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
Jared Goff Throwing All Day: Granted, the Saints were shorthanded in the secondary, but even protecting a two-possession lead late Sean McVay had his quarterback throwing it all over the field. There’s a lot of trust and good vibes around that team.
You Can Stop Wondering Whether You Should Bench Julio Jones in Fantasy: He’s still not doing anything in the red zone, but two first-half TDs came from downtown. He came into Sunday with one touchdown on the year. Now he has three. Fantasy sports!
Everything Alvin Kamara Does: I’ll try to cut a highlight reel ASAP, but it’s going to be five minutes long from this game alone.
Greg Olsen: Welcome back, buddy. To the field, not the broadcast booth. (Update: And then he re-aggravated the foot injury. Dang.)
Bills Defense Is Redeemed: They had allowed 60(!) first downs the previous two games. At Arrowhead, they didn’t allow a first down until 26 minutes, 30 seconds into the game (and ultimately gave up only 14 first downs, 236 yards and 10 points). There will be a lot of discussion of the Chiefs’ shortcomings on Sunday, but lots of credit to a Buffalo defense that had been steam-rolled in consecutive games, then stepped up in a must-win for the team’s (still-not-very-realistic) playoff hopes.
The Bengals Run Game Advances the Ball Forward: This offensive line (and the line has been 99.9% of their problems) had generated 68.0 yards per game and 2.98 yards per carry coming into this one, and the Bengals crossed 100 rushing yards in a game and 4.0 yards per attempt over the course of a game one time each in 2017. On Sunday, Cincinnati went for 152 yards on 30 carries (a 5.07 average!) and I can’t decide if I’m happy for the Bengals or especially sad for the Browns.
Carson Wentz’s Little, Tiny, Baby-Sized Pump Fake: Then the gentle touch on the throw to Alshon Jeffery. What an adorable touchdown.
Bobby Wagner Teaches Trent Taylor a Valuable Lesson: About how linebackers in the NFL are different than those in Conference USA. The rookie slot man made the short catch, and Wagner flat-out took it from him and also probably told him “don’t do drugs” because Bobby Wagner does it all.
The Colts Keep Playing: Chuck Pagano might not be long for that job, but the fact that this roster is even hanging around in games is a testament to how hard his guys will play for him.
Blaine Gabbert Gets REVENGE!: On the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fake Punts Forever!: After an uncharacteristic opening-drive three-and-out (or so we thought) from Tom Brady, Nate Ebner is the hero, converting the fourth-and-8 from his own 26 (and evidently sacrificing his body to do it; he limped straight to the medical tent after the play). Four plays later, Rex Burkhead punched one into the end zone. No wonder Bill Belichick is romantically involved with special teams.
Delanie Walker in Quadruple Coverage: Ha! It just looks neat.
Kaelin Clay’s Returns as The Closer: This one was still dicey for the Panthers until Clay took a fourth-quarter punt up the gut 60 yards to give Carolina at two-score lead over the Jets. He’s moving up the Power Rankings of people who pronounce their name “Kay-lin” (but has no chance at the top spot).
Todd Gurley: The numbers weren’t gaudy, but he was once against creating yards that weren’t always there.
The Titans Survive and Advance: Considering the schedule, they should cruise into the playoffs. There's time to straighten things out. The offensive line has to show up for the first and second halves of the same game, and Marcus Mariota needs to be better. If they can get it together down the stretch, the Titans could easily end up being the team that loses the AFC title game in Foxboro.
Garoppolo Beats the Buzzer: The TD pass to Louis Murphy as time expires as to make the deficit 11 for the Niners. O.K., completely meaningless, but seems kind of symbolic in some way maybe. Right?
Did the Jaguars Forget Who Their Quarterback Is?: With 37 seconds left, facing a second-and-8 with the ball at their own 12, I can’t believe the Jaguars let Blake Bortles attempt a pass rather than just playing for overtime (the Cardinals had one timeout left). The ball fell incomplete on a Marqise Lee drop (which I guess was the most likely outcome) and created one more chance for the Cardinals.
Chiefs Offense Versus Any Zone Defense: There are blueprints and then there are blueprints. It has reached a point where you and 10 of your friends (you have 10 friends, oh my God you’re so popular!) could go out there, sit back in a Cover-4 shell to mitigate all the misdirection and hold the Chiefs under 20 points. The Bills basically scored 16 points on Sunday and decided “meh, that’ll be enough.”
The Broncos’ Attempt to Develop Paxton Lynch: You know what he needs? Another new offensive coordinator. And maybe shatter his kneecaps while you’re at it.
Cam Newton Leaves Broad Side of Barn Unscathed: He was all over the place as a passer at the Meadowlands, and days like this are why the Panthers have gone back to relying on his legs to generate offense. A survival win for the Panthers.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ Drop to End All Drops: Yes, a bit of an overstatement; there have been worse drops. But with the playoffs within reach, and playing as an underdog at home, you can’t have four-point drops.
The Chiefs Run a Different Kind of Double Screen: On a third-and-6 in the first quarter, Tyreek Hill and Albert Wilson fought over who’s gonna catch the screen pass. I’d never seen that before.
Gabbert, Bortles and the Season of Giving: Not-very-good quarterbacks trade not-very-good interceptions late in the fourth quarter of a tie game in the desert.
Patriots’ Double Delay of Game: Not the best day for Ron Torbert’s crew in Foxboro (they were literally the only seven people in the stadium who didn’t see the Suh facemask on Dion Lewis), but the lowlight was the less-than-ideal game administration on a mid-third quarter punt. The game clock was stopped after an incompletion, and the Patriots seemed set on taking a delay of game to make more room for punter Ryan Allen on a fourth-and-9 from the 34. The play clock expired and then just immediately cycled back to 40, so everyone stood there for 80 seconds doing nothing in particular. It was like watching Madden Xbox glitch cosplay.
Alex Smith vs. Tyrod Taylor: I hate memes because the few good ones are always painfully overused, but this is the most appropriate use of a meme in the history of memes.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Michael Crabtree, Aqib Talib, Breaking Chains and Punching Things: It’s predictable that something was going to happen, but still stunning that Talib took Crabtree’s chain for a second straight year.
Gabe Jackson Vs. Official Was a Weak Undercard: No wonder no one watched it. (But the road-grading guard still got tossed for contacting an official.)
Sanu-to-Julio (or “Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse”): I’ve written for weeks that the Falcons were a team that was a couple of small breaks away from breaking out. Now they’re getting those breaks. Mohamed Sanu mishandles the ball, but finishes his Matt Ryan impression anyway.
Cardinals Finally Get a Kick: It seems like every loss over the last year-and-a-half for Bruce Arians has come because of a special teams blooper. So seeing Phil Dawson (signed to provide some stability but having a career-worst season) drill a
Robby Anderson’s Magic Hands: Credit Josh McCown for even making this throw (you paying attention, Alex Smith?). Sure, it’s reckless, but you’re the 2017 New York Jets, it’s Thanksgiving week and the playoffs are still within reach. Play like you’ve got nothing to lose. And then the catch by Anderson, my goodness. Impressive work getting the feet down, but the hand strength is off the charts. (Video H/T Pro Sports Extra)
Josh McCown: Traffic Cop: Is a film I’d pay multiple dollars to see.
But After All That Nice Robby Anderson/Josh McCown Stuff: The Jets lose the lead when McCown forgets he’s holding a football leading to a scoop-and-score for Luke Kuechly, then allow a punt return TD, and then rough Cam Newton on a third-down incompletion to seal the loss.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Alex Smith Has to Take a Chance: Don’t get me wrong; I spend my days sitting on my ass, typing bad jokes and taking multiple naps, so take this criticism with a grain of salt. But this play encapsulates everything the Chiefs miss out on with Alex Smith under center, and everything that went wrong in what can only be described as a humiliating home loss to a Bills team that had little interest in scoring points of their own on Sunday. It’s a third-and-6 late in the first half. Travis Kelce is running an over route from the right side of the formation. Albert Wilson is split wide left. Look at how Micah Hyde, the safety lined up on Wilson’s side of the field, plays this.
An opposing safety (with a four-man rush—this wasn’t a matter of knowing the ball had to come out quick) was so sure that Smith was going to throw short, to the sticks, that he didn’t even have to concern himself with Kelce, one of the two best tight ends in football, running behind him. The pass was broken up by Hyde, but that’s beside the point. This is a free touchdown. With the Chiefs defense far from a dominant unit, especially without Eric Berry, Smith can’t play this way. Everyone they've faced during the slump has just sat back in zone coverage and dared Smith to make a play, and it has been a winning formula.
Everyone’s About to Go Nuts About Marcus Mariota When They Shouldn’t: Those box scores! The fact is, Mariota was shaky in Indianapolis, but everything about the Titans offense is out of sorts. Mariota isn’t at a point in his career when he can carry a team, he needs a ground game to help him out. The win in Indianapolis was a good example of how bad Mariota can look when the run game is MIA (11 carries, 9 yards in the first half), and how effective he can be when the ground game is going (17 carries, 83 yards in the second half). As for Mariota’s two interceptions, one came when rookie receiver Taywan Taylor tripped over his own feet, and the other was an exceptional catch by Colts CB Rashaan Melvin. There's no need to worry about Mariota as long as you keep your short-term expectations realistic.
Whoever Gets Michael Crabtree for Secret Santa: Please get him a nice jewelry box that he can keep his chain in.
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