Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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Notre Dame and Baylor entered the one-loss group in what is shaping up to be an extremely tight race for playoff consideration.

12 Dec 2011

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

compiled by Rivers McCown

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Thursday, December 8th

Cleveland Browns 3 at Pittsburgh Steelers 14

Rivers McCown: Browns! Steelers! Matchups that looked better in Football Outsiders Almanac 2011!

Danny Tuccitto: Since I've been chuckling at it the whole week, let me start things off by pointing out the melodramatic NFL Network commercials playing up this helluva-barnburner(-not!) up as a "storied divisional rivalry!" Yeah. Maybe 25 years ago.

Rivers McCown: Ben Roethlisberger goes down and it did not look good. I actually thought, at first, that he'd wind up with an ankle fracture. He was rather lucky here.

Tom Gower: Only a 7-3 game at half and into the third quarter. But for those two Steelers red zone fumbles both recovered by the Browns, this would be the game I think we all expected -- but those exist, and it's not. The big news is of course the state of Roethlisberger, who I think is probably having the best year of his career. If the Steelers go up two scores, this game has an excellent chance at being over because I don't think Colt McCoy can come back from that kind of deficit in less than 25 minutes of play.

Sunday, December 11th

New England Patriots 34 at Washington Redskins 27

Mike Kurtz: Rex Grossman Grossmans it up in his own end zone on third-and-long, shows absolutely no hurry, is strip-sacked, and Vince Wilfork lands on it. Washington's defense has to be ready to murder someone.

Rob Gronkowski just got his 14th receiving touchdown, one play after a 49-yard bomb where he made a sick diving catch, got up, and basically just ran down the sideline whilst ignoring puny Redskins defenders as they failed miserably at pushing him out of bounds.

Aaron Schatz: That Gronkowski play is incredible. I'm sure it will be in all the highlights this week. Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes are hanging off him as he's on the sideline, trying to bring him down, and somehow he shakes them while keeping his feet in bounds, then a few yards later he breaks another tackle from Josh Wilson. Phenomenal.

The Redskins offensive line is dismal today. Sean Locklear is playing left tackle, and Tyler Polumbus is at right tackle. The Redskins can pick on the Patriots defense when the line actually holds -- Donte' Stallworth had a great long catch where he beat Devin McCourty -- but the Patriots pass rush is going to have a good day. Interestingly, the Patriots are playing more 3-4 than 4-3 in the first quarter, with Andre Carter at defensive end and Mark Anderson, generally a pass-rush specialist, at outside linebacker. You don't see Anderson dropping into coverage much, but I've seen it today.

Vince Verhei: Locklear and Polumbus? If they add Walter Jones, Robbie Tobeck, and Chris Gray they can complete the Washed-Up Seahawks Lineman set!

Since nobody's specifically mentioned this, Gronkowski's touchdown set a single-season record for tight ends, with three-and-a-half games to go.

Home Email (aka J.J. Cooper): Before he had all kind of injuries, I thought Locklear was OK. No such defense can be given for Tyler Polumbus.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Redskins figured out how to deal with their offensive line problems. Instead of leaving the quarterback in the pocket, just run a reverse and have the receiver pass the ball to another receiver who is completely open way down the field. Touchdown. Washington takes a 17-14 lead.

The Patriots offense is definitely off in the second quarter. Tom Brady's missed on a couple passes, and he doesn't seem to be on the same page as his receivers on option routes. In addition, the Redskins defense isn't just a good pass rush -- they are getting good coverage.

Vince Verhei: Redskins just got flagged on a completely B.S. unnecessary roughness call. Brady scrambles and sort of begins to slide. London Fletcher comes up to tackle him and makes contact well before Brady's knee or hips hit the ground. It was shoulder-to-shoulder, and Brady was clearly still up. According to Dan Dierdorff, the refs said there was a forearm to the head, but Fletcher's forearm hit the ball, which was at waist level, nowhere near Brady's head.

Aaron Schatz: I was going to bring that up, yeah, that's a terrible call. It didn't hurt the Redskins too much though, since they held the Pats to a field goal. I also wanted to mention the call on Carter for roughing the passer early in the quarter, when he hit Grossman below the knees about half a second after he throws the ball. This one is less of a questionable call, and more of a "this rule is impossible for players to follow" issue ... but I want to make sure I have this correct. If a defender dives at the quarterback's legs and takes him down with the ball in his hands, that's a sack. If he dives at the quarterback's legs and the quarterback throws the ball away after the defensive player has left his feet, that's roughing the passer. It seems awfully hard as a defender to stop yourself whilst diving in mid-air. This wasn't a play where Carter lunged at Grossman with an extra move after he had clearly gotten rid of the ball; Carter is going for a sack and he has no way to stop himself.

Vince Verhei: Gronkowski's second touchdown was his best play yet. He was actually being held by Ryan Kerrigan when Brady threw him the ball. Gronkowski caught the ball while being held, then fought off the tackle and rambled another 20-some yards into the end zone.

Rivers McCown: Gronkowski, I dub thee ROBO-TE.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I think Wilfork just got called for unnecessary roughness
for hitting a guy too hard, the same thing that happened with Ndamukong Suh and Jay Cutler last year. The Redskins' fullback slipped catching a screen, but no Patriots defender had touched him yet, so he's still alive. Wilfork came over, fell on him, and shoved him with his forearm. No helmet-to-helmet contact, no contact on a receiver who was already down, but unnecessary roughness anyway. I'm frustrated.

Mike Kurtz: Real-time, with the angle the line judge had on that play, he almost certainly thought that there was helmet-to-helmet contact.

Vince Verhei: I thought the Wilfork foul was the right call. Even if the runner was trying to get up (and it's not clear that he was), it was not necessary for the 400-pound man to drive his forearm into the runner's back. That was not an attempt to tackle a runner or touch him down. That was a deliberate attempt to hurt him.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Hernandez really specializes in plays where he catches the ball, then spins away from the defender for extra yards after the catch.

The Pats might want to consider playing man coverage, you know, occasionally. Redskins receivers are just sitting there in the holes in the zone, pitch and catch.

Mike Kurtz: Rex Grossman is awful. Goal-to-go around the 15, and he throws a 5-yarder. Goal-to-go around the 10, throws another 5-yarder, except this one goes through Santana Moss's hands and is intercepted by the Patriots. The interception isn't Grossman's fault, technically, but nothing says "winner" like two passes not into the end zone when you need a touchdown to tie/win.

Mike Tanier: Eh ... I made a career out of Grossman jokes, but I can't lay that at his feet. Cross to Moss, see if he can slice into the end zone, when you have time for another play, not a bad idea.

Aaron Schatz: This was challenged, and the ruling was confirmed. Twice in this game, there were challenges on Patriots plays and the play on the field stood -- and I swear there was a huge cheer from the crowd after the call went in favor of the Patriots. Were there that many Patriots fans at this game today? I wouldn't think of Washington as a team that had lots of seats open for visiting fans to buy.

(P.S. I made this comment on Twitter and got a lot of response; apparently, Redskins fans were unloading their tickets and there was a huge Pats fans contingent at FedEx today. I guess the Redskins *are* that kind of team.)

Philadelphia Eagles 26 at Miami Dolphins 10

Mike Kurtz: Brandon Marshall catches a touchdown over Nnamdi Asomugha, and Philadelphia's epic squandering of his unique talent continues. Playing in a man scheme is just like playing in a zone scheme, right?

Vince Verhei: I'm confused by this comment. Are you slamming the Eagles coaching staff for still playing zone, or slamming Nnamdi for playing man defense poorly?

Mike Kurtz: Eagles staff. Always Eagles staff.

Tom Gower: Yeah, that touchdown looked like man coverage. It was a nice throw by Matt Moore, and Marshall just outjumped him. That the Eagles paired a great zone corner and a great man corner was not the cause of this particular touchdown.

Mike Kurtz: Fair enough.

Ben Muth: The Eagles just went split backs on first-and-goal from the 1. That is as insane to me as playing Nnamdi in zone for a whole year.

Aaron Schatz: Anybody want to hazard a guess why Philadelphia decided to tease everybody again today?

Mike Tanier: So far it is the Dolphins inability to cover or block anyone one-on-one. Oh, and having Michael Vick back helps

The Eagles have been great on short yardage stops. Or maybe the Dolphins have been terrible. I did find J.P. Losman's attempt to tunnel under the stadium for a first down interesting.

Houston Texans 20 at Cincinnati Bengals 19

Rivers McCown: T.J. Yates has overthrown every non-screen pass he's released so far today, yet the Texans and Bengals are tied 3-3 thanks to a goal-line stand and a 44-yard Ben Tate run.

The Bengals are getting good push in the run game, especially up the middle, but that may change now that Bobbie Williams has limped off. Shaun Cody has been getting blown off the ball -- this has really been the first time that the Texans run defense has been a negative since Week 3.

Oh, and Tate fumbled on goal-to-go. That hurt.

Rob's boy Jerome Simpson just caught a nice post from Andy Dalton, under pressure, to put the Bengals up 13-3.

The Bengals drive from inside their own 5 all the way to a field goal almost solely due to A.J. Green. He drew a ~25-yard defensive pass interference on Johnathan Joseph, then beat double coverage on an underthrown deep ball by Dalton to get them in the red zone. He's been extremely impressive.

Yates just ran play-action on a pass without a running back behind him.

Mike Tanier: Dunno if I go for it on fourth-and-2 in long field goal range, down by nine, early in the fourth, with my rookie third-stinger at quarterback.

Rivers McCown: Neil Rackers already missed a 47-yarder, and didn't look like he had a lot of distance on his made figgie. I don't like it either, but I think it looks better if you decide your only other option is punting.

Arian Foster fumbles on a screen pass, but the Bengals kick it around after picking it up once and eventually Eric Winston falls on the ball at his own 2-yard line, which due to the momentary change of possession, gave the Texans a first down. Gary Kubiak challenges it -- it did look like an incomplete pass -- but the refs upheld the ruling. Would you rather have the extra down or the 20 yards of field position in that case?

Aaron Schatz: I think I would rather have the 20 yards because it gets me out of the shadow of my own end zone. The value of every successive yard is higher on both ends of the field, I wouldn't want to have to worry about a safety.

Just saw a replay of the final Houston-Cincinnati play. It looks like a blown coverage of some sort. Kevin Walter is over on the far right, Kelly Jennings has him. After the snap it looks like man across the board, except when Walter slants inside, Jennings just points towards him and drops back a bit. Did Jennings think someone would pick Walter up inside, either in a zone or some sort of switch? Nobody did, and that's how Houston got the touchdown.

Robert Weintraub: It wasn't a blown coverage, it was a clever pick play --Jennings passed off as they were playing zone along the goal line, but the two inside receivers crossed and picked off Nate Clements, who went down in the muck. Walter, coming from the outside, was thus alone.

The bigger problem was rushing three on the biggest play of the game against a rookie third-stringer who struggled under pressure all game. Yates had escaped what should have been a sack a few plays earlier to get a Tebow-esque first down on third-and-15, so perhaps Zimmer was gunshy.

Danny Tuccitto: My dream of not having to follow through with that tiger suit bet lives to see another week!

Robert Weintraub: Nothing for me to say about the Bengals, other than it is comforting to know that after 11 weeks of un-Bengals bizarro world football, Cincy gets crushed in Pittsburgh and loses a heartbreaker in a game they absolutely need. In other words, business as usual.

Part of me is relieved -- I'd hate for Cincy to play the Broncos in the playoffs and get Tebowed.

Tim Gerheim: As a Texans fan, I'm still in shock, even borderline skeptical, that they won the division. Like I'm going to wake up in a few hours and it'll be Sunday morning. When I saw Houston was third in DVOA a few weeks ago, I got vertigo. When they hit first place, I felt a confusing combination of pride and dread, because that cannot reflect reality. I doubt that fans of most teams, the kind of team that goes to the playoffs sometimes and may have been to a Super Bowl, can understand how this feels.

By the end of the game I was watching at the bar with a Jets fan whose game had been switched off by the local affiliate; he came over to root against Cincinnati, for wild card reasons. (Aside: how lame is it that if you have Sunday Ticket, if the local station switches away from a blowout, that blowout is still blacked out on its Ticket channel?) When the Texans got first down at the 6 after the pass interference with 12 seconds left, he started talking about how they had time for three plays, and concluded that they were going to win.

But I'm a Texans fan, so all I could think was that I'd seen this movie before. Matt Schaub threw an interception in the same situation in the Raiders game this year. He threw the pick-six to the Ravens in overtime last season. The Texans don't win these games. They don't make the playoffs. That doesn't reflect a bag-over-the-head feeling that they're not a good team -- they've been a good team for going on three years now. They're not cursed; they're not afflicted by Murphy's Law; they
don't have bad luck; they just experience an ineffable lack of success.

Now, the Texans won their division and are (for now, rather meaninglessly) the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and it's forcing a complete paradigm shift. And I love it.

Rivers McCown: Improbable really isn't a strong enough word for what being a Texans fan is like right now. Andre Johnson has been out for most of the season, Schaub is gone, Schaub's backup is gone, Mario Williams is gone, Foster has missed time -- and yet, they just keep chugging along. This is a team that, even up until last season, would routinely blame their problems on injuries -- as if every team in the NFL didn't have to deal with the same thing -- and now they're weathering the worst storm they've ever had with a third-string quarterback and a defense that consists of Joseph, Danieal Manning (who has also missed time), two rookies, and seven guys that played on one of the worst defenses in NFL history last season.

I know they have played a weak schedule, I know I have my doubts about Yates versus a Steelers or Ravens-level (or heck, even a Jets or Broncos-level) pass defense. But man, this has been a completely pleasant surprise from the team that, up until this year, I could always count on to ruin my Sunday in some completely inconceivable way.

Danny Tuccitto: Rivers, that was spoken like a true 49ers fan. Well, most of it anyway. San Francisco hasn't had the injury issues, but it is definitely nice to be pleasantly surprised for once after almost a decade of inconceivably ruined Sundays. Easy schedule and offensive concerns going forward, be damned!

New Orleans Saints 22 at Tennessee Titans 17

Tom Gower: Confounding my predictions, it's only a 3-0 game in the first quarter thanks to a Darren Sproles third-down drop in the red zone and a pair of holding penalties on the Saints, one negating a punt return touchdown by Sproles and the other putting them in second-and-long and forcing a punt at midfield. Jimmy Graham is obviously hobbled by what's reportedly back spasms.

Ben Muth: This Saints-Titans game has been ugly to start the second quarter. There's already been two false starts, a roughing the passer, a block in the back, and a hold (this one was questionable). Now Matt Hasselbeck is hurt, and Jake Locker is in on second-and-35.

Tom Gower: The game in Nashville has officially descended into a flagfest, The current Saints drive has featured flags on three straight plays, although the latest was picked up. The big storyline though is that Hasselbeck is out of the game with what's reportedly a left calf injury, sustained without contact. Locker had a nice pass to Craig Stevens that set up a field goal to make it a 3-3 game; I'll reserve further comment on his play until later in the game.

Lance Moore drops a touchdown pass, and the Saints go into the half with a 6-3 lead. Drew Brees is 19-of-27 for 149 yards, as most of the efforts to throw downfield have not been successful and nobody bothered to tell the Saints the Titans' corners are pretty good at tackling. Chris Johnson has been much less productive than I anticipated, with five yards on five carries in the first half.

On third-and-goal, the Saints do what they should've been doing all along: spreading the Titans out and isolating them one-on-one. Brees hits Graham, but unfortunately, Graham doesn't catch the ball cleanly at first and his foot just barely nicks the edge of the out of bounds area, so Sean Payton loses his challenge. 9-3 Saints, rather than 13-3.

I keep forgetting other teams' defensive backs can't tackle. Apparently Gregg Williams did as well. Locker gets the throw out before the New Orleans blitz gets home, and Patrick Robinson whiffed on Damian Williams, allowing him to pick up 54 yards and set up a Locker dive into the end zone. The Saints are driving at the dawn of the fourth quarter, but the Titans lead the game, 10-9.

Brees has something like one incompletion in the second half on 18 passes, that being the Graham touchdown that nearly was. The Saints' last four possessions have ended in scores, the most recent two on downfield scores to Marques Colston. Payton eschewed the two-point conversion at 15-10, but went for it at 22-10 and failed. Somehow, the Titans score in three plays, including a Locker scramble and a long touchdown pass that hits Nate Washington over the coverage on a vertical seam pass. 22-17, six minutes to play, and this game has been a heck of a lot more entertaining than I was anticipating.

Ben Muth: On a big third-and-5 Karl Klug stunts inside and sacks Brees, to get the ball back to Locker down one score. The sack occurred because Carl Nicks didn't know which way the center was going. It was clear he thought Brian de la Puente was sliding with him, so he let the lineman go, but de la Puente was working right, so it was an easy sack. He must have misheard the call.

Vince Verhei: Saints let the Titans drive down the field partially due to bad tackling, and partially due to rampant zone coverage that Tennessee exploited. Titans have a goal-to-go, needing a touchdown to win, but on third down Locker is pressured, scrambled, can't find a man, and takes a sack. Game over.

Locker hit a few big passes, but he looks like the same passer he was in college. If his primary receiver is covered, the play is dead. If the primary receiver is open, he'll probably overthrow him anyway. And if he does have a chance to make one play to win the game at the end, he'll come up short.

Tom Gower: I'll take a detailed look at Locker's play later this week, but I'm on board with Vince's little writeup. If his first read is available, he'll take that and may miss him, otherwise he'll look to escape the pocket.

Ben Muth: I thought Johnson looked awful. He was back to just diving or lunging forward for two yards if there weren't huge holes right away. Then, in what turned out to be a huge play in the fourth quarter, he caught a swing pass with a ton of open space and just one man to beat. Not only did he not make the guy miss, but he got stuffed a half-yard short of the first down. A first down Tennessee couldn't convert on third or fourth down.

As far as Locker goes, he's definitely fun to watch. He moves well and throws a pretty ball (not really accurate, but it looks good in the air). That being said, it seems like he'd be impossible to pass block for because he looks to abandon the pocket almost immediately on every play where his first read isn't open.

Atlanta Falcons 31 at Carolina Panthers 23

Home Email (aka J.J. Cooper): It has been a rough year for Sam Baker. He has deservedly lost his spot as the starting left tackle for the Falcons, and for at least one play, his new role as a right guard isn't going any better. Baker was beaten badly to the inside for a safety. Matt Ryan held the ball for 2.9 seconds, but it is pretty easy to point the finger at Baker on this one.

Vince Verhei: I hope J.J.'s comment on Ryan's sack is attributed to "Home E-mail" in Audibles tomorrow.

Rivers McCown: Consider it done. Home Email is my favorite FO poster.

Home Email (aka J.J. Cooper): Argh. Sending from my new Nook Tablet. Is it botching my email address?

Vince Verhei: On the Google groups webpage, where most names go, it just reads "Home Email." Don't feel bad. Mine just said "Vince" for years until I figured out how to fix it. Tanier got some new gadget last year and became "Mike Taniet" for a while.

Mike Kurtz: Yeah, the new Nooks are great, but the email program is kind of a disaster.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 at Jacksonville Jaguars 41

Brian McIntyre: With two lost fumbles in the first half today, Buccaneers punt returner Preston Parker has cemented this week's David Reed Special Teams Goat of the Week Award.

Tom Gower: The Jacksonville Jaguars have scored 28 points in the first half of today's game against the Bucs. That 28 points is not only more than the Jaguars scored in any of their 24 previous halves of play this season, but it also represents the most points they've scored in a single game. And all of the points came in the final eight minutes of the second quarter. This game does not make sense sometimes.

Vince Verhei: Taking Tom's point on the Jaguars further: The Jags scored 21 points in less than two minutes late in the second quarter. That is also more points than they had scored in a single game this year.

Aaron Schatz: Two defensive touchdowns for the Jaguars, right?

Tom Gower: One special teams, after the Bucs fumbled a punt, and one defensive, off a sack and fumble. The two offensive touchdowns would have been remarkable enough in their own right, though.

Indianapolis Colts 10 at Baltimore Ravens 24

Home Email (aka J.J. Cooper): The announcers brought up that the Colts are trying to avoid their first 0-13 start since 1995. It is safe to say if your team has had a previous 0-13 streak to compare to your current one, your franchise has had some pretty dark moments. I wonder how many franchises have ever had an 0-13 start to the season?

Kansas City Chiefs 10 at New York Jets 37

Mike Tanier: The Jets just marched down the field on a roughing the passer penalty and two defensive pass interference calls. The Chiefs are probably going to have negative net yards today.

Minnesota Vikings 28 at Detroit Lions 34

Vince Verhei: Christian Ponder is benched after three interceptions and a pair of fumbles. Joe Webb comes in and scrambles right. All the receivers run to the left, and since Detroit's man-to-man defenders had followed them, Webb had an easy 65-yard touchdown run. Have we ever looked at quarterback rushing yards allowed as a measure of whether teams favor man or zone coverage? We'd have to adjust for opponent to account for the Michael Vicks and Tim Tebows of the world, but I think it could be a solid indicator of defensive scheme.

San Francisco 49ers 19 at Arizona Cardinals 21

Vince Verhei: Early candidate for balls of the week award: On their opening drive, San Francisco goes for it on fourth-and-5 from the Arizona 38. Alex Smith scrambles, starts to run, collects himself, and dumps it off to Kendall Hunter for the first down. I'd have expected a defense-first team like San Francisco to punt there.

Danny Tuccitto: It's amazing how, every week, the 49ers put out the same product: plodding-yet-imaginative offense, field goals in the red zone, stellar defense against an offense that can't get out of its own way, and a great special teams play or two. Oh, and of course, all of this results in a 6-0 game at some point in the second quarter. If I have some family obligation from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on a Sunday from here out, feel free to recycle this audible.

Vince Verhei: More balls: San Francisco is, as usual, ahead 6-0. They're about to kick another field goal, but it's a fake! For a touchdown! By Jonathan Goodwin! Only the play is blown dead, because Arizona is apparently challenging the spot of the ball on the third-down play. Too bad. David Akers misses the ensuing 50-yard field-goal attempt.

One snap later, Early Doucet lines up in the slot, runs a slant, breaks one tackle, and gets some big blocks downfield for a 60-yard touchdown.

Danny Tuccitto: Basically, this game just went from 13-0 San Francisco to 7-6 Arizona because the referee didn't realize the ball had already been snapped before Arizona's challenge. Seriously, listen to the audio of the replay. Why do officials force me to rip them?

Mike Tanier: From what I've seen of this game, the Cardinals took copious notes of what the Ravens pass rush was doing on Thanksgiving night.

Danny Tuccitto: Now the refs pick up a flag for leverage against Arizona on the 49ers latest possibly nullified (non-fake) field goal attempt. FOX replay seemed to show leverage (at least from my biased perspective). It's incredibly difficult to analyze the game play when my brain is awash with officiating disbelief.

At the end of the first half in Arizona, the only mystery left seems to be, "Which field goal record is San Francisco trying to break today?" If, at 12-7, they keep up this pace, Akers has a shot to tie Rob Bironas' record of eight made field goals in a game, as well as former Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers' record of 40 in a season. (He's currently at 36 with the four makes so far.)

True to form, the 49ers start the second half by reminding weary fans that they can, in fact, score touchdowns. On the first play of their first drive, they use jet sweep action from Ted Ginn to send Arizona's linebackers bailing to the outside. That leaves Goodwin and Mike Iupati free to open an HOV lane inside for Frank Gore, who runs it 37 yards to paydirt with an assist from a Michael Crabtree downfield block.

Ben Muth: Larry Fitzgerald makes a nice catch on a poorly-thrown post route and takes it for a long score. The Cardinals are getting dominated, but thanks to two big plays, they only down five.

Danny Tuccitto: With all the deceptive tactics that he loves to employ, this game has to be killing Jim Harbaugh, because the offense has now tipped its hand twice without the play even counting.

First, there was that fake field goal nullified by an in-play Whisenhunt challenge. Then, they just tried to run the actual jet sweep to Ginn that was feigned on Gore's touchdown run. However, Goodwin didn't snap the ball, and Smith decided to blow a timeout rather than just do some kind of aborted play QB sneak. What sucks about those, obviously, is that it's not like he can go to the well again once the element of surprise is lost.

Tom Gower: A Fitzgerald catch and run brings the Cardinals to the red zone, and a John Skelton pass to Andre Roberts gives the Cardinals a touchdown and a 20-19 lead, after which Ken Whisenhunt naturally elects to kick the extra point.

Danny Tuccitto: The silver lining I'm taking away from this incredibly uninspired performance by the 49ers is that the defense really hasn't regressed much, if at all, without Patrick Willis today. The Cardinals have basically gotten all of their offense (and points) from a handful of big plays. That's the fault of the back end, especially given how much pressure San Francisco's getting with their four-man rush. The run defense, as per usual, has been stout.

I would love to know why, on the 49ers' fourth-down play with two minutes left, Vernon Davis, who was kept in to block (for some reason) proceeds to both block no one. He then amplifies this by standing around 20 yards deep in the backfield, seemingly uninterested in helping a running-for-his-life Smith in any way. He could have leaked out. He could have blocked someone when he had a second (and third) chance to do so. Instead, he did neither.

Tom Gower: I don't know what does a better job of reducing me to incomprehensibility: the 49ers' final possession of today's game or the last couple minutes of regulation and the three-and-a-half minutes (and counting) of overtime in Denver-Chicago.

Ben Muth: How many more games does John Skelton have to win before he gets the "just win games" treatment? Two? Three?

Chicago Bears 10 at Denver Broncos 13

Mike Kurtz: Charles Tillman just intercepted Tim Tebow, and it was one of the most beautiful catches I've ever seen. The receiver fell down, but the throw was high, so Tillman fully extended, snatched it out of the air, pivoted on one foot, went rigid, and tagged the second foot as he fell down. I'm not sure he even touched the receiver. Just gorgeous.

Ben Muth: Lance Briggs just got called for roughing the passer on a play where he didn't hit Tebow hard enough to knock him down.

Aaron Schatz: Remember my complaint earlier about Andre Carter? Same thing just happened to Israel Idonije.

Mike Tanier, I think, wrote last week about how the Denver offense looked like more of a standard passing offense last week, and I think the same thing is true this week. There's a lot of Tebow in the pocket, looking for receivers like a standard quarterback. The difference is that the Chicago Bears defense isn't blowing coverages right and left the way the Vikings did last week, so Tebow doesn't have open guys most of the time.

Mike Tanier: I also wrote that every Niners game begins with three field goal attempts! And check how I presaged that safety in the Eagles game! I'm Nostrafreakindamus! The world will end on March 23, 2017!

Mike Kurtz: Tebow's statline actually looks far worse than it should ... his receivers are dropping everything.

Vince Verhei: Denver comes out with a pistol formation in the second half. They run play action and Demaryius Thomas runs a post pattern, blowing by Tillman for what should be a long touchdown. Tebow's pass is thrown too far ahead and Thomas can't bring it in. This is a "Tebow Special" incompletion, where it was just barely possible for Thomas to make a superhuman catch, but he couldn't quite pull it off.

Ben Muth: The Broncos punt to Devin Hester, who makes like three guys miss right on the sideline, reverses his field, and takes it inside the 50. The Bears end up punching it in on a Marion Barber run, ruining my dream of a 0-0 tie.

Vince Verhei: Robbie Gould takes advantage of the Denver atmosphere, drilling a 57-yarder with plenty of leg to spare. 10-0 Chicago.

You know who should be the MVP of the Denver-Chicago game, even if the Broncos lose? Britton Colquitt. He's punted eight times for a 45-yard average, and he's only allowed Hester to try two returns. Obviously, kicking in Denver helps, but he's done a fine job of gaining field position while neutralizing Chicago's most dangerous weapon.

Aaron Schatz: Tebow had 11 straight incomplete passes. He's now 10-for-12 since then, primarily in the fourth quarter, and one of those incompletes was a really awful drop by Demaryius Thomas. Ridiculous. Oh, and he just found Thomas wide open in the end zone for a touchdown with 2:08 left to make it 10-7 Chicago.

Vince Verhei: Denver gets the ball down 10 with four minutes to go. They go prevent, and Tebow dinks and dunks down the field, completing six passes in a row to put Denver into the end zone just before the two-minute warning. Most of the completions were for 10 yards or less.

Chicago recovers the onside kick (barely). They run three plays and punt, but they don't kill much clock because the two-minute warning was up after first down, and Marion Barber stupidly ran out of bounds on second down. The Denver Tebows have the ball at their own 19, no timeouts, down three, 56 seconds to go.

And of course, the Bears play the softest zone ever until Denver crosses midfield. It was like they were up 30, not three. Once the Bears decided to play real defense, the drive promptly stalled. They showed Matt Prater drilling 70-yard kicks in practice, so the 59-yarder here is academic, and we're going to overtime.

Aaron Schatz: Those 70-yard field goals they show before the game are meaningless. Every field goal kicker kicks long field goals in practice before the game. There's nobody out there trying to block it, no need to worry about the angles, and no pressure. It doesn't mean anything. It doesn't tell us anything about Prater's ability to hit a 59-yarder. You know what does tell us about Prater's ability to hit a 59-yarder? A map that shows that this game is taking place in Denver.

The Tebow thing is amazing, because it's amazing what kind of crazy mistakes by opponents have helped all these wins. Ponder's pick, Barber going out of bounds, just crazy stuff.

Mike Kurtz: I'm not sure any player has ever chopped as much wood as Marion Barber did in the past 5 minutes of gametime.

Vince Verhei: The Broncos are lining up for a 51-yard field goal. Everyone in the bar is crowded under the TV asking "Can he do it again?" "He?" Is Tebow kicking now?

Mike Kurtz: Another week of avoiding football media, I guess.

Mike Tanier: Bad news, son. You ARE football media.

Mike Kurtz: Mind = blown.

I AM THE MONSTERS.

Oakland Raiders 16 at Green Bay Packers 46

Ben Muth: Green Bay gets touchdowns from Ryan Grant and Ryan Taylor. That makes 18 different Packers who have scored this year. That's the most in the NFL this year, and has got to be at least approaching the record right?

Rivers McCown: If this game doesn't fix the Packers DVOA, nothing will.

Tom Gower: Apparently, 31-0 is the largest deficit the Raiders have faced at halftime in franchise history, with the previous record being 30-0 to the Chargers ... back in 1961, when Al Davis was an assistant for the Chargers.

When the defensive line isn't making a difference, Oakland has a lot of trouble winning.

Mike Tanier: The Raiders aren't going to do much against a team whose greatest weakness is its secondary with Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford hurt. The guys we made fun of them for drafting are Carson Palmer's only targets.

Vince Verhei: Latest sign that it's just not Oakland's day: Randall Cobb opens the second half with a long kickoff return. Oakland wants to challenge the call, saying Cobb stepped out of bounds before he was tackled, but the replay system isn't working and there's nothing the refs can do.

Meanwhile, we at home are watching the play repeatedly, from different angles, in slow motion...

Buffalo Bills 10 at San Diego Chargers 37

Tom Gower: Ryan Mathews is gashing the Bills on the ground early, mostly outside, but also on a big cutback run up the middle. Antonio Gates is reminding everyone that he's still a productive pass-catcher. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been picked and missed David Nelson, I believe, downfield on third down. At least the Bills blocked an extra point, so it's only 16-0.

I miss Aggressive Chan Gailey. Trailing 16-0 with less than four minutes to play in the second quarter, on fourth-and-ten from the Chargers 35, Gailey elects to attempt the field goal rather than, say, go for it. The field goal misses, and the Chargers are across midfield in one play.

Seriously? Seriously? Seriously? The Bills cut the deficit to 16-3 on the opening drive of the second half, and then Philip Rivers drops back to pass on third-and-seven. There's a screen set up to Mike Tolbert, but as Rivers brings his arm back the ball slips out, and Bryan Scott recovers in the end zone for a touchdown. It will be among the most NORV things ever if San Diego loses this game.

New York Giants 37 at Dallas Cowboys 34

Tom Gower: Let's give Ahmad Bradshaw some knucklehead props for getting benched by apparently missing curfew. And more bonehead props for Tony Romo for that safety. And to Kevin Gilbride for throwing two fades after that big pass play.

Mike Tanier: The fade to Travis Beckum was particularly inspired

Tom Gower: On the John Phillips screen, really nice awareness and mobility by Doug Free to stay legal, then get downfield and take out the defender.

Aaron Schatz: Felix Jones is reminding us why we all thought he was pretty good before he struggled early this year and DeMarco Murray swept in to make everybody forget him.

Vince Verhei: Tony Fiammetta is also playing well tonight, putting Giants defenders wherever he wants them. This is not unusual.

On the radio, James Lofton also knocked the Cowboys for calling the fade pass after the big play. Add that to the "things to study some day" list -- how do offenses fare after big plays that are not touchdowns?

Danny Tuccitto: "Faring poorly after big plays that are not touchdowns" is basically the story of the Niners red zone offense this year. They get a ton of turnovers in opponents' territory that they return to the 10-or-so-yard line, and the offense settles for field goals. Happened today again actually. Also featured today: they get a Ginn punt return to the 4-yard line (no clue how he didn't score), and offense settles for a field goal. Of course, in the specific case of the 49ers, it would be nice if they actually threw the ball into the end zone when they get to the red zone. Today, it was borderline comical how practically every red zone pass was intended for a receiver that wasn't going to score even if completed. But I digress...

Vince Verhei: Lofton was referring to big offensive plays only though, the theory being that offenses are out of breath after big plays, particularly the linemen who have to move their fat bodies (Mr. Muth excluded, obviously) down the field and get set.

Aaron Schatz: I definitely feel like we're seeing a lot of good run blocking tonight, this has been a good back-and-forth game.

On the other hand, David Diehl is not having a good night pass-blocking.

Rivers McCown: Well, there's a reason the Giants moved him inside, methinks.

Mike Tanier: Jason Garrett just called a timeout early in the third quarter. Maybe he should call all three now, just in case.

Vince Verhei: On third-and-3 in the third, Laurent Robinson is open in a hole in the zone, but Tony Romo throws slightly ahead of him. That's the first incompletion to Robinson tonight -- he caught each of the first three passes thrown his way for 63 yards and a touchdown. I just wanted to point out that in the Week 10 edition of Quick Reads, I predicted Robinson would have a big game tonight. Got that one right, at least.

Tom Gower: DeMarco Murray reportedly has a right ankle fracture and high ankle sprain. Do you trust Felix and whatever else you have behind you enough the rest of the year, and shouldn't you have more than two running backs active when both of them have an injury history and one of them has missed time this year?

Mike Tanier: Is Julius Jones available? Ladell Betts? Maybe Sean Payton can send the Cowboys the numbers of all the running backs he had to pull off the scrap heap last year.

Danny Tuccitto: I'm starting to get the feeling that Dez Bryant is going to end up with one of those Jacoby-Jones-esque DYARs this week, and it's entirely because Romo can't seem to hit the farm tonight, let alone the broadside of its barn.

OK, correction: Romo can hit barns named "Laurent Robinson" and "Miles Austin," misses farm named "Dez Bryant."

Aaron Schatz: Ha! You'll have to take that back, because Romo found Bryant WIDE OPEN for a 50-yard touchdown. And I mean, wide wide wide open. What a blown coverage.

Eli Manning, meanwhile, has made some ridiculous throws in this game with guys in his face. He just chucked it 25 yards to Victor Cruz while falling backwards with a guy in his face.

Danny Tuccitto: Progression to Romo's Bryant-accuracy mean was inevitable at some point. Also, I'm wondering what the game-charting record for "blown coverage" touchdowns is between the two teams combined.

To make a self-serving philosophical point, some of the blown coverages in this game are perfect examples of why having the All-22 film for every play would be nice. I know one of the blown Cowboys coverages was because they were simply caught off-guard after a hasty substitution. However, what about some of the others Specifically, were the offenses setting them up earlier in the game? That kind of chess-game stuff is totally inaccessible without the All-22 film, and I personally think a lot of the unexplained variance in play-by-play football analysis is contained in that black box.

p.s. By "black box," I specifically meant the play-by-play strategy-related stuff, not having the All-22 film in general. To say the latter is kind of "duh." Having the film's one thing, but being able to use that film to decipher specific tactics and strategies is quite another.

p.p.s. I think I just used up the last of my lifetime quota for the word "stuff."

Aaron Schatz: Kevin Boothe is not a very good center. His bad snaps keep being saved either by Eli or by Dallas penalties.

Danny Tuccitto: Prediction: Depending on the outcome of the last minute of this game, the comments section of Audibles tomorrow will contain a discussion of either (a) the Cowboys should have let the Giants score, or (b) the Giants left too much time.

Robert Weintraub: If only the kick had been no good before the Coughlin time out, the circle would have been perfectly squared.

That works, too.

Mike Kurtz: I hate this ending just because it adds more anecdotal evidence for icing, which means more annoying icing.

Robert Weintraub: The NFL needs to abolish the red line to rid us of all this icing...

That was a T.J. Yates-esque performance by Eli.

Danny Tuccitto: Given the outcome, I guess the Audibles comment thread will include a discussion of both (a) and (b)? Cowboys should have let the Giants score on first down and the Giants left too much time?

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 12 Dec 2011

316 comments, Last at 16 Dec 2011, 5:32am by td

Comments

1
by Mikey :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:05am

Are the Bills now the worst team in the league? We'll see the DVOA numbers tomorrow, but man. The head coach says that we have the talent to be 'respectable' but "I don't know about 'good.'" That's not promising. I wonder if he's going to resign at the end of the season. He doesn't strike me as a happy guy.

41
by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:23pm

Given the injuries on the line, they are now exactly the same team that started 0-8 last year. If they had stayed healthy, I thought they had a shot to break .500 this year, but they don't have much talent left on the roster at this point. Losing out is a distinct possibility.

2
by MVPFF (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:14am

I think there were some unfair jabs at Locker based on one half of a game where he came in due to an injured starter. He made some mistakes. He made some plays.

He stood in there pretty well when Tracy Porter murdered him. I think there's a chance he calms down in the pocket in the future. It's a good situation to succeed for a QB cause opponents are definitely preoccupied with stopping the running game.

34
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:18pm

Thing is, I'm not sure there's any positive evidence to suggest Locker is likely to become a good NFL quarterback. He's not a good enough runner to succeed purely on the strength of that, he's inaccurate, and he's never had to go through reads quickly and correctly in the way pro quarterbacks who aren't devastating run threats have to. One of the things that really pleased me (as a Texans fan) coming out of this year's draft was that the Titans and Jaguars had committed to sucking on offense for the forseeable future, and nothing that I've seen since has made me think I was wrong.

43
by MVPFF (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:26pm

Yeah, I'm not trying to say he's the next coming of Joe Montana...I just think it's so early to make any statement beyond he made some plays and made some mistakes. I think he warrants a look as a guy who gets a full training camp and full reps. Then we can start to analyze it.

But I agree that for him to succeed, it will have to be as a drop back passer. But he deserves a fair shake at it...

100
by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:03pm

This is a fair point, and I should have added a disclaimer along the lines of "we should have expected Locker to be the same QB without training camp and number-one reps." The Titans expected it, or they wouldn't have brought in Hasselbeck.

I just want to be on record as predicting that Locker will be a bust.

3
by are-tee :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:17am

MVP for the Giants was Manningham. If he doesn't drop that easy TD, the Cowboys would easily have had enough time to score a touchdown to win the game.

6
by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:25am

LOL--I said the same thing when everybody I was watching with groaned at his drop. It was for the best...unless the Cowboys scored quickly enough for Eli to get the ball back and score again. After all, there was still a minute and a half left :)

46
by allmystuffisthere (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:27pm

So is the 'let them score/get the ball back' idea the NFL's version of fouling late in an NBA game where you end up watching free throws and commercials for 30 minutes just to find out who won? The only thing that hasn't evolved in the pass-happy era is the mindset that it works as easily as it does. Unless you are a cold weather city that builds its team around defense, sinking a ton of money into defensive backs, you are giving up that late touchdown drive. And Jason Garrett has played every step out in this thing. I really don't know why he is caught surprised and indecisive. Dallas needs to pass until that last first down conversion leads to downing it, and Garrett just needs to come to terms with that.

135
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:03pm

Has there ever been a case of a team needing a TD late in the game and intentionally NOT scoring too quickly (ex: on 1st and goal), just to drain time. It is a risk, but if you are close enough to the end zone probably one worth taking.

My favorite "let's not score too quickly" was after 4th and 2, when Manning and the Colts huddled that whole drive after going no-huddle all game, just to waste clock.

169
by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:12pm

I can't even imagine a team doing that, needing a TD. A FG? Sure, and they do it all the time. But even at the 1, there's not enough guarantee of punching it in that you can afford to waste downs.

And what are you going to do, anyway, on, say, 1st-and-goal at the 1 yard line? Take a knee? Now you're at the 2 or 3 and it's a whole different thing. Throw incomplete? Defeats the purpose. Run a half-hearted dive into the line? A very good chance of a loss on the play or worse if you're not going all out.

220
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:11pm

I would never do it. I wonder what the win probability difference would be between 1st and goal at the 1, down by 6, with 2:00 left, and 2nd and goal at the 1, down by 6, with 1:20 left. You still have a good chance of scoring, but having one less shot as you did before, but your opponent has less time. I guess the amount of timeouts the other team has impacts this too.

I don't think we'll ever see it. But I never thought I would see a coach go for it on 4th and 2 from their own 28 up 6 either.

235
by allmystuffisthere (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 7:09pm

Seeing as how a majority of ppl felt the math told them it was the right move for Atlanta to go for it on their own 30, I don't see how it's even an argument here. You'd really have to mess up to not score, like botch the snap. That almost never happens with Dallas.

253
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 10:31pm

QB sneak. Gain half a yard, burn some clock. Then probably sneak again.

4
by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:20am

OK, Danny, here goes:

I will not criticize the Giants for their end-of-game playcalling vis-a-vis leaving the Cowboys time on the clock. They did what I thought they should do last week: run the ball.

And, lo and behold, what happened? The 'Boys had just enough time to get down the field for a longish FG. Had Jacobs not been stuffed on first down (which, as a Giants fan, I was actively and vociferously rooting for, BTW) Dallas would have had time to run another play or two, meaning they would have had a shorter attempt at a FG, meaning it's much less likely to be blocked, meaning probable OT.

I realize the situation is somewhat different than last week, but I feel like it proved my point. Running the ball and taking time off the clock is the optimal strategy.

5
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:23am

This.....

http://www.startribune.com/sports/vikings/135406798.html

causes me to wonder again whether bad teams have their badness compounded by not getting any calls. I just don't think a Brady, a Manning, or a Rodgers, among others, would have this happen to them on the last play of the game, and have it go unflagged.

Ponder had his first absolute disaster; here's hoping it had something to do with a lack of reps during the week. Frazier finally gave up on Cedric "Knee" Griffin, so the Vikings officially need four or five new defensive backs next year, to go along with a couple offensive linemen, and at least two new wide receivers. If only they had 8 draft picks in the first two rounds.....

13
by Flounder :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:46am

But that EXACT thing happened to Rodgers two years ago........ Granted, he wasn't "Rodgers" yet, but he wasn't exactly Joe Webb either.

19
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:57am

that kind of call get missed fairly often. I don't think it has much to do with who the QB is. I think it has more to do with the angle the ref has and how much the head moves.

31
by unverifiable (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:15pm

I think it was missed because the facemask occured so far behind the line of scrimmage the refs were out of position.

38
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:21pm

there was helmet to helmet contact on one of the Rodgers sacks yesterday and when Rodgers asked about it you clearly saw the ref point shrug and I think say "it happens" followed by Rodgers mildly throwing his hands up I suppose in exasperation.

55
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:39pm

Rodgers doesn't get those calls either, and Manning (Peyton) rarely does. The king of the weak call is Brady, with honorable mention to Jay Cutler and (lately) anyone playing Detroit.

Note that Brady and Cutler are also the most ardent mime-that-I-was-hit-by-a-truck addicts. I really think the refs ought not to go for that crap.

58
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:43pm

No arguments on Brady and Cutler. I was actually surprised to see Tebow selling quite a few calls yesterday (on the (correctly-called) RTP on Idonije, Tebow jumped up grabbing his knee; as soon as he saw the flag, he stopped).

Not necessarily criticizing him for this; if the league will allow it, you might as well sell the penalties (which, in general, are indeed fouls by the rulebook, so it's not really a fake dive).

125
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:37pm

"I was actually surprised to see Tebow selling quite a few calls yesterday (on the (correctly-called) RTP on Idonije, Tebow jumped up grabbing his knee; as soon as he saw the flag, he stopped)."

No, you misinterpreted that. Tebow actually blew out his ACL, but it was miraculously healed.

201
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:38pm

"Rodgers doesn't get those calls either, and Manning (Peyton) rarely does. The king of the weak call is Brady, with honorable mention to Jay Cutler and (lately) anyone playing Detroit."

Funny thing about that, is that Patriots have been called for more Roughing the Passer and Unneccessary roughness, than they've had called for them.

As to the lions thing, when you have a dominant lineman who thinks plays go 10 seconds longer than they do, thats going to happen.

214
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:55pm

Detroit gets a lot of bad calls against them just because the refs know they'll be backed up by the league office because of Suh's "rep", which is (mostly) unjustified.

The Patriots get fewer RP called against them because Brady rarely gets touched. Dude stands completely motionless for six seconds in the pocket sometimes, and when he does move, he's -very- good at moving the right way, and he gets the ball out when he needs to. However, if a defender so much as breathes on him, he jumps backward and rolls over and comes up looking at the referees, not his passes.

241
by Intropy :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 8:21pm

Regarding Detroit, those calls are spread out over almost two seasons, but Suh hasn't actually been dirty until the stomp, since which he's been suspended. So one play where he thought the play went on ten seconds longer than it did, but that doesn't really explain the rest of it.

276
by Nathan :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 8:48am

Even if the play were still going on he wouldn't be allowed to stomp.

51
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:34pm

Yeah, I remember that as being a case where the ref just had the perfectly bad angle that prevented him from seeing it. Maybe the same thing happened yesterday; I haven't see the play from enough angles to know.

15
by Mike O (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:52am

I just don't think a Brady, a Manning, or a Rodgers, among others, would have this happen to them on the last play of the game, and have it go unflagged.

The final play of the Packers' 2009 Wild Card game against the Cardinals ended on an Aaron Rodgers fumble that was returned for a touchdown. The fumble was a result of Arizona safety Michael Adams attempting to remove Rodgers' facemask.

16
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:54am

That was a shame that the call was missed. Webb led the Vikings on three drives over 60 yards.

Ponder throws 3-5 balls directly in the hands of defenders every game. The only difference is that sometimes the defenders catch them. He doesn't do it because he's under duress - he either just completely misreads the coverage or he's horribly inaccurate. He seems to make the same type of mistakes game in game out. He strikes me as a Tommy Maddox type.

I commented after training camp that I thought Webb looked better and nothing yesterday convinced me otherwise. Webb is not very accurate for sure, but at least in the games I've seen him he doesn't throw into coverage with regularity and he's a greater threat running than just about any QB I've seen. Including pre-season games Webb has run 50 times for 466 yards, 9.32 yds/carry.

I think a Webb running the type of offence the Broncos are with Peterson and Harvin would be quite difficult to stop.

17
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:56am

Nobody would dare grab Brady's facemask when even forearm-to-forearm contact is a 15-yard penalty.

50
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:31pm

You might as well adopt Pittsburgh's strategy then -- if any contact will be flagged for 15 yards, you might as well only make 15 yard-worthy contact.

67
by BJR :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:00pm

I call that the 'Zidane' approach. Given that in in soccer if you even raise a hand to an opponent you are probably getting red-carded, if the red mist has descended you might as well pole-axe the guy in spectacular fashion.

70
by Coltsfanshudder (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:03pm

I seem to remember it happening to Rodgers against the Cardinals in a playoff game a few years back

78
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:15pm

Again, that play happened way behind the line of scrimmage, yielding a very bad anagle to the ref. This play happened a couple yards deep.

110
by Yup (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:10pm

If you watch the video on youtube, there is a slow motion shot that perfectly frames a ref with a clear line of sight to the facemask. I don't know about this bad angle business. Full disclosure - Bears fan.

7
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:30am

I actually feel a bit bad for Marion Barber. His late-game actions were inexcusable, but prior to that, he had been having quite a good game, and was the primary reason the Bears were able to score twice. Calls, by Bears fans, for him to be cut remind me why I hate (most) football fans.

------

The Bears sure did what I expected them to do... for 56 minutes. They showed how NFL speed, if your defense is disciplined, can totally stifle an option-y attack. There was one pitch early in the game where the RB got the ball with no one in front of him, but was immediately closed on by three Bear defenders. Another impressive play was right after Tebow had fooled Peppers and ran for eight yards, he tried to do it again; Peppers stayed home, and actually ran down Tebow (Peppers appeared to be faster than Tebow).

Of course, then the coaching staff decided that they had had too much of a good thing, and started letting Tebow have the whole middle of the field to work with. A terrible decision, following a great gameplan. I am so frustrated.

------

I'm honestly at the point where I don't so much care that the Bears lost (I really don't care to see them get destroyed on the road in the playoffs with Caleb Hanie at the helm), I just wanted them to end the current incarnation of Tebowmania (i.e. playing poorly for three quarters doesn't matter). Yet, they fanned the flames, maybe even making it worse; in this game, 56 full minutes consisted of the Broncos offense going nowhere.

A Cutler-led team, given that the defense played as well, would have been up well more than ten points with four minutes left, and none of these shenanigans would have happened. Sigh...

------

/rant

12
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:45am

This was one of the most heart wrenching losses I have ever experienced as a fan.

108
by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:09pm

I was prepared for them to lose yesterday's game, especially after they failed to score at all in the first half. I was not prepared for them to lose when they held a 10-0 lead with a few minutes to go in the 4th quarter.

I was only able to listen to the game online (thanks, Fox, for electing to show a movie in lieu of the Bears game, or frankly, ANY of the late games - what the hell? I know I live in Packers country, but with the Packers playing on CBS you don't think it's worth broadcasting a division rival's game?) which may have been a blessing in disguise, because as it was I was tearing my hair out.

Everyone on Chicago sports radio this morning is saying you can't blame the coaches for going conservative and basically giving up on getting a first down twice at the end of the game, but I disagree. They were up 10 points with just under 6 minutes to play, I think, when they went 3-and-out and gave the Broncos the ball to start their first scoring drive. I know it's a two-score lead and Denver had just used their last timeout, but I think it was too early to just sit on the ball and be happy to punt it away. I'm less upset with the decision to run three times after they recovered the onside kick, as they would have been able to give the ball back to Denver with around 30 seconds left if Barber hadn't gone out of bounds to stop the clock.

Anyway, I think you have to be willing to let Hanie throw to try for a first down for two reasons. One is winning yesterday's game - a 10-point lead with under six minutes to go is great, but it's not even close to insurmountable. The worst possible outcome of Hanie throwing is a pick-six, which would have helped Denver a lot obviously but wouldn't have ended the game. The bigger reason I think they should have tried to win the game instead of playing not to lose is that if they did win yesterday and kept their playoff hopes alive, they were going to need to be able to rely on Hanie to do more than just manage the game and not make mistakes (which he did a good job of yesterday). If Cutler was going to be back in a game or two, I can see just trying to eke out an ugly win in Denver, but all indications are that he's out at least through the end of the regular season (which, let's be honest, is almost certainly going to be the end of the Bears this year period).

What hurts the most by far is that I don't see any way the Bears would not be 10-3 right now if Cutler hadn't gotten hurt.

112
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:13pm

If Marion Barber stays in bounds, the Bears almost assuredly win the game. Caleb Hanie is awful. I see no problem with going conservative on offense. I do have some qualms with how the defense played, but again, Marian Barber stays in bounds they win.

124
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:36pm

"Everyone on Chicago sports radio this morning is saying you can't blame the coaches for going conservative"

And this is why coaches don't learn from their mistakes. If the conventional wisdom loses you the game, that's okay.

They can try to run the clock down a bit, but on at least one of those three downs they need to take the risk and throw it in hopes of actually picking up another set of downs, which would be even more effective at running it down.

The worst possible decision is to pair the prevent O with the prevent D. Prevent D should only ever be used with a nearly insurmountable lead. Why should you switch away from a D that has been really effective for one that you know will let the team back in the game?

134
by NYMike :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:02pm

On first and ten, with 2:05 left, right after recovering the onside kick, I would have liked to see the Bears throw a play-action pass. I think it would have worked really well, since everyone "knew" it was going to be a running play. And even if it doesn't, and it's incomplete, then the clock stops at the 2:00 warning anyway. I think with a modicum of execution, they could have picked up a first down, and maybe a lot more, possibly even getting into FG range and forcing the Miracle Man (tm) to score a TD.

147
by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:20pm

And this is why coaches don't learn from their mistakes. If the conventional wisdom loses you the game, that's okay.

You're absolutely right. I should say that I "blame" them in the sense that I disagree with their super-conservative play-calling, but I can't blame them for playing it safe when the media and fans would be calling for their heads if they'd taken a gamble and lost the game because of it. If Hanie had thrown a pick-six and Denver had gone on to win, everyone would be talking about it today and saying that the Bears had a guaranteed win if they'd just been content to run the ball and punt it away. In that sense, I sympathize with the coaches.

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by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:15pm

I see your point, and agree that just running the ball three times was more defensible on the last series where it was really the Barber mistake that cost them. My point about allowing Hanie to throw is that if the Bears are/were going to be a playoff team this year, odds are they were going to have to do it with Hanie, and sooner or later they were going to have to open up the offense a little bit. Again, if this had been the only game Cutler was going to miss, or if the Bears had been up by 10 in the 4th quarter of the Oakland game, I'd be much more inclined to say stay conservative and run the ball. But for the Bears to make an actual run instead of squeaking into the playoffs and getting spanked in the first round, Hanie was going to have to step up at some point. After seeing his 3 games this year, I agree with you that he's awful and I doubt that the Bears could win a playoff game with him at QB. But as a fan, I'd rather see them fail spectacularly than fail by playing it safe and giving the opponent an opportunity to capitalize on, as they did yesterday.

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by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:18pm

'50s-era blackout rules. Fox didn't have a choice because CBS had the doubleheader this week. From Wikipedia:

Another policy to encourage sellouts, is that no other NFL game can air opposite the local club's broadcast on the primary market's affiliate.

- If a local club's broadcast is at home in the early game of a doubleheader, the other network (which shows the single game) may only show a game during the late time slot.
- If a local club's broadcast is at home in the late game of a doubleheader, the other network (which shows the single game) may only show a game during the early time slot.
- If a local club is playing at home, and the broadcast is shown by the single game network, the other network (which shows the doubleheader) may only air one game in that market; either early or late (the slot which the local club is not playing).
- If a local club is playing away, and the broadcast is shown by the single game network, the other network (which shows the doubleheader) may air both of their games.

If a local club is playing on the road on the doubleheader network, the other network can air its single game in the same timeslot opposite the local club's game. However, most affiliates opt against it because such an action usually ensures low ratings. The "no opposing game" policy is a key reason why single game fixtures on the east coast are occasionally scheduled for the late time slot.

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by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:49pm

Thanks, I didn't know that. What a stupid set of rules, though.

312
by Jerry :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 8:58am

Two reasons for those stupid rules:

1. Teams still want fans to come and spend money at the stadium. The non-compete rule means folks can't stay home and watch a good game instead of the crappy one they have tickets for.

2. By giving one network a doubleheader each week, there's a window where that network can sell ads on a game without NFL competition.

36
by Joseph :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:20pm

Eddo:

But if the refs had called a block-in-the-back on Hester's great return (check the start of the return, right as he makes that spin move and heads left), then the Bears would have only been ahead 3-0 or 6-0, and Tebow wouldn't have needed magic to win. Come on--you know that the TV honchos were going to make it end that way. :p

Having said that, I watched the last half of this game just to see how Tebow was going to pull it out. It wasn't "if" he would, it was "how."

(If I ever got to meet Tebow, I think I would shake his hand, then buy the first lottery ticket of my life before touching anything else with that hand, and then start shopping for luxury items. Because that ticket would surely defy all mathematical odds and win the Powerball Jackpot.)

45
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:27pm

I didn't see the block in the back, but I'll take your word for it. And, of course, the Bears had their share of luck: the blocked FG and the onside kick come to mind.

And I agree; going into the fourth, I just was waiting for something to happen for the Broncos to lose. I just didn't expect it to be the Bears handing them the game.

54
by Jimmy :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:34pm

All I saw that you might call a block in the back was a Bears player go to make contact and then pull awaay with his arms in the air as he would have blocked in the back but didn't.

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by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:39pm

I didn't see a block in the back either.

69
by apocalipstick (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:03pm

As long as Tebow only has to make one play to be back in the game, this will continue. One lucky bounce or blown coverage and there's the credit for another "comeback."

I will say that Tebowmania has exposed a few D-coordinators. "Hmmm, we're facing a big, strong QB who wants to run (dare I call him 'athletic?'), but can't hit the ocean from the beach when he's in the pocket. He has the ability to make the big, spectacular play, but cannot sustain a drive. I know! We won't run complex coverages that require him to stand and read; we'll max blitz. He'll be terrified! He'll wet himself! Wha---? Who knew he was looking to run?"

81
by apocalipstick (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:15pm

With the caveat that the Bears did not do that yesterday. Instead, they did the "Hey we're up three points. Why cover anyone with that insurmountable lead? Let's just make him take up some time."

8
by Mr Derp (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:32am

To read Aaron Schatz, a Patriots fan, type "The Tebow thing is amazing, because it's amazing what kind of crazy mistakes by opponents have helped all these wins." just makes me laugh. How many clutch Belicheck and Brady wins were due to an odd mistake by the opponent and then a Vinatieri FG late set up by Brady just taking what a defense gave him in their prevent zone. This is the early Brady Pats all over again (great D, some special teams help, minimize turnovers) except substitute an awesome run game in for the pass screen happy Pats offense. Enjoy this ride even if he doesn't fit the FO conventional wisdom.

20
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:00pm

I said something similar in the open thread--to the casual fan, Tebow right now is almost indistinguishable from 2001-2003 Brady.

Except, you know, Tebow had a pretty good college career.

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by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:07pm

They're only indistinguishable if you've never watched them play.

My two cents on Tebow; he's been fortunate that his defense has played so well that he hasn't been asked to score many points but what strikes me is that he can produce sod all in the air for three quarters without losing confidence, which is unusual.

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by Purds :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:30pm

"what strikes me is that he can produce sod all in the air for three quarters without losing confidence, which is unusual."

True that!

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by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:54pm

Granted, it's been 10 years since I've watched Brady from 10 years ago, but you may recall that he established his "clutch" reputation on late-game heroics by his kicker. Remember the irrational Brady/Manning threads? One guy who's a statistically good passer and the other who gets credit for team accomplishments?

Still, they have remarkably simliar passer ratings (for whatever that's worth). 2001 Brady went 12/24 for 86 yards in one game; 15/21 for 107 in another. What good is a 75% completion rate if it only gets you 100 yards? Over their first 8 games they both had one with a >140 passer rating, and both "just won."

What does this mean? Probably nothing. But the comparison to the guy who can't throw the ball more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage and the guy who can't throw the ball at all until the fourth quarter aren't completely absurd.

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by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:31pm

I can understand the point you're making but one player had sound mechanics that suggested that he could play at high level in the future, simply looking at the statisitics is not always helpful. By just observing statistics youd probably conclude that Tebow was the better player, he hasn't lost a game he's started yet and has been a more productive runner but I'm not going to crown his ass just yet.

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by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:35pm

So he didn't start the 48-10 loss to Detroit?

Also, wins aren't a statistic for QBs. Kyle Orton did not go on a 8-game win streak in 2005. The Bears did, in spite of Orton.

Brady's actual stats were a lot better than Tebow's are right now.

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by CaffeineMan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:42pm

Yes, even in 2001-2003, it's not a close comparison statistically. In 2001 Brady finished 12th in DYAR, then 9th in 2002 and 2003. And he never completed less than 60% of his passes in any of those years.

If you like total yards, Brady had about 2800 in 15 games in 2001, then about 3600 in 2002 and 2003. Tebow's at around 1300 right now, so maybe projecting to 2000 over 16 games?

If you like passer rating, Brady's for those years was around 85-86 and Tebow is around 83 and Tebow has thrown fewer picks (2) than Brady did back then (around 14).

I have no problem with people railing against QB's getting too much credit for wins and defense, but Brady's not really a good comparison with Tebow statistically, even in 2001.

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by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:37pm

Well, we'll need two more years of Tebow starts before we can compare to '02-'03 Brady. My "three years of Brady" comment was a bit flippant (and also prefaced with "to the casual fan," which there aren't many of here), but it's not a terrible comparison to look at their first 8 starts, even statistically. I was hoping to do this without opening Excel, but:

QB: att/cmp/yard/TD/I/C%/YPA/
Brady: 154/238/1565/12/7/64.7/6.58
Tebow: 92/188/1211/10/2/48.9/6.44

I'm not going to calculate passer ratings, but you can tell enough from YPA and TD/I ratios. The difference between 6.6 and 6.4 YPA is the difference between 2011 Donovan McNabb and 2011 Kyle Orton. Or, if you prefer 2001 comparisons, Donovan McNabb and Tony Banks (who just lost a wikipedia face-off to the keyboard player from Genesis) 2001 Brady eventually pulled himself up to an Aaron-Brooks-like 6.9 YPA (Christian Ponder in 2011 yards). Brady threw a couple more TDs, but several more INTs. (p-f-r's AY/A gives Tebow a decisive edge, BTW).

This neglects running contributions by the QB, and Tebow only has an extra ~450 yards there to go with his three rushing TDs. So through 8 games, Tebow only produced more yards of offense and scored more points than 2001 Brady. Not even a close comparison, eh?

And to whomever made the '06 Vick comparison, that's what I had been thinking initially, especially w/r/t the running contribution but, Vick had been in the league too many years by that point for the comparison to be worthwhile.

I don't like total yards. I don't think anyone here does. (also, I still prefer DPAR to DYAR, but that's beyond the scope of this thread).

And as much as it pains me to say it, Klosterman's recent piece at Grantland is a pretty good way to frame the Tebow debate.

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by CaffeineMan :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 4:21pm

Actually, the 2001-2003 comparison was more than a bit flippant. You've now reduced 3 seasons to the first 8 games of 2001 and you've gone from comparing passing to comparing total offense. You were making a similarity claim using passing stats about the two that I think falls apart. I bet if we had 11-game split DVOA/DYAR for Brady for 2001 they wouldn't be that different than looking at Brady's whole-season DVOA/DYAR and Tebow's 11-game DVOA/DYAR.

I see, below, that you're stretching the similarity comparison of them mechanically as well and I don't that's working very well either.

I think the only major similarity is the degree to which Brady and Tebow both inspired mainstream fans/media to attribute team wins to their individual abilities. If you want to state that, I'll agree. But I think you're starting from the similarity of perception and trying to show similarities of performance (stats-based and scouting-based) that just don't exist.

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by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 9:28pm

... and that's all I really claimed in the first place. Both QBs who were considered unready to be NFL starters in their second season. One of them had a good college career, the other didn't. For different mechanical reasons, neither was a terribly good QB in their first fractional season as starter, but managed to build a reputation for winning based on a series of statistically improbably events that occurred while he was standing on the sideline.

Never said Brady lacked accuracy or Tebow lacked arm strength. Never compared their throwing motions. Didn't even compare the play-calling of the offenses they were in. Freely admitted that statistical similarities were probably not meaningful.

I like a good internet argument as much as the next guy, but it's more fun when it's based on things the other guy actually said, and I whole-heartedly disagree with your advocacy in favor of pedophilia ;)

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by CaffeineMan :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 4:24pm

But you didn't get that specific until just now. You were too busy being flippant. The phrase you used was "indistinguishable" and that covered a 3 year time frame.

And you still missed what the stats on this site say: Brady's performance as a passer was way better in 2001 than Tebow's has been this year. And I doubt that difference came in the last 4 games of the season.

I like DVOA/DPAR because it's some got context to it (opponent, situation). YPA, etc. has none. If you've got data from Advanced NFL stats, sure, bring it. It's got some context to it as well.

You're still starting from your own perception that both received too much credit and working backwards to find performance similarities that aren't true.

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by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:52pm

It's easy to look at Brady with all the hindsight you want, but remember he went in the 6th round of a draft that included only one QB considered to be pro-ready (Chad Pennington). His mechanics couldn't have been that much better than, say Spergon Wynn, Tim Rattay, or Marc Bulger, and the decision to continue starting him over a healthy Bledsoe was pretty damn controversial at the time. Brady went 5-3 in his first 8, before winning a Tebow-like 6 straight.

I'm not crowning him, but I'm not letting him off the hook, either. Brady was a cult hero before he was a good passer--my analogy ends there.

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BradTo00/gamelog/2001/
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/T/TeboTi00/gamelog/2011/

215
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:58pm

You are confusing mechanics with talent. As long as I've seen Brady he's pretty much had ideal throwing mechanics. The problems he had involved arm strength, deep accuracy (still somewhat of an issue), and not being able to win the job at Michigan.

I agree with your premise, but you're ignoring part the story. Brady was never really a "bad" passer. Certainly no where near as bad as Tebow.

Tebow, if he is having some kind of super effect on his team (personally, I think he's having an effect, but it is way overstated), is doing it in a completely unconventional manor. It's going to leave people confused and searching for reasons why it's working.

217
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:02pm

Brady might not have had the picture perfect mechanincs that he has today but he didn't have Tebow's 'broken windmill' wind-up. Though that does suggest that if Tebow improves in this area he could be rather special. I suppose it's all down to a higher power.

193
by Mr Derp (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:59pm

I just had to comment on Schatz citing the odd mistakes that opponents make in these Denver comeback games. This could describe many of the Pats wins in '01 and even '03. How many of those mistakes though are caused by great defense, sp teams, design and scheme? Yes, Barber's fumble is flukey, but the Broncos didn't give up and kept clawing at his arm. Denver's WRs stunk it up in the 1st half, but in the soft zone of the Bears in the 4th Q and OT they found holes in the zone and made plays. The entire Broncos team believes now, and will keep pressing against all those who do not.

Do people forget the 17-14 Pats/Titans AFC divisional game with how many 'lucky' breaks that broke the Pats way? It was "superior execution" by NE then. How about the Chargers intercepting Brady and fumbling that INT return back to NE closer to the that actually advanced the ball for NE? That was "superior coaching" by Belicheck then. We see this in football sometimes. This happens, and sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.

...or maybe Tebow could just throw 25 screen passes a game for a high comp % and please the FO commenters.

204
by DGL :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:42pm

DVOA had the Pats as the 12th-best team in 2001. Had FO existed at that time, I doubt that Aaron would have been writing about how Tom Brady is a proven winner who inspires the team to cause fluky fumbles and recover onside kicks; rather, he probably would have been talking about how the team was squeaking by with a game-manager QB and a lot of lucky breaks.

213
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:54pm

The 2001 Pats were 12th in total DVOA. Pretty sure that Aaron knows that teams was pretty bad for a championship team.

I'm pretty sure that he knows all about the other plays you've mentioned. Just because some commenters have chosen to ignore those plays over the years doesn't mean that Aaron is wrong in pointing out all the breaks that have gone Denver's way.

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by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:09pm

Indistinguishable from 2001 Playoffs Pats maybe where they relied on Tuck Rules and incredible field goals, and winning when scoring just one offensive TD in each playoff game, but even Brady in 2001-2003 is FAR above Tebow right now.

The 2003 team did have a lot of luck (or timely skill) in a lot of their wins, like Edge James getting stoned by Willie McGinest (the same McGinest who faked an injury two plays earlier to stop the clock), or Denver not getting the 1st down on 3rd and 2 after the intentional safety (Denver started Danny Kannell in that game, too. Man, they really gave the Pats fits), or even winning two games in OT. But they were a lot better offensively.

140
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:11pm

Tom Brady was really good in 2002 and 2003--top ten in DYAR.

Also, as noted above, he looked talented. That's not to say he wasn't ever overrated.

I'd definitely take Tebow over Hanie, however.

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by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:12pm

The Broncos and 2001-2003 Patriots win the same way; capitalizing on overcautious or overzealous defenses but virtually hopeless against plain vanilla good NFL defensive strategies that teams use in the first 56 minutes.

However, they are very different teams. Tim Tebow is not nearly as good as the 2001 version of Tom Brady. Of course, the 2001 version is nowhere near as good as the 2007-2011 version, but he was a competent game-manager quarterback who could move the ball reliably against soft coverage. Tebow is a below replacement level quarterback with a very good offensive line and running skills, who can therefore move the ball against soft coverage.

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by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:29pm

The 2001-2003 Pats were not "virtually hopeless against plain vanilla good NFL defensive strategies that teams use in the first 56 minutes."

The 2003 Pats had a bunch of close wins, but they were almost always high-scoring games, and games that the Pats had leads for a lot of the game.

232
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:55pm

The 2003 Pats never trailed from when they beat the Texans in OT in the regular season to the first time they trailed Carolina in SB38.

23
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:06pm

Sure, the Patriots have been helped by bad decisions by their opponents. But it's not a binary choice, there are degrees. For one, the Broncos are 7-1 this year under Tebow; all seven of those wins have been crazy comeback wins, in which their opponents' poor play has been hugely responsible.

Take this week's game. If ANY of the following doesn't happen, the game comes out differently:
- Hanie doesn't overthrow a wide open Barber on a late third-down play; Barber had tons of open space in front of him, and that drive would have likely led to points;
- Barber goes down in bounds that first play after the two-minute warning; the Broncos would have gotten the ball back with only 15-20 seconds left, not 50-60;
- Barber doesn't fumble deep in Bronco territory in overtime; either he scores on that play (it looked like there was no one between him and the end zone), or he sets up a short field goal (not a given, but close to it in Denver);
- the Bears' staff doesn't decide to completely change up a defense that had shut out the Broncos for 56 minutes, leaving the entire middle of the field open.

------

The one thing I would love for someone praising Tebow to bring up is how, in overtime, right after the Broncos reached FG range, Tebow took a sack to get pushed out of said range. Any other QB would get criticized for that.

32
by IB (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:16pm

I suppose there might be more criticism of Tebow for that if it had, you know, happened.

"2nd and 12 at DEN 44 (Shotgun) T.Tebow pass deep right to D.Thomas to CHI 40 for 16 yards (Z.Bowman).
1st and 10 at CHI 40 (Shotgun) W.McGahee left guard to CHI 39 for 1 yard (B.Urlacher).
2nd and 9 at CHI 39 (Shotgun) T.Tebow scrambles up the middle to CHI 34 for 5 yards (B.Urlacher).
Timeout #1 by DEN at 09:23.
3rd and 4 at CHI 34 (Shotgun) T.Tebow left tackle to CHI 33 for 1 yard (A.Okoye).
Timeout #2 by CHI at 08:40."

That was the only possession of OT for Denver.

I feel like the resident Tebow defender here, so let me point out that there was plenty of "bad luck" the Broncos suffered along the way as well, such as 1.) a missed/blocked 29 yard field goal earlier in the game; 2.) two Broncos players knocking the ball out of one another's hands on an onside kick; 3.) Demaryius Thomas's strange experimentation with baby oil infused gloves.

35
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:20pm

Ah, my mistake. I was thinking of the play right before the section you included, in which Tebow was sacked for a two-yard loss. However, that play started on their own 46, so they were not yet in field goal range. I guess I was confused by Fox's stupid placement of red line there, as if a 70-yard FG was possible.

40
by IB (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:22pm

That was beyond stupid by Fox. Even if such a thing were possible (Aaron points out why it's not above), you're playing Caleb Hanie. You're going to punt from your own side of the field.

57
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:43pm

"- Barber doesn't fumble deep in Bronco territory in overtime; either he scores on that play (it looked like there was no one between him and the end zone), or he sets up a short field goal (not a given, but close to it in Denver);"

In one frame, there is just the faintest blurry hint of a Noodly Appendage stripping the ball away, and Barber has reportedly told team mates he was distracted by a sudden, overpowering stench of marinara sauce . . .

154
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:33pm

No. No, it's not Brady, or the Patriots, or any other offense in the modern era. Not at all. It's a bad QB who happens to be very good at option running taking advantage of dumb defensive coordinators and a soft schedule.

Denver will likely win the West, secure a home playoff game, and then get crushed by the AFC North runner-up as Tebow has to face a balanced team with a solid defense. Next year, defensive coordinators in the AFC will remember that it's legal for the QB to run with the ball, and Tebow will have to show that he can read NFL coverages, and by then we won't have to hear any more about how he just wins games.

165
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:06pm

"Denver will likely win the West, secure a home playoff game, and then get crushed by the AFC North runner-up"

How's that different from any other post-Elway AFCW team? Doesn't Phil Rivers specialize in that loss?

186
by Sophandros :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:34pm

I've compared this year's Broncos to the 2006 Falcons, only with a defense. And a lot of luck...

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

9
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:35am

I have been a Bucs fan for a long, long time. I survived Bruce Gradkowski's rookie year, where the season's two memorable highlights were probably a 62-yard FG and Chris Simms' spleen exploding. I lived through that Monday night game against the Colts where an in-his-prime Marvin Harrison was repeatedly single-covered by a seventh-round rookie, leading to the biggest collapse I've ever seen. I have watched Brian Griese be my starting QB on two separate occasions. Yet, somehow, giving up 41 points to an execrably bad Jaguars offense may be a new low to my fan-dom.

You know, this team last year was great, had loads of promise, then now this. It's like you're having a great night out at the bar and you meet this great chick and you go home and it's the best thing ever (last year), and then you wake up in the morning and you realize she looks like Phyllis Diller with scabies.

141
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:12pm

That last paragraph might be repeated by Denver fans one year from now. Winning a bunch of ridiculous close games is usually a one year abberation. As is not throwing picks (unless you are Brady, Rodgers, Manning in his prime).

242
by Bryan and Vinny Show (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 8:23pm

But then again, maybe it won't.
There's been a lot of luck involved in this Broncos stretch, no question, but their defense has also been very good, aside from the Vikings game, which turned in to the unlikelist track meet of the season. Running game, solid defense, great special teams...functional, at best, quarterback.
The 49ers are winning exactly the same way ( albeit not with the last second heroics from their kicker ), and nobody says a negative word about it.
I agree that Tebow is a tiresome subject, but for an NFL season with really only one or two interesting storylines ( the Packers, and...?), it's not too surprising that a popular Heisman tropy winner who was heavily debated before he was even drafted is going to make some headlines. I live in Denver, and will say that, for all the headlines, Tebow never presents himself as anything other than totally gracious and always talks up the team first and foremost. I get that people are irritated by the christian stuff, but how many decades have I heard all sorts of athletes praise God after a victory? It doesn't bother me in the slightest, and I'm not religious in any way.
I really think the only thing that is more tedious than 'Tebow just wins' stories is the lamentations of the critics who overreact to such a pathetic degree. If Denver was winning these types of games, but instead of Tim Tebow it was...I dunno, Joe Webb at QB, I don't think there would be near the venom. I wish that the heads, pundits and blowhards would acknowledge that, but it's unlikely. It's been a very fun story which will end soon enough; why people can't take any enjoyment out of that is beyond me, except that I find most commenters, here and elsewhere, to be a very joyless bunch, to say the least.

251
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 9:52pm

People forget to factor in that Tebow is improving.

And also that regression to the mean doesn't mean that a lucky streak *causes* an unlucky streak going forward.

What's (statistically) likely to happen is that in the future, Denver wins and loses close games, but that the close games will be against higher-quality opponents and that games against lesser opponents won't be as close. In other words, you might see 10-6 with a 50/50 close game rate. I get the feeling that people are certain that any day now, Tebow and the Broncos will revert to being a 4-12 team in spirit if not in flesh.

301
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:59pm

On the religion front, I think it's true that while Tebow is more vocal about it than some other players, it's the media that keeps pushing it to the forefront and I can't blame Tebow for answering their questions about it.

I think the continued handwringing over his play is due largely to people who can't or won't admit that their prediction for him was wrong, regardless of how he plays in the future. I was one of them - I thought the Broncos would be just as bad with Tebow as with Orton, and that if he even finished out the season he would certainly be done as a starting QB in the NFL. He's performed well enough over enough games that I have to admit that I was wrong.

10
by BaconAndWaffles :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:42am

Mike Kurtz: Mind = blown.
I AM THE MONSTERS.

Ah, for anyone with kids this is a great Sesame Street reference! I have always been fond of Grover - especially since Elmo kicked him to the curb...

11
by Guy Who Hates Tebow (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:44am

It's my sincere hope that the Ravens end up the fifth seed. The only thing that can shut the world up at this point will be a playoff shutout.

59
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:48pm

You don't think the Steelers can deliver one?

142
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:13pm

Why not the #1 seed and then IF the Tebows can get past Pittsburgh, they get a nice trip to Baltimore, where the Ravens will summarily kill Tebow in their house.

144
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:17pm

But the Bears could have had a shutout if they chose to. Even good defenses relent into the prevent at the ends of halves. I think it's high-powered offenses that are more dangerous for the Broncos. Their strength has generally been a good defense keeping them in games against weak offenses until the easier-to-score final minutes. I don't see Tebow competing in a shootout against a quality offense like the Patriots (we'll find out soon).

244
by JetFanMike :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 8:29pm

It's my sincere hope that the Broncos beat GB in the SB, so that all off season we can hear you say how it can't be repeated next year.

246
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 9:11pm

For the Broncos to make the Super Bowl, they will have to defeat some quality teams. If they do that, I think most everybody will concede that they are for real. But it seems like a lot of the Tebow apologists simply don't want to acknowledge that it is pretty common for not-so-great teams to string together a number of wins, like the McDaniels Broncos that started 6-0 or this year's early-season Bills.

247
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 9:22pm

2005 Bears. Kyle Orton went 103/195 (52.8%) for 1034 yds (5.3 y/a), with 7/7 td/int for a passer rating of 65.2. The Bears went 8-0 over that stretch.

Or the Cardinals this year with John Skelton, who are 4-1 when he plays the majority of a game, including a win in Philly and against the 10-2 49ers.

248
by JetFanMike :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 9:23pm

You are of course right about your statistical claims (though I doubt your analysis of the sporting fan). But what makes me mad about all this is that we aren't being allowed to just enjoy the experience. Scouts and smart people, as I suppose you are, give off the perception that they want Tebow to fail, to prove the world that they were right about Tebow not being a pro-quarterback. Tebow apologists, as you describe them, seem to want Tebow to succeed in order to prove the existence of Christ.

I just want Tebow to win because its fun, because it's crazy and exciting and can't happen, and yet it is. I feel like the smarter the commentator here on FO, the less they enjoy the game to the extent that the outcome of the game diverges from their explanatory and predictive models. From my experience reading these boards, there is nothing that frustrates the FO commentator more than seemingly undeserved success. I hear the same thing with Cowherd on ESPN. He was the most insufferable the day after NYG beat NE, because there was no way it should have happened. 1

250
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 9:33pm

Personally, I don't like this because I feel like this is continuing the use of "QB Wins" as a mainstream stat. As a Colts fan, and ardent supporter of Mannning in the Manning/Brady debate, the "QB Win" to me is the worst used stat in football. Teams can win in spite of their QB sometimes (not saying that this is the case with Brady, obviously). Teams can win with average play from their QB. Teams can win with great play from their QB. So far, I think Denver has done a lot of winning with bad and average play, and one instance of winning with good play (against Minnesota).

273
by Dales :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 7:33am

"Tebow apologists, as you describe them, seem to want Tebow to succeed in order to prove the existence of Christ."

I have not come across too many people who are like this. In fact, this seems to me to be a giant straw man constructed by those who are rooting for Tebow to fail, to justify their vehemence.

287
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:18am

Yes, but the same is true of the idea that lots of people here don't enjoy upsets.

289
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:53am

I have not come across too many people who are like this. In fact, this seems to me to be a giant straw man constructed by those who are rooting for Tebow to fail, to justify their vehemence.

I'd vote for this going both ways. His proselytizing Christianity is the reason I can think he gets such instant supporters AND detractors. If he were a boring agnostic, it's hard to imagine crowds with "Mary Me Tim" signs scattered throughout chanting his name non-stop for ten minutes straight while he's boarding a bus before he's ever even started a pro game, in Colorado, a state he's never played before. It's hard to imagine his used football pants would be fetching $5k on e-bay when he's only played in spot relief.

Most third-string quarterbacks don't get that kind of attention.

We had Ken Dorsey here in S.F., with his national championship and two Heisman nominations, as our third-string. Let's just say "Dorseying" hasn't become a verb.

14
by BigNachos :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:51am

I don't understand why there's any controversy about the London Fletcher penalty. I thought it was illegal to hit the quarterback as soon as he begins his slide. It doesn't matter whether Brady's knee was down (though I thought it was?) because he was in the act of sliding and thus was untouchable. It doesn't matter that there wasn't forearm to head contact as it was a clear penalty anyway.

Personally, I thought it was an outrageous and very dangerous tackle with clear attempt to injure. Fletcher launched his body headfirst with great force--if Brady wasn't in the act of sliding, he probably would have taken a helmet to helmet hit and concussion. If anything, I thought Fletcher should have been ejected from the game.

18
by Flounder :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:57am

If someone is acting like a runner and then decides to give up and slide after the defender has already committed to the tackle, that's not a penalty. We've already gotten to the point where QBs definitely fake slides / going out of bounds and then pick up extra yards because defenders are so wary of getting flagged. We don't need to make it worse.

25
by DGL :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:07pm

If someone is acting like a runner and then decides to give up and slide after the defender has already committed to the tackle, that's not a penalty.

However, if someone is acting like a runner and then decides to pass after the defender has already committed to the tackle, that's a penalty and potentially a fine and a suspension.

Wait, what?

29
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:13pm

The bigger issue is that there was no reason for Harrison to launch himself, helmet first, into McCoy. That's where the "unnecessary" part of "unnecessary roughness" comes in. There is no reason to hit a guy like that unless your intent is to injure; Harrison could have quite easily led should-to-chest, wrapping up with his arms in the process. It still would have been a big, exciting hit, but McCoy's brain wouldn't have been scrambled.

83
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:17pm

"Launching" is a technical term in the NFL rulebook, and it didn't occur on this hit. Launching implies diving towards a player to make the hit; your feet have to leave the ground to launch. Harrison just ran through McCoy; Harrison's feet were on the ground all the way through the hit.

127
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:42pm

Fine, I'll revise my comment to:

The bigger issue is that there was no reason for Harrison to >propel himself, helmet first, into McCoy. That's where the "unnecessary" part of "unnecessary roughness" comes in. There is no reason to hit a guy like that unless your intent is to injure; Harrison could have quite easily led should-to-chest, wrapping up with his arms in the process. It still would have been a big, exciting hit, but McCoy's brain wouldn't have been scrambled.

181
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:29pm

I agree with that, and I wish Harrison had just aimed lower and avoided the helmet-to-helmet contact. The more that concussions can be taken out of the game, the better.

But helmet-to-helmet collisions (incidental and intentional) are still a big part of the running game and of line play. I think the goal is not so much injury as slowing down and wearing down the other player, making them think twice next time they come your way; it happens in every game. Peter King praised Cleveland linebacker Chris Gocong for "knocking Mendenhall dizzy" during Cleveland's goal-line stand (on helmet-to-helmet contact similar to Harrison-McCoy, though I haven't seen it as closely as Harrison's hit).

After seeing Harrison's hit, I understood the penalty and I expect a fine; I have no problem with legislating that kind of hit out of the game as much as possible (as the NFL is doing). But after reading the rule, I think Harrison has a good defense. McCoy was clearly "trying to advance the ball as a runner" and did not "stop behind the line and clearly establish a passing posture"; the NFL must take a rather tortured interpretation of the rule to grant McCoy protections here other runners don't have.

I don't think this exact situation will come up very often, so I'm fine with the NFL using this incident to declare it illegal. But Harrison shouldn't be suspended for this (or even fined, IMO); he has been avoiding such hits on defenseless players for over a year.

182
by Intropy :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:29pm

There are huge hits many times per game not strictly necessary to make a tackle. Football players are not and should not be tasked with making the minimum sufficient tackle.

192
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:53pm

Where did I suggest defenders should have to do the minimum? In fact, I even pointed out how Harrison could have made a statement tackle (shoulder to chest, driving him backwards) without the helmet-to-helmet contact.

243
by Intropy :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 8:28pm

You said there was no reason to hit like he did and that it was unnecessarily rough. So what is necessarily rough if not the minimum required to make a tackle? How is anything rougher than the minimum necessary under the rubric you are using? What makes the shoulder to chest "statement tackle" not unnecessarily rough and without reason? I don't think you can reasonably draw that line, and I don't think we can reasonably expect the athletes on the field to be able to do so either.

180
by Intropy :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:26pm

Sure, if you're going to use logic and reason...

24
by Not Correct (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:06pm

The official rule is below (emphasis added):

An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended when a runner declares himself down by sliding feet first on the ground. The ball is dead the instant the runner touches the ground with anything other than his hands or his feet

(1) A defender must pull up when a runner begins a feet-first slide. This does not mean that all contact by a defender is illegal. If a defender has already committed himself, and the contact is unavoidable, it is not a foul unless the defender commits some other act, such as helmet-to-helmet contact or by driving his forearm or shoulder into the head or neck area of the runner.
(2) A runner who desires to take advantage of this protection is responsible for starting his slide before contact by a defensive player is imminent; if he does not, and waits until the last moment to begin his slide, he puts himself in jeopardy of being contacted.

Note that the referee implied that they agreed that Brady started his slide too late to get protection, since he cited #1 (forearm to the head) in calling the penalty.

Brady started his slide late because he was trying to get a first down. He forfeited his right to protection by waiting too long and Fletcher did everything correctly within the rules.

A few plays after this penalty was called, Brady scrambled and chose not to slide and the Redskins defender let him get a few extra yards rather than try to tackle him immediately because he was so afraid of initiating contact.

39
by Even Brady Disagrees With You (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:22pm

http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4712069/br...

"I thought it was a really clean play by him. I think we're pretty fortunate we got the call," Brady said.

Props to Brady for owning up to it.

Another rule change I'd like to see that would arguably help protect QBs even more would be to outlaw the "fake slide" by scrambling QBs. If a QB makes the motion to start a slide, the ball should be dead on the spot.

48
by Jimmy :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:31pm

Another rule change I'd like to see that would arguably help protect QBs even more would be to outlaw the "fake slide" by scrambling QBs. If a QB makes the motion to start a slide, the ball should be dead on the spot.

I like the idea but enforcing that one would be too much of a judgement call for the officials for the NFL to ever enforce it.

224
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:16pm

What do you mean? Enforcing rules that are a complete judgment call is problematic? In what way? I am interested to hear more...

286
by Jimmy :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 10:34am

It is attempting to guess intent. Was it the start of a slide or a duke or a spin or whatever, how do you know it was a fake slide? They should just call the game better and not flag Fletcher for a perfectly good hit just because its Brady.

56
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:42pm

It's about time. Half the asinine rules in modern QB play revolve around his brittle ass and whiny mouth.

290
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:13pm

This comment is remarkably helpful.

73
by BigNachos :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:05pm

Thanks for this. I still think Brady started sliding early enough to avoid contact, but appeared more borderline because Fletcher committed himself to tackling very early. Normally a defender would stay upright and square to the QB (ready to tackle but not committed) and just pat the him during the slide. Fletcher, on the other hand, committed to the tackle several yards out and didn't give himself the option of avoiding contact where normally it could have been avoidable.

The tackle Fletcher made seems to have been consistently ("consistent" being relative for an NFL official) called as a penalty when made on a QB, regardless of if he's in the pocket, running, or in the act of sliding.

89
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:41pm

"Fletcher, on the other hand, committed to the tackle several yards out and didn't give himself the option of avoiding contact where normally it could have been avoidable."

Why on earth should a tackler ever have to consider trying to avoid contact?

I mean, a tackler not named Deion Sanders.

230
by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:42pm

"Normally a defender would stay upright and square to the QB (ready to tackle but not committed) and just pat the him during the slide."

I disagree. I believe this only ever happens when a defender was simply too far away to actually hit the QB. (I.e. they had time to see the QB begin his slide, and break down in order to wind up just tapping him.)

No defender who is close enough to make a hit, as Fletcher was, doesn't proceed to try to make the hit. I.e. no defender should ever be assuming the QB is going to slide, until they actually make a motion to slide. They should always be, and always are, committed from several yards out.

26
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:11pm

At the most basic level the controversy you don't understand is that Fletcher was called for delivering a blow to the head of Brady when he actually didn't. You merely need to understand English to get this.

Watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOq4b4zydtI

That's Trent Green getting concussed a few years ago, and the impetus for giving extra attention to hits on the QB as he gives himself up.

Then watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Iv1f37dVNZ8#t=4...

Note that Fletcher has begun his tackle while Brady is still standing erect. *I* don't understand how London Fletcher can reverse direction in mid-air once Brady begins to slide. Also note the complete lack of helmet-to-helmet, or even anything-to-helmet contact.

233
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:57pm

This video actually proves that Fletcher had time to avoid that full of a hit. I agree that Brady waited too long to expect no contact, but Fletcher clearly put more into it even after Brady's slide was obvious.

Don't let this get in the way of everyone's bitching about Brady, though.

21
by tomark (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:03pm

"(P.S. I made this comment on Twitter and got a lot of response; apparently, Redskins fans were unloading their tickets and there was a huge Pats fans contingent at FedEx today. I guess the Redskins *are* that kind of team.) "

Aaron,

This is the state of affairs under Snyder. Everyone in the area under 25 is a fan of some random other team, oftentimes the patriots or the colts. The true redskins fans are so tired of watching awful teams. And the issue is compounded by the fact that the local fans also have to watch the Wizards, and Orioles (and more recently also Nationals). And our hockey team was supposed to save us from the awfulness, but obviously that didnt turn out.

I was offered tickets to the game on Sunday, I just said I had something else to do because I couldnt stomach watching us get crushed again. Our team isnt just bad, they are poorly managed and the players just dont give a shit. How is it that our two best offensive players can get suspended for drug violations? Our highest paid player got traded for a 6th round pick. Thats the kind of team the redskins run under Dan Snyder.

Its depressing and unwatchable.

63
by Travis :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:53pm

And FedEx Field has 80,000+ seats, the second- or third-largest capacity in the NFL, depending whether JerryWorld is selling obstructed and TV-only seats. (RFK Stadium only sat 56,000.) You can always find tickets, especially in late season.

66
by JasonK :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:58pm

2 more points:

1) There are a lot of transplants in the area because of all the government jobs.

2) It's one of the more expensive stadiums to go watch a game in, all told, so there's added incentive for season ticket holders to recover some of their investment, and the high bidders are likely to be those who only get 1 chance every 8 years to see their team locally.

115
by JetFanInMD (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:14pm

I know for a fact that I had multiple offers to buy tickets last week at below face value for the Jets - Burgundy&Gold game. SO I don't think anyone was making money on that game.

123
by Karma Coma :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:34pm

You could always demand reparations.

168
by Harry (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:09pm

As someone who was a kid in Washington in the '70s, and remembers vividly how much that team once meant to the city and region, I can't tell you how depressing I find your post. I really loathe Snyder.

237
by Passing through (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 7:42pm

Yeah I went to the niner-redskin game and the lower bowl was basically a huge 49er party. I remember getting into a conversation with a redskins fan about how depressing it is to have John Beck as your quarterback. Then they left (along with all of the other redskins fans) halfway through the 4th quarter.

22
by J (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:03pm

"Ben Muth: Green Bay gets touchdowns from Ryan Grant and Ryan Taylor. That makes 18 different Packers who have scored this year. That's the most in the NFL this year, and has got to be at least approaching the record right?"

They also got one later in the game from Erik Walden on a fumble recovery, which should bring the total to 19. I don't know if this will be interesting to anyone else, but I'm impressed that number of Packers players with TDs is higher than three different teams' total number of TDs. (Cleveland and KC with 17 each, and St. Louis with 13).

37
by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:21pm

Can I do this without looking??

1. Rodgers
2. Starks
3. Grant
4. Kuhn
5. Finley
6. Crabtree
7. Taylor
8. Jennings
9. Nelson
10. Driver
11. Jones
12. Cobb

and 7 defensive players-- hmmm

Woodson
Walden
Williams
Matthews
Peprah

I don't think Collins got a TD before his injury-- maybe Sam Shields and Desmond Bishop-- but I have to admit my memory fails me.

68
by stephenbawesome :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:02pm

Didn't Raji get one on offense?

79
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:15pm

Yes

88
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:39pm

Matt Flynn

184
by Intropy :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:33pm

Mason Crosby

Unless "scoring" only includes TDs.

234
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 7:07pm

Scoring a TD is what is being counted here.

240
by zenbitz :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 8:02pm

Hmmm... Can you explain that concept to us 49er fans?

199
by Dan Slotman :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:32pm

BJ Raji on that goal line dive.

47
by Joseph :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:28pm

IIRC, the Saints had 19 different players score TD's in their SB year 2 years ago. Also, iirc, one of the Rams' greatest-show-on-turf teams has the record with 21.

65
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:57pm

I think the record is 21, set by the Patriots in 2007. But I haven't verified that.

75
by Travis :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:09pm

It is. Two other teams also had 21 touchdown scorers, the 1987 Los Angeles Rams (4 of the scorers were replacement players) and the 2000 Broncos. The 1985 Bears also had 21 scorers if you count the playoffs.

98
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:00pm

If this isn't symptomatic of great coaching and to a lesser extent great quarterbacking then I don't know what is.

245
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 8:43pm

Just to put it here so folks don't have to go to another site.

1. Jordy Nelson (10 Rec)
2. Greg Jennings (9 Rec)
3. John Kuhn (4 Rush, 2 Rec)
4. Jermichael Finely (6 Rec)
5. James Jones (5 Rec)
6. Donald Driver (4 Rec)
7. Randall Cobb (1 Kick Ret, 1 Punt Ret, 1 Rec)
8. Aaron Rodgers (2 Rush)
9. Ryan Grant (2 Rush)
10. James Starks (1 Rush)
11. BJ Raji (1 Rush)
12. Matt Flynn (1 Rush)
13. Tom Crabtree (1 Rec)
14. Ryan Taylor (1 Rec)
15. Erik Walden (1 Fum Ret)
16. Charlie Peprah (1 Int Ret)
17. Charles Woodson (1 Int Ret)
18. Tramon Williams (1 Int Ret)
19. Clay Matthews (1 Int Ret)

Players that have a chance to be added to that list might include:
Brandon Saine - Getting more carries and good in the screen game and likely even more time with Starks likely getting even more rest the next few games, assuming the head hit against Oakland doesn't make him miss games.
Sam Shields - Could jump a route and go to the house
Morgan Burnett - See Sam Shields
DJ Williams - With the Jennings and Quarless injuries means he could end up on the field more in red zone situations (this is why Ryan Taylor got his catch).

Anyone else I would count as very unlikely and really DJ Williams probably should be here though I have seen him on the field in goal line situations. The ILB's with this defense are rarely in position to get clean runs so Hawk, Bishop, Francios, and DJ Smith would all be very surprising.

27
by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:12pm

RE:#7

I agree that Tebow's " magic " is hype. Again the Broncos defense coupled with the Bears very conservative ( by necessity ) offensive game plan kept the Broncos in the game long enough to let Tebow do his thing. In regards to the defensive calls at the end of the game, I am not as upset as others about the " soft " zone thrown at Tebow. With Tebow's running ability, playing pressure man to man leaves you open to Tebow getting on the edges and running for a loooooooooooonnnnnnnnnggggggg time in the open field. Under the best circumstances Tebow is nearly impossible to arm tackle throw in the fact that the Bears had been chasing after him all day in that high altitude, by the 4th qt I am sure they were all gassed. At least playing zone lets the defense " face up " to Tebow so if he does try the run the defense can tackle him early. Also throw in the fact that the Bears Dline could not get any real pressure on Tebow and it all adds up to a breakdown. Just a tough loss though. Have not felt this dazed since 1992 in the " Jim Harbaugh throws pick six in the Metrodome and Mike Ditka explodes on the sideline like a atom bomb " game.

33
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:17pm

But you don't have to go total prevent, like the Bears did. In fact, all game they were playing a soft zone, except they had guys spying Tebow(*). And guess what: it worked perfectly. Switching to pressure man to man would have been changing up the defense from all game - something the Bears did anyway.

(*) It looked like, on many plays, the Bears had both Urlacher and Steltz spying Tebow, each covering one side. I loved that tactic. It played to Steltz's strength (open field tackling) and minimized his weakness (coverage).

252
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 9:54pm

I'm really curious what the Broncos offensive staff will do to counter this after studying the film from this week. Tebow has displayed an ability to run a pretty dizzying variety of plays.

28
by RickD :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:12pm

"Were there that many Patriots fans at this game today? I wouldn't think of Washington as a team that had lots of seats open for visiting fans to buy.
(P.S. I made this comment on Twitter and got a lot of response; apparently, Redskins fans were unloading their tickets and there was a huge Pats fans contingent at FedEx today. I guess the Redskins *are* that kind of team.)"

Yes, the Redskins are that kind of team. It's basically impossible to get season tickets, but with their struggles in recent years, a lot of season ticket holders seem to re-sell their tickets, esp. when the team is 4-8. There may have been a good number of Patriots fans there yesterday (and I saw several on the Metro) but that was a small contingent to what I saw the last time the Steelers were in town. I think Steelers fans easily outnumbered Redskins fans that day.

281
by dryheat :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 9:29am

As one of those fans, I'd put the number of Patriots fans in the stadium at 50-60%

30
by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:13pm

I think we can safely put to bed two "repeatable skill" pieces of skepticism. First, that whatever the data shows about the rest of the league, and thus the goofy DVOA weights, the Packers ability to create interceptions is a profound repeatable skill. Anyone who watched that game could see the talent or intelligence involved in at least three of the four INTs. Second, and obviously opposing defenses are partly responsible, Tim Tebow becomes a pretty phenomenal QB the closer to the final gun a game gets. So will Belichick and Brady go into total Destruction Mode with the aim of putting up three or four scores in the first half so that the final WWTD (What Will Tim Do?) moment never comes?

NFC-- two big questions now-- who gets home field between SF and New Orleans-- would think for the Saints it is a huge consideration, though of course if they fail they do get a potential beat-down game at home in the WC round, unlike last year, probably vs. the Lions. And 2nd, if the Giants do win the East and are able to win the WC game in NJ, presumably against the Falcons (though it could still be Detroit)-- does Giants-Packers at Lambeau bring back enough of the spirit of 2007-- a two-fer-- as the Giants get to a) ruin the Packer season at Lambeau and b) ruin the undefeated march after the gutsy 38-35 defeat at home as well?

Next question is how the heck in Spielberg-land has taken control of this season's script? it is all preposterous-- from the bookend 13-0 seasons to Tebow, to the Garrett-Romo-Bailey fiascos, to all the wacky QB situations, to the increasingly funky refereeing, to the Texans-- you name it. And oh by the way, anyone want to bet that a) the Jets travel to Foxborough again in the postseason and b) that they win again and reach the AFC title game??

74
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:07pm

No-one says there isn't skill involved in generating interceptions, or that they're not predictive, and DVOA gives substantial rewards for making them. It's fumble recoveries that DVOA doesn't count. The fact that the Packers are good at making interceptions is probably a large part of the reason they rank 31st in passing yards allowed but 21st in DVOA (and obviously DVOA is by far the better measure of those two). The point is that even with all those interceptions they're still a below average pass defense.

Season-to-season, interception rate is not terribly predictive. Three good years is way too short a time frame to be confident the Packers are an exception on that front. But that's a projection system issue, not a DVOA issue.

107
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:08pm

One game against a team without it's best offensive player and it's best two receivers and a quarterback who's been on the team for a month is hardly enough evidence to overrule two decades of statistics. Plus, what Shush said.

195
by Hang50 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:15pm

The GB-Oak game was on in the background as I was cooking yesterday, so my observation is anecdotal at best -- but Carson Palmer's decision making seemed awful (with a capital "AW"). I couldn't believe he tried to make the throw that resulted in the first interception. He was way outside the tackles and there were green jerseys everywhere, so throwing it away was the easy choice. My jaw dropped when he let it go toward the receiver instead of out of bounds. That wasn't the only egregious throw, but it's the one I remember most clearly.

Maybe he has some version of color blindness that blue-screens the Packers' home uniforms. That's about the only explanation that makes sense to me.

42
by Uncle Luke (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:24pm

"I know they have played a weak schedule, I know I have my doubts about Yates versus a Steelers or Ravens-level (or heck, even a Jets or Broncos-level) pass defense."

The Broncos have the 22nd most effective pass defense in football by DVOA. The Jets have the 2nd most effective. Do you even read your own stats?

44
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:26pm

The replay system failed, or supposedly failed, in multiple stadiums yesterday. coincidence or are these somehow tied together electronically?

52
by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:34pm

Pretty sure Buffalo Wild Wings has ultimate control of system-- problems must have occurred there.

49
by Independent George :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:31pm

Rivers McCown: Gronkowski, I dub thee ROBO-TE

Sounds French - Le Robote.

53
by Joseph :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:34pm

Okay--I have a question for Tom Gower, or anybody else who watched the NO-TEN game. When I was watching the game (in Mexico, with the pretty clueless Mexican announcers), I was unable to get the reason for why it was confirmed incomplete. I understood the initial call, as Graham's foot touched oob; but why didn't his first foot plus his heel on the 2nd foot count? I know that after his heel touched, the side of his foot grazed the line, but getting tiptoes down counts all the time. Why not the heel, which was the first thing that touched? Or were they ruling that he was still bobbling the ball?

60
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:50pm

My take on the play was Graham initially did not control the ball, and didn't establish control until after the second foot hit out of bounds, and there wasn't enough evidence on replay to overturn the call on the field. IIRC, Carey's announcement was just that the call on the field stood.

62
by BJR :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:52pm

I agree this was very unclear. There was no mention on commentary of Graham bobbling the ball as the reason for the incompletion, and I don't recall the referee mentioned it in his announcement after upholding the original ruling. My understanding therefore was that it was ruled incomplete because Graham was out of bounds. However, as you say, there was definitely a moment when Graham had caught the ball and established possession with both feet in bounds (one foot planted and one heel) *before* he pivoted and his toe grazed the sideline. I don't understand how that can not be deemed a catch. If we are deciding the eligibility of a catch depending on which part of the foot touches inbounds then we really are entering the realm of the ridiculous. Otherwise I think it was just a blown call.

162
by c0rrections (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:54pm

If your foot goes heel toe and part of the toe lands out of bounds that has never been a catch. If any part of the foot is out of bounds you're out of bounds. Yes you can tap toes but when you do that your foot isn't touching out of bounds. Something else will hit the ground out of bounds first.

167
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:08pm

The grey area comes in when the tapped foot then slides across the line in a continuous motion. That's usually rewarded as a catch, while the equivalent heel-first motion is not, for reasons the NFL has never quantified, but which usually sounds like "jeftriplit" when asked.

61
by Dr. Triskaidekaphobia (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:51pm

Here is a list of all of the 0-13 starts in NFL/AFL history:
1962 Oakland Raiders
1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1980 New Orleans Saints
1986 Indianapolis Colts
2007 Miami Dolphins
2008 Detroit Lions
2011 Indianapolis Colts

311
by JimmyJJ (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 6:19am

Yeah, I bet it was the announcers getting confused for a change. Still impressive for the Colts as a franchise.

64
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:57pm

I love the whole Tebow thing, not because I have any positive or negative feelings about Tebow, but because I like to see teams trying different strategies. I'm tired of every team running essentially the same offence. Sure if you have a great pocket passer like Brady, Rodgers or Brees - go ahead use that offence. But it you don't have a guy like that than why on earth would you run the same offence when you are almost certainly doomed to lose to the teams that do have such a player?

My favorite team the Vikings has two very well known freakishly talented athletes in Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, but Joe Webb maybe a better all around athlete than both of them - and he has a skill they don't - he can throw a football pretty darn well. Certainly not like really top QBs but he can throw roughly like an NFL QB and he is big and fast. It doesn't seem to me that you would need much in the way of creativity to create a good offence out of those talents.

76
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:09pm

"I love the whole Tebow thing, not because I have any positive or negative feelings about Tebow, but because I like to see teams trying different strategies."

Oh, I agree. Despite my lack of excitement for the Cutlerless Bears on the whole right now, I was very excited to see how the defense dealt with the option.

93
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:51pm

This stretch of Bears games without Cutler sure makes one respect what Cutler did for the Bears offence.

When the Bears made the trade I thought it was a brilliant trade because of how well Cutler played for Denver at a young age. I thought at the time the Vikings would have been a lot better off with him than the old fart. I haven't really watched many Bears games - but it sure seems he has been given a rough ride. It looks now that he may have been performing miracles on that offence.

94
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:54pm

Just about every Bears fan I know thinks Cutler is incredible, has almost nothing to work with, and is given a bum rap because he doesn't play nice with reporters.

103
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:07pm

I owe Cutler an apology as I figured he was a latter day Jeff George and until this season nothing had altered that opinion. But this year he has been both tough as snot as well as playing at a high level with a lot of garbage around him.

I don't know if anything changed with him per se but the results have changed even though the Bears do their best to let him get killed.

And I am glad the Bears keep Martz on the payroll because that guy is the biggest fraud this side of the Mississippi.

Though I am becoming sympathetic to the Bears fans who are down on Lovie. I thought for SURE if anyone could handle losing a qb it would be Lovie Smith. Instead, the Bears look lost on offense and make bad defensive playcalls at the worst possible times.

109
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:09pm

I like Lovie, and I think most people underestimate how hard is to win games in the NFL.

He's no Belichick or Walsh, but he's a solid coach, and if they fire him they'll probably get someone worse.

122
by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:32pm

I go back and forth on Lovie Smith, but I'd place a much higher value on getting rid of Mike Martz and Jerry Angelo.

129
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:50pm

I agree about Lovie. The problems he has are also problems most coaches have (conservative approach, inability to know when to challenge, etc.), which doesn't make them any less annoying.

I would love to see Angelo go. I'm not enamored of Martz, but it seems like much of the previous decade was spent with offensive coordinators who weren't even interested in scoring, so I sort of fear the alternative.

172
by Independent George :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:15pm

Lovie has the same game-day weaknesses other coaches have, but he's outstanding in preparing his players during the week. It's not quantifiable, but I'm very, very impressed with how well prepared his teams always seem to be, and I think he does a great job at teaching & coaching up marginal talent.

128
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:46pm

I agree with this wholeheartedly. Lovie is a perfectly fine head coach.

114
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:14pm

You'll hear the same from many Packers fans. At least the ones willing to give the Bears any credit. We also know that other than Forte, the rest of the offense is mediocre at best (or talented teases like Knox and Olsen (I'm not counting rookies)). And the bulk of the talent is on the defense and special teams. What Cutler did with the Bears offense the last couple years is impressive. And that's from a Packers fan.

96
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:58pm

I wonder if Cutler's career may have been better served by other coaching. Nothing wrong with Shanahan per se, except like a lot of coaches with a lot of success, he may have gotten too much control over personnel. McDaniels was problematic, of course, and Martz it seems to me has lived off of 1999 for a long, long, time. Cutler's done well, I think, but I wonder if he had been paired with a different coach perhaps he'd be thought of differently.

101
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:04pm

I think you can trace how well thought of an offensive coordinator is with how well the o-line plays. Now part of that is on the offensive coordinator, since he has a say in what players get chosen and played and the blocking scheme and such. However, more of it is probably on talent and positional coaching.

I still don't think Ron Turner was anything terrible, but the line fell apart and he looks awful.

So, I think if Cutler had been paired with a better line he would be better thought of. Like his last year in Denver when Cutler was 7th in DVOA. Also, for all Martz's flaws, I think one thing he deserves a reputation for is coaching up QBs.

113
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:14pm

Yeah, he coaches them up. My impressions without having done in depth analysis, is that he also gets them hit a lot. I know if I was an agent I would not be thrilled with my client Qb working with Martz.

130
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:50pm

Has Tice been an offensive coordinator at the NFL level? He's actually done a decent job with the line, considering the quality of players he has to deal with.

148
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:20pm

No, he has never been a coordinator, and I don't know if he is strong enough in the passing game, other than protection, to be a good candidate. Perhaps if he was paired with an outstanding qb coach, but such an outstanding qb coach might well be a better hire for offensive coordinator.

Tice might be the best o-line coach in the league. The Bears might be smart to just keep him there.

159
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:38pm

Thanks, Will. I was hoping you'd chime in, as our resident Tice expert.

216
by rageon :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:59pm

I'm curious if you would take Tice over Rick Dennison (who I suppose is technically the OC, rather than the "o-line coach," but is certainly the defacto coach of that line in Houston).

82
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:17pm

Tebow's built like a ceramic outbuilding, which may make him an exception to the received wisdom that running such an offense can't work in the medium term because the quarterback will get killed. Webb's a bit skinnier. Even with Tebow, if I were the Broncos I would be heavily involved with the bidding for Vince Young this offseason. If the NFL under-values such players to the point where you can readily afford two of them, it starts to look like a better idea.

90
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:44pm

You can still run read-option with him. Atlanta did it for years with Vick. And while Vick did get hurt, he's always been somewhat fragile. He's just as banged up as a quasi-pocket passer with the Eagles, and was hurt in both years with Virginia Tech.

86
by BJR :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:30pm

And its all thanks to Josh McDaniels.......

71
by bubqr :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:04pm

As a fan of another sport which media is getting more and more polluted by complaints about officiating (or 2 if you count MMA), I'd like to see the NFL's media and especially FO avoid that - Criticizing rules can be interesting (Megatron's rule one for example) but officials bashing is getting very annoying to me, and even Audibles is more and more affected. That is about to surpass personal fantasy teams stories for most annoying topics ever.

And oh, also, Tebow - I do think the more this thing go, the more his team believes in his 4th quarter heroics, and the more opponents gets scared to be Tebowed in the 4th. I don't believe Tebow is anything special, but I do believe that the "4th quarter Tebow effect" exists. Plus, there's no other QB I'd like to have on 3rd and short.

Most undertalked story this season: How Josh Freeman went from "the next great thing at QB" to being benched. I expected a Bucs regression for sure, but to that level ?

85
by Peregrine :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:30pm

I'll take this opportunity to bash some officials.

One of my pet peeves is when officials swallow the whistle at the end of the game, perhaps out of concern that they don't want to be the ones deciding the game, and of course sometimes they end up doing exactly that. Two instances yesterday:

* the face mask on Joe Webb as the Vikings were going for the win

* the Saints DBs on the final play against Tennessee. Check out the replay and look at the receivers at the left of the formation. One gets driven out of bounds and another gets blatantly shoved to the ground two yards into the end zone, while Locker still has the ball. That should have been illegal contact and Tennessee should have gotten another play.

257
by Darrel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:04pm

I just saw a replay of the final play on ESPN. The wide receiver near the sideline was contacted after Locker scrambles. I couldn't see a clear picture of the player getting shoved in the end zone - the highlight started and he was already down. That said, the Seahawks were pretty close to the end zone. Might it have been incidental, or within the five yards?

274
by Peregrine :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 8:04am

Here's the final play of Saints-Titans

http://www.nfl.com/videos/new-orleans-saints/09000d5d824f3732/Saints-def...

Watch the receiver lined up wide left.

280
by Travis :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 9:16am

Once Locker left the pocket, illegal contact rules didn't apply, so the Saints CB could legally shove Mariani out of bounds. The same thing happened to Gronkowski in the Week 10 Jets-Patriots game.

295
by Peregrine :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:42pm

I'm talking about a different receiver. Watch the receiver lined up wide left. He gets shoved to the ground a yard into the end zone, making it six yards from the LOS at the 5 and outside the bump zone. Locker is still in the pocket when that happens.

106
by mrh :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:08pm

Until the NFL goes to full-time professional referees the league deserves all the criticism it gets.

160
by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:46pm

From my perspective, as much as it probably sounds like self-serving B.S., I really, really don't like criticizing officials. I was a very-low-level official once. Given the amount of seemingly unjustified grief I used to get (generally because players/coaches/fans didn't know the rules), and how much people emotionally invested in games/calls that were the equivalent of small potatoes, I have a lot of empathy for what NFL-level officials have to deal with.

The reason why, despite my empathy, that I seem to criticize them week-in and week-out in Audibles is because I'm noticing a ton of incorrect calls that demonstrably affect the outcome of the game, and are generally not thought of as "judgement calls." I almost never rip holding calls or PI calls or RTP calls or those "defenseless receiver" calls, mainly because the NFL's written the rules in such a way that interpreting them in real time during game action is pretty difficult for a human referee.

Rather, just speaking of 49ers games, earlier in the season Ahmad Brooks got called for offsides on 3rd-and-short (even though he lined up in that same position previously in the game, as well as on the next play), which gave the Cowboys a gift first down late in the fourth quarter, and they scored a TD on the next play.

Yesterday, the leverage flag the refs picked up meant the 49ers didn't get 1st-and-goal, as they should have. Also, they blew a challenge-related whistle two or three seconds into a play (fake FG for a TD) that already started.

It's these kinds of game-changing plays where a non-judgment-call screw-up by the officials has an undue influence on scoring plays -- and in the end the game's outcome -- that are worthy of critique I think. Things like offsides, leverage, and whistling for the challenge prior to the next play, are not "judgment calls." Either the guy was lined up offsides or he wasn't. Either the guy jumped on a player's back in order to elevate, or he didn't. Either the coach challenged before the next play, or he didn't. When they get these kinds of things wrong, at the most inopportune times, I don't see anything wrong with saying so.

All of this, and I didn't even bring up the end of DET-MIN, which is another perfect example of my point here.

72
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:05pm

Speaking of NE@WAS...

Will no one rid me of that incompetent referee?

Does Triplette have pictures of Goodell or something?

92
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:45pm

Triplette has to have something. His incompetence has already cost the NFL at least one $25 million dollar check.

149
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:28pm

Huh?

171
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:13pm

Jeff Triplette blinded Orlando Brown with a thrown flag in a game in 1999. Brown settled with the NFL for between 15-25 million in 2002. Brown's father had gone blind from glaucoma.

Brown died earlier this year.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/24/sports/football/orlando-brown-who-sued...

176
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:20pm

Man, I missed that death. McGlockton just died as well. Too many of these guys don't see fifty. I am having a tougher time being a fan.

189
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:50pm

Thanks. I knew about the Orlando Brown thing. Didn't realize Idiot Triplette was the culprit.

118
by Purds :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:25pm

Agreed. That was some terrible officiating all around by those guys. As a Pats hater, I barked at more of the Pro-Pats calls (really, that's OPI in the end zone at the end of the game because Eddleman fell down, when NE TE's do that little push off on every play?), but I have to admit that Pats were just as screwed by bad calls going against them. Terrible officiating -- makes the outcome of the game seem randomly chosen by the refs. I know it's not -- NE would have won in OT anyway, but it makes it seem useless that players give that much effort to have refs just randomly make bad calls (like the holding on, I think it was Light, that might have been a slight tug but had no material impact in the play, and that happens on EVERY play.)

77
by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:14pm

Can somebody explain the safety in the DAL/NYG game to me? Romo gets hit at the 1 or the 2, stumbles around, and eventually goes down in his end zone. It seems to me that if he was down by contact, forward progress should be where he was hit, at the one. If he went back under his own power, then he was never downed and should be able to get back up. Basically, he was never touched down in the end zone, so how can that be a safety?

91
by Mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:45pm

I have the very same question. Interestingly, Michaels and Collinsworth, who knows the rules better than any announcing team that I can think of, offered no real explanation; they said something vague like, "That's clear." I have to believe that they would have given us a detailed explanation if they had one.

Anyway, I second the request for an explanation if anybody has one.

97
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:58pm

Seemed pretty clear to me. It wasn't forward progress because he actually ran backwards in an attempt to avoid a sack, but he was off-balance because of a defender. Had he just fallen down on the 1 the ball would have been spotted there, but he made a conscious effort to move backwards to avoid the defender, and took himself into the end zone. Because he'd had contact with the defense, he was down in the end zone.

211
by White Rose Duelist :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:49pm

Romo's movement was the impetus of his being in the end zone. If a runner is pushed into the end zone, they get forward progress, but Romo went there voluntarily.

I miss Ask Jerry Markbreit. He explained this and a lot of other interesting calls for a Chicago paper's website a few years ago. Awesome column.

80
by Shattenjager :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:15pm

If I did this search right, six franchises have had 0-16 starts: The Colts (1986 and 2011), the Lions (2008), the Dolphins (2007), the Saints (1980), the Raiders (1962), and the Buccaneers (1976).

(PFR result: http://pfref.com/tiny/cbz5O)

The Colts went 9-7 in 1995, so they did not go 0-13 that year.

121
by Ben :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:30pm

The Colts started 0-12 in 1991 and 1997 as well, then got their first win in the 13th game. Not sure where the 1995 reference came from.

265
by Shattenjager :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:30am

The Colts started 0-9 in 1991 and 0-10 in 1997 before getting their first win. The only times they've started 0-12 are also 1986 and 2011.

That list is actually sort of funny--only nine times has a team gone 0-12 to start a season, and three franchises have done it twice (Colts in '86 and '11, Lions in '01 and '08, and Buccaneers in '76 and '77).

Incidentally, I do want to acknowledge that Dr. Triskaidekaphobia (a) got the list of 0-13 starts up before I did (presumably while I was reading the article) and (b) came up with a fabulous name for the post.

84
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:20pm

The fourth quarter of the TN/NO was great.

All I got.

87
by Temo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:35pm

I hate football.

95
by Christopher (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 1:57pm

As a niners fan, I have only one question -do we fire the entire o-line, or just their coach?

99
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:02pm

Awful offensive performance by the 49ers, is there a blitz the linemen can block?

139
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:10pm

I didn't get to watch the game...looking at the score progression, it looked like most recent 49er games. Too many field goals in the red zone, but the defense and special teams are playing lights-out. Except this time Arizona got a bit luckier with big plays, the defense got tired at the end they way they have at times, and the 49ers lost.

Apparently there's the addition of line play on the caliber of the Ravens game. Any other parts of the script I'm missing?

158
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:37pm

Danny T has touched on some of it, ie the blasted fake FG TD being called back, Ted Ginn failing to spot the best pass Smith threw all day which would have been a long TD. We didn't run Gore enough and the Cards repeatedly targeted Grant who can't be blamed for not being Willis but faled to make the stops Willis usually makes. Too pissed off to think about it more. Aldon Smith continues to be a terror.

161
by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:52pm

I actually thought Grant played really well again. He had a huge stop on 3rd-and-short in the 4th quarter. Also remember a particularly nice play in coverage against the TE. Even made a nice ST tackle on (I think) that one Peterson punt return that almost gave me indigestion.

187
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:42pm

He didn't get sufficient depth on his drop which allowed Doucet to get open behind him on the long TD, he was constantly targeted on third down and constantly gave up the necessary yardage and he missed at least two tackles on runs away from him which again gave up the first down. I think I can recall a screen pass where he didn't get across in time as well. It's harsh to criticise a guy for not being Willis but I thought we really missed him this week after Grant filled in superbly against the Rams. He did play well on special teams. I would add that on the Doucet TD he could have dropped better but Goldson and Whitner could have tackled a LOT better.

207
by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:43pm

Hmmm...guess I'll have to go back and watch him more closely, then. I guess my thing was that, given how well the run D played, and that ARI's entire offense was a few big plays that were the back end's fault, there was no point in the game where I thought to myself, "Man, the D really could use Willis today." I mean, relatively speaking, of course. Obviously, every D can use Willis any day.

239
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 8:00pm

Harbaugh's and Roman's creativity continues to test the abilities of the refs, it seems. I can't offhand recall a team with a season where the refs were so confused about what was happening. How many big plays have the 49ers lost this year because the refs just weren't competent enough?

Sad about the 49er o-line having trouble with Arizona's blitzes. Doesn't bode too well for the Pittsburgh game, does it? When they play the *good* version of this defense?

At least they've been in every game they've lost. At least it's pretty easy to see where and how they can improve. That's more fun than rooting for a team that's doing everything they can but just doesn't have the talent or the coaching (any number of recent 49ers teams spring to mind).

259
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:27pm

I basically agree with everything you've said but I'm still getting the feeling that there's only so far Smith can take this team. When teams load up the box and run blitz, which is exactly what I'd to to the 49ers, we don't seem to have an answer. Some of that has to come down on our receivers, without Morgan there's Crabtree and an injured Edwards but the line doesn't seem to be able to deal with pressure schemes. Earlier in the year I actualy thought we could stand a chance in the playoffs but if everyone in the league knows that our pass protection has a mile wide hole then we're screwed if we can't fix it. There isn't much evidence that we can solve the problem, it's been our achilles heel every time we've faced it.

Am I being harsh on Smith? Is it his fault that we're unable to make the big plays that should come when a team send multiple rushers? Ginn failed to see the ball this week, Davis dropped a perfect pass last week. I'm just not sure but as someone who has defended Smith on this site for years I am getting to the stage where I'd like to see a quarterback who can make a defense pay for it's mistakes. As an outside observer it's hard to say whether this is Smith or the playcalling but something is wrong and if Alex had demonstrated the ability to hurt teams that sent extra guys after him then the offense wouldn't be the pile of drek it currently is.

And why do Iupati and Goodwin keep ending plays looking at each other as the quarterback runs for his life? The line is riddled with niggling injuries at the moment but it's the third week in a row they couln't deal with blitzes.

288
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:40am

We need greybeard here...he's the big Smith fan. I've always thought he was a guy who could work very hard and be mediocre, mainly because no matter what he learns to do right, he's never going to be very accurate, despite nailing one every once in a while.

315
by greybeard :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 7:20pm

Oh, I am not an Alex Smith fan (not in the way you mean it). I am a 49ers fan and therefore would like him to be successful.

I am just tired of him being blamed for all things wrong about the 49ers. I believe he is very down the list on that and the fans fixation with Smith have clouded their perception.

An example, I watched the 49ers-Giants game again a few days ago, most snaps at full speed first and slow motion after that. Smith was very very good. Better than Eli Manning in that game. Eli had a few superb throws but he also had a few really bad ones. But you were saying that you have seen good QB play because you watched Eli that day. You could not credit him for a very well played game.

He played quite bad in Arizona game though. I think that game was the first time he played a bad game this year. He did not play very well in Raven's game but I'd put most of it on Oline.

102
by zenbitz :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:04pm

Also featured today: they get a Ginn punt return to the 4-yard line (no clue how he didn't score), and offense settles for a field goal.

Danny, remember the LOS was like the 8, so there were plenty of Cardinals around the 4.

105
by Mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:07pm

"I actually feel a bit bad for Marion Barber. His late-game actions were inexcusable..."

They are perfectly excusable--God made him do it.

111
by TomC :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:12pm

I like the meme tuluse & ChiJeff have started of "this is the most devastating Bears loss I can remember since.... (or ever)"; it somehow eases the pain just a little bit. So here are some losses I took harder than last night's:

Vikings 22, Bears 16, October 16, 1977. Big 2nd-half comeback thwarted by late-game FG to tie it up---which should have only made the game 17-16, but Bob Thomas had missed an XP earlier. Bears lose in OT to hated rival. Particularly devastating to me, as I was 6 years old and had just discovered this magical "NFL Football" thing.

Home playoff losses to the Redskins after 1986 and 1987 seasons. Equally painful, for different reasons. January, 1987 because I fully expected the Bears to turn the same switch they did the previous season and blow through the playoffs not giving up any points; January, 1988 because 1) they had a 14-0 lead and lost on that sick Darrell Green punt return, and 2) I understood even as a teenager that was the end, and that they'd blown the chance to win multiple SBs.

Steelers 37, Bears 34, November 5, 1995. For some reason, this was the worst. The Bears had been very bad for a few years, then they'd made a fluke playoff run in 1994, losing to the juggernaut Niners. Then they signed Erik Kramer and Jeff Graham and drafted Rashaan Salaam, and all of a sudden they looked like a modern NFL offense for the first time in recorded history (and, really, the only time except for the last few Cutler games of this season). They were 6-2 and rolling, when the eventual AFC champs came to town. Crazy up-and-down game, with the Steelers tying it at the end of regulation. Bears drove in OT, but Butler missed the FG. Never the most mentally strong team, the Bears subsequently dropped 4 of 5 and made a too-little-too-late push at the end of the season, barely missing the playoffs. Then they were horrible for about 10 years.

116
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:16pm

I wasn't even born until '87, so my experiences are more limited.

The 2005 playoff loss was a pretty big punch in the gut. It just came out of nowhere. Like how can the best defense in the NFL let one guy beat them?

146
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:19pm

Well, Steve Smith 2005 is probably right next to Larry Fitzgerald 2008 as the best playoff receiving performances of all time. Yes, Seattle shut him down, but that's because they basically had a moving-zone that triple covered him every play.

He was incredible against the Giants and the Bears.

150
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:29pm

Now, now, football has been played for a while. In January 1988, Anthony Carter had 10 catches for 227 yards as a Viking, against a really great 49er team, on the way to a 36-24 divisional round playoff upset. I'm sure there are some other great games as well.

155
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:33pm

See below. I meant in the 2000s. I meant to put 2000s, but I'm used to typing "all time" I guess.

151
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:30pm

The 2000s is what I meant. Not all time

117
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:21pm

Don't forget the 1989 Packers-Bears Instant Replay game. Bears went 1-6 after that game and out of playoffs for first time in years.

156
by TomC :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:35pm

Don't forget the 1989 Packers-Bears Instant Replay game. Bears went 1-6 after that game and out of playoffs for first time in years.

Oh jesus, how could I forget that one? Especially given that Don "The Majik Man" Majkowski was that year's Tebow.

And thanks, Eddo, for the correction and for reminding me of Ultra-Back, who was awesome in 1995 as well. (It was a nice little 1-2 punch before "awp, Rashawn (we gotta get better, we *know* that)" decided he didn't really like playing football.)

132
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:55pm

I remember that Steelers game; I was in junior high, and one of my friends had a few other people over to watch it. We did not take it well.

Minor nitpick: Kramer was on the 1994 team, too. He got hurt early, so Steve Walsh QB'd the rest of the way (and won a playoff game in Minnesota, thanks to Raymont Harris).

133
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:59pm

This is also the worst loss in my memory. Yet the last-second loss to the Falcons against rookie Matt Ryan a few years ago was also pretty horrible.

153
by TomC :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:32pm

Ugh. Actually, that stretch against the NFC South (gut-punch losses to ATL, TB, and CAR) was a bit like the current mega-fail against the AFCW. To me, the most painful one of those was actually TB, because Peanut got a personal foul for retaliating against that dirty bastard Jeremy Trueblood, when the Bears had stopped them on 3rd down inside the TB 10 with almost no time left. They took the gift 1st down and drove all the way for a game-tying TD. All on the arm of Brian Frickin' Griese, who passed for like 800 yards that day.

163
by Chip :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:54pm

2001 playoff game against the Eagles.

That defense was phenomenal in 2001 with the Bears rolling to a 13-3 record and first round bye. Except all was for naught when Miller was knocked out of the game earlier in the first half. Shane Matthews then came in relief and put on his best Hanie imitation (8 of 17 for 66 yards). However the Bears rallied to take the lead twice (scoring 9 points on defense). But in the end, the Eagles pulled away. And the next day, the old stadium was torn down.

164
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:59pm

Ha! We Vikings fans are clearly the leaders in suffering heartbreaking losses. Hell, the "Hail Mary" is named after a famous Viking loss, when Roger Staubach was able to heave one, due to an unflagged Cowboy tackle of a Vikings defensive lineman, so as to allow Drew Pearson to push off, unflagged, and catch a td pass. We have seen our team lose two conference championships in ot, when a kicker who hadn't missed all year honked a 30 yarder, and when our team outgained an eventual Super Bowl champ by about 200 yards in their stadium, but our team kept dropping the ball. We have also lost a conference championship game by 42-0, to get the other end of the spectrum. The four Super Bowl losses, of course.

Regular season? The closest game the undefeated '72 Dolphins team had came when a bunch of weird stuff happened, and allowed them to get a winning td in the closing moments of a game against the Vikings. How about missing the playoffs when the Cardinals come back, get an onside kick, and then score a winning td on the last play, on a call that is no longer even allowed, the push-out completion?

Oh, no, Chicago fans, you must look to your rival to the the northwest to the see the real leader in this area.

174
by William :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:18pm

Ahh, Nate Poole. Are you the Paul Allen? That call is absolutely legendary to this Packer fan.

185
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:33pm

No, no, and if we are going to revel in another fan's PTSD, let me note that one of my favorite Vikings games is the "Randy rubs his rear on the goal post" game. Ah, memories......

175
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:18pm

Get in line. We suffered 40 heart-breaking losses in 42 games.

-Lions fan

178
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:23pm

Looks like some pity-party-crashers have arrived.

179
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:25pm

Now, I will not deny the Lions fan his own form of martyrdom, but it is not the same as that of a fan who roots for the team which shows great reason for hope with frequency, and then pulls out the tablecloth, but sending the china to shatter on the floor.

198
by TomC :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:31pm

I did not mean to imply that the Bears have anything like a corner on the kick-you-in-the-nuts loss market; you could have this sort of thread for any franchise. It was just a means of talking about something related to but not so directly painful as yesterday's game.

203
by NYMike :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:40pm

This is so true. Current events are starting to erase a Packer playoff loss where Rice fumbled on the 49ers scoring drive (recovered by Leroy Butler, but Rice was ruled down), a Philadelphia game where McNabb converted 4th and 26, and then Favre through on INT in OT to seal the deal, and a playoff game against the Rams where our future HOF QB through six picks that led to or resulted in six TDs.

Feeling better right now, I admit. But I'm just underling the point that every franchise has these games.

Even, gasp ... Dallas!

225
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:26pm

Every Colts playoff loss since 2005 has been like this. What sets them apart is they won a Super Bowl in that time.

2005: Nick Harper gets caught by Roethlisberger in part because Harper was stabbed by his wife in his knee the night before. Vanderjagt misses the kick about as bad as you can miss a kick in a dome. (I will say, that this was a legitimate loss, because had the Steelers lost, the Bettis' fumble would probably be one of the 10-most infamous plays in NFL history).

2007: Driving inside the 5, Manning throws a screen pass to Kenton Keith, who bats it up into the air, where it is picked off by Eric Weddle.

2008: The Colts basically lose to a PUNTER, as Scifres goes robo-punter on them. Gijon Robinson forgets snap count on 3rd and 1, and Manning is sacked, where 1st down would have ended the game. Two curious refereeing decisions on 3rd down in OT against the Colts. Gates fumbles around 3 Colts in OT, but recovers himself.

2009: Hank Baskett has hands on the surprise onside-kick, but bobbles it off his face. If Colts recovered, they would have ball around the NO 40 up 10-6. Saints have a 2-point conversion called incomplete overturned in a really debatable catch/going-to-the-ground situation. Obviously, the pick-6. That wasn't luck or a flukey play, but a huge punch in the gut.

2010: Manning's pass to Blair White on 3rd down late in the game just misses. Had he caught it, the Colts could have drained the clock and not allowed the Jets a chance to come back. Colts become just the 2nd team in playoff history to lose a game after scoring to take the lead with less than a minute to go. The other being the Bills in the Music City Miracle.

There have been 7 teams in the 2000s to lose a playoff game when not turning the ball over when their opponent has. 4 of them are Colts teams (2000, 2005, 2008, 2010).

The Colts are the only team in the 2000s to lose a playoff game when winning the turnover battle and yardage battle (2005, 2007).

The Colts have had a string of punch-in-the-gut playoff games. Let alone the two close losses to NE in the regular season in 2003 and 2004 that could have flipped HFA in teh playoffs to the dome. Thankfully, we won a title, but it could have easily been so much more.

205
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:42pm

By God, I want to root for a team, just once, that wins a trophy. If it is the kick-you-in-the-nuts loss trophy, so be it!

208
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:44pm

I think you have to have it out with the Bills for that honor.

210
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:46pm

D'OH!!

249
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 9:31pm

I was sitting in the stands in Lambeau Field that fateful Sunday. The Packer head coach wouldn't allow the Viking score to be shown. Eventual, word went around the stadium about the Cardinal win and a big cheer went up. The Packers were kicking Denver that day, I believe. Vikings led the division wire to wire, except for the very final play, which gave the division title and a playoff spot to Green Bay. Sweet memories; thanks for reminding me.

222
by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:13pm

The only loss that comes to my mind in comparison to yesterday's is the Super Bowl loss to the Colts, and even that was tempered by the knowledge that the Bears had overachieved just to make it there in the first place.

This year will definitely go down in my memory as the worst "what if" year ever, and yesterday's game is only part of that (if they'd won even one of the two previous games and were 8-5 instead of 7-6, yesterday would be easier to swallow). If Cutler doesn't get hurt, the Bears would have almost certainly made the playoffs and if they'd continued to perform at the level they were before the injury (or even higher), who knows?

After so many years of watching a terrible-to-mediocre team where the best I could really hope for was that they'd get lucky and eke out a 9-7 wild card berth, it's incredibly frustrating to see this season derailed by injury.

258
by TomC :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:26pm

I think they probably would still have lost to the Packers or the Saints in the playoffs, but it would have been fun to watch. I'm reasonably optimistic about next year, but a lot depends on how the aging defense holds up (and whether they can hold on to an increasingly discontented Briggs).

316
by td (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2011 - 5:32am

the '88 playoff game was the worst, because we had it, and the juggernaut 49ers had lost, so we had a clear run to the title. It was also Payton's last game, I believe

119
by Purds :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 2:28pm

On the that Gronkowski awesome rumble, I am surprised that no one's attacking #23 of the Redskins, who was right next to the play and did nothing until he broke free. You have the 2011 version of Jim Brown out there breaking tackles, and you just watch as two teammates try to take him down, and then you decide to do something after he breaks free? Good luck. That dude needs to be cut/demoted.

196
by Purds :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:16pm

That was Hall? Seems like his name comes up in a negative way an awful lot. And he's a captain?

136
by Dennis :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 3:06pm

"(Aside: how lame is it that if you have Sunday Ticket, if the local station switches away from a blowout, that blowout is still blacked out on its Ticket channel?)"

When that happens, DirecTV is supposed to flip the switch to show the game on the Sunday Ticket channel, but they usually aren't paying enough attention to do it. If you are motivated enough, you can call them and they will turn it on for you.

166
by Jesus (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:08pm

There's no way Tebow pulls off that crap against the Jets defense...

oh, wait a minute.

170
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:12pm

I hope bears fans really respect cutler now. Its no secret, bad qb paired with horrible offensive talent = horrendous offense. Go ask colts fans about that for a better explanation. On the other hand, great qb with horrible talent= average to above average offense(bears). HOF to possibly greatest player of all time with horrible talent = sb capable offense. Sometimes, we just can't get past the idea that an offense is made of 11 parts, not just a qb with 10 warm bodies. No matter what you think of brady, brees, or Rodgers, they would all look less than picturesque without the great players around them.

Finally, i know rodgers has been the mvp, but as a colts fan, i can say eli's performance might have been the best performance of any qb i've seen all year. He had to deal with so many horrible snaps, drops by his receivers, and the invisible left tackle in diehl and still played amazingly. It was an incredible performance that for a moment, had me wondering if eli really was the best in the business(yes if only for a moment). He won't ever surpass his brother in pure qb skills or brady or brees or rodgers...but i think hes with roethlisburger and cutler and rivers in that really good but not elite.

173
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:16pm

What great players does Brady have around him this year? Perhaps one of the tight ends, but there isn't a lot beyond that.

177
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:20pm

Let's see, he's got *2* pro bowl-caliber TEs and Wes Welker.

He also plays behind what's still one of the best offensive lines in football. He is also protected by some HOF-caliber rule changes.

183
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:30pm

You can be barely above average and be a pro bowl player these days. I would not call Welker a great player, which leavees one of the tight ends. I haven't looked closely at their o-line play this year, so I'll concede that, but to some extent that is countered by a defense which would have issues in the Big East Conference.

188
by Independent George :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:49pm

At least it makes sense for New England to be in the Big East.

190
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:52pm

HA!

191
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 4:52pm

HA!

194
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:13pm

But we're not talking the New England Pats as a whole, we're talking the talent around Tom Brady.

Since 2007, Welker has been pretty fantastic.
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/psl_finder.cgi?request=...

197
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:24pm

I'm not sure what you are posting here, but if the implication is that a defense does not greatly impact a qb on the same team, we'll have to differ, as we will on Welker. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying he is merely average, but to me, the term "great" is reserved for those who are pretty fantastic in all but the very worst team settings. Cris Carter or Tim Brown with a succession of qbs. Randy Moss anywhere (until last year) except Oakland. I don't think Welker is in that category.

202
by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:39pm

I would not call Welker a great player

Really?

209
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:44pm

I use "great" as a synonym for Hall of Famer, or something pretty close. No, I would not put Welker in that category, which really isn't harsh criticism.

238
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 7:43pm

So your argument is just that Brady doesn't have any HOFers around him on his offense *this year*? Likely neither do Brees, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, or Manning!

How many HOFers are in the NFL on any given year? Many players go an entire career without ever playing with one!

Even discounting Welker, who is perhaps the top WR of the last 5 years, Brady's still perhaps playing with a HOF TE if he keeps up his current production. That's a lot of premier offensive teammates for one QB.

254
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 10:46pm

I'm still not buying. Give me Larry Fitzgerald, or Roddy White, or Calvin Johnson, or a healthy Andre Johnson or Steve Smith, any day of the week.

Welker's the offensive equivalent of Ronde Barber: very good, certainly - the absolute best at what he does, in fact - but also an over-rated system player who should not be considered in the same category as more complete, system diverse players who nominally play the same position.

262
by Intropy :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:05am

I think you just described Brady, not Welker.

260
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:30pm

"How many HOFers are in the NFL on any given year? Many players go an entire career without ever playing with one!"

Well if 5 players make the HOF every year and the average career is 10 years then approximately 50 players in the game today are HOFers. (I think, my mathS could be wrong)

263
by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:11am

The average NFL career is more like 2 years FYI.

267
by Intropy :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:10am

Hall of Famers play longer, averaging 12.4 seasons with a median of 13.

261
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:23am

Uh, no, if Bill Belichik was given a time machine to go back five years, and told he could put any wr on his roster for the next five years, he would not choose Wes Welker.

If you haven't noticed, I've already written several times that the TE is great.

223
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:14pm

Will, I didn't think Welker was a great player 2 years ago. Now I do.

He is literally uncoverable. He's not all that fast, but he turns faster than anyone I've ever seen.

And Gronkowski is probably the best all around TE in the NFL.

228
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:35pm

Obviously, if Gronkowski has six or seven more seasons like this, they are gonna give him one of the ugly yellow blazers, so you'll have no argument from me. Maybe Welker is the rare guy who becomes great fairly deep into his career, and I really wasn't trying to rip him anyways.

256
by B :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 10:57pm

Welker and Gronkowski are perfectly cromulent players. I think we can all agree on that.

275
by nat :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 8:09am

Gronkowski is embiggened. Welker is not.

Now that's something we can all agree on.

285
by Independent George :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 10:13am

But who's got the nobler spirit?

282
by BSR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 9:30am

One of the best offensive lines in football? Really? Their center just came off the practice squad. The right guard, Waters, was cut by KC and didn't look like he was going to start until the starting center got hurt the guard had to move into that spot (until he of course also got hurt). Their right tackle has been in and out of the line up all year with injuries and has been a turnstile at times. Their left tackle is living on borrowed time. Their best lineman, Mankins, I believe leads the league in penalties for a lineman or is pretty darn close. They are a decent pass blocking team but terrible at run blocking this year.

As for the weapons around Brady, they have a great TE and one great WR (arguably), thats it. Every other WR is subpar. They are pretty much stuck running a two TE offense to be effective, which isn't optimal in the least. They have ZERO verticle threat. Compare that to the wealth of receiving talent surrounding Rodgers, Rothlisberger or Brees and it isn't even close.

218
by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:06pm

I can remember reading online comments in the Chicago papers after the NFC championship game last year suggesting that the Bears should start Caleb Hanie this year, because Cutler is a wimp and a quitter. I would love to find some of those commenters and ask them if they still feel the same way this year. I have to admit I was skeptical when they traded for him, but last year and this year have convinced me that he's a very good QB and I hope he plays for the Bears for many years. Frankly, there are only a handful of QBs in the league that I would take instead of Cutler, given the chance.

I was thinking this morning that while Aaron Rodgers deserves the MVP based on being clearly the best QB in the league this year, in a lot of respects I'd argue that Cutler is more valuable to the Bears than Rodgers is to Green Bay. Going into the four-game stretch against the AFC West, the Bears were 6-3 and seemed to have a good chance at being 10-3 after the Denver game. They took care of the Chargers the way I expected them to and before hearing about Cutler's injury I was having visions of the Bears playing in the NFC championship game at Lambeau Field and maybe even avenging last year's loss. Fast-forward three weeks and the offense can't score to save their lives. While there have been other injuries, notably Matt Forte last week, I put almost all of that change on not having Cutler. I think he masks the deficiencies of the O-line incredibly well.

200
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 5:33pm

"OK, I think Wilfork just got called for unnecessary roughness
for hitting a guy too hard, the same thing that happened with Ndamukong Suh and Jay Cutler last year. "

You mean, other than the part where Suh hit Cutler in the back of the head?

219
by GlennW :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:09pm

> "but I want to make sure I have this correct. If a defender dives at the quarterback's legs and takes him down with the ball in his hands, that's a sack. If he dives at the quarterback's legs and the quarterback throws the ball away after the defensive player has left his feet, that's roughing the passer."

This is not correct. The defender is not permitted to dive at the QB's legs under any circumstances, as long as the QB is in the pocket. The "lateness" of the hit is irrelevant (as is a blow to the QB's head), as opposed to other roughing definitions:

HITTING PASSER’S KNEE

(5) A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him.

Note 1: A defender cannot initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the passer in the knee area or below, even if he is being contacted by another player.
Note 2: It is not a foul if the defender swipes, wraps, or grabs a passer in the knee area or below in an attempt to tackle him.

PASSER OUT OF THE POCKET
(8) When the passer goes outside the pocket area and either continues moving with the ball (without attempting to advance the ball as a runner) or throws while on the run, he loses the protection of the one-step rule provided for in (1) above, and the protection against a low hit provided for in (5) above, but he remains covered by all the other special protections afforded to a passer in the pocket
(numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7), as well as the regular unnecessary-roughness rules applicable to all player positions.

226
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:29pm

So what's the difference between the prohibited "forcibly hitting in the knee area or below" and the allowed (via Note 2) "swipes, wraps, or grabs a passer in the knee area or below in an attempt to tackle him"?

231
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:47pm

IANAR, but my guess would be where the defender's shoulders are. So if you aim for a QB's gut and that's where your shoulder ends up and your arm goes around his legs, you're fine.

236
by GlennW :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 7:10pm

I find the NFL rulebook to be poorly written in general (and very scattered in its layout), but I believe the distinction the league is making there is between a virtually stationary defender who had been knocked down still being allowed to make a tackle with a swipe of his arm, as opposed to the more forcible low hits prohibited in the acts of "rushing, rolling or lunging".

The addendum to this rule prohibiting "lunging etc." from the ground was added due to Bernard Pollard's (then legal) hit on Tom Brady in 2007. Pollard had been knocked to the ground, but it was the force of Pollard's shoulder after popping back up of his own power that caused Brady's knee injury. Hence, "lunging" banned, "swiping" still okay. I understand that this part of the rule is pretty subjective, but taking a running leap at the QB's legs really isn't.

279
by BSR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 9:15am

The difference, I am guessing, is the motion of the defender. Earlier in the game Brady was tackled by the legs but the defender was on the ground already and just wrapped Brady up. Carter on the other hand was running, leapt and then "hit" Grossman in the legs. Personally, I didn't think it should have qualified as a "hit" and looked more like a tackle of the legs. Then again, thats an easy assessment to make with the assistance of slow motion.

283
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 9:32am

The frustration I had with the Carter penalty was this: his initial momentum appeared to be taking him toward a tackle of Grossman's waist. Grossman, however, stepped back, which meant Carter missed his waist and ended up hitting his legs. I don't think that should be penalised, as it's very difficult to hit a moving target in the exact spot you want. That said, better tackling technique might well mean he doesn't miss and it's hard to argue he couldn't avoid the foul. The same is true of Fletcher's penalty - if he stays on his feet to wrap up instead of diving at Brady he doesn't end up being penalised, whether or not you believe it was a foul.

I should probably mention that I was watching on Red Zone while getting the kids ready for bed, so didn't get the benefit of multiple replays and couldn't rewind to rewatch.

284
by nat :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 9:51am

Let me explain the difference as I "grab" you with this sledgehammer...

255
by B :: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 10:51pm

Well, I certainly wasn't expecting a Doom Comic reference.

264
by Ezra (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:13am

Wrt roughness calls, erring on the side of protecting players necessarily means they're going to miss some calls, and I'd think that is a consequence everyone should be willing to live with. There is a reason there are weight divisions in combat sports. Thugs like James Harrison who thrive on blind-siding players much smaller than he and whine about being picked on for it ought to try MMA and see how he likes the lifestyle; and all his mouth-breathing fans who think football is being sissified should follow him there. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.

266
by Intropy :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:01am

With such a respectful, thoughtful, and cogent argument, how could anyone fail to be swayed?

297
by Ezra (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:10pm

Exactly.

268
by Alex K (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 4:00am

A couple points

1. The Brady gets all the calls argument is amusing, especially considering the fact that while in some games his shirt remains clean, for a long time he took quite a bit of punishment in the pocket. Someone commented that he always comes up from the ground looking for the flag not looking at his pass but usually the exact opposite is true. The idea that Peyton Manning and the Colts do not recieve beneficial calls is also almost offensive. No team's opponents were ever called for more phantom DPI calls than Colts opponents and the fact that Manning is afraid to get hit and has been since he was at Tennessee is why he never gets RTP calls, not some referee bias.

2. Those people asserting the value of Wes Welker and wondering how great he is need only watch the games in which Julian Edelman was allowed to play in his position when Welker was injured. He caught the only 2 TDs in NE's playoff loss in '09 and had a 10-catch week the previous game. I like Welker a lot, but he is not a hall of famer or anything close to it. It never ceases to amaze me how much commentators are surprised when Welker drops a pass, which seems to happen nearly every game (I don't understand who/how dropped passes are charted but Welker lets go far more than his fair share), and while he may be one of the best slot receivers in the league, the Patriots offense is sorely limited by his lack of speed.

3. Someone claimed that the Patriots have 2 pro bowl TEs, and this person has never watched Aaron Hernandez play because if they did they would immediately hide their face in shame. Hernandez drops almost as many easy catches as Ben Watson used to, does not block very effectively and seems to disappear from the passing game for entire games. Not even close to Pro Bowl. The same comment claimed that the Patriots offensive line is the best in football. I don't know what that is based on but I would guess Madden simulations or something other than actual game observation. They are on their 4th-string center, Matt Light is still a human turnstile at LT, Vollmer and Solder have been very mediocre at RT. Waters and Mankins have been very good, but other than them, a very poor unit that faces very little pressure due to the short passing game. Also, the implication that Brady is surrounded by talent outside of a good slot receiver and admittedly the best TE in football right now is pretty absurd, because Branch is their first receiver and he has very, very average skills and Ochocinco who is as washed up as it gets is the other outside receiver when they line up 3 wide. The fact that Tiquan Underwood is playing a crucial role in this team's passing game should be a red flag to everyone. Finally, the Patriots do not have a running game, and anyone stating something to the contrary is selling something, and that something is a contract extension for BJGE.

4. Just as a historical note, pre-Welker/Moss the Patriots consistently had some of the worst receiving options in the league, so when we look back on Brady v. Manning v. Rodgers we need to also look back on Brown/Branch/Givens/Caldwell/Gaffney/Graham/Watson, Jennings/Driver/Finley, Harrison/Wayne/Garcon/Pollard/Clark, and merely by examining the physical skillsets of these respective players, we can see that one of these groups is not like the other.

270
by Intropy :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 5:05am

1. Half right. They both get calls
2. You are seriously undervalueing Welker
3. Hernandez isn't pro bow, but he's pretty good. The line as a whole is very good s well.

I find it ironic that you use Julian Edelman's sample of one game to point out show Welker's replaceability but ignore Matt Cassel's one season demonstration. Welker is a special player who is fortunate to be playing in a system that showcases his particular skillset. Brady is a very good quarterback who is also extremely fortunate to be in a system suited to his skillset, which has caused him to be the most overrated player I've ever watched play.

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by theslothook :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 4:55am

I think the central argument surrounding welker is...does he make the system or is he part of the system? I'll give my two cents. welker is not calvin or andre. That is, he is not a wideout who could be inserted in any offense and succeed. Those type of players are truly special. But then i would argue neither is brady that type of qb. In essence, while welker may not be a hall of famer, in that system, he is simply one of the most dynamic players in the nfl. he was, at one point, on pace to break rice's yardage record. Simply put, yes, hes partly a system player, but the fact that he is doesn't mean NE isn't getting hall of fame type production.

In my opinion, the top 5 in terms of absolute talent around them-o line plus wideouts plus running game- i would say the top tier talented teams are in order.

1. GB- with great interior o line play, great tight end, really deep wideouts, and solid if average run game.

2. Ne- excellent pass blocking interior o line with great tight ends and good enough wideouts(welker plus a bunch of no names). Good run game too.

3. Giants- suspect o line but good running backs with very deep wideout core with cruz, manningham, and nicks.

4. Cowboys- again, decent o line, good run game, but deep wideouts with laurent robinson, miles austin, dez bryant, and jason witten.

5. Houston- great offensive line, with healthy andre- good set of wideouts and deep set of tight ends, excellent run game

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by Alex K (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:01pm

"Excellent pass blocking interior o line" I don't get how this matters when a team can split pass rushers wide on the ends, rush two and meet at the QB in less than 3 seconds? It is amazing to me how much credit the O-line gets. The way teams play the Patriots is to give Brady as much time as he wants for the most part, because a 3 man rush usually will generate pressure within 6 seconds and on a lot of plays, the Patriots receivers are unable to create separation in that time.

The other argument talking about discount a season from Cassel, I would refute by pointing to his very good season with the Chiefs just a year ago and state that if Brady had been healthy in 2008, with one of the easiest schedules in the league, the Patriots probably would have been back in the Superbowl. This talk of Brady being a "system player" is ridiculous. If he is a system player, why wouldn't every struggling team want to use this system that allows you to always trade down and draft poorly, use undrafted free agents to stock your roster and trade away fan favorites whenever you like and yet still win 9+ games every year even when you have a non-defense lining up when your "system" qb is on the field? Makes no sense to me.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:33pm

6 seconds?! That's en eternity in the NFL. The next time Cutler gets a pocket that lasts 6 seconds will be his first (as a Bear). The next time he gets 4 seconds would probably be one of a handful of times.

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by dryheat :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:42pm

Yeah. The way teams play the Patriots is to give Brady as much time as he wants for the most part, because a 3 man rush usually will generate pressure within 6 seconds and on a lot of plays, the Patriots receivers are unable to create separation in that time.

I'm pretty sure this is patently and demonstrably false. Every opposing coach and player I've ever heard talk about strategy to beat the Patriots is to blitz Brady and get him moving. Brady with 6 seconds would probably have a 90+ % completion pct. Every quarterback in the NFL, including Tebow, would have at least a 70%.