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Gridiron Digest: Patrick Mahomes Can't Do It Alone

Gridiron Digest
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Patrick Mahomes
Jeff Driskel
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After that, we'll tackle all the action around the NFL, including:• The Packers pulling the ol' Ice Bowl Switcheroo on the Panthers• A Giants-Jets showdown that would have lived up to the hype, had there been any hype• A look at the latest spate of rando QBs, because you can't tell Jeff Driskel from Ryan Finley without a program• Analysis of a Sunday full of strange point spreads and (ugh) pushes.• An inside look at why NFL coaches make such questionable decisions, with input from the experts at the Wharton Sports Business Summit...and much, much more! Mahomes shook off some early-game rust (including a near-interception on his very first pass) to throw for 446 yards and three touchdowns, including a leaping 63-yard pass-and-run to Mecole Hardman from a collapsing pocket to give the Chiefs a 29-20 fourth-quarter lead. • Sammy Watkins dropped at least two catchable passes that would have netted significant yardage.• A botched hold on what would have been a game-icing field goal allowed Ryan Tannehill and the Titans to drive 61 yards in 58 seconds to take a 35-32 lead against a Chiefs defense that looked like it was two steps behind every play. • Harrison Butker's 52-yard attempt to tie the game, after a 23-yard Mahomes pass to Demarcus Robinson to get the Chiefs into field-goal range in the final seconds, was blocked.Give Henry all the credit in the world for his rugged runs, and give Tannehill props for both throwing and running the ball fairly well while orchestrating a conservative game plan. What happenedThe Vikings and Kirk Cousins proved they can win a prime-time game against playoff-caliber competition, while the Cowboys squandered an excellent Dak Prescott performance on a bizarre sequence of late-game play calls.Prescott threw for 397 yards and three touchdowns, with Amari Cooper channeling Randy Moss in an 11-catch, 147-yard effort full of leaping sideline grabs. But when Prescott drove to the Vikings' 19-yard line with 1:57 to play and the Cowboys trailing 28-24, the team chose not to call timeouts and executed two straight running plays to Ezekiel Elliott, which were both stuffed, followed by a flat pass to Elliott on fourth down that fell incomplete. And with Cooper dominating the Vikings defense all game, the Cowboys should have been feeding him the ball, not Elliott and Jarwin.Cousins played well but still left a few opportunities on the table, checking down at times when downfield shots would have been wiser (like when the Cowboys jumped offside and gave him a free down). But Darnold (230 yards Sunday with a passing touchdown and a read-option rushing touchdown) needed to flip the conversation after weeks of ghostbusting and ugly goal-line interceptions. Jeff Driskel, Lions: 27-of-46 for 269 yards with one TD and one INTWhen a coaching staff knows it can only count on bare-minimum-at-best quarterback play, it designs an offense around running plays and simple reads, hopes its defense dominates and crosses its fingers that the overmatched quarterback completes one or two deep shots to manufacture a win while making his own stats look good.The Bears did just that with Mitchell Trubisky, who threw for 173 yards and three touchdowns in a 20-13 win. But we are here to talk about Driskel, the former Bengals backup pressed into service because of a Matthew Stafford back injury.Driskel threw a 47-yard jump-ball touchdown to Kenny Golladay (one play after completing a six-yard self pass on a deflected throw!) and rushed for 37 yards, but he spent most of the afternoon spraying the ball against a brutal defense and getting minimal help from what's left of the Lions running game.Driskel proved he was not quite as good as Trubisky. So we only saw three plays by the rookie making his first career start:• Marcus Peters' 89-yard interception return for a touchdown• Finley's touchdown pass to a leaping Tyler Eifert and...• A 3rd-and-1 sneak on which it appeared Finley would get stuffed, but teammate Joe Mixon then shoved Finley from behind forward for first-down yardage.Based on that sample and the game's result, Finley appears to be a cross between an unready second-tier prospect and some sort of blocking sled or practice apparatus to be pushed around by teammates. And the Bengals have about 20 other guys on their roster who also fit that description.Jared Goff, QB, Rams: 22-of-41 for 243 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptionsGoff was also sacked four times and fumbled three times, one of which (a flutterball when Goff was hit in the act of throwing) Minkah Fitzpatrick returned for a touchdown.He now has nine interceptions on the year, three multi-interception games, a completion rate of 60.3 percent (the league average entering Sunday was 64.7 percent) and a passer rating of 82.7. Browns offense inside the Bills' 3-yard line: 11 plays, three pointsThe Browns had eight opportunities (thanks to two Bills penalties) from the Bills' 1- or 2-yard line at the end of one first-half drive and came away with zero points. Nothing worked.Luckily, Baker Mayfield found Rashard Higgins for what became a game-winning seven-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, ending the goal-line drought and sending a message to the Browns that all of their problems are solved and they are every bit as awesome as they have claimed to be throughout their 3-6 start. So this week's award goes to a unit whose great play has been overshadowed a bit by all the Lamar Jackson fireworks this year: Ronnie Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda and Orlando Brown Jr.Special teamer of the week: Second-year defensive back Joshua Kalu sealed the Titans' 32-29 victory over the Chiefs by blocking Harrison Butker's 52-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds.Mystery touch of the week: Lamar Jackson ran the old speed-option in the second quarter against the Bengals, gained about three yards and then lateraled to none other than backup quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is officially credited with zero rushes for nine yards! Hauschka is now 0-of-3 from 50-plus yards this season; Sean McDermott has so little faith in his kicker that he took Hauschka off the field and attempted to draw the Browns offside before the ill-fated final kick in what may have been a rare example of a coach icing his own kicker.Snapper fail of the week: Veteran Chiefs holder James Winchester snapped before holder Dustin Colquitt was ready on a fourth-quarter attempt against the Titans.Holder fail of the week: Colquitt gobbled up the premature snap and heaved the ball to no one in particular, resulting in an intentional grounding penalty that set up the Titans' game-winning touchdown drive.Celebration of the week: We haven't celebrated celebrations much this year, because NFL players have stopped being creative and started posing for elaborate group photos after every single turnover. Black-and-white thinkingBickering brainiacs of analytics Eric Eager (Pro Football Focus), Josh Hermsmeyer (FiveThirtyEight), Sean O'Leary (EdjAnalytics) and Aaron Schatz (Football Outsiders) tackled everything from in-game decision-making to the running-backs-don't-matter phenomenon in their "State of Football Analytics" panel discussion.Schatz explained why relatively basic analytics principles like going for it more often on fourth down remain controversial in the coaching community. Gridiron Digest saw a potential overcorrection for a backup quarterback and leapt on the Lions.Result: The Lions threatened to make things interesting, but an apparent late-game 4th-and-1 conversion in Bears territory was negated by offensive pass interference, and a team trailing by seven points cannot settle for a field goal and a backdoor cover. Result: A late Browns touchdown and a missed Bills field goal in the closing seconds resulted in a push that left both Pros and Joes dissatisfied (unless they picked up a half-point either way, based on the book and the time they placed the bet). The Seahawks also make pretty good road dogs: 13-7-2 ATS since 2013 and 6-1-1 since 2018, perhaps because the house and public overcorrect a bit for their home-field advantage.All signs point to a close game in the 49ers' biggest test so far this season, so Gridiron Digest is taking the Seahawks.The black cat that interrupted last Monday night's Cowboys-Giants game is still at large, as of midweek.Point: Several humane societies have joined the search around MetLife Stadium, including catch-and-release animal control agencies, no-kill shelters and the radical Here Kitty Kitty, You Won't Have to Watch Giants or Jets Games Anymore society.Counterpoint: I happened to get an exclusive with the cat, who wishes to remain anonymous.

As said here by Mike Tanier