Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Impact of the NFL's Kickoff Rule Change

After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?

05 Nov 2012

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

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.

Sunday, November 4

Denver Broncos 31 at Cincinnati Bengals 23

Matt Waldman: Cornerback Tony Carter is playing well lately; he nearly picks off a third-down perimeter pass, and it probably would have been a pick-six. He looked this good last week, too.

Andy Benoit: Peyton Manning got off to a hot start but on a third-and-6 late in the drive, he audibles to the run against a Bengals amoeba look. Willis McGahee was stuffed. Was there late movement by the defense? (No idea because CBS was more concerned about analyzing Chris Kuper’s helmet coming off instead of showing a replay.)

Matt Waldman: Andy Dalton faces a corner blitz, and throws away from the oncoming corner to A.J. Green deep up the right sideline. He squeezes it in a tight window between the cover corner and the safety, but Green drops it. Dalton takes a nice hit while throwing the ball. Von Miller was called for defensive holding so there was still some consolation for the Bengals on a nice effort against the blitz.

Third-and-5 with 4:01 left in the first, Manning dumps off to McGahee in the left flat, who gets the first down with some decent running after the catch, but Eric Decker is called for an offensive pass interference penalty when he blocks Leon Hall too early and Hall does a nice job of flopping for effect. Manning hits Brandon Stokley after this nullified play for what would have been a first down on a seam route, but Stokley drops the perfect throw, forcing a punt. Early frustrations for the Broncos.

Andy Benoit: Green redeems himself with an incredible sideline catch deep thanks to a subtle double move against Champ Bailey. He's been doing that all season, and Dalton has shown better accuracy on deep balls this year.

Broncos giving Bailey safety help over top, but that's likely a function of not having to worry about the Bengals other wide receivers beating them. We saw this with the Steelers and Ike Taylor on Green, too.

Aaron Schatz: Bengals surprise Broncos with the no-huddle and speed down the field. Then they get inside the 10, go back to regular huddle offense, get bogged down, and kick the field goal.

Matt Waldman: Manning hits Demaryius Thomas for a 45-yard pass up the left flat with a line-drive throw. Thomas lands on his knee and is down for a while, but walks off on his own. He returns after missing a play and draws the defense inside so Eric Decker can work outside for a short touchdown pass and sprint up the left sideline, running through a wrap near the end zone.

Andy Benoit: Decker's touchdown was a short cross out from the slot. It's a classic Colts play, with Thomas basically blocking the outside cornerback. That’s been a staple play for Denver this year.

Aaron Schatz: There's a reason the Denver offensive playbook in Madden 2013 is basically just the Colts offensive playbook from every other edition of Madden plus a few specific John Fox run plays.

This is definitely a subjective viewpoint from whatever plays have stood out to me today, but Hall doesn't look like he's playing as well as he was a couple years ago. Theoretically, he's the best Cincinnati cornerback by leaps and bounds over Terence Newman and Nate Clements, but it hasn't really looked like it against Denver today.

Andy Benoit: What is standing out to you about him? I haven't noticed anything awful with him myself, but I haven't seen him in the picture much. Bengals are playing a lot of zone concepts it seems, and the Broncos seem to be getting plenty of time for route combinations to beat them. Not arguing with the point, I'm just curious about what else other people are seeing.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not seeing anything bad, I'm just seeing him in the picture on a lot of completions, whereas I would have expected to see Clements and especially Newman getting taken advantage of constantly. That definitely could be a sign of zone coverage more than Hall doing anything wrong himself.

Andy Benoit: I get what you're saying. One could argue that there was once a time where Hall wouldn't have shown up as much in those pictures because there were other guys in Cincy's secondary to throw at. Would you agree that the bigger issue is Cincy's pass rush not generating any pressure early in the down? I've been shocked several times this year when I'm reminded that, by sacks, the Bengals have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Aside from Geno Atkins, I rarely see consistent pressure from this group. That includes live games and studying the film. But they have a lot of different guys who get sacks due to Zimmer's willingness to bring pressure.

Aaron Schatz: Hmmm. I'll watch for that closer in the second half.

Rob Weintraub: Hall is not the problem, as he's one of the few Bengals playing above-average on defense this season. He is where you would expect a cornerback to be coming off an Achilles tear -- solid, but not nearly as explosive as he was before. In prior years he may have been a little overrated, if anything, due to the presence of Johnathan Joseph on the other side. The problem is the same as it has been pretty much every year save 2009 -- zero pass rush. The sack numbers are inflated from two six-sack games against Robert Griffin (which was a function of the Skins game plan) and the Jags (which was a function of the Jags). Quarterbacks have had all day to throw.

Andy Benoit: CBS just showed a "time of possession this quarter" graphic that read: Bengals 3:44, Broncos 0:16. Broncos, of course, ran the second-half kickoff back for a touchdown. Have we seen a more irrelevant graphic this year?

Clements is frequently playing a very deliberate trail technique in the slot against Stokley, with safety help over the top.

Newman had a nice end zone interception, beating Decker to the spot on his slant.

Aaron Schatz: You're right, Andy. When the Bengals are getting pressure, they are doing it with blitzes. They just brought two defensive backs and it hurried Manning into overthrowing Decker. Second pick for Newman.

Rob Weintraub: Adam Jones is busy celebrating a pass breakup in the end zone in an extended fashion while the whole stadium sees the penalty flag on the ground? Thomas had to come over and point out the flag to Jones. One play later, touchdown, Denver back up 24-20.

Manning had some darts on the drive, by the way.

Matt Waldman: Bailey gets his first pick of the year when Dalton has a lapse in judgement, throwing to Green on a well-covered route.

Rob Weintraub: Lack of judgment by Dalton perhaps, but he was also hit by Robert Ayers as he threw, resulting in an underthrow. The main difference between these teams is that Denver has guys who put consistent pressure on the quarterback, and the Bengals do not.

Andy Benoit: What makes Decker such a dangerous red-zone receiver is that he knows how to make adjustments against tight coverage when the ball is in the air.

Miami Dolphins 20 at Indianapolis Colts 23

Andy Benoit: Kavell Conner again starting inside ahead of Pat Angerer for the Colts. Is it really taking Angerer that long to get back in the swing of things?

Ben Muth: Reggie Bush just scored on a sweet run. Made a great cut at the line of scrimmage and then juked a safety out of his pants. That's what people had in mind when he was at USC.

Matt Waldman: Angerer is in the game for Colts and makes his skid mark as he's beat up the right flat by Charles Clay for a 31-yard touchdown. Nice look left and throw to the right by Ryan Tannehill, who was decisive and accurate. Not a difficult throw, but decent setup of the route.

Danny Tuccitto: If Angerer is back in the swing of things, his coverage on that touchdown looked something like this.

Ben Muth: Dolphins take a 17-13 lead to half. Both quarterbacks have looked good under pressure. Both offensive lines are struggling on the edges.

The Colts missed a field goal and had another one blocked. Also, T.Y. Hilton dropped a touchdown pass on the last possession of the half.

Danny Tuccitto: After weeks of lauding Sean Smith, he's probably having his worst game of the year so far. On Hilton's touchdown at the end of the third quarter, Solomon Wilcotts belabored the point that Smith should have picked the ball off. In Smith's defense, while that did seem to be the case, the Dolphins coaches aren't exactly playing to his strengths with so much zone. After all, the only reason he was able to help with Hilton was because he found himself covering air when all the Colts' routes went to the other side of the field. I'm no X's and O's expert, but I can't imagine that's an ideal situation.

And as I type this, Smith whiffs on an open-field tackle. In his defense, though ... eh, forget it. This week's game film: Burn after watching.

Rivers McCown: Andrew Luck is a witch.

Detroit Lions 31 at Jacksonville Jaguars 14

Andy Benoit: Matthew Stafford with as good of an outside throw versus a deep Cover-2 window as you’ll see. Nice toe tap and adjustment by Tony Scheffler, too. Stafford is willing more than any other quarterback in the NFL to make strong-armed throws against good coverage.

Chicago Bears 51 at Tennessee Titans 20

Andy Benoit: Corey Wootton snagged a special-teams touchdown for the Bears off a blocked punt. Classic Bears, of course, but let’s take this opportunity to mention that Wootton has also been a solid run defender in the base defense this year.

Devin Hester with a 44-yard punt return -- he would have taken it to the house if not for a saving tackle by Brett Kern. Too bad Hester couldn’t have it recorded for history's sake ... one more return ties him with Deion Sanders for the most ever. The Titans are getting dominated in punting game today.

Chicago's defense notches another touchdown, this time it's Urlacher. This one was just a case of Matt Hasselbeck not reading Urlacher’s Tampa-2 drop. Relatively easy play for the veteran linebacker.

Rivers McCown: We promise, one of these weeks Chicago's defense will stop scoring touchdowns. Regression. Really!

Matt Waldman: Charles Tillman is so great at punching the ball loose. He did it against Kenny Britt early in the game and just now he hit up Chris Johnson on a short pass. This has to be one of those moments where Titans coaches want to kill their players after spending the week telling them to beware of the peanut.

Vince Verhei: Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall for a touchdown puts Chicago ahead of Tennessee 28-2 with about 90 seconds left in the first quarter. Based on the first 13-plus minutes, I'm ready to call Tennessee the league's worst team. The numbers don't even tell the story here, you need to see the lack of effort. The entire offensive line standing around as Urlacher runs back the slowest pick-six of the year. Matt Forte pushing a pile of about eight guys into the end zone for a score. I realize Chicago's a Super Bowl-caliber club, but this is a pretty shameful effort for the home fans.

The Bears, by the way, have 28 points on 54 yards of offense.

Matt Waldman: Couldn't agree more. That Forte run was a rugby scrum that broke out during what should have been a three-yard gain,

Rivers McCown: Tennessee is not the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tom Gower: The Bears actually became the first team this year not to score against the Titans on their first or second possession, thanks in part to an insistence on passing. The Titans weren't able to take advantage of it, though, and then the special teams and other disasters started to happen. The Urlacher interception looked like just a terrible play by Hasselbeck, Jamie Harper has been troubled on special teams, Kendall Wright was responsible for at least one of several illegal formation penalties, Michael Griffin was one of a number of defenders who got run over on Forte's touchdown, and, oh yeah, replacement right guard Deuce Lutui pretty much ole'd Stephen Paea on the way to a big sack of Hasselbeck. It's not the first time the Titans have given up 28 points in the first quarter, but it is the first time it's happened at home.

Andy Benoit: Having a weird point total like "5" adds just a hint of extra embarrassment to the lopsided halftime score for Titans.

Tom Gower: At halftime, the Titans have outgained the Bears, 148-136, while time of possession is absolutely even. These are really important stats, you guys!

Vince Verhei: Cutler hits Marshall for a pair of touchdowns early in the fourth quarter to make it 51-12. I presume that both men will now be done for the day.

On the other hand, CJ just scored on an 80-yarder, so maybe not.

Andy Benoit: Tillman has four forced fumbles on the day. Is that an all-time record?

Tom Gower: Hmm, the Record & Fact Book doesn't seem to have forced fumbles listed. Apparently it's only been officially recorded since 2000. My guess is probably, but we'll have to wait for official confirmation.

Forced fumbles are apparently an unofficial stat, so no idea if Tillman's four is a record or not.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know about single-game records, but from 2000-2011 a cornerback only forced at least four fumbles in a SEASON 18 times. By the way, five of those times were ... Charles Tillman.

Carolina Panthers 21 at Washington Redskins 13

Vince Verhei: Amazing stat for Carolina: Coming into today, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, and Jonathan Stewart have combined for six third-down carries for six yards and three first downs. Cam Newton has 18 third-down carries (12 of them with three yards or less needed for a first down) for 115 yards and nine first downs.

And as I type this, Newton keeps the ball on a zone read option for a third-and-1 conversion.

Matt Waldman: I love Robert Griffin, but when a 13-yard pass from the Carolina 32 to the Carolina 19 becomes a highlight for NFL.com, you wonder about the Redskins passing offense. Why is this play noteworthy? It was a nice diving effort by Josh Morgan, and Griffin stood in well, but not highlight-worthy at all.

Buffalo Bills 9 at Houston Texans 21

Rivers McCown: You have one of the best (and most highly-paid) backs in the NFL, are up against a rush defense that is the absolute worst in the NFL by DVOA, and have had problems throwing the ball on this drive.

So if your answer to converting a third-and-2 is "empty backfield set," it's probably just not all that smart.

Matt Waldman: Beautiful play call by the Texans, slanting the unbalanced line to the weak side with play-action, then having Matt Schaub execute a boot away from the slant. Owen Daniels drags towards the second level like a backside blocker and then turns up the right flat wide open. Schaub hits the tight end for a 39-yard score. Love watching variations of play-action that are inventive and can be set up with a lot of time to develop due to a great ground attack.

Aaron Schatz: I turned to Red Zone just in time to see that one, it really was beautiful. Going back and looking at it, I'm trying to figure out who from the Bills should have figured out to maybe cover Daniels. You can see all the linebackers get sucked into the play fake, but Daniels is only about halfway across the field on the flat part of his wheel route when it becomes clear to everyone that Schaub still has the ball. He's got Nick Barnett and Nigel Bradham on either side of him at that point. One of them has to be responsible for the tight end who is currently crossing the field, I would have to think. Instead, they both sort of kept looking at Schaub instead of covering someone, and Daniels just turned upfield by his lonesome.

Ben Muth: Just saw the Daniels touchdown. Love that Texans half-roll throwback. That's the throw Robert Griffin missed last week against Pittsburgh, but Logan Paulsen was just as open as Daniels was here.

Rivers McCown: Bills bring out the Wildcat on the second play of the second quarter, then immediately call timeout because they didn't like what they saw. Well, or they realized they'd just called the Wildcat.

The Texans had a -9.6% special teams DVOA coming into this game, and they've done little to change that. Only the 2010 Chargers (-10.2%) have been worse over the past five seasons.

Aaron Schatz: Ted Sundquist just asked Rivers a good question on Twitter, whether the Houston struggles on special teams are more a case of depth or of execution. You watch them a lot more than I do, of course, Rivers, but they don't strike me as a team that, like the Colts over the last decade, have terrible depth and are throwing a bunch of overwhelmed UFAs out there on coverage teams.

Rivers McCown: They have spent plenty of mid-to-late round picks on guys with scouted special-teams ability over the years, they just haven't worked out. Shiloh Keo has missed multiple tackles. Trindon Holliday was so bad that he had to be released. Randy Bullock went on IR with an "injury" suffered in the pre-season. Alan Ball may legitimately be one of their best special-team players, and he's the definition of roster flotsam.

Aaron Schatz: Just looking at our numbers, the one guy who doesn't look like he's a problem is Donnie Jones. We have the Texans as above-average on gross punt value. But the returns are all awful, kickoffs are bad, field goals are bad, and kickoff coverage is really, really bad.

Rivers, Trindon Holliday just took a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown for Denver, so you can kill yourself now.

Rivers McCown: Can't; busy watching a team that is too scared to kick off normally. Houston squibbed Buffalo to open the third quarter.

The Bills are abusing five-receiver sets. Tim Dobbins in coverage is not a good thing, so Brian Cushing has been missed today.

This was a really weird game. The Texans didn't really seem to play particularly well in any specific aspect of the match, but they still handled Buffalo fairly easily. It was the kind of game a good team plays. A boring stranglehold. I am a Houston sports fan. I don't understand these things.

Arizona Cardinals 17 at Green Bay Packers 31

Ben Muth: Randall Cobb catches a half-slant/half-screen route on third-and-goal for a 13-yard touchdown. Adrian Wilson missed a tackle on the three thanks to dreadful technique; lowered his head and lunged at Cobb. You'd struggle to tackle Donald Driver like that, so you can forget about tackling Cobb.

Matt Waldman: Jordy Nelson runs a quick hook near the left sideline inside the five and slips trying to catch the low throw, turning his right ankle in the process. He limps off the field. The pressure to play hurt, especially for these finely-tuned sports cars called wide receivers, can generate more injuries.

Baltimore Ravens 25 at Cleveland Browns 15

J.J. Cooper: The Browns offense looks pretty inept against the Ravens defense, but what's notable is that the Ravens offense looks just as inept against the Browns defense -- and last I checked Frank Minnifeld and Hanford Dixon are still retired. Baltimore is hanging on to a narrow lead, but they have done nothing to put this game away yet.

Vince Verhei: Joe Flacco started 9-of-9 with seven first downs in that game. Since then, 3-of-11, no first downs.

J.J. Cooper: Browns just scored the go-ahead touchdown on a pass to Josh Morgan, but it was brought back because another wide receiver lined up on the line of scrimmage, covering up the tight end. It's a very Browns-ian way to blow a big play.

Minnesota Vikings 20 at Seattle Seahawks 30

Vince Verhei: Adrian Peterson busts out a 74-yarder to set up a Vikings touchdown on their first drive. Ran a sweep to the right sideline and looked pinned in, but at least three Seahawks missed tackles and he hit the open field. Brandon Browner ran him down from behind, but they score two plays later anyway.

Leon Washington returns a punt out of the end zone for Seattle. No idea why. He gets out to the 22, so it worked out, bit still a silly gamble.

Matt Waldman: Russell Wilson's first touchdown is a nice play where the receivers are crossing in the end zone in opposite directions off a play-fake. Wilson stares down Sidney Rice crossing to the left side and at the last second makes a fast turn and dead-on throw to the opposite corner to an open Golden Tate. Really nice job using his eyes. The second touchdown is a good play on the run with Sidney Rice extending his route across the endline during a picture-perfect scramble drill.

Tom Gower: I don't know what coverage the Vikings were in on that second touchdown, but it looked like linebacker Jasper Brinkley was in coverage on Rice. That's not a good matchup for the Vikings on any sort of extended play.

ATTN: Ben Muth. The Seahawks just ran the fullback give with the fake halfback pitch on third-and-1. It did not convert the first down.

Ben Muth: Exception that proves the rule.

Vince Verhei: Vikings are having way more success running on Seattle than anyone else has this year. It's not just the one big run, and it's not just Peterson going nuts either. Minnesota's interior line is pushing Seattle's defense around.

Seahawks go for it on fourth-and-1 just across midfield inside the two-minute warning. Wilson picks up the first down on a quick sneak.

Rivers McCown: Going back to our Comeback Player (nee Pennington Prize) discussion last week, Peterson has rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns, against our third-ranked run defense by DVOA coming into the week ... in the first half.

Vince Verhei: Bizarro land Seahawks can't stop the run today, but they lead at halftime 20-17 because Wilson is 10-of-14 with three touchdowns. He hasn't been pressured much, and his receivers have mostly been finding holes in zones.

It helps that Rice has 25 yards passing, and Christian Ponder only has 42.

Seahawks lose a timeout challenging an Peterson third-down conversion. Then they force a punt and Washington loses yards on the return. Bad decisions all over the place.

The Seahawks are using a ton of bubble screen type plays, including Rice's passing attempt. A lot of plays that will officially go down as rushes, though the last one was "incomplete," which made it a fumble. Ball went out of bounds.

Aaron Schatz: That's always annoying to me as an anal stat compiler. I know why a backwards pass is technically a run, but I feel like a play with an overhand pass and pass blocking is a pass. We change those in the FO stats, it's one of the reasons why FO numbers for yards and passes and runs are sometimes different from official NFL numbers. I just think a play like that says more about your pass offense/defense than your run offense/defense.

Vince Verhei: I see your point, but in Seattle's case at least, these are long pitch plays. Seattle's linemen are not pass blocking, they're pulling to the outside.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I guess, are those like pitch plays or are those like screen passes? Maybe the blocking on those two is so similar that it doesn't matter, I dunno.

Tom Gower: Christian Ponder is having a terrible football game.

Rivers McCown: Granted, Percy Harvin has been hurt for a lot of this game, but it sure seems like Ponder and Bill Musgrave have been exposed. How are they going to adjust to how defenses are playing them? Is there a way to do that given Ponder's skill set?

Aaron Schatz: Andy seemed to feel in Film Room this week that nobody has really "figured out" Ponder; the offense they built for him is fairly simple, and it's just an issue where he executed well in early games and hasn't been executing recently.

So then the question is, do they need to change the offense somewhat in order to give him things he can execute better?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 42 at Oakland Raiders 32

Tom Gower: Vincent Jackson has snagged a couple deep catches from Josh Freeman. The first looked like a deep post where he split the safeties ... he picked up about 65 yards with the run, though he gave 15 of those back with unsportsmanlike conduct. Doug Martin bounced a nice run, then Jackson got a good outside release against Michael Huff (playing corner) and Freeman dropped it in before Mike Mitchell could get there over the top. Demerits to Huff and Mitchell on the play, I believe.

With Khalif Barnes out, Willie Smith is playing right tackle for the Raiders and has been having his struggles against Michael Bennett in pass protection.

In the two minute drill, the Raiders go to the "all-deep fade" offense. Carson Palmer finds Darrius Heyward-Bey for a big gain, misses one to the other side, then goes back to the right side and hits Rod Streater for the score to go up 10-7 late in the first half. Both completions came with E.J. Biggers in coverage.

Doug Martin is a bad man, juking Matt Giordano (who didn't take a very good angle) and using his arm to fend off Tyvon Branch on a 45-yard score. Mike Williams matches what Jackson did earlier, coming up with a big gain to set up a score and then finishing it off with a grab as Freeman scrambles to his right. The Bucs seem to be having some success throwing at Huff, who of course is only playing corner because Shawntae Spencer is hurt. Huff at corner and Giordano at safety is far, far, far, from ideal, and a sign of the Raiders' terrible depth. And as I'm about to send this email, Martin bursts through a hole on the right side and beats deep safety Giordano for a(nother) long touchdown.

Martin, 70-yard touchdown. A crease at the line, and that was that. The Bucs have had the ball four times in the second half and scored 28 points. All of his long runs have included creases at the line, for which the Bucs' offensive line deserves credit for beating the Raiders' defensive line, and no defensive back who tries to tackle him in the open field has gotten anywhere close to doing so.

Vince Verhei: They keep getting longer. He's like a jump shooter finding his range.

Tom Gower: Apparently worried about embarrassing the Raiders or something, the Buccaneers run the ball with LeGarrette Blount. He fails to take the handoff from Freeman and fumbles the ball away. The Raiders are down 11 with the ball and half the third quarter to play. Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are both out with injuries, so Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reese are the only options if Oakland wants to run the ball.

Aaron Schatz: Do people think I should count those three end-of-game Martin runs in DVOA/DYAR, or not? I've always wondered what to do about what are effectively "RB kneels" where they handoff once at the end of a half just to run into the line and waste time.

Tom Gower: The Bucs couldn't run out the clock just by kneeling, so they had to run around a bit in the backfield to waste time. Those sorts of wide runs are intentional clock killers. I would not count them.

Aaron Schatz: OK. I don't understand why you use your amazing rookie back to do that instead of your third-stringer, but...

Tom Gower: Well, Blount fumbled earlier in the game and third-stringer Michael Smith was inactive.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 at New York Giants 20

Aaron Schatz: This may be the best I've ever seen the Steelers defense play without Troy Polamalu. They're getting a lot of pressure on Eli Manning.

OK, I really didn't want to get into the officiating in Giants-Steelers, I know readers hate that. I didn't want to complain when they called a 15-yard penalty on Ryan Clark for hitting Victor Cruz in the head even though he didn't get hit in the head at all. I know that stuff is bang-bang, and sometimes too fast for the human eye to always see accurately.

But the Giants' second touchdown is complete B.S. Ben Roethlisberger went to throw the ball and he stopped at the top of his throw to cock it back, then the Giants knocked it out. That's an incomplete pass. It's the tuck rule, in fact, it's not the tuck rule because he had not even started to tuck it back in yet. His arm was still at the top of the throw. The Giants returned it for a touchdown, and they reviewed it and somehow they did not overturn it. I have no idea what the officials were seeing. Of course, I know what they weren't seeing -- they weren't seeing a fairly obvious block in the back that should have brought the fumble return for touchdown back even if that play WAS ruled a fumble, which it was but shouldn't have been. What the hell?

The CBS guys are saying that Roethlisberger lost his grip on the ball before he started his arm forward, but I don't see that at all. But that's the official explanation, I guess.

Martellus Bennett just had a nice catch on a seam route. That's a signing that has really worked out. Somewhat under the radar veteran, and the Giants figured out what they needed to do to use him right. He's had DVOA around -25% the last three seasons, but he's above 0% this year and he's made some important plays. Just another example of why Jerry Reese might be the best GM in the NFL.

Tom Gower: Yes, given what Bennett did in Dallas, it's a surprise to see that he's done well in New York. I wonder what would have happened in Dallas if he'd added that extra weight and seen his role change.

Aaron Schatz: Mike Tomlin gets ballsy and calls a fake field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 3. It's actually the best time to call a fake field goal, since even if you don't get the touchdown, you can get the first down with just one yard. But Michael Coe from the Giants sees what's going on immediately and quickly gets to Shaun Suisham behind the line of scrimmage. No points, Giants still lead 20-17.

To be honest, I think it would have been better to just run a fourth-and-1 play. They must have seen something about the Giants on tape, maybe they overstuff the middle going for field-goal blocks or something. But as someone on Twitter pointed out, your 6-foot-5 quarterback should be able to just fall forward and get one yard.

Giants are having a surprising amount of trouble tackling Steelers running backs today. I know that's part of the point with Isaac Redman -- he's not that fast, he's in there to truck and break tackles -- but even Chris Rainey and Baron Batch are breaking tackles and getting yards.

Dallas Cowboys 13 at Atlanta Falcons 19

Aaron Schatz: And, at roughly 9:00 remaining in the second quarter, the Falcons officially tried to kill their quarterback by somehow calling a protection scheme where nobody blocked DeMarcus Ware.

Danny Tuccitto: Protection breakdowns like that always baffle me. Free rushers happen, but you'd think against teams like Dallas with a singular pass-rushing star, it would never be THAT guy who's unaccounted for. And it wasn't even some exotic bit of Rob Ryan schemation: a standard look with Ware in a standard position making a standard rush. Maybe Mr. Muth can shed some light on it.

Aaron Schatz: In the middle of the third quarter, it happens again, this time its Victor Butler so that makes a little sense, but how can you not have some sort of protection set up to block the endbacker in a 3-4 defense?

I'm a little surprised this game is such a defensive battle so far, a lot of that is just teams stiffening in the red zone (or at the edge of the red zone). It is worth noting that even the unspectacular Dallas backup running backs are able to easily gain yards on the ground against the poor Atlanta run defense, the Falcons' biggest weakness.

Rivers McCown: Dominique Franks, why are you fielding a punt on the 2? Are you auditioning for the Texans special teams?

Thankfully that gets wiped out via a Dallas penalty.

Vince Verhei: I'm pretty sure that Julio Jones is not Atlanta's best wide receiver. But after he picked up that third-and-1, I think there's a good chance he's their best running back.

Jones and White abused the Dallas secondary all night long, but on Atlanta's last clock-killing, game-on-the-line drive, Dallas chose to load the box and force the Falcons to throw to the duo against man coverage. And their cornerbacks did a hell of a job. A few penalties, but more incompletions. The big conversions were all by Jacquizz Rodgers coming out of the backfield.

Aaron Schatz: And the moves he put on the Cowboys defenders in the open field were beautiful.

Tom Gower: I like Quizz Rodgers, and think he has an interesting skillset that's clearly a much better fit for the up-tempo no-huddle the Falcons seem to want to run and do well running, but I'm not sure he's actually a good enough player.

Matt Waldman: I agree with Tom; he's great in space but doesn't create space efficiently in tight quarters. Perhaps one day. But I'll be surprised if the Falcons aren't drafting a higher profile running back in April.

Danny Tuccitto: I kind of alluded to this in my LaMichael James player comment in FOA 2012, but Rodgers is another example of how Speed Score isn't as useful as a guide for judging college guys who project as situational passing-down backs in the NFL. Rodgers' was 84.6, Darren Sproles' was 93.7, Dexter McCluster's was 78.0, etc. Granted, it's called Speed Score, but unless players like these are able to run a sub-4.5 at the Combine, they look like waiver-wire fodder in the eyes of the metric. Obviously, that's somewhat by design, and it's true that none of these third-down backs eventually turned into workhorses later on, but I think any citing of Speed Score in their context requires a bit of an asterisk. And I don't mean just a typical "this metric is only a guide, not a be-all end-all" asterisk.

Tom Gower: I LOVE the way the Falcons lined up defensively with nine seconds left, with four defenders basically standing on the sidelines.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 05 Nov 2012

143 comments, Last at 08 Nov 2012, 2:33pm by Shep Pettibone

Comments

1
by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:38am

"Roethlisberger said afterward that he felt it was a case of the tuck rule, and should have been incomplete, but that Leavy told him the ruling was that the ball came loose in the quarterback's hand as he was following through, and was thus a live ball."

...What?

3
by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:47am

On another note, I approve entirely of going for it on 4th and 1 from your opponent's two. (My friends and relatives say that I was quite adamant on that point as the FG unit was taking the field.) I hate the idea of long snapping the ball to your holder, having him flip it backwards over his head to the kicker, and expecting the kicker to gain ten yards when you only needed one in the first place. Absurd play call.

110
by troycapitated p... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:10pm

Given the success they had running the ball all game, they probably should have just run a regular 4th down play. Apparently when watching film they had seen that the player on the edge of the Giants' line usually took an inside route on block attempts, so they felt they might be able to exploit that.

After the game, Tomlin said the guys on the team backed him up and that sometimes one of the things they have to overcome is bad coaching and took the blame for that call.

112
by BJR :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:26pm

What made it worse was that they had chosen to pass on 3rd & 1 the previous play. Given the success they were having running the ball, two attempts to gain 1 yard on the ground had to be the correct answer there.

114
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:33pm

Yep. Judging by the run defense up to that point, doubtful they would have needed both attempts.

//AJMQB

5
by Insancipitory :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:04am

1. Leavy 2. Replacement refs weren't that bad, just slower. 3. players calling their own fouls might be better than both sets of refs.

*didn't see the Steelers game
**did see Dalton throw a ball 10 yards directly behind him and have it called an incomplete forward pass (Tuck rule)

13
by Kevin M (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:23am

It's amazing how opinions differ when looking at the same thing. It appeared to me that Osi clearly knocked the ball loose in Big Ben's hand before the arm came forward. That's why I didn't understand Simms going on and on about the arm coming forward. If people are going to complain about anything, it should be the PI calls on the Steelers, which were all rather weak. I had no problem with the penalty on Clark simply because Cruz got nailed on an earlier 3rd down WAY after the play ended and away from the ball (it wasn't called and yes, I'm a Giants homer).

Steelers survived Tomlin stupidity of a fake FG. If they were going to go for it, they should've just lined up and handed off to Redman. The Giants couldn't get him down on first contact at all.

That was the worst game I've seen the Giants play in a LONG time. There literally wasn't one aspect of the team that performed well and few players who did anything positive outside of JPP. Even the special teams coverage units were horrific. It's amazing they held a lead in the game for so long.

14
by Zieg (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 7:37am

I thought the ball came out with the initial hit as well but what eventually sold me on tuck was that as his arm continued forward, the ball squirted out of his fingertips the way it would if he was holding it too tightly (which would indicate he still had control while moving it forward). It definitely wasn't a standard grip, but without the slip I could see him pulling it back as a pump fake or pulling it in and trying to run.

23
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:46pm

I agree that the officials got the call right on the Roethlisberger fumble. It looked to me as if the ball was coming out after Osi took a swipe at it and Ben didn't have possession as his arm was coming forward. At the very least I didn't think there was enough on replay to overturn the call on the field. The officials made the exact same call on an Eli Manning fumble later in the game, though it didn't receive the same attention because the Giants recovered.

71
by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:27pm

So you're saying if a Steeler receiver had grabbed that ball before it hit the ground, it would have been a fumble recovery and not a complete pass?

As for the Clark hit, throwing a flag there really undermines the league's effort to increase safety. Clark did exactly what the league office has been pleading with players to do: play hard, hit hard, but don't hit with the head or in the head. Clark does everything exactly right, but because he's Ryan Clark, it's a personal foul. The official should be fined for that for exactly the same reason that players get fined for illegal hits.

77
by ptp (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:02pm

If you 'catch' a lateral it's not a fumble recovery, but if you don't it's a fumble, so I don't think your question fits here.

138
by rk (not verified) :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 8:56am

How is it a lateral?

80
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:21pm

It's just like a pitch or a toss. It's a rushing attempt.

137
by rk (not verified) :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 8:55am

It's not like a pitch or a toss; the ball traveled forward at least 5 yards.

24
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:47pm

Double post deleted.

27
by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:58pm

What you just described is an incomplete forward pass. "Loose in his hand" is, by rule, not a loss of possession.

60
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:29pm

Thought was incomplete pass and bad referee call but was happy when bad call happen becuahse it help Raiders. Raiders going to battle Steelers for playoff seeding whether as 5 vs 6 seeding or 3 vs 4. Think vprh can win divisions but wild card slots likely more

64
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:40pm

Is this the first time Raiderjoe has predicted anything less than a division win for the Raiders?

30
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:02pm

Ben's arm was hit while cocked back for a throw or pump fake. The hit made his whole arm wobble as he went through the throwing motion. The ball was wobbling along with his arm, but was not slipping from his grip. It did not slip one bit from his fingers. His palm came off the ball as his hand changed angle, but that happens in every throwing motion. His grip was strong enough to control the ball through the throwing motion, but not strong enough to pull it back, and that's when it slipped out.

The only theory I can imagine that supports a fumble is that since contact occurred just before the throwing motion began, he must "establish" "complete" control at some point for it not to be a fumble. And you have to say that holding firmly onto the ball throughout a (slightly disrupted) throwing motion doesn't count. But in this case, every errant throw is a fumble, provided some contact began before the throwing motion did. And that's simply not how football is called.

I would have called it incomplete even if the ball had slipped from his fingers in the middle of the throw, as long as it wasn't already slipping from before the throwing motion started.

32
by RickD :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:10pm

Well, "clearly" Osi did not "knock the ball loose" from Ben's hand before the arm came forward. Any view of the replay can confirm that. Osi disrupted Ben's control of the ball, but by no means was it "loose". But still, Ben was pushing the ball forward with force. Was it with as much control as would be necessary for it to go where he wanted it to? No, but that's not the standard for a forward pass. You'll often see a QB hit when making a pass and the pass will go wildly off target - but it's still a pass.

115
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:38pm

I think you're both right. Knocked loose AND brought forward with force. I watched the replay amazed that Ben appeared to regain some semblance of control. Any other QB probably loses that ball outright.

The Eli pass mentioned above by another poster was more the typical situation you describe, this was a bit more unique--though still an incomplete, I believe.

//AJMQB

75
by E :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:48pm

I was at the game sitting in the seat directly in front (back?) of the replay hood thingie. I screamed and joked and cajoled the official into allowing that fumble and TD to stand. I honestly believe that I had some influence. So there's that.

Agree that the Giants were awful yesterday and needed all the help they could get. "There literally wasn't one aspect of the team that performed well ..." I said the same thing on my way out of the stadium. I can't recall a worse special teams game from them. No run D whatsoever. Little pass rush. No running game. Eli was all over the place. Nicks was a non-factor. Ugh. Typical Giants to crash when they were flying high (and of course at home, again).

128
by BigCheese :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 9:41pm

It's amazing how opinions differ when looking at the same thing.

Yup. Of course, massive bias will do that...

It appeared to me that Osi clearly knocked the ball loose in Big Ben's hand before the arm came forward.

How???????

and yes, I'm a Giants homer

There you go. That explains pretty much all of it.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

129
by dbostedo :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 9:57pm

Well what Osi did was cause the ball to move in Roethlisberger's hand to what appeared to be a very unnatural grip. (I think that could be stated as just a little stretch to say "knocked it loose".)

Did he have enough control to still move the ball forward before trying to stop and have it pop out of his hand? Sure.

But did he still have control, by rule, after the ball moved? I don't know.

It's possible that Osi's hit made the ball loose enough that he really didn't have control and would have dropped the ball regardless of arm motion. As it was, I figured it was one of those things where they weren't going to overturn on replay no matter how it was called on the field... it was a very odd play.

FWIW, I'm a Steelers' homer.

134
by Israel P. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 5:23am

Aside from the fumble, there was an obvious block on the back of Heath Miller at about the ten yard line, so there should never have been a TD ruling.

52
by erniecohen :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:15pm

What people seem to forget that we need never again argue about a call. The world's best referee, Mike Pereira, gets to tell us the correct call.

Pereira said it was an incomplete pass. Case closed.

106
by Jerry :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 7:29pm

It's nice to be able to discuss this officiating without blaming it for the outcome of the game. Sometimes teams have to fight through a couple of bad calls, and the Steelers did yesterday.

2
by akn :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:45am

There are sketchy reports that Peanut Tillman will not be making the plane ride home. He's just been arrested in Nashville for repeated assault and battery of poor defenseless footballs.

8
by Marko :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:28am

They also will be adding 3 counts of petty theft and one count of attempted petty theft. The Titans apparently have several players with a Peanut allergy.

"Devin Hester with a 44-yard punt return -- he would have taken it to the house if not for a saving tackle by Brett Kern."

Kern didn't make the tackle. Hester made a cutback to his left that avoided Kern, but Hester had to slow down to do so, which allowed someone else (didn't catch his name or number) to come in from the left side and tackle him.

"Chicago's defense notches another touchdown, this time it's Urlacher. This one was just a case of Matt Hasselbeck not reading Urlacher’s Tampa-2 drop. Relatively easy play for the veteran linebacker."

That wasn't Tampa-2. Urlacher said on the post-game show in Chicago that it was single high (which is Cover 1). He said he had no coverage responsibility on the play and was just supposed to read the QB, which he obviously did perfectly. Matt Bowen describes Urlacher playing as a "Rover" on the play: http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/NFL-Week-9-Breaking-down-the-top-thr.... Urlacher said he was the "Plugger."

AS for the illegal formation penalties on the Titans that Tom mentioned, they were on consecutive plays and both resulted from the WR covering the tight end. I don't recall seeing that penalty called on consecutive plays before today. You would think the players would know how to line up correctly and not even have one such penalty. But then to have the exact same penalty on the next play is mind-boggling. It makes you question the focus of the players and the effectiveness of the coaching staff. I saw several articles discussing how Bud Adams questioned all aspects of the team after the game. Actually, he might have raised them before the game ended, as he apparently left the game to fly home to Houston before the fourth quarter.

9
by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:53am

Heh. "Rover" sounds like safety talk. "Plugger" makes more sense. Clearly he was a spy man. He didn't drop out of the box, just kept his eyes on the QB.

4
by theslothook :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:01am

Based on the first 13-plus minutes, I'm ready to call Tennessee the league's worst team. -V. Verhei.

Um, is Vince just not aware of the KC chiefs or are they no longer part of the league?

Seriously, the titans are like an undefeated team compared to the chiefs, who HAVE YET TO LEAD IN ANY GAME THIS YEAR!

15
by Theo :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:06am

I'm not saying that they are worse than the Chiefs, but the Browns suck too. Especially the clowns they put in at the receiver spots.

18
by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:35pm

On a critical late game 4th and 2, are you going to

A) Run Trent Richardson
B) Have Brandon Weeden pass to Greg Little?

86
by Theo :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:15pm

Fake fieldgoal.

116
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:40pm

+6

//AJMQB

39
by Arglebargle (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:23pm

I saw they posted that graphic, but I'm curious as to how the Chiefs won a game without ever leading. Were they awarded like a participation prize or something?

I guess if they kick a game winning field goal as time runs out, maybe that doesn't count as ever having a lead?

40
by Insancipitory :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:26pm

Won in overtime, never better than tied in regulation.

63
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:40pm

The clearer description of the Chiefs' season so far is "they have not held a lead for a single snap all year."

44
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:35pm

"compared to the chiefs, who HAVE YET TO LEAD IN ANY GAME THIS YEAR!"

I was going to pick a nit on this one, but well it is technically correct, which is the best kind of correct. The Chiefs have a win, and while I knew it was in OT, for some reason I thought the Chiefs had kicked the FG on the initial possession and then the Saints failed to score after, so that the Chiefs had held a lead, but only in overtime. But I rechecked the box score, and OT was 3 possessions. KC failed to score, NO failed to score, KC wins on FG, end the game. Since the FG ended the game in OT, they didn't have the lead for any length of time. So yeah, I was going to be nit picky, but then I realized I was wrong, and I think it's all silly enough to leave the post.

70
by theslothook :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:27pm

Or maybe, you just dont like me enough that you'll go to any lengths to prove me wrong! :p

6
by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:14am

The bigger issue with Chris Kuper that CBS did focus on is that he was carted off with an injury to the same leg he broke last year. This means Manny Ramirez has to play the field, and when that happens, well, you know...

7
by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:20am

Yes. I am exceptionally concerned about this injury. I would say that after Manning, there's a very good chance that the most detrimental player the Broncos could lose to injury would be Kuper. Other possibilities inclue Von Miller or maybe Clady.

10
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:10am

As someone who has seen Manning lead a team to a 14-2 record with Charlie Johnson at LT and Mike Pollak at guard, I don't think the drop-off in the Broncos offense will be that much.

11
by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:06am

There is much validity in what you say. But in my (admittedly half-assed) assessment of guard play around the league, Zane Beadles appears to be pretty bad, probably bottom third or nearly that weak. Kuper's replacement, Manny Ramirez is much, much worse than Beadles. Honestly, the only thing that keeps the Broncos guards and center situation without Kuper from being a total disaster is J.D. Walton's injury putting Koppen into a starting role.
Maybe I'm playing the Chicken Little angle a little too hard here, but this is a very meaningful injury if Kuper misses any significant time.

12
by theslothook :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:36am

While Ramirez isn't all that great, I'd say this the type of injury you have to expect. Better to lose him than von miller or DT.

19
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:39pm

I agree that Kuper is a very good player, and the run game seemed better when he returned (although that coincided with playing some porous run defenses).

My main point is when Manning is your QB, if losing the RG is the main long-term injury, than that is a pretty good scenario. Better than losing Decker, Clady, Von, or Dumervil.

26
by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:57pm

Beadles and Walton are both better than I gave them credit for initially, though Koppen has been a real treat and I think is clearly an improvement over Walton.

The sacks allowed stats by itself tell you everything you need to know about Ramirez (assuming my source for stats here is reliable, anyway): 3.5 sacks allowed vs 1.5 sacks allowed for Franklin and 0 for anyone else on the line. Plus 5 false starts for Ramirez. He just isn't a starting caliber player and having him in there is going to be a liability.

16
by widderslainte :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:42am

I'm not sure what offends me more, Collinsworth joking about Ware's helmet to helmet hit on Ryan, or comparing Ryan's personality to Eli Manning.

17
by VVD (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:26pm

OK, I really didn't want to get into the officiating in Giants-Steelers, I know readers hate that

OK, I'm only one reader - but I don't hate that and I think Audibles, while still my favorite Monday football read, has gotten less interesting not only because of Tanier's absence, but also because of the absence of critical commentary regarding officials and announcers

29
by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:00pm

I don't mind it at all. If the officiating is part of the narrative, and this post is your narrative of the game, it should be in there.

117
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:43pm

Third. Half the reason I come to audibles is to check my reaction on questionable calls and questionable announcing. Raiderjoe, is of course the other half.

//AJMQB

131
by BigCheese :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 12:43am

Count me in as someone who likes it as well. And once again I ask, why is no one watching TNF?

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

20
by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:41pm

Mr Muth, if you read these comments, WTF is up with Jake Long this season!?

Fire Jeff Ireland.

107
by Munkey (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 7:36pm

I have the same concern. The O-line has been a bigger problem than the secondary for weeks. Long getting beat in a single game more often than he has in entire seasons is not good — he's never been given help that doesn't explain Sunday. I expect Martin to whiff occasionally, for Jerry to be middling most of the time with one or two impressive games, for Incognito to sometimes be ineffective or counterproductive with penalties, but even when he's played with past declared and undeclared injuries, I'd never expect Long to be this bad.

It's a shame teams get away with hiding injuries along the O-line and that those guys are expected to play through just about any injury... It seems like Jake's career has been greatly shortened over the last couple of years with a series of small (but possibly significant) injuries that we may never truly know about. Hope that is just the pessimist in me.

21
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:43pm

Commercial not of the week: What is it about Windows 8 that makes a man want to jump into a poor with an electric guitar and why does Microsoft think that is a selling point?

Dolphins-Colts. Luck moves around in the pocket like a vet. The Dolphins pressured him all day but he made passes while on the run, being hit, being tackled to the ground. The Dolphins O-line works when they can just stonewall one side with Long. This however wasn't very effective against the Colts.

28
by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:59pm

Long has been beaten a LOT this season. No idea what's wrong, but he doesn't look nearly as good as he has in the past.

Fire Jeff Ireland.

85
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:52pm

Football outsiders talked about it earlier in the year. Basically the Dolphins almost never chip to Longs side. He almost never has help. It takes a really special tackle to never scheme help and double teams for them. For the second week the rookie right tackle wiffed on a protection and almost lost the QB. The guard play isn't very good either. I'm hoping this is Incognito's last year on the team. He draws too many penalties and doesn't move well with Long. The line play is up from last year, but for the number of high draft picks, this Dolphins offensive line is not what you'd expect. Then again at 4-4 the team is at least interesting for the first time in several seasons.

139
by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 9:03am

It's true they never help on his side, but they never have. It's not new this season. He's been consistently one of the best (THE best in my opinion, but, you know... bias) while on an island nearly every play.

Ben Muth even described him once (last season?) as "A joy to watch" incredible in both pass protection and run blocking. This year though, he seemingly gets beat 1 on 1 at least once a game.

I need to get twitter working on my new phone. Maybe he'll give a 140 character answer if I can get it set up again. Inquiring minds need to know.

Fire Jeff Ireland.

22
by Rocco :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:45pm

I've been told for the last six years by Seattle fans that a team can't recover from a bad call made by Bill Leavy. Are you telling me that's not true?

31
by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:02pm

heh

33
by Insancipitory :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:12pm

Yes, I'm also tired of the Seattle fans bringing it up incessantly.

121
by Ten Drink Drunk :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:54pm

I'm also tired of people complaining about Seattle fans bringing it up incessantly when nine time out of ten, it's not a Seattle fan that brings it up.

42
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:31pm

Laying past and present grievances aside, I would be happy with an arrangement that keeps Bill Leavy from officiating Steelers games in the future. Seattle is welcome to get the same deal if they want.

I don't think there was any intent to miss calls, but his judgment was off yesterday. And it's better for him if his calls won't be interpreted by fans inclined to be skeptical.

90
by RickD :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:24pm

One of the refs were heard swearing on an open mic yesterday. Saw it on Red Zone. Cannot recall the game. Was it Leavy?

If we're looking for an excuse to discipline a guy, saying G- D- it! on national TV might work.

98
by Ben :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:46pm

No, it was Tony Corrente in the Colts/Dolphins game

Though, the F-Bomb that we enjoyed in the stadium did not make it out over the air.

87
by Theo :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:18pm

Don't know if it's still tears or rain on their faces.

25
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 12:55pm

Doug Martin. I mean, good God. Yes, a lot of it was the Raiders being blown off the line by the Bucs blockers (and this with Nicks and Joseph, Tampa's two best linemen gone for the year) and lousy angles by the Raiders' secondary/LBs, but Martin had that perfect combination of vision, shiftiness, and speed yesterday.

Also, while Blount's fumble was largely Freeman's fault for putting the ball too high, bad and/or not-good things always seem to happen whenever Blount hits the field. On Martin's 70-yard run he was supposed to go to the right, saw a hole up the gut and just sprinted down the field. I have absolutely no doubt Blount would have just followed the original plan and gone down for a one-yard gain behind RT.

108
by Gridiron Grammarian (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 7:54pm

Last season, Blount was the only Buccaneer who wasn't phoning it in for the final 12 games of the year. His hurdling plays were amazing. This year, he looks really hesitant. I think he's hiding an injury. Like a broken femur.

119
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:47pm

Or mortally wounded confidence. IIRC, he's not always dealt well with primal emotions.

//AJMQB

142
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 10:47am

Blount is good for a couple amazingly athletic plays (that often involve really cool hurdles) a year, but his problem is zero patience and zero vision. When he gets the ball, he's hitting the intended hole, and, if it's not there? He's still going there, and it's pretty clear defenses have keyed on that fact by the fact that they simply flow to his intended location and drop him there for a one-yard gain. Now, if there's a hole, he picks up steam and gets impressive-looking yards, but this is a guy who got stopped on three carries from the one in the Saints game. Nobody as big as LeGarrette Blount should fall down so easily.

I thought Blount was pretty clearly phoning it in at the end of the year. The only two people on the team I felt like were trying to win were Freeman (which led to all sorts of forced balls and terrible throws in godawfully bad comeback attempts) and Adrian Clayborn (who was becoming a terror the latter half his rookie year and this year before the Football Gods realized he was a talented Bucs lineman, so he therefore needed to head to Injured Reserve Valley).

34
by Matt Bowyer :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:14pm

Best part of this? No one watched the Thursday game with the Chiefs in it.

132
by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 1:14am

Notably, I predicted this three hours before game time:

http://twitter.com/FO_DTuccitto/status/264153052532056065

And I swear it wasn't because we made an administrative vow of silence or something. Was just my hunch given the terribleness of the matchup.

35
by Dean :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:18pm

RE: The fake field goal. Is that treated any differently than going for it on 4th and 1 with regards to win probability? Is there a significant statistical difference between running the FFG vs a play from scrimmage in that situation?

88
by Theo :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:20pm

You got to take the time and score into consideration. No one was fooled.

92
by Dean :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:32pm

Agreed,but that's not really my question. If they line up in a traditional formation and go for it, they succeed X percent of the time. If they line up in a fake FG formation, they succed Y percent of the time. Is Y part of the calculation for X? If not, how does Y compare/contrast to X?

36
by Marko :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:20pm

If Houston's special teams are so bad, why did they trade Sherrick McManis to the Bears just before the season for FB Tyler Clutts? The Bears acquired McManis specifically for his value on special teams, and he has been outstanding. He blocked the punt yesterday that Wootton returned for the TD, and he has been great in kickoff and punt return coverage.

65
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:44pm

I'd say that's a good example of *why* Houston's special teams are so bad (and why Chicago's are so good).

37
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:23pm

"that Forte run was a rugby scrum that broke out during what should have been a three-yard gain,"

I was wondering when I watched this yesterday - was there once a rule about not being able to assist the runner when he was being tackled?

41
by Insancipitory :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:29pm

I think the penalty is actually called "assisting the runner" I have never seen it called. At any level.

93
by Bobman :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:36pm

After 40+ years of watching football, the first time I ever saw "assisting the runner" called (though vaguely knew it was a flag) was in my 12 year-old's youth football league this year. (The refs were on a rampage that day--2 ejections and a half dozen personal fouls.) The coaches complained "Hey ref, that's a pretty sophisticated call." His response: "I'm a pretty sophisticated ref." Sheesh, you see that activity all the time on every level without the flag.

101
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 6:00pm

That Lance Easley sure gets around.

120
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:51pm

I know I've seen it called once, and only once, in pro-ball. It was within the last 5 years, and definitely called on a quarterback, on a goal-line play (I want to say it was Tom Brady, but not sure). Yeah, I know, that's not much to go on. But maybe somebody else remembers..

//AJMQB

48
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:40pm

Penalty in college, not in the NFL, I believe.

49
by Intropy :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:57pm

In the NFL you can push the runner/pile but not pull.

81
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:28pm

And the college rule, 9-3-2-b, states "no other player of [the ball carrier's] team shall grasp, pull, push, lift or charge into him to assist him in forward progress." Thus, the Forte play is legal in the NFL and illegal in college (though of course it almost never gets called; see, e.g., Bush Push).

50
by Travis :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:00pm

The rule is called "assisting the runner" or "helping the runner" and it still exists in the NFL.

Rule 12-1-4:
No offensive player may:
(a) lift a runner to his feet or pull him in any direction at any time; or;
(b) use interlocking interference, by grasping a teammate or by using his hands or arms to encircle the body of a teammate; or
(c) trip an opponent; or
(d) push or throw his body against a teammate to aid him in an attempt to obstruct an opponent or to recover a loose ball.
Penalty: For assisting the runner, interlocking interference, tripping, illegal use of hands, arms, or body by the offense: Loss of 10 yards.

The classic example is Refrigerator Perry trying to throw Walter Payton over the goal line in a 1985 game against the Cowboys.

Merely pushing a teammate forward is NOT a penalty in either the NFL or college.

A.R. 12.3: Second and goal on B2. Runner A1 gets to the line of scrimmage and is stopped but A2, who is behind him, pushes him from behind and shoves him over the goal line.
Ruling: Touchdown.

54
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:16pm

thanks Travis...that's an excellent description of the rule

51
by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:04pm

I seem to recall (from a book I read) that Refrigertator Perry was once penalized for assisting a runner on a goal line play. As the story goes Walter Payton was stopped on a goal line plunge and Perry tried to pick him up and carry him across the line resulting in a penalty for assisting the ball carrier. Again, this was the 85 Bears so we are talking almost 30 years ago and the rules may have changed but it seems that at least at one point it was a penalty.

53
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:15pm

here's what I found at NFL.Com

Digest of Rules Main
Use of Hands, Arms, and Body
"No player on offense may assist a runner except by blocking for him. There shall be no interlocking interference."

I presume one could argue all the players in the scrum were merely blocking opponents as opposed to assisting him.

38
by Dean :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:23pm

Did anybody notice the weird punt formation dallas used? The right side of their line seemed to line up normally, but the left side didn't seem to have anybody on the line of scrimmage at all. It looked like an unbalanced line with the tackle a step behind the center, and the wingback directly behind the tackle. The center was snapping on a diagonal to the punter, who was lined up roughly behind the other RT. I don't think I was seeing things. But it was really bizarre. I had the mute on, so if the broadcast team mentioned it, I didn't hear.

43
by Rocco :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:33pm

I saw that too. Was unusual but I've never paid attention to either Cowboys punters or Moorman before.

47
by Dean :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:40pm

Well at least now I know I'm not halucinating.

45
by Jim W. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:38pm

Dallas has been using unbalanced lines in their punt formations for a while. They're the only team that does so as far as I'm aware.

56
by Marko :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:25pm

Tennessee used an unbalanced line when the Bears had their blocked punt TD yesterday, although the formation was not the same as the one Dallas used. I didn't pay attention to whether they used the unbalanced line on other punts yesterday. When the ball was snapped on the blocked punt, the personal protector immediately sprinted downfield, presumably to provide coverage against Devin Hester. If he had stayed home, he could have blocked Sherrick McManis, who came in from the side completely untouched and easily blocked the punt. I presume that was a failure by the special teams coach, but it's hard to know if he is supposed to stay in and block if he sees a certain look from the opponent.

46
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 1:39pm

Good news for the Vikings and Rick Spielman - they shouldn't have to play any more rookie QBs this year. They have now lost to Luck, RGIII and Wilson. I presume it's not nearly as embarrassing for a GM when your 2nd year 1st round QB looks awful vs the likes of Rodgers as opposed to looking horrible vs rookies.

In each game against the 3 above mentioned rookies, Ponder paled in comparison to each one of them in accuracy, composure and instincts.

55
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:24pm

Half of the teams in the NFL can't tackle, there was some real crap on display this week, for example: the tampa game, urgh.

57
by Insancipitory :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:25pm

Raiders gonna raid.

66
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:49pm

Yeah, Doug Martin was phenomenal in how he waited for the hole to develop, went quickly, and had serious foot speed once he got into the secondary, but the Raiders were totally pathetic in tackling once he broke loose. On the 70-yarder the Raiders DB decided to try to strip the ball instead of, you know, tackling him. Failed miserably, another long TD.

67
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:04pm

It's not just the tackling though, it's the gap discipline, it's defensive linemen not squeezing their gaps and in some cases some really lacklustre pursuit. I hate to sound like a Stadler and Waldorf figure but it seems that the basics aren't neing executed like they used to be. (This isn't entirely true, I'd love to sound like Stadler and Waldorf, I loved those guys)

73
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:29pm

I know exactly what Statler and Waldorf would think of the Raiders' execution.

95
by RickD :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:37pm

Something like what John McKay thought about his team's execution (back when he was the first Tampa coach)?

102
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 6:14pm

Yup.

AWWWWWWWW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW.

96
by Bobman :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:40pm

Yeah, but Bunsen Honeydew would probably cook up a cure, much to Beaker's dismay.

58
by Rocco :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:27pm

Aaron may not want to complain about the Ryan Clark call but I will. That's exactly the type of hit the league says they want to see from DBs and it gets flagged because it's a hard hit and the receiver acted hurt. Meanwhile Mike Wallace gets speared and the refs pick up the flag because Wallace got up and walked away.

61
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:33pm

Can't hit the Salsa Man. Put a flag on that guuyy.

Very bad call. Clark maybe a touch late but think ball still in air so unless see again going to say R. Clark not late. Clean hit to Cruz's side of body

123
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 9:03pm

Would we be complaining so much about the call if it was, "Unnecessary Roughness, Late Hit" rather than the clearly erroneous "Hit to the Head?"

I mean, that looked bad in real-time. If the ball actually gets to Cruz, maybe it doesn't look so bad, but with Taylor cutting off the pass, it looked pretty gratuitous to me.

//AJMQB

133
by Jerry :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 5:14am

Clark can't wait until the ball gets to Cruz before he decides to hit him.

Much as I hate to suggest more replay delays, maybe head shot calls should automatically be reviewed upstairs (like touchdowns and turnovers), and the flag can be picked up if it's a legal hit.

140
by Rocco :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 9:23am

The hit wasn't late though. Once the ball is tipped, the receiver is fair game, and the hit came before the play ended. It would have been equally egregious to call that a late hit. It was a clean football hit that's supposedly the type of hit the NFL says they want to see.

59
by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:27pm

what's up with those ugly back to back interceptions Manning threw? The 2nd int looked like he just closed his eyes and heaved it to an area where someone might be. It was UGLY. If Sanchez did it - it would have been the focal point of the NFL, people would be screaming for Tebow, the papers would be demanding his head, and then there would be the flaming torches!

91
by Theo :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:29pm

Maybe Manning has more credit, because he has proven he can play.

94
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:37pm

Maybe the better question is why is that the reaction when Sanchez does it? Because he does that type of stuff all the time.

That was Manning's 5th and 6th picks of the year. His first second half picks all season. Yes, the second was a dumb decision. I'll go back and watch the play, but I know he threw it from the end zone. Maybe he was fearing a safety? I don't know. Bad play.

The first seemed more like a good play by Newman on a slightly overthrown ball by Manning who was expecting Decker to be further along the route than he was.

In the end, it's just interceptions. They happen. It matters just as much that after the two picks, he led the Broncos on back-to-back TD drives to get the game back.

113
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:33pm

It was absolutely going to be a safety. Two unblocked blitzers (one a corner i believe). I don't mind the throw. It was third down looking at a punt to, say, midfield. The ball was intercepted at about the thirty. I'm OK with gambling 20 yards on Eric Deckers abillity to go get the ball. The mistake, if you ask me, was madde before the snap - failing to account for those blitzes.

The first pick, though, looked weird. I have no clue what Manning saw. Maybe Newman just read slant and jumped it, but Manning should pull it down then.

141
by nat :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 10:16am

It may be that Manning had a decent day otherwise. Having 2 of 9 drives end in an interception is bad. But leading an offense to 24 points, 20 first downs, and 359 yards on nine drives is not bad at all.

Those numbers (except the interceptions) are close to what an average team in an average game does against the Bengals this season.... except an average team needs about 11.4 possessions to get them.

Factor the stats up to account for the low number of drives, and the Denver offense produced at an (adjusted) rate of 3 points, 89 yards, and 5 first downs more than an average team does against the Bengals. Not super, but above average.

Of course, Manning threw picks at an (adjusted) rate of 2.5, almost 2 interceptions more than an average QB does against this defense. Some of that is already accounted for in the stats above. The rest hurts the Denver defense through bad field position.

All-in-all, Manning gets a pass because it wasn't really a horrible day for him. The picks were awful - bad decisions and bad throws, both of them - but the rest was pretty good.

62
by sjwano1 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:37pm

Not that it matters much, but question on the end of game management by Marvin Lewis. Down by 11, prior to the 2 minute warning they were in reasonable field goal position. Why not go for the field goal then the onside kick or kickoff (with two timeouts remaining and the two minute warning). Instead they worked the ball down the field slowly to go from a 48 yarder to a 38 yarder, then try the onside kick with less than a minute. Was this statistically the best way to manage the situation? Thanks.

69
by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:21pm

All things being equal you always want to go for the TD first. Because i you don't make it then you know you need to take even more extreme measures. Whereas if you go for the FG first and then fail at the TD you are usually out of time.

Of course pundits and fans hate that strategy because it brings the end of the game closer and saps drama out of the last few minutes.

That said from your description the real problems was the "slowly moving it down the field" and not the kick/go for it choice.

If you are down 11 with just a few minutes left you should already be in your "oh crap I have 40 seconds left down 3 offense" because that is the situation you are currently in.

Coaches need to be adjusting their play calling much earlier than 3 minutes left.

72
by Rocco :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:29pm

Plus if you're down 11 you have the added variable of needing the 2 point conversion. If you score the TD first you'll know for certain whether you need another TD or a FG depending on how the 2 pointer goes. It makes a little more sense to get the TD first there down 11 than it does down 10 (where teams seem to always waste the entire clock getting the TD and then have no time left to get a FG drive).

103
by sjwano1 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 6:25pm

Its too bad because they took way too much time and ultimately didn't take shots at the end zone, but rather played to setup for the FG. So the ran out of time and only marginally improved the FG chance. I get the logic of going for the TD first but then go for the TD! One thing is consistent in Cincy, Marvin is a terrible in game manager....poor challenges, clock issues, and failure to change game plan/strategy after halftime. As of a couple games ago the Bengals had outscored opponents in all quarters except the 3rd...they were getting crushed...something like 60-10 in the 3rd quarter. What does that tell you?

124
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 9:07pm

I remember TMQ was banging that drum for years, based on the idea that you're probably not going to get as close the next time-- and FGs don't require you to get close.

//AJMQB

83
by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:50pm

We live in a sports media culture when everyone is "great" or "terrible". It is a world without nuance. And for a while the Cowboys have had a lot of slightly above average players, a bunch of -B's. Well in a world without nuances that becomes straight A's. Tony Romo cannot be "just slightly better than a league average starter (assuming there are 24 "starters" and then 8 rotations. He has to be "Elite".

So each year people look at the Cowboys and "round up" on all these players, and then are confused why the sum isn't as good as the parts "it is because they are mis-evaluating talent". Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are not great players. Romo is not a great player.

Each year the Cowboys are an 8.5-7.5 team and they have been ever so slightly underachieving that, but since pre-season people convince themselves they (and 18 other teams) should be 11-5 next year they are seen as a disappointment.

97
by Bobman :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:43pm

That was an elite observation.

125
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 9:09pm

This is a top-5 comment.

100
by RickD :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:56pm

Don't know why anybody thinks the Cowboys are all that good. They're a classic middle-of-the-pack team. They do a few things well but several things poorly. Their QB is good, but not excellent. The defense has one stellar pass rusher but aside from that can be beaten. The owner doesn't admit the limits to his own expertise. Until he puts real football guys in charge of building the roster, this will continue. They're exactly like the 1980s Yankees.

68
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:05pm

The Falcons have the naivety of a blessed summer child, they have yet to know their first winter.

122
by andrew :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 9:02pm

This dome is impregnable! They laugh at your predictions of foul weather.

"I was corrupt before I had power!" - Random

130
by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 10:10pm

Sounds legit.

/Minneapolis resident.

74
by theslothook :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 3:33pm

Its tough analyzing Dallas. I keep saying how much I love their talent and yet, they are now 3-6. I've come up with a dozen statistically unsustainable trends that are negatively affecting them(ie-turnovers leading to tds, crazy mis-communication ints, penalties and drops, etc etc), but in reality, the sad fact is that the defense(sans Lee and even with him) just isn't good enough. Their safeties aren't great and they don't have another real star outside of ware to make this defense anything better than above average. Offensively, I really like Romo but again, he isn't good enough to compensate for a weaker o line and he's not good enough to fully exploit all of the receiving talent they have.

All told, this team shouldn't be 3-6, but that only means they should be something like 4-4, not 6-2.

76
by Marko :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:01pm

The Cowboys are 3-5, not 3-6. As for the trends you mention, they have been doing this for quite a while. They are undisciplined and prone to mental mistakes, which often end up making a big difference in close games.

They are the classic example of a good bad team. They remind me of a famous quote by Bill Walsh about QB Steve DeBerg: "He's just good enough to get you beat." That describes the Cowboys perfectly: They're just good enough to get beat.

78
by Jim W. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:07pm

Dallas is really talented in some spots, but not so much in others. They look like an average team. I disagree about their receiving corps - it might be the worst group since Romo has been the starter.

82
by theslothook :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:48pm

There was a year the starting receiving core was witten, austin and roy williams! This receiving core isn't the best, but its pretty good all things considered(how many teams clearly have better total receivers?)- They have austin, bryant(admittedly a headcase), and witten as pretty nice trio of receivers.

84
by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:52pm

Witten is the only one of those who is actually remarkable. The other two are just slightly above average for a 1 and 2.

89
by Jim W. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:23pm

I'd take the 2009 group. Austin was better that year. Crayton was a better #3 than Ogletree.

Bryant consistently runs poor/wrong routes and drops passes. He's more like the Michael Vick of receivers. His physical ability allows him to make spectacular plays, but his game lacks the refinement and attention to detail needed for sustained success. He's an unreliable player.

99
by RickD :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 5:52pm

"(how many teams clearly have better total receivers?) They have austin, bryant(admittedly a headcase), and witten as pretty nice trio of receivers."

Well, you've got to include Dez Bryant there, which is a real problem. Off the top of my head, I would definitely take GB, NYG, NE, NO, HOU, PHI, PIT, BAL, DET, SF, ATL, and probably a half a dozen more.

104
by theslothook :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 6:40pm

We should try putting this in some perspective and also try to judge these things ex ante rather than ex post. What was the opinion of Denver's receivers? Wasn't DT basically pidgeon holed as a one dimensional physical type but with poor route running skills and hands?(a la Dez Bryant)? And who the heck is decker, tamme, and dreesen? Now, they look potent.

Part of the issue, imo, is Romo who has some real poor tendencies of forcing the ball to his primary reads rather spreading it around efficiently. This is probably the biggest flaw Romo has that isn't talked about.

Anyways, imo here are the ones that are clearly better(keep in mind, im taking the totality of into account and trying to see how good each would be if they had say Rodgers throwing them the ball):

NE, ATL, NYG, PIT, GB(if healthy), and maybe NO. The rest you named are toss ups, except for BAL, SF, and Houston.

Honestly, if Drew Brees or Rodgers was the qb of dallas, their receivers would look so terrifying.

126
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 9:13pm

Bryant reminds me of a Michigan receiver. Frustratingly talented, a la Manningham and Braylon. I would not be surprised if he's on the same career path.

//AJMQB

79
by JIPanick :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:08pm

The Jason Garrett Clinic on What Not to do on Fourth Down or in the Field of Clock Management doesn't help matters.

I actually don't think their talent is that great, either, it's just concentrated under the spotlight the way Jerry builds his team.

105
by theslothook :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 6:45pm

You know who the cowboys remind me of the most? The giants. People tend to gloss over everything since the giants have won two superbowls, but they are also a maddeningly inconsistent team that has been guilty of brain lapses many many many times. Remember that punt to desean Jackson? Or what about the year they started out undefeated through 6 weeks and then proceeded to finish 8-8. Then their loss to the eagles in the divisional round(strangely mimicing the cowboys loss when they were 13-3).

The real question is, what separates the giants from the cowboys because on paper, they both seem pretty similar close. What give the giants the "gusto" to limp into the playoffs and win superbowls while the cowboys always seem to fall short? Why can't both regress to their natural state? playoff bound but not sb winners?

109
by glickmania :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:04pm

It starts at the top. The culture created by the owner and GM of the Giants goes right down the line to the head coach and QB. That gets spread to the rest of the team. Jerry Jones has created a culture of grabbing headlines and being the face of the franchise over making good football decisions. Being the owner and GM has proven to be a bad formula and he's not willing to change that. Instead of bringing in true football front office personnel he puts himself first and won't ever let a head coach be the face of the franchise. It's all him and that doesn't make for a winner. The one time he let another guy really take control he built a big-time winner and he needs to let that happen again if they are to succeed.

The Giants also believe in consistency at key positions, specifically GM & head coach. Much like the Steelers this pays big dividends.

The Giants also have a clear identity. They know who they are. They like to make big plays in the passing game and supplement this with the run. On defense it's simple, don't give up big plays and let their talented pass rushers attack the QB without blitzing. What is the Cowboys identity?

The Giants aren't the Cowboys because they typically don't beat themselves. The Cowboys in their recent incarnation have been defined by mistakes across the board which really reveal themselves in penalties committed, for example. While the Giants are middle of the pack to good on penalties, Dallas is always near the bottom of the league.

It also helps that Eli is one of the best late-game QBs of all time to pull their butts out of the fire when one aspect of the team breaks down. One could argue they've become overly dependent on this and it would be hard to refute.

The Cowboys don't remind me of the Giants at all. Every team has some stretches of inconsistency and the Giants have been very guilty of that under Coughlin at times as have just about every good team outside of the Pats and the Manning Colts. The Vick comeback game is something that was horrible at the time but ended up helping propel them the next season to finish every game strong. Which they did while Dallas did not.

The Giants haven't gusto-ed or limped into the playoffs in both of their championship runs. In those seasons they were playing their best football late and only got better from there. Last season it took until about 6 quarters from the end of the season to actually do it but it still happened. And even still, that whole season they went punch for punch with the league's best in the regular season but came up just a bit short more often than not. This, obviously, turned around in the playoffs.

For a perfect example of the difference between the two teams: the Cowboys had a chance to basically end the Giants season last year at home in week 14 but Romo/Austin couldn't connect a wide open pass late that would have sealed it. Doesn't matter where the fault is on that one but the bottom line is that Dallas continually doesn't take advantage of mistakes by the opponent and the Giants have. Combined with their own mistakes, inconsistency of key personnel and unwillingness of their owner to bring in true football people to run the organization it has created the current Cowboys culture of underachieving.

111
by Marko :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:15pm

"The real question is, what separates the giants from the cowboys because on paper, they both seem pretty similar close."

I'll bite. Here's my list:

1. Tom Coughlin, not Jason Garrett
2. Defensive line depth
3. Eli, not Romo
4. WRs who make important catches at critical times and manage to stay inbounds
5. A reliable placekicker when the game is on the line (and a holder who doesn't fumble)
6. Clock management/situational strategy (see #1 above)
7. Not taking stupid penalties (see #1 above)

127
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 9:20pm

Coaching.
Attitude.
Continuity.
Defense.
Being in the same city as the Jets.
Being in the same division as the Cowboys.

//AJMQB

118
by theslothook :: Mon, 11/05/2012 - 8:46pm

Comparing Romo to eli because while they really play very different styles, I find them similar in a lot of ways. Eli is the most confounding because his accuracy and and mechanics can be so poor sometimes in so many games for so much of the game and yet, then he delivers some extremely accurate throws under duress, shifting his feet and making the right reads. Romo i would say is more consistent with his throws and mechanics, but his decision making borders on sanchezian at times. So while both are inconsistent, eli's is less volatile inconsistent than Romo.

I still feel a lot of this is ex post after the giants won the superbowl. The giants were a 9-7 team in 2012 with a negative point differential. Their 07 version was even worse dvoa wise. They failed to make the playoffs twice prior to 2012. JPP is an absolute freak, but i feel like the rest of their dline and the defense is overrated and again, the Giants play very strangely. They were SWEPT by the redskins last year for god sakes and are notorious underachievers at home. The only difference is, the cowboys flameouts are more spectacular, but that doesn't mean the comparisons are invalid.

I'll say this, briefly. My theory is that the big difference is coaching and that coaching is probably partly the result of Jerry Jones' tendency to overstate his authority and by extension, undercutting his head coaches. Personnel wise, hes ok, but his management style would've gotten him fired long ago.

135
by Israel P. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 5:28am

I loved the TV guys' comment "Easy interception by Ike Taylor." Ike is a wonderful cornerback, but there is no such thing as an easy catch for him.

136
by Israel P. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/06/2012 - 5:29am

(Maybe that should be on "This week in Quotes.")

143
by Shep Pettibone (not verified) :: Thu, 11/08/2012 - 2:33pm

In the CLE-BAL game, it was Josh Gordon who caught the non-touchdown (not Josh Morgan).