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  • Plus, an afternoon where bloopers, bone-headed plays and dumb penalties (hello, Jaguars and Chargers!) fueled the excitement
By Gary Gramling
November 12, 2017

Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened on Sunday afternoon. Get the full Sunday breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The MMQB: 10 Things Podcast. Subscribe now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning

Things That Made Me Giddy

Sean McVay Is Designer: Last week it was the play-action shot to Sammy Watkins in the Meadowlands for a 67-yard TD. On Sunday it was the same thing, just to Robert Woods, this one for 94 yards. If you’re a safety who’s going to be playing some deep middle against the Rams, maybe spend the week working on realistically faking a hamstring injury. McVay’s play-calling is masterful right now.

Jaguars vs. Chargers: Night of a Thousand Dumb Penalties: That’s what we had down the stretch in Jacksonville. The dumbest was Marqise Lee dancing at Chargers safety Tre Boston in celebration of, uh, getting hit and dropping the ball (and the flag that Lee was celebrating got picked up, so it wasn't even offsetting fouls). That took the Jaguars out of game-tying field-goal range and the drive ended in an interception. After the Chargers went three-and-out and gave it back to the Jaguars, Joey Bosa tossed Bortles for an obvious roughing the passer penalty, moving the ball from the 35 to the 20, helping set up the game-tying field goal for the Jaguars' beleaguered field goal operation (long snapper Matt Overton was lost to a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter, guard Tyler Shatley stepped in as the emergency replacement). In overtime, A.J. Bouye made a game-deciding pick and returned it to the doorstep, and teammate Aaron Colvin proceeded to pick up a taunting penalty, backing it up outside the 15 (again, with a new long-snapper complicating any field-goal attempt). Ultimately, Josh Lambo’s kick was deflected but still went through to win it. But if there was ever a game that should have ended in a tie, this was it.

Josh Lambo’s Revenge: I’m not sure what would have happened to the Chargers early in the year had they kept Lambo over Younghoe Koo. But I suppose the Jaguars are glad that Lambo was sitting around eating off-brand Fritos on his couch when they decided to move on from Jason Myers. Since joining Jacksonville Lambo is 7-for-7 on field goals, including the game-tying and game-winning kicks on Sunday.

The Titans Keep Collecting Wins: They haven’t looked particularly good while doing it, but they once again did enough to win a game against a team they should beat. Corey Davis is back, Marcus Mariota is healthier, the young secondary should improve (they hope). They seem to be on the verge of being pretty good, and it’s nice that they have six wins even though they really haven't been good yet this season.

Jordan Berry and Jesse James Hustling Back on D: After the Colts blocked a PAT, it would have been a two-point return for Indy if punter/holder Jordan Berry didn’t get back to turn the runner back inside, and James didn’t shed a block then make the tackle. Those guys can play on my rec league basketball team any time.

Brent Grimes Ball Tracking: He was awesome on a deep-middle interception in the first half, and he kept his balance, turned around and went for a 28-yard return.

It’s Settled: Corey Grant Is the GOAT Among Fake Punt Artists: He had the garbage-time 58-yard run against the Ravens in London. On Sunday, it was a 56-yard TD run (showing some nice vision this time). Just a reminder in case you missed Albert Breer’s offseason piece on how teams use analytics in the NFL (I forgive you if you did): Grant was a UDFA signing purely on the recommendation of the Jaguars’ analytics folks.

Teddy Bridgewater: An emotional moment on the sideline as he’s back in uniform for a meaningful game for the first time in 22 months and two days. I don’t know how soon he’ll be back on the field, but the fact that he’s going to be back on the field eventually is pretty great.

Tashuan Gipson’s Cat-Like Reflexes: I’ll keep an open mind, but I was surprised at the overturn on the Austin Ekeler fumble that Gipson recovered, which was initially ruled a touchdown. After a lengthy review, they called Gipson down by contact. I thought he was down and back up without being touched by an opponent. (On the ensuing drive, a series of errors ended with a Blake Bortles interception.) The Jaguars won it in overtime anyway, so it’s a moot point.

C.J. Beathard: Good for him. The rookie is obviously not long for the starting job in San Francisco, so glad he got a win under his belt before his run ended. Congrats to the Lynch/Shanahan regime for getting on the board, too.


Chaz Green Playing the Role of Tyron Smith: Credit to Adrian Clayborn, who took full advantage of Smith's absence and collected a franchise-record six sacks. But you’d figure a guy good enough to be on your roster would be able to at least get his hands on Clayborn (a fine player but not someone who will be confused for Von Miller). Even after the Cowboys adjusted, it was still Clayborn going one-on-none-plus-help. Dallas went to Byron Bell late and he was a lateral move. There’s no good answer if Smith is out, but based on today’s performance there has to be a better answer than Green.

Sean Lee: I suppose the good news is that the revived pass rush means that playing without Lee wouldn’t be quite as devastating as It has been in past years. But if the Cowboys are going to be without Lee, they do not have the defense to overcome with the offense falling into shambles.

A.J. Green Can’t Catch a Break: His 70-yard TD goes for naught in Tennessee. And now the Steelers are bustin’ on him.

Don’t Boo Your Team, Bills Fans: I wasn’t at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but unless they put a montage of ex-GM Doug Whaley’s greatest roster-building moments on the video screen the booing of this team at halftime was unacceptable. This is a 3-13-caliber roster that’s going to be playing meaningful football in December and maybe even January. They were out-classed by a superior team on Sunday. Western New York has had a bad habit of letting expectations get out of hand in recent years. I strongly suggest not doing it again.

Austin Ekeler as Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer?: Hmmmm . . . Hindsight is 20/20. Ekeler is a wonderful player, mostly in space. I’m unsure of the wisdom in asking your 190-pound back to grind down the clock at the end of a long day, especially when Melvin Gordon was relatively fresh (though Gordon did nothing on the next drive). You don’t expect a lost fumble there (well, maybe if you’re a Chargers fan you do), but I’m not sure anything good was coming out of that series with Ekeler in the backfield.

Ryan Succop’s Inside 50 Streak Snapped: His miss from 48 snapped his makes-from-inside-50 streak at 56. This doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t immortal, but the evidence is mounting.

Tom Savage: I see someone’s been watching the “Pocket Movement With Jay Cutler” instructional VHS.

Joe Haden and Mike Mitchell Go Down: The Steelers lose the two veterans in their young secondary. It’s a short week with the Titans visiting on Thursday night, so Pittsburgh’s depth will be tested.

Chargers Special Teams Play Just Makes You Want to Cry: Coming into the Jacksonville game, they were 31st in the NFL in kickoff coverage and near the bottom of the league in punt coverage. It looked like they had caught a break early in Jacksonville when a running-into-the-kicker penalty gave the Chargers a first down, but the penalty was erased because on the punt a gunner who had run out of bounds came back in to down a ball that he didn’t need to down, an illegal touching penalty. A little later, they gave up a long TD on a fake punt on pretty much the same play the Jaguars had already run this year. Oh, and then the kicker they cut hit the game-tying and game-winning kicks.

What Are You Going So Fast, Falcons?: At the end of the first half, in the red zone with a timeout and nearly two minutes left on the clock, why rush on second down after a first-down run play? You’re not going to run out of time down there!

Tyrell Williams’ Hands: Toward the end of the first half, Philip Rivers laid it in perfectly for a walk-in TD and Williams had it bounce off his hands. It kind of epitomized an ugly, mistake-filled game between the Chargers and Jaguars.

Giants Run D: The season's lost, so might as well get gashed for 176 in San Francisco.

Daniel Lasco: The Saints special teamer suffered a scary injury covering a kick in Orchard Park, requiring the ambulance to come out on the field. Reports were that he suffered a spine injury but had feeling in his extremities.

The Steelers Can’t Connect on the Big Ones: They seemed to be going for the jugular constantly in Indianapolis, and they rarely connected. That’s how the Colts stuck around (and more than stuck around, led for most of the day) in this one.

Jackrabbit Tackling Like He’s Got Myxomatosis: (That’s the rabbit disease.)

Scott Tolzien Warming Up: While Jacoby Brissett was in concussion protocol. Brissett didn’t end up missing a play, but Colts fans’ hearts were in their throats.

Something Is In the Water in Western New York: And whatever it is, it causes visiting players to commit hilarious turnovers. Today it was Saints TE Josh Hill, catching the short pass, making a football move and then just kinda tossing it up in the air for no particular reason.

Are You a Tight End? Did You Play the Against the Giants?: Congratulations, you scored a touchdown! Today it was San Francisco’s Garrett Celek, making it 10 straight games that the Giants have allowed a touchdown to an opposing tight end.

Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Vontaze Burfict and a Soft Ejection: No doubt, this was weak. And no doubt, because of a reputation that has been well earned from years of turdishness, Burfict will be flagged for this 99 times out of 100. We reap what we sow.

The Finger Thing Means Money: I can appreciate a good heel. But a little history lesson for Vontaze Burfict: The Johnny Manziel finger thing was moderately cool in late 2013, and held on until Manziel did it at the 2014 draft, after which it quickly became stale. By the summer of 2015, it was strictly the kind of thing that maybe an older, perhaps recently retired aunt or uncle might do at a summer barbecue or similar gathering. There could be a day when the finger thing is once again acceptable, in an ironic way. But on Sunday, it was the equivalent of taunting an opposing fan by asking, “Is that your final answer?” What you’re going for is bad-ass heel. What you delivered is lame-ass heel. Think about it in case there’s another ejection. (There’s . . . there’s probably going to be another ejection.)

Kevin James Will Star in the Movie About This John Fox Challenge: Rob Schneider will play the wacky buddy in the booth who recommends he challenge the play. Yes, it was a dicey ruling (it looked like Benny Cunningham had stepped out before the ball came loose). But I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by proclaiming this the worst challenge of the NFL’s challenge era. Fox is a good coach and I’m all for challenging these pylon plays if you’re 99% sure it’s going to be ruled a touchdown (all it takes is a false start to push your first-and-goal at the 1 back to a first-and-goal at the 6). That obviously wasn’t the case here. Instead of first-and-goal from the 2, Fox’s challenge turns it into a turnover. (Bad rule, correct call.)

Maurice Harris Shows How You Catch a Touchdown: I suggest that if you are planning on scoring your first NFL touchdown soon, do it like he did.

The Cleveland Browns Vs. the Inevitable Forward March of Time: They do find a way, don’t they. With 15 seconds and no timeouts and the ball on the goal line, you can go for it (and it’s especially tempting when you’re down 7). But you have to spread it out and throw it, so that it’s either a touchdown or it’s incomplete, and if it’s the latter you then take your three points and then head to the locker room. Instead, the rookie quarterback audibles, and . . .

(For the record, the Lions should have been flagged for a delay of game penalty there, but that doesn’t excuse it.)

What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

Is This the End of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys?: In Tyron Smith (groin) and Sean Lee (hamstring), Dallas lost two guys even more unexpendable than Ezekiel Elliott. If Smith and Lee are going to miss any significant time, the Cowboys are done and Jerry Jones can focus full-time on his 1-on-31 fight against the rest of the league on the Goodell contract.

The Saints Are Terrifying: The Bills aren’t as good as their record suggests, but on Sunday the Saints looked like Alabama versus anyone in the SEC who isn’t Mississippi State. New Orleans has now won seven straight and haven’t needed Drew Brees to carry them at any point. They’re outscoring opponents 229-100 during that stretch. They belong in the Super Bowl favorites conversation with the Eagles and the Patriots right now.

Case Keenum Will Not Go Gently Into That Good Night: Make no mistake: Teddy Bridgewater is a better quarterback than Case Keenum. But, right now, Keenum is providing exactly what the Vikings need and then some. He threw two bad interceptions that almost let Washington back into it on Sunday, but the good outweighed the bad on Sunday. It’s going to take a disastrous outing—maybe two—to take Keenum out of the lineup. I think this QB controversy is tabled until the offseason.

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