Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Nov 2012

Audibles at the Line: Week 11

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 49ers 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, November 15

Miami Dolphins 14 at Buffalo Bills 19

Danny Tuccitto: Just some thoughts on TNF:

1) The Dolphins offense was by no means a jugggernaut before Week 8, but since then they have scored a total of 30 points the past three weeks against teams that were ranked 31st (Indianapolis), 29th (Tennessee), and 31st (Buffalo) in defense DVOA at the time. Having followed them closely this season, I don't see guys playing worse or not executing properly. Rather, I think what we're seeing lately is that, in the NFL, even the crappiest defenses can figure out how to stop a vanilla offense. Outside of motioning Brian Hartline or Davone Bess tight to throw a crackback block, the Dolphins use no pre-snap motion or pre-snap shifts whatsoever. Ryan Tannehill rarely audibles, if ever. As a 49ers fan, it's like Miami's offense is run by Bizarro Harbaugh.

And with a quarterback who must know the entire playbook like the back of his hand by now, their play-calling is pretty limited as well. Offset-I with a receiver motioning tight? It's likely an inside zone run. Tannehill under center with Reggie Bush as the single back? It's likely a stretch play. Tannehill in shotgun? It's a pass. Charles Clay in the slot? He's running a seam route. I've basically watched the same offense for 11 weeks, so the coaching staff doesn't seem to have made many adjustments to go against their tendencies. At some point, simply lining up and "doing what you do" ceases being effective. Chris Brown of Smart Football might say that Miami needs to start applying the constraint theory of offense.

2) As I've been saying all season, every Dolphins cornerback not named Sean Smith is terrible. The problem lately is that their continued terribleness has now been augmented by Smith not being as good as he was earlier in the season. And with that, I'm contractually obligated to mention the Vontae Davis trade.

Sunday, November 18

Jacksonville Jaguars 37 at Houston Texans 43 (OT)

Rivers McCown: I expect to be the lone person talking about this game.

Andy Benoit: I'll insert a generic "Blaine Gabbert gets sacked" comment every half-hour or so to create the allusion that I, too, am watching Houston-Jacksonville.

Tom Gower: Some of us are writing about one of these teams. I'll give the game a chance to see if anything interesting happens. Judging by how wide-open Andre Johnson was multiple times on the Texans' opening drive that finished with a Keshawn Martin touchdown grab, I'm guessing I'll be on another game before too long.

Rivers McCown: Kind of interesting how often Houston opens up the game with a barrage of play-action. I've only seen a couple games this year where they've gone straight to the run early.

Gabbert hurt after a questionable fumble ruling on the field. Looks like his throwing arm. Chad Henne is warming.

Aaron Schatz: Henne is better. I know that Henne was poor in his first appearance this year, but the Jags were better when Henne came into the game last week. Houston may only win by 21.

Rivers McCown: I know I'd personally rather have Gabbert stay in. (As a Texans fan.)

Tom Gower: Based on what I've seen of Henne this year, Gabbert is the superior option. Henne was terrible in the preseason, and the offense completely died when Gabbert got hurt against the Raiders.

Vince Verhei: Unless Gabbert and Henne are covering receivers, I'm not sure it matters much. Texans wideouts were repeatedly unimpeded on that first touchdown drive.

Rivers McCown: Aaron, Justin Blackmon just ran a post route. And it worked! Pretty solid stick throw by Henne.

Jags take a 14-7 lead after Houston blows two tackle attempts on Cecil Shorts underneath. I like to think of it as punishment from the football gods for Houston punting on fourth-and-6 from the Jacksonville 36. An 18-yard punt.

Tom Gower: That Shorts touchdown reminded me of one Darrius Heyward-Bey had against the Texans last year -- another pretty short pass that became a long touchdown after a couple missed tackles. I want to say Kareem Jackson was a culpable party on that one as well. For the Texans, Matt Schaub's missed a couple passes that would have extended drives, plus Johnson lost a deep pass in a going-to-the-ground situation.

Rivers McCown: Jackson has gotten worked today. And more importantly, there has been zero Houston pass rush. Going to have to go back and see how often the Jags are in max protection. The Bears did that a lot against Houston last week and produced good results.

Tom Gower: It's total Opposite Day in Houston. Blackmon playing well, Jackson not, Henne playing well, the Texans (Martin, really) with some great returns ... none of this makes a darned bit of sense at all.

Rivers McCown: 81-yard Blackmon touchdown on third-and-18. Great throw over Brice McCain's shoulder, followed by -- you guessed it -- missed tackles.

I stocked up on beer yesterday, thankfully.

Tom Gower: McCain had a great year last year as the slot corner. From what I've seen this year, he hasn't been as good. That is especially true today. C.J. Mosley has really stood out in a positive manner today.

Rivers McCown: McCain has definitely been more up-and-down than he was last year. In the Denver game, especially, he played poorly. But he was never going to repeat last season -- that whole regression talk about the Texans defense as a whole might have been silly, but with McCain specifically, it made a lot of sense.

Danny Tuccitto: I don't even have to be watching the game to feel confident in saying Blackmon is playing well because he's not running eight-yard outs every play.

Aaron Schatz: Wow, is Paul Posluszny bloody. I think he just bladed or something.

Rivers McCown: Texans settling for a long field goal to attempt to win the game. Why? You employ Shayne Graham!

Tom Gower: Gary Kubiak needs a trip to the Marv Levy Seminar on the Wisdom of Settling for Long Field Goal Attempts, and we're headed to overtime in Houston.

Danny Tuccitto: I have no idea why that continues to be an issue. It's not like the fourth-down thing, where most of the risk-aversion happens outside of crunch time, and coaches have plausible deniability on whether or not that particular decision cost them the game. I mean, there are way more instances of losing as a direct result of settling for a long field goal than there are for failed ballsy fourth-down attempts (sorry for bringing that up, Aaron).

Aaron Schatz: Actually, they did run a couple of plays there. They had two carries, one for no yards, and one for six yards, that made it a 42-yarder instead of a 48-yarder. (The false start then made it a 47-yarder.)

I do plan on writing an article analyzing this game decision at some point soon, but in the meantime, I don't fault Kubiak too much this time. If they had just sat on the ball after the Johnson catch, I would have criticized him.

Rivers McCown: Two carries after they had just spent the better part of the past eight minutes throwing all over the Jags defense. They may have had a chance to gain forward progress, but you'll never convince me they were aiming to get the ball closer.

Derek Cox makes an excellent goal-line stop for the Jags on the first series in overtime, defending a throw to Johnson's back shoulder. Texans settle for three.

Tom Gower: So I've sort of mentally been keeping track of all the Henne misses lately since he started playing well. Tipped at line. Quick slant thrown behind the receiver. Tipped at line. What looked like miscommunication with the back on a hot read. A shallow cross thrown behind the receiver. A shallow cross thrown too fast and behind the receiver. He converted fourth-and-10 to a wide open Blackmon to help set up the OT-tying field goal, but some of these passes have really reminded me of why Henne, despite occasional flashes of competence, is not an NFL starter.

Rivers McCown: "Flashes of competence" is what Gabbert aspires to have.

The Jags stall out on the goal line after another Blackmon hole in zone catch and a Jalen Parmele run off-tackle where Whitney Mercilus blew contain since he didn't see a pulling lineman coming.

The Texans tipped all three passes thrown on goal-to-go, I believe.

Then Cox picks off a badly underthrown Schaub ball. Jags have it in Houston territory.

Aaron Schatz: Mike Mularkey goes for it on fourth-and-10 at midfield with 2:30 left. Our friends in Jacksonville may be having an effect! And what the heck, man, go for it, what do you have to lose when you are 1-8 or whatever?

Rivers McCown: Henne throws into heavy traffic for Blackmon. It's incomplete, the Texans take over right around midfield, and the second play is a wideout screen to Andre Johnson, who takes it to the house.

Arizona Cardinals 19 at Atlanta Falcons 23

Matt Waldman: First play of the Falcons-Cardinals game: Matt Ryan throws a cross just a little behind Roddy White, who can't get his hands extended to catch it clean. The ball bounces off his back shoulder and into the arms of a Cardinals defensive back, who returns it to the Falcons 10. LaRod Stephens-Howling gains seven on his first carry up the middle, then bounces the next play to right tackle and through Asante Samuel for the touchdown.

Ryan then pressured through the A-gap and throws the ball up for grabs. Sam Acho drops a potential second interception in as many series. Falcons punt. Georgia Dome as quiet as an auditorium during an SAT exam.

Stephens-Howling now picks up 40 yards on a 20 personnel pistol formation with the fullback leading on a variation of an Iso where the back takes it inside out and gashes Atlanta. Muth must think he's dreaming.

All three runs by Stephens-Howling were to the right side of the line.

Falcons line having difficulty with pressure up the middle early. Ryan either getting passes tipped or he's forced from the pocket.

Ryan hits White on a 27-yard deep cross, then nearly completes a touchdown on a fade to the left side of the end zone but White drifts out of bounds while making the diving grab.

Andy Benoit: Ryan’s second interception was a tipped pass at line of scrimmage. Darnell Dockett did a great job getting up to make the tip. The Cardinals are bringing pressure and energy to the trenches defensively.

Vince Verhei: Ironic that Arizona is getting tipped passes and turnovers on a day when Calais Campbell is inactive.

Matt Waldman: Third interception. This time to Kerry Rhodes in the right flat. Ryan rushing throws when pressure comes up the middle.

Larry Fitzgerald runs a beautiful post-corner and John Skelton misses it wide for what should have been a certain touchdown to go up by 17.

Andy Benoit: Ryan Lindley in at quarterback for Cardinals. Is Skelton hurt or did he just get benched?

Matt Waldman: Benched due to that missed post-corner route to Fitz in end zone -- or that was the straw...

Andy Benoit: Falcons' touchdown was a result of John Abraham beating left tackle Nate Potter with speed off the edge. Cardinals had a running back to that side for chipping purposes, but he didn’t deliver the chip. Potter has no chance against Abraham one-on-one.

Matt Waldman: Stephens-Howling and the Cardinals are looking like a one-note, one-play, one-direction rushing team. The Falcons are adjusting to these repeated attempts to go to right guard and then bounce it to right tackle.

Tons of talk about Ryan's improved arm strength and I have to say that it's overstated. It's improved to the extent that one might put a V-6 engine in a car that had a V-4, then say it's ready to win the NHRA title. What is understated about Ryan's improvement is his anticipation and confidence to pull the trigger and hit throws between 35-to-45 yards that he would normally wait too long on and try to muscle for 50-to-55 yards. These late throws resulted in forcing his receivers to wait on the ball and defensive backs were able to recover. This year, Ryan is pulling the trigger earlier and taking advantage of early separation. His throws of 50-to-55 yards are still lollipops compared to most strong-armed quarterbacks, but if your recognition, anticipation, and accuracy are good, you don't need to throw a ball that far.

Stephens-Howling, on a run through the line at left guard, bends it to the right and makes a fantastic cut outside the backside defensive back in the right flat. He gains over 50 on the play.

Ben Muth: The Cardinals have a 100 yard rusher and three picks at the half, but the game is tied at 16-16. Benching Skelton for Lindley is exactly like replacing D'Anthony Batiste with Potter: it just means I'm using a different name while I'm cursing at my TV. Lindley seems to specialize in staring directly at receivers then throwing it a yard-and-a-half behind them. He might kill someone before the game is over.

Potter is too slow to play tackle. The only reason he's playing is so Whisenhunt can say that the Cards had to start to rookie tackles when he's talking to Rod Graves about his job this offseason.

On the plus side, Stephens-Howling looks explosive and the cut that Matt talked about earlier was incredible. Unfortunately, Beanie Wells is close to coming back so I'm sure I can look forward to watching him plunge into Lyle Sendlein's kidneys 15 times a game.

Ray Horton and his Jim Johnson-like ability to generate pressure in the A-gaps are the only things that make Sundays bearable at this point.

Acho forces a fumble, but the ball is going to roll out of bounds. Enter Greg Toler, who dives and throws the ball backwards like he's saving a basketball. Cards recover, but Toler's big toe might have been out when he dove. Obviously it's under review, but it was a great play no matter what.

Mike Smith challenged the turnover before the booth could take a look, so the play can't be reviewed. Fumble stands. The Cards go three-and-out anyway, because they are the Cards.

Vince Verhei: Just saw my new favorite play of the year in Atlanta. Falcons are punting, and Patrick Peterson calls for a fair catch. The Falcons gunner drives his man downfield, and then shoves him hard into Peterson well before the ball gets there. But it's a legal play, not fair catch interference, because the Falcons never touched Peterson. Peterson goes down, the ball hits him, it's a fumble, and Atlanta recovers.

Ah, crap, Apparently Peterson never touched the ball on that Falcons punt, so instead of a fumble recovery it was just a downed ball and a 53-yard punt.

Andy Benoit: Falcons are delay-blitzing the Cardinals and Lindley is consistently throwing short on third-and-long. That’s what happens when you have a line that can’t pass protect and an inexperienced quarterback.

Ben Muth: Cardinals have forced five turnovers and have 19 points through three quarters.

Vince Verhei: Sixth turnover for Atlanta. Ryan's pass hits somebody's helmet and is intercepted. I need someone to explain to me why Ryan is throwing passes when the Falcons are up four with four minutes to go, playing against a team quarterbacked by Lindley. You'd be better off taking three kneeldowns and kicking away.

New York Jets 27 at St. Louis Rams 13

Aaron Schatz: Bilal Powell just got embarrassed by a St. Louis safety, I think Quintin Mikell. Just olé-d the guy. At first blink I thought "man, that's Mark Sanchez for you," but on replay it was clear there was nothing he could do, he just got blindsided. Jets recovered though, so at least they got to punt.

Danny Tuccitto: Through just over one quarter, Janoris Jenkins has a diving pass defensed and a blocked field goal. Cue the "Jeff Fisher is a master motivator" narrative!

Aaron Schatz: Tim Tebow in. Handoff, loss of 1. #WhatTheHellTryMcElroy

Jets just fake-punted on fourth-and-5 from the Rams 45. Tebow took the direct snap and flipped the ball forward on a shovel pass to a guy who had James Laurinaitis basically sitting on top of him. The Jets are getting a little silly with the fake punt thing. At a certain point, you've got to figure running a standard play is going to have a better shot to convert, even with that awful offense. Actually, as long as they're running the fake, Tebow probably should have just kept the ball there and tried to barrel through the defense instead of flipping to a guy who was clearly covered.

Matt Waldman: McElroy doesn't have a cannon, but he has good vertical anticipation. He's accurate and willing to stand in the pocket. At least he was ... I was impressed with him at Alabama and at Senior Bowl two years ago. Never was going to be a first-day pick, but after talking with a couple of (recent) former scouts, they too thought McElroy was one of the more impressive passers in those Mobile practices.

Danny Tuccitto: I know it's still way too early in his career to make any definitive statements, and I know Speed Score is not gospel. With that said, when I watch Daryl Richardson (Speed Score = 94.4), "slow for his size" is about the last thing I think. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Speed Score tends to underestimate the scatback types, but Richardson isn't really a scatback insofar as 80 percent of his touches are runs, and most of his runs are between the tackles. Dude's averaging 5.7 yards per carry this year behind a makeshift offensive line, and he seems to have a burst when he hits the hole. College guys or people who have watched St. Louis more than me, do you have any insight here?

Sean McCormick: Jets score an actual touchdown through the air on a play where they faked the wide receiver screen and Chaz Schilens took off downfield instead of staying put to block. The Rams didn't bother to cover him at all, as they apparently refused to believe Sanchez would throw the ball more than five yards past the line of scrimmage. Most of the time, they would be right, but this was a shot play, so Sanchez was actually locked in to the downfield throw.

Aaron Schatz: Jets allow a kickoff return touchdown that gets called back due to a hold, but that doesn't mean that the play won't look like crap on film tomorrow. They've also had the blown field goal and a blocked punt today. Has Mike Westhoff just lost his fastball? Has the circus extended to how players treat their special teams responsibilities? Jets special teams actually haven't been that terrible overall (11th in DVOA going into this week), but when they've made bad plays, they've made really horrible-looking plays.

Danny Tuccitto: Must have been a real emotional roller coaster in the Rams press box just now. The Jeff Fisher game story practically writes itself as Chris Givens returns a kickoff for a touchdown; but it's called back because of the aforementioned hold by Rodney McLeod.

Aaron Schatz: Rams defense looking poor against the run today. Lots of sizeable holes for all the Jets running backs: Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight, and Powell.

Second touchdown for Powell on two straight drives. Jets now up 27-7, on the road. The Rams aren't great, but this is a surprising little pasting here. Time to watch some other games...

Vince Verhei: There are starting quarterbacks in this league who don't get as much camera time as Tebow does standing on the sidelines.

Green Bay Packers 24 at Detroit Lions 20

Andy Benoit: Interesting that Mike McCarthy chooses to go for it on fourth-and-4 rather than letting Mason Crosby try a 49-yard field goal indoors.

The Packers are defending Calvin Johnson with inside-outside bracket coverage. Johnson beat it on a 53-yard catch. Tramon Williams wasn’t a factor in coverage on that play.

Williams following Johnson around with Jerron McMillan helping him no matter where Johnson lines up. So far, it’s not working, Johnson getting open consistently.

Packers using a lot of screen concepts early in game, they set up a fake screen with Finley leaking to the short middle of field for a wide open touchdown catch-and-run. Good play design. They used the speed of the Lions’ linebackers against them, too. We’ve seen that over the years.

Aaron Rodgers' interception was a bad decision by Randall Cobb. Jacob Lacey was clearly underneath in a two-deep shell, and Cobb needed to stem his route to the middle of the field. He didn’t, and it's hard to say why. It's just weird how the Packers are attacking Lions’ two-deep looks. They missed a similar play on fourth down earlier, too.

Matthew Stafford having to scramble a lot within the pocket. That’s not his game. Mikel Leshoure has good body control in his hesitation as a runner. Stafford made some decent plays with his feet, but his protection hasn’t been as staunch as you’d guess.

Dezman Moses has made a few impressive plays versus the run and the pass. He's a former college defensive end, but he's playing linebacker for Green Bay. He has been impressive on film the last few weeks, too.

Danny Tuccitto: Twitter informs me that this game going under 53.5 is a major surprise. For educational purposes only, I'll mention that it's not a major surprise if you know about the market inefficiency of high over-unders. You're welcome.

Andy Benoit: The problems with the Packers offense right now: so-so run game and limited vertical threats in their passing attack, due in part to protection concerns. Teams with good defensive lines can stymie them with two-deep coverage, which is what the Lions are doing.

Jordy Nelson has not been a major factor in this game. The Lions were committed to not letting Nelson beat them deep outside. Cobb made an excellent adjustment on the ball for his game-winning touchdown. Lacey was in good position, but wasn’t able to turn around to locate the ball.

Vince Verhei: HOLY CRAP. On NFL Gameday, they showed Nick Fairley doing a half-suplex to Rodgers after a play. (Thankfully, he put Rodgers down on his feet and did not spike the quarterback onto his head.) Deion Sanders followed with a Thunderbolt Patterson reference. Really. Then said "I was a Dusty Rhodes man." Knew I liked that guy for a reason. And that makes two Dusty Rhodes mentions in Audibles this year. In 2012.

Danny Tuccitto: As long as Fairley didn't give Rodgers a "fisty to the belly-welly," then it's legal.

Philadelphia Eagles 6 at Washington Redskins 31

Aaron Schatz: I don't know if we have this marked enough in charting to do a study, but I wonder if rookies struggle with the a-gap blitz more than vets. Nick Foles just threw a pick on one by the Redskins.

Vince Verhei: By the way, it's late in the fourth quarter, and Robert Griffin currently has 191 yards and four touchdowns passing, another 85 yards rushing, and one incomplete pass. Against a defense that was 13th in DVOA coming into the weekend.

Cincinnati Bengals 28 at Kansas City Chiefs 6

Rob Weintraub: Bengals pull a simple fake punt they have used already this season: a direct snap to Cedric Peerman. But Andy Dalton is woefully inaccurate early, and of course Cincy can't run it consistently.

Wait until you see the touchdown catch A.J. Green made -- he goes up over two defenders to spear a fade with one hand, then twists in mid-air to get both feet inbounds. He now has a touchdown reception in nine straight games. The Bengals converted a 4th and 7 at KC 35 to keep drive going.

In a four-play span, Geno Atkins strip sacks Matt Cassel (recovered by KC), sacks Cassel (wiped out by defensive holding), and strips Peyton Hillis (recovered by Cincy). If the All-Pro team took nominations, that stretch would be his submission reel.

KC is losing but Tamba Hali is killing Andrew Whitworth on the Bengals left side. They are changing the gameplan to deal with him.

For the second straight week, Mohamed Sanu lines up in the Cincy backfield and takes a simple handoff right into the line, for four yards. Much being made on the telecast about Sanu being a crappy practice player but makes things happen in games. Tebow as a wideout?

Brady Quinn in to replace Cassel, who went 8-of-16 for 93 yards.

There are more people playing pool in this bar than are left at Arrowhead.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like we have a responsibility to mention that Arrowhead Stadium looked like a Miami Marlins game today. There must have been less than 10,000 people there by halftime. If the Hunts don't fire Pioli after that, I'll be shocked.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 at Carolina Panthers 20 (OT)

Andy Benoit: Panthers starting ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson are both on the ground injured right now in Carolina.

Vince Verhei: Josh Freeman just completed a pass that went underneath a leaping Panthers pass rusher. It was a third-down dumpoff that led to a punt, but as far as third-down dumpoffs that lead to punts go, it was pretty cool.

Carolina tries a fake punt on fourth-and-6. It goes horribly wrong and loses four yards. On the next play, Freeman tries a deep pass off play-action, but the pass is a total duck that floats into the arms of a Panhers defensive back. On the same week I wrote that Tampa Bay's offense was explosive enough to put a scare into anyone, they're averaging less than eight yards a catch with no 20-yard receptions in the third quarter. Perhaps the Panthers have ESPN Insider, did their homework, and adjusted accordingly. I'm sure that's it. Haruki Nakamura was both the ballcarrier on the failed fake punt, and then he was the defensive back who picked off Freeman.

Aaron Schatz: But... but... but... momentum?!?! That failed fake punt was supposed to give Tampa momentum! What happened to the momentum?

(sarcasm off)

Vince Verhei: Doug Martin gets a fourth-and-goal carry driving for a go-ahead touchdown. He appears to score, but it's ruled that he fumbled and Carolina recovered. Looked to me like he was at least six inches across the line before the ball popped out.

Andy Benoit: Freeman to Vincent Jackson was one of the best strong-armed throws we’ll see all year. We're seeing the late-game magic from Freeman that we saw early in his career.

Vince Verhei: In desperate situations, Tampa Bay finally gets a deep pass. With seconds to go, down 13-21, Freeman forces a ball to Vincent Jackson in triple coverage. Somehow Jackson pulls the ball in for a 24-yard touchdown. The Bucs then run a sweet play for the two-pointer. They line up three-wide and fake an inside handoff to Martin. Panthers bit on the fake, and Freeman finds Jackson in the back of the end zone to force overtime.

Overtime in Carolina doesn't last long. Bucs quickly drive into the red zone, and they don't settle for the field goal. Dallas Clark run a wheel route and leaves his linebacker in the dust, and Freeman hits him for the winning touchdown.

Cleveland Browns 20 at Dallas Cowboys 23 (OT)

Andy Benoit: Trent Richardson had two very impactful receptions on dumpoffs out of the backfield in the first quarter. In both instances, the Cowboys rushed three, dropped eight, and Brandon Weeden had all day to work through his progressions.

Mike Kurtz: That Richardson kid is pretty good. The Browns' touchdown drive didn't stall because he fought very well for yards after contact, and he just caught a pass downfield. Very impressive thus far.

Vince Verhei: Great one-on-one matchup that's being lost in a game between two bad teams: Joe Thomas vs. DeMarcus Ware. Ware has been quiet for most of the day, but on Cleveland's last third down he got off the line a half-step before Thomas. Thomas was able to counter and cut off Ware's path to the outside, but Ware counter-countered and cut in side for the sack. (Technically a half-sack with Jason Hatcher.)

Andy Benoit: Gerald Sensabaugh just lit up Richardson with a textbook tackle. Richardson dropped the ball.

Mike Kurtz: With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Hoculi stops the game and announces that the play clocks are inoperable, orders the operator to shut them down, and has his crew start keeping time on the field. This is crazy.

Andy Benoit: Browns seem to be getting consistent late pressure on Tony Romo. Without seeing the film, my guess is they’re covering Cowboys receivers well and Romo isn’t being fluid in his reads. Every few weeks the Browns secondary shows a surprising ability to maintain coverage.

Rob Weintraub: Dan Connor meets Richardson in midair like he was Gary Reasons in the Denver snow. That's followed by an awful Weeden throw trying to hit Jordan Cameron on fourth-and-goal. At least Shurmur went for it.

Mike Kurtz: Cleveland with 1:45 left has to get a touchdown to win the game, for all practical purposes. Their call from fourth-and-goal from the 2? A tight end fade to the short side of the field. What a reversal this fourth quarter has been.

J.J. Cooper: How do you not at least use play-action on fourth-and-goal from the 1? Richardson is the Browns' one real weapon on offense. The Browns didn't make the Cowboys worry about him on fourth and goal.

Cowboys appear to get jobbed on a horse collar penalty. The tackler actually grabbed Josh Cribbs' hair to bring him down, which is legal.

Rob Weintraub: Browns are set up deep in Dallas terrain with over a minute to play. They only need one play: Weeden finds Benjamin Watson on the deep post to put Cleveland on top.

Romo saves the day for now by not fumbling when raked across the arm by Browns rookie John Hughes, but the scramble forces Dallas to call its last timeout.

Indianapolis Colts 24 at New England Patriots 59

Aaron Schatz: Colts score easily on their first drive. I will note that it looks like Aqib Talib is playing in man coverage. He's on the defensive left/offensive right, but there were a couple of plays where the Colts ran 22 personnel and interestingly, the Patriots switched Talib to the other side so he could cover Reggie Wayne. In general, they do not move their corners around much.

If I'm the Patriots, I stay away from the zone that starts with Jerod Mayo covering Wayne in the slot.

Meanwhile, I'm surprised the Colts had Donnie Avery in as the one wide receiver on a 3-TE set. I can't imagine a reason for them to ever take Wayne off the field.

Andy Benoit: Vick Ballard showing quickness and burst, he had success running left off-tackle on first series. Colts have had tons of success with semi-delay concepts on runs to the left. Outside draw is a staple run play of theirs.

Aaron Schatz: People may not have noticed on TV, but Aqib Talib was actually
gesturing to his blockers and guiding them to block guys on his winding interception return for a touchdown at 11:00 of the second quarter. That was pretty sweet.

Tom Zbikowski strikes me as such a strange choice for kick returner, especially given how fast LaVon Brazill is.

Colts can not cover the short cross by Rob Gronkowski at all. Just easy bing bing bing, completion after completion.

Andy Benoit: Andrew Luck is great at keeping his eyes downfield under pressure in the pocket. He can make throws when contacted, too.

The Patriots are baiting the Colts to throw in middle of the field in front of third-level defenders. They're forcing Luck to make tight throws, and the safeties are sitting on those.

Aaron Schatz: I know it is bad that the Patriots fans booed Adam Vinatieri today, but I can't believe I'm arguing with someone on Twitter who claims that Vinatieri was more important to the Patriots' Super Bowl wins than Tom Brady was -- and that in general, a Super Bowl champion needs a great kicker more than it needs a great quarterback. You know, like Jeff Reed and Mason Crosby. Some people are certifiable.

Vince Verhei: Watching Vince Wilfork dive for a ball and crash outstretched into the earth may be the closest I'll ever come to watching a whale beach itself.

Tom Gower: Luck just has these special moments, like the third down earlier on that last drive, then the next play where he just rifles a ball into the middle of the field in a mass of defenders. Yes, the receiver held onto the ball, but the pass was, again, right on the money.

Andy Benoit: Colts interior linemen Samson Satele and Joe Reitz had their hands full with power of Wilfork, Brandon Spikes, and Mayo. They held up OK but the Patriots were very effective with physicality.

The Colts haven’t taken nearly as many downfield shot plays as I would have guessed. They did a bit early, but their play-action stuff after the first quarter has involved mostly the deep-intermediate range between the numbers.

Aaron Schatz: I still think it was set up for a shot play on that six-lineman, two-tight end with Avery as the wideout; I wonder if his concussion took that off the table.

Vince Verhei: Alfonso Dennard with an 87-yard pick six to put New England ahead 44-17. There are three games going on right now, each in the third or fourth quarter, none closer than 15 points. Not the most exciting Sunday afternoon of my life.

Aaron Schatz: Things were pretty awesome around 4:15 Eastern today, at least.

Vince Verhei: That's true. And the Chargers just scored to keep that game relevant at the moment.

Danny Tuccitto: Is there any conceivable reason why, down 38-17 against the No. 8 rush defense, Indianapolis is still running the ball and -- chuckle -- play-action passing?

Vince Verhei: Haven't we found that play-action usually works better, even when facing a big deficit?

Danny Tuccitto: If we have found that about play-action, I'd sure love the citation.

Aaron Schatz: I did the big article about play-action in the book a few years ago. Someone will have to check, but I do not think I included an analysis of whether it is better even when losing (or losing big).

Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, I vaguely remember the "play-action is better" finding. The losing-big part is what I'm mildly skeptical of.

Vince Verhei: Last season, there were 1,064 pass plays without play-action in the fourth quarter, trailing by at least 17 points. They averaged 5.7 yards per play with a 44 percent Success Rate. There were only 95 pass plays with play-action in those circumstances, so it's definitely rare. Those plays averaged 5.2 yards with a 42 percent Success Rate. So it hardly matters, but it definitely doesn't help. So never mind. Laugh away!

Danny Tuccitto: Things I continue to not understand about football: 1) The aforementioned play-action passing from Indianapolis down four scores in the second half; 2) The Colts holding New England's running game in check when the game is relatively close, but giving up 50 yards and a touchdown on a single fourth-quarter drive when even I know they're running.

San Diego Chargers 23 at Denver Broncos 30

Andy Benoit: Takeo Spikes making a lot of noise with A-gap blitzes. Great timing, speed, and power in it.

Tom Gower: Demaryius Thomas has a nice toe-tap for a score. Philip Rivers throws an awful interception. John Fox kicks the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter of a tie game. Ho-hum. Willis McGahee, who's looked like a 30-something back the last month or so after looking good early in the season, is out with an injury.

Vince Verhei: Denver has a third-and-7 near midfield. San Diego opts to rush five and drop six into zone coverage. Peyton Manning easily finds the open man for the first down. It seems to me that San Diego plays more of these blitz/zone schemes than anyone else, and has for years, though I don't know if that kind of thing is in our database to check. Regardless, the idea there is that you will allow a receiver to get open short, but that you will force the quarterback into making a bad throw or decision. Do you really think you're going to force Manning to make a bad throw or decision when there's an open man?

Aaron Schatz: Actually, we do have the zone blitz percentage in there -- except this year, we stopped tracking it this year. We actually have the Chargers down near the bottom of the league on that last year, at 2.2 percent of pass plays. It was a tough thing to define for the charters though, one of the reasons we got rid of it. Instead, we'll have ESPN's charting of the frequency of defensive back blitzes this year.

Vince Verhei: I'm sorry, I'm not expressing myself clearly. I'm not necessarily talking about zone blitzes (where a lineman puts his hand in the dirt, then drops back into coverage). I'm talking about plays where five men show rush, and then five men rush the passer, which makes it a blitz, but the six men in coverage play a 4-2 zone (with four guys covering the shallow zone and two guys deep) or even a 3-3. Maybe I'm getting my terminology wrong. Regardless, it's a scheme that seems suited for a third-and-20 where you're happy to give up 15 yards, but it seems to me like San Diego uses it all the time.

Tom Gower: The Chargers are on their third defensive coordinator in as many seasons between Ron Rivera (Carolina), Greg Manusky (fired), and now John Pagano.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, no, we have no record of that.. (of course, you know this, since you are a charter, heh)

Vince Verhei: On the other hand, the all-22 shot of Brandon Stokley's touchdown to make it 17-7 made it clear that San Diego was in a standard cover-2, and Stokley had nobody within five yards of him. So maybe San Diego is playing defense so bad that it LOOKS like they've only got six men in coverage.

Well, I thought about getting creative and looking at the rate of plays with five men rushing that result in a short, but successful, completion or something like that.

Aaron Schatz: That's all you, baby! :)

Vince Verhei: Challenge accepted!

According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Chargers have rushed five on 96 plays this year (coming into the weekend, obviously). 51 of those plays have resulted in a short completion (i.e., a reception within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage). That's a rate of 53 percent, which is in the top five in the league. I have no idea if that proves anything or not.

And on another note...

The new Dodge Dart commercial tells me that if I buy their car, it will protect me in case of a giant monster attack. This is my vote for the best commercial of 2012.

Tom Gower: Chargers left guard Tyronne Green was shaken up this week and has left the game. Right guard Louis Vasquez was shaken up in the second quarter and is also out of the game. Starting left tackle Jared Gaither is of course hurt and inactive today. Jeromey Clary is still the right tackle. It's going to be a looooooooooooong second half for Rivers.

A good punt by Mike Scifres, then Shaun Phillips, who's been playing like a 30-something linebacker, beats tight end Virgil Green for a safety and this is improbably a one-score game at 17-9 early in the third quarter. The Chargers were outgained by a half-million yards (okay, maybe 150) in the first half, and while total yards are an imperfect measure of team quality, that more or less accurately reflects the extent to which they were outplayed. This is like a vintage Norv "how did you lose this one?!?" game in reverse.

Andy Benoit: Von Miller embarrassed Clary on the sack-fumble that Rivers never saw coming. Miller has three sacks, five hurries, and four tackles for a loss through 2.5 quarters. Last week against Carolina, I thought he had arguably the best all around game that any defensive player has had this season. Now I've seen this game.

Tom Gower: Norv kicks the extra point down nine with :45 to play in the third quarter. Not an obvious call, but not a clear error.

New Orleans Saints 38 at Oakland Raiders 17

Danny Tuccitto: Somehow, Carson Palmer is averaging eight yards per attempt, and Marcel Reece is averaging nine yards per touch, yet Oakland is down 28-7 one minute into the third quarter.

And now it's 35-10 in Oakland after Lance Moore's second touchdown of the day. When the game was 14-0, Chase Stuart tweeted that you could pencil in 350+ yards and three interceptions for Carson Palmer at that point. The implication of that got me thinking: do the Raiders have the most prolific inefficient offense in the league this season? Through 10 weeks, they were 14th in yards per play, but 23rd in offense DVOA. Can't think of any other offenses that are so good at piling up meaningless yardage.

Rivers McCown: Audible "Palmer Sucks" chants in Oakland.

Aaron Schatz: The alternatives are Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor.

Vince Verhei: "All of our quarterbacks suck" doesn't lend itself to an obvious rhythm.

Baltimore Ravens 13 at Pittsburgh Steelers 10

Tom Gower: Just getting my hatred of these Steelers uniforms on the record for posterity.

Danny Tuccitto: As Cris Collinsworth pointed out during the replay of Byron Leftwich's touchdown to put Pittsburgh up 7-0 after 43 seconds, Bernard LOLlard, everyone.

Ben Muth: Pollard had to think Leftwich was going to step out on his own. That doesn't excuse that sad attempt at a tackle, but I'm guessing that was what went wrong.

Aaron Schatz: I feel bad that I'm not commenting on this game, but I've been busy having it out with the "running up the score" idiots on Twitter ... anyone have any thoughts here?

Danny Tuccitto: My thought is that Anquan Boldin has been abusing Keenan Lewis until the latest Baltimore drive that put them up 13-7.

Tom Gower: I don't have a lot to say about the game, just because not that much I consider interesting seems to have happened. Both offenses have struggled to move the ball. Given Leftwich, that's no surprise from the Steelers, and given how Joe Flacco has played at times, it's not that much of a surprise from the Ravens either. The only touchdown, after Leftwich's borderline-unbelievable run early, came on a punt return. Return touchdowns are important, of course, but only very rarely are they interesting.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like Leftwich is playing Jai Alai.

Also, it was great when Leftwich had that little jump-shot pass to Jonathan Dwyer when he was under duress, with around 12:00 left in the fourth quarter. If Brett Favre had thrown that, we would be hearing about how he's just having fun out there.

Danny Tuccitto: Quite a last minute-plus early in the fourth quarter: (1) Mike Tomlin demonstrates when a coach should challenge a spot (i.e., no mass of humanity involved); (2) In what has to be the only instance of this in NFL broadcast history, Cris Collinsworth says "betwixt."

J.J. Cooper: I don't like where the Steelers chose to use their final timeout. By calling it at 2:04, they gave Baltimore the option to throw or run without worrying about an incomplete pass stopping the clock, since the two-minute warning would occur either way.

Aaron Schatz: Every Steelers-Ravens game ends like this, doesn't it? These teams have played 10 times since 2008, not counting tonight. Six games had a final margin of three points, one of four, one of seven, and one of nine. The exception was when Baltimore beat Pittsburgh 35-7 in the first week of last season.

One other question, what the hell was Rashard Mendenhall doing staying in bounds with 40 or so seconds left?

Vince Verhei: I'm kind of with Tom in that there's not a ton to analyze here. It's two teams that generally like to play ugly football anyway, and both squads were depleted coming into the game, and so they essentially spent 60 minutes taking turns punching each other in the mouth. And eventually the Ravens hit harder.

I did enjoy the last play, the worst imitation of the Stanford band play of all-time. A series of offensive linemen playing hot potato with the ball. "I don't want it -- you take it!"

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 19 Nov 2012

130 comments, Last at 23 Nov 2012, 12:30pm by jgrenci@zoominternet.net

Comments

1
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:39am

Can we get a column talking about how bad Carolina is in the 4th quarter, or on special teams, or both? They have given up so many 4th quarter leads that it's bordering on the ridiculous.

If you take out the 2 games against the Mannings (combined score of 72-21 in favor of the Manning brothers), the combined score of the Panthers other 9 games is Panthers 163 vs Opponents 171, and the Panthers are 2-7 in those games.

96
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:23pm

To make matters even funnier for Carolina, they are 0-for-11 (10 to open a game, 1 to open OT) on coin tosses this season. That makes an excellent metaphor for their entire season.

2
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:48am

Daryl Richardson certainly doesn't look slow. He doesn't appear to have ridiculous top end speed though, but his acceleration is pretty amazing.

The guys with bad speed scores who have gone on to be pretty productive are almost always sub-200lb guys who don't have amazing long speed, but have great short area quickness (the likes of Sproles, Westbrook etc). I'm not sure how you'd control for that. Maybe introduce some element of the 10 yard split of the 40 or something?

23
by Dean :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:04pm

He's got good quickness, and most importantly, he figured out quickly how to use that quickness. It's the quickness, and equally important, his decisiveness that has allowed him to succeed. He sees the hole, he hits the hole. No dancing around. Admittely, he's limited as to what plays he can run, but that's why he lasted until the 6th round in the first place.

3
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:50am

ALL of our QUARTerbacks SUCK.

Basically the same rhythm as (no) ROGer no RErun no RENT.

21
by Dean :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:56am

It's a rent strike, turkey!

4
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:53am

Anyone know the background on the argument on the Lions sideline between the receivers coach and offensive coordinator?

17
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:44am

After the Lions had 1st and goal at the 10, Shawn Jefferson (receivers coach) was mad at Scott Linehan for calling two straight runs, then a pass (which of course fell incomplete), forcing the field goal, which of course kept the Lions lead to 1 score instead of two. I don't blame him, I was cursing Linehan's red zone play calling too, but there was plenty for me to curse about in that game.

36
by NYMike :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:54pm

I heard Joey's story, but I also heard that SJ was totally upset with Titus Young and was screaming at Linehan to bench him.

50
by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:22pm

That would not be an unreasonable assertion at, really, any time. Young fills the role of "guy who's not good enough to play and doesn't know any routes but can run down the field really fast and drop every other pass the quarterback manages to throw to him" that most teams keep on hand in the hope they'll wake up one morning and be Randy Moss, but as a starting WR he's clearly inadequate.

51
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:22pm

One of the Lions beat writers said it was both. Doesn't surprise me, Titus Young clearly has a lot of growing up to do.

On an unrelated note, you could make a strong argument the Lions should have gone for it on 4th and goal. Even a failure would have left the Packers backed up deep in their own territory with a kicker who at that point had very little confidence. And of course, a success means a 10 point lead and effectively the end of the game.

65
by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:33pm

The ESPN guys (or maybe it was the NFL Network guys) interpreted it to be Shawn Jefferson saying to Linehan something along the lines of "Jesus H. Christ, you have the best wide receiver in the NFL. Why don't you throw him the damned ball, you moron?"

In case you were looking for more speculation...

83
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:25pm

It's interesting; last year the Lions, with great success, forced the ball to Calvin Johnson on every goal line play; they never ran the ball, and would throw to him almost irrespective of the coverage.

This year, they treat him like a decoy in the red zone. I mean, I'm sure his doubled every play. But that didn't stop the coaches calling his number in 2011, and it sure as hell didn't stop him beating that double coverage.

97
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:27pm

I have noticed that Stafford became much more risk-averse after his 3 interception first half on opening day. He seems to be forcing far fewer balls to a double-covered Johnson.

101
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:48pm

That may have something to do with how badly he missed a wide-open CJ a couple times yesterday. I googled Matthew Stafford accuracy, and just by scanning the Google previews it looks like he's having accuracy issues.

112
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 6:10pm

That's nothing new. When his protection breaks down (like it did yesterday) his footwork, and thus his accuracy, goes to pot. Last year he made up for that with big plays, which have been far less frequent this year. On Sunday most his missed throws were either a result of pressure, or lack of trust in his protection.

118
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 6:41am

Well I guess the real story came out:

http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/2012/11/lions_wr_titus_young_sr_sen...

One paragraph in particular I found astounding:

"Young's most notable insubordinate act occurred with 1:43 remaining as Detroit trailed 21-20 against Green Bay.

On 2nd-and-10, Young incorrectly lined up in the slot, and tight end Tony Scheffler was the outside receiver to his left. Lions left tackle Riley Reiff looked up and yelled at Young to get into the correct position, but was ignored. Scheffler tried to get back into the slot position, but Young shook off the tight end. As a result of the confusion, Lions right tackle Gosder Cherilus jumped offsides."

2nd round pick or not, that would be grounds for being cut.

119
by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:23am

I'd say you need HOF caliber talent to survive that, if the coach has any hope of keeping a locker room. I'm surprised at how little I'm impressed with Schwartz these days. I really thought he was a substantally above average hire, when he first got the job.

120
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:55am

I was previously a staunch Schwartz defender, but I'm finding that harder and harder these days. I was previously willing to accept regression his year and reserve judgement until after 2013, but they way the team has been self-immolating this year has given me pause about that stance. Unless the team has a strong last 6 games to at least finish at .500, I feel like he should be on the hot seat. Of course the recent contract extension and the maddeningly conservative nature of the Ford family makes that unlikely (barring a Raheem Morris-like total collapse).

122
by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:20am

Getting beat is one thing, but when guys consistently find ways to play stupidly, after a coach has been in place several years, that's a severe management failure. 14 games below .500, and counting, 1 playoff game resulting in a loss, and guys, in the coach's 4th year, who won't line up correctly, and stay on the roster. Yeah, a reasonable owner (non-Fordian) might decide to go in a different direction, but Matt Millen's investment portfolio indicates that such an owner does not reside in Detroit.

5
by Biebs :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:54am

Jets Vs. Rams question:

Was there ever given a reasonable explanation for the 2-point conversion called by the Rams. I don't recall a worse time for a 2-point conversion ever being called.

The situation: 6:00 min left, 4th quarter. Rams score a TD to make the score 27-13. Kicking an extra point means, 2 TDs and the Rams win, and even if the Jets kick a field goal, 2 TDs + 2 2 point conversions mean OT.

What was the benefit if they even made the 2 point conversion there? Has there been a stupider 2-Point conversion called this season? Or even since the return of the 2 point conversion 15 years ago?

10
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:15am

Yeah, that was very odd.

If you get it 27-15, if you get another with a 2 points its 27-23, so its not like there's a chance that way down the line it means you only need a FG instead of a TD. Just seemed odd.

My only thought was Fisher thought the game was done and wanted to practice his 2 point conversions. But at that point the game wasn't particularly over.

20
by Travis :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:51am

Has there been a stupider 2-Point conversion called this season? Or even since the return of the 2 point conversion 15 years ago?

It had no effect on the eventual winner (the Bills recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock), but the Colts went for 2 after scoring with 6 seconds left when down 31-24 in this 1998 game.

82
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:15pm

Well sure, because there's a chance you can force a safety and get a field goal in those 6 seconds.

6
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:03am

Random Tampa/Carolina thoughts:

1. Captain Munnerlyn fumbled on a punt and Tampa scored on the drive, then he later took back a pick-six off Freeman. Nakamura failed on a fake punt, then intercepted Freeman on the next play. Yea, the football gods giveth, and they taketh away.

2. On Nakamura's pick, the ball pretty clearly slipped out of Freeman's hand. It wobbled through the air, and just sort of gently wafted into his arms. One of Freeman's strengths is he throws a good deep ball, and that was just not right.

3. I've watched the replay of Doug Martin's "fumble" about 20 times, and I cannot conceive of how replay didn't overturn it. You just have to cross the line, and, while there isn't a camera right down the line, you can easily see the ball in his arm when he's crossing wherever the line is.

4. Why isn't there a camera right on the line?

5. I really like the way Ron Rivera coaches, particularly on late-game 4th and 1 calls. Twice this year he's had a 4th and 1, and if he converts, he wins the game by running the clock out. Twice, he's punted, and the other team came back to win. I love that about Ron Rivera. Of course, I'm a Tampa fan.

11
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:15am

The call on the field was not confirmed; the call simply stood. Because there was no replay angle that definitively showed the ball at all, the call could not be overturned. As a Panthers fan, I know the ball was in his possession when he crossed the plane of the goal line, but the replay doesn't SHOW it. There were two cameras that were on the goal line, with one on each side of the field. Both angles were blocked by players and refs, so that the ball could not be seen between the 1-yard line and the ball flying forward. Whatever was called on the field had to stand, whether it was touchdown or fumble.

40
by Zieg (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:03pm

I've seen talk of Ted Larsen defending Freeman and taking a penalty for it. Can anyone offer a link to video of this or at least more info on it?

48
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:20pm

On Captain Munnerlyn's 70-some yard pick-6, Freeman was taken to the ground as he was throwing. When the defender (I think DT Dwan Edwards) realized that the play resulted in an interception, he continued to lie on top of Freeman, rather than getting up. I assume this is legal, as a means of preventing the QB from getting up to make a tackle on the return. However, the return was already past the point where Freeman had any logical chance to get up and chase down the DB. When the defender finally got up, Larsen nailed him from behind like a bull, resulting in a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness/unsportsmanlike conduct.

58
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:59pm

I think laying on top of another player should technically be holding, but this is one of those things that's never actually called.

84
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:27pm

I believe the term is "putting the syrup on the pancake", although I've usually heard it used on the context of o-lineman "accidentally" falling on top of fallen pass-rushers.

7
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:04am

Henne has 5 TDs in limited action to Tannehills 6 TDs. Should be an epic December match up.

8
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:10am

Gerat job by Broincos stopping SD. Raiders only couple games back of wild card slit now. Going rp pass SD like ship in night. Raiders may catch Broncos but not likely. But definitely can catch clota and maybe steelers too. Raiders definitely getting past jets and dolphins and Bills. Bengals pesky but won't finishabove .590

13
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:22am

RJ, it is obvious that the Raidahs are brilliantly adapting the Chesty Puller approach to the AFC West; "We've been looking for the enemy for some time now. We've finally found him. We're surrounded. That simplifies things."

107
by DRohan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:38pm

Bengals will need to finish 9-6-1 to get above .590

9
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:11am

I'd say play action down by a mile only makes sense if you have a running back who is a threat to go a mile every time he takes a handoff. There are very few such running backs.

The comment about lack of continuity in d-coordinators in San Diego, as a source of woe for Charger fans, causes me to note again that Peter-est Principled guy among NFL GMs, A.J. Smith, got rid of Marty Schottenheimer, and made San Diego Norvilicious, over a dispute as to who would be d-coordinator.

33
by sjt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:38pm

The turnover has been a problem because only half of the DCs have been any good, and they never stick around. Ever since Wade the Chargers DCs have gone one of two ways: done a good job and then been hired away as a HC elsewhere (Wade and Rivera) or done a crap job and been canned after about a season (Cottrell and Manusky).

And the Kurt Schottentheimer DC dispute was neither the only reason Marty was canned or the fault of Smith. Marty had already lost both of his coordinators that offseason and several other key coaches, which and when he tried to replace Wade with Kurt it was merely final straw, and it was Spanos who had a problem with it and Spanos who ultimately made the decision to fire him.

42
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:07pm

Was Spanos the guy who decided that Ted Cottrell should be hired to coordinate the defense, prior to Schottenheimer's replacement being identified? Marty Schottenheimer, with an inanimate carbon rod as defensive coordinator, is a better solution to a problem than Ted Cottrell as defnsive coordinator and Norv as head coach. At least with the inanimate carbon rod as defensive coordinator, the guys on the field would not be expecting the defensive calls to be made in a timely manner.

56
by Biebs :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:39pm

To be fair, the inanimate carbon rod has been on the cover of Time Magazine.

60
by William :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:07pm

'Inanimate carbon rod' almost describes Kurt Schottenheimer perfectly.

62
by Bobman :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:18pm

Awesome.

108
by DRohan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:39pm

In rod we trust.

110
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:49pm

Carbon Rod Marinelli is an appropiate name for an 0-16 coach.

111
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:57pm

Who is now coordinating the best defense in football.

114
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 6:18pm

Sure but I'm a big believer in leaving out details for comedic effect :)

115
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 6:47pm

I was actually trying to continue the original joke about a carbon rod as defensive coordinator, but tone is hard.

12
by sjt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:18am

I'm confused about this comment:

Norv kicks the extra point down nine with :45 to play in the third quarter. Not an obvious call, but not a clear error.

What's controversial about this? If you're down 9, kick the XP to get to 8, make it a 1 possession game, and put off going for 2 as long as possible. Why would any coach have done it differently?

15
by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:39am

The argument for going for 2 immediately is this: you're going to need a 2-point conversion at some point. Might as well find out if you're going to make it as early as possible.

I know announcers say that an 8-point deficit is a "one possession game," but a 7-point deficit feels a lot closer to me.

24
by Briguy :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:12pm

The flipside to this, of course, is that the other team also knows whether you're going to convert the two-point conversion. A team with 9 point lead can probably just run the ball into the line 3 times and punt. A team with an 8 point lead might decide to gamble and go for a first down.

I don't know if that applies in this situation because I wasn't watching the game (specifically, I don't know how many timeouts they had), but in general, I think kicking the extra point first is better because a team up 7 or 8 has the same amount of pressure to get a first down, while a team up 9 points has much less.

Edit: I just looked and saw that this was happening in the third quarter, so the "run the ball into the line" thing isn't really applicable. But I think the reasoning still stands that being up 7 or 8 points doesn't make much of a difference from a tactical standpoint, while being up 9 points does.

54
by usernaim250 :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:34pm

But you're in the third quarter and can't count on the other team not scoring. So you take the higher expected value (kicking) and see what happens. Otherwise you might give away a point that you really need later, or score a point at some risk when you don't end up needing it.

34
by sjt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:46pm

And an 8 point game is a lot closer than a 9 point game, especially when your offense is so anemic that one more successful possession is the best you could reasonably hope for.

66
by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:36pm

Well, obviously, you don't make a 2-point try based on the presumption that you're going to fail. But if you make the try when it's not the only possible decision, your success rate might be higher than if you wait until it is.
The team that's behind is going to have to make a 2-point try at some point, according to this line of thought. Might as well find out as soon as possible whether it will work.

The counter-argument is not weak either. I don't think there's any line of logic that clearly dominates the other.

86
by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:29pm

Putting off going for two as long as possible is the exact wrong decision. You want to get the riskier parts of your strategy out of the way sooner so you can know whether you have to adjust it.

Your comment is a perfect example of what is wrong with the decision making in the NFL.

109
by DRohan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:44pm

Exactly. If you ultimately miss the 2-pt try then you were really two possessions down. The earlier you realize it, the sooner you can adjust your strategy.

14
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:25am

As far as terrible versions of the Stanford band play goes, there was a college game on Saturday that featured two linemen running into each other and falling down, although neither had the ball at the time. I forget whether it was Ole Miss-LSU or Missouri-Syracuse.

92
by Marko :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:57pm

The Ole Miss-LSU game had a finish in which Ole Miss tried to do their version of The Play that featured a receiver catching a short pass and then running into another receiver. But that may not be what you're referring to because that involved two receivers (not linemen) and one of them did have the ball. Maybe the other game had the two linemen running into each other.

By the way, a pet peeve of mind is when people refer to this as the "Stanford band play." The Play (as it's known) was by Cal against Stanford (and their band), so it wasn't Stanford's play. For those of you too young to know what this is about and/or for those FO readers overseas who also don't know, here is a clip of The Play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fZCCAqoSwY. The Play (which obviously is a kickoff return and not really a "play") started with 4 seconds left after Stanford had kicked a field goal to take a 20-19 lead. Because of what happened, The Play largely is the reason that teams attempting would-be game-winning field goals now let the clock run nearly all the way down so that the kick ends the game and thus there is no ensuing kickoff. Stanford's mistake was calling timeout with 8 seconds left, so there were still 4 seconds left after the field goal.

This generally is considered the craziest finish to a game in college football history (some may argue that the Flutie pass was more memorable, but no way was it crazier). I was at the game as a Cal freshman, and I am somewhere in one of the shots of the Cal student section. Whenever they show The Play, I always look for myself in the crowd, but I can't find myself because the pre-HD TV picture is too blurry and the shots of the crowd are too quick.

Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of The Play.

93
by DGL :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:04pm

If you understand that people are parsing it as "(Stanford band) play", rather than "Stanford (band play)", i.e., "That play involving the Stanford band" rather than "That Stanford play involving a band," you may be less peeved.

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by Marko :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:36pm

While it's a pet peeve of mine, I'm not really "peeved," if that makes sense.

I do get what you're saying. But I've even heard TV commentators leave out the "band" part and refer to it as the "Stanford play," which really makes no sense. I just think that it's misleading, especially for people who may not be familiar with The Play, to not mention that it was made by Cal.

16
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:41am

Curious things from the Packers/Lions game:

--Rodgers being sacked and then the team letting umpteen seconds tick off the clock before calling timeout for the 50 yard field goal. Very strange. Why not call time to get a play to get closer?

--The 'fake' 58 yard field goal attempt. That was just strange

--Alex Green not playing at all when a guy with his speed catching a quick pass out of the backfield might have generated some serious yards

38
by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:01pm

Some answers:

I too hated the end of half clock thing-- particularly since Crosby has been so poor lately. But.... it was their last timeout, I believe. So if they use it instantly after the sack, I think there is about 22 secoinds remaining, which means they would be right on the cusp of being able to clock the ball in time if Rodgers throws a complete pass over the middle. And they risk another sack which takes them out of FG range. And to be honest, what's the difference for Crosby between a 50 yarder and, say, a 42-43 yard kick? He's been bad from every over 30 distance lately. The sack was the problem, and that's on Rodgers as much as Sitton, who I think allowed that one.

The "fake" was designed to get the Lions to jump offsides and produce a first down. Didn't work; drew the flag. i would rather have had them go for it there, and to me it was curious, and certainly didn;t help Crosby's confidence that MM chose to go for it at the 30 in a 4th and 4 in the First Quarter, when the kick was very makable. They claim if the flag hadn't been thrown Crosby was going to go ahead with a 58 yd attempt-- which seems crazy. Given how he's been kicking lately, the odds of him converting had to be no more than 25%. I was relieved with the flag and the punt it then produced.

Something must have happened with Green in practice this week-- either a minor injury they wouldn't disclose or some other issue. It didn't surprise me that Starks got the ball as the #1, but Green never appearing was surprising. BTW, Packers have now been among league's worst 1st and 10 teams on offense for almost a year now. 28th this year, and the games from mid-November on last season (not including the LIons with Flynn as QB) weren't good in the main, either. In a nutshell, MM is too stubborn about running.

39
by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:01pm

Some answers:

I too hated the end of half clock thing-- particularly since Crosby has been so poor lately. But.... it was their last timeout, I believe. So if they use it instantly after the sack, I think there is about 22 secoinds remaining, which means they would be right on the cusp of being able to clock the ball in time if Rodgers throws a complete pass over the middle. And they risk another sack which takes them out of FG range. And to be honest, what's the difference for Crosby between a 50 yarder and, say, a 42-43 yard kick? He's been bad from every over 30 distance lately. The sack was the problem, and that's on Rodgers as much as Sitton, who I think allowed that one.

The "fake" was designed to get the Lions to jump offsides and produce a first down. Didn't work; drew the flag. i would rather have had them go for it there, and to me it was curious, and certainly didn;t help Crosby's confidence that MM chose to go for it at the 30 in a 4th and 4 in the First Quarter, when the kick was very makable. They claim if the flag hadn't been thrown Crosby was going to go ahead with a 58 yd attempt-- which seems crazy. Given how he's been kicking lately, the odds of him converting had to be no more than 25%. I was relieved with the flag and the punt it then produced.

Something must have happened with Green in practice this week-- either a minor injury they wouldn't disclose or some other issue. It didn't surprise me that Starks got the ball as the #1, but Green never appearing was surprising. BTW, Packers have now been among league's worst 1st and 10 teams on offense for almost a year now. 28th this year, and the games from mid-November on last season (not including the LIons with Flynn as QB) weren't good in the main, either. In a nutshell, MM is too stubborn about running.

18
by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:44am

Why put off going for two? Wouldn't you like to know as soon as possible whether you need two scores or one?

Now, this is balanced by the risk that future game events (e.g. opponent kicks two field goals) will change the calculus and make that guaranteed one point more valuable than the iffy two points. Which is why you kick early in the game, but as time winds down and there's less chance of significant changes to the scoring, you start going for two.

Without doing the math, I think the end of the third quarter is probably not far from a cut-over time, so I'd agree this is a 'not obvious call'. (Again, of course, with typical owners, the incentive for NFL coaches is to be overly conservative, so from their point of view, the cut-over time is far later than would be ideal from a pure winning percentage point of view, and with that perspective, kicking is probably a no-brainer).

25
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:16pm

While I agree with your conclusion, I don't even understand why the fact that future game events might change the calculus is even considered to be a risk that must be balanced.

Going for two is roughly a 50-50 proposition, so basically that decision increases the variance of your point total while keeping the expected value the same. Isn't that exactly what you want to do if you're behind? Sure, future game events might change the calculus in favor of taking the sure point - but they also might change it in a way that makes getting an early 2pc even more valuable.

67
by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:39pm

"Going for two is roughly a 50-50 proposition..."

Well, if you average over all 2-point tries, this may be true. But on the field, the outcome isn't determined randomly, but based on the strength and execution of the people involved.

If, for example, I was running the 1990s Cowboys' O-Line against the undersized 1990s Bills D-Line, I wouldn't hesitate to give the ball to Emmitt Smith for a 2-point try. I'm sure that line could produce a success rate far higher than the usual success rate.

19
by Paul R :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:47am

Re: Colts/Pats (Silver Lining Dept.)

We Colts fans can always count on New England to give us an old fashioned ass-whoopin' whenever we start thinking we're hot stuff.

All week, everybody in Indy was saying, "Hey, both teams are 6 and 3. We're just as good as they are!" Maybe so, but the fact remains that we have a team of talented rookies who went to Foxborough to face a squad of seasoned Hall-of-Famers and the Dark Lord Himself. One does not simply walk into Mordor.

We got humbled, and that can be good for a young team. Also, we did some things right. We put some points on the board.

22
by TomC :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:02pm

That may be the only use of that meme in years that has not made me want to punch someone. (I.e., well played.)

49
by Purds :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:21pm

Yup. I may not be very accurate as an observer when my beloved Colts are good -- I often overvalue them -- but when they are bad, I know it. I was only slightly off in my "NE has 30 by halftime" prediction.
The Colts are not a much better team than last year in terms of across-the-board talent, but a competent QB can win games late, as Luck has this year. They do have some young guys who might be good, but are not yet. And, it's never a good thing to have your starting CB's out, but even worse against an elite QB like Brady. Davis and Powers wouldn't have tipped the scale, but it would have been more fun to watch.

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by theslothook :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:50pm

Kind of sucks when you prognosticate this happening and to see it actually happen. Still, even when you expect it, its pretty ugly to see it happen. I was ready to cut the entire defense after that game, but I realize, NE's offense really tests your foundations on defense. IF you can't even cover a single part of Ne's short game, you're toast, no matter what your run defense or pass rush is. The rams learned that lesson.

I use to say, the Steeler defense would always expose the fake offenses. NE's offense is the one that exposes the fake(or in this case awful) defenses.

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by Bobman :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:28pm

Hey, I understand that a few years ago a couple slow-footed little guys walked right into Mordor and won. Sure they had some sideline help, and I believe the outcome was rigged (Tolkein had bet a bundle against Mordor with CS Lewis, who was taking Mordor and giving points).

Personally, I was hoping for a more substantial moral victory, like a 7-10 pt loss that might prep the kids for a return trip to Foxboro in January and whet their appetites. This was a bit more like a preseason game (with no, cough, starters pulled) where the staff sees what works, what needs work and where they have massive holes to plug. And I am concerned that on a potential return trip, the Colts kids might just think "as long as we don't lose by 14 or so we've done all that can be expected." Which may be TRUE, but not the attitude that will help bring about a freak win given the right breaks.

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by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:56pm

I would look at it this way: absent the turnovers and the punt return, that was basically an evenly played game. Two years from now, Andrew Luck isn't going to throw those passes to wide open defenders.

The Colts are well-positioned to have one of the lowest downtimes in memory. If the Texans don't exploit their weak division now for a trip to the Super Bowl, that window will likely be shut fairly soon.

103
by nat :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:50pm

If that's how you see it, check your prescription.

The Colts offense scored at a rate of 2 points/drive. The Patriots were scoring at a rate of 4.75 points/drive. If you ignore the short-field drives, the Patriots were still scoring 4 points/drive. Scoring at half the rate of your opponent isn't "basically an evenly played game".

You want to ignore all drives that ended in turnovers? The Colts were scoring at a rate of 3 points/drive for those. Scoring at three-quarters the rate of your opponent isn't an evenly played game, either.

You may be right that the Colts will eventually rise to the Patriots' level. They may even be at that level this year.

But not yesterday.

78
by turbohappy :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:08pm

All week, everybody in Indy was saying, "Hey, both teams are 6 and 3. We're just as good as they are!"

All week I'd been telling everyone who said this they were an idiot ;) I'm excited for the future of the Colts, but this year making the playoffs as the last wild card is the ceiling...NE is trying to win the Super Bowl.

26
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:19pm

Regarding play calling, yes, it makes a difference, obviously, but I still think that most play calling critics underestimate the degree to which personnel dictates the plays called. I don't know a damned thing about the Miami Dolphins, but is it possible that the degreee to which they are predictable is in large measure determined by a bunch of guys who don't do a variety of things very well?

Strangely, I've noticed that the playcallers, who have guys who do a lot of things well, tend to be the most adept at keeping a defense off-balance.

71
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:46pm

I see Miami as a collection of spare parts. The owner spends each off season dictating a different direction for the team. Ireland's job is to pretend to understand the need to change philosophy each off season and draft players to "fit" the new approach. So is it any wonder they have lots of offensive players that really don't match what they want to do on offense? The Dolphins claim to be now building a Greenbay style offensive attack but at the moment they are H-back-TE-running back heavy team. There is something to be said for doing what you can with what you have rather than trying to run plays with what you don't. You might be willing to go through the pains of a rookie head coach and a rookie QB learned what not to do... but deep down inside you know the owner is likely to blow everything up next off season anyways.

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by RichardD (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:14pm

I don't see why that is strange. Coaches who are good play-callers tend to acquire and keep players who are versatile, e.g. Sean Payton with Pierre Thomas. Thomas doesn't have the reputation of being a great back (though most Saints fans would beg to differ), but he is good at everything. Darren Sproles is a more obvious example of versatility, because of his greater reputation, but Thomas is just as valuable to the Saints.

91
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:57pm

Sorry about the missing sarcasm tag.

27
by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:20pm

I'm wondering how the Houston vs New England game is going to shape up. I know it's late in the season so Houston might have their spot locked up but a few things:

Where is it, I don't think the Pats like the turf in Houston, I could check but I'm lazy and in class so I'm focusing on a couple things already. Not sure if this would influence play call at all.

Is YAC going to kill Houston?

Are the blitzing Pats going to get to Schaub soon enough on Play Action?

How were the Jags protecting Henne? Are the replacement guards going against Watt going to get destroyed?

How does this game set up a possible rematch?

70
by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:45pm

Can we let the Pats play the Jets first and see if they have any tight ends left when they play Houston?

If I were a Texans fans, I'd be very worried. An OT win against the lowly Jaguars would not inspire any confidence. Beating the two-headed monster known as HenneGabbert wouldn't inspire my faith in the defense's ability to deal with Brady or Manning, or even Roethlisberger or Flacco.

85
by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:28pm

There's 5 on the roster,6 if you count Ballard. I think they'll have some TE's left for Houston. The question is which ones.

100
by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:47pm

Well, Gronk is one of the 5. He's got a broken arm. Hernandez is another one. He hasn't played in weeks because of an ankle injury. Shancoe is another one. He was on IR half of the season.

I'm wondering who will be not merely on the roster, but also healthy and capable of being productive. I had intended to include the word "healthy" but apparently I forgot to type it.

94
by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:06pm

I am no all up on the entire Houston schedule...but which MVP QBs have the Texans played and how did they do? I am just sayin. I would be worried about Brady too especially if they cant get 15 sacks.

102
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:48pm

Honestly, if I was a Texan fan, I wouldn't be any more worried. Texans fans should know that their pass defense is extremely high risk/reward, and it has mostly worked, but been absolutely burned twice. I think they would be fine against New England because New England doesn't go deep as much as Green Bay, or at least yesterday, Jacksonville.

In the end, no team plays great each week. Heck. even the 16-0 Pats had three point wins back-to-back against teams QBed by AJ Feeley and Kyle Boller. No team is great all the time, and they haven't been, but they won. They need a cushion for the #1 seed going into the Patriots game, and they kept that so far. Also, Andre Johnson looked dominant again, and the passing offense worked as well as it has in any game.

28
by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:23pm

Spare us the typical pundit hand-wringing about fans booing Vinatieri, Aaron.

First and most importantly, he's on the other team now. He damned well should be booed hard, heavy, early, and often, just like any other opposition players.

Second, it's not like it's the year after he left anymore. He's in his seventh season as a Colt. He's now been a Colt for 41% of his NFL career. If he makes it three more seasons he'll be a Colt as long as he was a Patriot.

47
by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:19pm

I liked what espn boston said about this, I think they referenced Vin. He essentially said that kicking is a mind game and it's fair for fans to boo him while he was going out to kick, and after the game those same fans were telling him they love him but that they wanted to see him shank the kick.

This might be highlighting the fact that fans can divorce the person from the player.

52
by Purds :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:22pm

Absolutely. Same thing with making a 6-foot putt or hitting a free throw. Confidence is king, and it's a fan's job to play what little role he or she can.

72
by TomC :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:46pm

You make it sound like Schatz had a paragraph-long Joe-Buck-type hissy fit about this, when all he said was: "I know it's bad that the crowd booed Vinatieri, but..."

31
by Tarrant :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:29pm

So, question. Peter King mentioned the rule that got Mike Smith the 15-yard penalty, in which a challenge on a turnover (due to the automatic review this year) prior to the review starting means the review is canceled and a 15-yard penalty is assessed.

Is this the case regardless of which team would have won the review? I ask because we've all seen the times where a team, knowing it might lose a review, rushes to the line to try and get a play off before a challenge flag is thrown or the booth can buzz down for a review. If I'm the coach of a team that just picked off a pass at the 50-yard line, and the ruling on the field was "Interception", but I also get immediate word from my coaching staff in the booth that the player seemed to lose control of the ball as he hit the ground, I might be willing to throw the flag before the review official can act and accept the 15-yard penalty to ensure said play cannot be reviewed and I keep the ball.

This is after all the NFL, and a team is going to try for any advantage it can get. 15 yards in exchange for a non-reversed turnover may be worth it in many instances.

(I realize in that case you're essentially challenging your own recovery of the ball, but I'm sure if the interception was returned or hte like there's some instance where one could actually challenge the spot, or something else similar, such that the flag can be thrown by the team that gained the ball).

64
by Bobman :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:32pm

I like the way you think. So long as the refs go by the rules. What would you do if they said "okay, we'll review...." "Um, no, I just realized you CAN'T review and have to penalize me. Sorry, my bad. (heh heh heh)." I'd love to see it happen like you lay it out, though.

29
by BJR :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:29pm

Surprised there is no mention of the horse collar/hair puller incident at the end of the Dallas/Cleveland game. Quite a bizarre call that almost cost the Cowboys that game.

44
by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:10pm

It was mentioned

79
by BJR :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:09pm

Don't know how I missed that.

30
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:29pm

Blackmon made Gabbert looks acceptable for a drive against the Bears defense. This seems like a ludicrous feat of receiving talent, so I can only assume he's destined for the hall of fame.

32
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:31pm

I really don't think that Finley TD was a designed fake screen, at most there was a read on the linebacker. If the lb reads the screen then throw to Finley. I know Bill Walsh said that if you're going to run playaction then you'd better pull a guard but letting the line through on the quarterback seems to be taking the fake a bit far. Rodgers got lit up on that play, if it really is drawn up that way then Packers fans should hope that they burn that one.

41
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:04pm

In Jason Wilde's column at ESPN Milwaukee, the TD to Finley is normally a screen but Detroit had set their defense to stop the screen pass. http://www.espnmilwaukee.com/page.php?page_id=278

43
by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:08pm

You're right-- Rodgers and Finley both admitted as much after the game. Finley said he hadn't been the target in "three years" on that play, and was so surprised to see the ball coming he almost dropped it, then slipped and almost fell because he didn't realzie he was so open and expected to be hit and was bracing for it. Rodgers said it had been maybe a year since JMike was the target on that pass, and credited Finley for a nice catch on a low ball. Detroit blanketed the screen and Rodgers adjusted. That, Matthew Stafford, is what great QBS do. And incidentally the big play on the final 4th Quarter drive was a case of Rodgers signaling as they approached the LOS to Finley to step out wide and be ready-- Rodgers was hoping for "3rd and reasonable" and a great block by Nelson and some great running by Finley made reasonable an understatement.

35
by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:52pm

Knock firmly on wood, but it sure looks like we may be seeing QB heaven in the SB this February. Rodgers vs. Brady/Manning in a game for the ages in terms of their relative ranking. I can't see Houston's defense stopping either of those all-time AFC greats-- and they might have to beat both. Ditto for Baltimore. And the growing story in GB is the defense-- constant pressure on Stafford yesterday without Matthews; play-making in the secondary a la 2010 without Collins or Woodson. A better QB than Stafford might have exploited some mistakes the kids like Hayward, House and Jennings made, but they all also made some big-time plays and when Woodson and Shields each return Packers will have one of the best secondaries in the league. Other than the Giants-- if and when they revert to 2011 playoff form-- I can't see another NFC team as well-balanced as GB right now. Particularly with the QB issues in both SF and CHI.

116
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 7:05pm

I wish I hadn't given up smoking the stuff that you have clearly been smoking, I haven't seen a purple rhinoceros in years. I mean, what I saw yesterday was a team that barely beat a mediocre Lions team but you saw rainbows and everything, lucky.

121
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:13am

I have to agree. The Packers winning says more about the Lions than it does about the Packers. There is a good argument to made that the Packers are an elite team, but Sunday was not evidence of that. In fact, it was disappointing to this Lions fan that the Packers played one of the worst games I've seen them play (other than against Kansas City last year and the Giants in the playoffs), yet the Lions couldn't hold on for the win. If they were ripe for an upset, it was Sunday.

That being said, if Rodgers gets hot, and Woodson, Matthew and Jennings get healthy, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Packers playing in February.

124
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 2:12pm

I agree, the Packers are one of the most talented sides in the league but they weren't great on sunday.

125
by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 2:59pm

Well, consider that: 1) their best defensive player-- and one of the league's 5-10 best, was on the sideline. Two of their four most experienced members of the secondary were on the sideline, forcing them to play 3 rookies extensively. Their best receiver and running back were on the sideline. Their kicker missed two very makable FGs. They were playing one of the top-ranked offenses in the league.

That final TD should have put them 7 points up. Was the offense good? No. Was the defense? Yes. All things being equal would I rather have the latter than the former right now? You betcha. This is a defense they can ride all the way-- a la 2010. And they will need it to stifle the likes of the 49ers, Falcons and Giants in the playoffs so Rodgers and Co. can do their thing.

126
by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 3:01pm

But I'll grant you this: I was premature about SF. I saw a lot of balance on offense last night-- if Harbaugh has the stones to go through with playing Kaepernick, and I believe he does, they become the NFC favorites.

117
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 9:26pm

The water really does run colder and faster in Green Bay!

O.K., now that I have my snark for the, er, excessive enthusiam, regarding the 2011 Packers, out of the way, let me say that it woud not be shocking to see the Packers get to the last game. Thaey have a great QB, and that goes a long way in today's game.

37
by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:58pm

"Tom Gower: John Fox kicks the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter of a tie game. Ho-hum."

What Tom left out is that at point the Chargers had 30 yards of offense and 0 first downs. So at that point it wasn't like they were a threat to go 98 yards. I don't understand Fox's aversion to going for it on 4th and 1. He's the total antithesis of Belichick. Last year had a QB that was tailor made for getting 1 yard and he still refused to go for it.

Andy pointed out the play where Von Miller embarrassed Jeromey Clary. I realize Clary's not the second coming of Art Shell, but the move was something to behold. It was basically a two step shake and Clary barely got a hand on him.

53
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:28pm

Consider this: In comparison to the current coach in Carolina, Panthers fans miss the wide-open aggressiveness often displayed by former coach John Fox.

Yes, John Fox called games the exact same way in Carolina that he is in Denver right now.

55
by tunesmith :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:36pm

The only semi-charitable explanation I can think of is that Prater had missed earlier, so maybe Fox was thinking he'd give Prater a gimme.

57
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:53pm

Look on the bright side. Ron Rivera would have probably punted.

59
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:05pm

See, that there, that's funny.

68
by Bobman :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:41pm

Yeah, my kids got an earful of "free education" about that as we were watching. Like SD was a threat to rumble 99 yards (or even 30 at that point)? Feh!

Just a guess, but the likely outcome for going for it on that play was probably +5 pts within the next two possessions, rather than a 98% chance of the FG giving them just 3.

Time for Manning to cash in some of his cred by waving the kicking team off the field. Worked a few times in Indy. Unless Elway hired him with an explicit "don't show up the coaches anymore" warning. "But John, it worked!" "Hey Peyton, these are fragile human beings with feelings. They're sensitive. They use Dove! How can I expect them to come in next week and put together a game plan if they're always concerned that you'll show them up. No, for the sake of a happy family feeling and long term stability, you cannot make that call. You never liked it when Cooper gave you a wedgie. Well, this is just like a wedgie, but in front of millions of viewers." "Cooper never gave me a $#@! wedgie. I gave the $#@! wedgies in the Manning house, but. And besides, what the hell are you talking about?!?!"

45
by DavidL :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:19pm

Re: Griffin kicking the ass of the 13th-ranked defense: The Eagles did not play like a top-half defense yesterday. Griffin's running was half him, half the D-line wearing quarterback-repelling shoulderpads, and at least one touchdown (the 50-yarder, representing better than 25% of RG3's yardage for the day) was the secondary just deciding it's not worth covering a wide receiver in the end zone.

It really cannot be overstated how completely Philadelphia (both the city and the team) has given up on this season.

45
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:19pm

I think "Flashes of competence" would be a great LL team name.

61
by COINFLIP (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:14pm

Hey, Aaron -

Please tell us the total value earned by Julian "Ironman" Edelman on Sunday!

His stats show:

Rushing: 1 carry for 47 yards (1 1stDown)
Receiving: 5 catches on 7 targets for 58 yards (4 1stDowns) and 1 TD
Returns: 2 Punt Returns for 117 yards (68 yards and 49 yards) and 1 TD
Total: 10 Opportunities, 222 yards (22.2 per touch) for 5 1st Downs and 2 TDs
Bonus: Credited with 1 tackle on Special Teams causing a Forced Fumble inside the 15 yard line.

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by erniecohen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:45pm

I have to say something about the situation that came up near the end of the Den-SD game, because every time it happens it drives me crazy. Down 14 near the end of the game, SD scores a TD, and kicks the XP. Assuming that they somehow will score another TD and that DEN won't score again, the XP is just the wrong thing to do. Assuming a .98 chance of making an XP, a .48 chance of making a 2 point conversion, and a .5 chance of winning in overtime,

XP WP = (.98 * .98 + .02 * .48)*.5 = .485
2P WP = (.48 * (.98 + .02 * .5)) + .52 * .48 * .5 = .6

So going for 2 is not just more likely to win, it's 24% more likely to win. Even if 2-point conversions were only 40%, it would still pay (the break-even percentage is about 37%).

Now, how is it possible that neither coaches nor commentators realize that going for 2 is the right thing to do? Are most serious fans aware of this? What percentage of FO staff? It's not like going for it on 4th down versus a field goal or punting, where there are squishy things like the value of field position.

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by Bobman :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:48pm

Just a guess, but I'd say fear of the complexity (even if THEY understand it, how many owners/fans/reporters will?--a lot of constituents out there.) and a fear of losing by 1 (or 2) if you fail on the conversion. They'd be flamed in the press: "The coach had the chance to tie the game and go to OT but instead he tried to win it 'too early' and ended up losing by 1." Actually, losing by 1 never makes sense there--if you miss the conversion the first time, you try it the second time to either tie or lose by 2--kicking the XP the second time after missing the conv is insane.

I agree with you--go for 2 the first time. If you make it, your road to a W is much easier. If you miss it and are down by 8, you can STILl tie it up with a successful conversion later (assuming you score the TD)

Having said that, I am also of the "football has about 90% too many punts" school of thought. As a Colts fan, I am forced to discount the value of ST play in order to retain my sanity.

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by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:53pm

You're right, at least if we stipulate your probabilities.

There has been some talk here about the relative value of going for the win as opposed to playing for overtime. And yes, this is something NFL coaches seem to regularly ignore. They strongly overvalue "reaching overtime". It would make more sense if they were playing in the NHL, where an overtime loss still gets the team 1 point.

But of course, nobody is playing in the NHL right now.

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by erniecohen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:06pm

48% is the historical average 2P success rate in the NFL, if you don't count extra point attempts where the kick never happens (e.g., because of a bad snap).

You can, of course, plug in a different value for reaching OT. The break-even value (for XP vs 2P) is when OT counts as about 2/3 of a win. That seems a bit high, even for NFL coaches.

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by TomC :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:58pm

1) This is discussed extensively above.

2) SD were down by 15, but I'm sure that's what you meant.

3) "Assuming that they somehow will score another TD and that DEN won't score again"---this is an awesome-tastic assumption, given that its posterior probability of being correct is 0. I.e., Denver did score again, twice. Furthermore, the manner in which they scored (2 FGs), made Norv's decision to kick the XP (again, in an a posteriori sense) 100% correct, because SD ended up within 7 points without ever having to go for 2. This doesn't affect your calculation, but it does demonstrate that the assumptions involved are untenable, at least when you're talking about a situation at the end of the 3rd quarter.

4) I love the question: "are coaches, commentators, or serious fans EVEN AWARE of this probamability stuff?" Yes, we are. We are also aware that garbage in = garbage out.

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by erniecohen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:11pm

We aren't talking about when DEN scored in the 3rd quarter. We are talking about when they scored the TD with 1:24 left (so the only relevant possibility was if they recovered the onside kick).

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by TomC :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:55pm

Ah fuck, I totally missed that. Please retract all the snark above. Sorry.

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by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:51pm

It sounds to me like you don't actually understand the math or what people are trying to say. Just shoving your fingers in your ears and going lalala.

Look the advanced stats people overreach at times on a lot of things, but the 2pt vs 1pt conversion stuff is stuff where it is more or less impossible the are wrong in aggregate. ON any individual decision they could of course be wrong, because teams match up against each other more or less well, but even in the favorable matches the coaches chicken out.

It is the equivalent of bunting a guy over in the ninth inning down 5. Its playing to reduce the score differential instead of the chance you lose.

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by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:43pm

Well, the issue here is what your objective function is. If your objective function is "expected number of points scored," you should always go for the 1-point conversion unless you don't have a kicker.

If your objective function is "win today's game," then a lot of these decisions should come down to a more careful analysis like the one presented above. A lot of people don't understand that maximizing expected value might lead to an entirely different strategy than maximizing win probability in a given situation.

To a great extent, football coaches are stuck in groupthink when it comes to matters like this one. Getting coaches to use the 2-point conversion chart was hard enough. Getting them to make adjustments to that chart, based on the amount of time left in the game, seems hopeless.

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by theslothook :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:48pm

A few comments from the Packers Lions game:

Imo- James Starks is the wrong type of back for this offense. A few times he wanted to cut back and the blockers were actually able to engage the the dlinemen, but his change of direction is slow and he really doesn't have great speed and he didnt get much. He's also not got great vision either. He really feels like the perfect definition of below average back, which with the packers offense as it is, you would think wouldn't matter much but...

I was surprised to say, but the packers offense is a bit like the saints in that they become infinitely more dangerous when they can run. That might seem to describe all offenses, but it seems more true of the packers. I don't think this time likes to drop back into true spread over and over and feel comfortable doing it. They don't have the short plethora that NE has, nor does it feel like Rodgers trusts his receivers the way Manning did with indy.

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by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 3:09pm

Packers coaches agree with you, and Green will apparently be getting more carries vs. the Giants than the zero he got Sunday. Though again I suspect some sort of disciplinary issue might have been afoot.

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by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:07pm

I also wanted to note that it seems to me that Peyton Manning is really pissed off these days. Yeah, godam*it, Donald, he's always been a wee bit intense, but I get the impression this year, with each game that the Broncos improve their possibilities for playoff seeding, ol' Longneck has more and more steam coming from his ears. After the last td throw yesterday, I tried to read his lips as he was muttering to himself, as the crowd went nuts and his teammates celebrated. I think it was along the lines of "All you motherf***kers are going to PAY!".

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by theslothook :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:29pm

I always wondered something about Old Longneck. We all know hes got this fanatical devotion to football and all the time he puts into it. My question is, what effect does it have on his social life? Youd figure by now, he'd be divorced, homeless living out of the team's film room, eating cold hot dog weenies and growing a monty burns style beard http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqnXYXmAXq0 by now.

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by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:50pm

I think Peyton is taking his whole recovery and second act really, really personally. I'm not even he thought he and his team would be playing this well right now, so it's almost become even more pressure.

One of my favorite moments this season is right after the Broncos score a TD, when the game resumes with the kickoff, they always show the shot of Manning, with his whole offense around him, discussing the drive and talking about the next one. Just a great moment of a leader working with his team. Yesterday wasn't their best day, but divisional games are tough. They still have an easy schedule, and with Gronk out for a while, that #2 seed becomes more and more likely.

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by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:29pm

/agreed.

When he was in Indy, he didn't have that much to prove after 2006. He had his Super Bowl, he won most of the time when they went to Foxboro, and he had more influence on the way the team was run than the coaching staff after Dungy left.

That isn't true in Denver; I think that if it was Peyton's call they wouldn't have just run into the line three times at the end of the game and punted (even though I thought it was the right thing to do). He doesn't have as much control over the game plan, and so all his energy is going into the minutiae of the offense. The result is he's having one of the best quarterbacking seasons of his career.

And that seam route throw between the safeties and over the linebacker to Jacob Tamme was a thing of beauty. (Might have been on the possession before the aforementioned clock-burning 3 and out).

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by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 6:17pm

I was on redzone last night, so i didn't watch the game closely, but if all Whisenhunt wants his QB to is throw short of the sticks on third down, why couldn't Skelton be the one to do that? Shuffling QBs seems pointless if you, as a result, is going to run on first and second down every time...

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by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 12:26pm

Larry Fitzgerald completely beat his man on a post-corner, and Skelton missed him. Missed him so badly when he was so open that the coaching staff gave up on the spot.

Worst part is, they were absolutely right to do so.

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by jgrenci@zoomint... :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 9:05pm

I am a 49ers fan too, but I must admit, why the bizarro Harbuagh comment? because he is brilliant? or animated? bizarro has a negative connotation. even some 49ers fans must be jealous....

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by Intropy :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 11:31pm

Bizarro means opposite. It's a Superman reference.

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by jgrenci@zoomint... :: Fri, 11/23/2012 - 12:30pm

oh, thanks.. did not know that..:)