Critical games this weekend in the Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC could go a long way in determining conference championships -- and maybe even playoff berths.
30 Dec 2013
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
@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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
@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.
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.
@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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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
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.
135 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2014, 4:49am by dbt