September 27, 2021

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Audibles at the Line: Week 2

37 min read

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.

Indianapolis Colts 19 at Tennessee Titans 17

Bryan Knowles: Uh, so, the opening pyro kind of fell over, and the Titans’ field is on fire. There may be a small delay in getting this one started.

Scott Spratt: It’s a real barn burner early, Bryan.

Offensive tackle David Quessenberry with a receiving touchdown. First lineman score of the year I think?

Bryan Knowles: The Colts get a touchdown, helped by a 55-yard rush by Jordan Wilkins. But! They miss the extra point, so Tennessee is just down two.

Adam Vinatieri may be washed. He has missed two extra points today, on top of his nightmare day from Week 1.

Aaron Schatz: The Titans, down 19-17, need to come back. They throw to Tajae Sharpe on third-and-10 and he catches it at the sticks, then for some reason reverses to try to gain more yardage and gets tackled. So fourth-and-1 that should have been a first down. And that becomes fourth-and-6 when Mariota somehow can’t get the play off in time and is flagged for delay of game. So the Titans punt with 3:38 left, losing by two. Yuck.

I love you Frank Reich. Reich not only goes for it on fourth-and-1 on his own 35, up 19-17 with 2:23 go, but he calls a quarterback sneak … and it’s good!

Bryan Knowles: Frank Reich, playing for the win. Deep in Tennessee territory, hanging on to a two-point lead, the Colts go for it on fourth-and-inches. The Jacoby Brissett sneak works, and Tennessee’s way behind the eight-ball now.

Tom Gower: I’ll write up Titans-Colts later, after I stop wanting to throw things.

(Time passes.)

What’s the best way to recap this game, to give a high-level overview or a blow-by-blow account of how it all went down?

The Colts won, 19-17. Adam Vinatieri missed two extra points, giving the Titans a chance for a last-minute field goal drive to come away with the win. But Cairo Santos, after missing a 45-yarder earlier, did not get a chance for redemption as the Titans would end up spiking the ball twice in the same set of downs. When Marcus Mariota’s pass for A.J. Brown fell incomplete on fourth down, that was it.

This was a pretty stereotypically AFC South contest, with all that implies. Both offenses executed only inconsistently, in stretches, and neither displayed much natural explosiveness. There were three plays of 20 yards or more in the game: one mega-pass interference penalty on Titans corner Adoree Jackson, a 25-yard Mariota completion to Corey Davis to set up the Titans’ second touchdown, and a 55-yard run by Marlon Mack backup Jordan Wilkins to set up what turned out to be the winning touchdown. After their first regular season loss when going +2 in turnover margin since 1998 last week, the Colts returned the favor to the Titans this week, who had not lost a game at +2 or better since 2002. Offensive tackle David Quessenberry, playing as an extra offensive lineman in a goal-line package, had the Titans’ first touchdown.

The easiest high-level takeaways are about the quarterbacks. Jacoby Brissett is capable of making competent plays, but takes too long to do almost everything. Even with the much-improved offensive line, he needs things to go well and his first read to be open to succeed. While reasonably accurate, he lacks elite placement. The result is that there probably were, like the Chargers game, deep shots that he didn’t attempt that a more aggressive quarterback would have (as was the case in 2017). Mariota has the same exasperating qualities he displayed at times at Oregon and has had his whole time in the NFL. The most illustrative play may have been I believe the third-and-5 (a huge trouble spot, largely because the Titans spent almost all of the day in third-and-long) before Santos’ missed field goal: Mariota didn’t see anything open, looked to scramble, realized Darius Leonard was spying on him, and went down for a 7-yard sack, turning a 38-yard attempt into that 45-yarder. Or perhaps it was the final 67 seconds with no timeouts, when he kept throwing to the middle of the field and short of the first-down marker. I’m sure the Colts were guarding the sideline and deeper throws. I’m sure that wouldn’t always have dissuaded a more situationally aggressive quarterback.

Overall, I came away feeling worse about both teams, and specifically that Tennessee missed a big opportunity to show that the same collection of players, coached by the same people, was not the same team we saw last year that they spent all offseason talking about going “good to great” with.

Arizona Cardinals 17 at Baltimore Ravens 23

Scott Spratt: Lamar Jackson has already connected with Marquise Brown three times on their opening drive, including a beautiful sideline catch where Brown showed great foot control to stay in bounds. Very easy touchdown drive that went the full length of the field. Jackson looked very crisp with his throws.

Aaron Schatz: Kliff Kingsbury kicked a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 4. This follows on all the short field goals last week. Kingsbury runs an offense that analytics people love, but apparently he doesn’t listen to any analytics people when it comes to win probability analysis.

Bryan Knowles: David Johnson leaves the game with a wrist injury. That’s the injury that cost him nearly all of 2017. Currently questionable to return.

The Cardinals decided to go for a fourth-and-1 from the Ravens’ 46 and Kyler Murray converts it with a run … except Kingsbury called a timeout before the play. Very Detroit-esque from last week against them.

Scott Spratt: They end up converting anyway on a quick slant to Damiere Byrd.

David Johnson is back for Arizona, fortunately.

Bryan Knowles: You’ll never guess who settled for a field goal in the red zone again!

Aaron Schatz: Kingsbury settled for a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 5, and Baltimore was called for too many men on the field. So Kingsbury gets another chance with fourth-and-goal and about 2 1/2 to go, and … kicks a field goal. That’s four short field goals in two games.

Scott Spratt: In Kingsbury’s semi-defense, here are the Cardinals’ offensive plays from inside the Ravens’ 10 today:

  • Incomplete pass
  • False start
  • Incomplete pass
  • 4-yard completion
  • Incomplete pass
  • Incomplete pass

Do they have more than nine points if they go for those three fourth downs? I say no.

Bryan Knowles: From Football Perspective: since the goalposts were moved in 1974, the Cardinals are the first team to attempt three field goals inside the 5-yard line while trailing. Kliff Kingsbury IS revolutionizing the NFL!

It’s the fourth quarter, so it’s time for the Cardinals to score touchdowns. Some nifty Kyler Murray throws — helped by some shoddy Baltimore coverage, mind you — and we now have a 20-17 game.

Man, he’s inconsistent, but I am seeing what people saw in Murray. He’s now up over 300 passing yards again; first rookie to do that in his first two starts since Cam Newton.

Scott Spratt: Jon Harbaugh is challenging the lack of a pass interference. This will make or break the game for the Ravens because the Cardinals will otherwise have three and a half minutes to lead a game-winning drive, down six.

Third-and-11, Lamar Jackson drops a beautiful touch pass maybe 40 yards in the air into the hands of Marquise Brown. Conversion with less than three minutes left. Maybe the game-winning play.

San Francisco 49ers 41 at Cincinnati Bengals 17

Bryan Knowles: Jimmy Garoppolo looked a little awkward in the 49ers’ Week 1 win, so it made sense that Kyle Shanahan would scheme up some easy passes to help get him into more of a groove. The Bengals were more than happy to oblige, opting not to cover Marquise Goodwin on a 38-yard easy pitch-and-catch touchdown. The 49ers, much obliging, returned the favor by opting not to cover Tyler Boyd in any way, shape, or form, and the Bengals cash in a few plays later. 7-7 game early.

Garoppolo’s knee wasn’t really tested too much against Tampa Bay; he stayed in the pocket most of the time. Today, however, some good coverage (at times) has forced Jimmy G to pull the ball down and run. The good news there is that he hasn’t been hesitant or overly cautious, as you might expect after tearing his ACL on a similar play last year. A nice little eight-play, 84-yard drive — including the Bengals biting really, really hard on a Raheem Mostert screen — and the 49ers retake the lead.

After all this offseason of us wondering how the 49ers were going to use their overcrowded running back room — Jerrick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, etc. — the 49ers just scored thanks to a 32-yard miracle run by former UDFA Matt Breida when he should have been caught behind the line, and then practice squadder Jeff Wilson’s touchdown run. Stop paying running backs, ya dinguses.

I was really impressed with Zac Taylor’s offense last week. Not so much this week. Last week, they were super-creative on offense in a way we really hadn’t seen since Marvin Lewis came to town. This week, it’s the same old Bengals, with Andy Dalton making the same kind of mistakes he always has. I’ll be very interested in seeing what Taylor brings out of halftime, because this offense really needs a spark.

It isn’t helping that Nick Bosa is beating Andre Smith left, right, and center. In fact, the first two levels of the 49ers’ defense look worlds better than they did last year. It’s just Dalton and Jameis Winston, so don’t crown anyone yet, and the back end is still a liability (what few good plays the Bengals’ offense has had has mostly been on deep shots to barely covered receivers), but you don’t get the same death by a thousand papercuts that the 49ers suffered a year ago, with opposing offenses just throttling them with short play after short play.

The 49ers march down the field after the second-half kickoff and now have a 31-10 lead, which seems insurmountable considering how Cincinnati has played. Where is that pass rush?

The 2015-2018 49ers would not have won a couple of road games to start their season, even against somewhat iffy opposition.

Derrik Klassen:: Between this week and last week vs. Seattle, I’m actually sort of impressed by Zac Taylor’s offense. They just don’t have the dudes up front to make it work right now and Andy Dalton is, well … I don’t need to go any further. We all knew this was a Year 0 for Taylor, so the best you could hope for was that he proved himself a capable offensive mind. I think he has done a fine job of that so far.

Los Angeles Chargers 10 at Detroit Lions 13

Bryan Knowles: Melvin who? Austin Ekeler just scored his fourth touchdown of the season. We’re less than five quarters into the year.

Undefeated Detroit bounces back from their first deficit of the year. The Lions’ offensive line is giving Matthew Stafford more time than he had last week, and they respond with a nice touchdown drive, ending with a Kerryon Johnson touchdown. Of course, they biff the extra point, thus kind of killing my “first deficit” joke. Good job, Lions.

Scott Spratt: Mike Williams jumped and hung in the air for a good three seconds to make an amazing catch.

Bryan Knowles: The Chargers have successfully transferred their special teams hex to their opponents. Adam Vinatieri and Matt Prater are multiple-time Pro Bowl kickers, and now have missed five combined kicks against the Chargers. Banking all that special teams luck up for one season seems to be a wise strategy!

Less facetiously, Detroit has seen drive after drive stall out, and is a little lucky to be down just 10-6 at the half. A couple of huge plays have set up both of Los Angeles’ scores — that’s the same thing they struggled with against Arizona that led to the Week 1 tie. They don’t seem a million miles away from being competitive, but something just isn’t clicking right for them.

Scott Spratt: Austin Ekeler tries to leap over the line for the 1-yard touchdown, but he fumbles, and Detroit recovers. Melvin Gordon regaining leverage!

Whoever made the call about the Chargers losing their bad special teams juju … not so much. They’ve now missed a pair of field goals without their normal starter Badgley.

Bryan Knowles: They also had two touchdowns called back the drive BEFORE, so yes. Mea culpa. Never underestimate the Chargers’ ability to be cursed.

Lions being more aggressive in the fourth quarter this week — uh, being down might have something to do with that — picking up a crucial fourth-and-1 from the Chargers’ 35-yard line. Very next play, Stafford hits Kenny Golladay, who makes a great catch, diving forward into the end zone. Perfectly placed ball, great effort, and the Lions take a 13-10 lead with seven minutes left in the game.

Detroit might just stay lossless! After an awkward delay of game, Philip Rivers is picked off in the end zone! 13-10 Detroit lead, with the ball. Chargers have their timeouts left, so it’s not game over, but WOW, you can not throw that ball into double-coverage in field goal range, Phil.

Seattle Seahawks 28 at Pittsburgh Steelers 26

Scott Spratt: Looks like the Seahawks are having some early troubles with the Blitzburgh Steelers. Three early sacks for Russell Wilson.

Vince Verhei: No score after one quarter as the defensive fronts are dominating. More punts than first downs so far. Pittsburgh has just one first down, and just missed another when Ben Roethlisberger overthrew an open Johnny Holton on a deep crosser. Seattle has a few first downs on superhero plays by Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and Chris Carson, but has given most of that yardage back in sacks and penalties. Steelers have the ball just outside the red zone as the second quarter starts after T.J. Watt forced a Carson fumble. Steelers actually scored on the return, but it was called back on a totally unnecessary block in the back foul.

Between Carson’s fumble and a DPI on Michael Kendricks that turned a third down into first-and-goal at the 1, the Seahawks basically handed the Steelers the game’s first touchdown on a silver platter. Worse, Pete Carroll challenged the DPI, even though it looked obvious to me and pretty much everyone else. James Conner carried it in from there.

But the Steelers can make bonehead plays too. Seahawks kick a 45-yard field goal on fourth-and-1, but it’s wiped out by an unnecessary roughness foul on Daniel McCullers that gives Seattle a first down. Next play, Russell Wilson hits Will Dissly on a seam route touchdown to tie the game at seven. Bad news for Seattle is there are still eight minutes left in the half and they are already out of timeouts.

Steelers lead 10-7 at halftime. They were in the middle of their best drive of the game when Roethlisberger took a hit on the arm, and their downfield passing game disappeared. A few screens and handoffs later, they kicked their field goal and Roethlisberger left for the locker room, though he did return to the sideline before the half ended.

Seahawks got a bad bounce on a kickoff and started their last drive at the two-minute warning, out of timeouts, inside their own 10. (Rashad Penny had a chance to start at the 35 if he had stepped out of bounds, then grabbed the bouncing ball. Somebody needs to teach him that rule.) They quickly moved into Pittsburgh territory, but then a run, some short completions in bounds, and D.K. Metcalf penalties turfed the drive. They salvaged a field goal attempt, but Jason Myers was wide from 58.

A frustrating half for Seattle. They lead in first downs 12 to seven and have nearly doubled Pittsburgh’s production in total yardage, but they trail on the scoreboard.

Carl Yedor: Seattle’s run play that gave them a first down at the Pittsburgh 36 ended with 1:20 on the clock. An injury to D.J. Fluker caused a ten-second runoff and led to the bumbling series of events that almost cost Seattle a field goal attempt, as Vince alluded to. Not great clock management there. It would have been helpful for Seattle to still have a timeout there instead of using it on the DPI challenge earlier in the half.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks go three-and-out to open the second half, and Mason Rudolph comes out to quarterback the Steelers with Roethlisberger still on the sideline.

Bryan Knowles: Mason Rudolph in at quarterback! I saw Ben Roethlisberger shaking his hand from time to time, but missed exactly what happened — anyone know? And, of course, the Steelers just traded away Josh Dobbs.

Vince Verhei: Roethlisberger hurt his throwing arm on a pass on Pittsburgh’s last drive of the first half.

Rudolph’s first pass is an incompletion on a screen pass the Seahawks blew up. His second pass hits Donte Moncrief in the hands, but it’s Donte Moncrief, so it’s tipped into the air for Bradley McDougald to intercept.

Seahawks follow up with a go-ahead touchdown produced mostly by tight ends — Nick Vannett with a big third-down conversion, then Dissly with his second touchdown of the day. Seahawks have used a lot of two-tight end sets today, more than I remember them using in a while.

Carl Yedor: Broadcasters were unclear on what exactly happened to Roethlisberger, but Rudolph delivered a nice ball to Donte Moncrief on third down. Unfortunately for Rudolph, Moncrief missed the catch pretty bizarrely, resulting in a tipped pick to Bradley McDougald. Seattle turns that interception into another touchdown to tight end Will Dissly running down the seam. Both of Seattle’s scores have come from the deeper red zone to Dissly running the seam.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks now up 21-13 at the end of three. Rudolph hit a big completion to Smith-Schuster on a flea flicker — the ugliest flea flicker you ever saw, but it was enough to fool Lano Hill and let Smith-Schuster get behind him. That set up a field goal. Almost everything else Rudolph has thrown has been right around the line of scrimmage.

Following that field goal, Seahawks responded by spreading the field and needling the Steelers with a thousand short seam throws. Tyler Lockett had one catch last week; he already has a career-high eight this week. They get a third-and-short in field goal range, and Penny takes a zone read, bounces it outside, and jets into the end zone, with Wilson throwing some of his trademark “I won’t hit you but I’ll get in your way” downfield blocks. Yes, this means the Seahawks, for at least one drive, used the pass to set up the run, and I am not sure what to do with myself right now.

Game’s not over yet. Rudolph gets Pittsburgh into the end zone with some big third-down plays — a scramble for a conversion, then a touchdown on a throw where Seattle had a screen totally snuffed out, but Rudolph didn’t panic, scrambled to keep the play alive, then sidearmed a pass to Vance McDonald through traffic, letting McDonald ramble for the score. Hill gets an interception on the two-point conversion so Seattle still leads, but score is 21-19 now.

We have a DPI reversal in Pittsburgh! Wilson lobs a pass to Lockett in double-coverage and there’s all sorts of contact, but it’s ruled incomplete. (Bud Dupree also got away with a helmet shot on Wilson on the play.) Seahawks are about to run on third-and-20, but decide to challenge the play instead, Carroll’s third time challenging DPI in two games … and he wins! It’s a big gain for Seattle. Then Wilson finds Metcalf on the go route down the left sideline, and Metcalf bobbles the ball in the end zone, but reels it in for the score. Seahawks now up 28-19 with less than nine minutes to go.

Carl Yedor: After some initial jitters settling in, Mason Rudolph has looked pretty competent replacing Roethlisberger. Given how Rudolph has been playing today as well as Andy Dalton last week (especially contrasted against Dalton’s performance against the 49ers), the Seattle defense that we thought would be iffy has been just that. Seattle forces a punt after getting some pressure on Rudolph, but the concern about the Seattle defense has certainly been justified.

And then Seattle fumbles on its first play of the ensuing drive, giving the Steelers the ball inside the Seattle five-yard line, pending review.

Somewhat surprising given that it came from Carroll (but I think it was mathematically sound), but Seattle has third-and-long just on the Pittsburgh side of the field. Wilson scrambles and comes up just short, bringing up fourth-and-1 from the outer edge of Jason Myers’ field goal range right at the two-minute warning. Rather than being conservative and taking the field goal attempt, Seattle goes for it with a Chris Carson handoff up the middle, which he converts. Seattle then kneels out the clock and the Seahawks eke out a 28-26 win.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks have a fourth-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 32 at the two-minute warning. They turn down the 50-ish-yard field goal try and give it to Carson, who powers forward for the conversion to end the game.

I’ll run the numbers later when I have more time, but every time the Seahawks had the ball and a one-score lead in the second half, they went pass-wacky. Might be a one-game fluke. Might be a sign that they’re ready to lead on their big-money quarterback.

Seahawks have played like hot rotten garbage for big stretches of two games in a row now, and they have still won both games. A good sign, assuming they eventually stop playing like hot rotten garbage. As for the Steelers, they’re now 0-2, and Roethlisberger has yet to throw a touchdown and he may be hurt. Not good.

Aaron Schatz: Based on EdjSports model, Seattle’s decision to run was worth 20.4% GWC compared to a field goal.

Vince Verhei: If I’m counting things right, counting plays that were wiped out by penalties, the Seahawks had the following plays with the lead in the second half:

  • 10 passes
  • 11 handoffs
  • 3 scrambles
  • 3 kneeldowns

Dallas Cowboys 31 at Washington Redskins 21

Scott Spratt: Dak Prescott intercepted on a deflected pass. I think it would be really helpful if we could split normal interceptions and receiver-deflected interceptions into separate stats in the box score. We shouldn’t have to wait for game charting for that one.

New England Patriots 43 at Miami Dolphins 0

Aaron Schatz: Dolphins carries so far: 1, 3, 2, 0, -1, 1. The Miami offensive line is bad.

Halftime, and the New England blowout predicted by many (and by a -19 line) has not come to fruition. One problem has been special teams, as Stephen Gostkowski has missed a field goal and an extra point. Another issue is the offensive line, with Marcus Cannon out at right tackle and then Isaiah Wynn leaving the game at left tackle, leaving Marshall Newhouse (yuck), just picked up, as the left tackle with preseason trade pickup Korey Cunningham at right tackle. The run-blocking has still been strong, but the pass-blocking has had some issues. Some hurried throws, although only one sack. Word before the game was that the Patriots wanted to heavily target Antonio Brown to build up his confidence in the offense. For the most part he’s only playing in the three-receiver sets but yeah, they’re feeding him; he’s up to four catches and just snagged a 20-yard touchdown up the seam to make the score 13-0. Antonio Brown on former Pats practice squad cornerback Jomal Wiltz is a mismatch. And on replay it looks like Brown may have shoved Wiltz and gotten away with an OPI. The Pats defense has been very strong today. As I noted earlier, Dolphins can get nothing on the ground except for a 9-yard gain on a third-and-10 draw.

Scott Spratt: Kalen Ballage ducks under a screen pass? If that doesn’t summarize how the Dolphins’ season is going, then the interception on the next play does.

Aaron Schatz: A couple of clear miscommunications between Brady and Brown on the Patriots’ first drive of the second half. They’re clearly not fully in sync yet. Great play by Eric Rowe to slap away an underthrown pass to Brown and prevent a touchdown. Then Miami’s drive starts with a sack and then ends with a -16 ALEX pass on third-and-14. Not that Ryan Fitpatrick didn’t have receivers downfield, but they were all covered. Patriots coverage on defense has been excellent these first two weeks.

Ryan Fitpatrick seals the game for the Patriots with two straight pick-sixes. Second one was not his fault, bobbled by Kalen Ballage right into Jamie Collins’ hands.

Miami puts Josh Rosen in the game, down 37-0. He is immediately sacked.

Andrew Potter:In a team full of players who probably shouldn’t be playing at this level, Kalen Ballage has stood out as exceptionally terrible today.

Minnesota Vikings 16 at Green Bay Packers 21

Scott Spratt: Kirk Cousins scrambles for a first down and fumbles, but the Vikings recover. I believe the next play, he is strip-sacked and the Packers recover. Maybe the Packers defense really is good.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, what is Kirk Cousins DOING. Needing a touchdown, down 16-21, Cousins throws into double-coverage into the end zone. Ruled an interception on the field; it’s being reviewed, but I think it sticks.

Buffalo Bills 28 at New York Giants 14

Bryan Knowles: After the Giants’ 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game, they have gained 1 offensive yard. Bold of them to use all their good offensive plays at one time.

Since then, the Bills have scored twice, first on a Josh Allen sweep (Yes! Much safer than the usual scrambles; use his athleticism on a safe, protected play like that!) and a Devin Singletary scamper to take a 14-7 lead.

Dave Bernreuther: I’m going to be mostly quiet today but did feel that it was fair that I pop in here to say that through one half, I have nothing bad at all to say about Josh Allen. I am not sure what this says about Allen, the Giants, or Dak prescott just yet, but thus far, he has looked like an NFL quarterback, which is noteworthy given how much fun I have had with him.

So of course, as I write this, we get a nice comedy-of-errors type play. It started with Allen leaving the pocket, but in this case he hung in for the appropriate amount of time. Lorenzo Carter got him first by the collar and then shoulder too, and Allen threw the ball away to the right sideline while being pulled down and hit with a glancing blow to the head that would have been a penalty if it was someone more famous. He was out of the pocket and being hauled down, but it was inaccurate and short, so he was flagged for grounding. The officials then racked on a personal foul against Cory Ford for “hitting” Carter, who gave a dive worthy of a minor in the NHL, an Oscar, and an award for interpretive dance.

That really has nothing to do with Allen or even the game at all, which the Bills are dominating because the Giants are terrible … I just thought it was hilariously poorly officiated three times on the same play. Sean McDermott appeared to agree with me.

Scott Spratt: Cody Latimer is going into the injury tent. The Giants need to trade for David Quessenberry because they’re almost out of wide receivers.

Jacksonville Jaguars 12 at Houston Texans 13

Carl Yedor: Going 0-2 often gets brought up as a very bad omen for teams’ playoff hopes, and justifiably so given that since division realignment in 2002, teams that started 0-2 have made the playoffs just 11.4% of the time. Teams that started with both games on the road were at 22.2%, teams with one road game were at 10.5%, and the eight teams that lost both games at home have never made it. These samples are too small to show a statistically significant difference (the two-road game population is only 18 teams), but it makes some intuitive sense that teams that played multiple road games would have a better chance.

One area that did show a difference was in point differential. The average point differential through two games of teams that made the playoffs was -15.9, compared to -24.7 for the teams that did not make the playoffs (this did show a statistically significant difference). So if you go 0-2, you had better hope that those games were close.

This year, Bucs-Panthers, Jags-Texans, Bears-Broncos, and Browns-Jets are Week 2 matchups between 0-1 teams. Carolina already has lost two home games, and the Dolphins and Jets both have the opportunity to start 0-2 at home as well.

Bryan Knowles: Tempers boiling over in Jacksonville — Doug Marrone has to be pulled away from Jalen Ramsey, as the two get all up in one another’s face. It’s Week 2 in a 3-0 deficit, guys; there’ll be plenty of time later in the season to be upset about how bad the Jags are.

Rivers McCown: Very sack-prone half from both teams, taking a lot of points away. I expected a lot of scoring, so Vegas is smarter than me. Gardner Minshew is drowning in blitzes.

Bill O’Brien had the ball at midfield after the two-minute warning. He went to halftime with two timeouts. He kicked a field goal at the Jacksonville 4 with two seconds left.

You hate to see it.

Bryan Knowles: Laremy Tunsil is limping off the field. Houston has had enough issues with protection today with a healthy Tunsil! Considering how much Houston had to pay to get him, they had better hope he has, like, a rock in his shoe or something.

Scott Spratt: Big League Minshew leads an incredible fourth-quarter touchdown drive which featured a fourth-and-10 scrambling conversion, but they fail to punch in the two-point conversion and come up a point short.

Bryan Knowles: AFC South with the gutsy calls today!

The Jaguars score what would be a tying touchdown, but forget tying — they go for two and the win!

And they fail! Houston holds on to a one-point lead with 30 seconds left!

Scott Spratt: Actually, I think Leonard Fournette had that! Being reviewed.

Ugh, they rule Fournette short. I think he was there.

Dave Bernreuther: I’m a Colts fan and I think Doug Marrone is a buffoon. But I LOVE that they just went for two and the win after a last-minute drive led by the Mississippi Moustache that finished with a beautiful touch pass for a touchdown.

Consider me a fan of Gardner Minshew the not actually Second, quarterback of the Jacksonville Shaguars.

Rivers McCown: A Minshew fumble deep in his own territory gave the Texans the ball close enough to punch it in. The offense was mostly unimpressive outside of Carlos Hyde.

The Jaguars got the would-be tying drive on a lot off-coverage and some big Gardner Minshew scrambles outside of the pocket.

Houston has to feel real lucky to win that game. Bit of a warning sign to me that they had as much go their way as they did on defense and still only won by about an inch.

Kansas City Chiefs 28 at Oakland Raiders 10

Bryan Knowles: On the last ever game on a dirt infield (please, let it be the last ever game on a dirt infield, NFL), the Raiders have jumped to a 10-0 lead over the Chiefs. That Kansas City defense looks just about as good as we saw a year ago. Tyrell Williams was WIDE open in the end zone.

Scott Spratt: Another challenged non-call pass interference in the Raiders-Chiefs game, another call stands. Have any of those challenges worked so far? It seems like the NFL doesn’t want plays changed to pass interference.

Vince Verhei: Seattle had one earlier today! It was a huge play in the game!

Bryan Knowles: Five seconds late. The Chiefs score a touchdown five seconds into the second quarter, but that means they were shut out in the first quarter. They had scored in the first quarter in 22 consecutive games, tying a record with the Packers.

That 10-0 Raiders lead was fun while it lasted. Patrick Mahomes was pressing a little in the first quarter, but as his hurt ankle has warmed up, so has the Chiefs offense. 21-10, as Kansas City seems able to do whatever they want against the Raiders’ D. All Chiefs in the second quarter; two 95-yard touchdown drives. You think that would mean they had the ball all quarter long, but no; that last drive took less than two minutes! Mahomes remains special.

Vince Verhei: And now 28-10. Mahomes is already over 300 yards with four touchdowns — all of them from outside the red zone. It’s amazing how they have looked so clunky at times today, and it’s as if Mahomes says don’t worry guys, I’ll just throw a touchdown from here. Guy in the bar pointed out this is like watching Kansas City play Vanderbilt, and he’s not wrong.

Carl Yedor: I think Romo summed it up pretty well when he said “The Chiefs are playing Madden, and we’re all watching the NFL.”

Vince Verhei: Chiefs just punted. Fire Reid.

Apparently the second half was the first scoreless half in the history of the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry. Kind of amazing considering that second quarter. Mahomes almost had his longest touchdown yet, but it was called back on a holding foul.

New Orleans Saints 9 at Los Angeles Rams 27

Bryan Knowles: Drew Brees is getting his wrist wrapped up. Teddy Bridgewater is in.

Vince Verhei: Rams lead 3-0 after a Brandin Cooks deep ball sets up a field goal. Looked like Jared Goff had overthrown him, but Cooks made a great play to run the ball down and make a fingertip grab. The big news, though, is that Aaron Donald got pressure and swatted Drew Brees in the hand. Brees is now sidelined with a taped thumb and Teddy Bridgewater is in at quarterback for the Saints.

Aaron Schatz: Donald is dominating the game early on. Not only the pressure that led to the Brees injury, but he just drew a hold that wiped out a 15-yard screen to Josh Hill.

Rivers McCown: All these years, Teddy Bridgewater has been waiting to watch his drive get sabotaged by like four separate silly flags in downfield blocking to get to third-and-28.


I didn’t see what happened, but he was jogging into the bowels of the stadium with a cameraman chasing after him like a war correspondent chasing a deposed dictator.

And now Austin Blythe is carted off with an ankle injury. Rams have not had an offensive lineman miss a start since Sean McVay was hired, so this could be huge.

Very next snap, Trey Hendrickson beats Rob Havenstein around the edge to swat the ball out of Goff’s hand. Cam Jordan recovers and returns it for a long touchdown, but the refs rule it incomplete. Saints are challenging the play though.

Yup. Saints win the challenge and get the ball … but the touchdown doesn’t count, because the whistle had blown, and it’s a first down in their own red zone instead. Yes, a bad call went against New Orleans again.

Aaron Schatz: Major screwup by the officials in the Rams-Saints game. Fumble by Jared Goff, recovered by Cameron Jordan, he’s got a clear path to run it all the way back for a strip-six, except the officials have been blowing the whistle calling it an incomplete pass. And even though it is reversed on replay … once the officials blow the whistle, the play is dead. The runback never happened. Saints get the ball at their own 13 and effectively lose 87 yards based on a mistaken whistle.

Aaron Donald is back in the game.

Bryan Knowles: Man, I know it’s coincidence, but that’s three games in a row with a major officiating blunder hurting the Saints.

Vince Verhei: Add a midfield stuff on fourth-and-1 to the Rams’ run defense resume today.

Bryan Knowles: So, Drew Brees is out. The fumble recovery touchdown got unfairly reversed. Brees had an unlucky interception with the ball ripped out of Jared Cook’s hands. They’ve rushed 12 times for 19 yards. And they’re only down 6-3? Major kudos to the Saints’ defense for keeping them in this one.

Vince Verhei: It has felt all day like the defense that wore down first would lose today, and apparently that was the Saints. Rams have scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives — one on nine plays and 75 yards, the other five plays and 26 yards after a good punt return by Jojo Natson. Rams now lead 20-6 in a game that has been much uglier than I would have guessed coming in.

Bryan Knowles: All of a sudden we have points — and lots of ’em! The Rams score touchdowns on back-to-back drives, turning what had been a tight 6-6 game into a 20-6 lead. New Orleans needs to answer right now, though opening with a holding penalty is somewhat less than ideal.

Aaron Schatz: That first Rams touchdown was a 75-yard drive where Goff found everyone once — Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Gerald Everett. The second touchdown drive was much shorter, only 26 yards, since the Saints went three-and-out in between with two sacks and then JoJo Natson had a 32-yard punt return.

Vince Verhei: Saints get a field goal to to keep their faint hopes alive … and then Cooper Kupp snuffs that flame, taking a quick slant from the slot and breaking I think five tackles to score a 67-yard touchdown. They’re reviewing the play — that fifth tackle may have actually put him down at the 1 — but at this point the difference seems academic.

Aaron Schatz: Wow, Rams just probably iced the game with a 67-yard touchdown reception by Cooper Kupp where he caught a short slant, stiff-armed Marshon Lattimore, broke tackles from Lattimore and Marcus Williams when they kind of ran into each other, then Brandon Cooks and Robert Woods combined to block away P.J. Williams, and Kupp’s still going around the 30, and then he broke an arm tackle when Eli Apple took the wrong angle, and dragged A.J. Klein into the end zone. Hell of a play.

Oh, nuts. Sixty-six yard reception. Kupp’s knee was down at the 1.

Bryan Knowles: My fantasy teams are very annoyed Kupp couldn’t get that last yard. Cut ‘im.

Chicago Bears 16 at Denver Broncos 14

Rivers McCown: Neither of these teams can do anything but play-action bootleg dumpoffs and underneath throws while they run to nowhere. Garrett Bolles has three holding penalties at halftime.

The Bears are ahead 6-3 at half because *chuckles* they have a couple of solid field goals from Eddy Pineiro.

Vince Verhei: Joe Flacco being 14-of-18 for under 100 yards is like peak Joe Flacco.

Bryan Knowles: If he keeps up that 6.9 yards per completion total, it would be Flacco’s worst total ever in a home game; he had 7.0 yards per completion back in 2013 against the Bengals.

The Bears finally found some offense that works: run the ball with your wideouts. Cordarrelle Patterson had a 46-yard end around, followed by a Tyler Gabriel 14-yard scamper to set up first-and-goal. It took them three David Montgomery plunges from the 1, but finally someone here finds the end zone. 13-3 lead for Chicago, and I don’t trust Denver to find the end zone themselves.

Oh, Joe Flacco. The Broncos had their best drive of the day, going 74 yards and getting into the red zone. And then Flacco just floats one over the head of Emmanuel Sanders, right into the arms of Kyle Fuller in the end zone. We’ve seen a number of quarterbacks throw the game away in the end zone today (Rivers, Cousins…) but Flacco’s may well take the cake. Just under five minutes left, which is enough time for the Broncos to get the ball back, but they were right THERE. 13-6 Bears.

Vince Verhei: Down seven points in the fourth quarter, the Broncos go 74 yards in 16 plays. Drive ends in this sequence:

  • First-and-goal: Lindsay run for no gain.
  • Second-and-goal: Failed Flacco completion (drink!)
  • Third-and-goal: Flacco overthrows Emmanuel Sanders, Kyle Fuller gets the interception. Game’s not over-over yet, but the Bears are now in serious control.

One of the announcers just said Mitchell Trubisky had been “very efficient” today. At the time he said this, Trubisky had thrown 22 passes and gained less than 100 yards.

Bryan Knowles: Denver marches down the field, and Flacco somewhat redeems himself with a nice little toss to Emmanuel Sanders in the back corner of the end zone for the touchdown.

They line up to go for two and the win … but they can’t snap the damn ball. Delay of game. So they’re forced into an extra-long extra point, which they miss…

BUT Chicago is OFFSIDES as Buster Skrine falls over the line of scrimmage and I hate both teams in this so much aaaargh.

Denver lines BACK in the two-point conversion, and they nail it. Wow.

Aaron Schatz: Broncos get gutsy, second team to try for two to win the game at the end today … but they get a delay of game. Rather than try a 7-yard two-point conversion, they bring in McManus for the extra point. AND HE MISSES IT. Oh, but the defense was offside. So now … the Broncos are going for two again. And the ball is on … the 1 again? Is that right?

And they make a quick out to Emmanuel Sanders, and it’s good! Broncos 14-13.

Vince Verhei: It takes 12 plays and a pair of fourth-down conversions to go 62 yards, but the Broncos finally get their touchdown, a Flacco-to-Sanders pass in the corner of the end zone. They’re going to go for two and spare us overtime, but a delay of game moves them 5 yards back and they kick.

But they miss!

But Chicago is offsides and the ball is back at the 2!

And Flacco hits Sanders on a quick out for the conversion and a 14-13 lead!

Trubisky is left with 31 seconds and one timeout to be more efficient than ever.

Aaron Schatz: From Football Zebras:

This seems like a terrible rule to me.

After the delay of game, Broncos would have had two-point conversion from the 7. So wouldn’t the offsides on Skrine be half the distance to the goal, and the two-point conversion should be from the 3 1/2, not from the 1?

Tom Gower: Nope, the NFL rule is insane. After a penalty on an XP, you have the option to enforce the spot at the 2 and go for two. This is, as I said, completely insane and a rare instance of incompetent consideration of possible situations from the normally quite good NFL rulebook. But it’s the rule, at least for now, and was correctly applied.

Now can we talk about the Bradley Chubb roughing the passer penalty on the Bears’ game-winning drive?

Aaron Schatz: So much I didn’t like about the end of the Broncos-Bears game, including that I don’t think Allen Robinson actually caught the ball at the end with enough time to call a timeout.

Bryan Knowles: Ooooh, man. The Broncos should have this one, but a roughing the passing penalty pushes the Bears 15 yards upfield. Three incomplete Trubisky passes and an illegal substitution penalty later, the Bears covert a fourth-and-15, getting a timeout with just one second on the clock (after review), and Eddy Pineiro nails a 53-yarder to win the game. This was the dumbest final 30 seconds of a game I’ve seen in quite some time.

Aaron Schatz: Kevin Cole made a good point online about both the Jaguars-Texans game and the Broncos-Bears game. It may not have made sense to go for two and the win because there were still 30 seconds on the clock. It makes sense if there’s no time left. But if there’s still time left, and you take the lead, you force the other team to try to move the ball downfield and maybe they actually do get into field goal range and kick the field goal and beat you. Which Chicago did. Whereas if the game had been 13-13 there, the Bears probably kneel on the ball and just go to overtime. So the equation is basically, which of these two is larger:

1) Chance of two-pt conversion MINUS chance of opposing team coming back for a field goal


2) Chance of extra point * chance of winning in overtime. My guess is that the probability of No. 2 is larger.

Bryan Knowles: I agree with Cole in a vacuum, though I would say that counting on A) Trubisky to manage to lead a 30-second field goal drive and B) Flacco to be able to lead the Broncos back into scoring range in overtime are low enough that I could agree with going for two here.

Vince Verhei: It may have been ugly and fortunate, but that is a monster win for Chicago. I know it’s only Week 2, but falling two games behind Green Bay, down in the tiebreaker (not to mention Minnesota and Detroit looking formidable), would have been a steep uphill climb. Now they’re right in the thick of things.

Philadelphia Eagles 20 at Atlanta Falcons 24

Scott Spratt: Al Michaels casually mentioned that Evander Holyfield is in the crowd. I hope he isn’t cheering for the Falcons because his son Elijah is on their rival Panthers’ practice squad.

Aaron Schatz: Matt Ryan has his receivers beat Ronald Darby on consecutive plays deep and he overthrows Calvin Ridley and then Justin Hardy. So Matt Bryant has a 50-yard field goal blocked. Still 3-3 with 7:42 left in the second quarter.

Falcons finally got one. Ridley beats Darby again in quarters coverage, and Ryan gets him for a 34-yard touchdown. 10-3 Falcons.

Tom Gower: Carson Wentz had a really spotty stretch, seeming to throw the ball right to Falcons a couple of times. I don’t know how much of that is the pass-catcher injuries with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Dallas Goedert out of action, but I don’t think all of it. Maybe he just took a hard hit, but this is rough to watch.

Rivers McCown: What is it about the Falcons and Eagles where they can’t play good offense against each other, only against the rest of the league?

Bryan Knowles: Josh McCown, throwing passes in 2019. What a world.

Tom Gower: McCown is in the game because, after my earlier note on Wentz, he went to the medical tent.

Aaron Schatz: Maybe that spotty stretch for Wentz was because he was hurt.

Rivers McCown: In case you were wondering (I was) — Luke McCown retired and has not attempted a comeback yet.

Bryan Knowles: Alright, halftime, with the Falcons sitting on a 10-6 lead. We obviously don’t know the exact details of the Wentz situation, but he is clearly not right, and hasn’t been since he took the shot from Deion Jones. Maybe they can find something for him at halftime, but I’d give strong consideration for sitting him down, if he’s in too much discomfort to play better than he currently is.

Would the last Eagle standing please turn out the lights? Man, a ton of injuries tonight– Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery, and DeSean Jackson all hurt, Wentz has been in and out, Dallas Goedert is out at the moment. They might be reduced to a Mack Hollins-focused passing attack before tonight is over.

Rivers McCown: They ran a graphic of offensive injuries and didn’t even have room for Jason Kelce getting cleared from concussion protocol. And then Corey Clement’s new injury wasn’t listed because it just happened.

Bryan Knowles: Two Atlanta drives in a row have now ended in interceptions. The first was thrown behind Mohamed Sanu, though Sanu tipping it probably led directly to the interception rather than just an ugly incomplete pass. That resulted in a Philly touchdown, though they failed the two-point conversion when the refs ruled Wentz gave himself up diving for the end zone. The second interception was just a terrible pass by Matt Ryan in the end zone.

Ryan already has five interceptions this year; he had seven all of last year. He’s trying to keep Philly in this one as we go into the fourth quarter 17-12.

Aaron Schatz: We need to say something about the rule that Carson Wentz was “giving himself up” by diving for the two-point conversion, which is definitely the letter of the rule and also completely illogical on a two-point conversion.

Bryan Knowles: It doesn’t make sense on a two-point conversion, but the rule, in general, makes sense as a bone thrown to defenders. With refs willing to throw flags if tacklers look at a quarterback harshly, calling the quarterback dead as soon as he touches the ground makes a lot of sense, rather than force defenders to decide whether or not they should hit a quarterback sliding forward on their stomach and risk a 15-yard flag, or let them get a couple of extra yards from momentum before touching them down.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Carson Wentz has had a magical fourth quarter. That throw to Mack Hollins as he fell to his knees, then two straight QB sneaks to score the go-ahead touchdown.

Jim Schwartz ran one too many zero blitzes. The Falcons saw it coming on fourth-and-3, called a wide receiver screen, and once Julio Jones got past his initial cover guy there was nobody back deep to catch up with him.

Bryan Knowles: Fourth-and-3, and not only do the Falcons decide to go for it (not necessarily a given, although I’m fairly sure it was the right call), Julio Jones takes a short little screen 53 yards to the house.

Good lord, Jake Matthews buried the cornerback, and Philly never had a chance to catch Julio.

Rivers McCown: This really turned into an entertaining barnburner after looking like it’d be terrible for the first two quarters

And hey, here’s Nelson Agholor dropping a wide-open walk-in touchdown!

Aaron Schatz: And now Agholor catches the ball 44 yards downfield on fourth-and-14 because the Falcons were paying attention to the sticks and let Agholor get behind everyone.

And on fourth-and-8, Zach Ertz catches it about a half-yard short of the line to gain, and it looks like the Falcons are going to win this game despite a valiant effort by the Eagles.

Tom Gower: Falcons win 24-20 after that stop. What should we take away from this game? That was an ugly first half? The injury-struck Eagles did a terrific job of responding under pressure, even if their final comeback effort fell short? Philadelphia still has problems in the secondary that may or may not just be about Ronald Darby and having a guy who loves to sit back in four-man rush blitz again and again to cover for it? Julio Jones is, yes, still awesome? That was much more fun and more interesting than last Sunday’s game? I don’t know.

Carl Yedor: The game-winning wide receiver screen looked like a last-second check at the line by Ryan when he saw the blitz coming. Great read under time pressure from him as the play clock was winding down.

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