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Monday Night Football open thread: Chiefs vs. Chargers in Mexico Cityby John Whiticar on November 19, 2019 at 1:00 am
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images The NFL travels south as two AFC West teams face off in Mexico City. The NFL has been expanding its horizons internationally, and tonight a battle between AFC West rivals heads south to Mexico City. The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers will look to Last season, Kansas City faced off against Los Angeles—the Rams, that is—in what was undoubtedly one of the most exciting games in recent NFL history. That game took place in Los Angeles, but it was actually originally scheduled to take place at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. However, it was moved due to poor field conditions. Now back in 2019, the NFL hopes this international venture is more successful. The stadium previously hosted games in 2016 and 2017. The Chiefs are an exciting team for the league to showcase to Mexico. Patrick Mahomes returned from injury in stunning fashion, throwing for 446 yards and three touchdowns in a narrow upset to the Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs started the season off hot but have dropped four of their last six games. Tonight’s affair against the Chargers will be an important game in deciding who sits atop the AFC West. The Oakland Raiders are also 6-4, and the Chargers are still in the mix as well. Los Angeles came into the year with high expectations, but as expected with the Chargers, injuries have derailed that promise. Now sitting at 4-6, their chances of a playoff spot are beginning to slip away, but they have the benefit of the Chiefs slipping as well. Philip Rivers has struggled in recent weeks, including a dreadful performance against the Steelers last week, and will need to turn his game around if the Chargers want to remain in the hunt. Here is how to watch tonight’s showdown in Mexico City: Date: Monday, November 18, 2019Time: 8:15 p.m. ET Location: Estadio Azteca—Mexico City, MexicoTV: ESPN Announcers: Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland & Lisa SaltersOnline Stream/Replay: Watch ESPN, NFL Gamepass
Detroit Lions Unsung Hero of the Week: Danny Amendolaby Hamza Baccouche on November 18, 2019 at 10:23 pm
Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images Amendola is quietly becoming one of the Lions’ best free agent acquisitions. Danny Amendola didn’t have an absolutely superb game by any means on Sunday against the Cowboys, but this is moreso an overdue testament to the crafty work he has done for the Detroit Lions in the 2019 season. Amendola was widely regarded as overpaid when the Lions signed him to a one-year, $4.5 million deal with incentives that could bring it to close to $6 million. Ironically enough, this came after much of the fan base grew ecstatic about Jesse James’ four-year, $28.5 million deal that doesn’t look so good anymore. Amendola has proven a lot of folks wrong, showing a high floor and high ceiling thus far in the season. This has come in spite of turning 34 years old in early November, making him an AARP cardholder in the wide receiver world. Through nine games, Amendola has 39 catches for 452 yards. He has at least four catches in six of those nine games, and is averaging 11.6 yards per reception. The Lions are stacked with larger receivers like Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., and T.J. Hockenson, explaining why Amendola has only found the end zone once this season. That’s not what they signed him for, however. He was a late addition to address the glaring need for a quick, shifty receiver, and he’s proving his worth more and more every game. He doesn’t often make splash plays, but his shiftiness has proven valuable in third down situations and especially so on scramble drills. It also shows itself after the catch, with Amendola typically making a man miss before going down. I wouldn’t be surprised if Amendola has another big game in the next week or two as Jeff Driskel gets comfortable in the offense, as Driskel’s scrambling ability will pair well with Amendola’s shifty nature as plays get extended. Amendola isn’t a star, but this is just a “good job, keep up the good work” award for him. Unlike some other free agent signings (coughJesseJamescough), Amendola is living up to his paycheck and has been a consistently positive presence for the Lions this season.
Notes: Lions offense still ranks among NFL’s bestby Kellie Rowe on November 18, 2019 at 7:15 pm
Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images That’s a thing that isn’t terrible. It’s hard to find good news Monday after a loss, but let’s take a look at where the Lions stand ranking-wise—one of them is surprisingly positive. While Detroit now sits at 3-6-1 after another disappointing loss on Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys, the passing offense still remains relatively good. According to Pro Football Reference, the Lions rank fifth in the league in passing offense. Through 10 games, Matthew Stafford (eight games) and Jeff Driskel (two games) have managed to keep the Lions among the top passing teams, going 229 for 363 for a completion percentage of 63.1. They have wracked up a total of 2,812 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. Above the Lions are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at fourth, Atlanta Falcons are third, Dallas Cowboys are second and the Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the list at number 1. For more insight on where the Lions stand in the rankings: overall team offense is ranked 12th and, unsurprisingly, the Lions fall to 19th in rushing offense. The Lions are ninth in third/fourth down and red zone conversions, 10th in kick and punt returns and 11th in kicking and punting. And, less good, the Lions are 27th overall in defense—30th in passing defense and 23rd in rushing defense. The takeaways? Just a more rank-based look at how well Matthew Stafford was playing and Driskel’s doing fairly well, how most aspects of the offense rank among the top third of the league, and how the defense is bad. So yeah, I mean. That’s .. something. And onto the rest of your notes: While Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press said Matt Patricia gave a baffling explanation, Seth Walder with ESPN analytics goes into major detail about why NFL teams are going for two when they’re down eight. (We wrote on it Sunday, too) Jeff Seidel with the Freep has some words for Lions administration: “Dear Martha Firestone Ford: This isn’t acceptable. Your Detroit Lions, the organization that makes you a boatload of cash every year — sucking money out of the pockets of decent, hard workin’ folks who deserve better — are struggling something awful.” Just.. this. The #Lions are the best bad team in the NFL. And the #Cowboys are the worst good one.— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) November 17, 2019 Wojo with The Detroit News explains why the Lions are so doomed by their defense, there’s no reason to play Matthew Stafford. Some good news? Bo Scarbrough joined Barry Sanders and Billy Sims as the only Lions to reach a certain level in their NFL debuts. Jeff Driskel said he pulled Bo Scarbrough to the side after the game and told him how proud he was of him in his first NFL game.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 17, 2019 Sports Illustrated’s Gary Gramling gave some kudos to Darrell Bevell in his Week 11 takeaways: “Darrell Bevell Is Having a Great Year: Detroit’s first-year offensive coordinator opened up the offense and got an MVP-caliber season out of Matthew Stafford, and is now making it work well enough with Jeff Driskel. (If only the Lions had the right coach to run the other side of the ball. Or the right guy to build the roster. Oh well.)” Just an interesting fact in case you missed it from Sunday: Lions are wearing white jerseys at home today for the first time since Nov. 26, 1970, a span that covers almost 50 years and 381 home games. Cowboys forced into their navy blues.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 17, 2019
Snap counts: Bo Scarbrough, Amani Oruwariye make debuts vs. DALby Jeremy Reisman on November 18, 2019 at 5:35 pm
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images The Lions are testing out some new players as the season fades away. Here’s a look at the Detroit Lions’ Week 11 snap counts from their Sunday game against the Dallas Cowboys. Offense: Quarterbacks Jeff Driskel: 65 (100%) Running backs Bo Scarbrough: 32 (49%)Ty Johnson: 19 (29%) — 4 special team snaps (13%)J.D. McKissic: 15 (23%)Nick Bawden: 2 (3%) — 11 (35%) Tight ends T.J. Hockenson: 48 (74%) — 1 (3%)Logan Thomas: 22 (34%) — 23 (74%)Jesse James: 15 (23%) — 11 (35%) Wide receivers Kenny Golladay: 60 (92%) — 1 (3%)Marvin Jones Jr.: 57 (88%) — 1 (3%)Danny Amendola: 36 (55%)— 1 (3%)Marvin Hall: 14 (22%) — 7 (23%) Offensive tackles Taylor Decker: 65 (100%) — 3 (10%)Tyrell Crosby: 65 (100%) — 3 (10%) Guards/centers Graham Glasgow: 62 (95%)Joe Dahl: 62 (95%) — 3 (10%)Frank Ragnow: 56 (83%) — 3 (10%)Kenny Wiggins: 20 (31%) — 8 (26%)Oday Aboushi: 0 (0%) — 3 (10%) Observations: Jesse James has now firmly fallen to third in the Lions’ tight end depth chart. James started the season averaging between 50-55 percent of playing time in the first five weeks. Since then, he hasn’t played more than 36 percent of playing time in a single game. Part of that is undoubtedly the increase in playing time for T.J. Hockenson, but the fact that Logan Thomas saw more playing time against the Cowboys is telling. Unfortunately for Detroit, they are likely tied to James’ bulky contract for at least one more year. Bo Scarbrough wasn’t only the starter on Sunday, but he was the workhorse back. Though Detroit scaled back his playing time in the second half, that’s a pretty good workload for a guy’s first NFL game. It’s a little surprising, too, to see Ty Johnson get more playing time than J.D. McKissic. McKissic certainly did more with his opportunities, getting six touches for 53 total yards. Meanwhile, Johnson got three touches for just 6 total yards. The guard rotations were slowed a bit in this game. Part of that is likely due to the late injury to Frank Ragnow. Graham Glasgow played 95 percent of snaps—a season-high—after moving to center following the fourth-quarter injury to Ragnow. Defense: Defensive end Trey Flowers: 55 (74%) — 5 (16%) Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson: 55 (74%) — 3 (10%)Damon Harrison Sr.: 49 (66%)John Atkins: 36 (49%) — 2 (6%)Mike Daniels: 29 (39%) Linebackers Jarrad Davis: 67 (91%) — 6 (19%)Devon Kennard: 60 (81%) — 5 (16%)Christian Jones: 53 (72%) — 13 (42%)Jahlani Tavai: 46 (62%) — 11 (35%)Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 5 (7%) — 23 (74%)Steve Longa: 0 (0%) — 23 (74%) Cornerbacks Darius Slay: 73 (99%)Rashaan Melvin: 72 (97%)Justin Coleman: 51 (69%) — 5 (16%)Amani Oruwariye: 9 (12%) — 8 (26%)Mike Ford: 5 (7%) — 19 (61%)Dee Virgin: 0 (0%) — 27 (87%)Jamal Agnew: 0 (0%) — 12 (39%) Safety Tavon Wilson: 67 (91%) — 8 (26%)Will Harris: 59 (80%) — 8 (26%)Tracy Walker: 23 (31%)Miles Killebrew: 0 (0%) — 28 (90%)C.J. Moore: 0 (0%) — 22 (71%) Observations: The Lions went bulkier in this game, focusing on utilizing their front-seven over the secondary. It’s clear by the increased playing time of guys like A’Shawn Robinson and Damon Harrison Sr. that they were focused on stopping Ezekiel Elliott. They did a great job of that... buuuuuuuut, well, you know. Congratulations to Amani Oruwariye for getting his first ever NFL action on defense. Prior to Sunday, he only had a handful of special teams plays. However, by the end of Sunday, it appeared the Lions preferred him over reserve corner Mike Ford. Jarrad Davis saw his playing time bounce back up this week, and his PFF grade remained high. With Tracy Walker back in the lineup (temporarily), C.J. Moore was relegated to just special teams, while rookie safety Will Harris saw his playing time scaled back a tad. Special teams Don Muhlbach: 11 (35%)Sam Martin: 11 (35%)Matt Prater: 8 (26%)
Report card: Defense reaches new levels of ineptitude vs. Cowboysby Jeremy Reisman on November 18, 2019 at 4:00 pm
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images Lions defense, we’re going to need a signature from your parents. The Detroit Lions’ season is lost and the team has become incredibly predictable. Against the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott and company just absolutely decimated the Lions defense to the tune of over 500 yards of offense, averaging 7.2 yards per play. Offensively, the Lions were actually able to keep pace for much of the day, but they never really stood a chance with so many struggles on the other side of the ball. Still, let’s take a look at the overall team performance with our Week 11 grades. Quarterback: B- Jeff Driskel looked even more comfortable on Sunday, given a full week of preparation to start—unlike last week. With a game-plan more tailored to his strengths, the Lions offense was actually quite potent for most of the day. Driksel had three touchdowns of his own (two passing, one rushing) and one a couple of them, he made plays with his feet. On this touchdown play, Driskel expertly evaded pressure and made a perfect throw to Marvin Jones Jr. .@jeffdriskel to @MarvinJonesJr and the @Lions are within three! #OnePride #DETvsDAL : FOX : NFL app // Yahoo Sports appWatch free on mobile: https://t.co/414bcK9I5b pic.twitter.com/sRloZoTj9t— NFL (@NFL) November 17, 2019 But Driskel also left a lot of plays out there on the field. His vision when out of the pocket can be a little too laser focused, he doesn’t appear to always go through his full progressions and he’s still feeling out his receivers. All that should come with time, but this was definitely a small improvement from last week’s commendable debut. Wide receivers: C It took a little time for the Lions’ top two receivers to get involved in the game. In fact, at halftime Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. combined for exactly one catch and five yards. However, the two made some big plays in the second half and gave the Lions a shot to win at the end of the game. Still, given how dynamic this duo has been all year, Sunday’s performance was definitely a step down from where we expect them to perform. Tight ends: D One catch for 6 yards. That’s all this unit was responsible for against the Cowboys, and any help they provided in pass protection was unnoticeable. There weren’t any horrible plays or drive-ending penalties, but I can’t point to any specific good plays, either. Running backs: A- In his NFL debut, Bo Scarbrough made a solid case for Detroit’s starting running back for the rest of the season. He ran with power and a good amount of speed, too. He earned his first NFL rushing touchdown and just the third for the Lions this season—and from all the way back at the 5-yard line. At the very least, Scarbrough proved he could be a short-yardage back this offense has been missing. J.D. McKissic looked solid, once again, both as a rusher (three rushes, 13 yards) and as a receiver (three catches, 40 yards). Considering the Lions are down to their third and fourth options at running back, this was a spectacular game from that crew. Offensive line: D+ There’s a tough dichotomy here, because as a run-blocking group, this was actually a day of huge improvement. There were plenty of rushing lanes all game, and some vicious blocks from the interior of the offensive line. However, in pass protection, Sunday was nothing short of a disaster. The Lions allowed three sacks, and probably would’ve allowed more had it not been for Driskel’s mobility. The unit was also called for five penalties on the day. Defensive line: D Much like the offensive line, it was a mixed bag along the defensive front. On one hand, they absolutely stuffed Ezekiel Elliott and Dallas’ running game. Elliott’s 45 rushing yards was the second fewest total of the year, and his 2.8 yards per carry was his third-worst output of 2019. However, their pass rush was, again, atrocious. Don’t take it from me, take it from Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott: The Lions pass rush in 2019:“There’s a couple times I literally went through the progression two or three times,” Cowboys QB Dak Prescott said Sunday. pic.twitter.com/7gvQcfkSaG— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) November 18, 2019 I understand this is an impressive Cowboys offensive line, but this was supposed to be a pretty good defensive line, too. Linebackers: B- For the second straight week, the Lions linebackers were inoffensive, which is a huge step in the right direction. Jarrad Davis had seven tackles and a fumble recovery. Devon Kennard had the team’s only sack and added another QB hit to his statline, and there weren’t any glaring gaffes, other than Davis’ missed tackle on a potential sack. This unit isn’t playing out of its mind or anything, but on a defense that is bleeding yards and points, they seem to be the least culpable over the past two weeks. Secondary: D It’s not completely their fault. Being asked to cover a solid set of Cowboys receivers for five or six seconds is asking way too much of this group. And, hell, I would say Darius Slay had himself a very good game, tallying three passes defended and holding Amari Cooper to just three catches for 38 yards. However, everyone else wasn’t up for the task. Randall Cobb had 115 yards and was seemingly wide open all day. Michael Gallup had nine catches for 148, highlighting Rashaan Melvin’s weaknesses. Any time an opposing quarterback throws for 444 yards and averages nearly 10 yards per attempt, the secondary is rightfully going to catch some heat. Special teams: B+ The coverage units are still spectacular and Detroit even finally got some good returns from Jamal Agnew. However, two special teams penalties on C.J. Moore drags this grade down a bit, as they proved very costly in field position. Coaching: D I don’t have any problems with the in-game decisions by Matt Patricia and company. As I stated on Sunday, going for two—although unconventional to many—made a lot of sense from a probability standpoint. Also, I certainly don’t fault them for punting on fourth-and-26 at the end of the game. That’s a near-impossible down and distance, and while I had zero confidence the Lions defense would get a three-and-out, this was a lose-lose proposition for Patricia. However, this defense is only getting worse. They’re stubbornly sending three-man rushes way more often than they should be. They had to burn a timeout because they only had 10 players on the field. Their situational offensive play-calling (see: two-point conversion attempt) is still relatively poor. Matt Patricia likes to say that September is for bad football. Teams are still getting their footing and adjusting their pad level, and yada yada yada. But the Lions are deep into November now, and the bad football is still there. Penalties, missed tackles, miscommunications. It’s all there, and it’s why the Lions are 3-6-1.