires at least putting the hat on. Goff has been off-target and indecisive all day, and that’s not going to work against the unstoppable force that is the Buffalo Bills.

In the “over-analyzing everything Josh Allen does” category, the Bills get a first-and-goal from inches out. Allen A) is utterly indecisive on an option play, losing 3 yards; B) throws a screen behind Cole Beasley, keeping him out of the end zone; C) bullets a great pass to Diggs to get into the end zone for the score. Hey, you only need one!

28-3 Buffalo, and this game is all over bar the shouting.

Vince Verhei: Obviously, this is the best the Bills have looked in a while. They haven’t won a game by 25 points or more since a 42-17 win over Miami in Week 17 of 2018.

Of course, in the time it took me to look that up, L.A. scored. Eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, with Goff scoring on a sneak on second-and-goal. Henderson had two carries for 21 yards on the drive and is up to 101 yards on 15 carries now.

And there’s the first “Josh Allen” Josh Allen play of the day. Under pressure, he lobs up a total duck to Tyler Kroft in double-coverage. It looks like Kroft has bailed his quarterback out with a miracle catch, but A) he was called for obvious offensive pass interference, and B) John Johnson wrestled the ball away from him, so it’s an interception for L.A., pending a review. Either way, though, this is going to be bad news for the Bills.

INT stands. Rams ball at their own 46.

Vince Verhei: And the Rams pay it off right away. Goff finds Tyler Higbee deep down the sideline for a gain of 31. One play later, Robert Woods takes a wide receiver screen and breaks four tackles on his way to a 25-yard score. Rams get two touchdowns in less than two minutes of game time, but still trail 28-17.

Scott Spratt: Are we sure the Bills aren’t the Falcons? This game that was 28-3 is now 28-25. The Rams just scored and are kicking off, but they still have 10:34 to complete the rally.

Bryan Knowles: Who said that the Bills weren’t the Falcons? Because after holding a 28-3 lead early in the fourth, the Rams have come marching back. It’s 28-25 now, and I’m gonna have to refocus on that one…

Aaron Schatz: According to the EdjSports model, Rams GWC was 0.7% when the game was 28-3.

Vince Verhei: Oh goodness. Rams force a three-and-out, but a 72-yard Corey Bojorquez punt pins them at their own 3. No matter — they drive 97 yards in 10 plays, getting a 16-yard touchdown to Cooper Kupp and two-point conversion to Higbee, and the score is cut to 28-25 with 10-plus minutes to go. Biggest play yardage-wise was a 31-yard strike to Woods down the middle of the field. Woods also had an end-around for 15 yards to convert a second-and-10 on the drive.

Dave Bernreuther: Aaron Donald just did Aaron Donald things, sacking Allen (by the jersey, which was every bit as much of a “horse collar” as some of the not-quite-but-now-by-rule-horse-collar ones we’ve seen this year), and then taking the ball from him as he fell at the 40. The Rams are now down three with the ball in the red zone. I am tempted to leave it off my screens so as not to jinx this, as this entire comeback has happened since I turned it off.

Vince Verhei: We haven’t mentioned him today, but the Rams still have the NFL’s best defensive player. Bills drive into L.A. territory, but Aaron Donald comes unblocked off the edge and sacks Allen for a loss of 12 on first down. That sets up a third-and-22, and there’s Donald for the fumble-sack and and L.A. recovery. Worse, Allen thinks he was horse-collared on the play and draws a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on top of it. Rams are getting the ball at the Buffalo 37.

Bryan Knowles: You can’t stop Aaron Donald forever — he had two huge sacks on Josh Allen on this last drive, including a forced fumble to give the Rams the ball back. Man, if the Bills blow this…

Aaron Schatz: According to the announcers, there is no horse collar tackle rule on a quarterback in the pocket.

Vince Verhei: Goff-to-Josh Reynolds gains 23, and Henderson scores from a yard out to put the Rams up 32-28 with 4:30 to go.

In the Super Bowl, after falling behind 28-3, it took the Patriots over 20 minutes of game time to tie the score, and 12 minutes more than that to take the lead. The Rams have gone from a 28-3 deficit to a 32-28 lead in about 19 minutes today.

Bryan Knowles: How on earth do you let Cole Beasley get wide open on third-and-22? Confusion in the zone for the Rams, and the Bills are driving…

Dave Bernreuther: Just as I’m about to ask if Josh Allen had been hypnotized or something — because his willingness to stay in the pocket is just night and day better than it used to be, and that statement is true even under actual duress — he rolls to his left (justifiably) and goes back to his old tricks of just heaving the ball stupidly when in trouble near the sideline. It wasn’t rookie Allen flinging it backwards over his head dumb, but it was dumb. And they tried to let him get away with it too. Great challenge by McVay, since his knee was clearly down for a sack.

The Bills convert on the next play anyway, but at least McVay helped his guys on the stat sheet.

Aaron Schatz: I don’t know how Josh Allen just fought off three different pass-rushers who had him for a sack. And I guess now I know… he got the rare offensive facemask call for grabbing Justin Hollins and not letting go. Important 15-yard penalty against Buffalo.

Bryan Knowles: 2019 Josh Allen has arrived at the game. His pocket presence has just evaporated late in this one. Bills still could pull this one back off, but oof. After all those nice things we said in the first half, too!

Aaron Schatz: Wow, very iffy DPI call on Darious Williams of the Rams on fourth-and-9 will go a long way towards deciding this game. Both players were hand-fighting and that did not look like more interference by the defender than by the offensive player.

Bryan Knowles: That sound you hear? That’s the world’s tiniest violins coming from New Orleans, after the Rams are burned by a questionable pass interference call which may end up costing them this ball game.

Dave Bernreuther: I’m not going to say that wasn’t DPI, because he definitely held him beyond 5 yards downfield, but wow… if the mandate to the referees was to let them play and that’s why the games of the first two weeks were so watchable, well… that was not that.

Bills score on the next play — Allen goes for four passing touchdowns and one rushing — and win and cover by a point. Ouch.

I don’t have the sound on to hear what Mike Pereira is saying, but I can’t believe they just made that call — very late, too — on fourth-and-ball game.

They’re not wrong. But I’m surprised.

Vince Verhei: Allen has played the entire second half waiting for multiple pass-rushers to corral him before trying to break tackles and make plays. Usually he has complained that they have fouled him. Instead the Rams have gotten zero flags for anything related to their pass rush, but Allen now has two penalties for 30 yards. But on fourth-and-9, the Bills are bailed out by a DPI on Damarious Williams, and one play later Allen hits Kroft for a 3-yard touchdown that should win the game barring some absurdity in the last 15 seconds.

Vince Verhei: I thought this game would teach us a whole lot about how good these teams really were. At halftime I really felt like I knew. Now, if anything, I’m more perplexed by both teams than I was going in. What a crazy game.

Las Vegas Raiders 20 at New England Patriots 36

Aaron Schatz: With center David Andrews out, Patriots have moved franchise-tagged left guard Joe Thuney to center and are using rookie Michael Onwenu at guard.

There was some thought that the Patriots might use Stephon Gilmore on Darren Waller today but it looks like the Patriots are playing cornerbacks on sides and Gilmore is staying on the defensive left. So far I’ve seen Devin McCourty and Joejuan Williams on Waller.

Scott Spratt: Just as Tony Romo finished complimenting the Raiders’ establishing the run, Josh Jacobs fumbled the ball to the Patriots. Seems like a big football karma day early.

Scott Spratt: Rex Burkhead just crowd-surfed his way into the end zone.

Scott Spratt: Slot receiver Hunter Renfrow had seen just nine targets in his year-plus career of 16 or more air yards downfield. And then, with just a few seconds left in first half:

Replay showed he was down on the 1-yard line, and the Raiders now have nine seconds and no timeout to try to score.

Aaron Schatz: The Raiders are pretty clearly outplaying the Patriots today but they’re down 13-10 at halftime. Raiders have 7.4 yards per play to 4.8 yards per play for the Patriots, and that doesn’t even count a terrible 28-yard DPI against Stephon Gilmore that put the Raiders in position in the final minute for that Renfrow catch and then the touchdown by Foster Moreau from the 1. Patriots have won the battle of fumble recovery randomness, recovering two Raiders fumbles including one by Josh Jacobs that on replay was clearly recovered by Jacobs, who should have been down by contact before the Patriots defenders wrestled the ball away from him.

Raiders are playing a lot of man coverage on the Patriots receivers and doing well with it so far, but Cam Newton has also been off. He definitely doesn’t look like the star quarterback downfield that we saw against Seattle Sunday night. Doesn’t look like the change at center is affecting things much, as the running game has still been good with a mix of running backs. As for the Patriots defense, look, we told everyone regression was coming but the announcers still talk about it like this is last year’s defense. It’s definitely not.

Aaron Schatz: Darren Waller just got his first target of the game, two minutes into the third quarter, although he has drawn two defensive holding penalties today. Good coverage today by Devin McCourty and Joejuan Williams.

Raiders bog down after a long pass to Bryan Edwards, try a field goal, and Daniel Carson misses, so we’re still at 13-10 Patriots.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots offense has woken up in the last two drives. The big plays were big runs by Sony Michel with gigantic holes at the line of scrimmage followed by great cuts by Michel in the open field to avoid open-field tackles. Thirty-eight on the first drive, then a 48-yarder on the second drive. First drive ended with a Burkhead touchdown, second one with a field goal. Now 23-10 Patriots near the end of the third quarter.

Aaron Schatz: This Patriots-Raiders game has been a good primer on why passes defensed predict future interceptions better than past interceptions. A lot of balls tipped in the air that didn’t come down in the defense’s hands.

Cale Clinton: How about Sony Michel today? Seven rushes for 112 yards, averaging 16.0 yards per carry. Sure, 48- and 38-yard runs are going to pad those averages, but he and J.J. Taylor have really helped the Patriots stay on top of this game.

With the extremes we’ve seen out of New England’s offense through two weeks (15 carries for Cam Week 1, 397 passing yards for Cam Week 2), the Patriots offense has really shown off its malleability depending on the week’s opponent. Las Vegas is 28th in the league in rushing DVOA through two weeks at 9.4%. The Raiders allowed 5.89 yards per carry against the Saints in Week 2 after allowing 4.3 yards per carry to the Panthers Week 1. This week, the Patriots are averaging 6.97 yards per carry with 10:30 left to play.

Washington Football Team 20 at Cleveland Browns 34

Vince Verhei: Great touchdown run by Nick Chubb to put the Browns up 10-7. Browns come out with a fullback offset to the right and run to that side, but a giant cutback opens back to the left and Chubb sees it and takes it. Then he makes about four jukes beyond the line of scrimmage and forces a bevy of missed tackles to get into the end zone. It’s “only” a 16-yard score, so it may not make a ton of highlight reels, but it was a tremendous play.

Dave Bernreuther: I don’t hate all reverses. They certainly have their place, and they’re very fun when they work.

But there are most certainly better play designs than running a slow-developing reverse, where the ball is given to a receiver who is running away from the line of scrimmage at the time of the exchange, to the short side of the field.

Isaiah Wright did an awful lot of running, probably 50 yards or so worth, in order to be lucky to gain a generously spotted 6 yards.

It didn’t derail the drive or anything (it ended in a touchdown to Dontrelle Inman to take the lead), but man… that was a whole lot of effort for very little benefit.

Dave Bernreuther: Dwayne Haskins just threw one of the worst picks of the season. Deep in his own territory, under no pressure, he stared his guy down, patted the ball, waited, patted, patted again, and threw the ball directly to the defender that hadn’t even been hiding or baiting him. Two plays later, Nick Chubb gives the Browns a 10-point lead, and no, I am not angry at all about the bet I had on this game, why do you ask?

Vince Verhei: With a 34-20 win over Washington today, Cleveland makes the tremendous achievement of getting to 2-1. Why is that significant? Because it’s the first time the Browns have gotten above .500 since Week 15 of the 2014 season. They actually got to 7-4 that year before losing five in a row to end the season.

Cincinnati Bengals 23 at Philadelphia Eagles 23 (OT)

Bryan Knowles: 2020 has not been good for second-overall draft picks. A week after Nick Bosa and Saquon Barkley were lost for significant periods of time, Chase Young goes down with a groin injury and is immediately ruled out the rest of the game. That was a very quick call, which is rarely a good sign.

Scott Spratt: Also Carson Wentz is terrible at football for some reason, Bryan.

Dave Bernreuther: Well if Scott’s going to insert that out of nowhere without saying something else, I’ll second it, since I wanted to say the same thing about Wentz without any real context. I flipped over to that game in time to watch him hesitate, hesitate, hesitate, then take a sack when he could EASILY have either thrown or run for a score. Just now he threw it 5 yards over Greg Ward’s head, and it’s hard to blame the contact or the route for that placement. They zoomed in on his face, and I’m not one to play the body language second guessing game, but damn if he didn’t sort of look an awful lot like one of those rookie quarterbacks that’s getting a rude introduction to a much tougher game than the one he used to dominate in college. I don’t know what’s going on there, but he just looks lost. I can’t think of anyone else in my lifetime that has regressed so severely.

Cale Clinton: I absolutely love what I have seen out of Joe Burrow today. The shot he took in the first half really scared me, but seeing how he has bounced back from it has been so fun. Burrow strung together 13 consecutive completed passes with some quality throws sprinkled throughout. He’s 8-of-12 for 132 yards on targets 10-plus yards away from the line of scrimmage with seven minutes left to play. Shown flashes through his first two weeks, but today he’s really put together a quality start.

Bryan Knowles: In the battle of 0-2 squads, it looked like Joe Burrow was going to pull off his first NFL win. But thanks to a pair of defensive pass interference calls, Carson Wentz was able to drive the Eagles down 75 yards to tie the game at 23 with less than a minute to go. Who wants extra football between a pair of terrible squads?

Dave Bernreuther: For all we talked of Wentz earlier, he just somehow magically ducked what should’ve been an easy sack and took it in himself to send this game — the one against a terrible team that they should’ve won going away — into overtime. This 1 p.m. slate has ended up giving us a bunch of interesting finishes. An hour ago I was almost bored.

Andrew Potter: Wentz then opened overtime by throwing the ball straight to Bengals safety Jessie Bates, who dropped it. I switched over to this game when the clock hit zero in Minnesota, and after two overtime drives I’m already wondering why.

Andrew Potter: The Eagles have moved the ball across the broadcast’s imaginary field-goal target line twice on their second drive of overtime, once on a lovely bomb to Zach Ertz … and both times have immediately taken an offensive line penalty to push them back beyond it. So now they’re punting on fourth-and-19 from barely their own side of midfield, and it’s still a tie with 2:56 to go.

Cale Clinton: Four overtime punts. I think I’m gonna be sick.

I get that none of these drives have really gotten going, all resulting in third-and-longs and all but one failing to cross midfield, but you can’t feel good about voluntarily surrendering the ball in a next-score-wins scenario.

Bryan Knowles: With two minutes left in overtime, in a tie game, I think it’s time we give Mike Tanier some love. From this week’s Walkthrough:

On paper, this game looks a lot like the Eagles-Bengals 13-13 “Donovan McNabb doesn’t know the overtime rules” game of 2008. The Eagles were a few years removed from the Super Bowl back then, the Bengals in one of their usual states of transition, and McNabb was coming off multiple seasons of injuries and maybe the backup is just as good speculation. McNabb, Reid, and the Eagles ultimately bounced back that year, but that tie felt worse than a loss (as ties often do), and it served notice that while the coming rebuild could be forestalled, it remained inevitable.

Prediction: Eagles 22, Bengals 22

Bryan Knowles: The Eagles can’t do much, and have to settle for a 59-yard field goal…

And then they false start, so it’s a 64-yard field goal, and they’re punting instead. With 19 seconds left. Wooooooow.

Andrew Potter: That was ridiculously conservative. Just ridiculous. The Eagles got to the edge of field goal range and, the one time they didn’t immediately take a stupid penalty, squatted on the ball for a long field goal attempt … which they then denied themselves … by taking a stupid penalty. Punting instead of trying a 64-yard field goal, with 19 seconds left against the Bengals, is nonsense. At least try to win the game. Even if you don’t think it’ll work. It’s not like your season is going to be decided by the extra half-point you get from a tie against the Bengals. Nonsense.

Aaron Schatz: If I was Doug Pederson, I would have tried the 64-yard field goal instead of punting. What the heck, fortune favors the bold.

Bryan Knowles: And then the Bengals run a DRAW with 13 seconds left, giving up the game and settling for the tie.

Burn this football game.

Cale Clinton: Nobody wanted to win this football game.

Rob Weintraub: If there are fans at the Linc do they boo the Eagles into a 64-yd attempt?

Zac Taylor now 0-10-1 in one-score games. Should’ve won this by 17, however. There is almost zero likelihood he’s on the hot seat, but his first 19 games haven’t made anyone think he’s the next McVay by any stretch.

Cale Clinton: Since 2008, there have been ten ties in the NFL. The Bengals have been involved in four of these games. They are the only team in this span that has tied more than twice.

Why 2008? That was when the Bengals recorded their first tie. On November 16, 2008, Cincinnati closed their game in a 13-13 tie to … the Philadelphia Eagles. This was also the last tie before the NFL modified their overtime rules in 2012.

Rob Weintraub: Only I care but the 2008 Bengals weren’t “in transition.” Carson Palmer was out for the season and a clean-shaven young lad named Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing quarterback, and poorly, I might add.

Houston Texans 21 at Pittsburgh Steelers 28

Bryan Knowles: It took a while for both offenses to get into this one, but we’re beginning to get some actual excitement in the Steelers-Texans match. First, Deshaun Watson did some Deshaun Watson things, scrambling around in the pocket under heavy Pittsburgh pressure and still finding his way to hit Will Fuller on a key third-and-9 to set up a touchdown on the next play. Not to be outdone, the Steelers pound the rock into the red zone, before Ben Roethlisberger somehow slides the ball into a perfectly covered Eric Ebron for the score. 14-10 Texans midway through the second.

Dave Bernreuther: I wish that CBS cared to show replays of the actual game as much as they do the stupid celebration dances, because it’d be lovely to know why the Texans just decided not to cover the Steelers’ best receiver as he wandered across the field and scored a touchdown so uncontested that Eric Ebron was celebrating as he caught the ball at the 18.

But hey, we got to see a stupid dance twice…

(OK, coming back from commercial as I type this, they revisited it … two defenders decided to cover the same guy, leaving Juju Smith-Schuster alone with nearly the entire far side of the field to himself.)

Andrew Potter: That’s not even the worst of it, Dave. The receiver on the other side was wide open too!

Deshaun Watson drove the Texans straight back down the field for another touchdown though, and this looks like a fairly surprising shootout.

Dave Bernreuther: Holy crap. Did Ben even pump fake toward James Washington on that play? He drew THREE defenders on a route that barely even crossed the line of scrimmage.

The Texans answered that score, and quickly, on a really nicely placed fade from Watson to Will Fuller. I was certain on first viewing that Fuller pushed off to catch it, but upon review, it was legit, and he very delicately snuck his arm out and around the defender while moving and jumping. Impressive.

Vince Verhei: This isn’t news, I suppose, but it’s striking how few of Deshaun Watson’s weapons are home-grown. Nine different Texans have had a handoff or a target today, and only three of them — Will Fuller, Jordan Akins, and Cullen Gillaspia (who, as I noted in an email this week, sounds more like the next target of the Mandalorian than an NFL fullback) — were drafted by Houston. I don’t know if this matters — the goal is to get good players, and the methodology is irrelevant in the long run — but it’s sure unusual.

Vince Verhei: Every time I glance at this game lately, the Steelers are ripping off a long run. James Conner is over 100 yards on the ground now, and Anthony McFarland has added 42 on only six carries.

Rivers McCown: Today’s TL;DR version of this one. The Texans got destroyed by the 30th-ranked VOA run offense heading into the game. The Texans looked really good when they were in empty formations that let Watson process pre-snap and let the offensive line block five rushers. Pittsburgh’s defense became the latest one to crush Watson to the tune of five sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Houston’s pass defense mostly looked good over the top, where they still have not allowed a 20-plus-yard completion this year. But they give up everything underneath and I’m starting to wonder if their linebackers are a good fit for the underneath scheme that new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver has put in. More here.

San Francisco 49ers 36 at New York Giants 9

Bryan Knowles: I haven’t been commenting much on this game because, oofda, the level of talent in this one is … well, I’ll say impressive. And the 49ers already have two more injuries on the MetLife turf — Jordan Reed hurt his ankle, though he’s gutting through it, and Emmanuel Moseley is out with a head injury. I don’t think you can blame either on the turf, but I would not be surprised if the 49ers burn down the stadium on their way out.

Nick Mullens is a fine backup quarterback, by which I mean he can make the plays required when given time in the pocket. The reason he’s a backup becomes apparent under pressure, as he freezes like a deer in the headlights; he has been clobbered a couple of times by unblocked rushers and thrown some real ducks with terrible footwork. Still, when given time, he has had the 49ers moving. It has resulted in some stalled-out drives — a couple of field goals and a missed field goal after a bad snap — so the 49ers’ lead on the scoreboard isn’t quite what the rest of the stat sheet would indicate. They have 40 plays to the Giants’ 18, and are outgaining them 187 yards to 100, but only just got into the end zone on a Jerick McKinnon run, giving San Francisco a 13-6 lead later in the second quarter…

… and as I type this, Daniel Jones fires a ball directly to Fred Warner. The 49ers have been getting significant pressure up the middle with Javon Kinlaw and Ziggy Ansah (wearing Solomon Thomas’ number to just confuse me all the more), and Jones has not handled it well. Mullens, given time, finds McKinnon for a 20-plus-yard gain to get the ball into the red zone. They give Mullens one shot at the end zone, but time constraints force them to kick the field goal for the 16-6 halftime lead. A classic pre-Garoppolo Shanahan game with plenty of Robbie Gould out there, but that might well be enough to beat the Giants.

Bryan Knowles: With Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and now Jordan Reed all out, the 49ers need someone to step up. Hello, Brandon Aiyuk! Shanahan must have been getting antsy, so he opened the “use only with Deebo” envelope and called the end-around to Aiyuk, who showed off his exceptional speed for a 19-yard touchdown. Our own Derrik Klassen said, pre-draft, that Aiyuk was a player who needed special plays designed for him, and, well, that’s the Shanahan system. So far today, Aiyuk has three receptions for 39 yards and three carries for 31 yards and the score. Not bad for the rookie. 23-9 49ers late in the third quarter, and it feels like the 49ers are going to get out of this injurypalooza at 2-1.

Mullens is the first 49ers quarterback since Joe Montana in 1985-1986 to throw for 220-plus yards in nine straight starts, in your “weird endpoint” stat of the day.

Vince Verhei: We’ve barely mentioned this today, but the 49ers’ backups just finished thrashing the Jets and Giants in back-to-back weeks by a combined score of 67-22. Does this tell us more about San Francisco’s depth, or the complete lack of anything resembling competent football in New York?

Andrew Potter: It’s the second one. Definitely the second one.

Bryan Knowles: I would definitely say it says more about the Giants and Jets then it does about the 49ers’ players, though I think you also have to give Kyle Shanahan credit for getting his guys to perform despite all the injuries. It has been suggested on Twitter that, when the 49ers’ starters are healthy, they should play the Giants and Jets once more, simultaneously, with Shanahan calling both games like a grandmaster playing a chess simul.

Andrew Potter: You could put every player from both starting defenses on the field at one time, and I’d still be tempted to favor Shanahan’s offense.

Dave Bernreuther: As a native upstate New Yorker, I will once again step in here just to point out that the actual record of actual New York football teams is now 3-0 (sigh).

Tennessee Titans 31 at Minnesota Vikings 30

Dave Bernreuther: Kirk Cousins has thus far avoided a safety, although the Brett Kern punt before the half put him in some serious danger of that for a second there before they ruled that it bounced over the pylon and would be a touchback. Yes, I have this game on mainly to root for a safety.

The Vikings have woken up a bit after two really bad weeks to start the season, but it’s worth pointing out that Taylor Lewan got carted off the field earlier, which can’t be good for the Titans offense.

That said, Ryan Tannehill threw a pick the play after he left, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the line. From a clean pocket, Tannehill threw a ball to the end zone with excellent touch and placement … but completely missed Harrison Smith lurking in the middle of the field. Smith made the easy pick to kill the drive and take points off the board. The game is otherwise very closely matched through a half, but the Vikings hold a 17-9 lead.

Carl Yedor: First-round pick Justin Jefferson has announced his arrival in a major way today. He has the most receiving yards in a game so far today and would be a major boon for the Vikings offense if he can be a factor. Through two weeks, Minnesota struggled to find anything effective on offense, but if Jefferson can emerge as a viable No. 2 receiving option, it will take some of the pressure off Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook to carry the entire load for the Vikings’ skill position group. I’m sure Kirk Cousins doesn’t mind. Minnesota’s locked in a tight one with the Titans right now and holds a 24-19 lead late in the third quarter.

Bryan Knowles: What a catch by Kyle Rudolph! Kirk Cousins somewhat airmailed him in the end zone, forcing Rudolph to lunge, grab it with the fingertips of one hand, and barely dot his feet into the end zone. Hell of an acrobatic play by the tight end there. The two-point conversion does not succeed, so the Vikings are only up 30-25, but considering how bad they looked through the first two weeks, they have to be happy with how things are going so far.

Vince Verhei: I have not seen much of this game, but in one hell of a bounceback for Stephen Gostkowski, he has hit all six of his field goals today, including a 55-yarder to put Tennessee up 31-30 with 1:44 to go.

Vince Verhei: And the game ends with Kirk Cousins fumbling a snap on second down, then throwing a desperate interception on fourth-and-24. Vikings fall to 0-3. Titans move up to 3-0, outscoring their opponents by a total of six points on the year. Screw you and your Pythagorean wins, they say.

Carl Yedor: In fairness to Cousins there, it looked like he was trying to make a call at the line and was not ready for the snap, which was off to the right. Minnesota then gave up fairly quick pressure on both subsequent plays. But it was an ugly sequence to be sure. From 0-3, it’s going to be rough waters if they still have playoff hopes.

Tom Gower: Two straight weeks of “can the Titans offense do enough to make up for the Titans defense?” This looked like a shaky proposition after Justin Jefferson whipped Jonathan Joseph for a 71-yard touchdown to give the Vikings a 24-12 lead midway through the third quarter, as the Titans struggled to continue or finish drives and managed just three points in two possessions starting in Vikings territory (one of those a blindside block by Jadeveon Clowney erasing what would have been a pick-six by Joseph on what was probably a miscommunication between Jefferson and Kirk Cousins).

But then Derrick Henry started finding the running room that it seemed near-certain he’d find against an undersized and understrength Vikings front that had been easily moved the first couple weeks, and Ryan Tannehill hit some big pass plays. A nicely designed play to Corey Davis set up Henry for one score, and following a three-and-out, a shot to Kalif Raymond — the one guy they’ve had in the past decade who can actually track a deep ball — set up another Henry touchdown to give them the lead. Minnesota re-took the lead as Dalvin Cook found some of his rare second-half running room, but up five sensibly decided to go for two. Tennessee didn’t get inside the Vikings 35 again, but Gostkowski hit two long field goals, Jeffery Simmons was quickly getting pressure on the Vikings interior, and Cousins picked a worse time than Tannehill did for his center to snap the ball when he wasn’t ready for it, and that was that.

The Titans are now 3-0, with their three wins coming by a combined total of six points. The standings board doesn’t care about that, and the pass game still looks pretty good outside of Tannehill’s mistake that led to Harrison Smith’s interception. For now, that can be what matters, especially if you didn’t come into the season sharing the conceit the Titans were a top-ten defense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 at Denver Broncos 10

Dave Bernreuther: I despise the unitard look. This is well-documented. But the all-pewter is the least worst of that genre, and a clear step up from any of Tampa Bay’s uniforms from the last five years.

Also, Tom Brady hits Chris Godwin, who streeeeeeetches out nice and horizontally to get in for a 7-0 lead. The Broncos are starting Jeff Driskel and trail only the Jets in injuries, so something tells me that this will be Tom Brady’s easiest trip to Denver in about 15 years. Unless I’m forgetting a game from the Tebow or Siemian eras.

Cale Clinton: This pewter vs. orange uniform game has to be one of the worst possible color matchups for standard uniform sets? Color Rush matchups would put this debate into another stratosphere.

Dave Bernreuther: As long as I’m talking about uniforms, I should punch myself for only just now noticing that the Broncos are still wearing their home orange. It’s one of those extremely rare games without a white jersey (L.A. Rams’ “bone” excepted, of course). When the sun sets and I put on my blue-blocking red nerd glasses, this could get a little bit tricky.

I don’t actually have anything to say about the actual football that is being played in this game. So as long as I’m off on pointless tangents, I’ll mention that my Twitter feed this morning was full of people that were thrilled about the fact that there are five late games today. Obviously, so am I. (But with that said, why on earth did they put the Jets-Colts game at 4? Especially when they knew they had four west coast games scheduled and had a premiere game, Dallas at Seattle, for Fox to feature as the national broadcast?)

Bryan Knowles: I believe the all-pewter IS technically the Buccaneers color rush unis, if they’re still making that distinction. But yes, this is an eye-sore of a matchup.

Bryan Knowles: And one last uni note: Remember, the Broncos played the Browns in a color-color matchup last year, in a similar eye-gouging matchup. They haven’t learned!

Dallas Cowboys 31 at Seattle Seahawks 38

Bryan Knowles: I’m still on the overtime game so I’m only catching this in flashes, but play-action just caused Xavier Woods to bite terribly, and Tyler Lockett just runs 10 yards behind everyone on the deep post. Easy touchdown, 7-3 Seahawks lead.

Bryan Knowles: So, Dallas opens the game by blowing a coverage to allow an easy touchdown, then had a terrible muffled kickoff to start at the 1, and then ended up taking a safety,

Credit them for getting off the turf, with a pair of 30-yard completions to CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper, to score a touchdown and get back into this. They miss the extra point, though, so it’s one of the weirder 9-9 scores you’ll ever see.

Bryan Knowles: This game is on something. Russell Wilson hits DK Metcalf on another deep shot, wide open, and Metcalf jogs towards the end zone — but just before he crosses the plane, Trevon Diggs catches up to him, knocks the ball loose, and it rolls out the end zone. Touchback. Should be a 16-9 Seahawks lead; instead, it’s Cowboys ball. Wooooow.

Vince Verhei: Both teams are missing several key defenders in this one — Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie for Dallas; Marquise Blair and Bruce Irvin (both out for the year) and, surprisingly, Quinton Dunbar for Seattle — so I came in expecting a shootout, with 40 points probably necessary to win. Instead Seattle opened the game with a three-and-out and Dallas answered with a field goal drive that needed 13 plays to go only 55 yards.

Then the fireworks started. Lockett had the easy 43-yard touchdown. Tony Pollard bungled the ensuing kickoff and was lucky to fall on it at the 1. Next play, Poona Ford trips up Ezekiel Elliott in the end zone for a safety and a 9-3 lead. Seattle immediately went three-and-out (Aldon Smith is eating Duane Brown’s lunch today). CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper each get 28-yard receptions to move Dallas into the red zone, and Elliott dives in from the 1 on third down. Greg Zuerlein’s extra point takes a crazy hook and doinks off the upright, and we’re still tied 9-9.

And then Wilson finds DK Metcalf behind the defense for what should have been a 63-yard touchdown, but Metcalf slows up and Trevon Diggs runs him down and swats the ball out of his hands and out of the end zone for a fumble-touchback and Dallas ball.

And that’s just the first quarter. We’re tied 9-9.

Carl Yedor: Seattle gets the ball back fairly quickly after the Metcalf goof, but they go run-run-pass-punt after Wilson misses Lockett open on the right sideline. Both offenses have shown signs of explosiveness in the early going but have not been perfect. As a result, we’re still sitting at 9-9.

Derrik Klassen: Credit to Dallas, I think they are actually doing a great job getting to Russell Wilson today. Don’t know when/if it’s going to net them enough to matter considering Russ is still doing Russ things, but it’s at least a good start. Might start clicking if Dallas’ secondary can actually hold up without committing a penalty.

Vince Verhei: Well, Derrik, I’m afraid they can’t. Three penalties for illegal contact or DPI on that last drive, the last by Brandon Carr on Greg Olsen in the end zone for a first-and-goal. Wilson hits Tyler Lockett for a touchdown on second down and Seattle goes up 16-9.

Dave Bernreuther: After my earlier comment about reverses where they run away from the line of scrimmage, I feel compelled to criticize that flip to CeeDee Lamb, who was running at least sort of laterally before catching it and turning to his right and ending up close to 10 yards behind the line before sneaking forward for a loss of a mere 4 yards. At least that one wasn’t to the short side of the field as well, but come on … don’t run misdirection plays like that if you aren’t going to block them. Unblocked they’re just slow-developing dead-in-the-water plays.

As we draw close to halftime, I figure I’ll put this before an educated crowd … my good friend, a Cowboys fan, has been taunting our other former roommate from Chicago, a Jets fan, about the quality of quarterback play that each franchise has had. By his count, the Cowboys have had EIGHT quarterbacks better than the best to have taken the field in a Jets uniform. Now, he has some obvious bias, but even disinterested parties can make the case that Joe Namath was overrated. And the more I think about it, the less ridiculous I think he’s being. The Cowboys have had excellent luck with quarterbacks, even as a star like Tony Romo didn’t get to hoist a trophy, while the Jets have had quarterback play that has universally been as bad as any franchise other than the Bears.

Seems like a fun topic for discussion. Romo, Roger Staubach, Dak Prescott, Danny White, Troy Aikman, Don Meredith, Drew Bledsoe and in his eyes Craig Morton would be the eighth.

They just flagged Brandon Carr in the back of the end zone for breaking up a pass to Greg Olsen that gave Seattle a first-and-goal at the 1 and it struck me as incredibly sketchy. In real time I assumed that he must have hooked the back hip and spun Olsen for leverage in order to reach across to break up the pass with his front hand, but on replay it seemed pretty obvious that they were both clutching at each other and that if anything, Olsen tried to throw Carr aside. Again I find myself thinking that the standard of “make sure it’s obvious” has gone out the window. At least in this case, the Cowboys still have plenty of game left to recover from the gift. That seemed like a really iffy call to me. And two plays later, Lockett scores again to put Seattle ahead.

Vince Verhei: Dallas’ responding drive: 13-yard completion to Amari Cooper, 22-yard completion to Cooper, 40-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Cedrick Wilson (first touchdown of his career). But the extra point is blocked, bringing Zuerlein to 0-for-2 on PATs in the half, and that’s the difference right now as Seattle still leads 16-15.

Carl Yedor: Dallas takes little time to respond, as they get Cedrick Wilson in the slot matched up on vet linebacker K.J. Wright. That works strongly in favor of Dallas and results in a 40-yard touchdown. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they can’t convert the PAT and are still down 16-15.

Bryan Knowles: Dave, your friend is nuts. Namath’s peak wasn’t very long, due to injuries, but eight Cowboys quarterbacks better? Not in this universe. I wouldn’t even put Aikman above him, much less Craig Morton or Don Meredith.

Also nuts? This football game. Cedrick Wilson gets matched up one-on-one with K.J. Wright, and easily romps into the end zone … but then the Cowboys miss another extra point, and it’s still a 16-15 Seahawks lead.

Aaron Schatz: One comment before I sign off for the night: the idea that Namath was overrated is somewhat based on taking today’s standards for quarterback play and retroactively applying them to a very different game in the late 1960s. But he also really had a peak that was just three years, 1967 to 1969, before he broke down from injuries. What Namath would look like in today’s game with today’s doctors and today’s sports medicine is one of the great questions of NFL quarterback history.

Dave Bernreuther: I’m inclined to agree, especially since the window is only what the quarterback did with that team (otherwise Favre would count for the Jets, for instance). Bledsoe has no business on that list. I don’t know enough about Morton or Meredith (although from what I’ve seen the latter is underrated), but even as one who thinks Aikman is overrated I’m not sure I’d slot him that far down (I have never thought much of Namath).

Doesn’t change the fact that they’ve been pretty fortunate when it comes to quarterback play, when the one that won three titles is possibly as low as fifth on their franchise totem pole.

As for the game itself…

What is going on with these kickers this year? (!)

Rodrigo Blankenship doinked one in Indianapolis, and now we see ANOTHER missed extra point here. We’re sitting at 16-15 now, and while it feels to me like we’re deep into the second half, it’s just the two-minute warning of the first. The kicking game this year seems like it is WAY less reliable than in any year prior, and not just because of the change to the extra points. The NBA bubble’s lack of fans led to many people speculating about shooting percentages going up without the background distractions; I wonder if the opposite is true of kickers for some reason.

Bryan Knowles: Speaking of great Cowboys quarterbacks, Prescott throws his first interception in 292 attempts, which allows the Seahawks to march down the field with 36 seconds left in the half, and Wilson finds Tyler Lockett for his third touchdown of the day, all of them almost entirely uncovered.

The Dallas halftime speech is just going to be a picture of Lockett, circled in red, with a plea for someone, anyone to cover him.

Vince Verhei: The last minute of this half was a slog of penalties and replay reviews and felt like it took 20 minutes of real time to finish, but the end result is this: Shaquill Griffin undercut an Amari Cooper post route for an interception to set Seattle up in good field position, Greg Olsen had a pair of big completions to get them to the goal line (one of which came with yet another Dallas penalty, though it was declined), and Wilson found Lockett in the end zone for the third time today.

So Seattle leads at halftime 23-15. And to give you an idea of how frenetic this game has been, they should have 30 points at the half if not for Metcalf’s bad-effort play … but they have also punted four times. Quite an all-or-nothing day for their offense.

Seattle’s leading in most stats: First downs: 15-9. Total yardage: 268-201. Yards per play: 6.9 to 6.1. Time of possession: 17:59-12:01. Turnovers are even. The biggest area where Dallas is winning is third downs, where they have converted five of eight plays while the Seahawks are 1-for-5. Cowboys are getting the ball to start the second half, and even Troy Aikman is telling them to just give up on the run and let Prescott throw every play. Ezekiel Elliott has 14 yards on nine carries; Prescott has 181 yards on 22 pass plays.

Speaking of, in the Let Russ Cook watch: Wilson has 24 dropbacks; the Seahawks have 12 handoffs. Wilson himself has three runs. One designed run for a loss, one third-down scramble that came up short of a first down, and one I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Vince Verhei: First play of the second half, Seahawks get their first sack of the day: Jarran Reed swats the ball out of Prescott’s hand and into Benson Mayowa’s for the fumble recovery. It’s close enough they may change that to an interception after the game, but either way, it’s Seattle’s ball at the 5. Two plays later Wilson has touchdown No. 4, this one to Jacob Hollister, and now Seattle has their 30 points, 46 seconds into the second half.

Bryan Knowles: The very first play of the second half? A Jarran Reed sack, forcing Prescott to fumble, and the Seahawks jump on it inside the 5-yard line. Wilson hits his fourth touchdown of the day, and the Cowboys need to put something together right now.

30-15 Seahawks as this one is in danger of getting out of hand.

Dave Bernreuther: You’re not kidding about it being a slog, Vince. The Colts-Jets game has ten minutes left. As in left in the game. Depending on how this goes with running out the clock (it’s 31-7 and neither team even seems to be trying anymore), they could conceivably be done playing before the first series of the second half of this game ends.

Carl Yedor: Third-down defense has been a real problem for Seattle in the early going. Given their struggles against the pass so far this year, this should not be particularly surprising, but Seattle has given up third down conversions at a frighteningly high rate so far this year. Atlanta went 7-of-14, New England went 7-of-12, and at halftime Dallas was sitting at 5-of-8, as Vince mentioned. Off the top of my head, I believe Seattle was pretty good on third down in previous years (maybe that was 2018 specifically?), but I doubt those numbers are really sustainable in either direction. That said, the Seahawks have had some real coverage issues so far this season, so it’s not like those poor third-down performances have been unlucky.

Tom Gower: When I looked a couple years ago after the new XP rule came in, I was surprised how shaky kicking was in Weeks 2 and 3. It’s not a surprise that Week 1 is tough, but you’d think it’d work out better after that. Nope, Weeks 2 and 3 were at least as bad and maybe even worse. After that, especially on short kicks, it really settled down. Of course, that’s with the benefit of a full preseason, so it may take longer this year. A developing story…

Vince Verhei: Dallas gets a fourth-and-1 near midfield, and down 15 points, going for it is a no-brainer. Elliott converts by about half a football. But Dallas goes nowhere after that and soon faces fourth-and-9. It looks like they’re going to go for it again, but they’re very confused with only 10 men on the field, and they end up taking a delay of game and punting.

I remain confused why people thought Mike McCarthy would be a coaching upgrade in Dallas.

Bryan Knowles: Dallas, backed up on their own 6, needed a touchdown to stay in this game. 52-yard pass to Michael Gallup, incomplete pass, 42-yard pass to Cedrick Wilson. Sometimes, we make this “offense” thing seem a lot harder than it actually is.

The Cowboys do manage to kick an extra point this time, so it’s 30-22 — a one-score game in Seattle midway through the third quarter.

Vince Verhei: Another lightning-strike touchdown drive for Dallas: 52-yard bomb to Michael Gallup: incompletion to Elliott; and then another long catch-and-run touchdown for Cedrick Wilson, this one for 42 yards. Griffin in coverage on both of the big plays. Zuerlein finally hits an extra point and Seattle’s lead is cut to 30-22.

Elliott, by the way, has been completely bottled up. He’s now at 18 yards on 11 carries, and his five targets have resulted in a bunch of incompletions (most of them drops) and one catch for a 4-yard loss.

Vince Verhei: Cowboys are driving as the third quarter ends. Seattle’s last drive ended on Wilson’s fourth sack of the day. That sounds bad, but all four have been coverage sacks with Wilson hanging in the pocket forever, and he has had tons of time in the pocket most of the time. If anything, Seattle has had the more consistent pass rush today, and I didn’t think there was a prayer of that happening.

Dave Bernreuther: Vince, did anyone actually think that about McCarthy, though?

It’s worth pointing out that Aldon Smith has been a force on almost every snap in this game. When he doesn’t get near Wilson, it’s often because he’s getting held. Turns out that five years off (when you’re not getting tested for anything and can thus gain 40 pounds) can keep a freak athlete fairly fresh. He’s still young, right? 31? That kid is making himself some money this year.

Vince Verhei: Michael Gallup scorches Tre Flowers for a 43-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion barely fails as Ugo Amadi makes a stellar tackle on a Noah Brown completion. If the Cowboys had hit their PATs they’d be ahead right now. As it is, they still trail 30-28.

I thought it would take 40 points to win this. Now I’m thinking it might take 50.

Carl Yedor: That was quick. After going up 30-15, Seattle gives up touchdown passes of 40-plus yards on back-to-back Dallas drives. The Cowboys are stopped just short on their two-point attempt, but they are right back in this thing early in the fourth quarter.

Dave Bernreuther: Dak throws a tad short of perfect to hit Gallup in stride, and we have ourselves a nice setup for a great fourth quarter in the national game.

And somehow that’s the least interesting thing to happen simultaneously, compared to the play to end the Chargers game…

Bryan Knowles: Just like you draw it up! Off the defender’s chest, off his foot, into the hands of Michael Gallup for 18 yards.

Dave Bernreuther: That’s 400 yards passing for Dak with half a quarter remaining. I will vote against the idea that 50 will be needed to win it, but only because if the Cowboys score here, give up the lead, then win it on the next possession, it’ll mean they landed on 42. Which I’m not betting against.

It feels like almost every play Cedrick Wilson decides to shuffle around and take risks to get an extra yard or 2, but he has thus far not been punished. I fear for their chances on a final come-from-behind drive when he ends up getting tackled in-bounds while fighting for 1 extra yard.

Vince Verhei: Cowboys’ last three drives: 94 yards, touchdown; 89 yards, touchdown; 70 yards, field goal to take a 31-30 lead. Still 3:59 to go with both teams full of timeouts, so plenty of time for Seattle to take the lead — and then give it back, if they’re not careful. Especially with Jamal Adams out with what appears to be a groin injury.

Dave Bernreuther: Wow what a throw. Wilson didn’t even set his feet in that direction but just dropped it in a bucket for Metcalf. Ballsy route combo on third-and-3 too. You wonder if maybe they left too much time left on the clock with the way this quarter has been going…

Bryan Knowles: DK Metcalf finally does something good! Wilson, with all sorts of time, finds Metcalf 40 yards downfield for the go-ahead score. What a play call, with Metcalf running all the way across the field. That needed the offensive line to step up big, and they did. Fantastic football from Seattle. The two-point attempt is good, and the Seahawks now have a 38-31 lead.

You do have to question the clock management, though — running to get a play off before the two-minute warning, throwing incomplete on second down. That leaves 1:47 left on the clock and Dallas with all three timeouts.

Vince Verhei: DK Metcalf with a 29-yard touchdown catch, and my concern as a Seahawks fans is that they scored way too quickly. 1:47 and three timeouts is way too much time to leave for Prescott and the Cowboys today.

The good news is that Hollister gets the two-point conversion for a seven-point cushion. That’s enormous. Overtime is now the realistic worst-case scenario, unless McCarthy really did spend his offseason studying analytics as he claimed.

Bryan Knowles: About eight thousand things happened on the last Cowboys drive — odd penalties accepted, a thousand dink-and-dunks, Prescott absorbing some hits. It came down to one final third-and-14, where Seattle rushed just three men and still got pressure. Prescott somehow managed to stay on his feet, but had to fire a desperation shot into the end zone. Interception, game over, Seahawks survive!

Carl Yedor: Seattle manages to hang on. Barely. Rookie fifth-round pick Alton Robinson picks up a big sack on second down just outside the red zone, and Prescott throws the game-ending interception on the next play. Robinson was the subject of a bit of training camp hype this year, but on a team with a dearth of pass rush options, he was inactive for the first two weeks. The pick fell into the hands of Ryan Neal, filling in for the injured Jamal Adams. Seattle’s secondary is seriously banged up at this point, and next week brings a cross-country road trip to Miami.

Vince Verhei: So on Seattle’s final, game-winning defensive stand:

  • Shaquem Griffin, called up from the practice squad to fill Bruce Ivin’s spot at edge rusher, gets put at middle linebacker and used in coverage. And plays very well!
  • Their second sack of the day comes on a three-man rush, of all things, when Alton Robinson busts through and pulls Prescott down. Robinson, a fifth-round rookie, was also pulled off the practice squad and playing in his first game.
  • Last play, Seattle nearly gets another sack on a three-man rush, but Prescott escapes and throws a desperation pass into the end zone … where it is intercepted by Ryan Neal, who — repeat after me — was pulled off the practice squad (yesterday, in fact) for his first game of the year and the fifth of his three-year career.

Seattle wins a lot, but it’s never, ever easy. Up next: FitzMagic.

Cale Clinton: It’s always been fun to watch Russ play, but there’s something really incredible about the windows and targets that he’s been able to complete passes to.

Last week against New England, Next Gen Stats had Wilson down for three Improbable Completions, all for touchdowns. One of his passes last week (a 38-yard touchdown reception by DJ Moore) had a completion probability of 6.3%. Not only is that the lowest completion probability on a pass this year, but it’s the lowest since 2018. He has at least one of these today on a 16-yard completion to Greg Olsen.

He’s completing some pretty spectacular passes, but Russ has also just thrown some beautiful balls over the last three weeks, putting them in places where only his receivers could catch. The 29-yard game-winning pass to DK Metcalf was so perfectly placed above Darius Thompson. Having a receiver with the size and vertical speed of Metcalf always helps to create that half-step, but that ball hung in the air enough for Metcalf to create separation and get under it. It came in a spot where Thompson couldn’t even make a play on the ball despite the tight coverage.

Russ is cooking and it is beautiful.

Scott Spratt: The NFC West is up to a 9-3 collective record with a +100 scoring margin while the NFC East is down to 2-9-1 with a -97 scoring margin for the season.

New York Jets 7 at Indianapolis Colts 36

Scott Spratt: Haha, the Thursday Night Football promo for next week is incredible. Melvin Gordon. Sam Darnold. They might as well keep going with Jeff Driskel and Braxton Berrios.

Scott Spratt: I think I lit a fire under Braxton Berrios with my earlier joke because he just caught a touchdown to pull the Jets even with the Colts at 7-7. Catch another one or two and he really can headline the Thursday night game.

Dave Bernreuther: He doesn’t need to catch another one. With Melvin Ingram on IR he might be the biggest name in that game. But let’s see how Justin Herbert does today. Maybe he’ll earn top billing by the time the afternoon is over.

Philip Rivers and the Colts easily find their way back down to the red zone. As they have, seemingly, in every drive this entire season so far. We’re only in the ninth quarter of the season and I’m already wondering how they’ll manage to only score three points.

Cale Clinton: After surrendering their second defensive score of the day, the following Jets drive featured five runs on seven plays before punting.

Gase has quit on this game.

Bryan Knowles: The Joe Namath talk during the Cowboys game brings up a good point from Doug Farrar.

Sam Darnold has thrown two pick-sixes today, but that is NOT the most in Jets history — Namath threw three against the Bills back in 1968. The Jets went on to win Super Bowl III at the end of that year; this years’ Jets may not even be allowed to watch the Super Bowl on television.

Bryan Knowles: It’s 33-7, Sam Darnold just took a safety … and the Jets are getting flack from the 0-16 Detroit Lions.

Dave Bernreuther: This one wraps up quickly and painlessly with Jacoby Brissett saving Philip Rivers some snaps. The Jets managed to get a few more guys hurt, but the Colts escaped unscathed, which is the real win here. As easy as that was, some concerns still remain. The defense scored 16 points, which, if removed, shows just how much the offense continues to sputter and fail to finish. At some point that’s going to be a real concern. At least they’re up two games on the Texans (sorry, Rivers). But if you expect — as you should — that Rivers (Philip, that is) will falter, they need to get better across the board in order to lower the pressure on the quarterback.

Cale Clinton: As the clock winds down on this one, I just want to remind everyone that Adam Gase said that his team’s offense was going into “hyperdrive” this week. What did hyperdrive look like?

  • seven points
  • 4.3 yards per play
  • 13 of 17 completions coming within 10 yards of the LOS
  • longest air yard completion of 35 yards (NGS)
  • three interceptions, two going for touchdowns
  • An EPA/play of -0.40 (RBSDM)
  • Darnold had an EPA/play of -0.55

The Jets are 29th in offensive DVOA and will more than likely fall off further this week. The New York Jets cannot justify keeping Adam Gase around any longer. This team isn’t great by any means, but Adam Gase really threw up the surrender flag with a whole quarter left to play. What more do you need to see at this point? What do you gain from keeping him around any longer?

Dave Bernreuther: Cale, you could easily have asked that same question before they even hired him. They won’t fire him yet … to do so would be to admit failure. Same concept as letting a high-drafted quarterback bust linger for far too long instead of cutting ties and doing what’s right for the team.

Carolina Panthers 21 at Los Angeles Chargers 16

Scott Spratt: Austin Ekeler just scored the Chargers’ first rushing touchdown of the day against the Panthers. Entering the week, the Panthers had allowed an average of 2.5 rushing touchdowns per game over their last 12 games.

Cale Clinton: Carolina has now kicked field goals from the Chargers’ 11-yard line, 6 yard line, and 12-yard line. One can only wonder if the injury to Christian McCaffrey has changed the Panthers’ aggressiveness in the red zone, but you won’t win many games settling for three field goals in as many red zone trips.

RBSDM notes that through the first two weeks, Carolina had a red zone touchdown rate of 57.1% on seven trips.

Scott Spratt: The Panthers tried to kick their fourth red zone field goal, but a Chargers illegal formation penalty gave them a new first down for Mike Davis to score a touchdown on a screen pass. Davis has 71 yards and a score in the first half. Christian McCaffrey, system running back.

Bryan Knowles: I loaded up on Mike Davis shares in daily fantasy thanks to the great advice on Football Outsiders Dot Com!

Bryan Knowles: Justin Herbert is now down, and if I were him, I’d stay as far away from the Chargers’ trainers as physically possible.

Easton Stick is warming up. I have been assured this is a real NFL player and not someone from the Madden name generator.

Scott Spratt: Justin Herbert had to go 99 yards in a two-minute drill because of a really bizarre review ruling that the Panthers successfully downed a punt at the 1-yard line even though like five Panthers touched the ball while falling into the end zone. And he was going to do it too when, with six seconds left, he completed a pass to Keenan Allen that Allen lateraled to Austin Ekeler. The entire Panthers secondary went for Allen, and Ekeler would have walked into the end zone for the win. But Ekeler couldn’t secure the lateral, and the Panthers held on for a 21-16 win.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, that would have been an all-timer had it worked. Last play of the game, 30 yards out from the end zone, Justin Herbert hits Keenan Allen at about the 15-yard line. Allen immediately laterals it back to Austin Ekeler, who has an angle and a clear path to the end zone for the game-winning touchdown … but Ekeler can’t handle the lateral, it falls to the ground, and the game ends. That would have been on every highlight reel forever.

Dave Bernreuther: Oh my. Herbert hits Keenan Allen in the hands, and Allen “passed” it — volleyball set style — to Austin Ekeler on a lateral. Ekeler would have scored, no question … and it was just a tad behind him and he dropped it.

Great throw and catch. Great idea. Almost a great execution. And it would’ve won the game.

Instead, the Panthers, sans-CMC, get in the win column.

Detroit Lions 26 at Arizona Cardinals 23

Bryan Knowles: Kyler Murray’s arm hasn’t quite been on target today — I mean, he’s 12-for-15, but with two interceptions already against a Lions defense which does not, as a rule, force turnovers. No matter; Murray dances and scampers his way into the end zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season, giving the Cardinals the lead back –13-10 near the end of the second quarter.

Scott Spratt: Maybe Kyler Murray should have played basketball instead of football or baseball.

Scott Spratt: Jeff Okudah grabs the third Kyler Murray interception of the afternoon, but more importantly, check out DeAndre Hopkins’ lack of effort to touch him down, allowing a 35-yard return. Vindication for Bill O’Brien???

Dave Bernreuther: Not sure anything Nuk does can count as vindication for Bill O Brien when the Texans are 0-3 and David Johnson has 200 total yards in three games…

(Sorry, Rivers.)

Dave Bernreuther: Feels like nobody is watching this one, and it’s a close game. I had a hunch it would be; seems like these two teams each have a knack for making games close even when they’re terrible (in today’s case, of course, the Cardinals are not terrible). Matt Stafford just threw one away on third down here to lead to a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 6, and it’s 20-16 and just feels an awful lot like a setup for disappointment. Murray has been doing his scampering, but the Lions have handled him fairly well and played decently on offense too. There’s still plenty of time left, of course, for this to get crazy late, much as the Cards game did two weeks ago.

Bryan Knowles: The Lions have won a football game! The Cardinals opted to punt, in a tied game, from midfield (though it was fourth-and-9, so not exactly a gimme), and never saw the ball again. Detroit marches 70 yards and uses all of the 4:49 remaining to set up the game-winning chip-shot field goal. The NFC West coming back to the pack just a little bit here.

Green Bay Packers 37 at New Orleans Saints 30

Bryan Knowles: Apparently, this week is a “bye week” for Al Michaels, who will miss about one game a month as NBC tries to give the 75-year-old some rest. I would have thought next week’s 49ers-Eagles matchup was a better choice for a week off, but I suppose these things have to be decided slightly earlier than that.

Bryan Knowles: It’s a fair fight — both teams are out their top wideout, with both Michael Thomas and Davante Adams on the sidelines. So far, that has meant no deep shots from either quarterback — the Packers running plenty of short passes to Aaron Jones and Allan Lazard, while the Saints tried some power football, with Alvin Kamara rumbling off left tackle for nearly 50 yards to set up a Brees-to-Kamara touchdown pass. 7-3 Saints, and we’ll see when or if either quarterback looks downfield.

Scott Spratt: It is pretty amazing that Allen Lazard stumbled and managed to recover to catch that 48-yard pass.

Bryan Knowles: Deep ball count: two for Rodgers, zero for Brees. After forcing a punt and getting the ball near midfield, the Packers immediately took a shot to Allen Lazard, who corralled the ball in and was dragged down at the 2, leading to a touchdown a couple of plays later. Lazard was second in DVOA coming into tonight, and I was really looking forward to seeing if he could keep that efficiency up without Adams to draw the top coverage. So far, at least, so good. 13-7 Packers, early in the second quarter.

Scott Spratt: Brees has double-clutched on a few apparent deep attempts and ended up being sacked. Bryan, do you think he’s just being careful to avoid bad decisions? Or do you think the low-aDOT thing or his arm strength is top of mind for him?

Bryan Knowles: I think coverage has taken away some of those deep shots, and it’s better to check them down than to throw something into coverage deep, but I’d really like to see at least one target downfield at some point in this game. I mean, the short passing game is working, and Brees is clearly more comfortable with it at this point in time, but he’d silence a lot of people if he took one shot eventually.

Dave Bernreuther: I’m not Bryan, but I do suspect that it’s on his mind. Brees has always given me the impression that he knows what he can’t do just as well as he knows what he can; he isn’t the arrogant gunslinging type and never has been. I noted two weeks ago a throw or two he left on the field, and it’s not as if he’s not seeing them; he always has. I think he knows his limits, is probably very conscious of how much those limits affected past quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning (insert standard Dave disclaimer here about Peyton’s process also being slowed by being forced to learn a new offense by Kubiak that just compounded the problem) and heck, himself in past Decembers, and is thus more willing to eat the ball than he is to take what he perceives as a risk.

It’s a virtue, really. Better to live to play another down than to leave a deep ball short for a safety to undercut.

But yeah. I thought the same thing about those double-clutches. There are throws there that he’d have made three years ago. We’re judging him against an incredibly high, Hall of Fame level bar, but he’s absolutely seeing those throws and choosing not to attempt them. It’s plain as day. And tonight it has gotten him sacked.

Dave Bernreuther: Bryan, while you’re right that it’d silence people, that’s no reason to force things … people can be as loud as they want if he dinks and dunks his way to endless success. The real reason to still take (and hit, occasionally) those deep shots is simply to keep the defense honest and open up other routes.

Speaking of things that make their offense successful, Andrus Peat just got carted off the field. That won’t help matters. Not that it’s a surprise to see this many injuries after a weird preseason without games, but damn. Can it stop now? At this point it’s just mean.

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, you don’t want to force things, but at SOME point, someone’s going to be open, and you’d really like to see Brees taking that shot.

That being said, that last drive had 11 short Brees passes on it, finally finding Emmanuel Sanders for a touchdown to give the Saints a 17-13 lead just before half, so if it’s working…

Dave Bernreuther: In the middle of a conversation about arm strength fading, Brees just lasered one to Emmanuel Sanders in the end zone. The way Sanders caught that — keeping his hands tight to his body until the last possible second, when they darted out much like how a frog catches a fly — reminded me very much of Reggie Wayne. Which is not the first time I’ve said that about Sanders.

Bryan Knowles: The Packers open the second half with another deep shot, again to Allan Lazard, again which ends up just short of the end zone. If you’re in a fantasy league which gives bonuses for long touchdowns, you are really annoyed with the Packers tonight.

The Saints stiffen up from there, but the Packers (wisely!) keep going on fourth-and-goal from the 1, finally getting Aaron Jones in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown: 20-17, Packers. A well-played game by both offenses so far, albeit ones with very different strategies for moving the ball through the air.

Bryan Knowles: Oooh, I’m fairly sure Marcedes Lewis had a push-off and a half there, but no flag, no foul, I suppose. On the same drive where the Saints get penalized for pass interference on what was clearly an uncatchable ball, well out of bounds. Well, you can’t challenge pass interference anymore, so the Packers’ 27-20 lead stands for now, as we go back and forth…

Bryan Knowles: Let it be noted that, with 1:25 left in the third quarter, Drew Brees attempted a deep pass, completing it to Emmanuel Sanders.

And then he tosses a little screen to Alvin Kamara, and Kamara just keeps going and going and going. He just weaved his way through everyone for a 52-yard score. Absolutely insane, and we’re tied at 27.

Dave Bernreuther: I take a different view of that sequence, Bryan. On the play on which the Saints were flagged, they showed (and discussed) a pretty clear pick that threw the defender (Jenkins, I think) way off before he recovered to commit the foul on the ball that was out of bounds. That looked like pretty clear OPI to me, and a sketchy DPI call.

But on the Lewis touchdown, they were both fighting at it and while Lewis did use his arm a bit for leverage, it was hardly a forceful push. Even allowing for his hugeness, that was something that could’ve been played through. Perhaps owing to Jalen Ramsey’s success in selling it two weeks ago, the defensive back (was it also Jenkins? It has been a long day and now I’m mixing stuff up a few minutes after) pulled up and did the “hands in the air, I’m innocent!” gesture immediately — as in before the ball even arrived — which indicates to me that he was acting.

It’s really hard to say for sure, though. Professional athletes are both strong enough to make big differences with very little noticeable effort and also quick enough to capitalize on small moves or shoves or leverage that even trained eyes don’t notice in real time. So I guess by that definition he absolutely pushed off … but so do receivers on most plays. And if we’re going to start admitting that that’s the case, then every catch is going to turn into one of those “there’s holding on every play” type of conversations that we have about offensive lines.

All of which is a verbose way of saying I wouldn’t have flagged that one either. But that I think that’s fair because I disagreed twice on the preceding play with the DPI call.


And while I typed all that — possibly for the entire duration of the typing — Alvin Kamara just dodged, ducked, dipped, dived, and dodged the entire Packers defense en route to a touchdown on a pass that didn’t even cross the line of scrimmage. And as much as Cris Collinsworth is praising Erik McCoy for racing downfield with him to throw a block (which I always love), it looked to me like he actually whiffed the block and that Kamara would’ve beaten that defender anyway.

Regardless, this is a great game, and I’m glad that I’m somehow still awake to see it.

Bryan Knowles: The Taysom Hill experiment continues to frustrate me. Offensive PI, stopped short of the sticks, and now, a fumble on the handoff! A big defensive stand by the Saints goes for naught as Hill fumbles and turns the ball right back over to the Packers. Ugh.

Dave Bernreuther: The Saints brought in Taysom Hill to run an option play and he fumbled and I’m not even gonna say it.

Dave Bernreuther: Put this one in the books. In a ridiculous sequence, the Saints jump offside and give Aaron Rodgers a free play. You just know he’s going to the end zone, and he does, and Janoris Jenkins flat-out grabs and wraps Lazard’s arm and draws another flag, meaning that the Packers get the ball at the 1, up three with four minutes remaining.

After a stuffed run, Rodgers throws to the corner of the end zone… where Janoris Jenkins blatantly grabs and holds an arm AGAIN, giving the Packers a few inches of field position but more importantly a fresh set of downs.

No, they haven’t yet scored, but even if you assume you can hold them to a field goal (and if you’re Matt LaFleur, up three from the 1 at about a minute left in the game, why would you kick that anyway?), they needed those two downs’ worth of clock.

In the end it doesn’t matter, as nobody covers Robert Tonyan on a play-action and the lead will be 10, not six. The Saints will need a miracle.

Bryan Knowles: And that will be all she wrote. After the field goal after the Hill fumble, the Saints go three-and-out and punt it right back to the Packers. And then the king of the hard count goes to work in a silent Superdome — Rodgers not only gets the Saints to jump offside, but draws a pass interference call on the same play to move the ball down to the 1. It took four cracks from there, and credit to the Saints for holding on for a bit, but eventually, they get into the end zone on a roll-out pass from Rogers to Tonyan.

The Packers, after all the offseason worries about their questionable draft and the lack of receivers behind Davante Adams, will go to 3-0, and be either first or second in the NFC (depending on how you work tiebreakers this early in the season — the Packers will be 3-0 in conference compared to the Seahawks’ 2-0, but the Seahawks have the better strength of victory).

Dave Bernreuther: Despite the loss, it’s worth mentioning that despite the negativity we’ve thrown at him, Drew Brees is still pretty great. Maybe he’s missing parts of his game, but he was still 24-of-28 to start this drive (in which he gets dinged for a spike and a Kamara drop) with the three scores and no turnovers. Please know that even as we point out his shortcomings, we’re measuring him against an extremely high bar. And it’s not as if he’s falling way short; he still clears that bar, but maybe now his heel is nicking it on the way over. This is still a very good team that can beat just about everybody; the Packers are just playing like a 13-3 team.

Which is interesting, of course, since picking them to regress from last year’s 13-3 record seemed like the lock of the century.

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