Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» The Week In Quotes: December 19, 2014

It's a Tom Brady-centric edition of TWIQ. What does he say about a potential rematch with Denver? Why does he like to headbutt people? And why do his teammates compare him to a Clydesdale?

13 Jan 2014

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

compiled by Rivers McCown, Andrew Potter, and Ben Jones

For this year's playoffs, we have a modified format for our Audibles at the Line feature, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. Firstly, the arrival of the playoffs brings with it the return of our usual back-and-forth staff e-mail conversation. Secondly, every game 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.

After the last game finishes, 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 the comments in this feature are 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.

New Orleans Saints 15 at Seattle Seahawks 23

Tweets

Danny Tuccitto: wait. is gregg williams back at DC for the saints?
Vincent Verhei: The Seattle wind is the 13th man.
@nath_on_fire: It looks like Payton's strategy is to eliminate the Seahawks secondary- their biggest defensive strength- with RB-heavy gameplan.
Aaron Schatz: Seahawks OL just kicking NO's ass. Fitting the one holding to blow a big run was on the backup TE
@robbbbbb: Pete Carroll looks like a drowned rat. An overjoyed, hyperactive, drowned rat.
Danny Tuccitto: that wilson bait-and-switch play brought to you by my brother screwing with me in tecmo bowl 30 years ago.
@robbbbbb: The Seahawk D just held Drew Brees to 34 yards passing in the 1st half. Wow. Weather assisted, but still awesome.
Danny Tuccitto: at some point, the NO OL is going to stop blocking air on their RB screen plays, right?
Aaron Schatz: Very nice play call on the 2pt conversion. Everyone looking at the bunch, run it in.
Aaron Schatz: I don't remember Drew Brees generally being this good at getting out of sacks.
@therotund1b: One of the big stories of the game: no success on staple plays. Screens for New Orleans, slants for Seattle.
Aaron Schatz: And that's a good example of why you were unemployed for most of the year, Shayne
Vincent Verhei: Saints wisely not spiking it, using every down they have.
Aaron Schatz: Apparently, Colston didn't realize "start lateraling if you catch it" didn't apply if there were more than zero seconds left.
@ZackFlatto: So many tactical errors in the second half: Saints wasted timeouts, Lynch 2nd TD, and Colston's game ending headscratcher.

Longform

Vince Verhei: Two pre-game observations:

1) The anticipation for this game in Seattle is like nothing I've ever seen before. The history of the Seahawks is pretty sorry. This is the first time they've really been expected to contend for a Super Bowl, and then followed through with a great regular season. Usually it seems the like playoffs are a lucky bonus for the Seahawks. This year, everyone just assumed they would be there, and today is like the real season opener, the day everyone has been waiting for.

2) It's unfortunate, then, that so many people won't be able to see it. The weather around here has been horrible for 12 hours now, sheets of rain, powerful winds, and tens of thousands without power. I haven't lost power yet, but my house has shaken in the wind multiple times, and who knows how long I'll actually be able to watch this game. But that seems like good news for a Seahawks win today.

Scott Kacsmar: Either I'm letting the Percy Harvin hit influence my perception or I'm watching the game at a very high volume, but the hitting seems more intense and physical in this game than usual through the first quarter. I like that the Saints are trying to establish the run, but Drew Brees has to throw something beyond the line of scrimmage on this next drive, down 6-0. Special teams already having a big impact, specifically the kickers.

Aaron Schatz: I think Michael Bennett just forced a fumble with his back. You don't see that very often.

Great blocking by Sweezy and Giacomini on the Marshawn Lynch TD to make it 13-0.

Tom Gower: Given Seattle's defense, I thought New Orleans' best chance was to win a lower-scoring game. Maybe 13-10, maybe 20-17, something like that. Of course, part of winning a low-scoring game is "not giving up points every time Seattle has the ball." Three Seattle possessions, thirteen points. Granted, two of them came on short fields, which is why "bad punting" and "fumbling" are generally not part of winning a low-scoring game. Still plenty of time left, over 44 minutes, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Payton stick with the run, but the defense needs to get a lot better quickly.

Scott Kacsmar: There were actually Seattle fans (I assume) throwing Skittles at Russell Wilson after that Lynch TD. Like throwing them right at his head. How dumb can people get?

Mike Ridley: Pete Carroll actually seems determined to run on third down this week. In their loss to Arizona, they threw on every third down, including multiple third-and-2's or less.

Scott Kacsmar: Mark Ingram ball security issues, Percy Harvin being given the business, and seemingly every pass play is a screen or failed completion. Throw in poor punts and there's our game so far.

Rob Weintraub: Great play by Wagner to snuff out another Saints drive. I feel like he hasn't been talked about much this season, and I've only seen a handful of Hawks games. Was he dinged up, or simply lost in the shuffle, or did he take a step back?

Vince Verhei: Overshadowed by his teammates. He's a big reason the Seahawks are so good in coverage against RBs.

Rob Weintraub: Figured as much. Sometimes it does seem as though the Hawks D is just 11 Richard Shermans for all the media oxygen he takes up.

Cian Fahey: I think he has just two catches so far, but Percy Harvin's fingerprints are all over this game right now(late second quarter).

Aaron Schatz: It looks to me like the Saints are really trying to be physical with him, maybe even in an effort to put him back on the sidelines. Not by injuring him, per se, but I definitely get the sense of a perception around the league that Harvin is soft and the desire to get knocked around ain't too high there.

Cian Fahey: Maybe soft. Definitely feared.

Scott Kacsmar: Well Saints just put another big, Rodney Harrison-like hit on Harvin at the end of another incompletion. Rough day for him.

Danny Tuccitto: "It looks to me like the Saints are really trying to be physical with him, maybe even in an effort to put him back on the sidelines. Not by injuring him, per se, but I definitely get the sense of a perception around the league that Harvin is soft and the desire to get knocked around ain't too high there."

I'm Gregg Williams, and I approve this message.

Tom Gower: 29 minutes for Drew Brees to complete a pass beyond the line of scrimmage. Bad tackling. Penalties on third down to continue drives. Special teams miscues. Fumble. In a word, yuck in the first half from the Saints.

Rob Weintraub: One could see this first half as a harbinger of things to come this weekend in terms of competitiveness. On the other hand, one could have said the same thing after the first half of the first game last weekend, and that turned out great, except for my damn team.

Rivers McCown: The New Orleans first half game plan was sort of strange. Okay yeah, run the ball and shorten the game. Where are the risky play-action bombs? Where are the other high variance strategies?

Vince Verhei: Honestly, I think Sean Payton and Drew Brees are both rattled. The game plan is out-of-character, and Brees has made a lot of bad throws for no reason. Don't know if it's the road, the noise, the weather, or what, but it looks like Brees having a bad day as much as the Seahawks D having a good day.

Aaron Schatz: The Saints' defense is keeping them in this game. The offense looks awful. The defense is playing as physical as Seattle's defense.

Rivers McCown: Russell Wilson has not been sharp on the slants today, either.

Rob Weintraub: A little more than 16 minutes to go, and it's still a 16-point game. Sure, it feels like the Saints will get shut out, but if you're a Seahawks backer you gotta be disquieted that this is still just a two-score game.

Tom Gower: Saints actually played some defense in the third quarter, though of course Wilson missing those third-down slants helped things.

Rob Weintraub: And now Vince and Co. are even more scared. 16-8, and the whole quarter to go.

Aaron Schatz: And Percy Harvin out with a concussion.

Note from Aaron: In the Seattle locker room after the game, Harvin was in a shoulder sling, so the issue was more than just a concussion.

I don't remember Drew Brees being this good at getting away from sacks. He's come alive in the second half of this game. Unfortunately, his offensive line hasn't quite come alive to the same extent.

Tom Gower: Terron Armstead's been playing pretty well. Not great, but not the same liability he was against Greg Hardy and Robert Quinn. It's right tackle Zach Strief who's been getting his lunch handed to him.

Aaron Schatz: And Jahri Evans a couple times, which is a bit of a surprise. There was one play where somebody, Avril or Bennett, just tossed him aside easily.

Rob Weintraub: That 1st and 20 defensive holding on a screen being an automatic first down always bugged me. Maybe not to the level of the 50-yard pass interference call that is essentially a score, but it does provide a huge tilt that doesn't seem warranted.

Matt Waldman: The safety misplaying that pass resulting in a 52-yard gain has happened at least four times in pro football this year. Everyone thinks of the Auburn-Georgia game, but the Eagles-Packers had one the week prior. If I were a DB coach I'd be compiling all of those plays for the off season to convey the message "don't be a hero".

Aaron Schatz: The fourth-and-15 for the Saints was a near-impossible decision for Sean Payton. First of all, it isn't quite a case of "you need a touchdown anyway" because you need both a touchdown and a two-point conversion. "You shouldn't kick a field goal down 8 in the fourth quarter" is not as easy a statement to make as "You shouldn't kick a field goal down 7 in the fourth quarter." And fourth-and-15 is extremely hard to convert. On the other hand, the weather is bad and you have a kicker you grabbed off his couch a couple of weeks ago who has never had a strong leg for long kicks. 48 yards is only not a long field goal if you believe in some kind of magical line at 50 yards that makes field goal attempts into "50-yarders." So near-impossible decision.

Tom Gower: As I described it on Twitter, an "all options suck" scenario. The only wrong call in my book would have been punting.

Saints screens are up there with Seahawks third down slants in terms of "burn this play" nominations from this game.

Cian Fahey Neither quarterback has played well today. The Seahawks have some serious concerns despite this being a relatively convincing victory. Wilson's confidence looks shot to be honest. Missed many plays he never missed early in season.

Rob Weintraub: Wilson will now be 2-1 in the playoffs, hence he's a "winner" in the eyes of the pigskin chattering classes, efficiency of play be damned. For now.

Mike Ridley: Completely agree. Bevell's refusal to run on third-and-short is maddening.

Scott Kacsmar: I actually think Wilson played better in his playoff loss (Atlanta) than either of his two wins.

Anyone thinking I overreacted to Ronnie Brown's touchdown last week, just wait until I unload on Marshawn Lynch today. This game would have had a drama-free final two minutes with three kneel downs if he just did the right thing and take a dive at the 1. He looked like he thought about it at least, but this should have never come down to what it did at the end.

Cian Fahey: As a -9.5 SEA backer, I can tell you I'm all for Marshawn Lynch's touchdown...not so much for Marques Colston's.

Vince Verhei: Well, that had to be the least satisfying playoff win ever. What on earth was that game? Who were those men wearing Drew Brees' and Russell Wilson's jerseys? Why does Darrell Bevell's entire third-down playbook consist of slant routes? Why can't Seattle's receivers get open on slant routes? Why, when they did get open on those slant routes, did Wilson miss them? They built their lead largely because the Saints forgot how to run screen passes, then they sealed it only when Marques Colston did one of the dumbest things I've ever seen a man do on a football field.

I'm trying to imagine, hypothetically, if they win the Super Bowl like this, will I be happy? It's a moot point, because if they don't play any better they'll never get there. But next week they host the NFC Championship and I'm sitting here pissed off.

Indianapolis Colts 22 at New England Patriots 43

Tweets

@Mercurius100: Seeking intelligent football commentary. Hear that LeGarrette Blount is the most important player tonight. Not what I'm looking for.
Aaron Schatz: Andrew Luck, in his youth, still has just a little too much love for his own ability to get the ball to covered receivers.
Aaron Schatz: No idea what Allen was trying to do at end there. Throw incomplete pass? Just kick out of EZ, take safety. Terrible snap.
@Mercurius100: There's two schools of thought, Dan Dierforf and everybody else in the world who has ever watched a football game.
@Raiderjoe_FO: Cotls in,good shape. Patriots too amny backups playing. Should wear out in 2nd half. Cream will rise to top. Tears in Fixboro tobite
Aaron Schatz: I just don't quite get why you go empty backfield on 3rd-and-2 when your running game is going as well as NE's.
Tom Gower: 2nd down T-Rich give, 3rd down fade. The Colts call plays like they have a bad quarterback.
Andrew Potter: This is why the Colts are so good at coming back. They have a really good quarterback, and stop being afraid to use him.
Tom Gower: I wasn't sure about Andrew Luck's arm strength when he came out of Stanford, though it might be "just" Matt Ryan-ish. Never mind.
Aaron Schatz: At least if this game comes down to a botched Brady hold, Tony Romo won't have to feel so lonely anymore.
Aaron Schatz: Jamie Collins will never live up to his SackSEER projection because he's not strictly a pass rusher, but he's gonna be a good one.
Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady: 0 passing touchdowns today. LOL.
@pchicola: You run when you win, not win when when you run. Blount and NE proving the theorem right vs BUF and IND.
@squalltimore: 2013 Colts final scores that had never happened in NFL history: 39-33, 38-8, 40-11, 45-44, 43-22.
Danny Tuccitto: in acute case of superstition, i'm comforted that both home tms won today. 1's gotta lose, so CAR now w/ 50/50 shot, right? #MathJail
@pchicola: IND lost because they were expecting 2TE sets, spread passing game from NE. That's the intel they got from D. Branch.

Longform

Aaron Schatz: Patriots are really announcing their intention to run in this game, coming out in a lot of standard 21- and even 22-personnel sets. On defense, Talib goes looking for T.Y. Hilton as soon as the Colts break huddle, and moves around the field to cover him.

Colts would definitely have a better shot at this game if Andrew Luck could play defense, and also running back.

Cian Fahey: As I've said previously, tonight is a great example of how Andrew Luck doesn't drop into a pocket at the snap. He begins escaping a collapsing plastic bag.

Aaron Schatz: Can we clarify some things about Ryan Allen on that botched punt?

1) On no planet, including one where Dan Dierdorf lives, would giving the Colts the ball at the 2 be better than a safety and free kick.

2) I don't know if Allen was trying to throw an incomplete pass after he finally fielded that thing at the 2, but that's a colossal risk with three Colts crowded around you. Let's see... there's a good chance the refs call intentional grounding because there are no eligible receivers in the area, or you could throw a pick, or you could have a Colts guy hit your hand so you fumble it into their hands for a touchdown. Just kick it out the back of the end zone and take your goddamn medicine.

Andrew Potter: There was an eligible receiver right next to him. Tavon Wilson is the guy he was trying to throw to.

Aaron Schatz: Uh... come on guys, it's halftime. Someone else has to have a thought on this game so far, right?

Tom Gower: First half played out pretty unsurprisingly, I thought. New England's more run-heavy than they've been in the past, and they've been content to run it. It's worked out just well enough. Andrew Luck's had some bad luck, some questionable decisions, and a marvelous throw for the touchdown. The Colts have been using too much Trent Richardson and too much Stanley Havili, a sad but not particularly surprising change from last week.

Aaron Schatz: The Colts are taking Robert Mathis out of the game a lot when the Pats go with a power set, like the 22-personnel. When he comes in, he's lining up mostly at left end, going against RT Marcus Cannon. The Pats need to get Cannon a little help over there or the strip sack is coming.

Cian Fahey: Watching the referee wave incomplete and then throw the flag...that's just a joke really.

Tom Gower: You make the call that ends the play, then throw the flag. That was a call that stunk for the Colts, and I were a fan I'd be really annoyed, but Gordy wasn't playing the ball at all and the throw was close enough.

Scott Kacsmar: That was also one of those NBA-style calls where the ref emphatically motions for a penalty to the delight of the home crowd. Should have been a no call.

Rob Weintraub: No, Dierdorf, "everyone" had not stopped on the 2-pt conversion. Ridley was still fighting hard, and incredible as it may seem, no one saw the side judge's signal. And how he can determine how the whistles are blowing while watching a silent slo-mo replay is beyond me. The front porch awaits, Dan.

I tweeted before this drive that the Colts failure to punch it in at 21-12 will be their death knell. Giving up a 90-yd drive (helped mightily by an uncalled in the grasp and a shouldn't have been called DPI) only hastens the end.

Aaron Schatz: Even as a Pats fan, I'm with you on this Robert. It was hard to see the signal for the two-pointer being good. I guess whistles were blowing but I definitely can see why Butler would feel that everyone was still playing at that point. I didn't like that flag at all.

Rob Weintraub: OK, maybe I should have factored Luck in to that a wee more. Holy cow what an incredible throw that was to Hilton.

Aaron Schatz: And then Andrew Luck moves the Colts downfield for a touchdown to make it 29-22 on two ridiculous passes. That's it. Two. Wow. He's damn good.

Cian Fahey: Not sure I've ever seen two consecutive plays from a quarterback like those for the Brazil Q3 TD. That's simply phenomenal from Andrew Luck...phenomenal.

Scott Kacsmar: For better or worse, Colts just need to unleash Luck rest of the game. It's 29-22 now, but keep throwing and doing things quickly. That's what worked last week. The Colts' longest drive tonight is 5:19, but everything else is under 3:30 and most are under 90 seconds.

Cian Fahey: Pep Hamilton doesn't understand you Scott.

LaRon Landry completely misses the tackle on Blount's big TD in Q4. It's investments like that that make it impossible to say Ryan Grigson has been a good GM to this point.

Aaron Schatz: Well and, you know, the Trent Richardson trade.

Cian Fahey: Hard for me to criticize him for the Richardson trade. Most reacted at the time thinking it was a bargain. 99 percent of draft analysts expected him to be an elite player.

Aaron Schatz: If Stanley Havili injury makes Colts put game more in Luck's hands rather than running so much, it's the best thing that could happen for them.

LeGarrette Blount will see Andrew Luck's ridiculous two-pass touchdown drive and raise him one colossal open-field touchdown run.

MALLETT TIME!!!! And... he holds!

Wait, I'm sorry. That was BRADY holding the XP. Holy crap. That's nuts.

Tom Gower: Totally nuts. Sorry, I respect Belichick as much as anybody, but my starting QB would not be my emergency holder.

Aaron Schatz: the Patriots press was under the impression that Mallett was the emergency holder, which is why I thought it was Mallett out there. I have no idea why they went Brady. I agree on injury risk.

Scott Kacsmar: Again, a one-play scoring drive isn't the worst thing to happen to the Colts there. Now they can actually get back to being aggressive and letting Luck do his thing with 12:55 left. Offense wasn't impressive down by seven.

Cian Fahey: The story will be that Andrew Luck threw three INTs. The story should be that he dragged an awful roster to this point in the playoffs. An incredible feat.

Aaron Schatz: Him, Mathis, and Wayne for a few weeks followed by Hilton for a few weeks, but yeah. Pretty much.

Rob Weintraub: This upcoming Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl in the wintry mix at Giants Stadium is going to set a record for rushing attempts and, hopefully, shortest game as a result.

Aaron Schatz: Just going back to the discussion on Grigson: I agree that we all thought Richardson was a very good running back prospect based on college film and performance. To me the error of the trade was less about how much Richardson has sucked since arriving in Indy, and more about not understanding what the value of a good running back is in today's NFL compared to the value of a good player at other positions like cornerback, wide receiver, or defensive end.

Chuck Pagano, who apparently has never seen Andrew Luck's comeback numbers, punts on fourth-and-1 down 21 points. OK then.

Scott Kacsmar: Even with Joe Webb at quarterback I don't see how a coach can punt on that situation in the playoffs. Literally threw in the towel.

Cian Fahey: Asked this on twitter. Can you rank the four QBs who played today based on their displays?

Aaron Schatz: I would say Luck, Brady, Brees, and Wilson, in that order. Brees will probably end up with more DYAR in our stats but that will be a volume thing, in particular because of the final two drives.

Tom Gower: Cian, interesting question. I think I have to put Luck at #1, just because Indy has nothing at all aside from him throwing, and they need a lot considering what they've done defensively (minus that string of third down stops resulting in 3&outs). He's made some bad decisions, though, so maybe I'm letting the curve do too much. Brady's had some misadventures on deep throws (the Bethea near-INT, even the big pass to Amendola was underthrown), but most of the third down passes have been at least close. Wilson's third down slants and missed open receivers drove me nuts. Brees, at least relative to expectations and what his team needed from him, comes last. No, he didn't have Luck's interceptions, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

What will DYAR think? I'm guessing nobody stands out in too positive a way. It'll probably view Brees' late work more favorably than I do, plus I'm valuing the near-picks it ignores.

Cian Fahey: I'm growing less fond of "It's a QB league" with every week.

Aaron Schatz: They can totally dominate a game when they're totally on, but even the best quarterbacks are a lot more inconsistent than people understand them to be.

Rob Weintraub: We should at least acknowledge the crap weather both of today's games were played in. I find it hard to criticize any of the QBs given the conditions. There's a reason the best quarterbacked games played in the postseason so far were Luck and Smith last week--indoors.

Vince Verhei: Brees is going to win DYAR. No turnovers, giant opponent adjustments, and he'll get tons of credit for his not-quite-garbage time production on the last two drives.

Scott Kacsmar: That's why in the playoffs you have to really favor the teams capable of winning thanks to contributions from far more than just quarterback. Coming into today's game, Seattle and New England were clearly those teams. Tomorrow, I think the first game is a push (better weapons for Kaepernick) and San Diego has that advantage over Denver.

Just not sure I can recall a recent postseason when the quarterback play was so indecisive or unimpressive. The very first game with Luck and Alex Smith might have been the best QB display we've seen yet. Both made a lot of plays and had to carry their teams.

Danny Tuccitto: Chuck Pagano finishes the season with three timeouts to paradise. Friggin' awful.

Tom Gower: He punted on fourth-and-1, then didn't use his timeouts when the Patriots were burning clock. He'd clearly given up on the game. And then of course he has Luck out there throwing down three scores with less than 3 minutes to play. NFL conventional wisdom conservativeness at its most aggravating.

Rivers McCown: And kicked a field goal on the goal line. And went into halftime without trying to score despite having two timeouts. And he spat on Homer Smith's book. Okay, I made that last one up. But it wouldn't surprise me if he really did.

Vince Verhei: OK, another question: Who had the worse day, as a group, the four quarterbacks, or the four coaching staffs? New England is the only team that didn't have some bizarre play-calling/game-planning/clock-management.

Scott Kacsmar: The correct answer is...Marques Colston.

San Francisco 49ers 23 at Carolina Panthers 10

Tweets

Danny Tuccitto: Apparently, Gregg Williams pulling double-duty at defensive coordinator this weekend. Like three extracurriculars already.
Aaron Schatz: This crew has read your articles on fewer penalties called in the playoffs, and they wish to file a dissenting opinion.
@MilkmanDanimal: Cam throws a bubble screen to Ginn who catches it full-stride instead of starting from a stop. Why don't more people do that?
Tom Gower: CAR O is 7th in Power situations, SF D 18th. Matchup edge, not that going on 4&G/1 isn't the right call anyway.
@CyrisJonfs: That was a case study for going on 4th down: pin them deep, near pick six, short punt, TD first play.
Aaron Schatz: Steve Smith is seriously a BAMF and the dude has lasted through a lot of bad QB play in Carolina.
@Foosball_Wizard: Against Newton, when you stunt up front they ain't gonna punt. This is a mnemonic device for Harbaugh and the Niners.
@Foosball_Wizard: If you have a bad internet connection like me it looks like Cam Newton is using a blink spell against the 49ers.
Danny Tuccitto: Cam really should have gone for a Flair Flop there.
Danny Tuccitto: Have to consult the charting, but not sure I've seen any QB sneaks or designed QB runs inside the 5 from SF all year.
Aaron Schatz: Whoo, Panthers OL has looked good all game but just struggled at worst possible time. Inability of WR to get open doesn't help.
@nath_on_fire: I'd love to see how those two sacks affect Carolina's win probability. Pretty brutal to no longer be able to cut it to one score.
Danny Tuccitto: Am I the only one noticing CAR isn't covering the center on these short-yardage plays? Easy QB sneak!
Aaron Schatz: Mmmm, says Frank Gore, this game clock is delicious.
Danny Tuccitto: Would have loved to see Buddy Ryan's polish defense on those last few plays.

Longform

Tom Gower: I hope Carolina's all-black uniforms cause them to do a pre-game haka.

Cian Fahey: At this point the NFL needs to clean slate with their officials. If these are the guys you put on playoff games then you've clearly got a major problem.

Rivers McCown: I dunno, I wasn't as down on that penalty as most. I saw it as kind of an attempt to keep the game from going off the chippiness scale. Don't think it worked.

Tom Gower: The Mike Mitchell penalty call is where the NFL seems to want to go. I don't like it much more than anybody else does, but Mitchell came in hard when the ball wasn't close to Davis. Not an auto-call like a blow to the head would have been, but I wasn't surprised to see a flag.

Colin Kaepernick made two more good throws on third down on the opening drive than I think he did in the regular season game between the two teams.

Aaron Schatz: This crew has read your articles on fewer penalties called in the playoffs, and they wish to file a dissenting opinion.

Quintin Mikell's almost-pick after the Panthers went for it on fourth-and-goal and failed would have been one of the greatest moments in the history of stat analysts trying to explain that going for it on the goal line pins your opponent back even if you fail.

Tom Gower: Starting at the San Francisco 32 and getting a touchdown pass on the first play isn't a bad argument in support either.

Sean McCormick: Yes, but the fact that Carolina immediately scored off the short field makes the point as well. (Just not as forcefully.)

Scott Kacsmar: Did Steve Smith play up the ankle injury this week? Looks as good as he has at any point this season.

Tom Gower: If I'm a Carolina fan, I'm beyond annoyed to be trailing at halftime after I thought we outplayed the 49ers for the majority of the first half. Playcalling from the 1, kicking the field goal after going for it, getting stuffed, and getting a touchdown off a short field(!), and, yes, the officiating.

Vince Verhei: Things I learned in the first half:

1) Captain Munnerlyn can't throw a headbutt, but Anquan Boldin can.
2) The Panthers haven't gotten the kind of pressure on Kaepernick I expected, but their coverage has been much better than I expected.
3) Hey, the 49ers got through a half without burning a timeout or taking a delay of game! Way to go!
4) Panthers hitting more plays downfield than they usually do, and Newton is scrambling more effectively than usual.
5) Steve Smith remains awesome.

Aaron Schatz: I appreciate that Ted Ginn hasn't sucked balls this year like in years past, but the most important thing the Panthers could add for next year would be a significant No. 2 receiver, bumping LaFell down to No. 3. You can really see the difficulty that guys other than Steve Smith and Greg Olsen have getting open.

In fact, given Smith's age, the second-most important thing the Panthers could add for next year would be a second significant No. 2 receiver so that the first significant No. 2 receiver is a rookie who can mature into a No. 1 when it is time for Smith to retire.

Scott Kacsmar: Panthers had the ball for 8:13 and didn't get a single point after back-to-back sacks knocked them out of field-goal range. This is an offense you can actually say is not built to come back from big deficits, but that drive had to put up at least a field goal. It's inexcusable to take up over half a quarter to get nothing. This linebacker corps for the 49ers is absurdly good.

Tom Gower: The refs will probably end up part of the story from this game, and they haven't been good, but Kuechly couldn't cover Vernon Davis in the end zone right before the half, the Panthers blew coverage on Boldin on the big play that set up the TD to make it 20-10, on the TD itself Florence overran the play, then the Panthers pulled off an 8-minute drive that ended in a punt after Newton took two bad sacks to knock them out of field goal or going for it range. And, yes, it may be a 6-point game instead of a 10-point one at the end of the third quarter if Rivera goes for it instead of kicking the field goal. Oh, yeah, toss in Dwan Edwards not coming away with the ball after the bad Kaepernick-Gore exchange in goal-to-go.

Aaron Schatz: I do think that Ahmad Brooks as a Pro Bowler has a bit of a sense of "Wow, wasn't John McCargo great when he played next to Mario Williams at NC State" but even if he's not really a Pro Bowl level guy, he's a Pro Bowl injury replacement-level guy. When Aldon Smith is your only starting linebacker who isn't going to the Pro Bowl, you have a good linebacker corps.

Rivers McCown: Ah, there's that 49ers timeout as the play clock runs down. Was worried this wasn't the same team.

Cian Fahey: Disagree on Ahmad Brooks. I think he's a star.

Early fourth quarter, looks like SF are going to win but I've been impressed by CAR. Critically, they look like a team that is just missing a few pieces. There is a lot of talent there moving forward.

Aaron Schatz: Not saying that Brooks isn't an excellent player, just don't know if I would call him one of the top six OLB in the league. Made Pro Bowl ahead of Lavonte David and Thomas Davis.

(Also, Vontaze Burfict made the Pro Bowl in an inside linebacker position, but plays outside on the weak side.)

Rivers McCown: If I collide the fact that the Panthers were decisively humiliated on both scoreboard and yardage after the fourth-and-1 field goal with the idea of momentum, where does the worm hole I opened lead?

Tom Gower: They're still winning time of possession!

Aaron Schatz: I believe the answer is "Camazotz."

Vince Verhei: MVP of that game: San Francisco's offensive line. They thoroughly dominated the best front four in the league. Gave up one sack, and that was to a middle linebacker on a delayed blitz.

Tom Gower: I thought Carolina had the better of the play in the first half. San Francisco definitely had the better of the play on the second half. As Vince said, credit the offensive line, which let them just pound the Panthers on the ground in the second half after the first half's surprisingly pass-heavy gameplan.

Vince Verhei: In fact, if we're still doing Madden players, I would not be opposed to making all five players the starters on San Francisco's line.

Aaron Schatz: Except the Patriots OL deserves just as much credit for dominating the Colts in the run game... If you had to pick one specific 49ers lineman, who would it be?

Tom Gower: Joe Staley. I don't recall Greg Hardy doing a damned thing today.

San Diego Chargers 17 at Denver Broncos 24

Tweets

@MilkmanDanimal: Wes Welker in his giant helmet looks like the world's most ADORABLE pee-wee football player.
@MilkmanDanimal: Let's skip the game and let Welker and Woodhead battle one-on-one at the 50 in a "Who's the most scrappy former Patriot" contest.
Tom Gower: Nice protection bust by San Diego. Fluker: "You got him." Woodhead: "No, you got him." Rivers: "Too late, he got me."
@jonnybblazin: This DEN/SD game is strange... Why aren't the players pushing the opposing players and shouting in their faces after every play?
@MulEdgeGJJ: aren't punters always defenseless? there for Eric Decker 'kicking' him in the helmet should be a penalty right?
Andrew Potter: @MulEdgeGJJ Punters are, by rule, always considered defenseless, but defenseless never applies to a player attempting a tackle.
Tom Gower: Donald Butler with a great example of "NFL Players Are Athletic" on that interception.
Tom Gower: Not quite 37 minutes for the #Chargers to complete a pass to a wide receiver. Good job, good effort guys.
Aaron Schatz: Biggest dif between game and pregame expectations: DEN pass rush/SD OL. OL so disappointing. Injury impact for those guys?
Aaron Schatz: Honestly, this game is a couple of weird bounces and Donald Butler's feet away from being like 38-0.
Tom Gower: San Diego knows where Quentin Jammer is in coverage
Aaron Schatz: That ball was uncatchable, but they still held. Should have been a five-yard penalty, not a DPI.
@nath_on_fire: Hey, sometimes you just have to kick to the Denver offense late in the 4th quarter and hope it works out somehow.

Longform

Tom Gower: Broncos have four first-half possessions: two touchdowns, one fumble on what I (and many others) think should have been an incomplete pass, and one tipped ball interception in the end zone. If they don't get some points to start the second half, this one could start to get interesting if Philip Rivers can complete a pass to a wide receiver, maybe even one more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.

Vince Verhei: Denver's defense just held the league's second-best passing team to 1 yard in the first half. And they did a lot of it with three-man rushes. And they're getting pressure with three men, too, it's not like they're getting coverage sacks.

And yet, it's only 14-0, because Denver's drive chart went TD, lost fumble, TD, red zone INT.

Rivers McCown: Mike McCoy managed the Cincinnati game poorly too. In this one, I've learned that Peyton Manning is not Andy Dalton.

Aaron Schatz: I think the biggest issue with this game compared to what we would have expected going in is the performance of the Denver pass rush compared to the San Diego offensive line. The whole right side of the line didn't practice all week and I think they're clearly not playing at 100%. They're getting destroyed, and Rivers isn't getting time to throw, and while that's not the only reason the San Diego offense is completely shut down, it's a big part of it. The SD linemen will not be challenging the Pats and 49ers linemen for the right to get Football Outsiders Madden cards this week.

One other late note from the first half: Holy crap, they actually called a penalty on Denver on that Kansas City "wide receivers blocking downfield sort-of-screen" play that we're always complaining needs to be called a penalty almost every time. You think maybe we show that to the refs before they do Chiefs games next year?

Scott Kacsmar: This game is similar to Saints-Seahawks in that the No. 1 seed is letting the underdog hang around. Denver's offense is actually playing well, but some of their usual ball security problems is keeping the score down. Matt Prater just missed a field goal and barely made the last one. I think Ken Whisenhunt has to let Rivers loose here and go to the hurry-up. That last drive was painful to watch with the play clock almost always going under 10 seconds and having to burn a timeout.

Aaron Schatz: Well, they did finally let Rivers loose to start the fourth quarter. It's like they remembered that they had the second-best quarterback in the league this year or something.

Let's remember this game next time we hear that Team X should make sure to depend on the run game to keep (Manning/Rodgers/Insert QB Here) off the field. Because that strategy made the first half an entire waste of time for San Diego.

Rivers McCown: Yeah but running the ball kept the score down AND raised Mike McCoy's credit score.

Tom Gower: Broncos had four possessions in the second half: a field goal, a missed field goal following a third down drop, a touchdown, and a drive where they ran out the clock. I guess you could consider that progress, of a sort, for the San Diego defense. Just what, exactly, they were doing on defense on that third-and-17 conversion to Julius Thomas on the final drive is a mystery. It looked like Cover-3 to me with the wide underneath defender carrying the other receiver to create a void for the conversion, but I feel admit I need to watch the play a few more times from the all-22 to have a real idea of what happened. Either way, a bad play for a big conversion.

Like (presumably) Mike McCoy, I expected the Broncos to run after they kicked deep, so kudos to them for throwing on second and third and long instead of just plowing into the line twice and punting, choosing to trust in a defense that had real problems stopping San Diego once Chris Harris went out. They tried man, and the Chargers kept hammering Quentin Jammer. They tried zone, and Rivers found open receivers. If he can't play next week, that's a big loss. Maybe the Broncos may try Kayvon Webster, who was inactive this week, if Harris is indeed out, but that just means he's the player Brady tries to hammer instead. And, barring a surprising turnaround, no Rahim Moore off short-term IR to help at safety, even though he's eligible to return.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 13 Jan 2014

231 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2014, 12:14pm by bravehoptoad

Comments

1
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:24pm

"Cian Fahey: Hard for me to criticize him for the Richardson trade. Most reacted at the time thinking it was a bargain. 99 percent of draft analysts expected him to be an elite player."

Is he on fucking drugs?

The Richardson trade was almost universally panned.

2
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:30pm

Universally panned is a bit strong, but Cian should go back and read the thread on this board. There were plenty of people saying "What the hell are teh colts doing?"

The fact that Pundits thought Richardson was going to be a stud pre-draft is irrelevant. They thought Vernon Gholston was going to be a stud too. Nobody would have given a first for Gholston a year later.

5
by collapsing pocket (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:34pm

Indeed. Richardson is on track to cost a wasted first round pick for not 1 but 2 different teams. Kind of impressive in a weird way.

65
by slomojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:18pm

Well, it actually turned out a wash for the Browns.

66
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:21pm

Not really. They used the #3 pick (and gave up some stuff to trade up from 4 to 3), and are receiving the 26th/27th pick.

230
by nath :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 10:54pm

I believe it's 26th officially. New Orleans had a more difficult strength of schedule than Indianapolis.

149
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:43pm

The "greater fool" theory and I are holding out hopes for a third team. Oakland, I'm looking at you....

21
by Theo :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:58pm

Many people thought it was a reach to select him high in the first, only just because he's a running back and because the Browns had other needs on offense, for example: everything other than a LT.
And to repeat a mistake the Browns made, that's double stupid in my book.
I was expecting it to be the final nail in the 'spend high picks on running backs'-coffin, but apparently some people don't criticize it even now.

27
by RickD :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:05pm

It wasn't panned by Browns' fans.

Well, to be honest, I have a friend who is a Browns' fan who was really upset that the Browns traded him away. I keep wondering when he'll figure out what a steal that was for his team.

57
by nath :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:03pm

Is your friend Mike Holmgren? He's the only person I can remember panning the trade from the Browns' point of view, which of course is mostly because the trade just further underlined what an awful job he did running the team.

81
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:21pm

Fantasy football players loved it, and that's probably the reason the non-thinking fans thought it was a good trade. Even though he was averaging about a hot dog with a bite taken out of it per attempt for Cleveland, the fantasy wisdom was that he was going to take off now on a good offense with a quarterback that defenses had to respect.

People who can manage to keep good football players separate from valuable fantasy football players almost universally thought it was a horrible trade for Indy, considering what they gave up, and what else was available cheap or free. Hell, the Browns picked up McGahee off the corner for nothing to replace Richardson and he performed better.

190
by nath :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 12:32am

Yeah, and McGahee was *terrible*. Even more to the point: the Browns CUT Bobby Rainey. Running back talent is so fungible that they cut a guy who wound up performing well in a featured role elsewhere, even when their other options weren't very good.

45
by Byrk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:40pm

The Richardson trade was panned, but a lot of people at ESPN panned it as the Browns giving up on the season only a couple of games in.

59
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:06pm

Tanier, Barnwell, and the FO boards panned it a bad trade for the Colts. Nearly every mainstream media outlet (like ESPN) panned it as a bad trade for the Browns.

79
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:13pm

Except for CNN, which was posted above.

I saw more places saying the Browns won the trade than the colts.

3
by Lyford :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:31pm

"Hard for me to criticize him for the Richardson trade. Most reacted at the time thinking it was a bargain."

Really? I guess I don't remember seeing any commentary on the trade at the time, but the (few) people I talked about it with thought that was a huge win for Cleveland and a horrible trade for the Colts. Of course, I don't think any running back is worth a first round pick, so that, and not Richardson in particular, is what drives my take on it, but even if you think that there's a huge value to the right running back vs. another running back, what evidence was there that Richardson was the right running back?

4
by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:33pm

Underdog stories are great, but it's good to see the best compete, for the first time in years the best four teams are in the Conference Championship.

This final four has the feeling of the 1970s when the best four teams, usually Dal-Min and Oak-Pit, played for the right to play in the Super Bowl.

6
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:35pm

Um, gentlemen? The weather in Seattle Saturday was something that was unpleasant by the standards of a crew of an Alaskan crab boat. The odds that any qb would look good , against a competent defense, in those conditions, were slim.

Payton is a great play caller and coach, but I think he really failed to grasp the situation. In particular, he should have adopted a four down strategy in Seahawks territory from the opening kickoff, and forgotten about any but very short field goal attempts. Getting the lead was everything.

54
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:56pm

I have to agree here. Do we need a field to look like a mud-wrestling pit to accept that the weather is crap? It looked like a monsoon in Seattle and even the strongest armed QB would likely have had problems throwing the ball there.

56
by Passing Through (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:59pm

Kaepernick just kissed his biceps

58
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:06pm

Anybody with less than the hand size, pre-thumb injury, and velocity, of a prominent jeans model was going to have his passes substantially affected by the wind and water in that game. I don't know what peoples' expectations are. If you ask Michael Phelps to swim the 200 meter butterfly against the current of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, I suspect his time will suffer.

83
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:25pm

Not if he eats his five dollar footlong Italian cold cuts trio!

74
by Byrk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:59pm

It isn't stormy like that in Seattle often, as it's usually just overcast and/or drizzly for the entire winter. People hear Seattle and think rain, but the Seahawks aren't even used to that type of weather. Despite Seattle's reputation for rain it averages less rain fall than New York per year. Those were miserable conditions for playing football in and it was obvious that neither QB was able to grip and throw the ball very well.

130
by Theo :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:12pm

That reputation is because it rains more often in Seattle than in New York (155 vs 121 days), and when it rains, it rains longer; messing up your whole day instead of just a few hours.

153
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:48pm

What are you talking about? The weather was wonderful--I got in a few hours of skiing in ankle-deep powder, raced home for the 4th quarter and the entire Colts game. Okay, so the day was a bit of a bust for me personally and the Colts, but that weather was just a bit windier than typical. There's a reason they used to play in a dome. Supposed to be pretty mild rest of the week, which only means the weekend will be appalling again. Maybe snow-shoeing this time!

7
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:37pm

Regarding opinion on the Trent Richardson trade at the time: I appreciate all the support, but do you folks read other websites besides this one?

9
by Anonymous' (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:39pm

[Michael Scott voice]: NOOOOOOOO!!!!

15
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:48pm

If I have the choice between a grilled steak and microwaved hamburger, I'm going to choose the grilled steak every single time.

Every. Single. Time.

24
by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:02pm

Wait a minute. There are other web sites?

28
by Theo :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:05pm

Websites about football?
I don't read or watch anything that discusses 'what's going on'. Only on-the-field stuff.

32
by bubqr :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:14pm

First link off google when I typed Trent Richardson trade analysis:

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/writer/pete-prisco/23719714/colts-trade-for...

Colts Trade for Richardson a Bold but Bad Move,by a high profile writer.

41
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:34pm

...a bold and bad high-profile writer.

34
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:20pm

Not often, but most of what I saw was along the lines of "Browns take advantage of Colts owner who may have been drunk. Colts owner tweeted about how awesome it was"

35
by James-London :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:21pm

Only the ones where the ex-FO staff live

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

38
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:29pm

Yeah, Grantland and Sports on Earth.

52
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:50pm

I thought that was what the Extra Points column on the right side of the page was for.

73
by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:57pm

Not many, but the readers at Colts Authority were for the most
part displeased on the grounds they had much greater needs
than RB.

154
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:49pm

Aaron, I swear to you, there's no one else.

8
by Anonymous' (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:38pm

If the the Patriots beat the Broncos next weekend how many excuses should we expect to get from Scott Kacsmar?

10
by Led :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:40pm

I did not expect to read the word Camazotz today.

42
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:35pm

But after I read it once, I knew I'd be reading it twice.

11
by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:42pm

Kayvon Webster was not inactive this week. Their inactive list:
QB Zac Dysert
RB Ronnie Hillman
CB Tony Carter
G Chris Kuper
TE Joel Dreessen
DE Derek Wolfe
DT Sione Fua

While watching that game and watching Jammer get toasted, I kept wondering why Del Rio didn't put in Webster or move Bailey back outside because could it really be worse than Jammer was doing?

12
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:44pm

"Aaron Schatz: I appreciate that Ted Ginn hasn't sucked balls this year like in years past, but the most important thing the Panthers could add for next year would be a significant No. 2 receiver, bumping LaFell down to No. 3. You can really see the difficulty that guys other than Steve Smith and Greg Olsen have getting open.

In fact, given Smith's age, the second-most important thing the Panthers could add for next year would be a second significant No. 2 receiver so that the first significant No. 2 receiver is a rookie who can mature into a No. 1 when it is time for Smith to retire."

Greg Olsen is the de facto #1 target in the passing game right now. The Panthers need a legit #1 WR, so Steve Smith can play his last few years as the #2 WR. Ted Ginn can be the #3 WR.

Considering how efficient the offense looked in 2011 with Olsen and Shockey, I wouldn't be opposed to the Panthers getting a second receiving tight end, if the right WR isn't available to them in the draft.

After that, the Panthers desperately need a big cover corner, and a new right guard and right tackle.

I'm hoping they find a way to pay Greg Hardy, and would like to see them bring back Mike Mitchell, even though the previous starting free safety, Charles Godfrey, should be coming back from an early-season injury. I guess Mitchell/Mikell/Lester could all compete for the starting job at SS.

I'm optimistic that Jordan Gross will not retire, and will sign a team-friendly deal to come back for another year or two. He's no longer a pro-bowl player, but as a starting left tackle, he's not a liability either.

43
by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:38pm

I could totally see Eric Decker as a Panther next year. It would be a good fit for both Decker and Carolina.

Denver won't be in a position to pay a #2WR the type of money he will demand/want and history has proven that Peyton can make stars out of unknown WRs. Denver needs to concentrate on re-signing DRC, Knowshown and extending Chris Harris.

48
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:45pm

Decker's heirs should build a shrine to a creature with a long neck and high forehead, because Eric is about the get substantially overpaid. He's a nice player, but, as I note elsewhere in the thread, he really fails to complete the catch on a fair number of catchable balls.

55
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:56pm

I said to a friend of mine yesterday while watching the game that Decker should just legally change his name to "Alvin Harper" after he is incredibly overpaid on his next contract. Some WR-desperate GM is going to fling a big chunk of change at him and hope for the best.

70
by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:34pm

Eric "Alvin Harper" Decker.....LOL. He's a little bit better than Harper, but an accurate and funny comment. Except for Matt Flynn, I don't think anyone's ever made more money off of one game (Dal-SF playoff game) than Alvin Harper.

Decker should absolutely give Manning and Demaryous Thomas a percentage of his next contract.

76
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:01pm

Don't forget Larry Brown and Desmond Howard.

86
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:27pm

Peerless Price? What's the opposite of peerless? Peers-a-plenty?

155
by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:49pm

I believe that would be "Peerful Price".

Or, going by a Google search, maybe "Commonplace Price".

161
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:55pm

Discount Price? Overprice? The Price is Wrong?

171
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:13pm

Priceless Peer

122
by Karma Coma :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:50pm

Marquis Daniels

72
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:49pm

So he is Muhsin Muhammad 2.0? Is it sad that, as a Panthers fan, I could still totally rationalize The Panthers signing Eric Decker? Carolina hasn't had 2 credible wide receivers play together since Smitty and Moose last played together 11 years ago. Say, didn't Carolina go to the Super Bowl that year!?

*Moose nearly won the triple crown (93/1405/16) without Smith, when Smith broke his leg in week 1 of the 2004 season. Nine more catches would have tied Muhammad for the lead league with Tony GonzaleZ that season. He was #1 in yards and touchdowns.

*Smith DID win the triple crown (103/1563/12) the following year, after Muhammad cashed in his huge 2004 performance for a fat paycheck in Chicago.

*To be fair, Keyshawn Johnson played fairly well in 2006, but was run out of town after a single season because he was more trouble in the locker room than he was help on the field.

105
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:35pm

Steve Smith has been playing since 2001(?!?!). Steve Smith 1st coach was George Seifert. One of his 1st QBs was....Jim Harbaugh (dressed for 6 games, but didn't play).

How is that possible for a guy who is about 5'8"?

111
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:21pm

Because he is the toughest, scrappiest, angriest little son of a bitch on the field every single week, and this is the way he likes it. His little-man sydrome has definitely motivated him over the years. He goes hard on every single play (especially run blocking), and doesn't mind going up and fighting for a jump ball, even in a crowd. If 6'4" NFL receivers played with the same tenacity as Steve Smith, they would be unstoppable (or in jail).

114
by theslothook :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:26pm

Idk, Steve Smith of 05 was pretty unstoppable on his own. His size and speed were effective getting open. He was like a desean Jackson/Mike wallace type but with faaar better route running, hands, and in game instincts.

Will probably not make the hall, but will likely be the most underrated receiver of this generation.

146
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:39pm

Him not winning the MVP in 2005 makes me really angry because of its impact on his HoF credentials. At his prime he was every bit as good as Terrell Owens or Marvin Harrison, except he was catching passes from Delhomme.

133
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:14pm

They might also blow their knees out within 3 years of entering the league. I think being compact might actually help Smith's longevity. He's less likely to get a limb caught wrong and it seems like taller guys have more ligament problems.

145
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:37pm

Steve Smith has been killing the Bucs for year after year and I want to hate his little guts with all my soul, but damn, has he been fun to watch. He's been at the top of my "I wish I could hate that guy" list for many years, but I can't make it happen.

198
by BJR :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 9:30am

How do you judge Decker at this stage of his career? He had one season attempting to catch passes from Orton/Tebow and graded out at replacement level according to DYAR. Followed by two seasons grading as one of the best in the league. 'Somewhere in between' seems the obvious, if inconclusive answer.

199
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 11:08am

He's a nice player, whose major flaw is that he doesn't catch the ball all that well when a db is contesting the catch. When he gets on a team without a HOF qb, and other very good receivers, he's going to have fewer catches which aren't contested by a db. Unless he fixes that, his next team is likely going to greatly overpay him.

200
by Ryan D. :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 11:33am

Am I crazy for thinking that Carolina could really make it work with Decker/Smith/Ginn/Olson and DeAngelo Williams in 11 personnel for the next two or three seasons? That would open up Steve Smith for single coverage for the first time in 10 years. Olsen would be free to roam the middle, since Ginn would almost always keep a safety (or two) deep. DeAngelo's running and Newton's scrambling would be lethal with that offense on the field, wouldn't it?

The biggest obstacle would be paying Decker, with Greg Hardy's unrestricted free agency pending. I really wish Marty Hurney hadn't thrown an armored truck full of money at Jonathan Stewart two years ago. His contract is killing the Panthers cap for the next two seasons.

203
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 1:38pm

Smith will be 35 next fall, in his 14th year. It's not likely that he will remain healthy.

205
by Ryan D. :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 2:24pm

Proehl, who is currently the WR coach for the Panthers, caught a game-tying touchdown late in Super Bowl 38 for the Panthers. Proehl was 35 years old, and in his 14th season. He played two more years for Carolina before he decided to retire.

I would much rather Smith get to play like a late-career Ricky Proehl (a good third option) than being forced to continue to try to carry the team on his back as an overmatched #1 WR (which seems likely at this point). He's getting too old to be "the guy" in this offense, but he could still be useful as a third-down receiving option.

Proehl had lost three steps by the end of his career, and he wasn't even very fast when he was young (white receiver stereotype alert!). But, Proehl always knew how to get open, especially against zone coverage. Smith could definitely fill that role for the next few seasons (he would be more likely to prolong his career this way), but he's going to need better receivers around him in order to do that.

Let's complete the parallels between the 2003 NFC Champions and this hypothetical 2014 Panthers team. In essence, Decker would be Muhammad, a tall possession receiver that probably drops more passes than he should. Ted Ginn would be younger Steve Smith, a fast kick returner that can stretch coverages deep down the field, opening up underneath routes. Older Steve Smith would be Ricky Proehl. Add Greg Olsen, DeAngelo Williams, and Cam Newton, who are definitely upgrades over Kris Mangum, DeShaun Foster, and pre-apocolyptic Jake Delhomme, and you have an offense that could be great, provided the Panthers can get a decent right tackle and convince Jordan Gross to play another couple years at left tackle. Or, they could draft a left tackle and move Gross back to RT, where he started his career.

207
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 3:03pm

I didn't write that no receiver had ever thrived after their 35th birthday.

208
by Ryan D. :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 3:05pm

I thought my third paragraph showed that I was agreeing with you. :)

209
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 3:08pm

Sorry, read your post in a Ponderous manner.

13
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:44pm

All the game analysts on t.v. this weekend were horrible Dierdorf's remarks on the safety were too stupid for words; when Greg Gumbel is embarrassed for you, it really is time to retire. Aikman saying a late hit call was obviously bad, when the contact occurred after the pass had hit the ground, and bounced waist high, is just another guy not bothering to pay attention. Phil Simms is Phil Simms. Who did the game in Seattle, again? I'm sure he was awful.

22
by Sakic :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:59pm

John Lynch was the color guy and the play-by-play man was somebody I'd never seen or heard before. I was bit surprised because my initial thought was "this is Fox's #2 team?"

23
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:01pm

Seattle's color guy was John Lynch, who I thought was like Fox's #5 team or something. Not sure why he got promoted, but I would tend to rank him more in the "useless" rather than "invariably wrong and/or stupid" category (let's just rename this one the Dan Dierdorf Memorial Bad Broadcasting Category).

14
by jimbohead :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:47pm

"If I'm a Carolina fan, I'm beyond annoyed to be trailing at halftime after I thought we outplayed the 49ers for the majority of the first half. Playcalling from the 1, kicking the field goal after going for it, getting stuffed, and getting a touchdown off a short field(!), and, yes, the officiating."

This feeling is very familiar to niners fans, except the niners generally don't even try for a 4th-short TD. They just go up 6-0 while playing dominant football, then give up a TD on a random long play. In fact, this whole game, I felt like I was in bizarro land.

16
by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:49pm

Maybe Cian reads a lot of ESPN? Pretty much every talking head there were excoriating the Browns on the Richardson trade for, basically, swapping the #3 pick in the draft for the #20-something pick a year later. Because the sunk cost fallacy is, I think, not something that ESPN football writers have heard of. (Mind you, they weren't necessarily saying the trade was good for the Colts, just that it was bad for the Browns. Which I suppose implies that they thought keeping Richardson was worth more than the pick.)

What are the odds that, with Vick Ballard coming back from injury and Brown pretty much being superior every way, that the Colts either try to trade Richardson for whatever they can get for him or just cut him?

17
by BywaterBrat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:55pm

Brees (and Graham) should be skewered after his first half performance...worst half I've seen from one of the Big 4 QBs ever perhaps.

46
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:43pm

Really? Did you not watch Tom Brady against Baltimore in the 2009 playoffs? Or even, to be fair, Peyton's performance in the 2003 Championship Game.

I thought the first half was as much no one getting open, and them having success running the ball, as it was Brees having a bad game. He wasn't forcing throws in the 1st half (which is good, since he should have had a pick or two in the 2nd half).

87
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:30pm

Seattle will do that to an offense in their house.

97
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:02pm

Especially when the wind is blowing like hell.

18
by spujr :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:56pm

I wonder if the numbers will finally look favorably to Denver's D. San Diego's OL was not 100% as Aaron noted above but nevertheless they played good coverage until Harris went out.

E. Decker sure had a bad day yesterday. Fortunately he was the only Bronco player reminiscing the 2012 playoffs against the Ravens.

19
by Sakic :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:56pm

"Watching the referee wave incomplete and then throw the flag...that's just a joke really."

If there is anything that makes me believe that a majority of the NFL officials are incompetent it is stuff like this. I hate, hate, hate the late flag especially on pass interference calls...if you need 5-10 seconds to decide if it was pass interference then it wasn't a penalty plain and simple. Watch the play happen and if you see something that indicates interference then call it decisively when you see it. A similar play happened in the SF/Car game as well...pretty sad.

36
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:25pm

I'd rather have the referee watch the whole play than be fumbling with the flag while its still going on.

I do agree that they call interference too often though. If you read the actual rule, it states that if you're not sure a player was interfered with, then its not a penalty.

20
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:57pm

I'm going to defend the officials in Carolina at least from the charge of being ridiculously one-sided. I thought Captain's head-butt was much more obvious than Boldin's, and could see how an official, if not looking directly at their helmets, may have missed the latter one. The late hit call that Aikman complained about was not a bad call; good grief, the pass had hit the ground, and bounced waist high, as the hit occurred. In the fourth quarter, before the Newton int which ended the contest, there was a more questionable roughing call on the Niner's, when Newton, moving from the pocket, gets hit by Niner who is being blocked.

44
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:39pm

Skuta.

I've found it irritating that everyone is poking fun at Harbaugh for pirouetting in rage, when in fact he was imitating what Newton had done before he got hit.

That makes it way funnier.

51
by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:49pm

I'm not sure why people think the roughing call on Newton was bad. He was in the pocket, and there was a helmet to helmet collision with the QB. I believe all other factors are irrelevant at that point.

53
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:52pm

Because a defender, when being blocked by an offensive lineman, does not have full control of where he hits the guy with the ball? Just like a guy being blocked who hits a punter?

61
by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:13pm

Hey, I didn't write the rule, I think that's how it works though. Zero tolerance for helmet to helmet hits (or forcible blow to a QB's head), unlike the roughing/running into the punter and the low hit on a QB. There are obviously reasons why they have such a strict policy on hits that can lead to concussions and not other kinds.

63
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:16pm

Alas, not having access to a building full of NSA servers, I cannot decipher the NFL Rulebook.

80
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:16pm

None of that shit matters Will.

THe punting rule has exceptions for the guy being blocked. The roughing the passer rule doesn't.

84
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:25pm

Newton initiated the contact. If that's going to be a penalty, it should have been called on him.

88
by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:30pm

Yes, but Cam is considered a defenseless player in the situation. The onus is on the defender to avoid the helmet.

185
by andrew.cermak@g... :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 9:51pm

Yeah, all Skuta had to do was let his head fall off and he'd have had a clean sack.

192
by beargoggles :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 1:02am

I guarantee if your team lost a game because of a call like that you'd be furious.
A facemask-to-facemask hit when the offensive player suddenly turns into you is basically unavoidable and doesn't risk injury.
If the rules say that is a penalty, they should change the rule.

I'm fine with the other rule changes: the defenseless receiver rule, the general onus being on defenders to tackle soundly and not head first. But that was not an example of such, that's expecting players to control bodies at high speeds in a manner that is essentially impossible. They've got to leave a little discretion on whether the situation actually creates any danger. That call failed the smell test egregioiusly.

89
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:34pm

The refs aren't there to call what should be, they're there to call what the rules actually say.

And right or wrong, the rules say head-to-head contact with a passer is a penalty on the defender.

102
by Ryan :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:21pm

So much for subtlety.

90
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:36pm

Because he was scrambling at that point, and not in the act of passing, because Newton struck Skuta, not vice-versa, and there was no head to head contact. I haven't watched the replay ad-nauseum on youtube or anything, but from the TV broadcast it looked to me like Newton ran into Skuta's shoulder.

In related news, what is the rule on the tripping penalty -- and I'm obviously talking about the Joe Vellano trip of Luck. Does it have to be an intentional trip to be called? Vellano was getting driven back pretty well, both before and after the trip, and while I think he knew what he was doing, maybe the referee thought that Vellano was blocked backwards into Luck and therefore no call? It seems that unintentional tripping would happen quite a bit with runners going through the line of scrimmage, so I can't imagine tripping would be called unless intentional, but I really don't know.

98
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:06pm

We may be on to a new offensive strategy; drop back 7 steps, looking like you intend to pass, and when a defender gets close, hit your helmet against him.

159
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:54pm

We can call it the Rypien. It will get him three 15 yarders the first week, two the next, and a season-ending IR the third.

121
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:49pm

"Newton ran into Skuta's shoulder" reminds me of the 1960's era protest reports where the protesters used their groins to attack the police officers' knees. It looked to me that Newton was still maneuvering in the pocket. He may have been about to run, but even when running most QBs will get the benefit of the call.

85
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:25pm

The Boldin headbutt non-call was really bad because the ref was *right* there looking at it and even breaks them up .5 seconds after it happens.

99
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:07pm

Eh, if he looks away for a quarter second, it's pretty easy to miss.

25
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:02pm

For all the praise Denver's receivers get for their route-running, which I think is deserved, I'm not all that impressed with their ball skills, especially in traffic. Welker has been a bit of a dropper for a while, and Decker has surprised me as a pro. In college he seemed to catch everything he touched, but as a pro, he sure seems to have a lot of balls which, if not easy, are catchable, and then he fails to complete the reception.

26
by bubqr :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:04pm

Apart from some very late game potential comeback moments (Saints, Chargers), the best football of the weekend was played during the first half of SF CAR. The intensity was unreal, great to watch.

On another note, I might be the only one, but I think Luck is a bit overhyped, for example in this Audible. Basically praising him for a "amazing drive" and some "amazing throws" while baraly acknowledging the multiple INTs. Same thing during the broadcast: Every pass to Brazil/Hilton was followed by "What a throw by Luck" barely mentioning the crazy catches by the WRs.

Is he looking like a good to potentially great young QB? Yes, but I don't see the "Him or Rodgers would be the clear cut first picks of any GM if they were to start a franchise". He has his moments, a lot of them, but makes quite a lot of mistakes to me, shitty OL or not. And I don't think his receiving cast Wayne-less is worse than RGIII/Kaep/Newton/Wilson's ones.
To me, he is not heads and shoulders above those young QBs mentionned above, apart from Cam(another overhyped QB).

31
by RickD :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:12pm

Yeah, I don't understand why people thought Luck had a better game than Brady. Sure he had more yardage, but his turnovers were dreadful, and at least two of the picks were clearly his fault. And the first pick really set the tone of the game.

(FWIW, I dislike QBR, but the box score says Brady had a 75.1 QBR to Luck's 25.0. And, FWIW, Wilson had 25.9 while Brees had 39.4.)

37
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:29pm

Agree.

Hightower's (I think) interception was a dreadful throw, significantly behind a receiver (Havili) moving Right-to-left. He had to basically stop, reach back, and Hightower both had position on him, and is significantly stronger.

ANd yet everyone was fawning over how Havili let Luck down.

116
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:32pm

That throw to Havili was much better than you're saying. He shouldn't have been in the game at RB on that play. That's likely a catch if it was Donald Brown or even Trent 2.9.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bd2D9PrCIAEERsN.jpg:large

120
by theslothook :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:48pm

If you're going to criticize luck for poor throws, that one wasn't really the one to go after. The first one was the really awful cringeworthy throw. The other 2 were bad but they were in obvious desperation mode by then.

124
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:50pm

Yeah, interceptions 1 and 3 really bug me for Luck, but that Havili one was just bad luck. Brady's tight end bobbled a pass into the air but no one came through to pick that off. And Luck's fourth was down 21 in the final minutes of the game, so I don't care about that either.

118
by theslothook :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:46pm

Why do you dislike QBR exactly RickD?

It's much like 1980s medicine. It's inferior by today's standards, but far better than leeches and voodoo. I like that qbr is at least attempting to isolate qb play from other facts(the only one I know at the moment).

135
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:16pm

A poor attempt at isolation is usually worse than no attempt. With no attempt you can at least make a mental adjustment for teammates and defenses. When the formula is already making changes that you don't know, it just adds confusion.

195
by theslothook :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 2:17am

Why is it a poor attempt? I don't see any difference between their proprietary attitude toward how qbr is calculated than what FO is doing. In fact, the factors included are all based on work done by other statisticians. Win probability, studies on YAC, charting data on pressure and dropped passes/ints. I never intimated it was perfect, predictive, or all encompassing, but I think it definitely does more to inform our view than passer rating, yards, tds, or even dyar and dvoa for that matter.

216
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 6:30pm

QBR includes subjective scouting which will never be available to the public.

"I think it definitely does more to inform our view than passer rating, yards, tds"

The phrase damning with faint praise comes to mind. Also, I think DYAR and DVOA are almost worthless for individual players without context (like comparing to how teammates do).

204
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 2:13pm

I've had success making my QBR "mental adjustments" with the aid of those win-probability charts. They've satisfied my internal calculus when I've used them that way.

29
by CoachDave :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:06pm

"The story should be that he (Luck) dragged an awful roster to this point in the playoffs."

You forgot awful coaches as well.

Have you ever seen a team consistently come into games with dumber game plans than the Colts...especially on the offensive side?

I've read on other sites that people praise Pep Hamilton for his "halftime adjustments"...well of course he makes great halftime adjustments...when your gameplan that doesn't match your personnel at all doesn't work in the first half, ANYTHING you do in the 2nd half differently and from behind is bound to be an improvement.

Really looking forward to the Conference games...should be 2 great ones and we never have to listen to Dierdorf again...so we've got that going for us.

30
by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:09pm

As a fan of neither team, the officiating in the first half of Car/SF was maddening enough for me to switch over and watch The Green Lantern, in its entirety, instead. Not only were there calls that were very obviously stupid, but there were non-calls that were inconsistent, and to signal incomplete on the 49ers touchdown at the end of the half was exceedingly mind-boggling.

Leading 17-0, and then going as conservative as they did in their defensive schemes (or, appeared to, as I was watching FOMP while grocery shopping) does not instill confidence against a team with a much better coaching staff, such as the Broncos will face in a week. Maybe somebody can enlighten me as to what happened (as it appeared the defense fell apart even before one of the secondary members was injured?), but if that continues next week, I see another outcome similar to the mid-season meeting, ending in similar fashion.

33
by RickD :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:17pm

"the officiating in the first half of Car/SF was maddening enough for me to switch over and watch The Green Lantern, in its entirety, instead."

Seek medical help, immediately.

Note to FO: these days, it should be possible to have a website with an interactive comment system that doesn't require loading a completely new page. If you don't want to hand things over to Disqus, consider at least copying their format.

109
by theslothook :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:06pm

Never saw Green Lantern, but it couldn't have been worse than Batman and Robin or all mighty KAZAM

134
by drobviousso :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:15pm

It is a very different flavor of bad. It's like trying to compare a broken foot with finding out your dinner host only invited you over to pitch his multi-level marketing product at you. Both are bad, but hard say which is worse.

189
by zenbitz :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 11:38pm

I didn't see it... but my 8 year old son said that it was worse than Mr. Poppers Penguins.

193
by beargoggles :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 1:07am

"Batman and Robin" as Raider Joe would say, was a "toilet clogging turd" of a movie. One of the 5 worst I've ever seen.

197
by Insancipitory :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 7:01am

Allow me to help you readjust your movie viewing scale. Do yourself the service of not looking into this movie at all. If you're going to see it, definitely see it cold. And, if possible, invite a lot of people who respect your opinion to see it with you: Supervisors, in-laws, clergy, long time friends. Really get the most out of the experience.

The film is La Bete (1975), or The Beast in English. I saw a tiny little postage stamp ad, and thought it was a werewolf movie. It is not a cinema going experience easily communicated or forgotten.

202
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 1:03pm

On your recommendation, I'm screening this film at my weekly church youth group meeting on Saturday. Thanks for the heads-up.

220
by Insancipitory :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 8:13pm

I do not believe I overstate to observe, that might make the national news.

39
by Byrk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:33pm

Near the end of the second half in the 49ers game, they showed that Steve Smith was obviously hurting in that half and no where near capable of beating anyone in coverage. He was running at a speed that looked like a linebacker wouldn't have problems covering him. I'm thinking that had a lot to do with the Panthers offense stalling in the second half.

40
by James-London :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:34pm

I only saw the Den-SD game this week, and there was a time when Scott's "Anything that can happen to Manning. P in the playoffs has happened" section from the FO preview looked spookily accurate.

Then Mike McCoy decided to kick the ball deep down 7 with 4 minutes left...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

117
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:44pm

Are you implying McCoy shouldn't have kicked deep? I don't mind the call at all. Getting another onside kick recovery is very improbable. There was enough time and clock stoppages to get it back in a 24-17 game. They even forced a 3rd-and-17, but forgot to cover Julius Thomas.

Watching the game live I was pointing out the goofy stuff happening to Denver to keep it close, but only on review did I realize how many mistakes were made.

Here's how their 8 drives ended:
No. 1 - TD
No. 2 - Julius Thomas fumble at midfield (not sure if that was the right call or not)
No. 3 - TD
No. 4 - Manning hits Decker right in the chest in end zone and it turns into a deflected INT
No. 5 - Manning hits Welker on 3rd-and-11 near the goal line and he drops it even before contact. Settle for FG, which was barely good.
No. 6 - Moreno gets stuffed on consecutive runs on second and third down, needing two yards. Prater missed the FG.
No. 7 - TD
No. 8 - Ran out final 3:51 on clock

Manning made one mistake and it was on the first drive of the game and San Diego dropped the ball.

137
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:19pm

I don't see how the benefit of kicking deep can be worth the ~10% chance of recovering an onside kick. You still get to play defense if you fail to recover it, it's not the game ends there.

143
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:28pm

Consider the value of field position. In this situation, any Denver score basically ends the game. An unsuccessful onside kick means Denver basically starts in FG range.

144
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:35pm

2 first downs also end the game. A fg is about 2 first downs away from a failed onside kick. So I'm still not seeing much downside.

164
by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:58pm

"A fg is about 2 first downs away from a failed onside kick."

No it isn't. I would estimate the average field position of a failed onside kick to be around the 45-yard line. A first down would at least be at the opponent's 35, and maybe more. A failed attempt to pick up the next first down probably gets you another 5 yards, which is well within field goal range, especially in Denver.

168
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:07pm

You need to consider the opponent too. Sure, yeah, Manning, but I think Fox would have punted rather than attempt a long field goal with a kicker who'd already missed one and nearly missed another.

150
by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:45pm

Don't forget the Holiday KOR TD. It looked like the SD guy turned his back at the last moment to draw a penalty. In any event it wasn't a block that was needed for the return.

Decker trips en route to a punt return TD. Second time in two years he's done that against SD.

Decker misses onside kick.

158
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:54pm

"Decker trips en route to a punt return TD. Second time in two years he's done that against SD."

That was a reception in 2012, but you're right, it should have been a TD. And that drive ended the same way Sunday's did: a Manning interception. Matt Willis ran the wrong route and the Chargers had a pick-six.

Something about San Diego...

177
by James-London :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 8:11pm

No, I didn't think kicking the ball away was a good idea. The most likely outcome was always (goofy Manning related stuff aside) that SD would never see the ball again. Most (all) of Denver's drives saw at least one new set of downs and several took longer of the clock than was left when SD kicked off.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

179
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 8:35pm

But in the last four minutes offenses are very conservative and almost never run out the full clock. Also the field position lost from a failed onside would have been important in terms of Denver being able to add a field goal. Even last year the Broncos ran it five times in a row in that situation and punted, so I can't fault San Diego for kicking deep. They did their job for a few plays, but just couldn't stop Denver on third down.

181
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 9:12pm

The point is that if you allow Denver to drive into fg range, you've probably lost because there is not enough time left anyways.

184
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 9:27pm

Not necessarily. One first down can mean field-goal range, and one first down can come on 1-3 plays (4 even, but let's use 3 to be realistic). Ignoring the FG possibility, Denver picked up 2 first downs (in six plays) and San Diego still had a chance to get the ball back with 25-30 seconds left.

And remember, we can't think of a first down just in terms of 10 yards. It would be a huge league tendency breaker, but if Peyton came out and threw downfield for a 20-yard gain on first down, then obviously that's field-goal range already in one play. That would be a killer after a failed onside, but not a big deal if kicking deep.

Four minutes left, I think you should kick deep every time in a one-score game unless you're out of timeouts.

222
by dbt :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 8:31pm

Sorry, it's Peyton Manning. I'm with Belicheck (of 4th and 2 fame) on this one, better the chance at a low-percentage play like an onside than giving him the ball and expecting to get it back.

47
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:44pm

That was a case study for going on 4th down: pin them deep, near pick six, short punt, TD first play.

And yet, article after article praises S.F. for their two goal-line stands, going out of their way to single out the 4th-and-goal play, when in fact Carolina scored a T.D. soon afterwards. The real curiosity is that the goal-line stands "worked" in the sense that, when presented with another opportunity to do the same thing, Carolina instead kicked a field goal. They should have believed in their methods. (And they should have learned how to call something besides a run up the middle.)

68
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:25pm

Carolina ran so many plays from inside the 2 yard line, without once breaking out their best play, the heavy shotgun QB draw.

Against TB, they ran it with six offensive linemen, two tight ends (Olsen & Hartsock), FB/H-back Richie Brockel (as an in-line TE on the right side), with Newton and Jonathan Stewart in the shotgun backfield. Stewart was probably the lightest offensive player on the field at 235 lbs. Cam took the snap, picked his lane, and leaped over the pile for a score.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/09000d5d824b6a0e/Big-air-f...

When you have an athletic 6'5" 245 lb QB with NINE big guys to run behind, and the potential for a lead block from Tolbert, I just don't know how that play can be stopped. I understand that potential for injury to your star QB, but that is a better argument against calling it in the regular season. In the postseason, you have to play to win. I can't believe Mike Shula didn't radio that play in a single time yesterday.

49
by Passing Through (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:45pm

Whiner, I mean niner fan here to talk about SF@CAR and officiating

1. Carolina dominated the first half, but ended the half behind in part because of justified penalties against their defense, who seemed to be high on bath salts or overcome by roid rage

2. The Florence PI on Boldin, the holding of Boldin incorrectly attributed to Kuechly, and the headbutt on Crabtree were fair calls to me.

3. The 15-yarder call on the Davis hit seemed borderline to me in real time.

4. The call on the Skuta sack of Cam Newton was frustrating as a fan. I don't know whether the hit was technically legal, but it's yet another situation where the defender only has one option and is penalized for making a play. Reminds me of the Ahmad Brooks Drew Brees sack, and also the Whitner hit of a defenseless receiver in the endzone from earlier in the year.

5. Sorry about the no-call on the Boldin headbutt. That's frustrating for a Carolina fan, but either the ref didn't see it, or maybe the ref didn't interpret it as an escalating violence issue like the first headbutt may have seemed.

6. Carolina reminds me of Seattle in that they played on the edge of the rule book in their secondary. SEA and CAR's defense seems better than the niners'. I think the niners' defense plays a cleaner game in coverage. I wonder how much the difference in outcome is a result of gambling on the ref's willingness to call penalties on the secondary and taking advantage.

7. Carolina obviously should have gone for the TD on 4th down instead of the field goal

8. TIL that the clock only stops on out of bounds plays in the last 2 minutes of the 1st half and the last 5 minutes of the 2nd half. That helped the niners in the 2nd half a few times when both teams were putting together long drives with the clock running the whole way.

50
by Passing Through (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 1:49pm

w00t! niner fan gets the 49th comment!

9. I think Crabtree was really zonked on that tackle early in the game where he was flipped over and landed on his helmet. After that he didn't have much of an impact on the game. Hope he's okay. I'm willing to hear alternative theories for why he was shut down.

94
by InTheBoilerRoom :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:50pm

Not sure why nobody here is noting the missed 12 men in the huddle penalty that should have been called against the 49ers before the play in which they scored the TD at the end of the first half. Another major miss on the part of the officials.

As for the calls that went against the Panthers, I don't have anything to complain about, now that I'm a day removed from the game. It's the calls that were not called against the 49ers that still frustrate me, as a Panther fan.

95
by EricL :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:54pm

Not sure why nobody here is noting the missed 12 men in the huddle penalty that should have been called against the 49ers before the play in which they scored the TD at the end of the first half. Another major miss on the part of the officials.

It was brought up in the live game discussion thread. Absolutely inexcusable. There's a specific official (referee? forget which) whose job it is to track exactly that before the snap.

100
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:09pm

Yeah, that was the one really ridiculous non-call.

103
by dbt :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:28pm

It's not a penalty until the ball is spotted down to start the play clock, which had not yet happened.

104
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:35pm

Geez, you'd think Pereira would have noticed that; I was paying attention about half way, and when Pereira said it was a blown non-call, I just figured he was accurate.

106
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:47pm

Pereira said something about the offense having 3 seconds, was he just making that up?

107
by Ryan D. :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:56pm

I have never seen more than 11 players allowed in the offensive huddle, regardless of whether or not the ball is spotted and in play. I've seen 12-14 guys all on the field at the same time. However, the QB typically does not step into the huddle until the other 10 guys are in, and the rest of the players are already jogging off the field.

I can't imagine a scenario where you can allow more than 11 guys to be in the offensive huddle that doesn't constitute a competitive advantage to the offense.

113
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:22pm

You're correct. There can never be more than 11 in the huddle.

129
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:09pm

"Rule 5, Section 2, Article 1 states that “there can never be more than 11 players in the offensive huddle while the play clock is running.” Pereira (and Buck and Aikman) showed the 12 players in the huddle on the replay, but they didn’t notice that Cheffers was making an announcement – he was reporting the eligible players who had checked in (probably Snyder or Kilgore). At that point, Vance McDonald breaks from the huddle and heads back to the sideline. The referee didn’t start the play clock until his announcement was finished, by which time the Niners only had 11 in the huddle."

This is from someone called NinerEd on Niners Nation, not sure if it's true but if it is then the non call was correct.

119
by LionInAZ :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:46pm

'Roid rage? The 49ers spent much of the first half trying to bait the Panthers D into drawing penalties for retaliation.

128
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:08pm

Really? The niners don't do that in other games, can you think of other examples where the niners 'goaded' their opponents into behaving like children? I thought the Panthers defensive backs came out trying to be intimidating and got what they deserved.

139
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:20pm

I don't want to comment on any kind of goading, but the 49ers did have two uncalled headbutts. I'd be ticked off after those.

215
by LionInAZ :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 5:55pm

To be partly fair, it was mostly Crabtree being a punk in the 1st quarter, until Boldin started getting involved.

And really, it's a classic manouver for a veteran team to bait an inexperienced squad into taking bad penalties, especially in a one-and-done situation like this game. There is good reason why they wouldn't try such stunts in the regular season (where it matters less) or against a seasoned opponent like the Packers.

157
by morganja :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:50pm

Clearly you are a 49'ers fan, and most likely recalling the game through the haze of a 12-pack. But please don't bother trying to justify it. Take the win and go on to Seattle.
If you really want to, go back sober and check out what was really going on:

1. Note how the 49'ers from the time the game started were hitting late, tackling late and pulling at the ball long after the whistle blew on each play.

2. The Florence PI was ludicrous. It is a play that is never called in the playoffs. Note that Florence did not initiate any contact. Boldin goes through Florence to try to get the ball. Technically, it could be called, it just NEVER is in the playoffs.
2b. The hold was the correct call. Unfortunately, not a minute earlier, the 49'ers had contact at the ten yard line, which is illegal contact, on a critical third down play.
3. The 15 yard penalty on Davis was a terrible call. Ball was still in the air, still catchable, and a legal hit.
5. Ref saw it. He's staring at it right on camera. The Panther 'headbutt' should never have been called in the first place, especially on a critical 4th down.
6. I did not see it and I watch extremely closely. Certainly nowhere near borderline for the playoffs.

All 13 of the 49'er first half points came after terrible calls converting 4th downs.

These terrible calls, and the lack of calls on the 49ers' would have been understandable IF the game had been in San Francisco. This is the type of home-field officiating that sucks, and the NFL needs to fix, but why were the 49'ers getting the calls in Charlotte?
At this point it seems fairly clear that there is a major issue between the refs and Richardson, who was the main guy behind the ref lock-out. I don't know who started it, but is it that the refs despise Carolina itself and the team needs to move? Or is this a personal issue between them and Richardson and will change as soon as Richardson is no longer the owner?
Either way, the fans deserved a playoff game and they were robbed.

167
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:03pm

I think the instructions came from the grassy knoll......

169
by jimbohead :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:10pm

At first I was taken aback by the juxtaposition of a call to sobriety followed by the least sober thinking I've seen in a while, but then I saw the screen name and remembered the last time I'd seen trolling of that magnitude.

172
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:27pm

What, you don't think NFL zebras would be willing to risk 20 years in The Federal Greybar Inn, to pursue their hatred of an elderly tycoon on his 2nd ticker, who might punch out from excitement, if his team was 5 seconds away from a Super Bowl?

Hmmmm........I bet you are part of the vast conspiracy......

226
by morganja :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 8:46pm

Twenty years in prison for what crime?
Are you suggesting that is is ludicrous to think that a ref would let his personal animosity influence how he called a game? How about a judge? Or a politician?
I don't understand this naive mentality that assumes people in authority would never, ever, ever in a million years not act in an absolutely professional manner.
What world do you live in? Because I would love to live in that world myself.

228
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 10:39pm

Yes, I think it is ludicrous to think the refs give a damn about Jerry Richardson, one way or another.

You certainly implied that there was an agreement to not call the game fairly among the refs. That's a federal offense with regard to an athletic event which is involved in interstate commerce.

229
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 10:39pm

Yes, I think it is ludicrous to think the refs give a damn about Jerry Richardson, one way or another.

You certainly implied that there was an agreement to not call the game fairly among the refs. That's a federal offense with regard to an athletic event which is involved in interstate commerce.

225
by morganja :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 8:42pm

Weird. I saw my post as a response to a fan who went penalty by penalty to claim how they were all legitimate calls. Disagreeing with that by going through each one and explaining how they were bad calls is trolling?
Are you disagreeing that the reffing was terrible and one-sided in that game?

176
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:42pm

I think you have a lot of this wrong but from your tone I doubt you'd be interested in anyone disagreeing with you.

I watch the niners every week, there's never usually any of the pushy-shovey, after-the-whistle crap we saw yesterday. You usually only see that stuff in response to the Rams and Seattle (and a bit against the Pack). The defense is usually especially well behaved but I don't blame them for responding to a team that was determined to try to be tough. It wasn't really the d-line or the linebackers either. It was the soon to be replaced defensive backs.

And if you don't think that Florence DPI was legit then frankly, you don't know the rules. ("Note that Florence did not initiate any contact. Boldin goes through Florence to try to get the ball." -The defense rests on that note.)

223
by morganja :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 8:36pm

Karl, Go back and look at the game. Watch the 49'er defense from the start of the 1st quarter after the whistle is blown. Watch the 49'er offense after each play. When that kind of behavior begins the game, on both sides of the ball, it can't really be claimed that is is retaliation.
The Florence DPI was DPI by the rules. However, as someone who has watched NFL Football over the past 30 years, we all know that it isn't a call that is made the majority of the time during the regular season, it is made extremely rarely during the playoffs, and almost always against the visiting team in the rare times it is called.
You can make the case for the call, but then you wold also have to make the case for the several hundred times a similar play wasn't called this year. It's the same thing with holding. It could be called every play. But it isn't.

60
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:11pm

Anyone else find it impossible to watch Harbaugh without thinking, "I want cake now!"

62
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:14pm

The funny thing is ol' Jimmy is crazy enough to make it plausible.

64
by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:17pm
67
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:24pm

I think the Patriots win, which is what I leaning towards anyways. Denver's defense is just too pedestrian, especially with one more injury, and the Manning Alien won't be able to drag it across the finish line. Cue hare-brained football punditry next Sunday night......

178
by James-London :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 8:18pm

If yesterday is anything to go by, Quentin Jammer will need skin grafts.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

69
by slomojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:33pm

Can someone answer this for me: is simulation a foul in the NFL? Because that flop by Newton on the Brooks fly-by was worthy of Cristiano Ronaldo.

71
by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:45pm

What bothered me more about this game is that everybody on the field (or sideline) was calling for more penalties while barely playing inside the lines. I think calling (read: throwing a tantrum) for a flag is a much larger problem than touchdown celebrations ever were, yet here we are.

Though, to your specific point, throwing his hands up while falling back was a little ridiculous, but I think he was genuinely surprised or startled. In replays, his head appears to be titled left, Brooks came in right, and pushed off/toed his head coming down.

And it generated half a yard...

96
by InTheBoilerRoom :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:55pm

"And it generated half a yard..."

Yeah, a penalty which does nothing to discourage what Brooks did. Essentially, "no penalty, line back up and let's try that again."

77
by ChrisS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:05pm

That was quite an over-reaction by Cam, it looked like he was shot. The problem was that his linemen believed his dive and were going after Brooks and almost incurred a penalty.

152
by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:47pm

No, simulation isn't a foul. In this particular case, though, the penalty had already occurred, and nothing Newton would have done would have changed it one way or the other. I have no idea why he bothered flopping, or if that was a genuine reaction. Kind of strange.

75
by AndyE :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:00pm


Tom Gower: Totally nuts. Sorry, I respect Belichick as much as anybody, but my starting QB would not be my emergency holder.
Aaron Schatz: the Patriots press was under the impression that Mallett was the emergency holder, which is why I thought it was Mallett out there. I have no idea why they went Brady. I agree on injury risk.

The thinking in my section of the stands (okay, what I convinced the three people around me it was), was to slow down the kick rush. With Brady as holder, you have to honor the fake, which might cause them to rush fewer. And I think (based on flawed human recollection and confirmation bias) that might have been the case.

On the other hand, no idea why Gostkowski punted on 4th and 18 on the Colts' 26 at Q4/02:41. Sure, you don't kick the field goal, because BB hates running up the score, but the expectation of running a play is more time burned off the clock, with likely better field position. Or maybe Bill was trying to get out with fewer injuries, and give Gostkowski an opportunity to practice....

78
by ChrisS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:12pm

That was a bizarre place to punt. It seems pretty hard for a punter to take almost fifty percent off of his kick in order to avoid the touchback.

82
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:24pm

"but the expectation of running a play is more time burned off the clock"

How so? I'd think a punt burns off much more time. The clock stops at change of posession, so as soon as a player is tackled, its dead. Running is no different from passing. A punt is going to have atleast some hang time.

That being said, strange choice. Still, I think the game was pretty much over at that point.

112
by AndyE :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:22pm

A downed punt took seven seconds. A rush usually runs at least 6, and gives you a chance for more.

(As for yardage expectation, given the Colts had to defend against an 18 yard target, 6 seems like a more than reasonable expectation).

91
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:41pm

I simply think it was a case of going with the guy who had been taking snaps all game as opposed to one who would be coming in cold.

93
by RickD :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:48pm

"On the other hand, no idea why Gostkowski punted on 4th and 18 on the Colts' 26 at Q4/02:41. "

Well, with a 21 point lead, we agree that a FG try would have been gratuitous. As for this:
"but the expectation of running a play is more time burned off the clock, with likely better field position."

A touchback gives the Colts the ball at the 20. Unless you think that the Pats were likely to rush for at least 6 yards, I don't see the yardage argument. Maybe the clock argument, but again, I don't think the Pats cared much at that point. They weren't going to give up 21 points in less than 3 minutes.

So...practice? Sure, why not? The only other thing I could have considered was a drop kick FG.

108
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:58pm

My thinking was that they didn't want a guy who hadn't touch a ball all game vs. a guy who had.
And Tony Romo wasn't on the roster.

92
by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 3:47pm

While I understand the idea that Wilson will have to play better to get the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, I don't really see it. This situation reminds me of the 1986 Giants; starting quarterback not really playing up to par, great running game, ferocious defense, and home stadium in ugly ugly weather. Without the Hawks giving up 3-5 turnovers, Kaepernick will need to have a really great game running the ball next week for the 49ers to have a chance. I just don't see the Niners passing game or their regular running backs being able to do it in that stadium.

101
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:12pm

I think the Seattle forecast for next Sunday right now is pretty nice.

110
by theslothook :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:11pm

The denver Mannings is ever more true now than it ever was. The pats have reasons to complain about injuries this year, but at this point, it feels like denver can match them stroke for stroke. They took out their best run defender, best pass rusher, and either 1st or 2nd best cover guy. A defense that was already questionable is now firmly in the liability zone. And no, I suspect NE will not repeat the Mike McCoy gameplan next week.

115
by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:29pm

Yeah. This is bad for the Broncos. I suppose the silver lining is that other than losing their All-Pro left tackle before the season started, the injury bug has been relatively kind to the offense. Lost a few games for Welker and one or two for Julius Thomas. That's really all I can think of.

125
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:53pm

I heard the line on Broncos/Patriots opened at Pats +5.5 last night, which strikes me as the NFL steal of the year. I just checked. however, at it had shrunk to 4.5 this morning. I think it'll be no more than 3 by kickoff.

126
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:05pm

Considering how much of the public action is on the Pats (87% as per Walterfootball), the spread hasn't dropped much. My guess is the wiseguy money is then coming in on Denver, which is forcing Vegas to hold off on dropping it below 4.5.

I think that make sense. In ideal weather conditions (which is the forecast for Sunday afternoon in Denver), the Broncos probably are a slightly better team, factor in the home bump and I think the -5 is fair.

132
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:12pm

If Quentin Jammer of next Sunday is the Quentin Jammer I saw yesterday, the Patriots' offense is going to toy with Denver's defense, and the Manning Alien is going to have to throw 6 touchdown passes.

136
by theslothook :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:18pm

I've seen Manning the alien drag plenty of bad teams to wins. Even with all the injuries, I'd still say 2013 broncos are better than the 09 and 10 colts. If this game were at NE, I think I'd favor NE massively. The broncos offense is still healthy and with enough plucky defense plays, that should enough.

The sb however...

138
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:20pm

But who's abusing him? Keenan Allen is better than any Patriots WR right now. Philip Rivers is also playing better than Brady right now also.

That's a key matchup, but if Kyle Arrington is also involved, Brady might need to throw 7.

Should be a fun game.

140
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:23pm

It'd be great if they made the two old farts drive the team busses to the stadium, too.

141
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:23pm

I'd peg the odds that Manning can lead enough td drives to win any game at no less than 40%.

I expect to see an offensive gameplay similar to the last few years of the Manning-Colts. Lots of short passes leading very long drives that shorten the game. So he won't need 6 td passes only because the teams have only 5-6 drives each (not counting ot).

142
by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:27pm

People realize that the Chargers offense was better than the NE offense this year, right? NE is hardly an offensive juggernaut, especially without Gronk.

147
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:40pm

I hope they also realize Denver shut down SD's running game, which had been doing really well.

That was a weird game to watch. It seemed like Denver left a ton of points on the field -- this was easily a 38-10 game.

156
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:50pm

Jammer was so bad yesterday, after Harris left, that I don't think he could cover me.

160
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:55pm

Denver's defense has been better since miseason, but most of that was with Von. But the one thing they did well on defense when Von was suspended was stop the run. I'll be shocked if Blount is nearly as effective as he was against the Colts. If they beat the Broncos, it will be with Brady.

173
by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:31pm

Based on what I've seen this year, that line stuns me, although I have not bet on games in a long time. In analyzing this game I can construct any scenario from a modest Patriots win (3-10 points margin) to a Broncos blowout, but I did not think the Pats would be favored in Denver.

174
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:38pm

Oops, I mixed up my plusses and minuses. The Patriots were as much as 6.5 dogs last night.

175
by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:40pm

Okay, that tracks better. Otherwise, those "Brady embracing underdog role" stories would not be as inspiring...

123
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 5:50pm

I don't hate Lynch's score w/ 2:40 left. The tradeoff is much less valuable when in a one-possession game that falling at the 1 won't run time out.

I get that the numbers probably show you shouldn't do; but I don't find the difference all that meaningful. Especially in the shit-show that was that weather. It wasn't Lions-Eagles bad, but I wouldn't love kicking in it.

127
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:05pm

I didn't understand those complaints either. If the Seahawks had lost the ball instead of eventually scoring, it's far more likely that the Saints could score a TD and 2 pt conversion than a comeback after Lynch's TD. Even a chip shot FG wasn't a gimme yesterday in those weather conditions.

131
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:12pm

Falling at the 1 would run time out.

That play ends at 2:40. Don't need to run another play until the 2:00. At which time three kneel downs ends the game as the Saints didn't have any more timeouts.

148
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:42pm

The problem here is Lynch doesn't necessarily know the game time remaining (live play, close call, official-dependent). If he's downed at 2:41, he's potentially leaving 0:40 left. It's considered a disaster that NO got the ball w/ 0:26 left...

162
by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:56pm

But leaving 40 seconds left to kick a chip-shot field goal, which is infinitely more likely to win you the game than only being up 8 points.

163
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:56pm

You bring up the one problem with the theory, which is that it is really close if he goes down if they can run it to the 2:00 warning before needing to run a play. Either way, just kneel on 4th down and give them 95 yards to go with 0:20.

170
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:12pm

I would kick the short FG and go up 11. With the way these home clock operators do things, I doubt the clock wouldn't have reached the 2:00 warning anyway.

191
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 12:32am

Making even a short FG in that weather isn't a given. Heck, making an short FG in good weather isn't a given on that field. Just ask Tony Romo.

194
by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 1:13am

Even if you miss it (assuming it's not blocked and taken back some distance), the Saints are starting from their 10-yard line with 35 seconds to go, which is actually worse for them than starting from their 41-yard line with 26 seconds to go.

210
by EricL :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 4:09pm

Actually, the Saints would have started at the 20. When you take over after a missed field goal (unless it's some weird block/return case), you never have worse field position than your own 20 yard line.

211
by Ryan D. :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 4:20pm

If Lynch went down at the 1 yard line, and the Seahawks kneeled three times, the line of scrimmage for the kick would be somewhere around the 4 or 5 yard line. Add 7 yards for the snap back to the holder, and you have the Saints taking over at the 11 or 12 yard line if the kick was missed.

212
by EricL :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 5:10pm

After a missed field goal, the ball is placed at the spot of the kick or the 20, whichever is further.

Hey, a rule quote!

MISSED FIELD GOALS
Article 2 Missed Field Goals. If there is a missed field-goal attempt, and the ball has not been touched by the receivers
beyond the line in the field of play, the following shall apply:
(a) If the spot of the kick was inside the receivers’ 20-yard line, it is the receivers’ ball at the 20-yard line or
(b) If the spot of the kick was from the receivers’ 20-yard line or beyond the receivers’ 20-yard line, it is the
receivers’ ball at the spot of the kick.
Note: These options apply only if the ball has been beyond the line.

213
by Ryan D. :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 5:14pm

After reading your post, I had to Google it. I had never heard that rule before, as I guess it is probably very rarely needed. Sure enough, here it is:

http://www.nfl.com/rulebook/fieldgoal

214
by EricL :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 5:42pm

Yeah, there aren't a whole lot of <30yd field goals missed these days. It's not surprising people wouldn't know that part of the rule.

224
by dbt :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 8:41pm

Until 1974 the ball was always placed at the 20 on a non-returned missed field goal, from 1974-1993 it was placed at the furthest ahead of the 20 or line of scrimmage, and from 1994 on it has been the 20 or spot of kick.

151
by FourteenDays :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 6:46pm

"I'm trying to imagine, hypothetically, if they win the Super Bowl like this, will I be happy?"

Is this a joke? What kind of horrible, spoiled fan do you have to be in order to not be happy when your team wins the friggin' Super Bowl?

The only way I could imagine not being happy after a SB win would be if someone suffered a career-ending injury in the game. Otherwise, I don't care if all the touchdowns come off opposing team buttfumbles -- a win's a win.

165
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:00pm

Indeed. After I saw the Vikings lose 3 Super Bowls in 6 years, and saw a number 1 seed lose a playoff game on a Hail Mary, if the Vikings had beaten the Raiders in January 1977 on a forfeit, when the Raiders were all arrested on the way to the stadium in a DEA raid, my 14 year old self would have celebrated like they had whipped them soundly.

182
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 9:14pm

Don't forget Gary Anderson's first miss of the season.

183
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 9:19pm

It's the Brazilian soccer fan"beautiful game" phenomenon. It's not enough to win.

166
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 7:01pm

RE Gutless coaching: My nephew, living in Tokyo, sent a "sorry the Colts lost" email, with only one specific item: "What's with the coach punting on 4th and 1 late in the game down three scores?"

Indeed.

180
by formido :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 8:59pm

"Not putting him on the sidelines per se"? There would be no other way to take him out of a game. Literally no one thinks Harvin is soft when he's on the field. He led the league in broken tackles for a receiver last year, and that was in 9 games. So if the Saints were trying to put him on the sideline, it was by hurting him, period. Why not just call it how it is?

BTW, it's not a clever tactic to hit someone as hard as you can in the head while he's defenseless. That's what happened. If that's a tactic that can be observed dispassionately like any other, Chancellor should start taking out every team's skill players forthwith.

186
by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 10:35pm

As a Carolina fan, I'm beyond annoyed to be trailing at halftime after I thought we outplayed the 49ers for the majority of the first half. It could easily have been 21-3 mid-way through the Second Quarter, but the inexperience meant they couldn't overcome their deficiencies.

In the end, they played like the team they are - a duct-tape group with significant gaps at O-Line, WR and Secondary. GM Gettleman and the Coaching staff did an admirable job of finding .... er ... workable... talent and came out of it with a Number Two seed. Most teams Front Offices seem to shut down once final cuts are made. The Panthers have been making moves throughout the year. Looking forward to how they handle the next off-season.

Hidden Play: Charles Johnson pulling up lame on the first play. The rest of the line does better when he is in there.

187
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 11:10pm

Johnson played 59 snaps. Just saying.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/snapcounts

217
by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 7:21pm

True, he was on the field, but the vaunted front line never really showed their normal force. I believe that was a major piece.

188
by theslothook :: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 11:14pm

Panthers just ran into a better version of themselves. I'm not sure what you can do to bridge that kind of gap. I mean, 49ers collection of talent is probably up there with the best groups of all time in the salary cap era. Over time that gap will likely shrink, but its still really hard to field a great pass rush, great set of lbs, good secondary, good receivers, and a good o line all at once.

Sorry if that feels like rubbing salt in the wound :/

196
by Cythammer :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 5:26am

Overall this season the 49ers have been barely better than the Panthers. The teams did split two games after all.

206
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 2:25pm

The 49ers were worse, by DVOA, going into the game.

This game was much less convincing than the scoreboard made it look. If these two rosters had to play again, wouldn't it be another coin-flip? What if Steve Smith is healthy? What if Charles Johnson is full strength? What if Carolina doesn't rack up personal foul penalties?

I personally don't think there's much evidence to be declaring that S.F. was the better team. They played a bad half, a great half, and got some "penalty luck."

It's a shame there's no way to quantify "penalty luck." Imagine the thousand-post threads that would entail.

219
by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 7:42pm

unfortunately, we are forced to make due with the "bye rest=good/rust=bad" and the "49'ers positive momentum / Panthers negative momentum in the last three weeks going into the Playoffs" narratives.

221
by morganja :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 8:28pm

I'm curious what the DVOA of the penalties were for this game. All three SF scores in the first half came from what would have been 4th downs converted to first downs via penalty.

231
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 12:14pm

I'm wondering if it would be interesting to sort out the penalties that don't affect actual play -- personal fouls, unnecessary roughness, taunting, removing the helmet, etc. The benefiting team certainly did nothing to earn them.

201
by coremill :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 11:49am

It couldn't easily have been 21-3. The TD to Smith only happened because of the great field position resulting from the failed 4th and goal. If Carolina had scored a TD there and kicked off, they wouldn't have been in position to score that TD.

With a little bit better luck maybe it could have been 14-3. But given how badly Carolina was outplayed from that point on -- after kicking that FG to go ahead 10-6, they were outgained 269-86 for the rest of the game (not counting Ted Ginn's meaningless 59-yard screen pass on the second to last play of the game) -- I don't think it would have mattered that much.

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by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 7:37pm

not directly - I was thinking about the LaFell interception and the over-all Defensive effort.

As a long-time Panthers' fan, I recognized/feared the whole "Panthers are moving the ball but can't quite finish the drive/the defense is making decent plays, but can't string together 3 in a row and get the opponent off the field" narrative. They failed to exploit the quick start, and then laid an egg the remainder of the way.

But given the tools/cap situation they started the season with, I would think they made huge progress, and I will be looking forward to August.

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by jebmak :: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 9:59pm

Thanks to Squalltimore for the unique Colts' scores factoid. That was interesting.