The Daily Briefing Monday, October 1, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

Is four weeks too early to start, If The Season Ended Today?  Maybe…

 

NFC                                                                                                                                                                                                        Div             Conf

Los Angeles Rams      West      4-0          1-0              2-0                                                      

Chicago                       North     3-1           0-1             3-1                                                      

New Orleans               South     3-1           1-1             2-1                                                      

Washington                 East       2-1           0-0             2-0      

Carolina                       WC       2-1           0-1             1-1                                                      

Green Bay                  WC      2-1-1         1-0-1          1-1-1   

Tampa Bay                              2-2            1-0             2-1                                                      

Seattle                                      2-2            1-0             2-1                                                      

Dallas                                       2-2           1-0              2-2                                                      

Philadelphia                              2-2            0-0             1-1                                                      

Minnesota                                1-2-1         0-0-1          1-1-1                                                   

 

– – –

The Rams and the Chiefs (who have what could be a tough game tonight in Denver) are the NFL’s lone remaining unbeaten teams.

 

With wins by Oakland and Houston in Week 4, only the Arizona Cardinals do not have a win.     

 

So 29 of 32 teams fall between 3-1 and 1-3.            

– – –

At the rate things are going, there might be 50 400-yard passing performances in 2018.

 

Peter King on the state of the 2018 NFL:

 

Offense has too much of an edge. The recent history of 400-yard passing games shows that as well as anything:

 

2014: 11 400-yard passing performances in 256 games

2015: 10

2016: 12

2017: 8

2018: 12 … through 62 games!

 

“The game is becoming far less physical, and the intimidation factor is gone,” former defensive tackle and current ESPN Monday night analyst Booger McFarland said. “The quarterbacks know they can get hit, but not really hit like they used to.” Agreed.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

The Bears huge win was tempered by the loss of LB SAM ACHO for the rest of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. 

 

 

DETROIT

Peter King:

 

Could the Lions’ uniforms be any more drab? All light gray? Who in the Lions’ hierarchy said, “Hey, let’s go with the light gray socks, light grey pants, light gray jerseys, and white numbers and white names on the back of the jerseys? That’s a great look!”

 

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

The Falcons are 1-3 against a tough schedule so far after Sunday’s one-point setback:

 

There’s an old saying in the NFL that you are what your record says you are, but Falcons head coach Dan Quinn doesn’t it applies to his team.

 

The Falcons fell to 1-3 when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton hit A.J. Green for a game-winning touchdown with six seconds left to play on Sunday afternoon. It was the second straight week that the Falcons failed to hold onto a late lead and they’ve now lost the three games by a total of 13 points.

 

“At the end of the day, we have to get these moments right,” Quinn said, via ESPN.com. “Through our first quarter of the season, our record doesn’t show that we have that part down, so we’ve got work to do. We’re a good team and our record doesn’t show it at this point.”

 

A big reason why the Falcons keep finding themselves in these moments because their defense hasn’t been able to stop opposing offenses with any regularity. Losing three starters to season-ending injuries contributes to such failings and finding a way to replace what they’ve lost will be crucial to getting to a point where the record better reflects Quinn’s view of the team.

 

 

CAROLINA

Even though he has a job, S ERIC REID still thinks he was colluded against.  He will fight on for his version of social justice.  David Newton of ESPN.com:

 

New Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, wearing a black T-shirt with #IMWITHKAP on the front, made it clear his fight against social injustice isn’t over even though his return to the NFL came quicker than even he expected.

 

Reid, 26, said “without a doubt” his collusion case against the NFL will continue. He also said he still is considering other ways to protest social injustice outside of taking a knee during the national anthem as he and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing in 2016.

 

“I’m still evaluating the scope of our country, and I’ll make that decision later,” Reid said on Monday, his first interview since signing with Carolina on Thursday.

 

Reid said the Panthers (2-1) didn’t ask whether he would protest during the national anthem until after he signed. He said he is not concerned with the reaction of fans during a 2016 game at Carolina’s Bank of America Stadium when he and Kaepernick knelt during a Week 2 loss with the 49ers.

 

“I mean, I felt those emotions time and time again,” Reid said. “You can’t live in your own house in America without getting killed. It’s powerful. I will keep speaking for my people.”

 

Reid signed a one-year deal worth up to $2 million with playing time and Pro Bowl incentives. He will earn $1,214,286 in base salary, with $390,000 in 46-man roster bonuses for a total of $1.39 million and a salary cap figure of $1.69 million.

 

The Panthers signed Reid to replace veteran Da’Norris Searcy, who recently was placed on injured reserve after suffering his second concussion in a month.

 

The 2013 Pro Bowl selection said the Panthers and 49ers were the only teams to offer him a deal. He chose the Panthers “because they had a better offer.”

 

Reid arrived at practice on Monday wearing No. 25 and walking with rookie cornerback Donte Jackson, who like Reid is a former LSU star. He immediately began working with the first team, taking 60 percent of the defensive snaps.

 

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Reid could start in Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

 

Rivera added he and Reid had a good conversation about how they each feel about protests during the anthem. Rivera, who grew up in a military family, has been adamant that players should stand and show respect even though he’s never made that mandatory.

 

“We feel good about who he is a young man and who we are as an organization,” Rivera said. “Probably the biggest question he asked me really was, ‘What would you say your base fronts of coverage are?’ He just seemed ready to roll.”

 

Reid said he didn’t expect to be back in football this quickly. He declined to elaborate much on that or other aspects around his protests because “those circumstances have to do with my case.”

 

“When I got the call I had just finished working out,” Reid said. “I was, OK, this is surprising.”

 

In 2016, Reid was the first player to join Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

 

In May, the NFLPA filed a grievance against the NFL on Reid’s behalf, alleging that team owners and the league, influenced by President Donald Trump, colluded to prevent his employment because of his protests. Kaepernick, who filed a similar grievance in October 2017, remains unsigned.

 

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney told ESPN that the team began exploring its options last Monday and brought Reid in to meet with the staff on Wednesday. Asked whether Reid’s grievance with the NFL was a factor, he said, “This was a football decision.”

 

Rivera said the same on Monday, citing the need for a veteran safety.

 

“I thought it was a good decision, and again it was a football decision,” Rivera said. “When you look at what happened to us with the injury to Da’Norris it made sense to look at the board and say, ‘OK, who’s the best available player? Who’s the best available veteran player that could come in and add to your team right away.’ ”

 

Rivera wasn’t concerned that Reid’s past will be a distraction and neither were Reid’s new teammates.

 

“We’re looking at it as a player that can come in and help us,” nickelback Captain Munnerlyn said. “We’re not worried about everybody outside talking about, ‘Oh, man! What is he going to do with the national anthem? What is he going to do about that?’ We’re not worried about that.”

 

Running back C.J. Anderson said what Reid has done in the past doesn’t impact him.

 

“I’ve got one goal,” he said. “That’s first downs and touchdowns.”

 

Cornerback James Bradberry said it’s obvious Reid is knowledgeable about football and can help the Panthers win from what he saw of his new teammate on the practice field and film room.

 

“I saw some of the things on Twitter and whatnot, but I didn’t really listen to most of [that],” he said. “I don’t feel it affects us. We come in to do a job and play football. Whatever else, we’ll let it handle itself.”

 

Reid said he’s happy to be back in football. He also made it clear he feels as strong as ever on the issue of empowerment that led him to protest.

 

“I’ll put it this way,” Reid said. “Next year will be 2019. It will mark 400 years since the first slave touched the soil in this country. That’s 400 years of systemic depression, that slavery, Jim Crow, new Jim Crow, mass incarceration, you name it … the Great Depression, they came out with a New Deal, black people didn’t have access to those government stimulus packages. … We didn’t have access to those programs, the GI Bill, Social Security, home loans, none of that.

 

“So this has been happening since my people have gotten here. So I just felt the need to say something about it.”

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

The Saints have won 3 in a row with a reinforcement in hand.  Peter King:

 

Ingram’s baaaaack … already. The Saints’ charter from Newark, bringing the team back from the 33-18 win over the Giants, landed at the New Orleans airport at 12:01 a.m. When the players and coaches cleared the secure area maybe a half-hour later, they had a guest waiting: running back Mark Ingram. The NFL suspended Ingram for four games for testing positive for a PED. With Ingram eligible to return to the team today, he wasted no time in doing so. Ingram hugged coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis, and while most of the players and staff headed to their cars, the last two Saints in the airport were Ingram and his running mate in the backfield, Alvin Kamara. Cool scene. Kamara and Ingram will be job-sharing over the next three months (longer, if the Saints make the postseason) and they’re good friends.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

In the aftermath of the slaughter in Chicago, the Buccaneers will go back to JAMEIS WINSTON at QB.  He will start against the Falcons in Week 6 after the Bucs nurse their wounds in the bye week.

 

Peter King:

 

Remember when Ryan Fitzpatrick was an MVP candidate? Was that eight days or eight years ago?

 

TE O.J. HOWARD has a sprained knee and will be out of action for two to four weeks.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers are indeed competitive with C.J. BEATHARD filling in for the great JIMMY GAROPPOLO.  Peter King:

 

Kyle Shanahan kept saying all week the Niners would be competitive with Beathard replacing Jimmy Garoppolo. And it’s not only that Beathard needed to be good on the road against a quality team, the Chargers; it’s that San Francisco had to get over the devastation of losing their franchise quarterback with 13 games left. Beathard was more than competitive. He was very good—23 of 37, 298 yards, two touchdowns and two picks (one that bounced off a receiver in what should have been an easy catch). Down 26-17 late in the third quarter, Beathard threw an 82-yard catch-and-run TD to tight end George Kittle to cut the Chargers’ lead to 26-24. Then Beathard led a field goal drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter, 27-26. It’s hard to reward a player from a team that lost, particularly when they were so many worthy performances, but what Beathard accomplished gives the Niners hope that they can be a competitive franchise all season.

 

King also looks at the Flex options:

 

Rams at Niners, Week 7—Not a lot of great potential flex options here. I’d bet on New Orleans at Baltimore as the best shot if each has a winning record a week from today—if the league flexes. Moving New England-Chicago from the early Sunday window would give the Patriots an unheard-of five straight prime-time games. But if the Rams continue to be a juggernaut, the sexiness of McVay/Goff/Donald would make it tempting for the league to keep the game, even with C.J. Beathard the other quarterback. In the end, I think the league won’t want to flex this game unless the Niners looks like a lost cause a week from now. Deadline for flex: Oct. 9.

 

• Re: Niners at Seahawks, Week 13—Minnesota at New England, the current FOX doubleheader game in the late window that Sunday, could be interesting here. San Francisco at Seattle was compelling too because of Richard Sherman returning to Seattle for the first time, but if both teams are struggling and there’s a better game, this week will a better chance for a flex than Week 7.

 

• Just so you know, here are the prime-time rules: A team can be scheduled for as many as five prime-time games. A team can be flexed into a sixth prime-time game in any week from Week 5 through 16. And the league can choose any game in Week 17 to be the Sunday night game. Theoretically, then, a team scheduled for five prime-time games and then flexed into a sixth could still end up playing a seventh if it’s chosen for the final game of the season.

 

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Peter King on WR COOPER KUPP:

 

You know your receiving corps is in fine fettle when the number three guy, Kupp, is on pace to catch 86 balls for 1,392 yards, 16 touchdowns and a 14.5-yards-per-catch average.

 

 

SEATTLE

Lymphoma for Seahawks owner Paul Allen.  NFL.com:

 

Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen announced Monday he was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a disease he initially was treated for and overcame in 2009.

 

Allen, 65, said he has begun treatment and that he and his doctors are optimistic he will once again beat the disease.

 

Allen, who also owns the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, has served as the owner of the Seahawks since 1996 and was the co-founder of Microsoft. Under his ownership of the Seahawks, the team won Super Bowl XLVIII at the end of the 2013 season.

 

Here is the complete statement Allen posted on his personal website:

 

I learned recently that the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that I was treated for in 2009 has returned. My team of doctors has begun treatment of the disease and I plan on fighting this aggressively.

 

A lot has happened in medicine since I overcame this disease in 2009. My doctors are optimistic that I will see good results from the latest therapies, as am I.

 

I will continue to stay involved with Vulcan, the Allen Institutes, the Seahawks and Trail Blazers, as I have in the past. I have confidence in the leadership teams to manage their ongoing operations during my treatment.

 

I am very grateful for the support I’ve received from my family and friends. And I’ve appreciated the support of everyone on the teams and in the broader community in the past, and count on that support now as I fight this challenge.

 

Go Seahawks! Go Blazers!

– – –

Even without his injury in Arizona, Sunday probably would have been the last game as a Seahawk for S EARL THOMAS.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Earl Thomas’s broken leg sends him into free agency in the offseason with an unknown future.

 

The All-Pro safety wasn’t the only one who lost out due to the injury.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Monday’s edition of The Aftermath that the Kansas City Chiefs were poised to strike a deal with Seattle to bring Thomas to the AFC West.

 

“Here is how it went going into Sunday: From what I am told, the Seahawks wanted two second-round picks, actually lowered their price to one second-round pick,” Rapoport said. “The Kansas City Chiefs were then in the process of freeing up money, creating salary cap space to make room for Thomas’ $8.5 million salary. This is something that likely would have happened, and Earl Thomas would have been a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. He just needed more time.”

 

Then the disastrous injury struck, leading to the NFL’s top safety being carted from the game. On his way out Thomas gave a one-finger salute to the Seahawks sideline, perhaps intimating he knew a potential resolution to his situation could have been in the works.

 

Per Rapoport, an extension for Thomas wasn’t likely in the cards in K.C., but the Chiefs could have gotten one of football’s best rentals while Seattle would have gotten a high draft pick for a player who is likely gone after the season.

 

The Chiefs currently have $6.6 million of cap space, per Over The Cap. They would have had to move some money around to make the deal work.

 

Rapoport reported that the Seahawks didn’t consider sitting Thomas out to avoid injury.

 

“I don’t want to make it seem like it was something that was going to happen in a matter of hours,” he said. “It would have taken some time, but when two sides get close to a trade and you sort of know it’s going to happen, the Chiefs could have cleared cap space relatively quickly. I have not heard any consideration of sitting Thomas, but it’s probably something that could have happened in a matter of days or weeks.”

 

Instead, Thomas is done for the year — and likely done in Seattle. The Chiefs don’t have an all-star piece to buffer a porous defense. And Seattle doesn’t have a second-round pick it could have used to bolster a young roster. Injuries suck.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Peter King on PK JUSTIN TUCKER:

 

Tucker has a streak of 17 straight at Heinz Field, and the most accurate field-goal kicker of all time stretched his lead over Dan Bailey to almost two full percentage points. Tucker, number one, has made 90.2 percent of his kicks. Bailey, number two, is at 88.3 percent. That seems like a wow to me.

 

 

CINCINNATI

Is 2018 the season in which QB ANDY DALTON joins the ranks of “franchise quarterbacks”?  Paul Dehner in the Cincinnati Enquirer:

 

The shootout came as advertised. Another rough showing in the South for the Bengals defense again put the offense’s back against the wall.

 

Andy Dalton, Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green happily threw the team on their back and broke through it.

 

In a wild final drive, we saw guts, glory, vintage Green and one huge win for the Cincinnati Bengals, 37-36.

 

The Bengals are 3-1 and with the defense, offensive line, penalties, injuries, fatigue and everything else falling apart around Dalton, he willed his team and this offense to a win that in the emotional moments afterward, felt like a foundation of something greater.

 

“From starters to backups to coaches to whoever it was, everyone really had to dig deep this game,” running back Giovani Bernard said. “I’m super happy to be a part of this team. A part of this win. I really feel like this is a special win for us. Whether or not this is just a win, it felt different.”

 

Game ball

Andy Dalton. He distributed the ball to all his weapons and the lone interception on the day was a pass off the hands of Tyler Kroft (who was being held). Dalton completed 12 consecutive passes at one point in the first half. He’s mostly been superb this season and his command of the offense Sunday was the best thing the Bengals had going. Outside of one overthrow on the final drive, he displayed all the guts you need on multiple critical conversions including the game-winning touchdown pass to Green in the final seconds.

 

He finished 29 of 41 for 337 yards, three touchdowns and one pick.

 

He’s on a pace this season to throw 44 touchdowns and nearly 4,800 yards.

 

“Unbelievable,” Green said. “Andy is playing at an MVP level right now. The way he diagnosed, carving up the defense, getting us in the right play at all times, man, it’s unbelievable.”

 

 

CLEVELAND

Al Riveron thinks he did the right thing in taking away victory from the Browns. Scott Petrak of BrownsZone.com:

 

The NFL stuck by its controversial and game-changing decision to overturn a Browns first down after a replay review late in the fourth quarter Sunday.

 

Running back Carlos Hyde was originally ruled to have gotten a first down by the nose of the ball on a third-and-2 run with 1:38 left in regulation in Oakland, Calif. The replay review determined his elbow hit the ground to end the play and the ball was short of the first-down marker by inches.

 

Instead of running out the clock for a victory over the Raiders, the Browns punted. The Raiders scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion to force overtime and escaped with a 45-42 win.

 

“From the line feed, you can see the line to gain is just past the 19 yard-line,” a league source told The Chronicle-Telegram in an email late Sunday night. “One replay angle shows the wrist and the elbow hit the ground simultaneously. Then when you go back to the line feed, you see the wrist hit the ground and you know the elbow is down. At that point, you are able to clearly see that the ball is short of the line to gain.”

 

Al Riveron, the NFL’s head of officiating, told ProFootballTalk he had enough camera angles to make the change.

 

“The angles definitely gave me a view and perspective that he was short,” Riveron said.

 

The Browns disagreed.

 

“It was an awful call,” receiver Jarvis Landry told reporters.

 

All replay decisions are made from league headquarters. Clear and obvious evidence is supposed to be required to overturn the call on the field.

 

“It had to be a heck of a review to turn that over on the third-and-short,” Mayfield said.

 

Former head of officiating Dean Blandino, the rules analyst on the Fox broadcast of the game, didn’t agree with the final decision.

 

“I don’t see any way they can change this call on the field,” he said.

 

This from the Cleveland police, should Riveron ever show up in that fine community:

 

Cleveland Police

@CLEpolice

 Robbery warrant issued for tonight’s @Browns game @NFL “officials”.

 

Ok. We can’t do that. Just sayin’.

 

Peter King:

 

The NFL has done a much better job this year at not micromanaging replay challenges, and not overturning calls made on the field unless the evidence is indisputable. Yet there was a very big reversal in the Browns-Raiders game, and I still haven’t seen indisputable evidence for the change of the call. The situation: Cleveland ball, Browns up 42-34, 1:41 left in the fourth quarter, third-and-two at the Cleveland 17. Carlos Hyde rams up the middle and lands on his back right at the yellow stripe, the TV gadget showing a faux first-down line, with the ball breaking the plane of the TV stripe. That stripe, of course, is not official. There’s a measurement, and by the nose of the football, the crew signals a first down. If it stands, Cleveland can run out the clock, most likely. Oakland has no timeouts left.

 

But the play was reviewed. While it was under review, analyst and former NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino—who preceded the current VP, Al Riveron—said on FOX: “I don’t see any way they can change this call.”

 

Upon further review, ref Walt Anderson and the New York officiating command center overturned it.

 

“Shocked,” was Blandino’s reaction.

 

Officiating czar Al Riveron told me Sunday night the first-down line was “north of the 19-yard-line,” and Hyde didn’t reach it, in his view. “When his wrist goes down, it goes down at the same time as the elbow … everything hits the ground at the same time. The helmet [of Hyde] is barely breaking the plane of the 19, and the ball is not breaking the plane. We can clearly see when the wrist, forearm and elbow hit the ground, it’s short of the [first-down] line.”

 

On the TV replays I saw, I didn’t see the line that Riveron and crew figured; I just saw the yellow TV stripe. Sometimes the ball is near a yard marker or some other landmark, but it wasn’t the case here. So I didn’t see what Riveron saw. I’m not saying I’m right; I’m saying I didn’t see what Riveron saw.

 

“What’s your reaction to what Blandino said on TV?” I asked.

 

“If I were to comment on everything said by people who once sat in this chair,” Riveron said, “I won’t know where I would start and where I would end.”

 

None of this will salve the angry Cleveland fandom today. But that’s the league’s reasoning.

 

But this:

 

@footballzebras

For those of you who had 4 weeks on when the hammer comes down from Mr. McAulay, collect your prize. (And he is 100% right on this!)

 

Terry McAulay

@tjmcaulay

Replying to @JimmyTraina

@DeanBlandino: “I don’t see any way they can change this call.”

Al Riveron/Russell Yurk: “Hold our beer.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

They say Fortune Favors The Bold, but on Monday, out of a pair of bold AFC South coaches, only Mike Vrabel of the Titans (see below) could bask in praise from the media.

 

Although actually, Peter King, America’s Football Conscience, is okay with Colts coach Frank Reich coming up short:

 

The situation: Texans 34, Colts 34 … overtime … 27 seconds left … Indy ball, fourth-and-four at the Colt 43. “We’re going for it 10 times out of 10,” coach Frank Reich said.

 

In 2016 and 2017, Reich was Doug Pederson’s offensive coordinator. He loved Pederson’s guts, and not just because it’s fun to go for it on fourth down—within reason. But because he saw the benefit with the team. It built confidence within the offense. Reich is convinced that Pederson’s confidence in Nick Foles when Foles was struggling late in the regular season and in the first playoff game for the Eagles was a major factor in the backup quarterback turning into such a force in the NFL title game and the Super Bowl.

 

So here was Reich on Sunday, with Andrew Luck having one of the best days of his pro career—40 of 61 at this point, and in full command of his offense. Reich had two timeouts left and needed 25 yards to be in safe Adam Vinatieri field goal range. Punting would likely ensure a tie. If he went for the first down and made it, then Vinatieri might get a chance to win it. If he went for it and failed, the Texans would need maybe 13 yards to be in good field-goal range.

 

I see the tie arguments. But I see going for it too, particularly on a day when Luck was hot. I think I would have gambled on Luck and Vinatieri and gone for the win. The larger issue: You know you’re probably not a serious playoff contender, and you’re trying to show your team you believe in them, and you’ve got a hot quarterback and a Hall of Fame kicker.

 

And congratulations to Vinatieri:

 

It wasn’t the toughest kick of his career; it wouldn’t have been the toughest kick of his high school career. But Vinatieri’s 42-yard field goal just before halftime against Houston was the 566th of his career, breaking Morten Andersen’s all-time NFL mark of 565 field goals. Vinatieri’s 44-yarder in overtime put the Colts ahead, but the Texans went on to win. Barring injury, the 45-year-old Vinatieri should break Andersen’s scoring record by midseason.

 

Barry Petchesky of Deadspin.com:

 

Bold decisions like Vrabel’s, and that of Colts coach Frank Reich’s even riskier call to go for it on fourth down in his own territory rather than punt and accept a tie (Reich also cited Pederson’s example), feel like they’re becoming more common in the NFL, and that’s absolutely a good thing. Even setting as the pure strategic angle of going for it—teams should, statistically, go for it on fourth down far more often than they do—it’s way more fun.

 

Teams have been getting smarter about going for it in the last couple of years, and it’s been led by a new guard of coaches, including Pederson, Sean McVay, and now Vrabel and Reich. The thing always standing in the way has been the knowledge that playing it safe is good for job security: gamble and lose, and everyone remembers. But the outcome, good or bad, depends on the players, as Vrabel pointed out yesterday, and the outcome shouldn’t influence the analysis of whether the initial decision was sound or not. The circumstances were different, but if you liked what Vrabel did, you should probably approve of Reich’s call too.

 

And what of that fear of failure? It’s on ownership to allay coaches’ misgivings about being held responsible for a wise decision that just didn’t work out, something the NFL finally might be coming around to. Vrabel said he wasn’t even thinking about the criticism that would have awaited him had the Titans not converted; it wouldn’t have been anything new. “I get criticized a lot,” he joked.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

In the mountain out of a molehill category, the case of the Jaguars drive for the super clincher against the Jets and the subsequent conversion attempt.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

A two-point conversion attempt is innocent enough and shouldn’t draw a lot of attention.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, however, found himself once again answering questions on his decision to go for two with his team up 31-12 over the New York Jets in the waning seconds of the matchup.

 

Marrone explained Sunday after the game that “the chart said go for two” in that situation, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation that he was attempting to run up the score on the Jets.

 

And for that reason, Marrone took exception to the fallout.

 

“What pisses me off, honestly, people that do know me know how much I respect the game, and I have a ton of respect for coach [Todd] Bowles and [Jets general manager] Mike Maccagnan is one of my good friends,” Marrone told reporters Monday, via the Jaguars’ official website. “And whatever happened in the past is the past. It had nothing to do with the people or the game itself that’s on the field. For me, that is exactly what happened. Right, wrong or indifferent, and I would never do anything like that. I just wouldn’t because I respect the game too much. It has nothing to do with any of the other crap that people bring up.”

 

Marrone, of course, interviewed for the Jets head coaching job in 2014 before the team went with Bowles.

 

Nevertheless, Marrone on Monday reinforced his decision to attempt the two-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point was football-related to go up 21 points and not an attempt to send a message.

 

“When you change and you go upstairs, and we have all that stuff, it’s just what we normally always have done,” Marrone told reporters. “It never even came, we said 2. We’re going for 2. That was it, to get to 21. Hey, are the odds of winning the game? Yeah, I could understand that.

 

“If I had to do it all over and knew this was going to happen, yeah, I wish someone would have said something because the one thing I don’t want to do is get my character attacked, which has happened in the past and happens again.”

 

 

TENNESSEE

Peter King on Mike Vrabel’s bold choice:

 

Mike Vrabel has this in common with Doug Pederson: He seems totally unimpressed with what he’s doing. Last year, nine mornings before the Super Bowl, I was with Pederson at a Wawa convenience store in south Jersey. No one knew who he was. He liked it that way.

 

So there was Vrabel, coaching against Pederson and his Super Bowl champs Sunday in Nashville. The game was in overtime. Philly led, 26-23, with 77 seconds left. Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota had been drafted for moments just like this one, and for last week, when the 1-1 Titans had gone into Jacksonville and eked out a 9-6 win over one of the AFC favorites. Mariota, playing with some numbness in his throwing hand, got the game ball for last week’s win, and before the game against Philadelphia, Vrabel said to him: “I can’t wait to watch you play this team.”

 

Fourth-and-two at the Philadelphia 32. Tennessee kept the field-goal unit on the field during a Titans timeout. “But I knew we were going for it,” Vrabel told me over the phone. A couple of players urged him to go for it, and Vrabel said, “Relax, the offense is going back out.”

 

So how did he reach this decision? A few things. A 50-yard field goal attempt for Ryan Succop wasn’t a gimme. Vrabel knew his players wanted to go for it. And strategic conscience, assistant to the head coach John “Stretch” Streicher, had given him good advice from his perch in the coaches’ booth upstairs. “If you’re going to go for it,” Streicher said through the headphones, “make sure you leave enough time so you can run enough plays to score.” Vrabel met Striecher when he was an Ohio State assistant, and Streicher got some football experience as director of football ops at James Madison and Texas State before Vrabel called him to come to Nashville last winter.

 

“Stretch has been valuable for me and our staff,” Vrabel said. “He advises me on replay, timeouts, the clock. In this case, even when the field-goal team was on the field for us, I thought we should go for the win. The odds of making a 50-yard field goal are probably slightly better than making a fourth-and-two at that point in the game against that defense. But I just thought of our players—they love going for it. I thought how tough Marcus was, and how much confidence I had in him. Plus, I guess ties help you, but I don’t know. We didn’t want a tie, even against a great team like this one.”

 

“The risk, though,” I said. “How do you weigh the risk?”

 

“I think people are more conscious of making [risky] decisions like this than ever before,” Vrabel said. “I studied Philadelphia a lot this offseason. Doug is the gold standard when it comes to making bold moves like this. We talked at the owners’ meetings and I’ve called him a few times about things. I’m lucky he’s been approachable about some of the things he does. So I’ve done a few things. We threw a pass on a punt to a gunner [for a touchdown] against Houston.”

 

By the time Tennessee sent its offense back on the field, the Eagles burned a timeout to match up. Then Mariota hit Dion Lewis—one of the go-for-it cheerleaders on the Titans sidelines—for 17 weaving yards. Three plays later, on third-and-10 from the 10, Mariota threw a high-ball in the end zone that 6-foot-3 Corey Davis needed every inch of his Dwight Clark-like reach to nab. Touchdown. Sixteen plays, 75 yards.

 

In the locker room, the collegiality of the Titans was there for all to see. At 43 and cut like an NFL linebacker (which he was until 2010), Vrabel ping-ponged between players, whooping and hollering at the realization that they’d beaten two of the final four teams from 2017 in back-to-back weeks. “We’re not where we need to be!” Vrabel shouted. “But we’re 3-1 after the first quarter [of the season]!”

 

Later, Vrabel said, “I don’t think we’re the most talented team in the NFL. But I know they love to play, and they play hard every day. Making decisions like I had to make today, that’s the easy part. Executing is hard. And they’re executing.”

 

If the winning pass had fallen incomplete, Vrabel would have faced 4th-and-goal from the 10.  Do you go for it then?

 

What are the chances of scoring on one play in the crowded field of the 10-yard line, when you have to score?  We’re thinking about 25%.  Is a 25% chance of a win

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

The rumors of New England’s demise are over.  The Patriots crushed Miami with WR JOSH GORDON saying he was comfortable in the offense.  Nicole Yang of Boston.com:

 

Wide receiver Josh Gordon started his first game with the Patriots Sunday afternoon against the Miami Dolphins.

 

Making his highly anticipated debut in New England, Gordon caught both of his targets from quarterback Tom Brady, finishing with two receptions for 32 yards. His first catch came on 3rd-and-6 inside the red zone during the first quarter, while his second delivered a 19-yard gain on 3rd-and-3 in the third quarter.

 

“It’s awesome catching a pass from Tom at any point in time,” Gordon said after the Patriots’ 38-7 rout of their AFC East foes. “He’s been rooting for me. It’s been awesome to have his support and his love, as well as the rest of the teammates and staff here. Tom’s a passionate guy, and I love that and I love the game of football. I think we’re gonna mesh just fine.”

 

Gordon also contributed off the ball, making a noteworthy block on the second-quarter play that led to running back James White’s 22-yard touchdown run. Gordon ended up playing 18 of the Patriots’ 78 offensive snaps. After sitting out Week 3 due to a lingering hamstring injury, he said it “took a lot of effort and time” studying the playbook to get out on the field. The 27-year-old called his start a “concerted effort” from both himself and the team’s training staff. Brady, too, noted Gordon has put in “a lot of time trying to understand where to line up and what to do.”

 

“It was an awesome experience,” Gordon said. “I really enjoyed it.”

 

Though the troubled receiver’s action was limited, Gordon flashed some of the talents that caught the league’s attention in 2013. Seven different players caught passes for the New England Sunday — a group Gordon hopes to continue to be a part of as the season moves forward. Up next for the Patriots are the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium Thursday night.

 

“I have no doubt I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “I’m more than blessed, I’m extremely grateful to be put in this scenario. I think the only thing right for me to do is to take full advantage of it. I’m loving it, I’m enjoying it. The guys have been great. It’s a real home environment. I feel as comfortable as ever.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Here is the Week 4 Team of the Week from ProFootballFocus.com (comments edited):

 

We lend some weight to playing time, and a variety of factors are considered, but these will largely be the best-graded players at their respective positions throughout the league. This year, our Team of the Week will be coming out before Monday Night Football has been played, featuring the best performances from the Thursday Night and Sunday games. In the occurrence that a performer on Monday night is worthy of a spot on the team, this list will be updated and those with standout performances from the weekend will still be appreciated.

 

Offense

 

QUARTERBACK

JARED GOFF, LOS ANGELES RAMS – 96.3

Goff was on fire on Thursday Night Football, and while the Rams offensive scheme put their playmakers in position to make plays, Goff’s pinpoint accuracy on the night was just as important to their overall success. On throws traveling 20+ yards downfield, the number one selection in the 2016 NFL Draft went five-for-five for 190 yards and four touchdowns.

 

RUNNING BACK

Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears – 88.8

Cohen made a huge impact in the passing game for the Bears on Sunday, averaging 8.07 yards per route run, picking up 121 yards from 15 snaps as a receiver. He also forced two missed tackles after the catch, taking his total on the year to six.

 

WIDE RECEIVER

Golden Tate, Detroit Lions – 92.6

Tate’s 4.55 yards per route run average ranked third among wide receivers with at least five targets yesterday, with the former second-round draft pick at his tackle-breaking best. He forced two missed tackles yesterday, taking his season total to eight, putting him on pace to force at least 20 missed tackles for the seventh season in a row.

 

WIDE RECEIVER

Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars – 90.0

In a breakout game, Dede Westbrook showcased his ability to make plays in the passing game, averaging an impressive 3.71 yards per route run from 35 snaps as a receiver. Westbrook saw nine catchable passes thrown his way on the day and he caught all of them on his way to the first 100+ yard game of his career.

 

TIGHT END

GEORGE KITTLE, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – 85.1

Continuing his breakout campaign and earning a spot on the Team of the Week for the second week in a row, Kittle racked up 125 yards on 34 receiving snaps. That was good for a 3.68 yards per route run average that led all tight ends with at least 15 receiving snaps yesterday.

 

FLEX OFFENSE

Taylor Gabriel, Chicago Bears – 92.0

Gabriel was another member of the Bears offense who made big plays on Sunday, ranking fourth among wide receivers with an average of 4.33 yards per route run. He was a playmaker downfield, catching both deep targets thrown his way for 63 yards, and added a touchdown on a jet sweep pass.

 

LEFT TACKLE

Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys – 89.2

This was Tyron Smith at his masterful best.

 

LEFT GUARD

Will Hernandez, New York Giants – 79.2

Continuing his stellar rookie season, Hernandez produced a PFF grade of 70.0 for the third straight week.

 

CENTER

Ryan Jensen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 77.4

After struggling on Monday Night Football last week, Jensen bounced back to have his best game as a member of the Buccaneers to date.

 

RIGHT GUARD

Brian Winters, New York Jets – 70.4

Winters didn’t excel as a run blocker, though his opportunities were limited due to the flow of the game for the Jets, however, he did do a solid job in pass protection.

 

RIGHT TACKLE

Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints – 81.5

Quickly becoming one of the very best right tackles in football, Ramczyk had another impressive game on Sunday. From 38 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed just one hurry and has allowed only four total pressures on 182 pass-blocking snaps so far this season.

 

Defense

 

EDGE DEFENDER

Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears – 90.9

Mack was dominant off the edge once again for the Bears, racking up a sack and three hurries from 33 pass-rushing snaps. Mack has now produced 24 total pressures through four games and has forced a fumble in every game of the year so far.

 

INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams – 93.1

It doesn’t get much better for the Rams than their franchise quarterback and star defensive player having the nights they did against the Vikings. Donald racked up a ridiculous 13 total pressures, including two sacks and two hits from 56 pass-rushing snaps. Through four games this year Donald has produced 28 total pressures, two more than he produced in his first four games last year.

 

INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers – 92.0

Clark’s PFF grade has improved every single week of the season so far, and through four games he is on pace for the highest graded season of his three-year career. Against the Bills he produced four hurries as a pass-rusher, and forced a fumble, giving the Packers a true difference maker up front.

 

EDGE DEFENDER

Brian Orakpo, Tennessee Titans – 89.0

Orakpo produced two hurries from 29 pass-rushing snaps, but his biggest play of the game came on a wide receiver screen. Tackling wide receiver Nelson Agholor, he forced the fumble. The Titans weren’t able to capitalize, but that doesn’t make Orakpo’s feat any less impressive.

 

LINEBACKER

Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys – 80.6

It wasn’t just improvements from Dak Prescott and a big game on the ground and through the air that should give the Cowboys reason for optimism, they also saw a big game out of their first-round draft pick at linebacker. Vander Esch made five tackles on Sunday, with four of them resulting in a defensive stop.

 

LINEBACKER

Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers – 81.4

Martinez made an impact against the run, in coverage and even as a blitzer in the Packers shutout win over the Bills.

 

CORNERBACK

Greg Mabin, San Francisco 49ers – 89.2

An undrafted free agent in 2017, Mabin saw 29 snaps on the field on Sunday and was targeted five times. From those five targets, he allowed just two receptions for 18 yards and a passer rating of just 50.4. Mabin also finished the day with three tackles, with two of those resulting in a defensive stop.

 

CORNERBACK

Coty Sensabaugh, Pittsburgh Steelers – 86.6

On the field for 30 coverage snaps, Sensabaugh was targeted three times, allowing just one reception for five yards.

 

SAFETY

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay Packers – 90.6

The Packers safety had a fantastic day in coverage, coming away with an interception and allowing no receptions on throws into his coverage.

 

SAFETY

Damarious Randall, Cleveland Browns – 90.4

Randall allowed a touchdown from two targets in coverage, but also came away with an interception and pass breakup on the day.

 

FLEX DEFENSE

Anthony Levine Sr., Baltimore Ravens – 93.8

Normally our FLEX spot goes to a cornerback, but this week it is Levine who gets the honors after coming up with a huge play for the Ravens defense on Sunday Night Football. Live often plays in a linebacker/strong safety role in the Ravens defense. It was from here where he effectively sealed the game on Sunday night, dropping into coverage from his spot next to C.J. Mosley and picking off the Ben Roethlisberger pass.

 

Special Teams

 

KICKER

Jake Elliott, Philadelphia Eagles – 81.1

Elliott only made two field goals on the day, but both were extremely important. The first sent the game into overtime, while the second put the Eagles in front in overtime before the Marcus Mariota to Corey Davis game-winner gave the Titans the victory.

 

PUNTER

Sam Koch, Baltimore Ravens – 74.1

Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense got a lot of the credit, but punter Sam Koch was key too, putting the Steelers offense in tough positions. Three of his four punts landed inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line and his punts yielded just three return yards.

 

KICK/PUNT RETURNER

Marvin Hall, Atlanta Falcons – 76.6

Once again there were no touchdowns on kick or punt returns, but Hall did have the longest kick return of the day at 53 yards.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Television ratings continue to be a good story for the league in 2018.  Andrew Buchholz of AwfulAnnouncing.com:

 

The season-long story of NFL ratings bouncing back a bit from 2017’s lows has continued. As Paulsen writes at Sports Media Watch, three of the four Week 4 national windows Sunday saw a year-over-year rise, and the one that didn’t (Fox’s afternoon singleheader) still posted the best singleheader numbers of the season. The NFL’s ratings story is already looking better than it was last year.

 

First, the afternoon national window on CBS (mostly Saints-Giants, in 74 percent of metered markets; 49ers-Chargers elsewhere) posted a 12.3 overnight rating, which was the lowest national window number this year, but still a rise of 14 percent from last year’s 10.8 for Raiders-Broncos (the lowest overnight in more than a decade). It’s notable that this is still a double-digit drop (17 percent) from the 14.8 Fox pulled in this slot in 2016 (for mostly Cowboys-49ers), though.

 

CBS also saw an increase for the early game of its doubleheader (mostly Dolphins-Patriots, but also Bills-Packers and Bengals-Falcons), posting a 9.2. That was a boost of 14 percent over last year, and a remarkable 24 percent gain over Fox’s early Week 4 game in 2016 (but it should be noted that that was Seahawks-Jets).

 

The Sunday Night Football story was also good for NBC. Ravens-Steelers brought in a 12.3 overnight, a rise of 12 percent over the 11.0 posted in both 2017 (Colts-Seahawks) and 2016 (Chiefs-Steelers). That also marked the third straight SNF game to hit a multiyear high in overnights, although adjustments down in final nationals meant the previous two finished behind the 2016 numbers in the final tally.

 

The lone year-over-year decline Sunday came from Fox’s singleheader, which was widely divided, but had Lions-Cowboys as its largest game. The singleheader pulled in an 11.7, down seven percent from 2017’s 12.6 (Rams-Cowboys or Panthers-Patriots), but a boost of 10 percent over the 10.6 singleheader overnight rating on CBS in 2016.

 

All in all, this was about the same as the NFL ratings story to date. The numbers are recovering from the 2017 lows, or at least not dropping any further (heading into this week, the overall picture was largely flat). And this week even saw some gains over 2016. That’s good news for the NFL indeed, and even Robert Kraft probably won’t be too upset with how this week’s ratings are covered.