Week 7 Preview – Know Thy Enemy: Kansas City Chiefs

Titans vs. Chiefs
Titans vs. Chiefs Credit: TitansWire

It’s Titans vs Chiefs week as the Kansas City Chiefs pays a visit to Nashville to debate which city has the best BBQ + hot chicken recipes and to play a football game in between. The high octane Chiefs offense should have little issue carving up an entirely gracious Titans defense.

Can the struggling Titans passing game keep going score for score with KC? Are the Titans mentally ready after defeating the Bills in an emotional Monday night victory? How much longer can Derrick Henry keep up this immense pace? Who will win this premier match between two AFC contenders in Week 7 of the NFL?

Chiefs Key Numbers + Info (2021 season)

Record: 3-3 (1-1 AFC North)

Points scored: 185

PPG: 30.8

Points allowed: 176

PPGa: 29.3

Avg. yards per rush: 4.9

Average. yards per rush allowed: 5.2

Avg. rush yards per game: 125

Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 133.16

Rushing TDs: 5 for, 9 against

Avg. pass yards per game: 308.5

Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 277.33

Passing TDs: 18 for, 11 against

Pass Completion Rate: 69%

Pass Completion Rate Against: 66%

Leading Rusher: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (65 attempts for 304 yards)

Top Receiver: Tyreek Hill (46 receptions for 592 yards, five touchdowns)

Leading Tackler: Nick Bolton (40 tackles, five tackles for loss)

Key Additions: OT Orlando Brown, OG Trey Smith (rookie), C Creed Humphrey (rookie), RB Darrel Williams, DL Jarran Reed, OL Joe Thuney, TE Blake Bell, OL Austin Blythe, LB Nick Bolton (rookie), OL Mike Remmers, RB Jerick McKinnon, CB Mike Hughes, WR Josh Gordon

Key Losses: OT Mitchell Schwartz, OT Eric Fisher, OL Kyle Long (PUP), RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (IR), OL Martinas Rankin, P Dustin Colquitt, DE Joshua Kaindoh (IR)

Titans vs Chiefs Series History

Kansas City leads the all-time series 30-24

Tennessee Call Out, Ball Out

Team defense 

– Turns out Patrick Mahomes is still a pretty decent player, that guy. Tennessee will need all hands on deck, especially a banged-up secondary to even remotely begin to think about containing the Chefs. The front seven will need to expose a still gelling offensive line if at all possible. Without a team-wide effort, it can get ugly real fast. Suffice to say, a miracle needs to happen. 

Derrick Henry 

– The superstar back will do what he does best to keep the ball away from a potent Chiefs offense. He’s on an unprecedented record-breaking pace for production. Can he hold up for the long and cruel grind that this game is? The Chiefs defense isn’t exactly the 2000 Ravens as of press time. Needless to say, the running back will need to be his level best once again.  

Offensive line. Please do anything

– The Titans will need to rejigger some things as usual as left tackle Taylor Lewan is out due to a concussion suffered on Monday night. Left guard Rodger Saffold is a constant shuffle in and out of the lineup. Ben Jones is seemingly the only good constant on the line.

Yes, the Chiefs defense is what it is but the Tennessee line is banged up and heavily reliant on questionable backups. Ryan Tannehill needs some time to get it going. He’s been one of the most heavily sacked quarterbacks this season. Which group will break first?

Keys to a Chiefs Victory

“Fix” Patrick Mahomes

– Yeah he’s already a legendary figure in the annals of league history but there’s a glaring turnover issue he’s dealing with this season. It needs to be fixed so that inferior teams such as the Titans don’t have a hope of limiting him.

Mahomes is borderline unstoppable when he’s fully on and operating with his full set of weapons. It’s possible that he’s trying to compensate for the lack of defensive cover or he’s experimenting due to the sheer limitless potential of his talent. 

Stop the guy wearing 11 

– The Chiefs’ much-beleaguered secondary will need to stop the Titans’ primary receiving weapon and now Chipotle’s mortal enemy, AJ Brown. After a few weeks of battling injury and ineffectiveness, Brown finally broke out in the second half last week. Stop 11 and a hampered Julio Jones, Kansas City will contain the passing attack. 

Keep on going! 

– The series has been pockmarked with pitched back and forth battles over the years between the two AFC powers. KC has had a better time of it during the past two games though, thoroughly eviscerating the suspect Titans defense every time. Andy Reid is a masterful offensive mind and his protégé Eric Bienemy should’ve been a head coach long ago. Keep the good times rolling! 

Titans vs Chiefs Injury Report

Titans vs Chiefs: What are the odds?

Caesars has the Chiefs as four-point favorites at -110 while the Titans are +110 dogs. The over/under has been set at 57.5. The money line is the Chiefs at -210 and the Titans at +175.

BetMGM has the Chiefs as 4.5 point favorites at -110 while the Titans are +110 dogs. The over/under has been set at 57.5. The money line is the Bills at -200 and the Titans at +175.

Wynnbet has the Chiefs as 4.5 favorites at -115 while the Titans are +105 dogs. The over/under has been set at 57.5. The money line is the Chiefs at -215 and the Titans +175.

Prediction

KANSAS CITY 42

Tennessee Titans 31

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Previous KTE Editions

KTE: Jacksonville Jaguars

Know Thy Enemy: Seattle Seahawks

Know Thy Enemy: Indianapolis Colts

KTE: New York Jets

Know Thy Enemy: Buffalo Bills

Time to Snap Data adds a New Wrinkle to Tua Tagovailoa’s Game

The future of the Miami Dolphins is murky to say the least. Following the return of Tua from a rib injury, the Dolphins fell to the Jaguars 23-20, losing their 5th straight game. However, there is a silver lining after losing to the Jaguars and the never-ending swirl of Deshaun Watson trade rumors.

Coming off of fractured ribs, Tua threw for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns, showing some promise Miami desperately needs.

Although, Tua made some questionable plays, Tua led Miami to 2 long touchdown drives in which he made several solid throws, finding rhythm early on scripted drives and finishing strong with a 90 yard drive to keep Miami in the game.

Through the first 12 starts of his young career, a pattern is starting to emerge in the success of Tua. After charting every dropback from Sunday’s game in London, I noticed a strong correlation between yards gained and time-to-snap.

Quick to the Line

Of Tua’s 49 dropbacks, nine of them resulted in plays of 15 yards or more. All nine of those big plays came with seven or more seconds remaining on the play clock. Five of those nine snaps came with more than 10 seconds left on the clock.

Tua Tagovailoa snap stats
Percentages of Time on the Play Clock Remaining on 15+ Yard Plays.

Currently, this offense is designed to get to the line quickly, as Miami drafted a QB who ran one of the most efficient collegiate offenses at Alabama.

Running a variety of RPO’s (run-pass options), Tua was able to lead a prolific 3rd ranked scoring offense in his Sophomore year. It was clear that playing in pace was key for his decision making process. Tua played instinctually and caught defenses off guard with quick throws.

However; with the blueprint for success outlined, Miami came to the table with different plans. In press conferences throughout the season, coaches and Tagovailoa himself stated that their idea was to get to the line quickly, but delay the snap of the ball in order to identify coverages, call-out blitzes, and find soft spots.

In doing so, Miami also causes themselves unforeseen consequences. Defenses now have more time to recover from the previous play, and the ability to make their own counters to what they see on the field. This also has led to significantly worse results for Miami’s young quarterback, particularly early in drives.

The Effects of Starting Slow

Of Tagovailoa’s 11 drives, five of them started with gains of two yards or less (including his INT). ALL five of those snaps came with 10 or less seconds left on the play clock, with minimal gains causing Miami to fall behind on down-and-distance, preventing sustained drives.

Tua Tagovailoa’s Drive Starting Dropbacks with Play Clock Time and Yards Gained.

It’s clear that getting to the line fast, especially early on in drives, significantly increases Tagovailoa’s confidence, pace, and production. Miami had five drive-starting snaps with 11 or more seconds on the play clock, and ALL of them started with gains of at least five yards.

Upping the Pace Late

One of those drives, a 90 yard TD drive in the 4th quarter, started with a snap with 14 seconds left on the play clock. Tua was able to find to find Mike Gesicki over the middle on a game-high 32 yard pass.

On that drive, which was Tua’s best of the game, Miami made quick snaps a priority, snapping with 10 seconds or more remaining on three of the first four plays. The result? Each of those three plays went for 12 yards or more.

The flexibility of Miami’s offense grows with Tagovailoa’s comfortability, however, as the Dolphins were able to wait longer to snap the ball later on in drives, with a similar level of success.

It is clear that the early drive gains are dependent on getting to the line fast, as Tua’s footwork sees a significant drop-off when he is forced to beat the clock early on, which throws him out of rhythm for long portions of drives.

As he was in college, Tua is very much a rhythm based QB, and the ability to get him to act more off of instinct is one that Miami relied too little on, too late in the game.

As a result of that, Miami’s offense was only able to put up 20 points on the Jaguars, the least a Jacksonville opponent has scored all year.

The Bottom Line

With Chris Grier and Brian Flores potentially on the hot seat, Miami is in must-win mode for the rest of the season, and the key for success lies in the hands of a fast-paced Tua Tagovailoa led offense, that we have seen the flashes of.

In the midst of the Deshaun Watson trade rumors, we have seen the narrative on Tua shift to one of a young QB who needs support from his staff and to be put in places where he can succeed. While it is certain that Miami’s staff hasn’t done so to this point, the perfect opportunity to change the narrative lies ahead.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Flores and his staff will be open to different methods of teaching in order to battle through adversity. It will be interesting to see if it includes a shift to a faster paced offense. It may improve Miami’s success rate in early drive situations, much how it has up to this point.

View the Full Chart with Time To Snap, Down, Distance and Success here!

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Falcons vs. Dolphins: Tua or No, Dolphins Gotta Go

The 2-3 Falcons face the 1-5 Dolphins in a game that feels like a make-or-break moment for both teams. As I’ve covered in my Q1 Falcons review, Atlanta has slowly, but steadily, improved over the last three weeks. Having settled into a rhythm on offense and coming off of a bye week, Atlanta heads into this game rested, relatively healthy, and ready to build on their recent successes.

Miami, despite a talented roster, is trending in the opposite direction. They surrendered their fifth loss to a hapless Jaguars team in London a week ago. Curiously, the team opted against the traditional bye week following an international game, leaving them banged up and searching for answers.

In a stunning reversal of fortune, Brian Flores has gone from a Coach of the Year candidate to the coaching hot seat in six short weeks. Injuries, underperforming players, and questionable coaching decisions have brought Miami to a point where they have to win this week or accept that the 2021 season is lost. 

Dolphins Sink or Swim with Their Defense

Atlanta struggled to move the ball early in the season, but have started to find their way since their Week 4 game against Washington. Incremental improvements along the offensive line leading to vastly improved play from Matt Ryan have fans feeling confident the offense can begin to reach their full potential this season. The Falcons will need to build on their recent successes to get there, and this Miami defense looks like a perfect stepping stone.

Miami was one of the better defenses in the NFL last season. They finished 11th in DVOA, 7th in EPA/play, and 16th in total success rate in 2020. There has been a precipitous drop in those metrics this season. The Dolphins have slid to 26th in DVOA, 27th in EPA/play, and 23rd in success rate. Injuries have sapped some of this team’s potential, but miscues in coverage have been a significant hindrance regardless of the starting roster.

Despite a solid season from Emmanuel Ogbah, the Dolphins haven’t been effective at pressuring opposing QB’s. They haven’t been a complete disaster against the run, but they still find themselves in the bottom third of the league in yards allowed and EPA/play. In short, there are few true strengths to point to for Miami defensively. 

Injuries May Hamper Any Hopes of a Turnaround for Miami

Dolphins Injury Report 8/20

The Dolphins had six defensive players listed as “limited-participants” in their Wednesday walk-through. This designation means a bit less since the Dolphins didn’t work at full speed, but the continued presence of starting corners Xavian Howard and Byron Jones on the injury report is worth monitoring.

Both players missed last week’s game against the Jaguars, which coincided with Trevor Lawrence’s best performance as a pro so far. Generally a man coverage defense, Miami shifted to a zone-heavy philosophy and looked out of sorts for most of the game. It will be interesting to see what adjustments Miami makes this week if their star corners can’t go.

The Falcons’ best offensive production has come when faced with man coverage this season. Seeing the lack of depth at receiver for the Falcons, the Jets opted for a heavy dose of man coverage and paid dearly for it. Atlanta was similarly able to gash Washington in Week 4.

Otherwise, teams have decided to stay in zone coverage, comfortable with their ability to rush Ryan and keep the offense bottled up, and in general, it’s worked. In this instance, it may play to the Dolphins’ favor if injuries force them to rely on zone coverage. However, considering the painful breakdowns they suffered in zone last week, it’s not a particularly rosy picture either way.

Miami Has a Matchup Problem

With Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage on track to play, the Falcons will have more options at their disposal than they’ve had in weeks. Coupled with the rising confidence in Kyle Pitts and the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson as an elite playmaker, Atlanta has the weapons to stress passing defenses at multiple levels. In theory, Miami has enough chess pieces to match up, but it hasn’t seemed to work out that way for them this season.

Eric Rowe has a reputation for being a “tight-end eraser,” but his snap counts have dwindled over the last few weeks. If the Week 3 matchup against Darren Waller is any indication, Byron Jones may draw the assignment against Kyle Pitts, if healthy. Assuming Xavien Howard suits up, he’ll be responsible for Calvin Ridley, a rematch after facing off in joint practices (that Ridley seemingly dominated) in training camp.

This still leaves the question of who will take Russell Gage and Cordarrelle Patterson. Even if fully healthy, Atlanta poses a tough matchup if Miami wants to rely on man coverage. A banged-up secondary may make that impossible.

It Still Starts Up Front for Atlanta’s Offense 

It seems, in theory at least, Miami’s best hope for limiting the Falcons offense is to get to Matt Ryan early and often. The Eagles and Bucs dominated the line of scrimmage against Atlanta and cruised to easy victories. Both teams exploited the young, inexperienced Falcons interior, leaving Matt Ryan to pay the price.

However, Jalen Mayfield and Matt Hennessey are steadily improving, and the offense is picking up steam behind them. Ryan, who looked cooked through the first two weeks, has since strung together two games reminiscent of his MVP season. 

The key to shutting down the Falcons offense is evident: hit Ryan and make him uncomfortable. If Ryan faces pressure early, it speeds up his internal clock, and he starts to miss open plays downfield in favor of early check-downs. The Jets allowed Ryan to settle in, and even though they managed to pressure him through the second half, he succeeded in maneuvering in the pocket and making throws. Early pressures are the key. 

McGary Out, Spriggs In

Miami has a reasonably strong chance of achieving substantial pressure on Matt Ryan. Kaleb McGary, Atlanta’s primary starter at right tackle, was placed on the COVID/reserved list early in the week, and though there is a slight chance he may return, all indications are that Jason Spriggs will step in for him on Sunday. It’s an unfortunate turn for an offensive line that looked like it was starting to gel after an incredibly rough start to the season. 

Spriggs, though undersized, was a steady swing tackle for the Packers from 2016-2018. He missed 2019 with an injury and struggled in limited snaps after moving to Chicago in 2020. Spriggs is an adequate pass blocker but, being undersized, struggles with powerful pass rushers. He is likely to see a heavy dose of Emmanuel Ogbah on Sunday, a matchup that is likely to be very troublesome for the Falcons. Kaleb McGary hasn’t exactly established himself as an outstanding tackle, but his absence will be something to watch. 

The success or failure of the Falcons’ offense hinges on their offensive line play. Atlanta ranks as one of the worst rushing teams in every metric imaginable. It’s probably too much to ask for this group to suddenly become an excellent run-blocking unit. That shifts the burden to the passing game.

Keeping Ryan clean, especially early, is the best hope for continued success. This offensive line already has to account for less-than-stellar play from its center and left guard. Trying to also account for weakness at right tackle may prove to be more than this offense can absorb. Arthur Smith will need to conjure the same magic from 2020 that helped the Titans overcome a below-average offensive line.

Who is the QB in Miami?

Atlanta’s defense has shown, in spurts at least, that they can do enough to win games. It would be a stretch to characterize them as average, but they are good enough to shut down bottom-of-the-barrel offenses. Despite Miami falling into the category of “awful,” there is an argument that Tua Tagovailoa is good enough to lift them out of the gutter when he’s healthy.

That argument may be null and void by the weekend, should the rumors the Dolphins are closing in on a deal with Houston for Deshaun Watson prove to be true. It’s unclear how soon Watson would be able to take the helm, but, certainly, he wouldn’t be ready to play by Sunday.

Should a trade materialize, that leaves Jacoby Brissett as the presumptive starter, making this week’s matchup considerably more favorable for Atlanta. Brisset can lead an offense if the pieces around him are top-rate, but the Dolphins struggles in the run game, and pass protection is treading into meme territory. 

Weakness on Weakness

That’s not to say the Falcons have been effective rushing the passer, but the gamble Miami made on its young offensive linemen hasn’t paid off, and their offense is floundering as a result. They’ve shuffled players to different positions looking to find a grouping that works, but, for now, it’s been a fruitless endeavor. Despite Dante Fowler’s recent appearance on the injury report, I feel confident the Falcons can get the best of this offensive line. 

If Tagovalioa is on the roster, the calculus changes a bit. Tua, despite less than ideal arm strength, is much more effective at pushing the ball downfield. His average intended air yards per attempt is a full yard higher than Brissett’s. Though Philadelphia found quite a bit of success against Atlanta in the short passing game, the Falcons have been much better defending the dink-and-dunk approach since.

Despite Miami’s insistence on turning deep threats like Jaylen Waddle into possession receivers, if the Dolphins can’t generate explosive plays in the passing game, they will struggle to score points on any defense, even Atlanta’s.

The Forgotten Run Game

I haven’t mentioned much about either team’s run game, and for a good reason. Neither team has a run game worth mentioning. I know my writing this almost certainly guarantees one of these teams will explode this week, but history is on my side here. Miami ranks 32nd in rushing yards. Atlanta has been more productive on the ground, but finds itself alongside Miami as a bottom-five team in rushing DVOA.

The one appreciable difference is Atlanta’s willingness to stick to the run game. Miami ranks last in carries. Despite playing one less game than most of the teams in the NFL, Atlanta is 24th. You can expect Atlanta to try to establish the run, but it’s a stretch to expect them to be overly effective. If either team suddenly finds a run game, it will become the turning point in the game. However, the outcome likely comes down to which quarterback has the better game. 

Dink and Dunk or Get It in Chunks

Predicting a winner for this week isn’t easy. These are two underperforming teams with far more questions on their rosters than answers. The winner of this game is likely to be whichever team finds a way to generate explosive plays, something neither team has done consistently so far.

It seems, on paper at least, Atlanta is better situated to do so. They are healthy; Dante Fowler Jr. and Kaleb McGary are the only two players who haven’t participated in practice this week. A bye week has presumably given Arthur Smith additional time to self-scout and tweak his offense. Kyle Pitts is coming off his breakthrough game, and Calvin Ridley is rejoining the team this week. 

On the other hand, Miami is a team with glaring uncertainty at the quarterback position. A quarter of their team is on the injury report. Brian Flores saw a raft of coaching assistants make lateral moves to other teams in the offseason, suggesting a lack of confidence in him. Now it appears the team and fanbase are losing faith as well. Miami is a team that’s on the ropes, one solid punch away from going down for the count. 

You Know What That Means!

If you’re a long-time Falcons fan, you know what that means. Atlanta is going to lose this game convincingly. By some miracle, the Dolphins will find a run game. Tua Tagovailoa (or Jacoby Brissett) will morph into Joe Montana — it happened to us once already — and Emmanuel Ogbah will set the single-game sack record. 

Is this needlessly pessimistic? Perhaps. Am I saying all this because the Falcons only win games I pick them to lose? Couldn’t say. I can tell you that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Final Prediction: Miami 27 – Atlanta 17

Bears vs Packers: Week 6 Recap – Bears lose. Again

Bears vs Packers
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Your Chicago Bears (3-3) lose vs the Green Bay Packers (5-1) 24-14. Not much else is new, besides Aaron’s new soundbite. “I own you!” Tough, but fair. Bears were actually within striking distance for the whole game, even having jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, as well as cutting it to 3 points with a long touchdown drive late. Yet, as soon as Rodgers got the ball in his hands in the 4th, you knew what was going to happen. At the same time, we saw a few bright spots. I’ll do my best to play those up.

1st Quarter 

Neutral zone infraction on the first play, and the next was a 16-yard scramble from Rodgers. Nice foreshadowing. Aaron Jones followed it with a nice run, Rodgers had a couple of short passes after that, but the Bears ultimately get some early-down run stops, force the Packers into a 3rd and long, and sack Rodgers to get off of the field. At which point the Bears, somehow, not only establish the run with Khalil Herbert but get a perfect 3/3 passing drive from Justin Fields. Add in a long PI and the Bears punch in a 7-0 early lead with Herbert.

Next drive Bears get a 3 and out after Quinn gets home on 3rd and long. What could possibly go wrong? Good return as Grant got a little banged up, a great run from Herbert, Fields scrambles for a near first when the pocket collapses on 3rd and 5, we pick it up on 4th and short. A few plays later, Green Bay clearly jumps into the neutral zone.

Refs don’t call it, Justin thinks he has a free play (that Allen Robinson seemingly gives up on) and Green Bay gets an interception in the end zone that should have never happened. The refs would never allow that to happen to Rodgers, by the way. The Bears started off getting good pressure on Green Bay’s next drive. So inevitably, the refs miss Rodgers grabbing Mario Edwards Jr.’s face mask and hit Edwards with an unsportsmanlike for reacting to it. Typical. 

2nd Quarter

Packers run a QB sneak on a 4th and 1. Bears run defense responds, and then Davante Adams kills Jaylon Johnson for 29 yards on a slant. Johnson had been shadowing Adams, he was doing well on the outside, but this one came from the slot. Eventually Green Bay scores on a shovel pass to tie the game. Bears go 3 and out, and it feels like Green Bay is figuring it out. They are. Dillon runs for 38 to start the next drive.

Green Bay eventually settles for a field goal after they get called for OPI. Quinn had a big TFL on the drive as the defense fought back after the big lead. Still, Green Bay takes a 10-7 lead. Bears start off well with the run, dodge a bullet on another Fields near pick, have another shot to tie the game but ultimately take a sack on 3rd down, and have to punt instead of getting up a field goal attempt. 

3rd Quarter

Bears start the 3rd with a few runs, but a dropped pass on a screen to Herbert leads to a punt. Green Bay takes over on offense, they go to DA on 1st down, gash the bears with Aaron Jones after that. We get another questionable PI penalty on 3rd and 4, and after a Marcedes Lewis reception and even more Aaron Jones the Pack go up 10.

The ballgame feels done at this point. Bears try to get something going with more Herbert, as well as a nice pass to Mooney, but the drive ultimately stalls. Hicks sacks the Packers on a free run to get off the field the next drive, but seemingly hurt himself on the play. 

4th Quarter

After an 82 yard punt, the Bears take over from their own 20. After 2 solid runs, Fields finds Robinson for a 20-yard strike down the middle of the field on 3rd and short. Could have had the easy first with his legs but you love the confidence. On the next play, he responds with a 21-yard strike to Cole Kmet. Hope returns. Justin makes a play with his legs, Herbert gets a TD called back on another questionable penalty.

Bears fightback from 1st and 20, and eventually end a 5 minute, 80-yard drive with a Mooney receiving touchdown. Bears down 3, but Rodgers gets the ball back, hooks up with Adams for a 40-yard completion after a couple of thwarted runs, and ultimately rolls out to the near side of the field for the game-winning touchdown.

Seemed like he was holding on to that one since his first scramble in the first quarter. He discount double checks in the end zone, berates the fans in a video you’ll see forever, and that’s pretty much it.

The Bears show some fight but just don’t have enough yet. Next week they travel to Tampa (who have 10 days of rest) next week. 

This is fine.

Is Coaching to Blame in Patriots Loss to Cowboys?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After a 2013 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick stood in front of his team with a simple message. “You can’t win until you keep from losing,” he told the team in the locker room after the loss. He continued, “Watch the games this weekend, there’s going to be a couple NFL, college, high school games where somebody is losing the game rather than winning it.”

Another Belichick coaching pearl from his countless press conferences applies to this season as well. “Let your opponents make your mistake, take care of what you need to take care of, keep everything in play and not give it away.” Yet it’s the Patriots making the mistakes that are giving their opposition the chance to win.

So, if Belichick is acutely aware of what it takes to win games in the NFL, why do the New England Patriots keep losing these games that they should’ve won?

Two blocked punts in one season? Against a Belichick coached team? That had never happened before to a Patriots team under Belichick. The last time a New England team had two blocked punts in a season was 1993, under Parcells. Belichick was in his third season as the Browns coach.

There have been too many instances where the Patriots shoot themselves in the foot instead of playing fundamentally sound football and allowing their opponent to make the mistake. The pick-six was a ball that should have been caught. Regardless of the rest of the game, it was that play that decided the outcome.

Nelson Agholor had a chance to make it moot in overtime, but let a slant go through his hands while all he had to do was outrun a single high safety. Maybe he doesn’t score but he definitely is well into Dallas territory before going down.

Pre-game decisions come back to haunt Patriots

Decisions made even before the game had an impact on its outcome, too. Instead of calling up practice squad member DB Myles Bryant, the Patriots dressed an extra LB. Reserve linebackers Harvey Langi and Jahlani Tavi played a total of 31 snaps-on special teams. Neither saw a defensive snap. The Patriots dealt with injuries all game, losing linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Chase Winovich, and Ja’Whuan Bentley for stretches, as well as defensive backs Adrian Phillips and Jonathan Jones.

McCourty lamented the absences in the secondary and chalked up CeeDee Lamb’s 24-yard gain on third and 25 to the injuries in the secondary. Maybe someone like Bryant or JoeJuan Williams makes a difference, maybe they don’t. But if a team captain is verbalizing having special teamer Justin Bethel playing coverage snaps, maybe it’s worth criticizing.

The offensive line was shuffling all game long as well. After wondering for the last five weeks why Onwenu wasn’t playing right tackle and inserting Karras at left guard, it finally happened against Dallas. After Cajuste did his best revolving door impersonation on the strip-sack, the team finally put Onwenu in the game.

He stabilized the right side of the line even though Herron and Wynn would rotate due to performance throughout. The Pats already picked up Wynn’s fifth-year option, but his performance hasn’t been good enough to beat out the backup tackles. Maybe whenever Brown returns, he’ll return at left tackle and the offensive line will have found a stable grouping.

Perhaps Belichick has forgotten one of Sun Tzu’s teaching points in the Art of War; “opportunities multiply as they are seized…In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” For being an avid fan of the book, this lesson is the antithesis of the Patriots season thus far.

Special Teams not-so-special after all

The Patriots punted on 4th & 1 from their own 35 (after a catch by Meyers that should’ve warranted a second look AND the punt was blocked), 4th & 2 from the 50, 4th & 4 from their 46, and 4th & 3 from their 46 in overtime. Except for the blocked punt, the Cowboys would score points after each of those sequences. Not all fourth downs are created equal, but there was more than enough reason to go for one or two — or all three — of those.

The Patriots continue to be extremely cautious with Mac at quarterback. They had 90 seconds left in the first half to try to get into field goal range. Instead, a Damien Harris carry and two kneel-downs to get New England to halftime. Josh McDaniels told us earlier in the week he’s been hearing it from his wife for some of his play calls. Hopefully Mrs. McDaniels continues to be in his ear this week.

After only four completions over 20 yards the first five weeks of the season, Mac doubled that against the Cowboys on Sunday going 4-4 for 144 yards and 2 TDs. The throw to Hunter Henry for the touchdown, and the throw to Agholor on the corner route showed anticipation and understanding of route concepts against coverage. The time has come to take the training wheels off and let Mac cook.

There is something to be said about keeping from losing before being able to win, but there is a noticeable difference in playing the game to win versus playing the game not to lose. The Pats have been playing not to lose. That’s why they’re 0-3 in one-possession games. They already used their season pass for a moral victory against the Bucs. It’s time to start changing the number in the win column.

Odds and Ends from Sunday

Gunner Olszewski had a 23-yard punt return in the third quarter to set up the Pats. He got his only offensive snap of the night right after the return, being flagged for a false start.

The Patriots’ offensive line only allowed 7 pressures against the Cowboys. With no player being responsible for more than one.

David Andrews didn’t allow a single pressure.

The Patriots were 102-1 when leading at halftime in Gillette stadium before this season. They are 0-2 this year at Gillette when leading at half.

Meyers is slowly becoming a dependable tough catch guy. A few catches yesterday he made knowing he was going to get blasted. Hopefully, he can get a TD this week against the Jets.

Matt Judon was held without a sack but still led the Patriots with 6 pressures.

Christian Barmore and Kyle Van Noy were second on the team with three pressures apiece.

The Cowboys only scored 10 points on 4 trips into the red zone.

Mac was 7/7 for 100 yards and a touchdown at halftime. Impressive stat line but the lack of attempts was reflective of the discrepancy in play totals for the two teams. Dallas ran 82 plays to New England’s 50.

Mac Jones’ 71.1 completion percentage is the highest ever by a rookie in his first 6 career starts.

Coverage stats:

Jalen Mills: 6-8, 84 yards, 2 TDs

Jonathan Jones: 5-7, 73 yards

J.C. Jackson: 5-9, 67 yards

Devin McCourty: 3-5, 60 yards

Ja’Whaun Bentley: 4-4, 42 yards

Dont’a Hightower: 4-4, 40 yards, TD

Kyle Dugger: 4-4, 33 yards (1 INT that he wasn’t primary in coverage for)