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Audibles at the Line: Week 4

42 min read
Audibles at the Line: Week 4


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.

Washington Redskins 3 at New York Giants 24

Bryan Knowles: I can’t wait until we see Daniel Jones against a solid defense, but you play the teams on your schedule. Washington’s third play of the game is a Case Keenum interception, setting up the Giants deep in Washington territory. Despite that, it seems like the Giants will go three-and-out, but Washington confusingly accepted an offensive holding call, setting up third-and-17 rather than fourth-and-7 and a 46-yard field goal attempt. The Giants pick up a chunk of it on third down, and then Pat Shurmur goes for, and converts, the fourth down. Given that second life, Jones finds Sterling Shepard inside the red zone and Wayne Gallman in the end zone to take a 7-0 lead. Coaching the difference early in this one.

Aaron Schatz: Nobody covering Gallman on that touchdown. Nobody.

Bryan Knowles: Dwayne Haskins has come in for Case Keenum, so all the first-round rookies are now in charge.

Not entirely sure why this move wasn’t made BEFORE the game, mind you.

Dave Bernreuther: Maybe that was the game plan, Bryan. Force the Giants to prepare for Keenum, then throw them the curveball.

The persons immediately show us why their problems run much deeper than quarterback, setting Haskins up for success by lining up incorrectly for a formation penalty.

Los Angeles Chargers 30 at Miami Dolphins 10

Vince Verhei: DeVante Parker gets behind Desmond King, Josh Rosen hits him in stride, Parker holds on, and it’s a 34-yard touchdown and Miami’s first lead of the season!

Chargers lead 17-10 at the half in a game that has been even more offensive than the point total would indicate. Each team has only had the ball four times, and all eight of those drives have reached scoring range. The Dolphins have scored twice and missed a pair of field goals (both from 50-plus); the Chargers have scored three times and thrown an incompletion on fourth-and-6. Both of L.A.’s touchdowns have come on passes to running backs — one to Austin Ekeler, one to Troymaine Pope. Pope, by the way, has been bouncing around practice squads for years. That was his first NFL touchdown, in his fourth NFL season, in his seventh NFL game.

Oakland Raiders 31 at Indianapolis Colts 24

Dave Bernreuther: I had a hunch that the Colts might snooze a bit on the Raiders today, but two touchdowns before I even turned on the game was bad even by my pessimistic expectations. Not even halfway into the first, and the Raiders have a 14-0 lead on scores by Darren Waller and Trevor Davis on a jet sweep pitch that fooled everyone. Terrible pursuit by Quincy Wilson, who was really the only one with any chance to catch Davis (others had better lines but were well blocked by great efforts downfield by other Raiders). Lucas Oil Stadium sounds a lot like the 2017 version all of a sudden.

Rob Weintraub: If I said, “An NFL player just got ejected for a helmet-to-helmet shot on a defenseless playe,r” your first guess as to who it was would be Vontaze Burfict, right? Good guess — he just got tossed for a cheap shot on Jack Doyle.

Carl Yedor: Wacky turn of events at the end of the half in Indianapolis. Colts are in fourth-and-3 just on the other side of midfield with about 1:30 left and all their timeouts. They run the play clock all the way down, trying to draw Oakland offsides, and the Raiders don’t bite. Rather than taking the delay of game, they call timeout, which I found a bit odd if the Colts were just going to punt. But they don’t! The Colts go for it and convert the fourth down and get an additional 5 yards tacked on thanks to a defensive delay of game penalty on Corey Liuget for preventing the receiver from re-spotting the ball. Unfortunately for Indy, the drive stalls from there, forcing the Colts to have Adam Vinatieri try a 57-yarder that misses just left. So after all that, it’s Oakland ball at their 42 with 32 seconds and one timeout remaining.

Derrik Klassen: Pierre Desir’s drop off from last year is painful. Our charting billed him as less impressive than other sites/statistics, but he was still solid per our charting. He has unquestionably been a liability this year, though. Should have allowed a touchdown just now if Derek Carr had thrown a better ball.

Dave Bernreuther: The Colts are really in a funk with T.Y. Hilton missing today. Seems like every few passes there’s a drop, those that are caught are often failed completions, and they just haven’t been able to get anything going at all. Driving in the last half of the fourth quarter, they finally eclipsed 200 total yards, but they still have a long way to go to score, and they’ll have to do so twice, which seems like a very tall order with the way things are going.

Bryan Knowles: Jacoby Brissett just threw the game away. The Colts had the ball down seven points — they’ve played terribly all day, but had a chance to climb back into this one. Instead, Brissett just blanks on Erik Harris’ existence, and bullets it right into his hands for a pick six. It’s a 31-17 Raiders lead with 2:09 left to go, and you can write this one off. Nice game for the Raiders all around, even if they let the Colts back into it late.

New England Patriots 16 at Buffalo Bills 10

Dave Bernreuther: Daily Fantasy owners everywhere beefed up on James White when there was news of Rex Burkhead being less than 100%, and three catches for 41 yards already make that strategy seem sound … but Brandon Bolden leeches the touchdown on the drive following one of those “nice arm, no shot” passes by Josh Allen into coverage for a pick.

Two plays later, Allen leaves the pocket (reasonably, this time) and fumbles, then throws a terrible pass to a covered John Brown, and in the blink of an eye the Pats are up two scores after a blocked punt for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Allen is 0-for-5.

Safe to say there’s still a bit of a gap between these two 3-0 (for now) teams.

On third down, Josh Allen left a clean pocket for no reason whatsoever, missed his open conversion, wandered to the right sideline, and took a sack. Sigh. At least this time their punt made it down the field. The Patriots will start their next drive from their own 6.

Aaron Schatz: Allen unthrows Zay Jones and J.C. Jackson comes down with it, second pick of the day. Allen’s improved accuracy from the first couple games of the season seems to be gone today. He underthrew Cole Beasley on a short one, has overthrown a couple of guys. Patriots are bringing relentless pressure, he had one pass where I swear he ended up taking a 15-step drop and throwing it off his back foot.

Brady has started only 4-for-9 but right now everything is about how the Patriots’ defense (and special teams) have overwhelmed the Bills.

Vince Verhei: Allen just threw his second horrible wounded-duck interception into coverage of the first quarter. I see the clock has struck midnight for the Cinderella quarterback.

Aaron, I think you meant “underthrows,” but honestly “unthrows” is an even better description of what Allen is doing today.

It also occurs to me that Tom Brady’s career has come full circle. He started as a great quarterback with an even better defense, then spent a decade or so as maybe the best quarterback in the league, and now he’s back to being a great quarterback with an even better defense again — maybe the best defense he has ever had.

Dave Bernreuther: Are they even actually overwhelming them? The pass rush isn’t getting home or making things hard on Allen, he’s just leaving every pocket for no reason and making terrible throws. That second pick should’ve been a touchdown to Jones, who was open, if he had put enough on it.

What’s the point of having a big arm if you’re still going to underthrow balls by 5 yards?

Meanwhile, DeShaun Watson is doing the exact opposite and showing us what real pocket awareness is like. Wow, what a play he just made to avoid a sack and dump one off in the flat. That one deserves its own mention.

Aaron Schatz: Bad interception by Brady ruins a 93-yard drive for the Patriots. I think the play was designed to go to Josh Gordon in the back left corner, but I guess he was covered, so Brady rolls right, and throws to Julian Edelman … except Jakobi Meyers is in front of him, and Micah Hyde comes off his coverage of Meyers and picks the ball off easily.

Next drive, they allow a 41-yard carry to Frank Gore, but sack Josh Allen on third-and-5 to prevent a touchdown. This game is almost all Patriots defense, with Brady missing a lot of guys, but Josh Allen missing even more guys (and feeling a lot more pass pressure). Bills field goal makes it 13-3 with 1:56 left in second quarter.

By the way, that field goal represents the first points scored on the Patriots defense in the first half of a game since the Chargers in last year’s divisional round.

Bryan Knowles: Frank Gore pops a 41-yard run, which ends up leading to nothing, but it’s still significant — he’s now the fourth rusher to go for over 15,000 yards in his career. With the run game becoming less and less prominent, and running back committees taking more and more of the load, Gore might be the last 15,000-yard rusher we see for a long, long time.

Dave Bernreuther: In their last 18 quarters of play in 2019, the Patriots defense has allowed the following:

  • Field goal by Greg Zeurlein.
  • That chickensh-t “we didn’t get shut out” 19-yard field goal by the Steelers on opening night.
  • A long Stephen Hauschka field goal after a stop just now.

That’s it.

Have they gotten some gifts, based on the caliber of their opponents? Absolutely. Josh Allen is currently 3-of-12 with two terrible picks and an awful self-inflicted sack, and that’s almost entirely on him. But damn is that impressive. Against any opponent. That’s half a point per quarter stretching back into last season.

Vince Verhei: Just to update Dave’s stats, the Patriots defense has still only allowed those three field goals as of halftime today. That’s because Stephen Hauschka’s kick on the last play of the half was just barely wide left. And THAT is because Allen took a horrible sack on third down, standing there and standing there and standing there and standing there and standing there until the pass-rush took him down for a loss of 5. From 5 yards closer, Hauschka’s kick might have been good.

Aaron Schatz: And the Patriots have finally given up a touchdown this year, barely. The Bills moved it downfield fairly easily on the first drive after halftime but the Patriots stopped Frank Gore short of the goal line on both second-and-goal from the 6 and third-and-goal from the 1. Bills go for it on fourth down and Josh Allen jumps up and over to just barely get the ball past the plane of the goal line before the Patriots knocked it out. 13-10 Patriots.

Dave Bernreuther: After a half which saw the two quarterbacks go 9-of-22 and 5-of-17 with three picks between them, a fast start out of the gate in the second half sees a 6-of-6 performance ending in a touchdown for … Josh Allen?

Indeed. And now a game that looked destined to be a laugher would be tied if not for the near-field goal miss. We’ll see if Brady can answer.

Josh Allen gets away with another throw right to the Pats, as there wasn’t clearly control on the catch … and then on third-and-8, he takes off scrambling, and Jonathan Jones damn near beheads him. Didn’t look intentional, but man was it bad. I can’t imagine they’ll let him take the next snap. Thankfully he just jogged off.

Vince Verhei: The Patriots were flagged for that hit on Allen, though it was wiped out by offsetting penalties, but I thought that was a terrible call. Allen was running, not sliding, and if anything he was the one who lowered his head and initiated contact.

Aaron Schatz: Matt Barkley came in and hit John Brown down the right sideline on a 28-yard go on the next play, despite defensive pass interference. Great catch by Brown. Bills drive ends at the goal line as the Patriots stuff Frank Gore on third-and-goal and then Barkley can’t connect with Zay Jones on fourth-and-goal. Pats will get the ball back, 16-10.

Dave Bernreuther: Penalties everywhere in this one, first on the concussion hit, then on Stephon Gilmore, who was obviously interfering with John Brown, who caught a blooper from Barkley anyway, then a personal foul during a play with another wide receiver pass (Brown I think) that fell incomplete. The Pats are shooting themselves in the foot, allowing the Bills inside the 5-yard line, right?

Nah. They had them right where they wanted them. Not a great ball by Barkley, but it did hit his guy in the hands … and it ended up in Patrick Chung’s instead.

They reviewed it, though, and took away the interception and 17 yards of field position. Pats DST owners can’t be too thrilled with that.

Aaron Schatz: It was a fourth-down interception, though, so on the field it didn’t change possession of the ball. It only changed field position, Pats got it on the 2 instead of the 20. However, they went three-and-out so the Bills offense is coming out again. Bills defense has been outstanding today. Everyone is covered, and the pass rush has been strong. Philip Dorsett had caught 26 straight targets until an incomplete last week. Today, he’s 2-for-9 so far, and the timing between him and Brady seems completely off.

Bryan Knowles: If the Bills had an average offense, they’d be winning this game. The Patriots’ last three drives have gained 3, 5 and 20 yards, and the Bills just can’t capitalize.

Scott Spratt: Except now the Bills offense is too good because they’re already in Pats territory at the 2-minute warning. Barkley needs to slow that down or else Brady will be able to answer with his own drive.

Dave Bernreuther: Man, with the punts going back and forth in this game, the 6-point “worst lead in football” situation may just come into play after all. At the time, I figured it wouldn’t matter, since there was so much time left, but now … the Bills are driving at the two-minute warning and are free from the temptation to play conservatively.

Bryan Knowles: “There’s nothing the Bills can do.”

The announcers are specifically talking about New England kneeling out the clock after Matt Barkley throws Buffalo’s fourth interception of the day to end the game. They could just be describing the Bills’ offense in general.

Rob Weintraub: Play of the game for me was John Brown catching a pass inside the 5, but not switching the ball to his outside hand. He thus could not stiff-arm Stephon Gilmore, who dragged him down shy of the goal line. Fourth-down turnover on the next play, and there went Buffalo’s best shot at an upset.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 at Detroit Lions 30

Bryan Knowles: Remember the preseason game on the 80-yard field? This game has been the reverse of that, at least for the defenses — they only seem to play in the red zones. Both Detroit (in their nice classic throwbacks!) and the Chiefs have marched down the field, but both offenses have sputtered in the red zone. The difference, so far, is that Harrison Butker missed a 36-yard field goal. In a dome! It’s not usually the Chiefs that end their drives with a whimper! It’s also the first sign of mortality we’ve seen out of Patrick Mahomes this season — he does have a tendency to get a little happy feet in the pocket, and occasionally runs himself out of a play, when he should stand in and let routes develop. This rarely matters, as his arm is so good and his receivers so fast and Andy Reid’s offensive scheme so well-designed, but every now and again … hey, even the best of us have room to improve from time to time, yeah?

And as I type this, Detroit marches back down the field, where Matthew Stafford finds T.J. Hockenson. 10-0 lead for Detroit early.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs have had almost no answer for Detroit’s offense so far — their first drive only ended on a field goal because Matthew Stafford took a sack on third-and-goal from the 2. That play aside, they are rushing and passing more or less at will.

Bryan Knowles: Uh-oh, Lions. Quandre Diggs has gone into the locker room, and they were already down Darius Slay. You don’t need a secondary against Patrick Mahomes, right?

Despite that, Detroit holds on a third down in the red zone, with Justin Coleman punching the ball out of a Chiefs receiver’s hand in the end zone. The Chiefs settle for a 23-yard field goal (boo!), and this one DOES go through. 10-3, Lions.

Vince Verhei: Injuries in the secondary can hurt your run defense too — LeSean McCoy breaks loose up the middle and breaks a pair of tackles en route to a 30-some-yard gain. He finishes the drive with a 1-yard touchdown on third-and-goal.

Bryan Knowles: I’m pretty sure if you told the Lions they’d hold the Chiefs to 10 points on their first three red zone appearances, they’d take it … but the Chiefs have just tied this one back up. Detroit has now punted on their last two drives, unable to move the ball at all after that explosive first quarter. That’s the way you squander a 10-0 lead against the best offense in football.

Vince Verhei: Detroit has a fourth-and-1 at the KC 25. They make the correct decision to go for it and the even more correct decision to run a sneak, but there’s an illegal snap penalty that wipes out the play and they settle for the field goal.

Chiefs are driving and putting together their best drive in a while after Mahomes had looked uncharacteristically erratic this afternoon. They complete a pass in Detroit territory with 20 seconds left, but “save their timeout” and waste 15 seconds running up to the line instead. They get one more play and Mahomes throws incomplete, and they kick a field goal to tie the game 13-13. They’ve still got that timeout though! Had they used it, they could have run at least one play, maybe two.

And now for your mind-blowing stat of the day: On a day when they have often looked off their game, Kansas City still has scored 13 points … but even that is a disappointment, because it’s the fewest points the Chiefs have ever scored in a first half during the regular season with Mahomes at quarterback.

Bryan Knowles: 13-13 at the half. It could have been more either way. After a couple drives of nothin’, the Lions snapped out of their conservative play calling and moved the ball well. They faced a fourth-and-1 from the Kansas City 25, and lined up to go for it … but a false start killed that, and they settled for a field goal. Not only did that remove a potential touchdown, but that also gave Mahomes the ball back with 1:03 left in the half, and two long passes later, they were kicking a field goal of their own. Big, big false start there — honestly, Kansas City should have come out of that with more than a field goal, but Andy Reid’s Patented Clock Management strikes again, as the Chiefs go into halftime with a time-out.

All in all, I’m impressed with the Detroit pass rush — this is the lowest-scoring regular-season first half of Mahomes’ career. They’re getting to him, and while he’s still playing well, he’s playing Normal Human Being well, not 300-yards-in-the-first-half well, and that means Detroit is right in this one. The Lions will need to find that first quarter offense again to stay in this one — the Chiefs start with the ball after the half, and I expect them to step on the throttle — but good, good first half from our preseason NFC North favorites…

So, scrap all that about Kansas City’s first drive of the second half. Mecole Hardman takes the opening kickoff out of the end zone but Jamal Agnew punches the ball out. Detroit ends up with great field position. Stafford ends up threading the ball through Kendall Fuller to Kenny Golladay … but Golladay is slightly bobbling it as he falls out of bounds, and the refs rule he loses control. Lions fans know a thing or two about touchdown catches not counting, but I think that one was a bad call.

And on the next play, Stafford fumbles while scrambling, and the Chiefs recover. Wow, wow, wow.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs dodge a major bullet early in the third quarter. Mecole Hardman fumbles away the opening kickoff, and Kerryon Johnson gains 30-plus yards on four straight runs to give Detroit a second-and-5 in the red zone. On second-down, Stamford appears to throw a go-ahead touchdown to Kenny Golladay on what would have been an amazing catch with Kendall Fuller draped all over him, but on replay the call is reversed to incomplete because Golladay was bobbling the ball as he slid out of bounds. On third down, Stamford hangs in the pocket forever before scrambling out to the left. Derrick Nnadi sacks him and forces a fumble, and Chiefs recover to end that scoring threat.

And now it’s three straight possessions ending on a lost fumble in the second half. The Chiefs convert a third-and-1 when Mahomes keeps the ball on a read-option. A few snaps later they try an option again, but Mahomes and Damien Williams get stuck at the mesh point, and the ball hits the turf and Lions recover.

Then J.D. McKissic gets a big run and a facemask flag to set up first-and-goal inside the 5. Johnson runs for a short gain on first down. The ball comes out at the end and Bashaud Breeland picks it up and takes it back the other way. He goes the length of the field but nobody thinks it’s live … but it IS live, and for the moment, it’s four straight fumbles and a 100-yard return touchdown. They are reviewing the play, and … oh man. I’m not sure how this is going to go.

Here’s the kicker: this is the same crew that blew the fumble play in the Saints-Rams game earlier this year. Oh boy.

Bryan Knowles: Whether it stands or not, someone’s gotta stop dunking the footballs in butter in Ford Field.

I THINK the call was right here, but there’s no clear view of the play. And there’s a significant issue with referees defaulting to letting the play play out on the field, and then deferring to the call on the field on the replay. 20-13 Chiefs.

Vince Verhei: Play stands. Chiefs go up 20-13. So much weirdness on this replay. Breeland was on his knees in the end zone when he picked up the ball. On the return, he had to weave his way through Lions players — who were totally ignoring him and jogging off the field. Just a bizarre and massive play.

Dave Bernreuther: Wow. Unlike earlier, when I thought Golladay never really had the ball, this one seemed like he was down. Do they swallow that whistle if they hadn’t gotten in so much trouble after that Saints play two weeks ago?

That’s now three failures inside the 5 for the Lions; a Stafford sack on third-and-goal early isn’t a huge sin, but it might’ve cost them four points. Now to start off this half they’ve seen a touchdown reversed and now lost two fumbles. That isn’t ideal when you’re playing the Chiefs.

Vince Verhei: This is becoming an all-time weird game. Lions line up for a 58-yard field goal try. Keep in mind Prater’s 64-yarder in Denver is the all-time record, so 58 yards in the dome is not a joke. But they line up and then don’t snap the ball, and it’s clear they’re just trying to get the Chiefs to jump … and they do! So it’s offsides and 5 yards, which is still not a first down, but 5 yards makes a big difference in the field goal, and Prater connects from 53 to make it 20-16.

OH MY GOD. Sammy Watkins catches a short out, falls down, gets up, but Justin Coleman punches it out and Lions get it back. That’s five lost fumbles in barely ten minutes of game time. Watkins was also called for OPI on the play, though of course it was declined.

Bryan Knowles: Wait, are the Lions allowed to just throw the ball into the end zone for a score? No reviews, no fumbles, nothing? Huh. You learn something new every week.

Stafford absolutely threads a pass, inches out of the reach of multiple Chiefs, to Kenny Golladay to make it a 23-20 Lions lead.

The drive is dampened by what looks like a big injury to T.J. Hockenson, who tried to hurdle a Chiefs defender and paid the price. There has been a real trend this year of defenders pausing to let the receiver hurdle, and then taking him down when they’re hanging in midair; maybe the injury will cause some players to keep their feet on the ground.

Vince Verhei: Stanford hits Golladay for a go-ahead touchdown that counts this time, and the Lions are now up 23-20. It came at a cost though –T.J. Hockenson tried to hurdle a defender for no real reason (a bunch of guys have done that in this game) and as a result was slammed head-first to the turf. He was clearly out cold on contact. The good news is that after a long delay he was able to get up and climb onto the cart, but he’s for sure out for the rest of the day and probably longer.

Scott Spratt: Patrick Mahomes hits Travis Kelce for a moderate gain, but Kelce laterals to LeSean McCoy who takes it to within a few yards of a touchdown. Super cool.

Vince Verhei: DUDE.

THIS GAME.

THIS GAME IS MAD.

Mahomes scrambles and tries a throwback pass. He’s got LeSean McCoy wide open, but overthrows him … but the ball lands in the hands of Travis Kelce, who ad-libs a hook-and-lateral and pitches it back to McCoy, who scrambles for two dozen more yards! That may have been the play of the year right there, and a remarkably heads-up play by Kelce. Darrell Williams finishes the drive with an option plunge for the score and Kansas City goes back up 27-23.

Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs-Hook and Ladder here. We can argue about which offense is the best, but no offense is more fun to watch than Kansas City’s.

Kansas City still has to work for the touchdown — took ’em five plays and a penalty in the red zone — but they grind it out. 27-23, Chiefs in what has been a very strange and entertaining game.

Scott Spratt: That Kenny Golladay touchdown/no touchdown call was incredibly close. We were basically freeze-framing to see if Golladay’s left foot scraped turf before his turf landed on the out-of-bounds white. But it stands, so the Lions are back up. Too bad they gave the Chiefs time to answer.

Bryan Knowles: Kenny Golladay is giving a maximum effort day — he just caught a touchdown which required him to basically brush his toe against the top of the artificial turf while leaping out of bounds. Lions take a 30-27 lead, so Mahomes will have 2:26 to work his magic.

Vince Verhei: For the second time today, Golladay has a go-ahead touchdown reviewed, but this one stands, as it’s ruled he barely tapped both feet down in bounds in the end zone. 30-27 Lions, and whatever happens in the next two and a half minutes, this is a huge game for Detroit. With a skeleton secondary, they’ve outgained Kansas City by 50 yards so far, and after all the breaks Kansas City got they could have folded, but instead they have rallied and rallied again. I’m impressed with this team today.

Scott Spratt: The Lions should just let the Chiefs score immediately so they have a minute-plus for their own game-winning drive.

Bryan Knowles: I do not know why the Lions were playing prevent for much of that drive, but the Chiefs take advantage, including converting a big fourth-and-8 on their way to a touchdown. 34-30.

Announcers are saying like they’ve won it, but there are 20 seconds left and the Lions have a time-out, and Stafford DOES have an arm, so we’re going to get a Hail Mary.

Scott Spratt: Was Charles Davis correct that you have to have two seconds left in order to put time back on the clock? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

Vince Verhei: One odd bit at the end of this game: Kansas City ran the ball on first-and-goal at the end, much as the Seahawks did against Matt Patricia’s Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Patriots, however, did not use their timeouts; today, Patricia did. It probably would not have mattered, but if there was one coach I was hoping would make a mistake with the final seconds running off, it’s Andy Reid.

Derrik Klassen: Excluding Patrick Mahomes’ debut start in 2017, this week’s game against Detroit is the only time he has ever not earned a touchdown in a game.

The Chiefs still scored 34 points.

Carolina Panthers 16 at Houston Texans 10

Dave Bernreuther: Just a spectacular play by Deshaun Watson deep in his own end to escape what should’ve been a sure sack. Two linemen are beaten quickly, he’s in serious jeopardy from the strong-side rusher, and he calmly moves only as much as is necessary with his eyes downfield. Still, there wasn’t time, as he found himself in the grasp of someone else … but I have no idea how, he spun around and threw to Carlos Hyde behind him in the flat, which let Hyde scamper for 25 yards. Just a great play on third-and-10 to sustain a drive that is now in the red zone.

Scott Spratt: I think I figured out Kyle Allen’s weakness, which is awareness of pass rushers. Three players ago, a defender just missed a strip sack as Allen barely unloaded a pass to Christian McCaffrey unaware a hand was just behind the ball. And now, he is sacked and loses his second fumble of the day.

Scott Spratt: Haha, DeAndre Hopkins throws a pass, but turns out he isn’t Odell Beckham under center. He tried to go across the field and gave Ross Cockrell the easiest interception of all time. Not sure how the Panthers didn’t score on the return.

Rob Weintraub: DeAndre Hopkins is the better wideout, but his passing skills trail Odell Beckham — he throws the wide receiver pass to Watson but it hangs up there for a while and it gets picked off.

Dave Bernreuther: What an AWFUL design on that wide receiver pass from Hopkins. Coaches try not to even ask their actual quarterbacks to throw too many balls to the far side of the field from the hash; Hopkins threw it clear across the field. By design.

The play was open, but of course the ball took half an hour to get there, so Ross Cockrell had time to react, come off his man, run a ways to track it down, and make the pick. The Texans are lucky that took so long to develop, because otherwise he might’ve been able to take it all the way back for six.

Rivers McCown: After three quarters, neither team wants their quarterback dropping back for more than three seconds. With the Panthers, the team that has a quarterback making his third start that has lost three fumbles today, I get it. With the Texans, I must simply accede to the wisdom of Bill O’Brien.

Scott Spratt: Kyle Allen throws a third-down pass a bit ahead of Christian McCaffrey, but McCaffrey is able to tip the ball twice before securing the catch. He falls to the ground 2 yards short of a first down, but his momentum slides him head-first for the first down. Play being challenged, but I don’t know why.

Rivers McCown: It’s being challenged because Bill O’Brien doesn’t like this concept of timeouts. He has decided to move beyond the construct.

Scott Spratt: Great call by Rivers because Bill O’Brien just used the last Texans timeout down 10-13 with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter.

LOL, J.J. Watt whiffed on a sack of Kyle Allen, who then hits Jairus Wright for a third-down conversion that will come close to sealing it for the Panthers. I have no idea how he missed the sack.

Rob Weintraub: Boy incredible play by Kyle Allen to duck under J.J. Watt rampaging at him, then flip a stumbling throw for a key late conversion.

Cleveland Browns 40 at Baltimore Ravens 25

Scott Spratt: Browns reverse to Odell Beckham who dodges two pass rushers and airs it out 60 yards in the air! I think Damion Ratley could have caught it.

Bryan Knowles: My disappointment that Cleveland’s attempted double-reverse (and an actual double-reverse, with three guys touching the ball and everything) pass didn’t work is immeasurable.

Scott Spratt: They are probably disappointed too because Baker Mayfield threw a bad pick a play later.

Dave Bernreuther: The Browns just ran an ACTUAL double reverse. And then it was a pass. By Odell Beckham. Who had to step up to avoid a sack in order to make the throw.

It fell incomplete, due in large part to some blatant defensive holding or DPI that went unflagged. Pretty sure they could’ve gotten that same result from just letting their quarterback throw the ball.

But maybe not … Mayfield’s next attempt was thrown directly to Maurice Canady for a pick.

Scott Spratt: The refs whistle Mark Ingram dead just before two of his offensive linemen push him forward for another 3 yards that don’t count. I know it’s a player safety thing, but man, I’ve seen that happen a lot this year.

Carl Yedor: It looked like Mayfield led Jarvis Landry too far on that in-breaking route, but he appeared to make a business decision as well with the safety flying in to lay a hit.

Dave Bernreuther: Looks like Jarvis Landry may have pulled up and been the reason for the horrible pick that Baker Mayfield threw.

Some serious exchange issues going on in this game; earlier we had this:

And on the drive following the interception, looks like Lamar Jackson tried to pull one back from Mark Ingram in the red zone on a read and the ball ended up on the ground. A good effort gets it back, and a few plays later Jackson zings one in over the middle to Miles Boykin for the tying touchdown.

The Browns are making plenty of their own mistakes, but they’re also getting hosed by the refs. Every time I look, OBJ is getting grabbed and held, there was a missed call on the double-reverse pass, and just now there was a terrible spot on a third-and-10 where Landry pretty clearly extended and picked up the first down, but they not only called it fourth-and-1, but upheld it on review too. Kitchens correctly goes for it, and the Baker Mayfield keeper is … just barely enough.

Three subsequent plays go absolutely nowhere, and so the Browns will settle for a field goal attempt to end the half. Austin Seibert gives them a 10-7 lead.

Scott Spratt: I didn’t realize this probably because of his awesome throw, but apparently Odell Beckham was held catchless in the first half, his first time since 2015.

Aaron Schatz: John Harbaugh went for two down eight! Analytics rears its head in Baltimore yet again! And Myles Garrett jumps offside, which moves the conversion attempt to the 1, and Mark Ingram then runs it in to make the score 24-18.

Bryan Knowles: Harbaugh Analytics Alert: Ravens score a touchdown to make it 24-16, and are going for two to make it a six-point game. They even get an offsides call to take it from the 1. John Harbaugh is probably our favorite coach now, isn’t he?

Scott Spratt: Wow, I didn’t know Nick Chubb was that fast! Untouched for the 88-yard score, I believe his third touchdown of the day.

Rob Weintraub: The two-pointer was literally the last good thing the Ravens did in this game. The Browns score the last 16 points, basically without throwing a pass. The defensive attrition in Baltimore, between injuries and offseason defections (and gearing all the attention toward building the offense up around Lamar Jackson), was very apparent today.

One week after the Browns get written off, they are in first place in a truly horrid division.

Tennessee Titans 24 at Atlanta Falcons 10

Rob Weintraub: It’s so bad in Atlanta that even Matt Bryant is missing makeable field goals. He may regret coming off the farm to rejoin this bunch.

24-7 Titans at the half.

Tom Gower: Titans win 24-10. It was a terrific first half on offense for Tennessee. OK, the first drive was four-and-out, but it at least started with a designed target for Corey Davis that netted a first down. After a defensive stop, A.J. Brown on a dig route got Desmond Trufant coming too far inside after him and outran Deion Jones and Atlanta’s secondary to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown. After the Falcons matched the score, the Titans got on the board again, featuring a third-and-15 conversion to Davis caught short of the sticks where he beat three Falcons defenders to the necessary yardage, then finished with a nice touch by Marcus Mariota to Brown. Another big pass play to Brown set up a field goal to make it 17-7, and then a couple of 20-plus-yard gains to Davis set up and finished the score that made it 24-7 before the two-minute warning. OK, they did not do that much in the second half — they made it to the edge of field goal range with a clock-killing fourth-quarter drive before punting from the 36, after Vrabel oddly (very oddly) opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 10 up 24-10 with 13 minutes to play.

Tennessee looked vastly improved on offense, though I suspect they really weren’t hyper-efficient. Derrick Henry slogged his way to 100 yards on 27 carries, and Marcus was 4-for-8 for 38 yards in the second half. Most importantly, though, the Falcons did not sack Mariota at all after the Jaguars got to him nine times last Thursday, and Tennessee has still yet to commit a turnover. Marcus played with much better rhythm and was more aggressive as a passer. I thought part of what ailed him may have been playing too tentatively, instigated by underneath defenders in his passing lanes and clouding his reads. Those did not seem to be a feature of Atlanta’s defense today.

Atlanta’s offense after the first-quarter touchdown drive was maybe three-quarters of the way to being good. They drove the ball inside the Titans 40 seven different times and only scored the 10 points. The failures included Bryant missing the 32-yard-field goal Rob mentioned; Matt Ryan fumbling on a sack (the Titans’ first of what would be five on the day); and three failures on downs. Tennessee did a better job on Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley than I feared (combined 13 targets, 82 yards), while Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu had the bigger games on Ryan’s 53 attempts as early struggles and getting behind led Atlanta to throw often. I thought Ryan had some nice throws in between second- and third-level defenders in zone voids and also did a good job of finding his checkdown option, much better at both than Mariota had been the last couple weeks, but had to work for everything he got as the Falcons started on their half of the field all game (best field position own 27), didn’t find explosive plays (longest a 32-yard DPI penalty on the touchdown drive, nothing else over 28), and just didn’t seem to find many easy yards.

Minnesota Vikings 6 at Chicago Bears 16

Bryan Knowles: Chicago wearing their fantastic 1936 throwbacks today, looking really sharp. Also interesting, and rarely talked about: the Bears made a whole video talking about the legacy of segregation in the NFL, and how this will be the first time African-American players get to wear these jerseys. A really interesting watch.

Scott Spratt: Mitchell Trubisky is out. Is Chase Daniel their backup? Because that may make the Bears fans regret what they wished for.

Bryan Knowles: Chase Daniel did just fine, as the Bears just stomp all over the Vikings defense — a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ends with a Tarik Cohen touchdown pass. That was … surprising. 7-0 Bears.

Trubisky has already been ruled out for the rest of the game with a shoulder injury. When it happens that quickly, that’s usually not good news for the long term…

Scott Spratt: Bryan, could you tell if it was his left or right shoulder?

Tom Gower: I didn’t see it, but it was announced as a left shoulder injury for Trubisky.

Aaron Schatz: It has been announced as left shoulder.

Bryan Knowles: It’s his left, so I suppose that’s the less worrisome of the two.

Eddy Piñeiro is nursing a plant-leg injury, so the Bears opt to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Vikings 34. But then, Mike Zimmer calls a timeout, and Matt Nagy changes his mind, brings the offense back on the field, and picks up the first down. Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake!

Vince Verhei: Both of those coaches should be fired for that.

Tom Gower: Tony Romo noted after we returned from commercial and the Bears converted that Minnesota actually had 12 on the field, and that’s why they called timeout. Oh well.

Bryan Knowles: The punt-wait-no ends up just with a field goal for Chicago after some, shall we say, interesting time management, but points are points, and the Bears take a 10-0 lead into the half. Frankly, it feels like more of Chicago dominance than the score indicates; seven Chicago penalties for 50 yards kept the ball in Minnesota hands for far longer than it had any right to be. We had just five drives in the first half! Three for Chicago, two for Minnesota. The shortest drive took 4:42 off the clock. That’s kind of nuts.

Minnesota does not appear to trust Kirk Cousins’ arm at all. He has attempted one deep pass, which fell incomplete. So yeah, he’s completing 70% of his passes, but he’s at just 7-for-10 for 49 yards. The Bears seem to trust Highly Paid Career Backup Chase Daniel far more than the Vikings trust their $84 million man.

Just like you draw it up. Facing second-and-16, Kirk Cousins is sacked and fumbles. The Bears pick it up and stagger down field a little bit, before fumbling it right BACK. Vikings recover, and because it was a change of possession, it’s a first down for the Vikings despite an effective loss of 15 or 20 yards. I mean, a first down is a first down, right?

Aaron Schatz: Nope. Got overturned. Third-and-35 instead. They ruled that the Bears never had possession in the middle of the play.

I would like to congratulate the Chicago Bears defense for fighting off regression to the mean. They’ve been outstanding this year and just insane today. Despite the fact that two of their most important players (Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith) are missing today, the Bears have allowed Minnesota a grand total of 2.6 yards per play. They’ve also forced three fumbles, recovering two (with the third being that weird one that just happened where their recovery was overturned).

Fourth quarter, all of a sudden the Vikings find their offense. The Bears aren’t exactly playing prevent here, but the Vikings have marched all the way down the field after starting on their own 8. The Vikings had 95 yards of offense in the entire game up until this drive, not counting penalties. They just put up 92 yards of offense on one drive, ending with a Dalvin Cook touchdown run. 16-6 Bears pending the two-point conversion.

Sorry, I mistyped. Because of penalties, that 92-yard touchdown drive actually had 109 yards of offense for Minnesota. More than the rest of the game combined. But the Bears sniff out a pass to Stefon Diggs on the two-pointer, so it’s going to stay 16-6.

Vince Verhei: And what a hysterical two-point conversion attempt that was.

For the record, the hysterical part is when Diggs desperately threw back to Cousins to try to salvage a flea-flicker out of that, though I guess the play was blown dead by that point.

Tom Gower: The Vikings just tried to run a wide receiver screen, except they motioned Stefon Diggs into stacked receivers. The covering defender followed him, and the play design didn’t eliminate the man who followed him by putting him into a blocker. Maybe the Bears did something contrary to their tendency there, because if their tendency is to follow like that I don’t understand how that play is supposed to work.

Rob Weintraub: Further to the Bears, if no one has mentioned the stretch that linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski turned in over a five-minute stretch in the middle of the second half, it should be acknowledged. First he split two blockers to nail Dalvin Cook on a screen. Then he swam right past Cook to force a strip-sack that should have been a touchdown for Leonard Floyd, who bobbled it back to Minny. Next possession, he bull-rushed Cook right into Cousins to force yet another sack — I mean blocking sled stuff. Cook is going to have No. 44 in his nightmares.

Seattle Seahawks 27 at Arizona Cardinals 10

Vince Verhei: Seahawks lead 10-0 at the end of one on a field goal and a Jadeveon Clowney pick-six. They have been so aggressive and effective in the red zone that this was their first field goal of the year — their only other try was a missed 58-yarder.

Cardinals have unleashed a bazillion short passes — even the pick-six was a quick 1-yard out that Clowney jumped and snagged. That may have been partly on Kyler Murray’s height, which brings up a fun bit of trivia — this is the first NFL game in 50 years with two starting quarterbacks under feet tall. It has been effective at times though. They missed a field goal on their first drive, and on the last play of the quarter. David Johnson takes a middle screen for a good gain to set up a red zone possession.

The drive stalls there, and Arizona tacks on a field goal to make it 10-3 early in the second.

After Jaron Brown has a big third-down catch-and-run to put Seattle in the red zone, Will Dissly becomes the latest tight end to score against Arizona. Tight ends have scored at least one touchdown in every game against Arizona so far this season, and Dissly now has six touchdowns in eight NFL games. I wonder if Arizona’s problems covering tight ends are related to their own offense, which goes four-wide all the time — do they not get practice covering tight ends? Is this a problem that plagued the run-n-shoot offenses of the 1990s, or those recent Jets teams that rarely used tight ends?

Carl Yedor: 17-3 Seattle in the desert, but they’re frankly pretty fortunate to be up that much. Zane Gonzalez has now missed two field goals to go along with the pick-six. Arizona has marched the ball down the field consistently, with David Johnson in particular making a huge impact in the passing game.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks get a field goal to go up 20-3 at the half. They put up a graphic showing that Seattle had way more passes than runs (15 to eight, as I recall), so of course Seattle then rattled off six straight runs for 35 yards. The Cardinals broke up passes to D.K. Metcalf and Dissly, though, leading to the field goal. The only time the Seahawks have failed to score was when Terrell Suggs beat Duane Brown for a strip-sack; Russell Wilson recovered the ball, but it still put Seattle behind the sticks and set up a punt.

Cardinals have run for 73 yards, somehow — it doesn’t feel like they’ve been nearly that effective, and it’s mostly Chase Edmonds, not Murray scrambling. But most of their offense is David Johnson gaining yards after the catch. He has six catches for 80-some yards — nobody else on the team has more than one catch.

Seattle still leads 20-3 at the end of three. Most of the past 15 minutes were just the two teams trading sacks and short gains. Seahawks will start the fourth quarter with a second-and-20 following a penalty on a wide receiver screen (drink!) and then a run on first-and-20 (drink again!).

It’s the fourth quarter, which means fourth-quarter Kyler Murray is threatening to make a game out of this. They finally start throwing downfield (which may be one of the reasons he’s getting better results) and pick up three or four big completions, plus a horrible flag on Tedric Thompson for a hit on a defenseless receiver to bail Murray out on an overthrow. In the red zone, it’s a quarterback draw, and Murray gets the first rushing touchdown of his career. Seahawks still up 20-10, but there is still time for the Hot Rotten Garbage Seahawks of 2019 to arrive and screw things up.

Seahawks, by the way, are still sticking with their 4-3 base personnel way more often than not, even against the Air Raid.

Seattle responds to the Murray touchdown with their best drive of the year: 15 plays, 75 yards that eats up more than 8 minutes of clock and also kills Arizona’s last two timeouts. Both teams make the penalty flags rain in the red zone for a while, and finally C.J. Prosise takes the shotgun sweep for the score. Seattle up 27-10 with less than three minutes to go and this one’s done barring some unprecedented shenanigans.

One final bit of trivia today: Larry Fitzgerald had a couple of catches on Arizona’s last drive to move past Tony Gonzalez in career receptions. Only Jerry Rice has more catches than Fitzgerald now (by 200-plus still).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55 at Los Angeles Rams 40

Bryan Knowles: I haven’t been watching this one. It’s 21-0 Buccaneers? Um. What? Two interceptions for Jared Goff. Three rushes for 4 yards, halfway through the second. Maybe they need to find someone who knows Sean McVay to run the offense.

I am now watching this one, and Todd Gurley might have had his best run since early December of last year. He was hit at the 5 and then decided, you know what? I don’t feel like being tackled today. He dragged two different players into the end zone on his way to a score.

Still 21-7 Buccaneers.

What is Jameis Winston’s single-game DYAR record? Because he might top it today. 45-27 over the Rams; Winston has four touchdown passes and is up over 348 yards. He just hit Mike Evans for a 67-yard touchdown where the Rams secondary just completely lost the plot.

Don’t put this game in the loss column just yet, as Bad Jameis Winston has hit the field. Goff hit Cooper Kupp for a touchdown to make it 45-34, and then three plays later, Winston hits Marcus Peters for a pick-six. We have a 45-40 game with 8:11 left.

Goff is knocking on the door of Norm Van Brocklin’s single-game passing record; he’s up to 454 yards passing.

Ndamukong Suh revenge game? Well, maybe not — but he just scooped up a fumble, caused by a Shaq Barrett sack, and returned it to the end zone. 55-40 (or fight) Buccaneers.

Jacksonville Jaguars 26 at Denver Broncos 24

Bryan Knowles: After three sackless weeks, Denver’s defense arrives to the 2019 season. They have four today, and have already spent more time leading this game than their first three games combined.

If it wasn’t for a terrible Joe Flacco pick, we may be in blowout territory. Instead, it’s 17-6 Broncos, and now Gardner Minshew is beginning to deal…

And, indeed, Minshew finds the end zone with fantastic pocket movement. He dodged what would have been the fifth, sixth, and seventh sacks of the day, staying alive long enough for Ryquell Armstead to get open. 17-13, Denver in the closest game of the afternoon…

Lead change! Denver’s next drive after the Minshew touchdown is a three-and-out, but at least they punt and pin Jacksonville inside the 10. The very next play, however, is an 81-yard run by Leonard Fournette, which leads to a James O’Shaughnessy touchdown two plays later. 20-17 Jaguars, as the Broncos’ offense has just gotten nothing going since halfway through the second quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Jaguars with the field goal to go up six. I hate the field goal to go up six. Denver will get a chance to come back and win the game with 2:54 left.

Vince Verhei: At least they tried on third down with the pass into the end zone. I had flashbacks of Mark Brunell’s playoff win in Denver, when the Jaguars had a three-point lead and third-and-long, and rather than run and then kick for the six-point lead (against John Elway, mind you), Brunell threw a touchdown to ice the game.

Bryan Knowles: After allowing the Jaguars to score 23 unanswered points, the Broncos have come back, and so the question must be asked: is Joe Flacco eli… OK, I won’t finish that statement, not even tongue in cheek, but Flacco actually looked pretty good on that last drive, hitting three big passes leading up to the touchdown. 24-23 Broncos lead, but there’s still 1:32 left — too much time for Gardner Minshew?

Aaron Schatz: Of course, the Broncos make it up the field easily to score a touchdown after the Jaguars tempt fate with the “kick the field goal to go up six” move. Emmanuel Sanders for 27 yards and then Courtland Sutton for 8 and the touchdown. Touchdown is against the coverage of Trevor Herndon, replacing Jalen Ramsey today. According to the announcers, the Broncos have been picking on Herndon all day.

Vince Verhei: But they scored way too quick, and Jacksonville very quickly moves into the red zone. Now they’re trying to run clock so the Broncos won’t get the ball back.

Bryan Knowles: And, indeed, they pull it off. The Broncos had a 17-0 lead at one point, and end up falling 26-24. This has been a very painful start to Vic Fangio’s coaching career.

Dallas Cowboys 10 at New Orleans Saints 12

Aaron Schatz: 9-3 Saints at halftime. Is this kind of defensive battle a surprise? I guess not, since the game between these teams last year was 13-10, and that was with Drew Brees healthy and playing. The Saints offense is hamstrung by the fact that Teddy Bridgewater can’t seem to throw downfield with accuracy. Almost everything he throws is short. The Cowboys offense is hamstrung by the fact that they seem to be intent on establishing the run. Ezekiel Elliott has seven carries on first downs for 15 yards. The fumble when he would have converted fourth-and-1 didn’t help either.

Bryan Knowles: 9-3 Saints at halftime, and the lack of comments in here does a good job of describing just how exciting this game has been to this point. Both offenses have struggled to get anything going, but it’s the Cowboys’ issues holding on to the ball that have been the difference. Von Bell has two fumble recoveries, which have led to a grand total of three points. New Orleans has left a lot of points on the board, as they’re being uncharacteristically conservative with Bridgewater back there rather than Brees.

The end of the first half was interesting. The Saints kinda botched the clock, and ended up with the ball on the goal line with four seconds left. Enough time for one play, surely, and Bridgewater’s pass was incomplete. But somehow, that only took two seconds off the clock, and they got the field goal anyway. Running the quick play there, to save time for the figgie, was a good play call … but surely, that play took longer than two seconds, didn’t it? Some hometown cooking on the clock, I think, which is why we have a six-point lead rather than three.

Tom Gower: I’d say New Orleans was held back by a combination of Bridgewater’s lack of downfield aggressiveness and a habit of getting penalized. They had five possessions, including the one at the end of the half, and three of the other four had a 10-yard penalty push them back on first or second down.

On the other side of the ball, this looks like last year’s Dallas offense, with Jason Witten’s 16-yard gain that ended in a fumble the Cowboys’ longest play of the first 30 minutes. Heck, Witten is the only Cowboys player with a play longer than 9 yards.

Aaron Schatz: Even without Brees to throw him the ball, Michael Thomas has caught nine of nine targets tonight for 95 yards.

Marshon Lattimore has done a fantastic job on Amari Cooper tonight, and just defensed a third-down pass to him, Saints get the ball back up 12-10 with 5:29 left.

Bryan Knowles: Love the Saints sending pressure against the Hail Mary. Don’t just let Dak Prescott scramble around — he had to force the throw, which was way short of the end zone. Great play call. Saints win!

Three undefeated teams remain: the Patriots, Chiefs, and 49ers. Just as we all predicted.

Tom Gower: On their final drive, Dak Prescott completed passes to Amari Cooper for 14 yards and Randall Cobb for 32 yards. Those were the Cowboys’ only gains of at least 10 yards that were not pass completions to a tight end tonight. Elliott and Cooper were almost completely shut down, and outside of the one pass to Blake Jarwin that set up the game’s lone touchdown, there were just no explosive plays to be found.


http://www.footballoutsiders.com/audibles/2019/audibles-line-week-4

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