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30 Dec 2013

Audibles at the Line: Week 17

compiled by Rivers McCown and Andrew Potter

This year, we have a new format for our Monday morning feature Audibles at the Line, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. First, we're replacing our usual back-and-forth with some longer-form dissection of each game that at least one of us watches in depth. Second, every game that we find time for will also have a selection of tweets from us and a few reader tweets we found particularly insightful. To follow these tweets live on Sunday, or to contribute your own thoughts or a question for the FO staff, you can use hashtag #foaud. We discussed the new format in this post.

On Monday, we will compile a digest of tweets and e-mails to produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed, not entirely grammatically correct, and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning 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. Audibles is often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.

Washington Redskins 6 at New York Giants 20

Tweets:

Mike Ridley: Curtis TAINTer time coming to Jersey. Manning in locker room.
@pchicola: In FOA12 @FO_ASchatz stated how lopsided the RG3 trade was for STL because of picks value. Its about to get worse if they get 1st pick
@pchicola: The #RamstradeNo2pickforNo1pickalert is a draft strategy not even Bill Belichick had thought about. Rams outsmart the NFL.
Andrew Potter: That Jernigan touchdown for the Giants clearly demonstrates everything the Washington defense has been this year.
Scott Kacsmar: Curtis Painter: 13 career appearances, 13 losses. He's actually going to be on the winning side today.
Andrew Potter: The only game yet to finish is WAS@NYG. Every Red Zone-watching fan across in the globe just went to get a drink or use the bathroom.

Longform

Rivers McCown: The Kirk Cousins Trade Value Scale can best be visualized as "The Shermometer" from The Critic.

Baltimore Ravens 17 at Cincinnati Bengals 34

Tweets

Cian Fahey: Just a terrible decision from Andy Dalton there. Looks like playoff form is kicking in early
Aaron Schatz: First Dalton pick was a great defensive play by Corey Graham, but second one was all Dalton overthrowing A.J. Green.
Aaron Schatz: I'm waiting for Andy Dalton to actually keep the ball on one of these Bengals zone reads.
Scott Kacsmar: Somehow A.J. Green is left wide open and just like that the Bengals will be taking a 7-6 lead. Elam was frozen.
@pchicola: Great single-safety beater by CIN. TE Smith runs seam route and holds FS. Green runs the post from slot. 2 on 1 vs Elam. No chance.
Aaron Schatz: And there it is! Dalton keeps the ball on the read option and gets a nine-yard first down. Ha!
@GilbertDenizard: @FO_ASchatz Dalton was a good runner at TCU. Very credible option in the zone read...
Aaron Schatz: Flacco is totally immobile in the pocket but I really think the knee looks better on throws than it did last week. But if the Ravens really had to use Tyrod Taylor... this is where they would really pay for going so cheap on backup QB.
@blotzphoto: Is Marvin Jones becoming the true #2 receiver across from A.J. Green? If so can we call him Speedy?
Cian Fahey: Can't imagine either CIN or BAL feel good about their teams today. It's been carnage every time I've seen that game
@RavenBerns: Yanda tackles Rice for no gain. Ravens season in a nutshell.
Aaron Schatz: If you enjoyed Arizona winning with four Carson Palmer picks, you'll love when the Bengals win this game despite four Dalton picks.
Mike Ridley: In defense of Dalton, A.J. Green made no effort to go after the ball. He waited, thinking Smith wouldn't be that close.
‏@MilkmanDanimal: If I go to Hell, I'm going to have to eternally watch Flacco and Dalton play this game while Dierdorf, Simms, and Theisman call it.
Aaron Schatz: Joe Flacco throws his 3rd pick of the day to go with Dalton's 4. Pick Six. Thanks for coming, Ravens, please tip your waitresses.

Longform

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Cincinnati defense saved Andy Dalton's bacon today. Dalton threw four interceptions. The first one was an excellent play by Corey Graham, but the other three were bad throws. However, the Bengals kept the Ravens to field goals after the first three picks, and stopped them on fourth-and-10 after the fourth pick.

In Dalton's defense, I think this was a bit of a fluke game. He had 16 picks before this week. I don't think he's suddenly going to be an interception machine in next week's playoff game, especially playing against the crappy San Diego secondary. But he was not good today.

Also, I joked during the game about Dalton running the read option, but I shouldn't have joked. He had three runs keeping it, including a touchdown. Apparently, the Ravens were listening to my jokes instead of watching film. The Steelers/Chargers better be ready for Dalton to keep it on those plays.

As for the Ravens, their needs in the offseason are so blatantly obvious it is painful: offensive line, offensive line, and offensive line. It will be good to get Kelechi Osemele healthy again. Apparently, they intend to re-sign Eugene Monroe, but Michael Oher is probably gone, so they will need a right tackle and probably a better center. (Remember when I wrote after the first game of the season that Gino Gradkowski looked really good? Yeah, not so much over the course of a whole season.)

However, they also need to figure out what's going on with Ray Rice. Yes, the offensive line is a huge reason for the trouble in the running game this year -- that's why Bernard Pierce and Rice both have horrible rushing DVOA. But that doesn't explain why Rice has been so awful as a receiver this year. And even today, Rice was going nowhere while Pierce and Bernard Scott had some good runs against the Bengals.

Rob Weintraub: I only saw the last of the four picks, but that to me that one was on A.J. Green -- the play is designed to throw to a spot, and Dalton put it there, but Green faded away and allowed Smith to jump in and make a good play. I have a friend who is legendary in his section at Paul Brown Stadium for yelling "RUN THE BALL!" at top volume. In that particular instance, I agree.

Dalton struggles against the familiar foes who know the plays -- his touchdown/interception ratio in division games this year is 10/9. In the other 12 games, 21/7. So needless to say, hooray Chargers!

Jacksonville Jaguars 10 at Indianapolis Colts 30

Tweets

Scott Kacsmar: Trent 3.0 actually ran in that TD with proper urgency on 4th-and-goal. Seriously, a good run for a change.
‏@Shake1n1bake: Colts have 14 points, Jags have gained 13 yards
@RyanCrinnigan: Luck emphasizing quick release (which is good) except at the expense of reading the defense (not good). Getting greedy @ end of 1st.
@RyanCrinnigan: Pep Hamilton adheres to a "no forward passes with a 2 possession lead" rule.
Scott Kacsmar: Andrew Luck's had 4 games with a lead of 21+ points in his career. Three have been against Jacksonville.
‏@RyanCrinnigan: Colts 3 possession lead. Pep will ask Luck to throw only backwards, and will call typical Trent Richardson runs.
@Mercurius100: Jaguars making everybody on Indy look really good. Of course they will be going into the playoffs "hot" because they won by 30.
@Shake1n1bake: Robert Mathis with his 19.5th sack of the season. At age 32, in his first season without Dwight Freeney across from him.

New York Jets 20 at Miami Dolphins 7

Tweets

Mike Ridley: Sheldon Richardson is now the best player on the Jets offense too.
@Broncfan07: Sheldon Richardson: the modern day, energy efficient Fridge.
Scott Kacsmar: Nelson was open. Bad throw by Geno Smith and Nick Folk blows the kick.
@Mercurius100: Geno Smith doing his best Mark Sanchez impression. Open receiver in the end zone, throw it 6 feet over his head.
Ben Muth: Rex may be the new Lovie Smith. Great defensive mind & motivator that cant find the right offensive talent (players or coaches)
Mike Ridley: The Miami Dolphins followed up their upset over Patriots by eight quarters of rotting garbage being burned in a dumpster fire.
Vince Verhei: MIA ends season with seven sacks allowed and seven points scored in last two games.

Detroit Lions 13 at Minnesota Vikings 14

Tweets

Cian Fahey: Great block by Cassel on the Patterson TD run
Aaron Schatz: He's awesomely fast, but Cordarrelle Patterson TD *runs* still don't convince me he can run more than a 9 route.
Aaron Schatz: The pick NE gave MIN to take Patterson became Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Josh Boyce, AND (with J Demps) LaGarrette Blount.
Mike Ridley: Matt Cassel just missed a wide open Jared Allen in the end zone. And they say Week 17 football doesn't mean anything.
@MilkmanDanimal: It's almost like the Vikings don't really know how to run a goal-line offense without AP in there. Wait, not "almost"
@MilkmanDanimal: Flipping between Megatron-less Lions and Steve Smith-less Panthers, just to try to see who desperately misses their one real WR more.
@MilkmanDanimal: Lions P Sam Martin is averaging 55 yards on 5 punts, with several instead 10. Penalty put one out to the 20, but he's kicking great.
@MilkmanDanimal: Detroit hands ball off on own 21 instead of letting clock expire at half, because pointless risks of injury are clearly a good thing.
Mike Ridley: The Jets just assembled a 1,000 pound back field, with Sheldon Richardson the feature back in a diamond formation.
@MilkmanDanimal: On MNF Candlestick got a love-fest sendoff, but the Metrodome? Blow it up now. Crappiest stadium in all of professional sports.

Carolina Panthers 21 at Atlanta Falcons 20

Tweets

Aaron Schatz: Sad that the greatest TE ever goes out in a meaningless game, but at least he goes out against the best LB of the next decade.

Vince Verhei: My early-game priority: Watch and appreciate Tony Gonzalez for the last time.
@MichaelEdits: On that first drive, the Carolina defense looked like it'd never played against the Falcons before.
Vince Verhei: I am now seeking new early-game priority after bar turns Falcons game to Dolphins-Jets
@MilkmanDanimal: Matt Ryan throws a perfect pass to the cornerback for the TD. Clear miscommunication with Harry Douglas there.
Scott Kacsmar: Great to see Roddy White back in form. Another long TD connection like on MNF.
Mike Ridley: Every play I've seen from ATL, Greg Hardy has been in Matt Ryan's face.
@MilkmanDanimal: Greg Hardy; 7 sacks the last two games before he's a free agent. You have to admit, the man has some really, really good timing.
Rivers McCown: Sooo. Atlanta might want to invest in an offensive lineman.
@L_Crosby: Matt Ryan's new contract included "hazardous conditions pay" for whenever he's in the offensive backfield, right?
Vince Verhei: Panthers are the first defense since 2006 to get 60 sacks in a season.
‏@pchicola: The sequence of fumble, late snap, illegal shift penalty is the perfect poetic ending for the 2013 Atlanta Falcons season.
Vince Verhei: Goodbye, Mr. Gonzalez. Thanks for all the football.

Longform

Vince Verhei: Three coaches allegedly on the hot seat who should not be fired: Dennis Allen, Rex Ryan, and Mike Smith. Allen took the worst roster in the league, built with one hand behind the Raiders' back, and managed to win four games. Ryan, for two years running now, will have had the least valuable quarterback in all of football, and he's gone 14-18 over that span. He's an amazing game-day coach. Maybe not the best eye for passing talent, but still. As for Smith, yes, it's a bad year, but look at what this franchise did before Smith got there and what they've done since, and you're going to tell me he hasn't earned a free pass?

Rob Weintraub: There is zero indication around the Falcons that Smith will lose his job. Artie Blank seems to have drummed the Snyderish tendencies from his system. They just played two top NFC teams to the absolute wire. Draft Jadeveon Clowney, sign Georgia Tech alum Michael Johnson from Cincy, boom -- pass rush improves. Or go offensive line at the top, an even bigger need. Julio Jones returns, and Atlanta bounces right back into contention.

Rivers McCown: Atlanta is such a preposterously good fit for Clowney or Anthony Barr. They can go offensive line later.

I don't think Smith was ever in any real trouble. Atlanta's troubles are more about talent than coaching.

Cleveland Browns 7 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Tweets

Scott Kacsmar: Roethlisberger avoids the sack, which I know from doing game charting is something he hasn't had to do much of in recent weeks.
Aaron Schatz: One reason Barkevious Mingo has only 2 sacks in the last few games is that he drops into coverage more than you would expect.
Cian Fahey: I would say the Steelers are feeding Antonio Brown to get him Hines Ward's record, but this is how their offense normally works.
Scott Kacsmar: Browns are a mess today. Three failed 4th downs. Last came after a delay of game penalty, down 17-0.
Cian Fahey: It's 20-0. Starters are out. Fourth quarter, seven minutes left. Ben Roethlisberger is still playing and scrambling for some reason

Longform

Scott Kacsmar: The Steelers needed seven things to happen in the AFC in the last two weeks to make the playoffs. Six did, but San Diego won both games instead of dropping one. All the Steelers could do here was beat Cleveland and they did in a way they have so often over the years: stifled the Cleveland offense and made enough plays with their own offense. Jason Campbell was very tentative early and the Browns failed on fourth down three times when the game was somewhat competitive. By the time Campbell started getting Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon the ball, it was too late.

Contrary to the growing belief, Ben Roethlisberger did not have his finest season in 2013, and he also had just an average game overall in this one with two poor interceptions. But he made enough plays to Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery and the game was really never in doubt.

This season was the first time Roethlisberger actually played every snap and had no significant injuries, yet that 0-4 start was too deep of a hole to climb out of. I don't think an 8-4 finish should signify everything's okay in Pittsburgh, because it's not. Big decisions will have to be made on players like LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu in regards to production and the salary cap. I also think the coaching staff could use some changes, but I'm sure the team will cite some injuries, bad luck in close finishes and one "idiot kicker" from Kansas City keeping them just out of the playoffs, where I do think they would have been a tough out for anyone.

Cian Fahey: A bit of a dead-rubber of a game. The Browns never looked threatening at all and the Steelers had the game wrapped up early in the second half. Roethlisberger made some very poor throws but played well for the most part. Antonio Brown continued his stellar season and he deserves to be an a first-team All-Pro in my opinion.

Josh Gordon was the big story for the Browns. Again he was absent early in the game. Some of that can be attributed to Campbell, more to LeBeau's approach ... but also some to Gordon himself. Gordon is the only real bright spot on that offense, but there's still a ways to go in terms of his development I think. That's not to say he's not already very good, but he has the potential to be as dominant as any other receiver. Hopefully the turmoil in Cleveland won't topple that.

Rob Weintraub: Nice use of 'dead rubber' in there. What is this, Davis Cup tennis?

Cian Fahey: Heh ... some of us are bringing the diversity to FO.

Houston Texans 10 at Tennessee Titans 16

Longform

Tom Gower: Texans TD on opening drive. I'm already rethinking my life based on my decision to watch this game.
Tom Gower: Hard for me to see Jackie Battle 3rd down snaps as other than negative commentary on CJ/Greene blitz ID/pickup abilities
@MilkmanDanimal: Matt Schaub apparently putting a few more dollars onto whatever "wily veteran backup" contract he's going to sign this offseason.
Tom Gower: Andy Levitre got whipped by Antonio Smith on that play, Smith crashed into Fitz while throwing, wounded duck = free INT
Rivers McCown: Tennessee is not covering the running back on throws to short middle at all. All dumpoffs, all successful.
@Mercurius100: Tennessee losing to win, keep a division rival from getting the #1 pick.
Rivers McCown: Matt Schaub is obviously the No. 1 memory I’ll have of the 2013 season. Brice McCain is No. 2. He’s been Demarcus Faggins bad.
Tom Gower: Mike Munchak's 4th down aggressiveness last week looks like a product of the Jaguars being aggressive first. Not surprised.
Tom Gower: Texans doing a fine job this 2H of playing like a team looking to blow a halftime lead & lock up the #1 pick.
Tom Gower: Titans last year Week 17 really busted out backups, esp. in 2H. Not the same this year. Tells me they're trying hard to win.
@MilkmanDanimal: Matt Schaub has 66 seconds to lead a comeback and make Texans fans hate him even more than they do now. Or, you know, never mind about that whole "comeback" thing.
Mike Ridley: Schaub ends the Texans season the only way it could, with a pick. At least they get the first pick.
Scott Kacsmar: Texans finish 2-14 with 14 straight losses and 10 failed GWDs. Incredible.
‏@nath_on_fire: @FO_ScottKacsmar And their two wins were "3 points after falling behind 28-7" & "in overtime against the Titans". 0-16 was feasible.
@nath_on_fire: Congrats to Texans on successful "Steady for Teddy" campaign. Hard to be steadier than 14 straight losses.

Longform

Tom Gower: What a trainwreck. Matt Schaub may be the least confidence-inspiring quarterback in the league, and the Titans weren't much better on offense this game. Chris Johnson found running room (I'm blaming some more atrocious linebacker play by the Texans), and the Texans kept coughing the ball up to stop would-be scoring drives and give the Titans short fields. Tennessee had scoring drives start at their own 44 (punt), the Houston 35 (interception), and the Houston 33 (fumble). At least it only took 2:42 to play.

Rivers McCown: There ... there are no more games, right? Are we sure?

...Can we hit this team with s ahovel just to be absolutely positive it won't try to play again?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 at New Orleans Saints 42

Tweets

@TacoHole: Selling the downfield throw while setting up a screen is an underrated nuance of playing QB. Mike Glennon does not have it
@TacoHole: Mark Ingram running like he wants a second NFL contract, Tampa Bay tackling like they'll get a cut of it
Rob Weintraub: In a league of leapers, no one does it like Brian Leonard. Two years ago he jumped over defenders literally every other play.
@WasteflSprinklr: Nice catch by Tim Wright for the TD. Still don't know if he's the Bucs answer at the TE position
Scott Kacsmar: Greg Schiano with a reminder that he too would like to be fired tomorrow.
Aaron Schatz: Bucs just ran one of the worst fake punts ever that didn't involve swinging gate. Michael Koenen runs out of bounds without anyone open
Vince Verhei: TB lines up for obvious fake punt. NO not fooled by obvious fake punt. Fake punt fails.
Mike Ridley: Schiano enters reckless abandon mode, attempts horrible fake punt.
Aaron Schatz: That may have been a fake FG not fake punt by TB. Is Koenen the holder? I'm not sure.
@MilkmanDanimal: @FO_ASchatz I looked away, but they were on the 25, so I'm assuming FG. It would be best if we never speak of it again.
Mike Ridley: Can somebody explain why Schiano thought that a fake "punt" from the Saints 25 was a good idea? Especially THAT play?
@MilkmanDanimal: Tampa's season ends on a pointless inside handoff to a running back you've never heard of, which defines this year perfectly.

Buffalo Bills 20 at New England Patriots 34

Tweets

Aaron Schatz: A lot of Blount early for Pats. Bills are 2nd in pass D DVOA, 18th vs run

Aaron Schatz: I believe the Pats just fumbled their way into a first down. Yay, fumble luck.
@Mercurius100: Shane Vereen, holding a ball on the sideline the rest of the game?
@MulEdgeGJJ: Amendola just swatted that ball away like a DB, shame he was all alone with room to run had he caught it
Scott Kacsmar: Impressive 51-yard FG for Dan Carpenter in that NE weather today. Did the NFL break a record for 50-yard kicks yet? Needed 3 today.
Mike Ridley: @FO_ScottKacsmar Bironas and Akers also hit one, so yes.
Aaron Schatz: Interesting to note that former SackSEER bust Jerry Hughes actually has 10 sacks this year for the Bills.
Aaron Schatz: Looks like Pats are getting killed by the space between the corner and safety in Cover-2... except that they seem to be playing man. Pats might want to consider shading safeties to outside and not letting Arrington play outside.
Aaron Schatz: Bills mediocre run D - Marcell Dareus suspended = Pats turn into ground and pound team.
@pchicola: Love the idea of 2014 with Siliga and Wilfork playing together. Siliga has shown very good technique.
@Ethanhamm: Shane Vereen's got magic to do, just for you.
Aaron Schatz: Even considering BUF is fifth in DVOA red zone defense, NE's inability to get 7 instead of 3 is a problem today.
@sivankev: Patriots fumble luck is extremely high today
Scott Kacsmar: Apparently, Bill Belichick's respect for Thad Lewis could not be any lower.
Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady punt; everybody drink.

St. Louis Rams 9 at Seattle Seahawks 27

Tweets

Mike Ridley: Seahawks third-down play is going to be something to watch in the playoffs. Been horrendous last couple weeks.
Vince Verhei: It took four snaps for the Rams to pick up a personal foul.
@ExcessiveFarce: Big difference early between this game and the first meeting: So far STL running game is going nowhere fast.
Vince Verhei: First quarter in Seattle in four words: Nobody can block anyone.
Vince Verhei: I believe the Seahawks and Rams are playing real-life Blood Bowl.
@ExcessiveFarce: After four or five successful runs from Lynch Seattle calls a pass play. Result: another sack.
Vince Verhei: Seattle's reliance on empty-back sets against SL is borderline suicidal.
@ExcessiveFarce: No halftime adjustments for the #Seahawks O-line. Wilson still having to scramble almost immediately after the snap.
Vince Verhei: Jeff Fisher + Jeff Triplette = gang violence.
Vince Verhei: Rams just went personal foul, personal foul, ejection, with zero actual football plays in between.
Mike Ridley: Personal fouls may be more common than points in Seattle. And Kudos to Langford for getting penalized after an ejection.
@robbbbbb: I went to a fight once, and a Rams game broke out.
@ExcessiveFarce: Rams current talley: 6 personal fouls, 4 unsportsmanlike conduct.
Vince Verhei: I believe that is five personal fouls and one ejection on SL in the last three plays.
Vince Verhei: Luke Willson getting fitted with air cast. This game now officially more violent than last night's UFC.

Longform

Vince Verhei: The whistle-to-whistle stuff is pretty obvious here. Seattle's defense is playing out of their minds right now. The offense is having all kinds of problems, especially along the offensive line, where the starters are back but still getting dominated. The play-calling is exacerbating that problem by inexplicably going pass-wacky and using a heavy dose of empty-back spread sets. That leaves the linemen in one-on-one situations, and that leaves Russell Wilson running for his life. The only consistent weapon Seattle had today was off-tackle runs, but they kept going away from that for whatever reason. It's why, I think, the Panthers are the scariest possible matchup for Seattle in the playoffs. That defensive line against this offensive line could be an absolute horror show.

Its the after-the-whistle stuff, though, that I'm going to remember from this game. We've talked all year about how Jeff Fisher's Rams tend to make stupid mistakes or get in needless fights. For a while it was almost cute or funny. They may have been a mediocre football team, but dammit, they were going down swinging. Today though, things went completely off the rails. They finished with 12 penalties for 87 yards, but that only includes accepted penalties and doesn't tell the whole story. Going through the play-by-play, I count nine penalties on the Rams for unsportsmanlike conduct and/or taunting. Some of those were declined because of multiple penalties on the same play, or offset by Seattle fouls. The worst stretch was the following sequence at the end of the third quarter:

  • Alec Ogletree was called for unnecessary roughness to give Seattle a first down inside the red zone.
  • Seahawks run for no gain, but Ogletree is fouled for roughness again. Yes, on back-to-back plays.
  • Kendall Langford, protesting the call, smacked a ref on the face. (That was bad luck more than anything else, Langford just threw his hand out blindly to the side and I don't think he even knew he had hit the ref.) That resulted in a personal foul and an ejection.
  • Before leaving the field, Langford slammed his helmet to the turf. That's another personal foul.
  • That left Seattle with a first-and-goal at the 1; they scored a touchdown two plays later. Ray Ray Armstrong was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • After that foul was marked off, but before the Rams could run another play, Darian Stewart was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.

I talked to a Rams fan on Twitter who thought the refs were letting Seattle get away with similar behavior. I pointed out that the Rams lost the benefit of the doubt a long time ago, and their reputation was probably working against them by now. Really, Fisher lost control of this team a long time ago. It's a lack of discipline that is holding St. Louis back more than a lack of talent at this point.

Rivers McCown: I think we all know the disciplinarian Jeff Fisher needs for this situation. Come on down, Gregg Williams!

Mike Ridley: St. Louis had no options for offense in this game until the end when the outcome was already decided. In their first match-up, Zac Stacy scorched the Seattle defense to the tune of 134 yards. He had 15 (on 15 carries) on Sunday, with 14 coming on one drive. Seattle repeatedly stuffed him for two yards or less, putting the Rams defense in tough situations.

Seattle's offense was still sub-par. They're 6-of-26 on third downs over the last two games. Even with Marshawn Lynch on their team, they're repeatedly passing on third down, even in short yardage situations. With only Golden Tate as a viable weapon, Russell Wilson hasn't had many options. Wilson is also under constant pressure due to Seattle's porous offensive line. With Percy Harvin's return for the playoffs questionable, I have serious doubts about this offense against defenses like Carolina and San Francisco, even at home.

Green Bay Packers 33 at Chicago Bears 28

Tweets

@Mercurius100: Packers really should've started McCown over this Rodgers guy.
Aaron Schatz: Will write about this tomorrow: CHI run D, despite historic 5.4 yds/carry against, isn't even close to worst ever by DVOA.
Aaron Schatz: Bears run D going into this week: 11.4%. Worst ever: 1996 WAS at 20.1%.
Rob Weintraub: Just like the Packers drew it up...
Mike Ridley: Packers just scored on a play that will undoubtedly lead all "play until the whistle" highlights.
@TCBullfrog: The TD in the Bears game is exactly the kind of thing you would blame on Tony Romo.
Aaron Schatz: GB offensive line becomes a much bigger problem without Rodgers totally healthy.
Aaron Schatz: I normally am not a fan of the deep pass on third-and-short, but wow, Bears just hit it to Alshon Jeffrey. Shields gets no saf help
Aaron Schatz: Marc Trestman has no f-ing idea how to use timeouts. Bears have either blown them or not used them whey they should, over and over. To explain, Trestman took a timeout to think about challenging instead of just throwing the red flag.
@wiesengrund: 1 chall. left, it's wise to keep it for a situation with more leverage than "4 chances to punch in 1 yard in Lombardi Throwback Bowl"
@CyrisJonfs: Has someone told McCarthy he actually needs to at least tie Chicago before time runs out?
Aaron Schatz: I disagree with GB decision to kick XP to make it 28-27 instead of going for 2 with 11:39 left.
@nath_on_fire: McCarthy kicking the XP there might be a fireable offense. Could be the single most damaging decision of the year. Going for 2 down 2 is not a "question" or a "discussion point"; it is an "obvious decision" and a "huge mistake" to get wrong.
Vince Verhei: So, um ... Bears? When did you decide to stop covering receivers?
Aaron Schatz: The non-coverage by the Bears on the Randall Cobb game-winning touchdown... would love to know what happened there.

Longform

Cian Fahey: It's a travesty that Aaron Rodgers missed so much time. Even for him, it's incredible how easily he slid into the starting spot for such a pivotal game. In a league that is blessed with top quarterback talent, Rodgers appears to still be the king. That's even in spite of what Peyton Manning has done this season.

San Francisco 49ers 23 at Arizona Cardinals 20

Tweets

@Coboney: 49ers decided to open up with reverses, pitches and all sorts of trickery in the run game so far. Have Cardinals on their back feet.
Danny Tuccitto: Potential Kaepernick TD pass hits Vernon Davis in the worst place possible...his hands.
@MrTimLivingston: Adam Snyder brought in as eligible pass blocker on 3rd down and gets beat immediately.
@Mercurius100: Cardinals give up 10 at Seattle, 17 in 1st quarter to SF. Oh NFL you're so funny.
Aaron Schatz: Dear Arizona offense, this would be a good time to gain actual yardage. Your defense can't score 21 pts on its own.
@Mercurius100: Patrick Willis actually missed a tackle. NaVorro Bowman didn't.
@matthew_carley: While Peyton Manning has thrown more than 50 TD passes, Kaepernick has just become the first 49er throwing for more than 21 since 2002
Danny Tuccitto: Without being too harsh about it, someone needs to encourage Greg Roman to diversify his short-yardage portfolio.
Danny Tuccitto: Such a textbook Harbaugh game vs. good team. Could've put ARI away long time ago, but instead just content to win close at the end.
Danny Tuccitto: When you settle for gutting out close wins against good teams, you run risk of a random phantom penalty over-influencing the result.

Denver Broncos 34 at Oakland Raiders 14

Tweets

Tom Gower: Peyton Manning against a #Raiders D missing their top 3 CBs is going about how you'd think it would, what with 24 points in 24+ mins
‏@michaeldryden: Who says manning can’t throw the deep ball anymore? That was a gorgeous throw.
Tom Gower: Peyton Manning yardage record, #Broncos still over a point-a-minute pace (31 in 29:47), HFA basically clinched, time for another game
@Mercurius100: Forget this Manning guy. Matt Prater PAT record!!!
@Shake1n1bake: Peyton Manning is so good that the year he breaks the TD and yardage record might be just his 3rd best.
@Broncfan07: Manning gets the yardage record by 1 yard, so it's Brock "The Human Victory Cigar" Osweiler Time.
@Kev_1L: Denver is leading the league in most games the network ditched for a more competitive one.

Longform

Tom Gower: I watched the first half of this game, at which point it was 31-0. I've watched the Jaguars and Texans play the last two weeks, and Oakland looked every bit as bad as either of those teams, maybe worse. Of course, playing without normal starting cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter against Peyton Manning having an exceptional season makes the defensive performance pretty understandable. I thought Oakland defensively punched above their talent level early in the season, but this game they looked like they worst defense in the league they looked like in preseason.

On the other side of the ball, same deal. Terrelle Pryor simply cannot execute an NFL passing offense with anything like a sufficient degree of reliability. He needs to either sit and learn how to play on the bench or find a new profession. You can sort of get by if you have a really good run game and can take the game off your quarterback, but that's not Oakland right now and especially not today.

Aaron Schatz: What I don't get about Pryor is that he looked impressive early in the season. Not like a great quarterback, but like a promising one. Then everything just devolved. The numbers agree, even before we look at today:

Pryor, Weeks 1-6: -15.6% passing DVOA
Pryor, Weeks 7-16: -74.5% passing DVOA

Cian Fahey: He started out with a composure and willingness to work from the pocket that was very impressive. After that he appeared to revert more to wasting movement and relying on his athleticism.

Tom Gower: Like Mark Sanchez, he throws a solid slant pass and not much else. Take away that quick throw, force him to read the defense, don't let him scramble to his right (see the Chiefs game in KC for how to do this), and there's nothing else there. Maybe I'm missing something I'll see in my study for FOA14, but probably not that'll make me change my mind significantly.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 at San Diego Chargers 27 OT

Tweets

Rivers McCown: Chase Daniel just drilled a bomb to A.J. Jenkins. #Week17
Cian Fahey: Watched Knile Davis for the first time this week. He's an impressive player. Sample size was way too small though

Andrew Potter: Just to confirm: San Diego did not rest its starters on defense.
@wiesengrund: KC looking ok early, wondering if defense-heavy good teams always seem a tad deeper than juggernaut brethren? Recent 49ers/Hawks too.
Rob Weintraub: If the Chargers blow this and the Bengals have to go another round with the frigging Steelers I will be unthrilled.
@Mercurius100: So Chase Daniel should start next week for KC, right?
Aaron Schatz: Tommy Maddox and Willie Parker are at home watching the KC backups play and thinking "oh yeah, we know this."
Rivers McCown: Chase Daniel is kinda impressing me. Wish Reid would quit with the screens though.
‏@estebistec: Are the replacement-level Chiefs playing up or are the desperately-real Chargers playing down today?
Mike Ridley: Greg Schiano, that's how you run a fake punt.
Aaron Schatz: Wow. Mike McCoy with the balls of the year award for fake punt in overtime with playoff spot on line. FD - fumbled but down first
Aaron Schatz: And yeah, why didn't booth review whether Weddle fumbled on the fake punt?
@wiesengrund: SD is actively trying to back into the playoffs. With as little margin of error as possible.
Vince Verhei: You know what would be a very San Diego thing? Missing the playoffs by blowing a lead in OT.
@WhispersMoCo: @FO_VVerhei FWIW, the Chargers only need a tie. I thought they were trying to burn all 15 minutes on that drive.

Longform

Tom Gower: In case you doubted San Diego's No. 32 ranking in defensive DVOA, (a) what the heck have you been watching this year that makes you think this defense is anything resembling competent, and (b) I present to you the ease with which a Kansas City collection of backups played the Chargers starters on the road toe-to-toe. Credit to San Diego, though, for battling back. When they were down 24-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, I thought they were done. Of course, if Ryan Succop had made a 41-yard field goal, or that Eric Weddle fake punt in overtime had been ruled a fumble or down short of the sticks, they would have been. Then again, we've been pretty sure for a while the AFC No. 6 seed would not be a very good team.

Rivers McCown: I was a little surprised at how much pressure Philip Rivers was dealing with in this one. San Diego's offensive line is as healthy as it's been, and the Chiefs didn't play Justin Houston or Tamba Hali, so dealing with Frank Zombo and company shouldn't have been a big deal.

As I mentioned, I thought Daniel had a good game. Bad ending, of course, but he looked pretty competent against a defense that can make many quarterbacks look competent. The long throw to Jenkins was probably his best of the game. Kansas City's fascination with screens is troubling.

Aaron Schatz: And of course, we didn't realize during the game that the Ryan Succop missed field goal should have been cancelled by an illegal formation penalty. But it's not the job of the fans to count how many guys are on either side of the line; it's the job of the officiating. A lot of missed calls in the NFL that we all complain about are just issues of human error where the game goes too fast for the eye to see every infraction properly. This was not. This was just an official forgetting to do part of his job.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at Dallas Cowboys 22

Tweets

@MichaelEdits: So, based on the stat #SNF just showed, Orton is more likely to win if the other team doesn't score a lot of points. Who knew?
Aaron Schatz: It's true that Kyle Orton can do everything Tony Romo can do. For example, like having miscommunication with Dez Bryant.
Mike Ridley: Jason Garrett's lack of aggressiveness is maddening. Trusting the defense is not an option
Aaron Schatz: As I often say, Mr. Foles, a play where you end up with your back to the receivers is not a good play.
Mike Ridley: I can see it now. Dallas will get a stop, score a TD and Garrett will go for the PAT, then ultimately losing the game by one.
Aaron Schatz: I agree with Chip Kelly's decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal. Too bad it didn't work.
@Foosball_Wizard: 4th and 1. Rollout right by Orton. Eagles defender right in Orton's face, knocks down throw. Garrett claps like monkey with cymbals.
Rob Weintraub: Uh-oh--that 4th down play call just got Jason Garrett fired... Actually, it was less the play call than the cutaway of him clapping that got Jerry angry.
@heygirlitsryan: don't even try the hard count that's been working all night? don't run the ball with your possessed running back? how very cowboys.
Aaron Schatz: Oh good, the Cowboys get screwed by a messed up play clock. Because officiating hadn't created enough problems this season.
@cascadiapirate: Can we have a single game without an embarrassing officiating gaffe?
Aaron Schatz: Brutal clock error, dumb timeout... and Dez Bryant is better than Patrick Chung, so for now it works out.
Tom Gower: Man, cover-0 like PHI ran on that 4&9 is so not my thing. Acceptable in &goal where YAC not be an issue, but personally never a fan
Danny Tuccitto: Cowboys fans, this is your life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ytCEuuW2_A
@BryKno: There is no Tony Romo. There is no Kyle Orton. There is only Dallas Quarterback

Longform

Matt Waldman: The 50/50 throw from Foles where he hops into his release is a play he's been getting away with a number of times this year. It's reckless, but working.

Cian Fahey: A lot of the things he has done this year that he gets away with has driven me a tad crazy.

Tom Gower: 24 points is a pretty average performance, league-wide, roughly speaking this year, which is a lot better than I think most of us expected a porous Dallas defense to do against a Philadelphia offense that shredded Chicago last week. Credit to the coverage, which left Nick Foles appearing discombobulated and struggling to get off his first read and make other plays, and to a pass rush that came in 30th in ASR. And, well, backup quarterbacks are backup quarterbacks for a reason, so no surprise a probable missed throw by Orton ended the Cowboys' last chance.

Mike Ridley: As a Cowboys fan, I was actually pleasantly surprised that the game came down to Dallas' last possession. Seeing how the Eagles dispatched the Bears and how bad the Cowboys defense has been, I was expecting something more in line with the 44-6 blowout in Week 17 of 2008.

As Tom mentioned, the coverage on the wide receivers was phenomenal by Cowboys standards. They were susceptible to the tight end all day, thanks to a ravaged linebacking corp, but overall, they played well. The coverage allowed Dallas to generate a pass rush that needed time to get pressure. DeMarcus Ware wasn't his old self, but he looked better than he has in recent weeks.

Scott Kacsmar: Groundhog Day is a 101-minute movie. The Cowboys give us their own version of Groundhog Day and it takes 17 weeks to get to the same 8-8 result, complete with the bad ending on NBC's Sunday Night Football. I like to think the NFC East title is a greater reward than Andie MacDowell, but the Cowboys just can't capture it.

There was more defense than I expected in this game, especially with the rush getting to Nick Foles, but the Cowboys did not take advantage of it. Even with Kyle Orton at quarterback, that's a golden opportunity on the last drive that was squandered immediately with the bad throw for another game-ending pick. In a way I'm glad the superior team with the healthy quarterback is moving on so the playoffs will be better, but this game was right there for Dallas in the final two minutes, unlike the previous Week 17 disappointments. I'm also glad it was Orton and not Romo at the end, because he'd never live this one down.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 30 Dec 2013

135 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2014, 4:49am by dbt

Comments

1
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:23am

Mel Tucker should be ashamed of his crew.

The officiating in multiple games was hideous.

2
by TomC :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:43am

I actually think the Bears D did a creditable job most of the game. The gaping, truck-sized holes in the first cutback lane were not there most of the day, Briggs looked like 75% of his real self, and tackling was marginally better. The 4th and 9 play was horrible by Conte, but that's what you get with the worst safety tandem in the league, and I find it tough to pin that on Tucker.

I was saying most of the day in various public forums that I just hoped GB-CHI would be competitive and entertaining, and it was. And, of course, I was still incredibly angry about the result. The Boykin TD was absolutely inexcusable---if you're going to fire Tucker, please make that a large part of the portfolio.

Then there was the officiating. GB's first drive should have started at their own 1, but Blakeman apparently hallucinated some Bear touching the goal line that no one else (including Buck & Aikman) could see. Then there was the awful RTP call that extended a drive and resulted in a GB field goal. Then Jeffery was called down at the 1 inch line when he actually scored, costing the Bears a timeout. And then the coup de grace, letting GB snap the ball on 4th and 1 with no time on the play clock. You can make an argument for that actually costing the Bears the game. But Tuccitto is right in the Niners-Cards thread when he says: "When you settle for gutting out close wins against good teams, you run risk of a random phantom penalty over-influencing the result." So, fall on a fumble, don't let an interception bounce off your body for a completion, don't let a guy get 20 yards behind you on 4th and 9, and none of those horrible officiating blunders matter.

10
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:20pm

Tom

Number 99 of the Bears had all the time in the world to jump over/step over, or otherwise avoid landing on the qb. Instead he rumbled in and planted himself on the qb. In a league where everyone knows the officials are hypersensitive to protecting the qb.

An awful call is when some d-lineman gets pushed past the qb and bumps the qb's helmet with his hand. I have seen that called several times this season. That is an awful call.

The roughing call on 99 was pretty straightforward. Dumb play.

15
by TomC :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:29pm

I disagree that he had "all the time in the world," and he most certainly did not "plant himself on the QB". FWIW, Buck and Aikman, who are generally pretty timid about criticizing officials, said it was a terrible call. But even if you take that one call out of the mix, it was a horrible day for that crew, and most of the blunders went the Packers way.

18
by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:34pm

Meh the officiating just seemed the standard amount of bad. Nothing particularly notable about it. It just seems worse because the stakes are so high.

That personal foul on 99 was dumb, but equally dumb personal fouls get called a couple times a week at least. The refs were clearly told to make sure there were no cheap shots on Rodgers.

31
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:06pm

Almost all the bad calls were on high leverage plays. Which sucks.

19
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:37pm

I don't want to get into a 'tit for tat' on officiating other than it seemed like the officials were very willing to let guys play. For one thing there were no offensive holding calls yesterday and both sides had plenty of jersey on multiple plays. Defensive backs, same thing. As I mention in another post Major Wright threw Nelson to the ground on that fateful 4th down.

So if they did throw a flag it had to be pretty clear to the officials.

FWIW.

33
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:07pm

A bunch of human beings had their bodies knocking into each other. One guy fell on another guy. There was no rumbling in and planting.

39
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:24pm

If you watch the replay the qb is on the ground and Briggs is already coming off number 12 when 99 lands on the qb.

Again, in a league where EVERYBODY KNOWS that the qb is believed to made of glass to land on the qb like that is begging for a flag.

99 could have done several different things to avoid even the appearance of a roughing situation. Instead, he chose to land on the guy with all his weight.

It was a dumb play and he got called for it.

I would be unhappy if a Packer got called for that penalty but would not deny that an infraction took place.

42
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:27pm

I did watch the replay.

91
by Crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:08pm

Apparently you didn't have your Buck-o-vision on. And neither did Joe Buck for that matter.

24
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:51pm

They weren't the worst safety tandem last year. Wright was average, and Conte was inconsistent but generally good.

So I do pin that on Tucker. I would say and the defensive backs coach but the corners have played pretty well this year. I think the Bears should invest in a specific safety coach.

28
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:04pm

When you yield a touchdown by quitting on a play with the ball the ground, and yield another touchdown when your highest paid player makes a fundamental error of the first magnitude, you should be disgusted with your defense's performance.

The officiating was simply disgraceful in many games.

32
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:06pm

What was Julius Peppers' mistake?

34
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:10pm

He cannot let an inferior athlete put a cut block on him, allowing Rodgers to escape containment, on a defensive call with pressure coming up the middle. Peppers knew it, which is why he was rightfully hanging his head in shame on the bench in the closing moments of the game.

35
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:21pm

C'mon. Kuhn came out nowhere to get him from the side. If not for that Peppers sacks Rodgers and the game is over. The left tackle missed the call to take Peppers and because of the original line call stuck to the blitzer.

Pinning that last play on anyone but Conte and the d-coordinator is crazy talk

40
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:26pm

C'mon, Peppers knows the defensive call, knows that the fundamental fundamental on that call is to, under all circumstances, not allow the qb to get outside. It simply cannot happen, because if it does, a talented qb has a very good chance of finding a receiver who gets free. The execution of the call sucked, and not just by Conte.

45
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:32pm

And if not for Kuhn Rodgers is down for the count. And hence he would have kept Rodgers from getting outside. Peppers had him. Even with Kuhn's block he still got his hands on Rodgers. Rodgers himself stated that he thought he was 'dead' until Kuhn came out of nowhere.

Your post suggests you have Peppers approach Rodgers as if he's a border collie trying to herd a sheep versus tackling the guy.

51
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:45pm

Peppers didn't have him. If he had him, the Bears would have won. Peppers allowed an inferior athlete to cut block him, on a play on which Peppers knows his first responsibility to to prevent Rodgers from getting outside, because pressure is coming from the middle, and allowing the qb to get outside will very, very, likely result in the offense moving the chains. He didn't execute the play.

88
by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:59pm

Kuhn is not an inferior athlete, it appears, or Peppers would have made the play.

We keep letting inferior posters post.

92
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:08pm

If you don't think Julius Peppers is a far superior athlete to John Kuhn, and that a far superior athlete should be expected to execute his assignment, when he prioritizes the execution of his assignment appropriately, we will have to disagree. This isn't a situation where a physical mismatch played a role. It was a blatant mental error.

93
by Crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:11pm

Lol, Anonymous2 calling out named user. Funny.

Will's point is that he's the highest paid Bear defender. Getting cut blocked by a fullback is something he should be and is ashamed of.

94
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:18pm

Especially since Pepper's first responsibility on the defensive call is to make sure Rodgers stays in the pocket. Is it really so difficult for people to understand that a defensive end has priorities, in the same manner as a safety or a quarterback, and that ignoring those priorities is an inexcusable mental error?

98
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:36pm

Is it a mental error though? During all the years watching Favre and Woodson, I would see both frequently make great plays doing things that were often in complete contradiction with what the coach drew up because they were going by their instincts as players. We've all seen them; the plays where we scream at the TV going, "No. No. No. No. YES!" I'm guessing Peppers thought he had a sack which would end the game - and probably does if Kuhn doesn't make a great block out of nowhere.

113
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:02pm

We see more instances where guys play hero-ball, ignore their assignments, and get their team beat.

Look, if somebody wants to rip the call, which demands that a HOF-level pass rusher, albeit one in decline, not make getting to the qb as quickly as possible his first priority, fine. Players should be expected to execute their assignments, however, and when they don't, because they ignored them, they are deservedly ripped.

101
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:52pm

So far scanning through multiple recaps of the game, several by football writers who are well respected for their technical understanding of the game, none have pointed to Peppers as having failed in his assignment.

I also sent specific emails to several writers around the country including Bob McGinn to get their feedback.

They have been kind enough to respond previously so I am hopeful that this will elicit a response.

I will communicate any such response.

111
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:55pm

I heard two guys, one of who spent years playing the defensive line, and another guy who watches tons of film, in addition to playing qb for 17 years, Golic and Jaworski, comment that Peppers had made a huge mental error. I'll wait for the writers' opinions, however.

Look, it doesn't take Tom Landry to figure out that when nobody is in centerfield, because guys are blitzing up the middle, the defensive ends have to keep the qb in the pocket. That's what I was saying the moment I saw the play. No, defensive ends can't go hell bent for the qb, without regard to what the other 9 guys' assignments are. It is a team game, first and always.

104
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:06pm

Will seems to think that football is a deterministic event, where superior athletes should never get beat, on any play.

112
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:56pm

You seem to be illiterate.

49
by carrera.bill@gm... :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:41pm

I see what your saying but i have hard time pinning it on Peppers. Kuhn made a great pick-up block which still flushed Rogers to the left. If Conte stays with Cobb then you make the throw harder if Rogers even goes that way. IMO if Conte stays with Cobb,
Rogers either gets the 1st down with his legs, or throws to the wr on the outside who gets the first down and steps out of bounds. Either way the game doesn't end. If the pass is incomplete we are talking about Peppers forcing Rogers out of the pocket.

I'd have a hard time giving Conte less than 95% of the blame.

52
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:47pm

Julius Peppers should not allow John Kuhn to make a great pick up block.

54
by carrera.bill@gm... :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:58pm

Thats such a simplistic argument that its meaningless. Sometimes someone makes a good play regardless of talent. you're grasping at straws here. i respect your opinion as a valued commentator here so i won't press the point.

59
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:16pm

Noting that getting whipped by an inferior athlete, because you neglected your primary responsibility on the play that was called, is "meaningless"? We will have to disagree.

(edit) To add on, you are completely ignoring the mental mistake involved. This was a not a vanilla cover two pass rush, where the DE simply tries to get to the qb as quickly as possible. With pressure coming up the middle, Peppers must first execute his first responsibility, which is to ensure that Rodgers must face the pressure coming up the middle. He didn't do his job, in his effort to make a big play. It's simply not excusable.

124
by 42Freddie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:35pm

You make a good point..but Kuhn could also have blocked Peppers had he played as you suggest.

125
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:46pm

Sure, anything's possible. John Jolly could cover Brandon Marshall on a 9 route. The point is that Peppers did not honor his responsibility, and thus made it easier for Kuhn to block him.

56
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:05pm

Kuhn may not be as talented as Peppers, but you don't stick around in the NFL as a FB if you can't block. Even the best pass rushers get blocked on more plays than not, which is why getting one sack per game is pretty much a gold standard level of performance.

58
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:10pm

He got blocked because he ignored his primary duty on the play that was called.

102
by Jay Z (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:03pm

If the defense is rushing 7 and there are only 6 blockers, and the QB is able to break contain and have an unobstructed view of his receivers, I would give the pass rush an F for the play. How you want to divvy up the individual grades is up to you.

The coverage was man to man, 4 on 4 with no safety. Conte is a safety, guarding a WR one on one. Conte tried to jump the route and lost track of Cobb. Once contain was broken it's possible that even good coverage would not have stopped a completion.

The Bears calculated that even a little yardage past the first down would have resulted in a field goal attempt ending the game. The Packers' kicker is having a good year. They were all in for that play. The pass rush failed to do its job.

114
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:11pm

Exactly. With 4 defensive backs covering the entire field, against a great qb and 4 good receivers, the qb needs to be on his *ss in a hurry, or the ball out of his hand in a hurry.

I'll go further, and say that since Rodgers ended up outside of the guy whose rush lane was most wide on that side of the field, and he was blocked by a slower, smaller man, it is that guy who failed his assignment most.

115
by Roch Bear :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:16pm

Sounds right to me. Conte jumps the route to prevent the first down throw to win the game on a pass coming out early. That's probably his job. Staying with Cobb after that is asking a awful lot. Major Wright, who knocked Nelson down at (a very Bear-generous ref interpretation) 5 yards past the line of scrimmage was selling out similarly. Will and Jay Z have a convincing case. The breakdown is the pass rush and Peppers did 'wrong.'

117
by jds :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:28pm

Well, I will jump on Conte for one thing. 3 receivers to your side of the field, two running routes to the sticks, one going long - if you are going to focus on the sticks, so much so that you start to commit to jumping up on what you think might be the route, when the ball isn't coming out you absolutely must do the "defensive holding, 5 yards, 1st down" grab on your man, because you know who is behind you.

119
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:49pm

Once he's open the best thing to happen for the Bears was a TD. A defensive holding or DPI call would have been game over as the Packers would have been able to run out the clock and kick a fg.

120
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:05pm

Hate to ask Tuluse, was this the most gutting loss for the bears in the last 6 years? Given all the officiating and the final play, I'd have to imagine this would stick in me for a while.

122
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:35pm

It's up there, but it's not the worst. The 2010 conference championship is the worst. So many what ifs if Cutler doesn't get hurt. Plus the Bears played the Packers to a one score game while barely trying in week 17. If they just win that game...

Anyways

The fumble play hurt the most because it was exactly the sort of thing that wouldn't have happened under Lovie (on the other hand the offensive competence that kept them in the game wouldn't have happened either).

I was expecting the Bears to lose this, yet it was awful because they gave me hope before making a couple dumb mistakes to lose it. I didn't think this team was going to do anything in the playoffs anyways, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Overall, the last two seasons ended on a more disappointing note because they were good teams that could have gone on a playoff run with just a little luck, but kept just missing. Those seasons didn't have a signature game like this that made them lose. Though losing to the Tebow Broncos stays in my head.

62
by Bobman :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:54pm

Well, In Peppers's "defense" he DID try to trip/kick Rodgers after he was blocked. Every single time I see that Kuhn block replay, you can see Peppers go down scissoring his legs wide and reaching out as far as his (long) legs can for the QB. (Looked like a nicely done sit-out drill for wrestlers) If he had tripped/kicked Rodgers and been flagged.... ugh, just glad it was not another game decided by the refs.

This week saw at least three pivotal first down or TD plays featuring the little-called "assisting the runner" maneuver, which was not called. If it ever is, I am sure some heads will explode, though the guys on ESPN helpfully point out "He was pushed over the line by his fullback" either blissfully unaware it's a penalty, or enjoying the fact that a guy is getting away with it. The refs call all sorts of stuff (face-guarding still seems to be called, and despite no or little contact they call it DPI) and miss all sorts of stuff. Maybe it's just better media coverage with more cameras and such, but damn it seems atrocious. As you said above, Will, it was just another reffing day.

Back to Peppers's attempted kick/trip: I wish they could flag a guy for intent--they flag a guy for swinging at an opponent even if his punch doesn't land, right? They flagged a Ram DT for gesturing and having a ref walk up behind him and into his hand. (And because he followed that up with a frustrated helmet slam, he'll probably get fined for both! If he had kept his cool, he might have gotten no fine and an apology letter instead....)

73
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:09pm

The one where the refs forgot to count how many guys were lined up on one side of the center, on a field goal attempt, is what made me chuckle. I'm sure Mike Tomlin found it less humorous, however.

I may be wrong in assuming that they can count to 7, for what it is worth.

78
by scoop (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:27pm

Ha ha. This is priceless. We can disagree about the responsibility and execution of the play, but imputing regret and shame to a player based on body language is an example of one of the worst habits of amateur fans. I'm assuming you're better than that.

83
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:47pm

Yes, it is ridiculous to think that a player, head bowed, hand pressed to brow, after failing to do his job, resulting in a defeat, is feeling a sense of shame.

In other news, Rahim Moore had a bad head cold, which caused his voice to crack while discussing his coverage against Jacoby Jones at the end of regulation last January.

86
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:54pm

Lol, ZING!

106
by scoop (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:32pm

Yeah, maybe. Or maybe he was just devastated by the last-minute loss, like about 4 million other people in Chicago.

64
by NFC North coaches (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:57pm

Also missed was that Cutler appeared to be over the line of scrimmage when he threw the last pass of the game as well as the mugging that Major Wright performed on Jordy Nelson on the game-winning pass to Randall Cobb.

If Cutler had more mustard on that pass...

67
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:02pm

The entire body has to be past, he kept his back foot behind the line.

82
by NFC North coaches (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:47pm

Thanks. I hadn't seen the replay closely.

70
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:04pm

Isn't it the ball that determines over the line of scrimmage? I'm pretty sure the ball was behind the line, but I could be wrong. I think they (probably accidentally) got that call right

71
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:04pm

I thought Cutler was over the line too watching it live, but his one foot is clearly behind the line. The whole body has to be over for it to be illegal (see Chase Daniel and one of the worst plays a QB has ever put on film to end overtime yesterday).

Cutler should have been able to get at least one more play and something better than a Hail Mary that was a 2-on-1 in the end zone.

75
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:14pm

What I suspect happened is that Cutler's first option was covered, he had his mental clock ticking and knew he was down to 7 seconds or so, and instead of throwing it away decided to go for broke.

That's my guess anyway

95
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:21pm

Does it really matter if the desperation heave comes on 3rd or 4th down?

53
by beargoggles :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:57pm

Cards--Niners was surprisingly well officiated.
Especially when they picked up a flag. Dockett was mauling Kaep on the ground, back-up WR had enough and pushed him off without hitting him in head or anything excessive, just a basic "protect your QB" play that 90% of the time is a flag or offsetting penalties.
Basically they let them play while game remained under control
I'm probably forgetting something bad of course

3
by Wikitorix (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:46am

I don't think the Langford ejection was for accidentally hitting the ref in the face. Immediately after that took place, the ref put his hand on Langford's shoulder, and Langford slapped his arm out of the way - that one was deliberate, and deserved ejection.

69
by Bobman :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:03pm

I'll have to watch again--I think you are right in that it was not an instantaneous flag and Langford did kind of flick away a hand of a ref, but it was the tail end of the same gesture that hit the ref's face--he still did not see whom he had hit and when that victim grabbed/touched his hand, he flicked the contact away while still talking to Ref #1.

A little common sense by Ref #2 (the "victim") could have avoided all that by (A) looking where he was going and (B) once he was hit by someone who clearly didn't see him, walking around him rather than pushing through. I understand when something is coming at your face it's instinct to put up a hand--which is what instigated Langford's second flick/slap. But it's a little like poking a pit bull who is tousling with another dog over a T-bone, and then euthanizing the dog for snapping. Uh, a little user error there, IMO.

77
by Glen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:25pm

"could have avoided all that by (A) looking where he was going and (B) once he was hit by someone who clearly didn't see him, walking around him rather than pushing through."

Sounds like the Ref is dealing with livestock more than an intelligent human being.

4
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:47am

Mia/NY Dolphins Oline looked good today. Hartline went down but that doesn't really explain the 7 points. Tannehill looked like David Carr and that seemed like the main issue. His hook slide a yard short of the 1st down line when it appeared he could have lowered his shoulder and made it easy pretty much sums up the season. The team feels badly organized, badly coached, and oddly lacking in heart as if teammates not so secretly threatened to kill each other and bleep in their family members mouth. The point differentials for the Jeff Ireland era; +28,-30, -60, 16, -29, and -18. That isn't a team building towards something. That's a team bouncing around its standard deviation. This was a typical Jeff Ireland team having a typical Jeff Ireland season and I think football outsiders will continue to project Miami for repeat performances like this season. If fans don't like it... there is Lebron.

7
by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:04pm

I didn't get to watch the game, but the Fins gave up no sacks in this game, to a team that while lacking prototypical edge rushers, still had 41 sacks for the season. I also have to comment that while Geno's pass may have been terrible, Sanchez almost never completed over 60% of his passes, which Geno Smith did yesterday.

22
by Biebs :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:42pm

The missed TD pass to Nelson was bad, but otherwise Geno Smith played a good game. He was a far better QB this season when Jeremy Kerley (The Jets only consistent receiver, when healthy) was on the field. Smith was basically an average NFL QB in the games where Kerley played, which isn't bad for a rookie.

Geno was obviously a disaster without Kerley (0tds 9ints 40% passing in 4 games w/o Kerley, 12tds/12ints 60% passing w/ Kerley). Not to say Kerley is a #1 WR by any stretch, but you cannot throw a rookie QB without any reliable weapons, or safety valves - Jets didn't have RB/TEs who could catch (Winslow played well in 1 game, RBs can't catch) and horrific WRs w/o Kerley (less than 100% Holmes, Hill, various FAs like Cribbs, Salas, Sudfeld, etc... Though Nelson seems to be someone Geno trusted to get the ball).

One other positive note from the Jets game. Jets started 4 guys from their 2013 draft class and all played quite well the last few weeks of the season (Richardson in conversation for DROY, Geno Smith closed season with 3-1 record, 4TD/2INTs, Milliner closed season by single covering Wallace and Josh Gordon and getting 3 INTs and playing solid coverage, Winters actually blocked very well last 2 games). For a team at the end of the season, having the rookies play better is a great thing.

5
by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:54am

A few quick comments on Packers/Bears.

1) It was pretty obvious that the game plan was to keep Rodgers from getting hit. A steady diet of pounding the ball combined with quick passes to the wide receivers and Rodgers throwing quickly to his first read. I got the feeling that he was coached this week to throw to his first option if he saw one on one coverage even if the guy wasn't open as he consistently forced throws into tight coverage.

2) I couldn't tell on the final touchdown pass if it was a blown coverage or not but it looked to me that the defender was expecting Cobb to run a hitch and settle in at the marker and was caught totally flat footed when he blew past him. He didn't even start to turn until Cobb was even with him which was way too late.

3) If Sam Shields was a couple of inches taller (with no loss of speed) he'd be considered one of the best corners in football. Hard to believe he's a converted wide receiver.

4) I don't expect the Packers to win next week but knocking the Bears out of the playoffs on the last game of the season in Chicago is pretty satisfying.

8
by TomC :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:07pm

Grumble, grumble, enjoy your playoff grapes, I bet they're sour anyway, grumble, grumble, fluke plays, bad calls, grumble, grumble.

13
by carrera.bill@gm... :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:26pm

I really think i'm not a knee jerk type of fan, but that last play had me spitting.

Rogers + Cobb > Conte and while i'm disappointed the Beats lost, its just irritating to lose with such a bad breakdown. Kudos to Rogers/Cobb/Kuhn for making the play.

these are my questions

--why did Conte think he had to defend the marker? Cobb recognized Conte was going to do so from the beginning. I was always taught to never guess, but to react in that situation.

--Make Crosby beat you, not Rogers. (not a question just a grumble)

--why didn't Conte just grab Cobb?

--Bowman on the outside looked to be playing it right, keep the wr in front of you. Why did Conte appear to break to the cover the outside wr?

14
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:29pm

Given that Major Wright threw Nelson to the ground and there was no flag it's possible Conte could have done the same without a call.

The Wright tackle was so obvious even Troy Aikman noticed when he was reviewing the play for FOX.

Trestman pretty pointedly stated that the team was in man coverage suggesting that Conte blew it. And Conte was nowhere to be found by the press after the game.

17
by TomC :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:31pm

Kudos to Rogers/Cobb/Kuhn for making the play.

Yeah, the "Kuuuuuuuuhn" thing annoys the hell out of me, but that was a great play. If he doesn't cut Peppers, Rodgers is down and the Bears win.

20
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:39pm

That call annoys the hell out of many Packer fans.

by the way, what was the fan breakdown in the stands yesterday? Sounded like a LOT of GB fans were there

6
by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:59am

My lengthy post was rejected by the spam filter four times so I will dumb this down to one sentence.

Even in a game where his team did surprisingly well, and he finally went for it on fourth down (though flubbing that to the best of his ability), Garrett provided stellar examples of why he should not be a head coach.

9
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:16pm

Could anyone conceivably in any way, shape, or form explain to me why you would run a fake FG right near the end of the half where your formation makes it clearly obvious your punter (the holder) is going to get the ball, instead of actually trying to fool somebody? Is there a situation where this could ever make sense?

Greg Schiano, please go away. Please move to Happy Valley. Or be eaten by a manatee on the Gulf coast. Either works. That was so far beyond inexplicable as a call that I can't begin to even wrap my head around it; if you're going to run a fake, use actual trickery to fool the defense. If you're going to telegraph your move, just put the stupid offense on the field and actually use your offensive personnel to, you know, play offense.

12
by DavidL :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:25pm

Maybe he wanted to make the Swinging Gate feel better about itself.

30
by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:05pm

The Schiano to Penn State rumors are some of the craziest I've heard lately. Because the way to rebuild a tarnished program who paid the price for giving absolute power to the coach is with a totally unlikable, my-way-or-the-highway sort of guy? And then throw in the fact that despite deserving credit for turning Rutgers around, Schiano couldn't sustain that level despite playing opposition that was average at best. Nothing about him should make anyone think he's going to make Penn State into a contender.

36
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:21pm

I withdraw my objection to this play; if the stupidity of this call is what got Schiano canned, it's my favorite play ever.

11
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:24pm

McCarthy had to be talked into going for it on 4th and 1 on his own 22 late in the 4th quarter. Despite all the evidence to the contrary MM was going to trust his defense to get a stop.

Wow. The guy can develop talent but his game day tactics are seriously lacking.

23
by rageon :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:50pm

I agree with the note above that him not going for 2 is just an inexcusably terrible decision. A "this overshadows everything else you've done because it's just so freaking bad" type of decision.

I think Rodgers versus Manning is an interesting discussion. For one year, I'm not sure who I'd take. Maybe Manning just because he's more likely to play a full season right now.

16
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:31pm

I was really pleased with the Packers tackling on defense yesterday. There were very few plays where extra yards were had by just running through tackles.

That may be tied to Sean Richardson and James Lattimore replacing MD Jennings and Brad Jones respectively.

It is also true that tackle averse Tramon Williams was willing to mix it up yesterday.

21
by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:42pm

I think Tramon spent too much time hanging out with Charles Woodson. The guy consistently goes for the strip (which is fine) but does it before the ball carrier is secured. Woodson would at least make sure the carrier was wrapped up before going for the ball.

25
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:54pm

The Packers didn't go for two because they've found out already this season that it's not that hard for a failed 2-point conversion early in the 4th to bite you in the ass. GB was down 16 to Minnesota when the scored a TD. The 2-pointer failed, and it took another TD and a FG to tie. Going for two ended up costing the team half a win.

When there's more that 10 minutes left it's not that hard to come up with situations where a failed 2-point conversion can really hurt you. I've definitely seen a failed 2-point attempt to tie, then the other team gets to FGs, leaving a team down 8 instead of 7, which could conceivably have happened to GB. Another situation would be the other team getting a TD, in which case a failed conversion leaves you down two scores (by 9), whereas the extra point still leaves you down 8, but in that situation if you score a TD later the need for the 2-pointer is much more clear because less time will be left. I think that a 2-point conversion attempt is never a 100% certain choice when both teams are likely to get at least one more possession.

GB also had failed 2-point conversions against both Atlanta and Dallas (both attempting to extend a lead to 3 points late), so maybe they didn't have a lot of faith in their 2-point conversion chances. They did fail again after getting the go-ahead TD.

If there was a coaching error made, it might have been in not instructing the WRs to get down inside the 5 instead of scoring the TD, as GB could have run out the clock and scored a walk off FG. However, they weren't really close enough for that to be a priority at that point, and they even had a short FG blocked last week, which illustrates that there are no guaranteed best strategies.

27
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:58pm

Agreed. MM has his flaws but not going for 2 at that point was understandable. And against that defense why wouldn't you think you would be able to score 1-2 more times in the game?

38
by Flounder :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:23pm

I second your agreement. They kicked the extra point precisely because of a lack of trust in the defense. I'm sure McCarthy's thinking was that another Chicago TD was likely (I mean, they scored three consecutive TDs in the second half), and he didn't want to be stuck down two possessions with 4 or 5 minutes on the clock.

It was absolutely the right call, and I find it weird that writers for a website that rejects knee-jerk reaction for nuanced and considered responses would have such a knee-jerk (and incorrect) reaction.

63
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:55pm

If Chicago scored another TD, putting the Packers down by 8, that's not a one-possession game. It's a one-possession game half the time, and a two-possession game half the time. You need the two eventually in either case, so why not get it first so that you get more information earlier about what you need to score?

Sure, going for two and missing it could backfire, like in the Minnesota game. But it's a lot easier to think of scenarios in which staying behind by one hurts you (nobody scores again, which is almost what happened) than scenarios in which doing so helps (in the Minnesota game, the Packers put together two more scoring drives in the last half of the fourth quarter).

Late in the game, the number of potential scoring combinations for the remainder of the game diminishes. Therefore, it becomes more and more valuable to get to a preferred scoring arrangement (having a chance to tie, rather than being down one). Not tying up the game in the fourth quarter, when you have a chance to do so, is bonkers.

79
by Flounder :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:33pm

"Late in the game, the number of potential scoring combinations for the remainder of the game diminishes. Therefore, it becomes more and more valuable to get to a preferred scoring arrangement"

I of course agree with this statement. The point I'm making is that when that tipping point occurs is extraordinarily fact-dependent and can't be pineed down to "fourth quarter means go for two." In this instance, that point hadn't been reached and is supported by entirely reasonable arguments (i.e. Bears were likely to score another TD on the ensuing possession).

You can make the argument the other way, sure. I won't agree, but I think the argument can be made.

However, to declare that the choice is so self-evident that the decision to the contrary is "bonkers" is, quite frankly, bonkers in and of itself.

80
by Flounder :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:42pm

A couple more points:

First, by definition, if it's possible to score the requisite number of points in one possession, then it's a one possession game. By your definition, a 7 seven point lead is a one possession game 99% of the time - or if you wanted to get more ridiculous, you could have some formula based upon the percentage of time you'd kick a field goal or score nothing, or score a touchdown, to determine how many "possessions" the game is.

Second, that is exactly my point. The two point conversion is Schroedenger's (sp?) cat. At some point, you have to open the box and find out if the cat is alive or dead. Given the level of play of GB's defense, the quick strike ability of their offense, and the amount of time left in the game, I submit it was the correct decision to keep that box well closed.

96
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:23pm

A 7 point game is only one possession between 12-36% of the time based on td% drive stats.

134
by PhillyFred :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 4:39pm

I NEVER understood this argument. In order to be down 2 possessions, you're assuming they miss the 2 point conversion. Well let's say you score after being down by 8 later in the game, you have to assume you miss the 2 point conversion there as well to make the comparison equal, which means it's still a 2 possession game. Wouldn't you rather know whether you need 2 scores earlier than later? Your argument suggests your odds of converting a 2 point conversion are better later in the game.

The same argument applies when down by 15. Go for 2 first, so you know what you need to do on your next possession.

29
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:05pm

I am vehemently opposed to any approach where the team is focused on generating a field goal attempt. I have witnessed WAY TOO MANY failed kicks to support any approach that is geared toward 'settling'

The nadir of the McCarthy era was early in his tenure letting the clock run down and no real effort to gain yardage so that Mason Crosby could attempt a 52 yard field goal in the Metrodump. Unreal.

And big shock, Crosby missed the kick.

41
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:26pm

I would never advocate settling for anything longer than a 30 yard FG attempt, especially outdoors in the wind and cold. However, one thing I like to do when thinking about high leverage strategic decisions is to put myself in the other teams shoes, and think what is the other team most afraid of.

If I were a Bears fan, and my choices were letting GB score a TD with 38 seconds left, and letting them down the ball at the 2, run out the clock, and attempt a walk off FG, then I'd choose to let them score. Even with Peppers and his FG blocking ability, the odds of stopping a FG are less than 2%, while the odds of a long TD drive, especially with GB kicking away from Hester, have to be a little higher.

Obviously, when it's 4th down you take whatever you can get, and TD is at least the second best of all possible outcomes.

37
by rageon :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:22pm

I think the combination of situations in which a failed 2-pt comes back to haunt them are less likely that needing those 2 points right away.

With 11 minutes left and two bad defenses, you have to assume Chicago is unlikely won't have two long drives. If GB goes down 2 points:
- Chicago scores a FG (lead=5), in which case you need a TD, which you would have needed if you kick the XP (lead=4).
- Chicago doesn't score, then you win with a FG (down 2), which is the same situation you would be in with an XP (down 1)
- Chicago gets a TD, goes up 9. But if you had kicked the XP, they go up 8, and you need to go for 2. I'd rather know right away if I'm going to have to go for 2. At least if you miss you can adjust your strategy. If you put it off and Chicago scores a TD, the game is basically over if you miss the 2-pt conversion.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I just don't see there being enough time left for the XP to be anything but wrong.

43
by Flounder :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:30pm

" Chicago gets a TD, goes up 9. But if you had kicked the XP, they go up 8, and you need to go for 2. I'd rather know right away if I'm going to have to go for 2. At least if you miss you can adjust your strategy."

By that logic, you should always go for two because if you don't make it, you can just "adjust your strategy." It also assumes each two-point conversion attempt is the same, and a failed attempt with 12 minutes left would automatically have been a failed attempt with one or two minutes left.

You also ignore the fact that a missed two-point conversion allows Chicago to "adjust their strategy."

As I stated above, Chicago has scored three straight TDs, and the Green Bay defense had given no indication the next possession would be any different. It was the prudent decision, and I whole-heartedly support it.

65
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:00pm

You might be on to something with that first paragraph.

46
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:33pm

It doesn't take two long drives. Chicago could get the ball back, hit a long pass or have a long kick return, stall, and kick a FG. The GB could turn the ball over and have Chicago kick another FG.

11 minutes is a LONG time in the modern NFL, and with neither defense playing well, the same scenario would be possible even without turnovers. A 3-and-out with two incomplete passes might take less than one minute off of the game clock.

I basically agree with everything about your assessment except for the amount of time. With 5-6 minutes left I'd say the 2-point try is clear. 11 minutes makes it a lot less clear.

48
by Flounder :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:40pm

Also, let's say hypothetically that GB got the 2-point conversion, and then the game played out as it did, with Chicago being forced to punt and GB getting the ball back with 6 minutes left.

Is there any chance in hell GB goes for it on 4th and 1 deep in their own territory in a tie game? I highly doubt it.

Do you think GB could have stopped Chicago from driving for a winning field goal? I certainly don't have much confidence they could have.

116
by jds :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:21pm

11 minutes left in the 4th makes it a lot less clear than say, 5 minutes left in the 4th. 5 minutes left, you go for 2. 11 minutes left, I think McCarthy looks across the field and sees Trestman and is probably pretty sure that Chicago would be planning a 5 to 6 minute drive, ending in a FG. MM would have not been confident of his D pitching a shutout on the next drive (although they did), but would have been confident that with a 1 point lead, Trestman would be conservative, would try to grind the clock, and would settle for a FG to go up 4; but if GB got the 2, Trestman might not have been content to settle for a FG to only go up 3. I think that MM expected the ball back with 5 or 6 minutes, needing a TD to win.

The fact that he got it back with 6 minutes down 1 was a win for MM, he thought he would only need to drive for a FG (and he would have been smart enough not to be overly conservative, and to get it close for Crosby). At worst, he would have got the ball back with 5 or 6 minutes down 8, still having to drive for a TD but then needing the 2. I think the fact Trestman was the opponent would have factored into MM decision.

26
by MJK :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:55pm

"Barkevious Mingo"

Is that really a football player name? Sounds like a Harry Potter character.

44
by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:31pm

Yes... and he has a brother named Hughtavious (in addition to brothers Malik and Hugh).

50
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:45pm

Never watched Potter films.,
Mingo name rwmindds of flash Gordon.,early 80s movie.,had charat er named Merciless Mung.

Early in,filn,Flash Gordon was in room witj Ming's bad guys and he started tossing a spere aroubd like it was a football. Gordon was a QB for the Ny Jets back on eartg but now he was on this other planet dealing with Ming and other creepsters,

He was throwing the thing around like a foootball and knocked out some bad guys with throws to the head.

Movie sucky but was good in watch it when young. If watch it when over age of 18, thwn that means you like crap movies which is ok. Some crap movies are good to watch for laughing purposes.

Movie would have veen cooler if Flash Gordon was Raiders QB. Guy would have kicked more interstellar ass.

89
by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:01pm

But Ray Guy wasn't the Raiders QB. Lamonica or Stabler would have kicked more interstellar ass.

Or maybe I read that wrong...

105
by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:07pm

No it makes RJ sense at least. Lamonica or Stabler can't KICK interstellar ass because they are QBs. While it's pretty obvious that with Flash taking the snaps, Guy would be KICKING interstellar ass. Though I'd argue it would be interstellar mass.

108
by Lance :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:08pm

Actually, I think it was "Ming the Merciless". That said, the film is a campy classic and the Queen soundtrack is excellent. Yes, Flash played for the Jets, but don't let that distract too much from the film.

Edit: link

121
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:10pm

Yes, you are correct., Guy's name was Mong The Merciless

131
by jebmak :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:50pm

Solid.

47
by Badfinger (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:35pm

It was very frustrating to see a number of times since last night where people have attributed "good coverage" to the Cowboys defense and knowing it was really obvious clutching and holding. Actually, I guess since the officials swallowed their whistles it was great coverage. I certainly don't blame the Cowboys. If they're not calling anything, do everything.

Hindsight is 20/20, but the weird play clock issue (Dallas' only infraction of the night! They played the cleanest game in league history!) actually benefited the Cowboys in the end. If it's 4th and 4, there is no way in hell Davis calls a Cover 0 and lets Patrick Chung get anywhere near Dez Bryant all by himself.

55
by dan harmon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:02pm

"It's a travesty that Aaron Rodgers missed so much time. Even for him, it's incredible how easily he slid into the starting spot for such a pivotal game."

Maybe this is my Bears-bias but... Did you watch the same game I did? The first INT was as bad as you'll ever see. The 2nd was on a Stafford-esque overthrow (Nelson is good but not Megatron). There were multiple balls that he skipped off the turf. At least 5 completions were practically backwards passes which led- along with some deep passes and the Bears inability to, y'know, tackle anyone- a lot of YAC...

Certainly not an awful performance but I think if the final result was different there'd be a lot of people using words like "rusty" and "not in game shape."

57
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:07pm

All true. And the guy also threw passes on the move and with the flick of his wrist that Matt Flynn cannot make happen in his daydreams much less on a football field.

Chicago played a 'keep everything in front of us' defense most of the game. The Bears would have been far more aggressive with Flynn at qb which would have likely stressed the Packers offensive line

66
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:01pm

I actually thought the first pick was a nice play by Conte. He's in man coverage, but has the presence of mind to read Rodgers and come off his man for the pick.

At any rate, a rusty Rodgers is about equal to Cutler with 2 games under his belt. Which is depressing.

72
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:08pm

Cutler played pretty well yesterday. Though I was puzzled the Bears tight ends didn't get more action as the Packers linebackers couldn't cover their own shadows.

76
by scoop (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:20pm

Maybe this is my Packers-bias but... Barring parallel universes, I'm pretty sure we watched the same game. The first INT was bad, but far from "as bad as you'll ever see", unless you just started watching football in the last week or two. Conte made a nice play coming off his man to make the play. A sharp Rodgers probably sees that, and/or is a little less locked in on what looks like an open receiver (which is what tips Conte to leave his guy). So, on Rodgers for sure, and not good. But not horrible. The second INT was a little high and behind Nelson, but not Stafford-esque. Nelson gets a hand on it without jumping. Again, a sharp Rodgers places the ball better than that. So, while it's on Rodgers, it's not a horrible pick.

Rodgers played about as well as I hoped he would - you are right that he was rusty. But he did show good command of the mental aspects of the game and despite being off on some throws was also very sharp on a number of others.

81
by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:45pm

I'll agree with this assessment on the first interception and at the time I chalked it up to Rodger's rustiness...one quick pump fake by Rodgers freezes Conte on his man and it's a touchdown.

60
by RickD :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:37pm

If Aaron had spent the weekend in New Orleans, he surely would not have thought that the Falcons-Panthers game was meaningless. The Saints would have loved a shot at the #2 seed.

61
by sdboltsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:38pm

Regarding the Chargers... I can understand why people criticize the defense for struggling all year (and particularly against the Chiefs' second string) and I agree that they are terrible. However, why is San Diego being classified as "not a very good team" when they've managed to go 5-2 against the other playoff teams? They beat Kansas City twice, beat Indianapolis, beat the Broncos IN Denver, beat Philly IN Philadelphia and lost to Denver and Cincinnati at home. Even in terms of DVOA, the offense is ranked 3rd, Philip Rivers is ranked 2nd among QB's and the special teams is in the middle of the rankings, with total DVOA ranking the Chargers 13th. To me, that says this is a team with a great offense, average special teams and struggling defense who has managed to beat quality opposition (and yes, I know they lost some close games to poor teams as well). "Not very good" as the 6th seed doesn't seem to tell the whole story.

68
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:02pm

In my opinion, San Diego is a downright scary team to face in the playoffs. It's much easier for a mediocre-to-bad defense to pull it together in the playoffs (see: 2006 Colts) than for a team with a bad offense to start scoring points. Well, we know the Chargers can score points, and their defense has "only" allowed 17.6 ppg over their last five games, including holding the Broncos to 20 points in Denver. I could see the Chargers getting hot and beating the Bengals, Broncos, and Patriots consecutively.

Now watch, they'll allow Andy Dalton to throw for 5 TDs.

84
by serutan :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:49pm

Or it will be -15 degrees with a -59 wind chill again.

74
by Bobman :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:14pm

I hadn't thought of it this way because their past few years were so sketchy, but you have a point. Plus, the Chargers' results this year have been eerily similar to the Colts', whose only losses to playoff teams were to the... Chargers (and Bengals), having beaten the Hawks, Broncos, 49ers, and Chiefs. Lucky for Colts, the Chargers and Bengals are in the opposite bracket. Maybe the best description of both teams would be "not a complete team" (but not many are). They played up to their toughest competition, which is a great sign (defies the guts/stomps story line to some extent, thought they both have some stomps as well. It's just the average-to-above-average teams the Colts struggled with for the most part.)

Having said that, however, I'd be pretty down as a Chargers fan right now because they barely beat a Chiefs team that rested their seven best players. That says "average team with slim playoff hopes" to me.

85
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:54pm

AS someone whos been a fan of PM for most of his career, I will be really disappointing to hear his records now being used against him if he doesn't win the SB. Like I argued with Hawks fans a few weeks back, playoffs are a total crapshoot with maybe the best odds not being any higher than 20 percent Imo. 20 percent! That means the field should always be taken over an individual team, even if you're the 2007 Patriots.

I have no idea how far he gets, but the truth is, I think the media is right. His legacy will be defined by that one ring, if...

90
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:02pm

It's kind of why I have dreaded his year's playoffs, ever since seeing the Broncos play the Cowboys; the avalanche of stupid commentary which will flow if a team with a suspect defense fails to win the Super Bowl. Anybody who will be surprised that the Broncos get beat sometime in the next 5-6 weeks, and that such a result would necessarily reflect poorly on one player, is an idiot, and is qualified to be a professional sports pundit.

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by Lance :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:18pm

I agree totally here and it has bugged me for a long time that people define success by rings when such things are a crap shoot. Even if you put the 2007 Patriots at 40%, you still take the field!

Right now, the Seahawks are an all-time top 10 team in the FO era and the odds of a win for them is hovering around 25%. Tournaments are great and I'd rather have one than not. But judging a player by championships seems silly.

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by sdboltsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:56pm

Yes, the Chargers barely beat a Chiefs team that rested their best players. They had a bad game... remember though, the Chargers beat the Chiefs IN Kansas City, with ALL their starters, a little over a month ago. So I'm not very depressed. A lot of "luck" that normally goes against the Chargers has gone their way for once and I'm hoping it means good things are to come. Thank you for your "not a complete team" analysis- that makes a lot more sense to me than the other label!

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by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:32pm

It's fun to see a one-sentence snark comment (Jay Sherman) put into the Longform folder.

It stinks.

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by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:39pm

Mike Smith on the hot seat? Total strawman. Everyone can see the injuries they had.

103
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:03pm

Agree on Smith. I think he'd have to have at least another season this bad before he was canned. I also doubt the Falcons get Clowney. This year's draft order:

1. Texans
2. Rams (via Redskins)
3. Jaguars
4. Browns
5. Raiders
6. Falcons
7. Buccaneers
8. Vikings
9. Bills
10. Lions

I don't think the Falcons would be willing to trade enough to get the Rams to trade down. They already traded a bundle for Jones. Would they seriously do it again for Clowney? The Rams have already said their open to trade the pick, and they need OT and S more than another DE (current starters are Quinn and Long).

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:45pm

The Rams trading the pick makes loads of sense, and, presuming there's no other QB worthy of the slot, Clowney to Jacksonville makes huge, steaming piles of sense. Beyond that, I can't see the Raiders passing on them. Yes, both Jacksonville and Oakland have QB needs, but with guys like Freeman, Schaub, and potentially Cutler available, there's going to be some options in the FA market instead of over-drafting a QB high (I live in Minnesota, so we'll call this "Pulling a Ponder").

100
by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:45pm

Something lost in the discussion of MM not going for 2 is that Packers are certain, and I mean CERTAIN, that if GB were not trailing late in the 4th quarter and had that same 4th and short MM would have ignored his offense and punted. And the Bears offense would have used up valuable time if not run out the clock.

MM is a FAR better tactical coach when behind then when the team is tied or ahead late in the game. Because he suddenly becomes Bart Starr reincarnated and seemingly trying to win the game by as small a margin as allowed by the rules. It's very strange.

107
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:46pm

Yeah, it's kind of funny how one horrendous decision by McCarthy forced him to make better ones later.

110
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:42pm

It's reverse psychology coaching!

123
by Guest789 :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:31pm

Going to throw my lot in with the confusion over the rage at McCarthy for a perfectly defensible decision to kick the XP. It's certainly arguable, but it is definitively not "the single most damaging decision of the year".

-----

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

126
by David C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:55pm

Miles Austin's interception-pass target ratio is just way too high.

127
by Cythammer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:11pm

The Falcons-Panthers game wasn't meaningless at all. If the Falcons had pulled out a win the whole complexion of the NFC playoffs would've changed. The Saints would have a bye instead of having to go go on the road in Philadelphia, and they would have avoided the Seahawks until the NFC Championship game. With the win the Panthers get that honor instead. It was a huge game, actually. Falcons almost pulled it off, too. Until a botched snap lost them a ton of yards on the last drive I thought they had it. Carolina struggled to close the door in the fourth quarter and was never consistent on offense without Steve Smith.

128
by Jetspete :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:41am

"I like to think the NFC East title is a greater reward than Andie MacDowell, but the Cowboys just can't capture it."

In 2012 the reward was blowing a 14-0 lead at home, your qb blowing out his knee, and a 3-13 follow up season that became the biggest QB circus not named Tebow in recent NFL memory.

132
by jebmak :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:55pm

Maybe it's just me, but I would way rather have Andie MacDowell.

133
by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 6:24pm

I would agree the NFCeek (credit Mike Tanier) crown is not worth much, but Andie McDowell hasn't demonstrated compensatory value, ala Kardashiana.

129
by Scott C :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:41pm

"And of course, we didn't realize during the game that the Ryan Succop missed field goal should have been cancelled by an illegal formation penalty. But it's not the job of the fans to count how many guys are on either side of the line; it's the job of the officiating. A lot of missed calls in the NFL that we all complain about are just issues of human error where the game goes too fast for the eye to see every infraction properly. This was not. This was just an official forgetting to do part of his job."

Well, the luck of blown ref calls evens out. The chargers lost the first game of the season on a blown call on a FG that resulted in the texans getting a first down instead of 3 points, and they finished the drive with a TD for a 4 point swing in a 3 point game.

If both calls were correct, the Chargers would probably be 9-7, switching the result of the first and last games.

130
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:28pm

Of course, then we'd need to see how Pittsburgh netted out on blown calls Then some other team.

Oh, wait, Festivus is over.....

135
by dbt :: Mon, 01/06/2014 - 4:49am

Hey it's probably too late for this playoff round, but whomever is compiling this needs to manually add RJ's comments. He doesn't use the #foaud hashtag, because let's be honest, he'd typo it even if he tried, but seriously, fix this.