When I started this site at the beginning of the season, I knew there would be days like this.
Days where, from the first second of action, bets are lost, touchdowns are vultured, technology malfunctions creating confusion, Tom Brady throws an end zone interception. What I didn’t know, though, was how gross it would make me feel.
It was certainly a dumpster of a day, but dumpsters still hold a lot of information. Let’s take a dive in and see what we can find amidst all the trash that might provide us some value.
Here’s what didn’t happen in Week 4’s trash heap of games:
What didn’t happen: Kansas City and Detroit didn’t hold on to the ball
This is going to be a little bit of a leap in logic, but what we learned from this game is that we didn’t learn anything.
In other words, the takeaway is that we can’t read too much into a result that was the product of the most variance based play in football: the fumble. Of all of the possible outcomes of a play, the one that swings a game the most while simultaneously being rooted in luck is the fumble.
On average a fumble is lost 47% of the time (a figure that holds true across fumbles by position, situation, etc). This makes sense when you think of it being a 50-50 proposition with an extra advantage given to the offense, who receives the ball back after a fumble out of bounds.
Although fumbles are an easy way to lose a game, fumbling more often than not just means a lost play or lost yards.
In this Kansas City - Detroit game, though, fumbling rate went into the trash with everything else this weekend. The Chiefs fumbled four times and lost three while the lions fumbled twice and lost both of them. That breaks down to a fumble rate of 83%, almost double what it should have been.
In fact, to start the second half, here are how each of the first six possessions ended:
DET Fumble (KC returns for a touchdown)
DET Overturned TD - Field Goal
Despite this, though, there was a chance a flower would grow amongst all of this manure. Detroit had the lead 30-27 late in the fourth quarter, with a chance to either stuff KC in the red zone or hold them to a field goal and take their chances in OT at home.
Instead of either of these scenarios, however, Matt Patricia decided to give the best quarterback in the league multiple stopped clocks and the use of his full playbook to score a touchdown that would sink the Lions.
Just after the two-minute-warning, Kansas City threw an incompletion and faced a 4th and 8 from their own 34. They called their second timeout, leaving them with only one left.
Patrick Mahomes ended up picking up that first down with his legs, and then firing a couple of passes to get KC to the Detroit 16 with 2nd and 10 and 43 seconds on the clock. At this point, Detroit’s main objective is to stop any pass, but to then keep the receiver in bounds so the clock runs and the Chiefs have to decide whether to use their final timeout or not.
Instead, Mahomes converts the second and long with a pass down to the Detroit 3, where upon Matt Patricia calls a timeout to stop the clock at 39. Whether or not you agree that saving Matt Stafford 30 seconds with no timeouts outweighs giving Patrick Mahomes time to open up the play book and choose from a run or a pass, the results show that this was not a great move.
Instead of scrambling to get together a passing play or burning their own timeout, the Chiefs talked it over, run up the gut for two yards, where upon Detroit was now obligated to call another timeout, and the Chiefs again talked it over and ran up the gut for the touchdown. Matt Stafford’s ensuing Hail Mary went unanswered and a dumpster game came to an end with Matt Patricia looking like the coach who landed this team in my Bad Teams category.
Ultimately, Kansas City came out of Detroit with a four point road win (RIP the seven point spread) and remained one of only two 4-0 teams (more on the other in a minute). On the other side, Detroit hung tough against an elite team and had a shot to win but was again subject to poor coaching. Beyond that, though, I’m not sure about anything from this game, and that is the biggest thing I learned from this dumpster dive.
What didn’t happen: New England didn’t blow out Buffalo
Speaking of dumpsters, this game was certainly squarely in the trash of the week.
In what will be looked at as a matchup of elite defenses, this game actually looked more like a matchup between bad offenses, and perhaps that’s what we learned more than anything here.
There was a time, though, where that didn’t seem like it was going to be the case, and that the Patriots were going to steamroll the Bills.
With three minutes left in the first quarter New England was already up 13-0 thanks to a touchdown drive and a blocked punt touchdown, and they had just forced a Buffalo punt.
They could have picked up a first down that series and continued to pile up numbers against Buffalo, but Phillip Dorsett dropped a would be first down.
No matter, though, because after a Josh Allen interception and two more punts, the Patriots drove 93 yards down the field to the Buffalo 2 yard line. With a three score lead within their sites with four minutes left in the half, Tom Brady rolled out to the right and threw an unimaginably bad pass that was intercepted by Buffalo.
The Bills drove down the field and kicked a field goal just inside the two minute waring, and although this was not ideal, the Patriots still had a two score lead and Buffalo only had one timeout. If the Patriots just got the clock going and moved the ball a little, they could have a field goal of their own or at least protect the two score lead.
Instead, New England came out and threw three incompletions, punting the ball back to Buffalo. Despite the fact that the Bills ended up missing a field goal, the game was not put away like it should have been.
On a day where Josh Allen threw three interceptions and the Bills had to rely upon Matt Barkley and Frank Gore, New England could never quite put them away. A road win in Buffalo against an undefeated Bills team is still impressive, but maybe what we learned in this trash can is that the Patriots offense is going to struggle against good defenses and that the Bills can always be held back by the same quarterback who can lift them up.
What didn’t happen: The Cowboys didn’t win
And finally, we get to a game that involved one team with the most vanilla game plan playing another than just refused to put any ice cream in its bowl.
New Orleans deserves all the credit in the world for mustering a game plan and executing that game plan with Teddy Bridgewater as their QB. Teddy threw for under 200 yards and tossed an interception wot leave the game with a 17 QBR. This normally would not be enough, but the Saints happened to play the Cowboys in a game where they reverted back to old tendencies and contributed their own steaming pile of garbage to the Week 4 dumpster.
In a game where the Cowboys had a chance to assert themselves as the class of the NFC, they decided to abandon everything that had made them one of the most explosive offenses in the league to date and instead remove any hint of success from their game plan.
Mostly, this pertains to the Cowboys use of the running game and play action off of that running game. Despite Jason Garrett saying after the game that he wasn’t sure if he agreed, the numbers show that Dallas ran more on first and second down than any other game this season. This is a bad idea analytically, as we have stated before on this site, but it is even worse when your running back carries the ball 18 times for 35 yards. What is more confounding is that Dallas had a season low 20% play action rate, despite the fact that they gained an average of over 9 yards a play when using it.
The numbers get worse. Warren Sharp pointed out on Twitter that on 19 first downs, the Cowboys ran 11 times for 1.9 yards per play while throwing 8 times for 7.3 yards per play. In spite of this, the Cowboys ran 70% of the time on first down in the first half. What makes this even more unforgivable is the fact that the New Orleans secondary has been torn up by the likes of the Texans, the Rams, and the Seahawks already this season. By not throwing the ball, the Cowboys were not running their optimal offense and were not exploiting the weakness of the defense.
Certainly, it wasn’t all game plan related. The Cowboys lost two fumbles, both of which came as the player was running for a first down, and Amari Cooper was flagged for offensive pass interference on multiple completions.
With that being said, though, any time your defense gives up just four field goals and you lose, a large portion needs to fall on the offense and the people in charge of running it.
But maybe this shouldn’t be too surprising. On a day where everything was garbage, the Sunday Night game was the perfect rotten egg on top.