The average team intercepted just over 13 passes last season, and that would have been the simplest projection for the 49ers in Chris Berman likes the 49ers, and TJ credits the defense for overcoming five turnovers. The 49ers weren't "due" to intercept some crazy number of passes just because they barely intercepted any last season.
That's what's known as the "gambler's fallacy. They have five interceptions in their three victories, which is second in the league behind the Patriots. The Niners took two of those interceptions -- both picks of Jameis Winston -- to the house for scores. Is there some brilliant strategy they have suddenly employed to create interceptions? The defense is creating more pressure after adding Dee Ford and Nick Bosa this offseason, and pressure helped create this terrible throw from Mason Rudolph , but the 49ers have only jumped from 20th a year ago to 13th in pressure rate.
Instead, they've caught the sort of breaks they didn't catch a year ago. In the Bucs game, O. Howard had a pass bounce off of his hands for one interception. A miscommunication on a Peyton Barber hot route led to a Sherman pick-six, and a terrible decision to force a screen pass from Winston led to another 49ers touchdown. Last year, those plays might have resulted in incompletions or dropped picks.
That's just bad luck. The only interception that's materially different is Kwon Alexander 's interception of Andy Dalton ; while Dalton was pressured, Alexander showed uncommon range to track Tyler Eifert all the way to the sideline for a pick. Alexander also dropped a would-be pick earlier on the drive.
This season, the 49ers have picked off one out of every 21 passes they've seen as a defense. I would not count on that continuing, either. Robert Saleh's defense looks much improved after the offseason additions and a return to health for several key contributors, but the team wasn't due for a run on interceptions to start the year. The best projection for interceptions over the rest of their season would be to, well, regress toward the mean.
Not surprising: The new coaching staff hasn't turned Aaron Jones into a bell cow back. One of the many reasons Packers fans grew frustrated with Mike McCarthy before the longtime coach was fired last season was his usage of Jones. After years of cycling through disappointing running backs, the Packers finally seemed to stumble on something exciting with their fifth-round pick out of UTEP. Jones averaged 5.
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He was expected to be the guy after returning from a two-game suspension last season, but he averaged just New staff. New scheme. This is Aaron Jones' year. He cut his body fat in half during the offseason to stay in better shape. In Week 2, he runs the ball a career-high 23 times and racks up yards from scrimmage in a win over the division rival Vikings. Afterward, new coach Matt LaFleur responds to the big performance by saying he wants to even up the touches between Jones and Jamaal Williams?
And then he gives Williams more carries 12 and snaps 32 than Jones 10 and 20, respectively in Sunday's win over the Broncos? I'm not surprised, though I don't think it's optimal.
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For one, while LaFleur isn't the same as McCarthy, he inherited a situation in which the organization thought of Jones as a part-time back. There are times when a new coach comes in and frees a back who had been stifled by putting him in a much larger role, but more often than not, new coaches come in and use those backs in the same way. New coaches and coordinators often come in and use the backs they inherited the same way the old coaches did.
Coaches also generally establish their preferred back usage in one job and then continue on with that pattern in their next stop. LaFleur was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee last season with a classic thunder-and-lightning combination of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. After a pair of early middling games, the Titans began to squeeze Henry's carries.
Over a nine-game stretch from Week 4 through Week 13, Henry averaged just nine carries per game. Finally, with Lewis predictably scuffling outside of New England, LaFleur turned the offense over to Henry and saw the former Alabama star rack up yards on 87 carries over the final month. Maybe LaFleur was just playing the hot hand.
Williams was more effective than Jones on Sunday, though Jones did score two touchdowns.
I'm not sure playing the hot hand off a handful of carries is a great idea, though, and Jones sure seemed to have the hot hand a week ago. If the Packers are trying to keep him healthy for a late-season push, maybe this will work out great. Given that Rodgers has been off to an inconsistent start while getting used to the new LaFleur scheme, a heavier dose of Jones would probably be best. Packers CB Jaire Alexander says the defense has some "dogs up front," and believes the Packers have the best defense in the league for a fact.
I know what I said earlier about the Bills. They're great. But have you seen the Packers through three weeks? Mitchell Trubisky , Kirk Cousins and Joe Flacco aren't exactly Patrick Mahomes , but the Packers have faced 38 drives through three games, which is tied for the second most in football. They're allowing less than one point per possession, which is good for the second-best mark in football. With the offense struggling for consistent production, though, the defense has to make leads hold up for long stretches. They've also created opportunities for the offense with takeaways.
The Packers have turned opponents over on a league-leading While Pettine is around again as defensive coordinator, it's fair to note that many of the faces are new imports after a busy offseason from general manager Brian Gutekunst. And while I took issue with several of the contracts Gutekunst handed out -- deals that rise dramatically starting next season -- I can't argue with the results so far. The Smiths racked up five sacks and six knockdowns, bringing their combined totals through three games to 7.
Clay Matthews and Nick Perry combined for five sacks and 15 knockdowns over the entire season. First-round pick Rashan Gary also picked up his first career sack against the overmatched Broncos line. Safety, long a Packers problem, has become a strength. Adrian Amos has quickly settled in as a leader and made the key interception of Trubisky in the Week 1 win over the Bears. The first-rounder made a spectacular play to pick off an errant Flacco pass on Sunday.
Cornerback has been a revolving door, too, but the Packers appear to have a full-fledged superstar on their hands in Jaire Alexander. I was impressed with Alexander as a rookie last season, although he didn't have much help in a secondary that was riddled both by injuries and players stuck out of position. With more support, Alexander looks like he might be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFC.
He was spotted ripping the ball out of Noah Fant 's hands Sunday. Kevin King has also played better in a small sample this season, pushing second-rounder Josh Jackson into what has primarily been a special-teams role. Through three weeks, the Packers have scored seven touchdowns. Two have come on the opening drives of games, when they were likely running plays they had scripted before the game began. Of the other five scores, three came off takeaways.
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For years, the Packers would go as far as Rodgers could carry them. Now the defense is carrying Green Bay. Most coaches who make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame do so on the back of a great head-coaching career. It's probably about time to start thinking about great coordinators and positional coaches as potential Hall candidates, too. Dante Scarnecchia is an obvious choice after spending most of the past two decades molding a dominant offensive line in front of Tom Brady in New England.
If I had to pick a coordinator, Phillips is the first guy on the list. If the Rams' offense had held up its end of the bargain last February, we would be lauding Phillips for holding the Patriots to 13 points. Through three weeks, while the Rams have given up 49 points, 14 of those points came off of short fields against the Panthers in Week 1. On Sunday night, the Browns started drives from their own , and yard lines, as well as a brief drive before the end of the first half from the Los Angeles Those drives produced a total of three points. Phillips got so far into Freddie Kitchens' head that he somehow convinced the struggling Browns coach to call for a draw on fourth-and-9 , something I don't believe an NFL team has done on purpose since the Dolphins attempted a fourth-and draw with Bernie Parmalee in Phillips saw Mayfield struggling to deal with pressure and repeatedly reacting to even the threat of pressure by rolling away from the pocket to his right to try to make a desperate play.
By the end of the game, Phillips was lining up his front four in wide splits to try to isolate Cleveland's tackles and then twisting his linemen to both create quick interior pressure while having someone waiting when Mayfield panicked and ran outside. While Mayfield stuck in the pocket and made a pair of great throws on the final drive, the game-sealing interception is a clear example of what Mayfield was doing wrong. While the Rams have a competitive advantage with Aaron Donald collapsing pockets, this isn't a one-man show.
Phillips' defense has improved on despite losing big names such as Ndamukong Suh and Lamarcus Joyner. Eric Weddle has stepped in at safety for Joyner, but another big name has made his presence felt. Remember when I mentioned Clay Matthews as a disappointment in the Packers section? The second of those sacks would qualify as a coverage sack , but he did a great job of shedding what appeared to be a stable block to take Mayfield down and prevent him from scrambling.
Phillips also has a habit of developing little-known inside linebackers into stars, and Cory Littleton continues to improve as one of Phillips' star pupils. I mentioned this last week, but how many inside linebackers could hold their own while covering Michael Thomas on a drag route? Littleton had a monster game against the Panthers in Week 1 and would be a Pro Bowler if we were casting ballots after three weeks.
Should anyone be surprised here? The most important thing the Rams have done over the past decade is hire Sean McVay. The second-most important thing they've done, realistically, is convince Phillips to work alongside him. Surprising: Jared Goff is struggling. In general, Goff is doing great. He has about as much job security as any young quarterback in football. He's 24 and living in Los Angeles and has a brilliant coach who helps him unlock defenses at the line of scrimmage. Over the first three weeks of this season, though, Goff hasn't played well.
Opposing defenses have emulated the Patriots' game plan from the Super Bowl and played what amount to six-man fronts to try to force the Rams away from their outside zone game. Todd Gurley hasn't been healthy enough to play his usual workload. The Rams are rebuilding the interior of their offensive line. This was supposed to be the point in which Goff could shoulder a larger portion of the workload, but that hasn't happened.
Earlier in his career, the Rams spent money on pieces around Goff to surround their cheap young quarterback with talent. Now he is the expensive one.
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He just hasn't been that guy. Remember the expected completion percentage stat I mentioned about Allen? A quarterback making Goff's throws would be expected to complete Goff is completing only Goff is not supposed to be in a group with Dalton and Trubisky. Plenty of quarterbacks get off to slow starts and recover just fine, and I'm not particularly concerned about his completion percentage being five points below expectation after three weeks.
What does strike me as something to look out for, though, is how the Rams seem to be struggling with play-action. From to '18, Goff averaged more than Through 40 play-action throws this season, he is averaging 7. He has thrown three interceptions on play-action in three weeks, including both of his picks on Sunday.
The interceptions were throws Goff would like to take back. On the first pass, Brandin Cooks has a step on reserve cornerback T. Carrie , but the throw is late and in a place where Carrie can make a play. It required an impressive diving pick, but you'll notice in this animation from NFL Next Gen Stats that Robert Woods 17 might also have been open across the middle of the field:. I can't fault Goff for not squeezing that pass into Woods, in part because his second interception was a similar decision.
Again, Woods has a step on his defender, but this pass is thrown in the wrong spot and gives Joe Schobert a chance to tip it up in the air. Goff needed to put more loft on it and fit it in the triangle between Jermaine Whitehead 35 , Eric Murray 22 , and Juston Burris 41 , with the latter player eventually bringing in the tipped pick. It wasn't just the interceptions. McVay was visibly frustrated with Goff for what he seemed to consider a subpar decision on third-and-1 during the second half. He missed a wide-open out route to Cooks in the first half on a pass that Next Gen Stats estimated to have a Goff's numbers on Sunday look fine apart from the interceptions -- of for yards with two touchdown passes to Cooper Kupp -- but he was facing a Browns secondary missing all four of its starters and its best linebacker, Christian Kirksey.
The five starting defensive backs played every snap; they included a pair of backups Carrie and Terrance Mitchell , a special-teamer Murray , a defensive back they claimed off waivers from the Raiders earlier this month Burris , and another who was claimed off the Packers waiver wire last November Whitehead. Isn't this the sort of spot Goff is supposed to smash? One more thing to worry about and then I'll move on: Goff has traditionally been best in the warmest month of the NFL season under McVay.
From to '18, he posted a passer rating of Over the ensuing three months of those seasons, Goff posted a passer rating of I don't expect that sort of drop-off to occur again in , but with Goff currently sporting a passer rating of We often underestimate just how much context matters in evaluating skill position players. The responses, as you might suspect, are from Chiefs fans laughing at the idea that their team would even sign McCoy, let alone see the former Eagles standout play ahead of Damien Williams or Darwin Thompson.
Signing McCoy made sense, but the price tag was far more than I would have expected for a back who averaged just 3. Freed to play in his old coach's offense, though, McCoy has looked impressive. Williams was awful to start the season, carrying the ball 22 times for just 34 yards before going down with a knee injury. McCoy, dealing with an ankle knock, has rushed 29 times for yards and been a dangerous threat as a receiver.
He scored twice in Sunday's win over the Ravens , contributing 80 yards and five first downs or touchdowns on 11 touches.
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It's reminiscent of Williams himself, who looked to be an anonymous, replacement-level back in Miami before starring over the last month of the season in Kareem Hunt 's absence in What looks like a washed-up back somewhere else looks like a star in Kansas City. The Chiefs couldn't stop opposing teams from running the football last season. Over the offseason, the Chiefs underwent a defensive overhaul. They brought in new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, signed Alex Okafor and Tyrann Mathieu , and traded a first-round pick for Frank Clark , who is a better run-defender than Ford.
A lot has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The Chiefs are allowing opposing offenses to average an eye-watering 6. No other team even hits a rushing average of 5. The Chiefs are also last in average yards after first contact at 2. I didn't think they were going to turn into the '85 Bears overnight, but run defenses this bad usually improve just by sheer chance the following season, let alone after making significant changes.
Of course, Kansas City is also , so you can make the case that its run defense might not matter. On Sunday, though, it might have ended up extending what should have been a comfortable win over the Ravens. Even given an early lead, it allowed a couple of prayers from Lamar Jackson to become completions and let the Ravens run for yards and four touchdowns on 32 attempts. The Chiefs were able to stop the Ravens on all three of their two-point tries, including a pair of rush attempts, but the game shouldn't have been that close. Yes, I did predict that the Cowboys would decline in , and I stand by my prediction.
I've been impressed with how the offense has looked for stretches this season, especially in the second half of games, but there are still 13 games to go. No one is right or wrong about anything after three weeks. Given Dallas' schedule to start the year, though, I don't see how anybody could have expected much less than a start. To my mind, no Olympic streak is more noteworthy — either for its duration or its ending — than that of the U.
As indicated below in a chart I created from Wikipedia data , the American men entered the gold-medal game against the Soviet Union with the U. Check out the entire series , which begins with this post.
It turns out that there a lot of streaks at the Olympics. For example: To my mind, no Olympic streak is more noteworthy — either for its duration or its ending — than that of the U. View Comments. Sponsored Stories Powered By Outbrain. More science. Tech in Two. Author: Robbie Gonzalez Robbie Gonzalez.