Five different teams from last year's DVOA top eight rank in the bottom half of the league through four weeks of 2014. What can we learn from other teams with similar starts in the past?
22 Oct 2012
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.
Tom Gower: I've watched the whole thing, but have had a hard time getting into it. Overall it's been pretty much how I thought the game would be: bad offenses playing against good defenses don't tend to have much success, and that's the way both teams are. The interesting things are the more micro-level complexity I don't pick up live, like exactly how the the one surprise this game, Frank Gore's success running up the middle, has happened.
Danny Tuccitto: I'm sneaking a peek every few minutes while at my friend's bachelor party. Just noticed on that last Niners red zone trip in the early fourth that, continuing the theme from last week, Kaepernickat fail leads to Alex Smith forgetting how to play quarterback.
Would love to know how many times there's been a declined safety-by-penalty in the past 20 years.
Aaron Schatz: I don't feel like looking through all the workbooks. I'm guessing "zero."
Andy Benoit: Anyone else find it absolutely crazy that Terrell Suggs is back already? Hope they know what they're doing ... no reason to think they don't. But still...
Mike Kurtz: I think there is every reason to think they don't. Or rather, that they're more concerned with competing than with the likelihood of Suggs re-injuring himself. Considering how aggressive Harbaugh is, combined with the other injuries on Baltimore's defense and Suggs' (presumably) incredibly optimistic take on his own rehab, I get the feeling this was much more a football decision than a medical decision. I wouldn't be surprised if he aggravates it either this week or the next.
Rivers McCown: I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean, Adrian Peterson has been fine this year.
Andy Benoit: Suggs' sack on the third Houston series came off a three-man rush. He beat Derek Newton to the inside with a stunt.
Mike Kurtz: Houston is being incredibly unaggressive considering Baltimore's injury situation, a lot of running up the middle and very short passes. Really odd.
Rivers McCown: Really Kubiak.
Mike Kurtz: Alan Ball with possibly the greatest punt coverage of all time, grabbing the ball and flipping over it while tossing it back into the field of play. That leads to a decent run, followed by a fumblesack, followed by a sack safety. Special teams!
Rivers McCown: The Texans came out completely flat and looked awful on offense for most of the first quarter.
Now they are up 16-3. And James Casey got a fullback belly carry. The Ravens seemed to abandon the run awfully early.
J.J. Cooper: I'm so impressed by J.J. Watt that I think I might change my name to ... well I guess I already have that one covered. Is anyone close to him for Defensive Player of the Year at this point? He's a 3-4 defensive end (who plays more tackle than end in reality) who leads the league in sacks, and he might be even better on pass plays when he just hovers around the line looking to deflect the ball.
Is it possible to look at the DVOA of the plays where he picked up the sack compared to the DVOA of his four tips for INTs? I was wondering if the tips have actually had more value.
Aaron Schatz: J.J., I'm sure the tips had more value, because interceptions are more valuable than sacks. Then again, are the tipped interceptions 100 percent Watt? He has to share the recognition with the defensive backs, right?
I wrote a note down about that Suggs sack because I thought Newton looked so awful. Suggs just went left, then right, and completely faked him out of his shoes with barely any contact.
I too am wondering what happened to the run for the Ravens. This sure isn't looking like the offense I was predicting in my Upset Watch column. They've tried the play-action a couple times, and Flacco has really overthrown the receivers. And I said that the Ravens should be able to pass to the outside if they can keep Flacco upright long enough, but they are having serious problems with the "upright" part of that sentence.
Andy Benoit: The Ravens defensive line continues to really struggle getting off blocks, and so the Ravens front seven continues to really struggle against zone run team.
Aaron Schatz: And then Owen Daniels kindly pushes his way through the linebackers and catches the ball in the back of the end zone to make it 23-3. In the 20th century NFL, this game would be over. In the current NFL, hey, comebacks are a dime a dozen.
Mike Kurtz: I think that was a bad review on the touchdown, not because the ball hit the ground, but because by the time the ball is secured his shoulder is already out of bounds.
J.J. Cooper: Good point on the shoulder. No way he had full possession on the catch before then.
Rivers McCown: I think I'd be more afraid of a Ravens comeback if Joe Flacco weren't struggling to reach 50 passing yards by halftime. This is a classic Bad Flacco game.
Andy Benoit: The Texans are having success with Daniels crossing patterns. He's got seven first-half receptions working against voids of Ravens zones and against linebackers.
J.J. Cooper: Texans kick a field goal to end the first half. 29-3. This one is over unless Frank Reich shows up for the second half. Also Haloti Ngata left the game due to more problems with his right knee.
Rivers McCown: Watt just deflected another pass, tying the NFL record for a defensive lineman in a season at 11.
It's Week 7.
Oh, and a Texans special teams blunder combined with a long PI on Joseph led the Ravens to their first touchdown of the day. Remember Tandon Doss? He's back! (In pog form.)
Is Watt the MVP at this point? All the elite quarterbacks are having middling years statistically (by their standards) and have seen at least a few losses. Is It maybe Matt Ryan?
Aaron Schatz: I'm willing to say Watt, but I don't think he still will be come Week 17. New England and Green Bay are going to turn it around and their quarterbacks will get the credit.
Vince Verhei: Well, since the afternoon games are light, let me throw this out to the group: If I gave you an even-money bet on Houston's odds of making it to (not necessarily winning) the Super Bowl, which way would you bet? They're 6-1. Only three teams left on their schedule have winning records (Bears, Patriots, and Vikings) so it's highly unlikely they won't get the top seed in the AFC. Will anyone beat them at home in the playoffs? New England? A Broncos team that Houston already beat in Denver? Baltimore just went to Houston and got licked. Nothing is a sure thing, but I'd absolutely put Houston's odds of making the Super Bowl at greater than 50 percent.
Aaron Schatz: The FO playoff odds formula believes that you are very much overestimating the value of Houston's home-field advantage. Last time I checked, Green Bay just beat them by 18 there. If Green Bay can do that, New England or Denver can do that. We had Houston at 27 percent to make the Super Bowl last week. I'm guessing it comes out about 35 percent after this week's win.
Although let me add, if the odds really are 6-1 to win the AFC (not necessarily the Super Bowl), even our playoff odds formula thinks that is a really great bet.
Rivers McCown: Based on what Green Bay did to them, I think Houston would struggle with New England's skill position talent. They'd be the one team I'd pick against a theoretical homefield to the Super Bowl Texans team. Assuming they can put it all together, anyway.
Aaron Schatz: The Pats have a strong run defense to shut down Arian Foster and Ben Tate, and they could run no-huddle with three tight which theoretically lets them get extra blockers to try to keep Watt from batting down half the passes.
On the other hand, even clearly now-in-decline Andre Johnson would destroy their cornerbacks.
Andy Benoit: Packers snag a successful surprise onside kick. We'll assume they aren't worried about having to out-score the Rams for four quarters, so they must have seen something on film.
Andy Benoit: Chris Johnson has four carries for 103 yards and two touchdowns. The Bills run defense is playing to form after taking a break to actually make some stops against the Cardinals last week.
Tom Gower: Defense has been very optional in the first half in Buffalo, as the Titans lead 21-20. Johnson has two of the scores, from 16 and 83, which were probably his two best runs of the year. Meanwhile, Ryan Fitzpatrick has not been as terrible as he's been some games this year, and the Titans have had their normal trouble tackling.
The Titans took advantage of great field position in the second half, getting their first touchdown early off a fumblesack and the second, game-winning score late after a penalty and bad punt by Not Brian Moorman. I wonder how much Chan Gailey should and will be criticized for kicking the extra point when the Bills scored to go up 33-28.
Matt Waldman: Fred Davis takes a tumble on a post route and has an Achilles injury. Hops to the sideline and then carted to the locker room after an examination. Davis was called for an illegal shift that nullified a play-action slant to Josh Morgan for a score, but Morgan was at fault for not settling into his spot before Davis' motion. Morgan has always been one of those players that teases fans with physical skill, but never took those skills to the next level of play.
Interesting that the Redskins are among the worst in the league on third-and-short plays.
Ahmad Bradshaw and London Fletcher are having a fun battle in the flat during the first two Giants drives. Bradshaw runs through Flecther for a first down on an outlet pass in first series -- tough running. Two plays later, Fletcher tackles Bradshaw for a loss on an outlet pass to the same flat -- great anticipation by the linebacker. In the second series, Bradshaw catches another dumpoff and puts a move on Fletcher to get up the flat and stretch for the first down as Fletcher wraps the back at the Redskins 10. Very close.
Fletcher now meets Andre Brown in the air on a one-yard plunge, but the back keeps his feet and bulls forward to get across the goal line. Great leaping hit by Fletcher to meet Brown at the one, but Brown's balance saves the day. Really fun to watch a veteran like Fletcher, who is Methuselah by by defender standards, play with abandon.
Robert Griffin nearly hits Leonard Hankerson on a deep post with play-action, a pump fake, and a nice job climbing the pocket. Hankerson only manages to get fingertips on the ball ... he probably should have leaped for it, but it was very close. Griffin has always had fantastic deep accuracy. Some of these play-fakes are funny because Griffin has performed some where he and the back aren't even in sync. Doesn't matter with Griffin's speed -- defenses are reacting. I wondered how Griffin's speed with drops and play-fakes would play out in the NFL because I have never seen a player execute so fast from snap to drop, but all these play fakes really make it a dangerous thing for defenses. If they ever expand this offense to make more backside throws with reverse pivots and other fancy drop footwork as Griffin develops, it's going to be even more amazing to watch.
Andy Benoit: Alfred Morris is consistently getting downhill early in his runs -– particularly runs to the left.
Matt Waldman: Morris loses a big gain up the left flat due to a "phantom leg whip" on the backside that strikes no one. Wondering if maybe the official ruled it based on seeing cleats in the air. I get the idea of calling the penalty even if it doesn't help the offense, but this was barely something I'd even consider a leg whip. On the next play, Morris fumbles the ball away.
Griffin throws an interception in Giants territory on a short pass to Logan Paulsen. He double-clutched and then tried to force it to the second window. Steve Brown jumps the route. First time I've seen an indecisive play by Griffin in the game.
Andy Benoit: Mike Shanahan elects to go for it on fourth-and-3 near the 50 with 10:00 left in fourth, trailing by seven. It's successful, they run play-action to Hankerson on a slant out of Doug Farrar's favorite: the pistol formation.
Aaron Schatz: Washington probably wants to burn the play where the entire offensive line blocks right and trusts the backup tight end to pull all the way from right to left to take out Jason Pierre-Paul before he can get to the quarterback. That didn't work.
Amazing what happens when your offensive coordinator doesn't call a ridiculous bootleg with limited passing options, on fourth down.
Redskins did it again four plays later, they ran another play -- it might have been a read option, I'm not sure -- where nobody picked up JPP who was on the offensive right, and he came in and took out RGIII for a sack-fumble. Read option or whatever, maybe we should just NOT call plays where we leave JPP or Justin Tuck unblocked.
Matt Waldman: Griffin sacked three times in this current series with two fourth-down conversions. Giants linebackers are getting smart about dropping quick to take away short passes over middle. JPP has two sacks -- one of them a strip sack that Linval Joseph recovers.
Aaron, what makes it worse is that the player responsible, Niles Paul, is a former receiver and kick return specialist from Nebraska converted to a tight end. Not a good situation for Washington's pass protection with Davis in a walking boot. Paulsen isn't much better; he's a space receiver from Oregon familiar with this option offense. A better receiver than a blocker, but not a high-end athlete by NFL tight end standards, either.
Third-and-15 late in the fourth quarter, the Giants are backed up, Redskins play coverage and the Giants complete a screen to Andre Brown that, incredulously, goes for a first down.
Griffin makes a career-highlight reel type play on fourth-and-10, eluding Pierre-Paul outside the pocket to complete for a first down. On the next play, Griffin gets a long scramble run because the Giants went to man coverage. Memories of what Michael Vick did late to them a few years ago.
Andy Benoit: Madieu Williams had terrible technique on that touchdown. Stayed crouched and had his eyes in backfield, Cruz simply ran right by him. Wilson was expecting help.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure why Perry Fewell calls a cover-0 blitz against RGIII when Washington needs a touchdown to take the lead.
But come on, Eli Manning with 1:30 left and three timeouts? No problem.
Sometimes you just have to appreciate the beautiful, and those were two pretty sweet throws by two very good quarterbacks.
Matt Waldman: Moss fumbles the ball with 39 seconds left on a route with both hands around the ball. Chase Blackburn still strips it loose. Just seconds ago, Morgan fumbled the ball and then recovered it to set this game-loser up.
Andy Benoit: From hero to goat!
Ben Muth: Bobby Massie just gave up a sack and fumble to end a promising Arizona drive in the red zone. The most frustrating part of Massie's rookie year is how often he gets beaten around the edge with pure speed. I'm not talking about guys beating him with solid outside moves (they're doing that too though), which is at least understandable. I'm talking about being too slow to keep guys from running right around him. I'm not sure Massie is athletic enough to ever play tackle in the NFL.
Daryl Washington has a knack for timing blitzes in the A gap. He just blitzed perfectly to sack Christian Ponder. Bad job by the Minnesota's left guard of not recognizing the A-gap pressure and picking it up. He left it to the running back, who had zero chance of getting to Washington in time.
Andy Benoit: Percy Harvin nabs a red-zone touchdown on a three-yard crossing pass off boot-action. Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said this week that he regrets not using Harvin more in red zone lately.
Ben Muth: The Vikings call a timeout on their own 20 with 14 seconds left. On the next play, Ponder is hit as he's throwing it and Sam Acho picks it off. But Jay Feely misses the 47-yard field goal on the last play of the half to bail Ponder out.
J.J. Cooper: No explanation I can give for the Vikings there. They called timeout on third-and-2 from their own 20 with 14 seconds left. They are 50 yards from a realistic chance to score and the interception came on a short pass. If they had completed it, they would have been facing first-and-10 from their own 35 with five seconds to go. Why not just run Adrian Peterson up the middle and take your lead to the locker room?
Aaron Schatz: However, bad the Ponder interception was, it can't compare to the play early in the third quarter where Early Doucet has two Vikings sitting right next to him, about five yards in front of John Skelton, and Skelton throws it directly at Doucet anyway, by which I mean into the arms of Harrison Smith for a pick-six.
Ben Muth: He's been poor all game, but that interception was truly putrid.
Cards go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Minnesota 18, down 14, with 7:40 left in the third. They run a play-action boot with Reagan Maui'a as the only option.
Antoine Winfield covers Maui'a and makes the tackle on Skelton when he tries to run. Tim Ryan can't wait to bash the decision after it failed. I liked the decision, but hate any situation where Reagan Maui'a is a number one option.
Aaron Schatz: Seriously, how on earth do you run a fourth-down play with only one pass option and that option by the way is not Larry Fitzgerald? Whisenhunt: Deliberately making stats people look stupid?
Ben Muth: The most frustrating part of the fourth-down call is that I assume that was one of the Cardinals' two-point plays. That means they designed that play and practiced it every week so they could get two yards when they absolutely had to get it.
I'm concerned about any offensive staff that thinks Reagan Maui'a is their best option for two yards.
Vince Verhei: Bill Simmons proposed a classic "logical trade that will never happen" for this offseason: Philip Rivers to Arizona. Chargers need to start over, and the Cardinals can't afford to waste another year of Fitzgerald's career. But moves that big hardly ever happen.
Rivers McCown: What is Philip Rivers worth to the Cardinals? Two firsts? Can the Chargers justify that trade? Can the Chargers actually justify getting rid of Rivers if they don't get a killing?
Vince Verhei: Well, two firsts would be overkill. He's north of 30 and has been in decline for two years now. First and a third?
Ben Muth: What's the record for number of sacks given up by a pair of teammates? I imagine D'Anthony Batiste and Massie are on pace to shatter it. Both have given up two more today.
Aaron Schatz: I actually heard John Clayton say something about this on ESPN radio on the way down, I believe he said 28.5 by two guys from the Eagles in one of the Randall Cunningham years.
Ben Muth: Ugh, the Cardinals line up to go for it on fourth-and-5 but don't get the play off and take the delay of game. Then they give up a sack on a nose/tackle twist that Lyle Sendlein and Adam Snyder can't pass off.
With four minutes left the Vikings still haven't had a first down in the second half. But it doesn't matter the way Skelton's been playing.
The Cardinals are trying to help Massie with chip blocks and Massie still gives up sacks. The latest happened on a spin move to the inside despite having Stephens-Howling outside to chip. How do you get beat inside when you know you have help outside? Lack of ability plus not having a clue is a bad combination for a rookie.
Rivers McCown: Who is the Cardinals third tackle, anyway? How bad must he be for them to keep throwing Massie and Batiste out there?
Ben Muth: I'm not sure if Nate Potter or Pat McQuistan is the third tackle, but either one can't be any worse than Massie or Batiste. Heck, I'd take that surfer who had her arm bit off by a shark over Batiste or Massie right now.
Andy Benoit: Cam Newton's end zone interception was an irresponsible decision. Last-second throws under pressure to the middle of the end zone don't end well.
Phil Costa is leaving this game with a serious leg injury. Costa is coming off not just his best game as a pro but, according to Greg Cosell, arguably the best game of any center this season.
Mike Kurtz: While sacking Newton at the end of the game was a huge play, I'm not sure Anthony Spencer doing an extended celebration 20 yards in the backfield when you know the offense is trying to get back to the line quickly is such a great idea. The Panthers don't have it together enough to capitalize, of course, but it's still really stupid.
Andy Benoit: Saints No. 5 wideout Joseph Morgan showed great balance and body control on a long touchdown catch. That’s the highlight. The play involved poor safety help over the top from Mark Barron.
Matt Waldman: That play was crazy. Morgan took a deep streak up the right flat and ducks inside two Tampa defenders as if he were a professional wrestler entering a ring during an all-out melee. Both defenders run into Morgan but the receiver somehow maintains his balance while back-dropping one of them. Crazy looking ending to a 48-yard score.
Vince Verhei: Fun facts about Morgan: He went to college at something called "Walsh," and he now has three career receptions for two touchdowns and 44.3 yards per catch.
These defenses, by the way, are collectively awful.
Matt Waldman: Josh Freeman is recognizing good opportunities to hit Vincent Jackson on quick-hitting streaks up left side after Jackson defeats the coverage fast. One is a 17-yard score in the first half and just now, they hook up on a 95-yard play where about 85 of it is Jackson after the catch. Bucs have a nice schedule down the stretch to potentially contend for a wild card. Not sure they can make it, but they will keep things interesting.
Vince Verhei: Two Saints defenders go for the ball and miss, but Jackson is run down from behind at the 1-yard line. Tampa Bay then runs three straight dives into the pile to set up fourth-and-goal at the 1. Freeman runs what appears to be a quarterback keeper with no receivers in the pattern. The Saints are not fooled, and the play loses two yards. Saints' ball at their own 3-yard line.
Aaron Schatz: At least the Bucs didn't do something silly like kick a field goal from the 1 against a Saints offense that is killing them. Instead they bootleg out Freeman and he looks like he is hobbling, and the receiver never opens up -- assuming it wasn't just a keeper all along, and he ends up running out of bounds at the three.
I don't know about the play calling but I'll tell you, the execution here was horrendous. Man, bad offenses are really trying to make us look bad on fourth downs today, aren't they? And Josh, your defense is going to have a much better shot at a safety if you throw the ball away instead of running out of bounds at the 3 like an idiot.
Tom Gower: Freeman was terribly indecisive on the bootleg as well. LeGarrette Blount would also have not have been my choice for those goalline carries.
Aaron Schatz: Apparently, the Bucs just got an unsportsmanlike on a Saints field-goal attempt because they were shifting around trying to get the Saints to false start. So in an effort to turn a 51-yard field goal into a 56-yard field goal, they gave Drew Brees a whole new set of downs. Seriously, Greg Schiano? That boy's not right.
Mike Kurtz: The Buccaneers had one minute, at New Orleans' 26-yard line. They have two shots at the end zone, a completion is short of the sticks, then they sit around, running the clock down to about 20 seconds. They convert on the next play, but only have 17 seconds left to get a touchdown. Jackson very nearly gets it with five seconds left, but his heels are out. Kind of a debacle.
Vince Verhei: Cleveland has a third-and-1 down 17-13 at the Indy 40 late in the fourth quarter. A deep pass to Josh Gordon should have been a touchdown, but Gordon dropped it. Then on fourth-and-1, needing a touchdown, INSIDE INDY TERRITORY, they punt the ball away. Camera cuts to new owner Jimmy Haslam, who is throwing a colossal tantrum in his luxury box. He may pink-slip the entire organization before the day is through.
Browns force a three-and-out, by the way, but a punt and fair catch gives them the ball at their own 31 with four minutes and change to go.
Matt Waldman: Funny, Gordon made a nice catch earlier for a 33-yard score and makes it look effortless. Rookie ups and downs for a player that is talent-wise the team's best receiver. He caught what Little has had for weeks. Travis Benjamin and Gordon might be the best talents on the team's depth chart.
I have to see this tantrum. (See it!)
Vince Verhei: The Browns final drive ends on a fourth-and-6 play when Jerraud Powers breaks up a slant pass. I'm pretty sure that fourth-and-1 is a safer play than fourth-and-6.
Vince Verhei: OK, I wasn't paying attention to the schedule until the late games started today. I can't tell you how irritated I am that there are only two late games, and one of them is Oakland-Jacksonville, both of which barely qualify as NFL teams.
Aaron Schatz: Blame the NLCS. No FOX games in the late slot today due to baseball.
Andy Benoit: When was the last time there were only TWO late-window games? I kinda like it ... less chaos, makes these games feel more important.
Tom Gower: Week 1 regularly features a light late slate thanks to CBS carrying the US Open.
Palmer's interception to Derek Cox was a reckless decision and throw. He tried to flip the ball backhanded while falling down. In the middle of the field.
Vince Verhei: Without Gabbert and Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jags' first four drives of the second half have totaled 16 plays for seven yards. And yet they've added a pair of field goals after starting in Oakland territory twice.
Andy Benoit: Jags had less than 70 yards of offense after Gabbert left the game.
J.J. Cooper: When you lose a guy like Gabbert how can you expect an offense to recover?
Rivers McCown: Luckily Gene Smith spent that third-round pick on a punter. No way that offense needed any additional reinforcement.
Tom Gower: Offensive line was certainly a bigger need, and a recurring issue that became even more serious when guard Uche Nwaneri went out early today.
Vince Verhei: The Raiders were actually very conservative at the end of regulation. The first two plays of their last drive were both runs, and they only threw the ball after they picked up a first down. Sebastian Janikowski tried a 64-yarder at the end to win it and came up short. I can't fault Oakland for that strategy though. Barring a kick return or turnover, no way the Jaguars were going to score again at that point.
Vince Verhei: Did Phil Simms just say that the Jets' choice to defer meant Tom Brady wouldn't get a chance at a late drive? He does know that teams alternate possessions in this game, right?
Ben Muth: Donald Thomas (starting for an injured Logan Mankins) starts blocking the linebacker, then tries to come off on the defensive tackle on a stunt. He ends up blocking neither, and the pressure forces Brady to throw it away on first down.
Vince Verhei: More New England sloppiness: Pats go three-and-out on their first drive. There is confusion on the punt team, and somebody calls timeout to avoid a penalty. Because it's MUCH better to punt on fourth-and-9 than fourth-and-14. Bill Belichick teams never used to make these kind of mistakes.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, wait, it gets better. The Pats get caught with Brandon Deaderick running off the field on third-and-2 from the 4. Problem: He's the 11th guy. He realizes it, turns around, and gets in position in time for Tim Tebow to gain three. Then three Pats go off, and one comes on the field... then another comes on the field... wait, where's the third guy? Where's the third guy?
Yes, the Jets just scored a touchdown with 10 Pats on the field.
Andy, this is the kind of thing you love in the Pats-Jets game. Pats are using 3-tight end personnel on this drive, but out of an empty-back look.
Andy Benoit: Pats three-tight end personnel comes with a mild asterisk, though, considering two of those tight ends are better receivers than 80 percent of NFL wideouts (and 100 percent of Jets wideouts). But yeah, love when teams control the game through use of specific personnel.
Mike Kurtz: Mark Sanchez throws an incredibly ugly lame duck interception from around the Patriots' 40, despite Shonn Greene standing wide open with no other player within 20 yards as the outlet. What is wrong with this guy? Seriously.
Aaron Schatz: Pats get caught in one of their weird zones where nobody in the press box is sure what on earth they're trying to do, and Alfonzo Dennard lets the receiver go past him but Tavon Wilson doesn't come over to pick him up until super late. So it sure was nice of Sanchez to underthrow his receiver by six or seven yards and hand the Pats a pick on what should have been an easy touchdown.
Sean McCormick: Hill was open had Sanchez thrown it in a timely manner. That said, the ball should have gone to Greene.
Aaron Schatz: Not just a timely manner, but a "five yards further, actually in the end zone" manner.
Danny Tuccitto: On that Sanchez interception you guys just mentioned, I get that he was late throwing the ball, but MY GOD the ball hung in the air forever. And it looked like he put every last ounce of effort into it. So what gives? Is there a 40 mile per hour wind at Gillette today? (Just got back into town 15 minutes ago from a wedding, watching game at a sports bar with no sound.) Is his arm strength *that* bad? Did he bet on New England?
Sean McCormick: It's almost as if the ball slipped out of Sanchez's hand. He still could have hit Hill, late as the throw was, had he put some heat on the rifle.
Aaron Schatz: Major disagreement at Gillette at halftime. Some of us think the Pats should be up by like three scores and are leaving points all over the field. Others think the Jets seem to be totally in control and are a couple of stupid mistakes away from a lead.
Hmmmm ... we may all be correct.
Vince Verhei: It is kind of funny. I'm watching it thinking New England is dominating, but if you take away special teams, the Jets are actually winning on offense and defense. (It's 16-10 in the third quarter, with seven of New England's points coming on a kickoff return.)
If I have a third-and-1 inside the 10, I like a Tebow run a lot more than a Sanchez-to-Chaz Schilens slant route. Tony Sparano disagrees, and the Jets get a field goal instead of a go-ahead touchdown.
Aaron Schatz: We need to sit the TV announcers all down and explain to them how the new automatic challenge rules work, because they keep announcing that coach such-and-such has thrown a challenge flag when coach such-and-such has done no such thing, and then everyone on Twitter wants to know where the unsportsmanlike penalty is. This happened with Pete Carroll last week, if I remember correctly, and happened with Belichick today.
By the way, the Pats avoided having to start Nate "the rugby guy" Ebner at safety by moving Devin McCourty back there, like in last year's playoffs. That's also why we're actually seeing Ras-I Dowling on the field in nickel situations.
Danny Tuccitto: Soooo ... the Patriots take a lead into the fourth quarter again. Hope you're not having Week 6 flashbacks, Aaron.
Aaron Schatz: The Jets have Jeremy Kerley open on a corner route at will, to the point where you wonder why they aren't using it more.
Jets are taking a ton of time off the clock in the fourth quarter, which is hugely important when you are losing by 10.
Andy Benoit: On Sanchez's touchdown to Dustin Keller, it looked like he was throwing to Kerley and missed perfectly. Not saying he absolutely was looking for Kerley ... but I can't imagine he'd try to fit the ball into such a tight back window like that.
Danny Tuccitto: After the Jets touchdown to make it 23-20, guess I can put to bed my question about Sanchez's wounded duck earlier. That touchdown pass had contrails. For whoever it was supposed to be aimed at.
Aaron Schatz: Pats get ball with 5:40 left. Brandon Lloyd gets called for an iffy push-off pass interference that is no different from something Stephen Hill did on previous drive (neither was really worthy of a flag) and every Patriots fan sees his heart drop through his chest. They're going to punt the ball back and let the Jets take the lead. Amazing.
Vince Verhei: Sanchez takes a 10-yard sack on third down, severely hurting the Jets' odds of making a go-ahead field goal. Highlights of this game should be accompanied by the Bulk & Skull from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. At least Nick Folk bailed him out by hitting the 43-yarder.
Aaron Schatz: The Patriots drive down the field for Stephen Gostkowski's game-tying last-second field goal looked surprisingly easy. We'll have to see what happens here in overtime.
Danny Tuccitto: Love the first bullet point on CBS' Powerpoint slide of the overtime rules: "Coin flip decides possession." Somewhere, Marty Mornhinweg and Phil Luckett just simultaneously flipped a bird at the television.
Aaron Schatz: A back shoulder throw to Aaron Hernandez on the outside is the wrong throw to try to make when you desperately need a third-and-long in overtime. They get lucky when an official calls a somewhat questionable pass interference on Kyle Wilson.
So what happens when they get into the same situation a minute late? SAME DAMN PLAY. This time, no DPI, no conversion. Gostkowski hits a 48-yard field goal. Now they have to stop the Jets offense from scoring a touchdown. Uh... good luck with that.
J.J. Cooper: I had to put the kids to bed so I am late writing this, but could the Jets have shown less faith in Sanchez on their final drive of regulation? They get the gift fumble recovery and have the ball with 2:01 remaining. With the two-minute warning and three Patriots timeouts, if the Jets get a first down they can pretty much line up for the game-winning field goal as time runs out. But if they don't get a first down, they know they will give the Pats the ball back with plenty of time. So what do they do? Run the ball up the middle twice and then run a very safe West Coast tight end drag with a rollout that still results in a sack. Hello overtime.
Mike Kurtz: Only the Jets could get the ball at the two-minute warning at their opponent's 20-yard line with the game tied and lose in overtime.
Andy Benoit: Sanchez and Kerley connected several times for crucial passes outside the numbers to the right side of the field. That’s a key thing you have to defend in New York’s offense.
Aaron Schatz: It's almost like the Pats had no idea that their weak-ass zones would leave that open.
The Pats win and get relief, but Houston fans should feel a lot better about their Super Bowl chances, and Denver fans should feel a bit better, after watching how Baltimore and New England played today.
Rivers McCown: Cedric Peerman just scored. I'm awaiting your opus, Mr. Waldman.
Matt Waldman: I'm waiting for 100 yards.
Ben Muth: Ben Roethlisberger just avoided Geno Atkins on a sack and Collinsworth called it "posterizing him." I haven't bought a poster in a while, but I don't remember avoiding sacks being used as the primary photos of choice for quarterbacks.
Ben Muth: On the double pass from Brown, Baron Batch looked like a drunk guy trying to catch a set of keys dropped from a fourth story window.
Aaron Schatz: Hey, kids! Just got home, what did I miss?
Mike Kurtz: Steelers offensive line: pretty good. Steelers defensive line: putrid. Bet you didn't expect that!
Rivers McCown: Not that it wound up mattering, but Marvin Lewis deciding to use two timeouts (one to initially stop the clock) to challenge that Wallace catch was utterly silly. You're basically hoping that the refs bail you out there on a play that was way too close to call.
201 comments, Last at 24 Oct 2012, 5:54pm by Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom