Having already done a couple of big topics in video format, with the Bengals early-season struggles on offense and the Giants now 5-1 start, powered by Saquon Barkley, along with power rankings at the quarter-pole of the season, I thought this was the right time to kind of let readers into my world of tape study and really dive into the six biggest games from this past weekend. All teams involved in these matchups are now .500 or better, including some risers and what were labelled as championship contenders heading into the season, now at somewhat of a crossroads a month-and-a-half into the year.
Below, you can find my offense versus defense breakdowns when either team possessed the ball, along with some concluding general thoughts, from the following matchups: 49ers-Falcons, Vikings-Dolphins, Jets-Packers, Ravens-Giants, Bills-Chiefs and Cowboys-Eagles.
(Records listed are as of post-week six)
San Francisco 49ers (3-3) @ Atlanta Falcons (3-3):
49ers O vs. Falcons D:
Let me just start this way – the Falcons deservedly won this game and I think they would have done so either way, but things could have looked very different from the start. On the initial third down of the day for San Francisco’s offense, Jimmy G was gun-shy when he could’ve hit George Kittle for a 66-yard touchdown most likely, as they showed a simple spacing concept out of a bunch set and I’m not totally sure if Kittle just decided to take it vertical because of something they had discussed in team meetings or if this was by design and he just got up with the safety having outside leverage, but he ended up just throwing that guy off himself and the deep middle safety is working his way up. So if Jimmy just steps up with plenty of green grass right in front of him and puts it out in front, the score is 7-7. I had to smirk when I first saw him consciously try to push the ball vertically outside the numbers when Garoppolo was first inserted for the injured Trey Lance, but he simply puts a lid on this passing attack and makes everything feel more condensed, relying so heavily on those play-makers to create yards after the catch.
And don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad formula, looking at the guys they have there, but it makes things so much easier for a defense, when they are allowed to constantly play with their eyes in the backfield and working up rather than gaining depth. You look at how aggressively Atlanta was shooting through gaps and flowing to the football, you start to understand how they held the Niners to a season-low 50 yards on the ground on 16 attempts. Yet, that’s when they need to be able to rely upon Jimmy to take advantage of the space that provides his receivers to work with. Brandon Aiyuk finally had his breakout game, hauling in eight passes for 83 and their two touchdowns. Kyle Shanahan needs to continue to utilize him as heavily, considering what he can do on designed touches, but also leaving an All-Pro corner in A.J. Terrell behind in the dust on whip routes.
Like I just said, the Falcons D played with a ton of energy and clearly were instructed by DC Dean Pees to attack downhill as soon as they saw the O-line step forward, as well as meet pullers as early as possible and not even allow those extra gaps to develop in the first place. When not getting called for phantom roughing the passer penalties, Grady Jarrett has been an absolute monster for this Falcons defense, making a couple of disruptive plays every week. Something that I hated early on in his career, when I felt like that Dan Quinn coaching staff misplaced him, due to not having anybody else to play that spot, was lining him up a lot as the 1-technique, but it made a lot of sense in this matchup. From there, he was able to create penetration right up the A-gap and then did a great job either riding first-year center Jake Brendel down the line on the backside or working over the top late, as the ball-carrier approached, to hold him up.
Atlanta played a ton of single-high coverages, daring the 49ers to attack them on the perimeter, while blowing up several screen passes on the day. You like the growth these young guys are continuing to show, like Arnold Ebiketie flashing off the edge a couple of times, Troy Andersen’s speed on that second level, how those two safeties operate together. It’s a continuous process, but this was certainly encouraging going up against a very creative offensive scheme, looking at the coaching clues and ability to execute by the individual players.
Falcons O vs. 49ers D:
Here’s a stat I just loved from the Falcons offense on Sunday – they used each 11, 12, 13, 21 and 22 personnel on over 10 percent of snaps. They do so much window-dressing and they’re able to be very diverse regardless of personnel on the field, where they can dictate the defensive package they’ll be facing or adjust depending on how opponents try to match them, because they can use guys like Kyle Pitts – who finally scored his first touchdown as an NFL player in the US – out wide as a legit X receiver or put him in-line and force a sub-200 pound nickelback to fill the C-gap. Atlanta stays true to their identity, no matter who they have toting the rock. They had two rookies – fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier and undrafted free agent Caleb Huntley – carried the ball 15 and 16 times respectively. All those guys they have back there, especially once they get back Cordarelle Patterson, run so hard and gain yards through contact. They’re now number three behind only the Browns and Bears with 165.2 rushing yards per game and they’ve only failed to reach 150 once (Rams – 90).
That O-line has really impressed me with their ability to create movement laterally on wide zone schemes and their burst to secure linebackers off combos. Somebody like right tackle Kaleb McGary has gone from fringe starter to somebody they can utilize as a key piece, like they did a couple of times kicking out the corner on crack toss plays. They were able to create some favorable looks off play-action and when they did actually drop back, Arthur Smith did a great job of clearing out the picture with motions and horizontal stretches, along with giving Mariota a back-side alert, where he can hit Drake London on back-shoulder fades, which are borderline indefensible. They also got a couple of easy conversions with Olamide Zaccheus out in the flats, with Kyle Pitts picking for him. Plus, then off course his legs can be a big factor, as he kept three times and was able to get around the corner – once for the touchdown to go up 21-14 just before halftime – and had a huge scramble right up the middle to convert a third-and-12.
There’s really not that much to say about the 49ers defense. A couple of times early in the game, they were able to crush the pocket and take down Mariota, but they’re just banged up and were tired, with their opponents running the ball 40 times on the day. I’m not overly concerned about anything I saw, in terms of getting blown off the ball or guys behind the line moving themselves out of position. They did hold the Falcons to 4.2 yards per carry and below 3.5 if you take out Mariota, and it’s not like they’ll need to match full house sets with two full-backs really in any other games this season, where we saw the Niners needing to bring out what usually are substitute players at linebacker and safety to match those. So really, Atlanta made them put guys on the field they didn’t want, because if they didn’t, that would leave sub-200 pound guys having to set the edge and things like that.
Charvarius Ward getting banged up in the first half, along with just having lost Emmanuel Moseley for the rest of the year, forced them to put a lot of young guys on the field, when they really needed to use their other resources to stop the run and put those guys in tough matchups. And not having Jimmie Ward right now if somebody that they felt as well, just considering how comfortable DC DeMeco Ryans has been with letting that other safety attack forward and how tremendous Talanoa Hufanga has been playing with that mind-set to trigger as soon as his eyes tell him to. One of San Francisco’s two sacks was for zero yards and then on just two of the other 54 plays they were able to create negative yardage. Going against an offense, that is constantly ahead or at least on schedule is very hard for a defense, that wants to run a bunch of games up front and really attack upfield. Not having their best guy at setting the edge and simultaneously at turning the corner in passing situations with Nick Bosa wasn’t helpful in that regard either.
Like I mentioned, the Niners are certainly a very banged-up team, but put some respect on Arthur Smith being able to put 21 points on them in the first half and then close out the game in the second, with one more touchdown and a relentless run game. Marcus Mariota had an ultra-efficient day, completing 13 of 14 pass attempts for 129 yards and two TDs, along with another 50 yards and a score on six carries. He didn’t throw the ball more than 20 times in any of Atlanta’s three wins. At a time where the NFL goes to all these three-wide receiver sets and two-high shells defensively, they are going the exact opposite way and punishing teams for giving them favorable looks to run against. The defense is pressuring the passer on a league-low 12.2% of dropbacks and only the Titans have recorded fewer tackles for loss (19), but Dean Pees has a great feel for when and how to change up the picture, while having everybody pursue the ball with relentless effort. I just can’t get over how good that coaching staff has been at understanding their personnel, having a couple of new wrinkles every week for their opponents and how sound they have their guys playing.
Flipping things around, being able to overcome injuries and also getting some of those guys back eventually on 49ers side will be key. We’ll have to see when Football Outsiders will release their in-season rankings of adjusted games lost to injury, but FOX’s Sports Doc Matt currently has them dead-last in B.U.S. (banged-up score). I believe when they get back Trent Williams at left tackle and Elijah Mitchell as their RB1, that run game will kick into gear only more, but in matchups like this past Sunday, Jimmy G has to be able to make those big throws down the field, which he really had one of, hitting Brandon Aiyuk with a lot of separation on a corner route to the field. Two positives for their offense – the protection was pretty darn clean throughout the day, allowing Jimmy G to literally hang back there at the top of his drop on several occasions, and George Kittle is back to looking like a monster-truck rumbling through defenders in his path again. The defense will need those young corners to step up with Moseley out for the year, but I’m not concerned with some key contributors slated to return soon.
Minnesota Vikings (5-1) @ Miami Dolphins (3-3):
Vikings O vs. Dolphins D:
One of the biggest mysteries in the NFL right now – what is this Vikings offense? Week one they come out and look like the Rams, where head coach Kevin O’Connell was calling plays last year, using 11 personnel on two thirds of snaps to this past Sunday being in 12 or 21 personnel on nearly 60 percent of their plays. And don’t get mem wrong, I’m not against either and actually really like what they can present from those heavier sets, where they use seven-man protections and can attack with those deep digs and double-post concepts off play-action. I just talked about how I like what the Falcons are doing in terms of mixing up groupings and making it tough for the defense to figure out how to counter them, but unlike those guys, I don’t really feel like Minnesota has an actual identity. They only picked eleven first downs on the day, with just two of those coming on the ground, and they went two-of-twelve on third downs. Outside of the 53-yard breakaway touchdown run by Dalvin Cook, that pretty much put the game on ice, he went 12 for 24 the rest of the day. You combine that with Kirk Cousins being unwilling to hang in and pull the trigger when they have some of these deeper play-actions drawn, along with frequently throwing the ball short of the sticks to his outlets/checkdowns on third downs.
What I did like on Sunday – Justin Jefferson can beat anybody in the league one-on-one, but if you give him some schematic advantages against match-zone and shells, you only make your entire offense more effective. Week one versus the Packers they had DBs rolling their eyes and pointing fingers, but they kind of got away from it after that. In Miami, they gave him a couple of lay-ups basically. In the first half, they used something they saw on tape against the Phins defense against them, as they moved into a loose bunch set and faced one-man, with Xavien Howard having outside leverage on #18, who made it look as if he was running a shallow cross, forcing the corner to work over the top of the middle receiver, before Jefferson whipped it back outside and nobody was within 15 yards of him. Later at the turn of the third to the fourth quarter, they ran a pick-play with number two Adam Thielen and Jefferson as the three out of a trips set, working a cross-release, where Jefferson had a ton of space to the sideline for a wheel route. Both of them directly set up touchdowns.
Like I mentioned at the top, the Dolphins held Minnesota’s ground game in check other than the long Cook TD, where even on that one they had a couple of would-be tacklers slip off the running back. Minnesota allowing them to stay in base personnel thanks to the multi-TE and RB sets certainly helped here, with the beef they can put out there with the interior three. In obvious passing situations, they stuck with their formula of overloading the front and creating free rushers, which I looked at as a good plan entering the day, thinking back to how much trouble the Eagles were able to give Cousins back in that week two Monday Night game, where we frequently saw the quarterback throw the ball into no-man’s land. And Miami was able to get home three times, along with pressuring Kirk on 24.2% of dropbacks, but the visitors had some answers, in terms of what I just described with taking advantage of their teaching points in man-coverage being used against them and working in those seven- and semi-eight man protections to block up the rush off play-action.
Christian Wilkins really dominated the interior of Minnesota’s O-line, winning his gap in a penetrating role, mirroring the blocking scheme of that triangle inside, to lead him to the ball on any type of pulling set-up, and crashing into bodies to create push up the middle of the pocket. Particularly rookie right guard Ed Ingram had some really rough moments in protection, not being strong with that inside hand and along guys to run through one half of him, to get quick pressure on Cousins. For the less-experienced quarterbacks without a clear plan of how to deal with those pressure looks, they’ll be able to create havoc, but they’re at danger of offenses having solutions to them, as they understand where those land-marks will be by the guys Miami bail out at the snap and have guys sitting down between them, with the droppers not seeing the targets around them. That’s certainly a factor in them going from top-ten to 25th currently in defensive DVOA.
Dolphins O vs. Vikings D:
For people saying that stats don’t lie, you need to look at the drive logs in this case. Miami nearly doubled the Vikings in total offensive yardage (458 vs. 234), but that includes 224 of those coming in semi-garbage team, being down by multiple scores for 13 of 15 minutes in the fourth quarter. In the first half, they had four possessions of at least seven plays, but only came away with three total points across those. Pass-protection was and will remain a major concern for them. Every starter but Connor Williams surrendered multiple pressures, including Greg Little – who was stepping in for the injured Terron Armstead at left tackle – being responsible for ten(!) pressures and earning a 0.0 PFF grade. Although, in fairness to him, one of the three sacks he was charged with by Za’Darius Smith wasn’t really on him, as they asked the tight-end to come underneath the formation off play-action and he tried to take a flat angle down the line, running straight into the left tackle almost. Plus, Teddy Bridgewater spun his way into the arms of Smith later on once more and tried the same, where he was ultimately called for intentional grounding.
Something I liked from Mike McDaniel’s run game was them starting in an ace set, with a tight-end and fullback Alec Ingold offset on either end of the line, motioning the later one across at the snap, to get that extra body to lead the way on toss plays, since all the Vikings did to counter was have the safety walk down a little bit, giving them that plus one on the front-side. And they utilized fly sweep fakes to freeze those second-level defenders a little bit. However, thought Raheem Mostert stopped his feet way too often and allowed the defense to flow and corral him, rather than just planting the outside foot and getting vertical, where that lengthy injury history might have brough on some hesitancy. This was the Mike Gesicki flashback game. Coming into Sunday, he had caught just nine of 12 targets for 101 yards, before hauling in six of seven for 69 and two touchdowns. He had a nice stick-nod route on their first offensive drive, then once Teddy Bridgewater was inserted, he hit him on a glance route from a reduced split between the linebackers, just by the finger-tips of Eric Kendricks, plus those two TDs. As they go to more spread looks, to give their play-makers space and a clear picture for the quarterback, rather than using more condensed formation, Mike McDaniel is used to from San Francisco, Gesicki should become a bigger part of the passing attack.
I still have some questions about this Vikings defense, most notably looking at how predictive their coverage checks are depending on formation, down and distance. It felt like Miami’s quarterbacks had way too many completions set up pre-snap by the play-call, because they knew where those passing windows would develop. And I already mentioned that they wouldn’t really adjust when the Dolphins created that plus one in their run-game design. However, this unit does have a knack for taking the ball away, as one of four teams with at least one takeaway in all six of their games. Something I saw in terms of their game-planning for this matchup – and it’s something they do generally and I see more defenses teach their edge defenders – was when Miami ran play-action from the shotgun and left the backside D-end unblocked, that guy was assigned to just aim for the quarterback and they landed multiple hits on Teddy Bridgewater that way, not being able to get the ball off cleanly.
Generally, when the Dolphins were in five-man protection – which was quite frequently on Sunday – away from that side they slid three guys towards, meaning the man or B.O.B. (big-on-big) side, the two guys the had over there consistently were able to get home. And their pass-rush has been much more potent this season, with Za’Darius Smith being a real weapon, winning his matchups and also a couple of times as the set-up man on T-E twists, when they lined him up at three-technique to take the guard upfield with him and allow the end to crash up the A-gap. Patrick Peterson probably had his best game as a Viking, making three big plays on the ball, driving down on a stick route from Jaylen Waddle and then raking the ball out of his hands on the very next play, when he was working across the field, along with the interception late, where he fell of his deep responsibility, recognizing a flood concept his way and stepping in front of the pass to the intermediate level with the sail route. And he wasn’t the only veteran DB on Minnesota’s side with kind of a flashback performance, as Harrison Smith broke up a couple of passes and directly set up 10 points, with that jungle interception just before halftime and then swiping at the ball late in the fourth quarter, with Jaylen walking trying to cross him on an explosive play.
I kind of laid out what I like and what has me concerned about the Vikings, being a 5-1 football team with a two-game lead in the NFC North now, with enough talent on the roster to trade blows with anybody in that conference outside of Philadelphia probably, but I’d like to see them actually lean more into a certain style of play on offense, while I want the defense to open up the play-book more on the back-end. Let’s give Za’Darius Smith some more credit here, as he has now recorded at least half a sack in all but one of their six games this year and been instrumental in changing around what that pass-rush looks like. Two plays I want to quickly address – that Harrison Smith interception was one of craziest interceptions I’ve ever seen, as it was literally simultaneous possession between Eric Kendricks and Smith and I would have liked to log it as they do with sacks and give both 0.5 interceptions. And something that most people probably didn’t see was Miami’s fake punt, when they were trying to kick-start the offense down 10-3 following a three-and-out to start the second half. I actually don’t mind the play-call at all, because it’s fourth-and-one and I believe if the upback Clayton Fejedelem cuts it back inside of trying to bounce, he picks it up. Instead, we need to credit rookie LB Brian Asamoah for occupying two blockers, allowing Josh Metellus behind him to scrape out to the sideline and knock the ball-carrier out just before the sticks.
Other than a couple of deep comebacks on the outside to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle breaking deep over the middle of the field once, basically all the passes they caught on Sunday for Miami were short of the marker and largely actually behind the line of scrimmage, with a myriad of screen passes. That just feels like kind of disservice to those guys, as good as they may be at accumulating yards after the catch, because you could really make yourself hard to defend if you can stretch defenses horizontally and vertically. Play-makers and creative play-designs can certainly create some big plays for an offense, but if they don’t consistently get Tua to deliver in those high-leverage moments – which he has done mostly to his credit – this could end up being San Francisco without the O-line, outside of Terron Armstead. On the other side, DC Josh Boyer may need to adjust his approach to some degree and be able to flip the switch in-game, similar to what we saw with the million variations of getting to cover-two against Buffalo back in week three. I don’t necessarily see any personnel issues, if they just continue to add little wrinkles to their weekly gameplans. One issue for the team as a whole – they accumulated ten penalties for just under 100 yards, which combined with the zero-to-three turnover disadvantage is not a recipe for success.
New York Jets (4-2) @ Green Bay Packers (3-3):
Jets O vs. Packers D:
I really like what offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is doing right now, particularly in the run game. On Sunday, you see them set up plays with the way they threatened the edges a series of toss plays, either cracking down with receivers in reduced splits or using guys on the move of motion as lead-blockers. Plus, that 20-yard touchdown by Braxton Berrios, where they pulled the guard and tight-end one way, with the latter pivoting back around and landing the key block on the corner. And then off that, they had a couple of really cool designs, where they ultimately handed it to Breece, not only the long touchdown in the fourth quarter, where they faked a reverse on a GT power play, but also earlier in the first half, where they lined him up as the offset receiver in a bunch set, and used the tight-end inside of him on a lead sweep play, after faking the toss to their original side with Michael Carter Jr.
I also loved a screen play they ran in the fourth quarter, where they motioned the Z receiver in a two-by-two set across and showed what looked like the trips side on a four verts concept and then got the ball to the tight-end on the opposite side after acting like he’s in protection, to where he had three linemen out in front, with a ton of space. The crazy part about what the Jets have been able to do is that second-year quarterback Zach Wilson – who I predicted to have a breakout season – isn’t playing well at all right now. Whether it’s being a tick late on route plays or the ball-placement being off, which was on display on a couple of intermediate routes to the sideline, which could have led to conversions if those passes are on the screws. And he made a horrible decision, which almost cost them an easy field-goal, as he threw it up into the end-zone whilst falling out of bounds on third down, and the ball was nearly picked off.
It’s kind of been the same old story for the Packers – they can’t stop the better run games in the league consistently. After finishing 30th in yards allowed per carry last season, they’re right on pace yet again at 4.7 yards per. We can go into Joe Barry’s lack of willingness to drop one of his safeties down into the cadence of the quarterback, maybe blitz the run more on early downs and other factors, but really what it comes down to is that their individual players in the box have to play better. That’s highly disappointing, considering their nose-tackle and two linebackers earn in the double-digit millions per year, plus they just drafted two guys from Georgia’s historically great defense in the first round. Quay Walker in particular has been a complete liability against the run, with a PFF run-defense grade of 29.9 – and Rashan Gary is actually the only player in the front-seven with a grade of 70+. As a unit, the defense is the worst in the league in terms of EPA allowed per rush in two-high looks, which their DC seems to have no concern living in, because that’s what he believes in schematically.
We did finally see him allow Jaire Alexander to play more press-man coverage, even though he was going up against the Z on the field side more regularly, and he locked up guys like Corey Davis and Garrett all day long. They didn’t nearly do a good enough job of beating blockers to the spot, to funnel the ball back towards their team-mates or replacing those guys when necessary, frequently allowed the Jets to get to the perimeter. And then off that, even when New York used soft play-action fakes from the gun, there were some wide open passing lanes over the middle, as Walker had followed pulling linemen and the safeties were kind of frozen at their spots.
Packers O vs. Jets D:
Green Bay tried so hard to get out to the edges with wide zone and toss plays against a team with great speed on the second level and more than willing tacklers on the perimeter. They had their most success in that regard handing the ball to A.J. Dillon from the shotgun on power or trap plays, when the defense was in that wide-nine front and playing the pass. And their backs should have hit those cutbacks more regularly, looking at how hard the backside linebacker chased on lateral run schemes. Aaron Jones once did and ripped off a big chunk, but Elgton Jenkins was called for pretty much a panic hold. When they did drop back, it was a ton of quick game and West Coast concepts, which nobody was able to really create any clear windows with early separation against man and then against zone, they basically got no yardage after the catch.
Due to that, the Packers got to third down 19(!) times in this game, with eight of those for seven or more yards. Other than three first downs gifted to them by penalties, they went 4-of-16. I’ll get to what the Jets did up front in a second here, but when Rodgers actually needed to read the field and work through progressions, he never really felt comfortable behind his O-line, to allow things to develop down the field, where he doesn’t trust those young guys and would rather hold onto the ball an extra beat, to see them work their way open. At this point, it’s also hilarious how you can count on Rodgers taking a deep shot, whenever the other team put together a longer (scoring) drive. And those balls aren’t bad, but he doesn’t really have a guy who will make those plays for him on the back-end regularly.
For the Jets, Sauce Gardner has transformed what they are on the back-end, with the physicality he brings and the confidence the coaching staff and he himself have in the number four overall pick. They can leave him one-on-one with the X receiver consistently and have been playing man-coverage on third down as much as any other unit in the league, allowing with the team speed they have to shut everything down to the edges or thrown in front of him. You combine that with all the games they run on the D-line, with as many variatons of picks, stunts, twist, etc. as you can imagine, to where they realized like a quarter into Sunday to stop blitzing. They pressured Rodgers on a season-low percentage of dropbacks, but they sacked him four times, routinely made the walls around him close in and the Packers O-line was called for holding twice.
Multiple times you’d see Rodgers try to step into creases like you’d see on a pocket presence drill, but exactly there a delayed looper would show up. Quinnen Williams was a monster, looking like the number one overall prospect I had him as in the 2019 draft, crashing across the face of offensive linemen and dominating every solo-block he went up against basically. One more player I want to shout out – I just love watching Jordan Whitehead charge up the alley in the run game and what he provides buzzing down, to blow up blockers, which has allowed Gang Green to be one of four defenses to surrender less than four yards per carry, despite losing their best run-defender from a year ago in nose-tackle Folorunso Fatukasi. Having that quasi plus-one in the box, even though the offense largely can’t account for it, has been key in that regard.
The development of this Jets defense is the biggest talking point here, closely followed by how capped this Packers offense feels like right now. This is the type of unit I envisioned when Robert Saleh came to New York, as they finally have all the pieces in place, whether it’s the young guys finding their ways or veterans being healthy. And then I like what Mike LaFleur has built in the run game. If they can Zach Wilson to get the ball out a touch quicker and a couple inches further towards where his receivers are heading, they can play the kind of complete football to beat pretty much anybody. However, let’s not gloss over the fact that Wilson had 110 yards passing and the offense went 1-of-11 on third downs for the day. They won’t have a punt blocked for a touchdown every week. So far they’ve only played the Dolphins once at home from their division – who they beat up pretty good. They’ll have plenty of chances to prove themselves still.
For Green Bay, for how much they want to play two-high coverages, they simply don’t have the guys in the front-seven, to keep opponents behind the chains and eliminate explosives on the ground. They have the corners to take risks with being vulnerable outside and use those other resources to spill and fill. While offensively, I don’t see much of a solution with the personnel they have there right now. Rodgers has that ability to identify spatial advantages and get the ball out in a hurry, but if those receivers don’t create that quick separation like Davante Adams was able to or make something happen with it, if they do catch the ball, you will get to third-and-long – and then I don’t fully trust the receivers or O-line respectively to make the right route adjustments on the fly or hold up long enough in pass-pro, if Rodgers has to pull the ball down. I’d really like to see them move Elgton Jenkins back to right guard, where he’s been an All Pro selection, and then try Yosh Nijman or one of their rookies at tackle next to him, where they can chip and slide that way, to help, now that David Bakhtiari is back on the blindside. And as it sounds like their QB is desperate for, they need to make some kind of move at receiver.
Baltimore Ravens (3-3) @ New York Giants (5-1):
Ravens O vs. Giants D:
This is probably the game I have the least to write about, because I really felt like the Ravens were in control for most of the day, yet they gave away another multi-score lead and the Giants just kept hanging around and making the plays needed to be victorious at the end.
Looking at the Ravens rushing success in this game, it really was all Lamar Jackson keeping the ball around the corner or pulling and going downhill on invert veer concepts. As far as their bnacks are converted, power schemes were by far the most effective for them, either pulling the backside guard and tackle or having the fullback kick-out the end-man at the line of scrimmage and making the guard lead up into the hole. Kenyan Drake had 76 yards and a touchdowns on six of those alone. J.K. Dobbins unfortunately didn’t look like himself from a couple of years ago, trying to bubble around traffic and trying to delay things near the point of attack. He finished the day with seven carries for just 15 yards (and no catches).
Baltimore lived in 21 personnel for the majority of this contest, with fullback Patrick Ricard playing an absurd 76% of offensive snaps – a fullback, in the 21st century. And the cool thing about them is that you see them line up in an offset I-formation from the pistol and run dive option one play and they motion into empty with Ricard at tight-end as a chip-and-release guy, giving Lamar a clear picture as they spread out the defense, while they have to match with base personnel and can afford Lamar solid protection. And something I liked as well in that regard was the way they’d use their backs to clear out space to work over the middle of the field for Mark Andrews, at times off motions or creating four-strong looks.
Wink Martindale had a few really fun wrinkles incorporated into the game-plan, like on the final play of Baltimore’s opening drive, when they wanted to run their patented counter bash concept with Lamar and the Giants had basically had three guys just standing behind the other over the c, enter before going different ways at the snap and blowing up the play, because the O-line wasn’t sure who they were responsible for, making Lamar try to reverse field and ultimately get taken down for a big TFL, which pushed them out of field goal range. In the pass game, the G-Men ran some intricate games up front, including some layered three-man stunts, where they made it almost impossible for the Ravens O-line to pick it up, with a late looper coming free.
Looking at the box score, Mark Andrews was the only consistent target in the pass game for Baltimore, catching seven passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. No other Ravens player had more than three catches or 30 yards. However, that 12-yard score – which was a perfect ball by Lamar on a slot fade route – was the only ball they allowed the tight-end to grab over the final 26 minutes, as Wink started to play primarily one-robber, where they’d have a guy carrying Andrews vertically with outside leverage and dropped the safety to that side down, to take away that inside access towards the middle. Fifth overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux did a great job on a couple of plays, forcing Lamar to hand the ball off and then corralling the back. Julian Love had some excellent reps in coverage, one-on-one against Mark Andrews and covering ground as a deep zone defender, to disrupt the catch point, allowing that game-turning pick off Lamar, that set up the G-Men to take their first lead of the game with just two minutes.
Giants O vs. Ravens D:
Similar to what I said about the Falcons near the top of the article – the Giants coaches understand the personnel they have to work with. They simply don’t have any complete receivers that they can rely upon, to consistently create separation in his matchups, in order to work those. But they have a special talent in Saquon Barkley, who they understood the Ravens would always have most eyes on and opened up opportunities for his teammates to make plays. He did touch the ball 25 times on the day, to keep their opponents honest, but he was really more so a decoy. Rookie receiver Wan’Dale Robinson gave Big Blue a nice spark and found the end-zone for the first time as a pro, on a little pick play to the flats, but we saw them use a ton of 12 and some 21 “pony” personnel on the day (their wildcat package with two tailbacks), because Brian Daboll probably feels like they can be the most diverse out of those.
You see some play-designs that nobody else in the league has run this season. I put a clip here of this play they ran on their first touchdown drive midway through the second quarter, where they were in 31 personnel with three actual tailbacks, fake the dive with the deep back and put Daniel Jones on the move of this front-side bootleg, where he has Saquon out in the flats and Matt Breida wheeling up the sideline. He hit the latter, as the safety to that side tried to take away Barkley underneath, for 15 yards. And as much as people want to crap on Daniel Jones – which has been fair at points – he delivered some crucial plays on third downs, going 7-of-11 on the day, with conversions of 14, 12 and a touchdown. They hit some deep crossers to extend drives and some of other cool designs in the pass game, throughout the day, where they used the eyes of Ravens defenders being on Barkley against them.
Baltimore’s defense for the majority of the day was able to hold Saquon Barkley in check. He had just 95 yards on those 25 touches, with none of them going for more than eight yards. That was thanks to having the guys on the interior to hold up against double-teams on more vertical run schemes and great pursuit whenever he was threatening out to the edges. However, while they did get some good hits on Daniel Jones in the pocket, he deserves credit for standing tall to deliver the ball, while those DBs on the back-end couldn’t plaster the receivers quite well enough to avoid that little bit of late separation. And right now, other than Justin Madubuike knifing through a couple of times per game, they don’t have anybody who can consistently win his pass-rush reps one-on-one.
Patrick Queen got close to Jones on a couple of wrap-around blitzes, where they could have gotten the Giants off the field on third downs, but both Barkley and Breida had tremendous pass-pro reps, allowing their quarterback to step into the throw and deliver big conversions. Baltimore is tied for the third-most takeaways in the league (12) and one of only four teams with at least one of those in each of their six games. They got another in this contest, but that strip-sack on the final play before halftime was pretty much meaningless. The only big one they nearly had came at the two-minute warning at the end of the game, when Marcus Peters was called for pass interference in the end-zone, and Saquon scored on a goal-line leap on the very next snap.
This is now their third loss this season after leading by double-digit points in the fourth quarter. And once again, there were way too many costly mistakes. Up 7-0, they have the Giants stopped on a 3rd-and-4, with a screen to Richie James coming a yard short, but John Harbaugh decides to push New York back ten yards on an offensive pass interference call, only for them to convert on a deep curl to Darius Slayton. Lamar missed Devin Duvernay for a touchdown right after the two-minute warning in the first half, who had a step on the safety on a corner-route in the high red-zone, and then put it out maybe a couple of inches too far him on a drag route early on in the second half. They ended up settling for field goals on both of those drives. Then up by three, with as many minutes left on a third-and-one, they get called for an illegal formation on what would have been a conversion on a QB sneak, and they have that odd snap exchange on the very next snap, where the ball goes through Lamar’s hands, but instead of throwing it away as they running out to the sideline, he goes back across his body and gets picked off by Julian Love. Marcus Peters get called for pass interference on third-and-goal, where the receiver tried to push off and his reaction was to grab cloth, before Saquon leaps over the top of the pile, to put the Giants up by four. And finally, Lamar gets strip-sacked by Thibodeaux, to seal the deal. Oh, and Justin Tucker missed a 56-yard field goal attempt at the end of the second drive on the day, which is also very uncommon. Those are simply way too many miscues in a game that they should have really won.
The Giants on the other hand continue to play clean football throughout and particularly in late-game situations. It sounds like a stupid cliché, but they simply don’t beat themselves, but rather wait for the opponent to make those mistakes. On their final four possessions, they scored a field goal and two touchdowns, plus then they were able to run out the clock, with Saquon making the right decision for his team to win, as he slid down at the two-yard line instead of scoring – to the chagrin of several fantasy managers of his, like myself. You can argue right now New York’s coaching staff is doing as good a job of maximizing the talent at their disposal as any group in the league. They play tough, smart old-school football, where they allow their personnel to dictate what they can run, but then dictate to the opposing team what they can run in those situations. If there’s one thing I’d like to do them still, it’s adding a speed-element to that receiving corp, to open up more space underneath for themselves. I don’t want to rule out a “homecoming” for Odell Beckham Jr.
Buffalo Bills (5-1) @ Kansas City Chiefs (4-2):
Bills O vs. Chiefs D:
The one overarching point for Buffalo’s offense on Sunday was how they didn’t allow Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo to dictate the game to them with a bunch of exotic pressures and forcing Josh Allen to throw it hot. And they largely did so with multiple tight-ends and/or backs, forcing Kansas City to match with base personnel. Fullback Reggie Gilliam was on the field for 29 percent of snaps on Sunday – the highest mark since their blowout win at the Rams in the season-opener, where they just closed out the game running the way. Plus, they were in 12 personnel for seven snaps in this contest, when they have used it just five times all season heading into the day. That allowed them to create favorable angles with cross-blocks by the O-line and using the fullback or inserts by the TEs as lead-blocks, where Devin Singletary is really good at partially hiding behind that guy in the hole and forcing the defender to commit to one side, before slicing up the other way. They used some counter action in the backfield, with the guard wrapping around from the backside and the RB getting behind him. And once they showed pin-and-pull run action one way out of an Ace set (with TEs on either end of the line) and used center Mitch Morse pivoting back the other way to lead-block for Singletary on a pitch out to the weak-side edge, which unfortunately was taken off due to a holding call on the wide receiver to that side, but it was a really cool design and they had the defense totally fooled. Even taking away Josh as a runner, they ran the ball the ball 19 times for 93 yards, with Singletary handling all but two of those.
Something I loved when they were in 21 personnel was being able to line up in singleback with an Ace Duo set (the FB and TE to the right), with the Chiefs being in a true 4-3 front, because they were matching that package, expecting run. Instead, Buffalo ran play-action and had both the slot receiver away from the strength of the formation off a scissors concept and the back-side dig wide open, because they faced a simple cover-three and that second level wasn’t even close to crowding those passing windows in any way. Allen showed the maturity to routinely throw it to Devin Singletary in front of the linebackers (largely off play-fakes) with the Chiefs playing two-high shells. Understanding what they were facing from a coverage perspective allowed them to understand how to create challenges for the defense, along with sprinkling in some seven-man pass-pro when they needed to block it up in situations, where they expected Spags to bring pressure. They also had the receivers to take advantage of those young corners being forced onto the field for KC, such as Gabe Davis on that 34-yard touchdown just before the half, running right by his guy on a fade route, having the chemistry with Stefon Diggs to be in sync on those secondary route adjustments, and Allen making some bat-shit throws, like when they were pinned inside their own one-yard line on third-and-13, where the QB dipped underneath the edge rusher and almost side-armed the ball on a rope to Davis on sitting down a deep dig, along with multiple sick side-line shots against a two-deep coverage.
Once again, Kansas City not being able to dictate terms defensively on many snaps certainly became a big factor. They did end up blitzing on 34.9 percent of Josh Allen’s dropbacks, but only pressured him on 11.4 percent total. It really only was only a factor in third and fourth downs, where the Bills went five-of-14 on the day. Using the pro personnel on the offensive side largely put the Chiefs in zone coverage and they used more sets with three than one (off-ball) linebacker. That’s not what we’re used to from Spaguolo in terms of the aggressiveness as a play-caller, where early on in this growing rivalry, they’d bring pressure spread across all three downs and forced Josh to throw hot, while having guys in the back-seven, who understand where that would lead the ball to go to then.
When Spags did have the chance to bring heat in obvious passing situations against 11 personnel, he was able to scheme open a free rusher and multiple times peeled off the D-end to take the back, whilst playing tight man-coverage on the four other eligible receivers. They had two great back-to-back plays like that at the tail-end of Buffalo’s third possession of the day, as they brought Juan Thornhill untouched on a weak-side B-gap blitz by occupying the five blockers, plus a linebacker coming through the opposite B-gap, as the right tackle had to set to the wide end, not expecting him to bail out again. Josh Allen had to release the ball whilst fading away from the rush on both of them, once throwing the ball into the stomach of Chris Jones just playing with his eyes up the whole way, when he had Singletary open on an angle route, and then putting it slightly behind Isaiah McKenzie on a quick in-breaker as the number two, where they picked off the slot defender with Diggs running a corner route. The receiver could have potentially pulled that one in, if he didn’t jump, but he had an extremely rough day altogether.
Chiefs O vs. Bills D:
Buffalo certainly showed more of a commitment to running the ball than Kansas City, as Patrick Mahomes accounted for 21 of their 68 rushing yards on the day – all on scrambles – and their backs averaged just 3.6 yards a pop. Outside of using a split backfield with their fullback to one side of the quarterback and rolling Mahomes the other way of a lead play to slow down the pursuit, they didn’t have many wrinkles in the ground game, to give them those schematic advantages. For them it was more so about RPOs and screens to their backs, to make them a factor, where on the former they used slide routes by Kelce, glances and back-shoulder fade alerts on the outside to give themselves options. They also had a really fun design on a TE screen to Noah Gray, where they faked a flat screen to the three-receiver side and released the back wide the other way, with Gray pivoting around underneath that, to get in behind three linemen. If not for Bills LB Tremaine Edmunds being a freak of nature and chasing him down from the backside, he may rip off a huge play on that one.
In terms of the passing game, they really tried to create levels and used a lot of scat protections, to stretch the field in all directions and let Mahomes operate with clean pockets for the majority of the first three quarters. It was very interesting how they got to their flood concepts a couple of times, particularly once in the second quarter. They started with a tight bunch set to the right and motioned Travis Kelce underneath the line to basically become an offset full- or H-back and made it look as he was leading up the B-gap on play-action before ultimately running a sail route. Along with that, they brought the offset wide receiver on the outside around on a fake reverse, who became that threat in the flats, whilst the X receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling stemmed inside originally and then worked back across his man on a deep corner route, to occupy the corner and safety to that side, putting linebacker Matt Milano in a bind, which Mahomes ended up hitting Kelce for 25 yards on. And of course, the Chiefs QB had some insane plays as well. There were two throws from one hash to the opposite sideline, which he made look almost effortless, once dropping the ball into the bucket on the deep corner route by Mecole Hardman motioning into that number three spot in trips, and then later on, drifting towards the left hash and hitting Skyy Moore on a sail route to the field, where the ball had to be perfect, as the rookie receiver was just able to get a step on his man, who had outside leverage originally. On the first TD of the game to Juju Smith-Schuster, the Bills had a couple of bad missed tackles, but before that it was a crazy play by Mahomes, to basically read the entire field, roll to the right and then come back all the way to Juju on the shallow crosser going the other way.
On Buffalo’s side, being able to live in those two-high looks largely defensively and having the speed on the second level to beat blockers to the spot, squeezing down gaps with their D-line and allowing the rest of the unit to converge on the ball was huge. Therefore Kansas City was very one-dimensional and they were able to throw in some tendency-breakers from a personnel and coverage perspective as well. Coming into the night, the Bills had dropped eight defenders in coverage on just two percent of dropbacks. In this game, they did it on 21 percent, where they ran a heavy dose of cover-two, along with some two man and one robber, bringing one safety up to bracket what they perceived to be the primary target depending on down and distance (which it’s largely Travis Kelce time, when possible). When they were in zone, they did a beautiful job of picking up and passing off guys as patterns were developing, before ultimately plastering guys past 2.5 seconds.
They also hadn’t really done it at all before this game, but the Bills were in dime personnel, with three D-linemen and two linebackers on seven of their eleven third downs on Sunday, while using Milano as a spy. That allowed guys like Von Miller to have two-way go’s rushing the passer, and shut down a couple of chances, where Mahomes tried to get out to the edge and create a secondary play, but he couldn’t settle and throw. And the addition of Von was a major difference-maker. That’s what they brought him in for – to close out games and shine in those big-time matchups, as he played a season-high 78 percent of snaps. On the back-end of Kansas City’s first drive, we saw him slip a pulling guard and stuff the run for no yardage and then on the very next play, force Mahomes to bail out away from him, by riding left tackle Orlando Brown into the QB, which ultimately led to the Kaiir Elam pick in the end-zone. Then of course on the final two KC drives, he got that third-down sack on Mahomes on a dip-and-rip move against the right tackle and then beat that guy on a quick up-and-under, forcing the QB to fall away from it and release the ball off-platform, after already pumping once, allowing the nickel Taron Johnson hanging at the number in cover-two, to drive in front of a shallow crosser coming from the other side and seal the win with a pick.
Typically I wrote a paragraph on either team here, but let’s please appreciate what we’re seeing in this mega showdown between quarterbacks, which has already had epic moments and we hopefully see it for another decade. On Sunday, there were so many plays by these signal-callers that may never come up on a highlight reel for this game, but that were key in keeping drives alive and that you know only three or four guys in the league can make. Yet, they came up regularly and it’s just something you have to watch in real time, to be able to appreciate I believe – of course that doesn’t mean I wasn’t psyched to go back to the tape on them. While Allen certainly made some a couple of great plays off-script, he operated more within the structure of the offense and delivered big-time throws, while the play-design for the Chiefs set up Mahomes already to kind of extend plays and allow his targets to work their way open against the shell coverages of Buffalo. Not sure if you can call either harder to execute, but both certainly delivered, other than one costly turnover in the red-zone early on for each side.
Observing the coaching for both sides, I’d give Buffalo the slight advantage here, looking at the change-ups they had installed coming into the matchup and the willingness to continue to adapt throughout the day. It’s really fun to see both sides re-define themselves to some degree as this series has advanced, as they change up their personnel and continue adjust to the adjustment the side is making. I think we’re absolutely set for re-match, probably in the AFC Championship game. One quick note for either side – We saw Spencer Brown in a walking boot thanks to an ankle injury. The Bills have some crazy splits of wins and losses when he is in the lineup or not. So that’s definitely something to monitor going forward. And for the Chiefs, it’ll be interesting to see how they try to take charge again for how the game is played, particularly on defense, with how they may deploy Trent McDuffie, who they placed on IR following week one and could be back this Sunday or following their bye.
Dallas Cowboys (4-2) @ Philadelphia Eagles (6-0):
Cowboys O vs. Eagles D:
As somebody who has been an advocate of offenses zagging while everyone is zigging with playing all those two-high shells on the defensive side, and taking advantage of favorable box counts in the run game, I certainly won’t be the one shaming teams for sticking with the run game, even if they don’t find instant success, especially playing with a backup quarterback. With that being said, there were way too many run calls on 1st or 2nd & 10 for Dallas, to where Philly routinely brought a safety down in the box late and evenstarted to blitz those, knowing what was coming. In terms of the carries their running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard handled, they picked up just 43 yards on 13(!) such attempts and all just three of those logging three yards or less. Then the one time they did go play-action, Cooper Rush just blindly threw the ball over the middle to Michael Gallup, the ball was popped up and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson came up with the pick off the ricochet. I get what the idea on hat play was, as they went heavy play-action with an extra lineman at fullback and ran a three-man concept, with the back leaking out into the flats and the two receivers in reduced split pushing hard vertically and then stopping on 15-yard curls, because they expected to face quarters and hit those in front of the safeties, but both Philly corners are right there, ready to disrupt the catch point, because they can see it happening from outside leverage and aren’t scared by the QB’s ability to punish them over the top.
I also just didn’t understand why Zeke was in the lineup in no-huddle situation, when they didn’t actually leave him in protection. That was really evident on the two-minute drill before the break, where he was out in the pattern on all five of their pass plays, actually starting with a couple of empty sets. I get that he had a couple of nice carries in the second half and his stat-line at the end of the day looked good, but there’s no way you can tell me he’s more of an asset in space than Pollard. And then of course we saw the real Cooper Rush stand up, who was under plenty of heat throughout the night, but also had some bad misses, placing the ball low and inside on a corner route, which the safety was able to bat away, air-mailing the ball a couple of yards over the head and behind of his tight-end on a glance route over the middle, because he didn’t look confident at all, with his target working towards a hook backer and not leading Michael Gallup far enough towards the inside on a bang-eight route, after releasing to the sideline at the snap against Darius Slay, who ends up undercutting the throw for another pick.
The Eagles were in a lot of five-man fronts, to allow guys like Jordan Davis to control their solo-blocks and never really get any movement going, to where those backs for the Cowboys could press creases and influence the second level. When Dallas was able to combo on the nose-tackle, they were able to create some momentum and open up a little bit of a lane on the inside, but that wasn’t really the case until they were down 20-3 at halftime. And give those linebackers some credit when Philly was in two-high looks on early downs, even against 12 personnel, and you saw T.J. Edwards blow up the pulling guard in the hole, or Kyzir White scrape over the top of blockers and chasing things down towards the sideline.
Watching a couple of pass-rush snaps for Philly out of those five-man looks up front, you really saw them collapse the pocket from all those angles and just take away any space for Cooper Rush to step into throws. The Cowboys QB being pressured on a season-low 10.5 percent of dropbacks is a farce, because they never allowed him to get comfortable, with the walls closing in around him. Those two corners for Philly are playing at an extremely high level right now, showing great football IQ, funneling receivers towards safety help and anticipating route combination in zone, along with using leverage to their advantage when matching up against guys on the perimeter. You combine that with how opportunistic that entire secondary has been, being in place for misplaced passes and having practices those tip drills, they are still number one (now by themselves), with 14 takeaways on the year. Something I felt like Philly almost exclusively did in passing situations against trips formations as this game went along, was buzzing down the field side safety and rotating into cover-three, which would put Gallup one-on-one with those corners as the backside X. That’s something we’ll need to see Dallas win on.
Eagles O vs. Cowboys D:
In the run game, the one concept the Cowboys simply couldn’t stop was GT power, with the Eagles consistently getting a solid kick-out and then having those linebackers covered up by the tackle wrapping around. Philly once again ran a ton of RPO variations, off split zone and power concepts, with a slant-flat combination on the backside, or giving Jalen Hurts that extra option of keeping the ball or flipping the ball to A.J. Brown on a slide route coming underneath the formation. And then off those RPO looks, where they have that threat in the flats, now if you fake a pick-play and have a Heisman trophy winner in DeVonta Smith sneaking behind the defense for an easy touchdown, that just feels unfair. They make the offense look easy, putting different defenders in conflict as they option off them, flipping it out to those receivers on quick screens whenever they have numbers advantages. And it doesn’t feel like early on last year – before they just started to straight-up hand the football off – where opposing defenses would dictate to Hurts that he’d keep the ball and forced him to get the job done, but rather having more answers in that portion of the playbook and the receiving talent to punish who they’re facing, if they don’t respect it, along with the continued growth Hurts has shown as a passer.
I really like what Philly can run out those two-by-two sets, with Ace Duo (two TEs) and twins on either side of the formation. Dallas really overloaded that two-TE side and presented favorable looks running towards the weak-side or calling up double slants with Brown and Devonta Smith punishing any cushion they’re given with the inside access. They went back to the well over and over again, as they presented issues for the defense out of those looks. Hurts didn’t make as much of an impact with his legs as we’re used to, but he’s now 13-of-15 on third or fourth-and-one this season – most of such conversions. At this point they are so unstoppable in that regard, that they just line up in what looks like victory formation and let their power-squatting 230-pound quarterback power ahead, with everybody else pushing him forward.
While I understand that the Cowboys just gave a season-high 26 points at Philadelphia, I thought they did a really good job of settling back in, following that 20-0 start by the Eagles. Following a five-and-out opening series, the home team did score on four straight possessions, but two interceptions thrown by Cooper Rush and that unnecessary turnover on downs, where Ceedee Lamb had the first down if they just handle that moment better – in terms of throwing the red flag or at least giving the refs time to reconcile – set Philly up at the Dallas 44, 34 and 46. The Cowboys D held them to field goals on the latter two and forced their opponents to punt within four plays on all but one of their four second-half possessions.
Dallas also used some five-man fronts on Sunday, to match what the Eagles can provide in terms of vertical movement in the run game. Their issues came when those guys were able to create angles anyway and cover up bodies with pulling linemen. However, what I liked watching, were some of the three-man games Philly ran with the interior three, slanting a couple of guys one gap over and the third one over the top of them towards the opposite B-gap. As long as Lane Johnson was at right tackle, he did a tremendous job of locking up Micah Parsons, who had his only game of the season with zero pressures, but he made a couple of nice plays in coverage, early on as an off-ball player, just getting a hand on a pass to Dallas Goedert, about to pick up good yardage on a crossing route behind him, and then in the second half peeling off the edge and perfectly widening with the tight-end on a stick/out route, where he got both hands on the ball – although he got into the face of Goedert and called for unsportsmanlike conduct, to extend that drive. The Eagles averaged just 3.9 yards per offensive play, but they gave Dallas some issues with the formations they presented – such as overloading the two-TE set in the two-by-two looks, like I mentioned earlier – and singled out individual player, forcing them to commit. Dan Quinn has a couple of pieces of new homework to prepare for, when they get to their week 16 matchup.
Where are the people asking for Cooper Rush to stay at quarterback even when Dak Prescott is healthy now? I talked about some of questions about their play-calling tendencies and personnel usage, but their backup QB certainly missed some throws and cost them with tuirnovers. However, the more glaring piece here – and this is nothing new – Mike McCarthy is truly one of the worst game-managers you will find. Instead of either challenging or at least giving the refs time to huddle up about the spot potentially, when Ceedee Lamb looked like he had clearly stretched the ball across the first-down marker. Instead they quick-snap the ball on a bootleg that they must have installed beforehand – although not very well, looking at Ceedee Lamb banging into fellow receiver Noah Brown tasked with sealing outside linebacker Haason Reddick – and they don’t get it, setting the Eagles up to go up by three scores. Another re-occurring issue for Dallas – the lack of discipline. Dante Fowler had a really bad moment, jumping across the line, with time running out in the first quarter, when the Eagles never intended to go for it probably. And they ended up scoring the their first touchdown on the very next snap. Altogether, they got penalized ten times for 72 yards, along with losing the turnover battle three-to-nothing. That’s not winning football and they absolutely need to clean things up, even though having Dak Prescott back under center will be huge, to give that offense some more explosive capability.
For the Eagles, the train just keeps on rolling, as they remain the lone undefeated team in the league at 6-0 now. They’re bigger, more physicality than any other team in the league and they’re probably the most balanced in terms of how they built up their roster. The one thing you can critique is something that we saw in their season-opener at Detroit and in each of the last three weeks, as they’ve been up two touchdowns in each of those contests and allowed the opposition to cut it down to single-digits. That’s surprising for a team that can run the ball as effectively as Philadelphia. Yet, they did step up on Sunday night on both sides of the ball, when Dallas had come within three points and they answered with a 13-play touchdown drive and then that second interception for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, where Cooper Rush had Ceedee Lamb running down the opposite sideline for what would have been a touchdown, but Brandon Graham just got a hit from the side, to have the ball end up way short and inside for the safety. Now entering their bye week, we’re looking at their upcoming schedule, right now the AFC South-aided Colts and Titans are the only teams until week 16 with a record above .500 right now, before they have what will be a gigantic rematch against Dallas and then hosting the Giants across those final three weeks. Having won that first matchup against a Dak-less Cowboys team and having a two-game lead on them is huge.
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