Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

24 Nov 2014

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to turn into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Cleveland Browns 26 at Atlanta Falcons 24

Cian Fahey: Brian Hoyer is playing like a player who should be benched, but the problem is the Browns don't know if it's a good idea to put Johnny Manziel in. For one, Manziel may disrupt the offense and actually make it worse, but more importantly, playing now may hurt his development. It's developing into somewhat of a tough situation.

Andrew Healy: Some fairly questionable coaching going on here at the end. On third-and-3 from the Cleveland 35-yard line, the Falcons called timeout down 23-21 (each team had three timeouts). Probably a better idea for the Browns to be calling the timeout there. Then the Falcons go deep to Devin Hester on the third-down play. Bryant makes the 53-yard kick, but the Browns have 44 seconds left because of that earlier Falcons timeout. My biggest problem here is the play call on third down, but I don't really like the timeout for the Falcons either.

And the Falcons lose on a field goal at the gun. Combine this with the Lions game and Mike Smith (who has been a really successful coach) seems very much to have lost his mojo. He lost his mojo in terms of fourth-down aggressiveness after that Giants playoff game. But he still went 13-3 the next year (2012). Now the remnants of his mojo are kaput.

Tennessee Titans 24 at Philadelphia Eagles 43

Cian Fahey: The Titans look like a team that is beginning to give up on the season. Next to no resistance on defense through the first quarter of this game and the offense isn't moving the ball at all.

I watch the Titans every week because I cover them for another site and I can't help but feel bad for people who are actual fans of the team. It's such a frustrating group that seems to be getting worse as the season continues to develop. With that said, they're down by just six in this game right now, largely because of Eagles penalties and mistakes.

Aaron Schatz: "People who are actual fans of the team." Like Tom! Hi, Tom!

Tom Gower: Nice start for the game, what with the opening kickoff return for a score, a 3-and-out, and an easy drive for a touchdown. Oh, and then the Titans went 3-and-out again, and again, and again. Somehow, though, it's only 27-17 at the half. Big pass plays have been the name of the game for the Titans offense. After a (I know you're shocked!) bad Mark Sanchez pick, Zach Mettenberger got a tipped pass to Justin Hunter for a score. A big play to Delanie Walker (nice stiff-arm on Emmanuel Acho to pick up a bunch of extra yards) set up the next one.

Outside of Sanchez's pick, the Eagles have moved the ball virtually at will. The Titans have a couple of nice plays on third downs in the red zone, one a pass breakup by Daimion Stafford on a throw to Jordan Matthews and the other a tackle by Michael Griffin short of the sticks on Matthews, but yeah. Their only other "stop" is when the Eagles missed a field goal at the end of the first half. I guess 20 points in six possessions isn't that bad, but that overstates how good the Titans have looked.

Like Cian said, this is a tough team to watch right now. They have no first downs on more than half of their drives in the seven halves since Mettenberger became the starting quarterback, and a defense that looked like it was improving has been incredibly inept for three-plus quarters.

Cian Fahey: Anyone seen my will to live around the place? I've lost it somewhere.

The Eagles won't put the Titans out of their misery. Sanchez steps up in the pocket while under pressure off the edge and delivers the ball wildly over the middle of the field. Predictably, the ball goes straight to the deep safety who was waiting for it behind the deep crossing route.

Tom Gower: So, Eagles kicked a few more field goals, which gives Titans coaches something to say positive things about, as do more chunk plays in the pass game against a defense that gives up a few of them. On the whole, though, I did not see the fabric of this game as changing significantly after halftime. Heck, Sanchez even threw another bad pick.

Detroit Lions 9 at New England Patriots 34

Aaron Schatz: Patriots look like a totally different team today than last week. Goodbye, James Develin and Jonas Gray and power running. Hello, Tim Wright and Shane Vereen and spreading it out with short passes. That's how the Patriots work: they want to do everything at a B+ level, then they'll pick whatever you are weak against and do that, and then something else next week against someone else who is weak against something different.

A lot of the strategy today seems to be "Hey, Darius Slay has gotten very good. Rashean Mathis is not really very good. Let's throw at whoever is being covered by Rashean Mathis." Which makes you wonder why other teams playing the Lions are not doing this to the same extent.

A few really egregious drops today by both teams. Julian Edelman just straight-out dropped a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski dropped an easy one. Calvin Johnson dropped one that was a little harder, an attempt at a back shoulder throw by Matthew Stafford that wasn't quite accurate.

Lions just ended up with second-and-goal from the 2-yard line and threw two fade routes, both broken up by the Patriots. On the third-and-goal they went empty backfield with no run threat unless you count a possible Stafford draw. The fade route must die. The fade route must die. The fade route must die.

Cian Fahey: It's really bizarre that teams fall in love with it so much. Only positive I have is that sometimes it looks pretty.

Mike Kurtz: Agreed. I would also like to add power runs from your own goal line. Tampa was pinned back by a beautifully downed punt at its own 2-yard line. Two power runs up the middle, Bears drop everyone back on third down, failed McCown scramble for one yard, punt from the end zone. Like clockwork.

Aaron Schatz: Someone tweeted to me "coaches love the fade route because it is unstoppable if executed properly, and if it doesn't work, they can blame execution." Yes, but it is your job as a coach to put your players in position to succeed. Here we have a play that ISN'T properly executed a high percentage of the time, and teams also run it sometimes with receivers who aren't tall enough/physical enough to have a high success rate on the play, and overall just aaaarrrrrggghhhh.

Lions are mostly using a big nickel against the Patriots, with three safeties and Glover Quin as more of a nickelback than safety. But he just had a bad brain fart and just sort of sat alone in a zone while he didn't notice Tim Wright all alone a few feet to his right, in the end zone. Touchdown, Pats up 21-6. As someone pointed out on Twitter, Tim Wright now has six touchdowns more than Logan Mankins this season.

Yes, that's meant to be a joke.

Andrew Healy: Nobody has had an easier six touchdowns than Tim Wright. On the second one against the Lions, a failed blitz and a double on Gronkowski left Wright wide open in the front left of the end zone. Offensive line holding up well against the Detroit front.

Also, I'm wondering if Rob Gronkowski might have been coached to cover up and protect himself more on throws over the middle. Maybe that sounds crazy given his superhuman touchdown against Indy, but there he could see the tacklers. On the catch before the field goal at the end of the half, it looked like he was running more carefully in a spot where that was a pretty good idea. Of course, this could be completely wrong.

Now, with New England up 24-6 and fourth-and-1 on the Detroit 26-yard line and under 9:00 to go in the third quarter, the Lions punt. Nobody goes for it there, but they should. Over/under on the year when most NFL teams go for it in that spot: 2031 (-110). I'll take the over.

Julian Edelman with an incredible punt return touchdown overturned on a penalty. He might really be the best right now at that stutter step, letting the defender slip by. Had a couple of those on that return.

Aaron Schatz: 27-9 Patriots, early fourth quarter. The Lions just challenged a Julian Edelman 5-yard catch that gives the Patriots fourth-and-1. The Pats had already brought the punting team onto the field. They're going to punt anyway. I'm completely dumbfounded. This may be the most ridiculous challenge I have ever seen.

I'm sorry. It was actually a THREE-yard catch. So the Lions won the challenge. The Patriots now punt from the 26-yard line instead of the 29. It's the small victories, right?

Cian Fahey: Small victories are the Lions' specialty.

Aaron Schatz: Matthew Stafford just scrambled to try to get a first down on fourth-and-10 and started his slide a yard and a half before reaching the first-down marker. So, that about puts a bow on things here.

Andrew Healy: Matthew Stafford with a really dumb slide on fourth-and-10 comes up a half-yard short. He is 14-of-40 right now (35 percent). A lot of Brandon Browner on Johnson's side of the field (three catches on nine targets) in the parts I've seen. Darrelle Revis on Golden Tate some (four of 10 targets), but it was a zone on the long completion to Tate in the first half. Yes, the real Pats defense is standing up now that we're in November.

Green Bay Packers 24 at Minnesota Vikings 21

Cian Fahey: The Packers have been relatively underwhelming away from home compared to what they do at home. Obviously never going to match that kind of offensive execution, but three losses and a very close victory over the Miami Dolphins precede this display in Minnesota.

On the other side of this, the Vikings do seem to be heading in the right direction quicker than any other rebuilding team with Mike Zimmer and Teddy Bridgewater.

Jacksonville Jaguars 3 at Indianapolis Colts 23

Cian Fahey: Trent Richardson isn't starting today ... the top of the 2012 draft went like this:

1. Andrew Luck: Incredible.
2. Robert Griffin III: You've heard by now...
3. Trent Richardson: Traded and then benched for Dan Herron.
4. Matt Kalil: Making a good case to be benched.
5. Justin Blackmon: Suspended indefinitely.
6. Morris Claiborne: Benched, then went to IR.
7. Mark Barron: Traded for pennies.

Aaron Schatz: I still feel like the talent we all thought was there with Robert Griffin is still there. I wouldn't be shocked to see him have a huge resurgence on another team in two years. But if you want a bad top of a draft, ask yourself, "Has Matthew Stafford proven himself worthy of the No. 1 overall pick?" and then look:

2009 DRAFT
1. Matthew Stafford, DET
2. Jason Smith, STL
3. Tyson Jackson, KC
4. Aaron Curry, SEA
5. Mark Sanchez, NYJ
6. Andre Smith, CIN
7. Darrius Heyward-Bey, OAK
8. Eugene Monroe, JAC
9. B.J. Raji, GB
10. Michael Crabtree, SF
11. Aaron Maybin, BUF
12. Knowshon Moreno, DEN

I mean, there are a couple of starters in there, but yikes. At least 2012 had Luke Kuechly ninth and Dontari Poe 11th.

Scott Kacsmar: Colts are missing right tackle Gosder Cherilus today with Joe Reitz hardly an adequate backup. Chris Clemons had three sacks in the first quarter and the Jaguars had four overall, including two strip-sacks. If only the Jaguars had an offense to take advantage of this start.

Aaron Schatz: I heard they spent a lot of money on a running back in the offseason. You can run on the Colts, right?

Scott Kacsmar: Colts haven't allowed more than five sacks in exactly 17 years: 11/23/1997 at Detroit (eight sacks). Luck has already gone down five times in the first half today. That's a 270-game streak for the Colts. The only longer in NFL history is 273 by the 1981-1999 Dolphins (basically the Dan Marino era).

Andrew Healy: T.Y. Hilton with a very tender touchdown celebration, cradling the ball like a baby.

Cian Fahey: The Jaguars have to be regretting putting Blake Bortles into the starting lineup. He looked really uncomfortable today and hasn't flashed anywhere near as much as he needs to over the season as a whole to justify forcing him into the starting lineup.

Vincent Verhei: Hilton's celebration was a tribute to his daughter, who was born just a few hours before the game.

Cincinnati Bengals 22 at Houston Texans 13

Vincent Verhei: Not the most exciting first half of football I ever saw. Bengals are controlling the possession with a dink-and-dunk attack that is picking up first downs. A.J. Green has the quietest 9-catch, 90-yard half you ever saw. They got a goal-line touchdown by throwing to Mohamed Sanu short of the end zone and asking him to break a tackle, and he did. They tried the same play on their next drive on third-and-goal, but that time the Texans made the tackle. They went for it on fourth-and-goal with, yes, a fade route, and it was incomplete. But it left Houston backed up on their own end zone, and Cincinnati swarmed the running back in the end zone on the ensuing first down.

On that note: coming back from halftime, the camera caught Green on the sideline in the midst of a big ol' yawn. Yeah, that's that.

Ryan Mallett throws a very bad interception on Houston's first possession of the second half. Rey Maualuga is just sitting in an underneath zone and steps in front of a receiver on a slant route. It's zone defense 101. Cincinnati scores rushing touchdown shortly thereafter, and the game feels over at 16-3.

I think Andy Dalton is reading my emails. He wanted to keep me entertained, so he threw a pick-six to Johnathan Joseph right when I hit send on that last post. So no, maybe it's not over after all.

Andrew Healy: On that pick the Texans blitzed Andy Dalton. Hit as he threw. Seemingly such an easy quarterback to game plan for. Just blitz him all day long.

Scott Kacsmar: To his credit, Dalton followed the pick-six with a very long drive where he made some impressive plays, like the scramble and throw to Jermaine Gresham on third down. Bengals settle for the field goal to keep it a one-score game, but I thought the second-down throw to Sanu should have been a touchdown. He just couldn't come down with the ball.

Andrew Healy: And Dalton made a good throw in the face of a blitz to Sanu on third-and-9 from around the Houston 33-yard line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13 at Chicago Bears 21

Mike Kurtz: Through one quarter, the Buccaneers really seem to have the Bears' number. Jay Cutler is constantly under pressure and has surrendered a fumblesack. An amazing self-tip interception bailed the Bears out at the end of a slow, steady but successful Tampa drive in the first quarter, and in the second the Buccaneers marched down the field without incident, and the Bears left Mike Evans wide the hell open in the end zone for the first score. I get the feeling that we're seeing Lovie Smith's familiarity with the Bears' personnel in action in the first half, and Trestman is going to have to show some different looks to keep Cutler clean.

Andrew Healy: With Tampa Bay leading 10-7, Josh McCown kills his team with two bad turnovers that lead to Bears touchdowns. McCown's 2013 season will be one of the all-time small-sample anomalies, like Browning Nagle's first game with the Jets. Fourth in DVOA amongst qualifying quarterbacks last year, he came in third from the bottom (out of 40 qualifiers), just behind Blake Bortles. He missed an almost unbelievable throw earlier to a wide-open Austin Seferian-Jenkins 7 yards down the field.

Mike Kurtz: We need to make a list of everyone who seriously considered going with McCown in Chicago. Those people should no longer have jobs. Good lord.

Cian Fahey: Hard to argue that signing Cutler long-term was a good idea either though.

Mike Kurtz: As someone who was against both Cutler deals, Cian, you'll hear no argument from me.

Cian Fahey: I was for the second Cutler deal, but I also bought into the idea that Trestman was a good coach because of the improvement and change of style the offense showed early last year. Now, this year, they've looked like the worst prepared team in a league full of poorly prepared teams. Everything about the Bears has regressed, including Cutler.

Arizona Cardinals 3 at Seattle Seahawks 19

Vincent Verhei: Seattle is winning this game at halftime almost entirely thanks to field position. They have kicked three field goals and had another blocked, and I don't think they have a 50-yard drive yet. Arizona's defense is hyper aggressive, and Seattle's passing offense has basically been split into three pretty equal parts: sacks, failed screens, and big plays downfield. Russell Wilson looked to have a 50ish-yard touchdown on his only run, but it was called back on a penalty. And Marshawn Lynch has done hardly anything.

Arizona's first several drives were impotent against Seattle's defense. They couldn't block anyone, and their only real scoring chance (a missed field goal) came off a DPI on Byron Maxwell. They had a lot of success on their last drive (including another penalty on Maxwell for a third-down conversion), but Brown dropped a touchdown pass on third-and-goal and the Cardinals kicked a field goal to make it 9-3.

Not much changed for Arizona's offense in the second half. For Seattle, the Cardinals really committed to taking away Wilson's running on the read option, but that opened up more opportunities downfield. It also felt like Arizona's defense got worn down trying to tackle Wilson and Lynch all day. I know "establishing the run" is a myth, but there's no doubt that Seattle's offense was much better in the second half. It also helped that stopped running so many lousy screen plays.

One more thought a few hours after the game: This was pretty clearly Seattle's best defensive game of the year, or at least in the past few months. Felt like they were doing a lot to confuse Drew Stanton, attacking him with more blitzing than they have used most of the year, and moving Sherman all over the place, to either side of the field or in the slot. And clearly it worked, though Larry Fitzgerald's absence also helped.

Washington Redskins 13 at San Francisco 49ers 17

Andrew Healy: A fantastic bit of coaching from Jim Harbaugh at the end of the first half. The 49ers had a third down play that stopped on the Washington 48-yard line with about 35 seconds left. The 49ers had two timeouts, Washington all three. Harbaugh waits until 11 seconds are left (Gruden could have called timeout, but didn't) before calling timeout. The exact amount of time where he can take a free shot at getting in field goal range. If the fourth-down play works, there's time to kick. If it doesn't, they leave Washington with only enough time for a Hail Mary. And the play even works, with Michael Crabtree making a great catch for 25 yards down the right sideline, going out of bounds with 0:05 left. Harbaugh got his team an extra three points that almost no team would even have tried for. The color guy (Rich Gannon) is still trying to figure this out.

Miami Dolphins 36 at Denver Broncos 39

Aaron Schatz: Broncos offense looks discombobulated. Is Julius Thomas that important to what they do? They're running the ball more than I would have expected.

Tom Gower: I missed the first part of this game, what with Titans-Eagles taking forever, but they seem to be playing offense like a team terrified of their offensive line's blocking. After Miami's defensive front, I'm not saying they're wrong about that.

Kayvon Webster seemed to play a fairly prominent role in Miami's second touchdown drive. They need Aqib Talib back out there.

Tom Gower: The second half of that game felt like a Denver game from the second half of last season, very slow-paced where Denver's offense doesn't score quickly but turned possessions into points at a great clip while its defense allowed grind-it-out drives that scored at a reasonable but lower clip.

Dallas Cowboys 31 at New York Giants 28

Scott Kacsmar: If I didn't already need a change of shorts, that touchdown catch by Odell Beckham Jr. has moved me.

Is there any more anticlimactic way to answer that Beckham catch than with a shovel pass? I swear Week 12 was the week of the shovel pass, but Cowboys actually made that one work with ease to Jason Witten.

Vincent Verhei: I walked in the door just in time to see NBC show a replay of Beckham's grab. That was CGI, right? Human beings can't actually catch passes that way, can they? That defied so many laws of kinesiology and physics.

Tom Gower: Through three quarters, the Giants have done a fairly solid job on DeMarco Murray. He hasn't gotten the big plays (Collinsworth pointed it out on the broadcast, but Jason Pierre-Paul had a phenomenal play to take away what could've been a long-ish touchdown run) and it hasn't felt like the Cowboys have been as consistently in plus down-and-distance situations as they were in most prior games, including the early Giants game. The Giants have still had some defensive issues (man, leaving Dez Bryant that wide-open?), but that hasn't been one of them in my eyes.

Andrew Healy: Odell Beckham's catch was the greatest catch I've ever seen and it's hard to see how another catch could top it (do that while turning your body and tapping the toes down?), although I don't think I'd ever imagined that catch until it happened. I wonder if it would have been possible without modern gloves. Probably not. It looked like he caught it with a thumb and a finger.

In the third quarter, Beckham flops when Barry Church bumps into him out of bounds. A flag initially comes in for a personal foul but it's picked up for flopping. Soccer has come to the NFL. The Steve Smith play late vs. Cincinnati, Jimmy Graham vs. San Francisco. We're seeing more of this. Here, the flopping gets its karmic payback when Eli Manning throws a comically bad interception way over Preston Parker's head when he should have had him for a very easy completion to near the goal line.

Tom Gower: I don't really have much to say about the end of that game, aside from great winning drive for the oft-criticized Tony Romo and I don't understand the Giants' final possession.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 24 Nov 2014

227 comments, Last at 26 Nov 2014, 11:20pm by chemical burn

Comments

1
by are-tee :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:34am

Re. 2009 draft - Maybin was drafted by Buffalo, not the Jets. Jets picked him up one or two years later after Bills cut him.

4
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:41am

Oops. I'll fix that.

2
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:39am

The Giants final possession is exactly why their OC has been so heavily criticized this year. Stuff like that happens all game long. When I look at it, I feel like it has something to do with the fact that McAdoo doesn't employee route trees - it just never feels like their wr's are finding holes in the defense and if there's nothing immediately there on the outside, Eli has to hit the checkdown. The whole thing just feels rigid and somehow constantly forced into 3 and 6 yard passes. Add in that their run game is no threat so the safeties can focus on WR help and it's all just going nowhere.

I actually don't think they have a terrible roster at all (and they've certainly been killed by injuries), so you can see flashes of a competitive team rearing their head (like in this game.) But it's insane to me that there's any talk of McAdoo taking over as HC next year after Coughlin "retires." He's clearly a source of their problems, if not THE source...

3
by johonny :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:41am

Mia/Den-Miami's O did pretty good for being on reserve in both tackle positions. Injuries really swung the game in Denver's favor in the second half. The defense couldn't overcome losing corners and after the second went down the game was over. Miami's D-line looked gassed in mile high. Lucky the Pats got Den at home, but Pats always seem lucky in their schedule:) Miami has looked decent all year but they drop games in the 4th quarter against teams that are heading to the play offs. The trend pretty much means they won't be heading to the playoffs. It going to be a bitter year for a lot of AFC teams watching dreadful teams walk into the playoffs in the NFC while 10-6 could not be good enough in the AFC. Meanwhile in case your worried the AFCeast is ground hogs day. You wake up and every damn season is the same. Perhaps the NFL should just move the pats to their own division and let the other three teams play for a wild card. It would at least give you a reason to watch the last third of the season. Oh well that's it for 2014.

9
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:56am

Yeah, when that reserve CB (#40?) came in the game, that was the turning point for sure. Defensively, they got super conservative and the entire tenor of the game changed from that moment forward. It felt like they just didn't have the horses at that point to stay with Denver's offense.

(I also agree that it would be nice if the Pats sometime, I don't know, in the next a decade or so had a competent team in their division. Not a scrappy Jets teams or a feisty Dolphins teams, but had a real live divisional rival like the Ravens/Steelers/Bengals or Broncos/Chiefs/Chargers where there there was a basic competency behind their opponent. Imagine how much more fun it would be to see them in an NFC West type situation. Right now, they're going up against 3 variations on the Rams year after year after year...)

27
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:42pm

"I also agree that it would be nice if the Pats sometime, I don't know, in the next a decade or so had a competent team in their division."

People keep throwing variations of this comment out, like the Pats are playing in some reverse-Wobegon league where every team is bad.

If you go to PFR, and take the SRS for all teams in a division since 2000 (Year I of the Hooded One's reign, Jalla Jalāluhu), the AFC East averages out (outside the Pats) to -0.25 and the NFC East is +0.39, or a spread of 0.5 pts/game. And that includes the AFC East having to play a very good Pats team six times (collectively) a year. It's a simple way of doing the math, and doesn't prove anything, but the Pats have played in an average division and have dominated it in an historic manner.

43
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:02pm

So, you'd rate those organizations as competent? Having their shit together? I'm not even talking good or bad, just not total messes. And it's not the Patriots causing the Bills to be the Bills and the Jets to be the Jets, it's simply two organizations with long, storied histories of being total messes. The Dolphins aren't quite as haywire, but certainly have had their share of bullying suspensions and organizational mismanagement. Also, I do not give a shit about the Pats and their "legitimacy" one way or the other, only as a football fan I think it would be more fun to see them with some actual consistent, legitimate competitors in their divisions, a la the NFC West - which is a division in which I have no rooting interest, but have had a fun time watching for the past several years. It's boring that the Pats have no real rivals because the other teams in their division can't even tie their shoes without fucking it up in spectacular, embarrassing fashion is the only point I'm trying to make. Wouldn't any football fan want more games like the Jets/Pats game this year, not fewer? The Rex Ryan Jets have been their biggest rival. The Rex Ryan Jets!

47
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:08pm

If you only started watching football around 2011 or so, I don't see how we can have an argument. Seattle won the NFC West in 2010 at 7-9. The 49ers went almost an entire decade between winning seasons. The Cardinals have had one playoff run since the Truman presidency. The Rams haven't made the playoffs since 2004, and have averaged 4-12 over the past decade. Since 2000, the Jets have average 7.5 wins a season, and the Bills...well let's forget about the Bills.

54
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:14pm

The AFC East has generally been better than people think (same thing with the AFC South in the Manning era).

What the OP is saying more than just year-by-year consistency, is there has never been one singular great team. Only twice since 2001 has any AFC East team other than New England won 11 games (MIA in 2008, NYJ in 2010). There have been a handful of 10-win teams (NYJ in '04, '06 & MIA in '03), but other than that it has been a slew of teams between 6-10 and 9-7.

The AFC West is similarly bad. Still, in recent years we've had 12-win Wild Cards in the AFC South (IND '08), North (BAL '10, PIT '11), NFC West (SF '13), and many years where there was 11+ win wild cards.

The AFC East has specialized in mediocrity, rarely having dreadful teams for the Pats to beat up on, but has rarely had great teams either, even if for just a year (like the Titans in 2009 forcing a 12-win Colts team to be a Wild-Card).

61
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:18pm

Seriously, if you can't see a difference between the past four years of the NFC West and any three years in the past decade in the AFC East, then you're being dishonest. You're trying to argue that the Pats have had consistent, competent, coherent competition, which simply isn't true. They have no real rival, not because they're just that great (which they inarguably are) but because the organizations in their division are among the most chaotic in the league. Their division hasn't produced a single, NOT ONE, consistently above average starting QB in ten years. That's a mess. Injury-plagued Chad Pennington is the closest thing to divisional rival QB they've had to face. Compare that to literally any other division in the league. The AFC South is the closest analog and the Pats didn't even have to face off against a Matt Schaub.

In summation, it would be more fun to watch the Pats if their divisional rivals had their shit together even slightly.

199
by PantsB :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:16am

The AFC East has also consistently had strong defenses over the last 10 years. Even when you eliminate division winners. Football outsiders did a piece on looking at records in non-divisional games and the AFC East was first overall with a .540 winning percentage 2002-2013 with the best DVOA, best point differential, 2nd best defensive DVOA and 3rd best offensive DVOA. A lot of that is the Pats but even so its not a weak division

29
by PaddyPat :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:45pm

I understand the sentiment, but honestly, the competition in the division has been much greater over the years than you comprehend:

By DVOA, just years with 3 teams over 0:

2001: Pats 7.9, Phins 9.0, Jets 11.3 -- Pats won division and Super Bowl, but all 3 teams made the postseason.

2002: Phins 24.9, Jets 16.1, Pats 15.7

2003: Pats 20.6, Phins 12.8, Jets 3.5

2004: Pats 34.2, Bills 31.3, Jets 27 -- one of the best divisions in DVOA history

2008: Pats 13.1, Phins 6.2, Jets 4.0

2009: Pats 28.8, Jets 15.8, Phins 4.4

2010: Pats 44.6, Jets 18.7, Phins 1.8

2014: Phins 20.0, Pats 19.6, Bills 6.8

If we were to make the comparison to the AFC North:

2004: Steelers 37.6, Ravens 21.1, Bengals 13.2

2006: Ravens 27.7, Steelers 9.3, Bengals 6.7

2007: Steelers 19.4, Browns 9.7, Bengals 1.7

2011: Steelers 22.6, Ravens 14.5, Bengals 0.1

2014: Ravens 22.0, Steelers 6.9, Benglas 0.3

The other divisions are just often 2-horse races, while the Patriots seems to murder everyone in their division, irrespective of their relative value in any given year. I think what you are asking for, in terms of competition, is for the Patriots to be less good--then we could see how actually decent their divisional competition has really been.

44
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:03pm

No, I'm asking for competency, not win %. If you don't think there's a difference between the Bills and Jets versus the Steelers or Ravens and the 49ers or Seattle organizations, then I have no idea what to tell you. (Also, citing stuff from over a decade ago doesn't help your case.)

45
by James-London :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:05pm

Basic difference is NE hired a competent HC/GM and left him to it. How many Head Coaches/GM's have the other three teams had since BB took the job?

It's analogous to Spurs/Arsenal (English Soccer). Spurs have had 15! managers in since Arsene Wenger took the Arsenal job, and guess who has been far the better team?

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

49
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:10pm

Not a great comparison. In those 15 years Chelsea have had how many? 7 or so?

They've still been better than Arsenal.

Also, the poster who put the DVOA by year, restricting it to years when three teams were above 0 leaves off three of the most competitive years in the AFC Norht (2001, 2008 and 2010).

216
by PaddyPat :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 6:38pm

In other words, you evaluate the strength of a division based on whether or not more than one team has a chance of winning the division? I thought we were talking about "strong" divisions, meaning all of the teams, players, coaches, etc. were performing well. Yes, the AFC North has often been a two-horse race, but the AFC East has often been a 3-team race, with two teams scrapping for a wild card spot and endlessly falling short while one team dominates. If you look at team records and overall performance over the years, the East is the tougher division.

It seems to me that the real problem everyone has with this is that the AFC East is a division of strong defenses and often of great special teams but terrible quarterback play. That may make them hard to watch, but that doesn't make them easy to play against. The Patriots have annually had difficult competition within the division. Watch a Belichick film breakdown on Patriots today as he discusses one of Bobby April's return formations or gets into the nitty-gritty of defending the Jason Taylor pass rush. Those were tough opponents.

218
by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 7:14pm

The point is not about "strong divisions." That's the not the issue problem. I've been talking about whether or not the Patriots have had consistent, competent, worthy rivals within their division which they inarguably haven't. It's not a conversation about the legitimacy of their inarguable greatness, only that they face the freakin' Jets and Bills (and to a lesser extend Dolphins) twice a year who some of the NFL's biggest messes and punchlines. Steelers/Ravens is obviously the gold standard for a divisional rivalry and if you think the silly Rex Ryan Jets rivalry is similar to that or that the Bills occasionally have good defenses is somehow similar to the 49ers, Cardinals and Seahawks fielding great defenses then you are crazy. I have no idea why Patriots fans are so sensitive, it makes no sense...

225
by PaddyPat :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:46pm

Honestly, this isn't about sensitivity or prickliness. The thread began with a comment about the fact that the Patriots have never had a "competent" team in their division in the Brady, Belichick era. Against this comment, I beg to differ. That they have never had a proper rival, well sure, I agree with that completely. Several rivals have essentially been stillborn.

The Wannstedt Dolphins were a pretty good team for a number of years. In 2001, 2002, 2003, the Patriot-Dolphins games were hard-fought, bitter battles, but the Patriots swept the Phins in 03', after which the Dolphins team collapsed. That pretty much sealed it for that rivalry.

The Jets were a scrappy annoyance on many occasions under Herm Edwards, but not a serious opponent. And then, again from 2009-11 they were a meaningful rival to an extent. Probably the most important game for that little contest was the clash in 2011 when the Patriots had just lost 2 games in a row and were crumbling to injuries and the Jets appeared ascendant. That the Patriots crushed the Jets in that game more or less sent the teams in opposite directions, and that was that.

I think we have been talking at cross purposes a bit here. I completely agree that the Patriots have lacked a legitimate divisional rival. The hard-fought games to watch have always been Patriots vs. Peyton Manning, and Patriots vs. Shanahan Broncos, and only for a brief stretch, Patriots vs. Ravens under Harbaugh (which produced some real nail biters from 2011-12.)

My argument, in response to the first poster on this thread, was that the Patriots' opposition has often been competent in one way or another, that in fact, average divisional DVOA has frequently been surprisingly high for at least two of the other teams in the division. If not for their double losses annually to the Patriots, many of these Dolphins and Jets teams would have won 9-10 games and been playoff teams that could have taken a game before losing in the divisional round. That's the gist of my claim.

103
by jmaron :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:13pm

Belichick record without Brady as his starting QB 51-62

Maybe they just stumbled into an all time great QB? I'm not making a statement that is true but it does make me wonder.

107
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:20pm

I don't mean to denigrate the Patriot's inarguable excellence and greatness with this thread. I just think they're less fun than they should be because they don't have a real rival. They have Manning, I guess, but that's been 2 games a year at absolute most and nowhere near as fun as those Ravens/Steelers or 49er's/Seahawks series that went 3 games in a season. 2 games, one home, one away, versus a good team that hates your guts, battling year after year (even if only for three or four years in a row) is just the best football has to offer. The Pats have never had that and not simply because of their own greatness.

135
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:54pm

"..49er's/Seahawks series that went 3 games in a season."

The 49ers and Hawks have played each other "three times in a season" one time. The Steelers/Ravens have played each other three times in a season...three times.

172
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:23pm

Yeah, I agree, those series were awesome.

124
by RoninX :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:35pm

I really hope Belichick continues to coach after Brady is done, or else this is an entanglement mystery we may never solve.

127
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:39pm

I have a tendency to reject the idea that Belichick is a product of Brady's greatness, but it must be a thorn in partisans' sides that Manning always as the ol' "yeah, but Manning did it all without a coach like Belichick helping him!" in his back pocket for the irrational debating. Sorta the inverse of what's being argued here, but still...

137
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:56pm

It is a bit of a chicken/egg argument. Belichick has the year with Cassel to point to, but they played an atrocious schedule and would have (probably) been one-and-done even if they made the playoffs.

188
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 6:53pm

Doesn't have to be black and white. Seems pretty obvious to me that the synergy between them has been perfect, and both have benefitted. Two very big plusses combined to make a historically great plus. Montana and Walsh are really the only comparison... (and I think Brady is a lot better than Montana, not that that's relevant here).

Brady most likely would've been great on his own, but who can say for sure? Without the complete team those first few years when he didn't really have to do much except not screw up (which he clearly did better than any young QB does now or did then - I don't intend that description of his job duties to be insulting) and the coaching that allowed him to grow into the stud he became in 05 or so, maybe he'd have flamed out too. Or maybe he'd have gotten killed behind a bad line and shell-shocked from tons of picks in a bombs away Arians-esque Coryell offense. Maybe he wouldn't have prepared quite the same way without Belichick pushing him. More than just pushing, though, it's clear from watching any interaction between the two now that they work together, driving each other, and thus driving and leading everyone else too.

I think Belichick, by virtue of simply being smarter than just about everyone else (in addition to having supergenius Ernie Adams behind the curtain), would be an exceptional coach either way. Without Brady, maybe he'd be a coach that by himself made a 6-win team into an 8-win team without a HOF QB (or the coach that wins 11 games with Matt Cassel)... but that's still more than we can say about the rest of the league's coaches, short of two or three. He game plans well. He reads people and other teams well. He doesn't mess up the clock. He has a killer instinct. He doesn't let teams just be happy to be there - the only real time to celebrate is after a super bowl win. Brady feeds off of this but also feeds into this. And other players, like the legions who are mid-tier talents but suddenly come into NE and play meaningful roles, pick up on it too, prepare well, and simply don't make mistakes.

There's a reason the Pats seem to always get the breaks, or get lucky (in non-scheduling ways), or find themselves getting the worst effort of an otherwise very good team so often. They're so good and so complete and so successful that it's intimidating. They've got every base covered every week and have for a decade. And I do think there's something about that that can't be measured. That total confidence and security that you're going to do just about everything right and that it's going to take the opponent's absolute best game plan, execution, and coaching to beat you. When that pressure is on the opponent every time, it's a lot easier for them to end up doing more dumb things.

The other advantage they each have is that on top of all those positives they bring to the Patriots, they also don't have to face themselves... how different would the narrative or irrational debate be if nothing else changed except Manning didn't have to face Brady/Belichick? (Or if Brady/Belichick had had to face their clones?)

It's fun to think about. And it'd be kind of neat to see what'd happen if the Pats did ever trade him a la Montana to KC. But it'd also be kind of a shame. Even though I'm sick to death of worrying about the Patriots every single goddamn year, I also appreciate the hell out of what they've done and more importantly how they do it.

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by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:07pm

Yeah not seeing it. The Patriots have been really lucky that all three teams in their division have been unable to filed anything more than an average/below average QB over the last 15 years or so (though Tannenhill might change that; prior to that is it really Jay Fiedler as best QB in division/non-NE?). And really other than those Jet teams of a few years back, they've also avoided strong D/so-so O (like Lovie's Bears/some of those Titan teams)... and those Jet teams had poor Os, not so-so.

That said, put the Patroits in any other division over this time and they probably do about as well, save a year here or there. They'd probably be a lot like the Packers, usually in the playoffs but once in a while miss out.

153
by JIPanick :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:23pm

"prior to that is it really Jay Fiedler as best QB in division/non-NE?"

Chad Pennington

156
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:31pm

I believe Pennington is the only QB to win the division since Brady took over. In 2002 with the Jets, and 2007 when Brady was hurt.

194
by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 12:41am

The issue with the AFC East is that there hasn't been another team good enough to compete with the Patriots in the BB/TB era. When is the last time, besides 2008, when the Patriots didn't have the division essentially wrapped up by early December?
Who is the best divisional QB they've had to face in their tenure, Pennington?

If the Patriots played in the AFC West, where each team was good enough to earn the Conference #1 seed at least once in the BB/TB era, or in the AFC North where they had to duke it out with the Steelers and Ravens (or at least one of them), I guarantee the Patriots would not be nearly as successful..

139
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:57pm

NE not having a consistent long term divisional rival and the AFC East actually being a decent division are not inconsistent facts. You mostly seem to be arguing past each other.

Really NE rival was IND with Manning. That was plenty and led to a bunch of interesting games.

169
by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:18pm

The injuries were tough, but I think the key plays were the 3rd and 20 conversion and the interception. The conversion turned into a TD and kept the game close at the half, as it otherwise might have been out of reach for Denver in the 4th. The interception helped the Broncos into a two-score lead and the way Miami had been moving the ball, a lead change seemed a likely possibility. The key then would have been the time left for Manning, but even then, Denver moved the ball much better through the ground. They killed the Dolphins with the ground game much more than with the pass.

------
Who, me?

200
by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:24am

After looking at Quick Reads, my statements about Denver's passing game seem a little iffy, huh?

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Who, me?

205
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:39pm

I bet Manning was helped by a healthy dose of opponent adjustments there.

8
by RickD :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:50am

The way intra-conference matchups work out, a team can host another team three years in a row. (It's a mathematical necessity given all of the other constraints involved.) Peyton Manning moved from a Colts team that was in the process of going to NE every year to a Denver team that was in the middle of the same cycle.
Presuming they both win their divisions, next year the Broncos should host the Pats.
I think.

The gap between the Pats and the Dolphins isn't huge. (Unlike DVOA, I would put the Pats ahead of the Dolphins.) It might come down to QB play.

Yesterday was very rough for the Dolphins' divisional hopes. Before yesterday, the Dolphins were only 2 games behind, and also had the first tiebreaker. Now the Pats have enough of a cushion that they could lose in Green Bay and still be in position for the #1 seed. But they do need to win at least one of the next two games (@GB, @SD).

26
by James-London :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:33pm

On the whole I thought Miami were encouraging yesterday, and had they not been forced into playing their #5 corner & #4 safety this might have gone the other way. Getting run on for 200+yds was disappointing and I thought the D-line might have got more pressure on Manning.

Tannehill's performance in the last few weeks has been really good, and I thought he was excellent last night. Jarvis Landry and Ju'wan James have been very good as rookies Miami may finish 10-6 and miss the play-offs, but I'll take that if the key result from the year is that the Dolphins have finally found a QB and a functioning offense. 15 years is a long time to wait.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

160
by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:49pm

I feel the same way. The schedule has been tough, they've lost all the close games, and the field is really strong this year, but at least we've got something to look forward. Not just the QB, the whole team has played quite well.

------
Who, me?

195
by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 12:52am

Miami is really good, and look like they are a year away from competing with NE for the title.

136
by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:55pm

I feel your pain, but other than the NFC South, is there any team in particular you're talking about? I'm not crazy about either NFC East team, but I only think one is going to make it. It's highly unlikely the Bears run the table and sneak in at 10-6; and it's starting to look like a super flawed Lions team is fading.

190
by JFP :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 7:25pm

"Lucky the Pats got Den at home, but Pats always seem lucky in their schedule:)"

They got Denver at home, but I wouldn't consider KC, Indy & Green Bay on the road particularly lucky.

5
by RickD :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:41am

Spiderman wants Odell Beckham's gloves.

112
by EricL :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:27pm

Fred Biletnikoff wants Odell Beckham's gloves.

113
by EricL :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:27pm

Double post.

6
by jmaron :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:42am

Andrew Healy: "In the third quarter, Beckham flops when Barry Church bumps into him out of bounds. A flag initially comes in for a personal foul but it's picked up for flopping. Soccer has come to the NFL. The Steve Smith play late vs. Cincinnati, Jimmy Graham vs. San Francisco. We're seeing more of this."

Should these things be review-able? How about the penalty not only being wiped out, but 15 yards charged to the team of the flopper. It would sure make players think twice about flopping.

7
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:48am

Eh, to be fair, this was not the most egregious flop in the world - and it came after a legit late hit. I think the refs over-compensated and took away a late hit penalty that had all the business in the world being called. Add in the fact that Dallas had been taking after-the-whistle cheap-shots all game and it was in the refs best interest to reward the Giants for flopping instead of escalating the unsportsmanlike play. Dallas had, what, 3 other unnecessary roughness penalties for after the whistle garbage? The refs should be focused on shutting that down, not trying to judge the authenticity of responses...

10
by jmaron :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:56am

I didn't see the play in question or much of that game (was lucky enough to tune in for the catch). I just think there needs to be some kind of remedy for flopping when it is unquestionably obvious.

18
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:11pm

The problem is that it's rarely unquestionably obvious - and generally the offending player has done something explicitly illegal to draw the flop, like shoving someone when they're out of bounds or other after the play bullshit. The flopping is annoying, but the after the whistle hosreshit is explicitly against the rules and what the refs should be entirely focused on shutting down. I mean, have you ever in your life seen an NFL player flop while completely untouched, unengaged in any moronic post-whistle chest-beating? At best, you're proposing a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. A solution which would make it harder to enforce the reasonable rules already on the books - the NFL should encourage players to flop and not retaliate, it's in the best interest of controlling an already violent, passionate game.

35
by RoninX :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:57pm

100% agree. Add to this that basketball flops occur mostly at a couple of miles an hour (or less!) and can be easily planned by the player trying to draw a foul or take a charge or whatever. Football "flops" even the contentious ones that have been highlighted this year (Steve Smith and Jimmy Graham plays) were not complete creations of the "flopper". At worst the flopper was drawing the attention of the ref, which - in my mind at least - shouldn't be a punishable offense.

Of course soccer and bball flopping probably started the same way. Can Vlade Divac be reached for comment?

85
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:50pm

I think why flopping will never be prevalent in football vs. soccer and basketball is twofold: individual plays are worth too much to risk a flop and it's very hard to flop during an active play.

First, the risk in flopping is basically the difference in outcome if the flop is called or isn't called. In soccer, flopping and giving up a change possession if the flop goes uncalled only matters in the most theoretical sense. Getting a free kick in the correct spot is more valuable more than simple possession of the ball. With basketball, the opportunity to get two unimpeded points is worth more than risking giving up possession in a heavily contested spot - you also have the And+1 possibility where you don't even give up your ability to score while receiving the advantage gained from flopping.

In football, you can't risk giving up on a 40 yard catch to flop into a possible PI. Your coaches will kill you if you give up on a catchable ball to try to draw foul. The closest you really get to a football "flop" are wr's like Jordy Nelson and DeSean Jackson who have a knack of for stopping on a deep ball and trying to run back through there trailing CB. They're still definitely trying to make the catch, even if they're also putting the CB in a position that almost inevitably draws contact. But if they fall down at slight contact while the ball is in play and wave their hands? They're risking losing 40 yards, giving up an interception (in a game where possession matters way more than soccer or basketball) or even injury to fall down convincingly at top speed. There's so much downside in comparison to the floppy sports.

Secondly, in a game that's violent and in which hitting is expected, it's tougher to find situations in which flopping is even possible - it's the same situation as hockey. You can't flop when you're supposed to be getting hit. That's why the only flopping I've ever seen occurs in after-the-whistle scrums. You're not supposed to be hitting anyone then - that's the penalty, that's the bullshit and it's avoidable. In soccer and basketball, where contact is much more restricted, so there are far more opportunities for flopping...

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by Sixknots :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:34pm

" I mean, have you ever in your life seen an NFL player flop while completely untouched"

Just about every punter in the NFL (though no post-whistle chest-beating...punters would never be able to face the razzing in the Tuesday morning team meeting if they did that).

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by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:51pm

Punter? - I said "NFL player."

11
by Travis :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:57am

There's already a penalty for flopping by the punter, kicker, or holder to draw a flag, but it hasn't been called in 30 years. This would probably be just as effective.

12
by jmaron :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:02pm

I think you need to make it challenge-able. Replay is the only way you can tell most of the time.

16
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:07pm

You really trust refs to judge intention? That seems like the biggest practical hole in this idea. Would the 49er's player accused of flopping on the Hail Mary versus the Saints earlier this year (which was far from cut and dry) meet your criteria for drawing a flopping flag? Because a review of that play would have been useless, but many folks would have been absolutely outraged if they didn't call it, especially under review. It's insane.

13
by Lance :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:04pm

Wasn't there an amazing catch in a Super Bowl a few years ago? Pinning the ball to the guy's helmet? I think he was a Giant, too. But I guess since it was a few years ago, it no longer counts.

15
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:06pm

Yes, the SB catch was more important. But if you aren't amazed by Beckham's catch and its singular breath-taking brilliance, you must be a Cowboys fan. There's no other explanation.

32
by RoninX :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:50pm

Judging Beckham's catch to not be "the greatest catch ever" doesn't mean you can't appreciate it. Anyone who's ever played football (or played catch) can tell you that sometimes the ball just sticks if you can get a paw on it. All credit to OBJ for amazing body control and sticking with it while getting hacked - it WAS amazing and breathtaking. But note that he was not impeded at all during the actual catching of the ball. For my money Tyree hanging in the air and tenaciously completing the helmet catch was more impressive because the actual catch was under huge duress - but its entirely a subjective matter of opinion (at least until you add context and the rest of the play).

Frankly I think one handed catches made when running across the field and the thrown is behind the receiver and the receiver receives immediate contact but hangs onto the ball (e.g. Andre Ellington's catch vs. Seattle yesterday, which went for a mere first down early in a losing effort and thus isn't even on the internet yet) are probably more amazing *catches* than either.

36
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:58pm

"Not impeded?" He was being dragged to the ground by the front of his jersey, which was rightfully called as an interference penalty.

Tyree's catch was mainly amazing because his ball skills are so bad. A better wr comes down with it much more cleanly and boxes out the defender better. Harrison's play on Tyree was the more impressive part of the play. Yes, the duress and the setting matters and for that reason Tyree's catch will be remembered long after Beckham's is forgotten. But come on, as athletic displays? There's no comparison.

Anyhoo, I thought that Beckham had finally done something so impressive not even the negativists could deny, but it's the internet, so no such luck...

59
by Lance :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:17pm

To be clear: Yes, I'm a Cowboys fan. But I also don't deny that the catch was amazing. Nevertheless. I feel like our modern "in the moment" mentality makes everything we just saw immediately better than whatever happened earlier. I'm over 40 and have seen NFL games stretching back-- if you can imagine-- into the early 80's. I've seen lots of great catches. I don't know how to put one over the other (much like I don't know how to judge certain ice skating or gymnastics routines over each other). So yeah, it was an awesome one-handed grab/touchdown. In a world of massive social media, though, where everyone wants to be relevant, it's obvious that this "most amazing catch ever!!!111!!! ZOMG!" is hyped precisely because it was witnessed now and on Twitter and Instawhatever with gifs and whatnot to show its amazingness.

So I'll see your Internet cynicism and raise you.

64
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:24pm

Ha - I feel you. I agree that this stuff gets blown out of proportion - I just found that catch such a bolt of pure athletic joy, that I figured only a Cowboys fan could not derive pleasure from it. And I will maybe take your premise even further: I think by the end of this year, that play is more or less forgotten. As it should be coming for what will like be a 4 or 5 win team stumbling to the collapse of a coaching/management regime in NYC.

But it's still just about as good as a catch can be. It's hard to imagine how a catch could be better without raising the stakes in terms of setting and implication.

87
by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:51pm

Agree completely that as an athletic feat it was amazing.

91
by Lance :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:57pm

No, you're right: if that catch happened to, say, get the NYG into the play-offs (e.g. 4th quarter go-ahead touchdown in week 17), it would be more memorable. As it is, it was a fantastic catch. But I've seen quite a few great catches. Some perhaps less athletic but with greater implications, and some just as athletic but also in a mid-season game that ultimately won't much matter. But yes, it would be a stretch for me to say I've seen something more athletic than that catch.

And someone else brought this up but I didn't think about it: how much do gloves matter? I played TE in high school (late 80's/early 90's) and never wore gloves, and perhaps at that time there was nothing available. Do the gloves they make now really enhance one's grip that much?

102
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:08pm

I think gloves matter, but not enough that it takes away from the accomplishment. If you puts his gloves on any other wr on the field, they don't make that catch. (As much as I respect Dez.)

69
by RoninX :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:28pm

Impeded: he was interfered with prior to the ball arriving. But not one touches him or attempts to knock the ball away (or is even near him really) during the catching of the ball. This statement is a fact.

I can respect someone's opinion who thinks this play was the best catch they've ever seen. But you seem to think that it somehow disrespects or denigrates the impressiveness of OBJ's catch for someone to pause and reflect on all of the other great plays they have witnesses while watching this game over the years. I play that can generate that reaction is and should be lauded. Where exactly have I been negative about it at all? Except to say that it might not be empirically the greatest-est catch of all time? Does that pass the negative these days?

101
by Lyford :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:08pm

"I thought that Beckham had finally done something so impressive not even the negativists could deny..."

Has anyone denied its impressiveness? It was an amazing play; has anyone denied that? There's a big difference between "that was amazing but not the most amazing play that I've ever seen" and "eh, pedestrian..." I think it was absolutely an amazing play, but I don't think it was any more amazing than the Rob Gronkowsi pivot-in-the-air-and-catch-with-only-the-off-hand catch against the Broncos just two weeks ago. Incredible, awesome, amazing, great play? Absolutely. Incrediblest, awesomest, amazingest, greatest ever play? It probably qualifies for placement on the discussion list, but it's not a foregone conclusion.

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by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:15pm

You don't think it was more impressive than that Gronkowski catch? I find that hard to believe. It doesn't make any sense that you would say that, I mean... there's no comparison. You see 10 catches a year like Gronkowski's that all look like what he did, beautiful fully-extended, turning moves in a tight window. They're all hugely impressive. Great catches. But I've been watching football since the late 80's and literally nothing comes to mind comparable to Beckham's. Not in the way it looked, not in the body control, not in the one-handed falling backwards fighting off PI. I'd hate to twice accuses people of homerism in a thread, but that sounds like the opinion only a Pats fan could have.

I'd love for this catch to be an opportunity to reminisce about other amazing catches throughout the years (and compare them to Beckham's), but citing Gronkowski's catch is so off-base, I have to raise an eyebrow...

133
by Lyford :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:51pm

"You see 10 catches a year like Gronkowski's that all look like what he did..."

Really? I don't remember ever seeing one, never mind 10 per year. Going full speed in one direction, turning in the air, fully extended one-hand grabs behind him and bringing the ball in while his arm's being hit? Nope, never seen it. Maybe you could link to some video of catches that "all look like what he did" for me.

And very similar to what Beckham did - one-handed, fully extended grab. Beckham was reaching straight up as opposed to diagonally up, going backwards as opposed to sideways, but no, I don't see much difference in amazingness between them.

145
by Lance :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:08pm

"I'd hate to twice accuses people of homerism in a thread"

Guy! I admit I'm a homer, and I thought the catch was amazing! That said, I don't actually hate the Giants. (I hate Philly, I hate the Pats, and I hate the 49ers. The rest of the NFL is just "eh" and that's it. (And "hate" is relative-- if I'm not being hyperbolic, then I'd just say that I cheer slightly more for the other team; real hate is reserved for things like cancer, war, and the people at Marvel who ruined the X-Men, but whatever)). I'm just saying that off the top of my head, when I think of "great catches" it's hard to really categorize. I don't even remember every play I've seen-- and who can? Let's generously say I've watched one game a week since 1988. Ugh. I just started to do the math and gave up. I have to catch a plane and don't even want to think about this.

It was fantastic. I've seen plenty of fantastic feats in sports (watch a Barry Sanders highlight post on YouTube), though. It's hard to call one event "the greatest" given how many "greatest" events we see (catches, runs, passes, shots, kicks, etc., etc.) in a lifetime. It was a great catch, and I'm a Dallas homer, but I don't think that my homerism is preventing me from saying it's the all time greatest catch, ever. It's just on the list and when I'm dead and have perfect memory of all catches ever that I've seen perhaps then I can make an assessment. At this point in my life, though, there's nothing new under the sun.

171
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:21pm

Oh, I think you and basically are on the same page. - it was just such a lovely play, that I thought it would be immune to hyperbole and backlash. The Gronk thing, though, is just crazy. The Gronkowski catch is in the middle of the field and required zero sideline awareness for one. Also, being a much shorter route and one in which he can slow down and settle in a zone matters besides. It's just patently obvious to not be on the same level.

(Also, it warms my heart that Dallas fans hate Philly because I feel like we have so much been the bug in the Cowboys windshield over the years. The Eagles might have won plenty of battles, but Dallas has won every war that ever mattered...)

182
by SandyRiver :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 5:41pm

The sideline factor plus pre-catch contact elevates the Beckham catch above Gronk's, IMO, but not enough to call the comparison "crazy". There was little "slow down and settle in the zone", as he was still running left when Brady threw behind him, and there was lots of post-catch contact. Gronkowski twisted and reached way back, snatching the ball like a bullfrog zapping a dragonfly out of the air. Of course, arms long even for 6'7" plus hands as big as clam rakes helps out with the one-handers.

192
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 9:30pm

Am I the only one seeing Beckham throw the defender out of bounds so that he could make a spectacular catch unobstructed by, you know, a cornerback?

208
by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 2:24pm

You are not the only one. People seem to ignoring/justifying that as "fighting off" DPI but I initially thought call was going to be OPI. The throwing/assisting momentum of defender out of bounds did seem to slow Beckham down/put him in position to have to go up one handed, but that may just be how he rolls anyway.

Unreal freaking catch though.

207
by Lance :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:53pm

I can only speak for myself but I spent formative (read: college) years in Philly where, as a guy from small-town Oklahoma, holding on to my sports allegiances to maintain some individuality meant something. (It didn't hurt that Dallas was on the verge of going from laughingstock to winning a few Super Bowls.) Circumstance must matter because I went to grad school in Baltimore and harbor no animosity towards the Ravens (nor the O's). Obviously there's an NFC East thing with Philly that doesn't matter with the Ravens, but my feeling is that I was in a different places (literally, obviously, but metaphorically) and so that's shaped my fan-rooting over the years.

221
by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 7:27pm

Shit, a Dallas fan in Philly, I can only imagine. Especially during the Buddy years. I've lived in NYC for 20 years and I used to think that the Philly fan stuff was overblown, but recently I've had to spend a lot of time in Philadelphia for work and they really are the worst. Granted, most people who grew up in NYC reject the Jets and Giants (for being NJ-based) and city is filled with transplants, so my love of the Eagles never generated any reaction there, but I am constantly astounded and appalled by the behavior of Philadelphia sports fans...

66
by rfh1001 :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:26pm

Sometimes it just sticks, yes, but this is something Beckham does all the time and other dudes don't do all the time. It's something he's brilliant at. He probably found it easier than Tyree found his, but Tyree's was more a case of a ball 'just sticking' and this was more a case of someone being unbelievably good at something hard.

Incidentally, re flop: he was hit late, and off-balance. I think he immediately looked for the foul, but I'm not sure he could have stayed on his feet, incredible athlete or not. It was a cheap shot, and he was outraged. (He's also clearly a nightmare to play against - he let every CB know what he thought every time he caught the ball - and they were dying for the chance to thump him.)

72
by RoninX :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:33pm

re: sticking - you are certainly right. NBC even spent half an hour talking in the pre-game to him about practicing one handed catches (well done NBC!). So I didn't mean to imply that there was anything routine about this catch. Preparation and opportunity met with spectacular results.

31
by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:50pm

That was an amazing catch and an amazing play, but not nearly the absurd feat of athleticism.

14
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:05pm

I already knew the Lions had basically zero chance of winning yesterday, even before the game, but it was really disappointing seeing them so thoroughly outplayed and outcoached and both sides of the ball. Yes, I know the Patriots have been division-leader serial killers lately.

And Dominic Raiola, please retire already. Your play on the field doesn't even come close to compensating for your frequent spurts of Richie Incognito-like behavior. This organization has enough black eyes, already, thanks.

17
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:09pm

Eh, if they catch those three huge drops, then it is at least a game. I also felt like they should have been more aggressive and gone for it on that early goal-line 4th down - sure, it was 7-3, but this is the Patriots and you want to knock them out. If you want it to be a defensive struggle, then trust your defense to hold even if you don't convert...

42
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:02pm

Yea, Stafford earned a lot of this brutal stat line, but his receivers made things much worse than they should have been.

I'm totally with you on being aggressive on 4th down, on the road, against a superior opponent. But I don't think Jim Caldwell will ever buy into that mindset.

50
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:11pm

Most of those drops were game-changers, too, in terms of either being a missed TD or coming at a moment where it would heavily effect the flow and strategy of the game. They weren't like 6 yard catches on 1st down. I definitely feel like if you miss those plays, going for the 4th down risks and other aggressive punches becomes a must.

But yeah, the older I get, the less patience I have for coaches who play it safe and according to the ancient rules of good coaching. That's actually been one of my big frustrations in rooting for Chip Kelly - before he was hired, all I heard about was how he went for 2 in nonconventional situations and was aggressive on 4th down! Instead, I hear every week about his commitment to the running game and making sure Shady gets 22-27 touches, efficiency be damned.

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:35pm

Yep, I counted 3 easily catchable passes that weren't caught, and cost the Lions 70+ yards, and 3 TDs. That Patriots probably still would have won without sweating, because they were doing whatever they wanted on offense, but the game would have at least been more competitive.

95
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:03pm

I watched the games yesterday at a bar, so I only really watched the Lions when they had possession (the Eagles game got boring fast, but I still mainly had my eye on that one), but they seemed determined to blow their own foot off in a game where more than anything they needed to give themselves chances.

51
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:11pm

Joe Lombardi may or may not be a good offensive coordinator, but his style of offense has completely neutered the Lions' effectiveness. The Lions are full of boom-or-bust offensive talent: Stafford, Bush, Ebron, Fuller, and others are capable of great plays, but equally capable of screwing up routine ones. Lombardi's system depends on precision and consistency, which works well with a guy like Drew Brees, but leads to a lot of third-and-long situations with Stafford et al. Combine that with Jim Caldwell's consistent refusal to take any option but the most conservative, and the Lions' offense has been completely suffocated (fun fact: in the last four games, the Lions have punted from inside their opponents' 45-yard-line SEVEN TIMES).

This is yet another piece of evidence that the Lions can't have nice things. Combine this year's defense with a Linehan offense from the past few years, and the Lions would be one of the best teams in the league. As it is, today they're on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

68
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:28pm

I'm with you on the boom or bust concept. Stafford's got a big arm, but his accuracy just isn't consistent enough to drive down the field with short/medium throws (what Brady did yesterday).

"Combine this year's defense with a Linehan offense from the past few years, and the Lions would be one of the best teams in the league"

Yep. 2011's offense with this year's defense would be a Super Bowl contender. But since defense isn't consistent from year to year, I bet by they time they get the offense figured out, the defense will majorly regress (especially if they can't resign Suh).

75
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:35pm

Yes, who knows what will happen with the DL after this year, since Suh and Fairley are both free agents. At least they might have room to re-sign one or both, since they'll have a little cap room for the first time in a while after Suh's $22M leaves the books. My hope is that Suh has some loyalty to the Lions, since the Lions have paid him a ton and he has done nice things for Detroit in the past, and that other teams ignore Fairley since he seems like the type of player who could go on cruise control after signing a big FA deal.

79
by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:43pm

There is zero chance that Suh resigns with Detroit. None. He is playing like a man possessed this season and I am convinced it's because he is making his case to prospective employers as to why he merits riches beyond the dreams of avarice.

83
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:47pm

...or because he wants the Lions to be able to justify signing him in the $15-to-20M range he's accustomed to, and he knows that nobody is going to pay that for a post-Haynesworth free agent acquisition from another team.

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:28pm

I'm gonna have to agree with big10. Everything in the behavior of Suh and his agent suggests he wants to get paid (which Detroit has a limited ability to do), and be a household name in a big market (which Detroit obviously can't provide).

If I'm right (I hope I'm not), then they can probably resign Fairley for relatively cheap and use the extra cap space to add some more pieces.

120
by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:32pm

Hopefully they will spend that money on the OL.

126
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:38pm

I'm mostly okay with their OL personell, it's just that can't stay healthy this year.

Except for Dominic Raoila. IMO he needs to be replaced for both performance and personality reasons. Even as a Lions fan, I enjoyed Belichick's verbal shots at him.

129
by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:42pm

The Lions cannot afford his price and the presumption that at least one other team will not pony up a lucrative offer has not been shown to happen in the history of free agency. A team ALWAYS pays. ALWAYS.

You have a player who is regarded as the pre-eminent interior d-lineman of his generation, he is under 30 years of age, and he has a history of good health.

Suh is going to sign a contract beyond reckoning.

140
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:59pm

There's also an easy comparison, as Suh went #2 in the 2010 draft, and Gerald McCoy went #3. McCoy just signed a pretty massive contract extension to stay in Tampa, so Suh's agent can just point at that number and add to it.

My take (which is colored by some admitted homerism) is that, given both Suh and McCoy on the market, McCoy winds up being the marquee name; McCoy couldn't stay healthy his first two years and Suh was clearly pretty dominant then, but McCoy's been arguably the best DT in the league the last two years, plus he's a model teammate and citizen who everybody just loves. Plus he tends to not, you know, kick guys in the groin in the middle of the field. That being said, with no other competition out there, Suh's going to get incredibly rich. Excellent interior defensive linmen don't exactly hit the market on a regular basis, so he's going to be sleeping on a giant pile of cash.

155
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:28pm

To be fair, Suh has elevated his play in 2013 and 2014, while also refraining from kicking dudes in the balls/arm, and cut down his roughing/personal foul penalties to almost nil. But I won't argue too hard if you think McCoy's better, but Suh's durability (dude is never hurt, not even dinged up), like Big10Freak pointed, is a big factor.

As far as him getting, paid, you're spot on. Even if the Lions offer the maximum of his fair market value, SOMEBODY will offer to overpay him. They always do...

*Joey subtly tilts his head in the direction of Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones*

183
by pablohoney :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 5:44pm

I don't know, I can reckon quite a bit...

203
by dryheat :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:29pm

He has to take care of himself. It's what he does best.

202
by dryheat :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:27pm

If I'm making the decisions, I might be tempted to keep Suh at the expense of Stafford.

206
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:42pm

Stafford's season has been dissappointing, for sure, but I'm not sure there are better alternatives available that would thrive behind this year's facsimile of pass protection.

210
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 4:38pm

Looking at PFR he seems pretty much on par with most of his career averages outside of apparently being sacked about every time he looks at a football. That being said, in today's NFL, a competent QB is way more important than a good DT. Keeping Suh over Stafford would basically launch the team into the toilet, because there just isn't anybody to take over for Stafford. The other QBs on the roster are Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore. I think I'd just maybe rather have Stafford and no Suh rather than Suh and Dan Orlovsky.

211
by tuluse :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 4:54pm

Stafford is producing at a lower level than such QBs as Kyle Orton, Drew Stanton, Kirk Cousins, and Brian Hoyer.

I don't think you can argue that Detroit is an worse environment than Washington for a QB either.

212
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 5:33pm

The previous three seasons, his DVOA ranged from 5-15%, and DYAR from 500-1100. This year he's on pace to finish with a negative DVOA, and barely positive DYAR. A lot of his DVOA/DYAR is being dragged down by his sack total, and a lot of his sacks have been of the quick variety.

Anyway, I think the rest of your post is spot on. Just look at the Texans. JJ Watt is the best player at any position, but his team won two games last year, and will likely end up with 6 to 8 wins this year, because they have a black hole at quarterback.

I think it would be smarter for the Lions to bet on their 26 year old quarterback returning to or surpassing his previous level of play once the offensive line is sorted out, then to to try to replace him with....who? A rookie when you'll probably end up drafting in the early 20s? A journeyman free agent?

220
by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 7:21pm

Yeah, QB is one of those positions where if you've found a players as good as Stafford (who of course has a spotty resume) then you better have a damn good option for replacing him. That's doubly true on the Lions who haven't had a dependable running game or o-line to build off of for years - their offensive performance is going to hinge on the QB, even more than most teams. They could quickly flush a couple years down the toilet chasing something better.

226
by dryheat :: Wed, 11/26/2014 - 10:26am

Generally speaking, I agree. In fact, fairly recently I used "better have a damn good option for replacing him" in defense of another QB -- Dalton, perhaps. However, in this case I think Suh is a game changer, every bit as much as Calvin Johnson, and probably the second-best DL in the game. He forces the opposing offenses to abandon some things and makes things much easier on the rest of the defense.

Secondly, is Stafford really that good? Fantasy-wise he's been a good QB for a number of years, but I think his development has stalled...just as he's getting a better offensive mind to coach him. Is he giving Detroit anything more than Kyle Orton or Ryan Tannehill would? If this Lions team is going to win anything anytime soon, it's going to be on the back of the defense. Given the amount of cap room Stafford requires, if I were GM, I'd sacrifice him for Suh, get a lesser-name brand QB who maybe can't throw the ball through the hull of a battleship but makes sound decisions and can accurately get the ball to Johnson, Tate, Ebron, Bush, etc. I'd draft and recruit heavily on OL and still more defense, and try to 2000 Ravens my way to a Super Bowl. If Brian Hoyer gets cut by the Browns, or is offered in trade, that might be my guy.

227
by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/26/2014 - 11:20pm

DVOA/DYAR has liked a couple seasons that Stafford has put up, certainly more than it has ever liked Tannenhill or Orton. I actually Tannenhill is a QB whose mediocrity I think is going to hamstring Miami for the next couple years because he shows just enough flashes to waste their time. Stafford is not an All-Pro, but a guy who at his best can be a Top 10 QB (in 2011 Stafford's DYAR/DVOA was 5/10) is not a resource you should move away from willing, especially when he's had so little help around him on offense. I'm not totally against it, but I just think they should be really careful to avoid Orton/Kirk Cousins type non-solutions since their offense is so shaky. (Also, not sure how much of him you've watched, but Hoyer is incredibly limited and I think actually basically pretty bad. He's going to case a horrible case of buyer's remorse for some poor team next year.)

But you make a good case for Suh, although I would ask you "Is Suh really that good?" He's a guy who has kept himself in the headlines as much through scumminess as his on-field accomplishments and I have a tendency to think those Joey Porter/Rodney Harrison types cheap-shot artists are never quite the game-changers they are made out to be. I actually think their plan should be 2012 Ravens with a good (not legendary) defense and a long-ball QB...

19
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:22pm

I wouldn't go too far long on the Teddy Bridgewater stock just yet. Yeah, there are some things to like, but he just flat-out needs to put in a tremendous amount of work in order to throw the ball better, and even if he does make the commitment, it's not a sure thing. Yes, the absence of a certain banished running back has revealed the pronounced weaknesses of the offensive line, but if Bridgewater throws the ball just a little better yesterday, they would have had an excellent chance at winning. It'll likely be a lot easier to project a career trajectory on the guy a year from now.

Regarding the banished running back, I've kind of changed my mind on the likelihood of him playing another year in Minnesota. They need to spend money somewhere on offense, and I doubt they'll be any o-line free agents available worthy of a pile of cash, no great receivers will go to Minnesota in free agency, with an unproven qb, and that unproven qb is pretty cheap. It might be worthwhile to pay 13 million to a running back who forces safeties into the box, makes a young qb's reads easier, and makes an o-line look, in both the pass and run game, better than it is.

25
by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:33pm

They might want to find a competent left tackle who doesn't get into verbal spats with fans.

But I am telling you somehting you already know.

41
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:01pm

If he would block people, he could call the fans anything he likes, for all I care. Of course, if he could block people, he wouldn't have problems with the fans.

The only thing that makes any sense to me, in terms of how far the guy has dropped as a rookie, is chronic injury or succession of injury. In any case, if he doesn't get healthy, assuming I'm right, they're gonna have to get somebody else; Bridgewater already seems to be developing bad habits out of anticipation of pressure. A HOF running back would have helped him a lot this year.

Hey, a couple things, Freak. Do you suppose the Packers off the charts offensive performance at Lambeau is just random, or is there some element of the home field that is making more of a difference this year, and if so, why?

Second, do you think the Gophers can make it competitive In Camp Randall on Saturday? I wouldn't have thought so after Minnesota fumbled the game away at Illinois last month, but I'll say this much about a Kill-coached team: they have a pronounced tendency to squeeze every bit of production out of available talent. If they can keep within 10 in the 1st half, I think they'll have meaningful plays in the 4th quarter.

65
by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:24pm

Setting aside the natural home field advantage I think the results at home are due primarily to the opponents. To date GB has played the Jets, Vikings, Panthers, Bears and Eagles. A good team should win the first five of those games comfortably. The only outlier is the Eagles and that is mitigated by Philly having to play a backup at qb. Acknowledging of course that some believe said backup is preferred to the original starter.

Meanwhile, on the road the Packers have played Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans and Minnesota. It's disappointing that three of those games resulted in GB getting beat pretty soundly but against Seattle GB lost their right tackle a quarter into the game who was replaced by a guy who is now I bleieve out of the NFL. Against New Orleans GB was missing half its starting secondary and partway into the game their right guard followed by the uber qb tweaking a hamstring which limited the offense.

So when you toss it all in I think it's part opponent quality/context and part random.

As to the Battle for the Axe, I think the MN team can absolutely make it a game. But it's pretty clear that the MN offense is geared to try and do what few have done against WI this season which is run the ball. Wisconsin's issues on defense are its secondary and specifically it's inability to get in the way of deep passes being completed without committing a penalty. And MN's defense is tough but given that WI has been able to run on everyone this season I doubt on Senior Day, playing at home, for the division and for the Axe that the Badgers are going to be stymied for long at running the ball on offense

MN needs Melvin to put the ball on the ground, take their shots downfield and exploit the Badgers poor punt team.

82
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:45pm

Leidner has made huge strides, from the beginning of the year, in throwing downfield. The Badgers will obviously focus on stopping the run, given that obviously is still what the Gopher's identity is, and next the Badgers will give Maxx Williams a lot of attention. If Leidner's improvement slope continues, there may be some chances downfield, as limited as the Gophers receiving corps is outside of the tight end.

I'd like to see some footage of Roethlisberger in his sophomore year, because Leidner has that quality about him, only with more foot speed. He's not a running reliant guy like Terrelle Pryor, however, and at 20 years old and 240 pounds, if he works his tail off at improving his throwing mechanics, he may well have a productive career playing on Sundays.

96
by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:04pm

I suspect that Caputo (safety) will be designated for the Gophers TE.

The Badgers best cover guy is number 5, Hillary. Doubt he will be assigned to the TE.

109
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:20pm

Williams undoubtedly will be a starting NFL tight end, barring injury, and quite possibly a Pro Bowler. His ball skills are really, really, good, by NFL standards, and he's just 20 as well, and might easily add another 10-15 pounds to a 250 pound frame without losing any speed. I hope he hangs around for two more years, and gives Leidner a familiar face to throw to.

80
by dank067 :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:43pm

If you don't mind me jumping in here regarding the Packers, I think a lot of the difference in offensive performance at home is simply that they've beat up on some bad secondaries. Carolina, Chicago and Philly didn't have the talent in the defensive backfield, or enough of a pass rush, to stop the Packers passing game.

And really, I thought the Packers offense was running at pretty close to the same efficiency yesterday as it did back in Week 5 at home vs. Minnesota. They actually didn't have any three and outs yesterday, as opposed to the five or six they racked up in the first meeting. The main difference between the two games was probably just the Packers hitting one extra big play to Nelson back in Week 5 along with Ponder turnovers/incompetency leading to defensive scores and advantageous field position.

That's actually probably another thing worth looking at when looking at Packers home/road splits: turnovers and field position. The play of the defense, and quarterbacks faced at home (Geno Smith, Ponder, Cutler, injured Newton, Sanchez) stick out to me as just as large of factors as offensive production alone.

114
by jmaron :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:27pm

I feel the same about Bridgewater - he does a lot of things well but the inaccurate throws make you wonder. I saw a stat today on his accuracy

Bridgewater's drop-and-distance adjusted accuracy rank 20th of 40 QBs to take 120 dropbacks.
Arif Hasan - Daily Norseman

Suggests he's average - I would have thought he was worse.

118
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:31pm

He has some habits to break, but unfortunately his protection is going to make breaking them harder.

121
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:34pm

delete repeat

124
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:35pm

Don't you feel like you should be patient with Bridgewater considering how the vikings plans were thrown into chaos? Clearly, letting a rookie QB learn while letting defenses focus on Peterson is a very different situation than the one they ended up with. They also lost their other veteran RB, so their running game was doubly unstable...

131
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:46pm

Oh, they have no choice but to be patient, and yes, if Peterson was a better parent, the Vikings likely would have a minimum of 6 wins right now, and maybe as many as 8. I just think sometimes people look at a rookie qb like Bridgewater, who has some nice attributes, and think improvement is very likely, if not inevitable. He really needs to close some gaps, however, and that is not even close to being something to count on.

162
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:58pm

Oh I agree - I just think at least a little bit of their thinking was to imitate Seattle and get a smart, mobile QB who can exploit opportunities given him by the running game (and with the same lack of investment in wr's.) When Bridgewater gets thrust into a "you're the whole show, man - maybe Patterson can help? Not sure." type role, it's hard to judge him as a prospect. I don't think he'll ever be a Rodgers/Luck/Manning type, so I have trouble judging him because their plan went so wildly off script. If Peterson is finished as Viking, that changes everything but everything for Bridgewater and the Vikings going forward.

20
by BDC :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:28pm

"Cian Fahey: Brian Hoyer is playing like a player who should be benched, but the problem is the Browns don't know if it's a good idea to put Johnny Manziel in. For one, Manziel may disrupt the offense and actually make it worse, but more importantly, playing now may hurt his development."

Is starting NFL QB the only job in the world where gaining experience could ever be considered bad? Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single other example, and that includes every other position in the NFL as well.

40
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:00pm

Manziel is gaining experience in practice and watching game tape. Putting a raw qb in before he's ready is like relying on an apprentice air traffic controller before he's finished studying. Maybe not as bad, but it can be as catastrophic for a team. There are so many bad habits a young qb can get by starting too early. Geno Smith is a really good example. To be honest, the only solid qbs the Jets have had since Namath sat for their rookie years, except for Testaverde, who they picked up late in his career. Richard Todd had two good years until the Mud Bowl, but man did he stink before and after those.

21
by Peregrine :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:29pm

Let's talk game management, FO folks. Cleveland at Atlanta. Browns lead 23-21. Falcons ball. Both teams have all three timeouts. After a 7-yard pass, the Falcons have 3rd and 2 from the Cleveland 35 with the clock running and 57 seconds left. From there, it's a 53-yard field goal attempt, but Falcons kicker Matt Bryant has brass balls.

If you're coaching the Falcons, what do you do?

If you're coaching the Browns, what do you do?

Use timeouts and play calls as you see fit.

34
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:56pm

Falcons coach:

Call the play that is most likely to get me 2 yards. If it succeeds proceed to run more plays until the time is nearly out, then score a FG.

If the play does not succeed compare kickers estimated FG % to percentage success of best play for remaining yardage + % of successfully getting a FG. Do what is more likely to lead to a win.

Browns coach:

Call a timeut after the 3rd and 2, or before it if you don't like the personnel match-ups.

39
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:00pm

Well, first off, call a timeout so we can get our act together! Getting our act together being a deep pass to my worst starting wideout.

60
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:17pm

The Browns had to be chuckling at the pass to Hester, seeing as they traded Julio Jones to the Falcons in exchange for a ransom of picks.

Although come to think of it, there probably isn't anyone with the Browns organization who was around at the time of that trade.

94
by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:01pm

Yeah that's the best plan. We call that "Kodaking".

57
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:15pm

This is a situation similar to the 49ers end-of-half situation that Andrew Healy noted. The Falcons should use the clock to their advantage and snap the ball for their 3rd down play with 20-30 seconds left. If they get a first down, then they have time to run another play or two and get even closer. Note that the Falcons had all three timeouts when this sequence started - if they wanted, they could have called a timeout at 25 seconds or so, run their third down play, and depending on the result, called another before the FG attempt. If they don't get the first down, then after the field goal attempt the Browns will have only 15-20 seconds, which isn't enough time for a realistic last-minute drive of their own.

181
by Peregrine :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 5:30pm

I think that's the optimal strategy for the Falcons here. Aim to run a play with 30 seconds left. You can even run the play from no huddle without calling timeout, because there's all kinds of evidence that timeouts do not lead to the best play selection. I would have totally understood running the ball as well, probably from a balanced 3 WR formation. Legit chance to pick up the first down and if not the clock moves and forces a timeout.

Settling for a 53-yard field goal by letting the clock run down isn't the right decision either. But don't tell the CBS announcers that.

Out of curiosity, what's the best course for the Browns to take? Do you call a timeout yourself? I think the logic is that when your opponent is in extreme field goal range, limit their number of plays that would enable them to move closer, unless it's 4th down when of course you call the timeout so you have as much time as possible after the FG attempt. I think that decision depends on the down and distance and the FG range.

22
by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:30pm

Observations of MN/GB:

--Surprised that MN didn't onside kick when the personal foul against the Packers put the ball at midfield on the kickoff

--Lots of physical secondary play and hard hits after receptions on both sides.

--AJ Hawk could not keep up wiht a tight end battling an injury. I am pretty sure this confirms that AJ Hawk is really slow afoot.

--As James Jones allegedly told Charles Johnson in a training camp, kid if you could get your hands to help you you could make millions in this game.

--Really surprised MM stuck with running the ball. In a good way. Too often the Packers head coach is bound and determined to throw willy nilly. Yesterday demanded running the ball and GB stuck with it.

--Mike Neal of the Packers had a terrible day yesterday. Just awful

62
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:21pm

The failure to onside kick after a personal foul is a decision that almost every coach makes, and is inexplicable from a game theory perspective. If the onside kick fails, the opponent gets the ball at their own 35; if you kick deep, the opponent gets the ball at their 20 (since you can certainly get a touchback from that distance). You're basically trading 15 yards for a ~20% chance at a turnover.

After kicking deep, if you offered any coach an opportunity to call a defensive play that would result in a 15-yard gain for the offense 4 out of 5 times and a turnover 1 out of 5 times, every single coach would call that play. I just don't get it.

98
by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:06pm

Agree the onside kick from there should be the default choice, with a high short (inside the 20) pooch kick that the kicking team might also recover being an second best choice.

111
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:26pm

I don't know if the high short pooch is practiced much, but I think that might be better than the onside kick. Still a decent chance at recovering, plus an excellent chance it is fielded by a player who mostly blocks and isn't used to handling the ball.

119
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:32pm

Did you see the Dolphins kicker do that weird behind the leg kick yesterday? It made me wonder why teams don't have more inventive onside kicks strategies.

Also, the Titans did an onside kick where they did the thing where lined up everyone evenly and then at the last second rushed most of them over to one side of the field. Of course they kicked it to that side, but what struck me was that the Eagles scrambled to get over there and left the other side with a man-down disadvantage. Why didn't the Titans kick it there where they would have had a 4 on 3 advantage, not even including the kicker?

It also seems like you could do something similar and try to bait the opposing team into something like a one-on-one where you get your tallest wr as isolated as you can outside the numbers and then kick it high to him, almost like you're trying to complete a pass.

The traditional "chaotic scrum" just seems like the worst way to go...

130
by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:44pm

If you kick it in the air the receiving team can call for a fair catch, and then you have to leave them alone to give them the chance to make it.

That's why onsides kicks are kicked to always hit the ground very quickly -- once the kick hits the ground a fair catch request is off the table.

134
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:51pm

I've always wondered what would happen if a kicking team just tried to pop an onside kick directly up into the air. Would any member of the receiving team have the awareness to actually call for a fair catch in the 1-2 seconds the ball took to get to him, when he's expecting a more traditional onside kick?

I think this would be a worthwhile strategy to try, since a kicker would be able to pop the ball up pretty high and the worst-case scenario is a penalty for fair catch interference, which in most onside kick situations is no worse than the receiving team recovering anyway.

149
by Travis :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:12pm

I've always wondered what would happen if a kicking team just tried to pop an onside kick directly up into the air.

This.

196
by Jerry :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 7:17am

That's tremendous. And it's great to hear Charlie Jones again. Thanks for posting it.

154
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:23pm

I've seen teams do this on occasion usually about 25 yards downfield. As a complete surprise, it has some success, but if the other team is already expecting some kind of onside, I don't think it has a chance.

158
by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:36pm

I'm still intrigued by the knucklers that Belichick was apparently telling Gostkowski to fire at the Colts last week. Weren't any of those yesterday. I wonder if it was a one-off thing, a get-it-on-tape-to-make-people-worry-about-it thing, or something he doesn't want to risk doing outside in case wind results in the kick going OOB.

164
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:03pm

Man, Belichick really is amazing. Is there any coach who makes such an effort to innovate and go off script in every phase of the game? Even guys like Walsh weren't bananas with stuff like kick technique the way Belichick is...

161
by Travis :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:50pm

You'll also see it in very windy conditions like during Saturday's Penn State-Illinois game, where Illinois's coach called for a high kickoff to start the second half.

132
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:49pm

Doesn't the kicking team have to have 5 guys on either side of the kicker when the ball is kicked? I think weird kicks like Sturgis's are designed to get the receiving team to shift, but the kicking team isn't allowed to shift.

163
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:01pm

It must be only 4, otherwise how could there be any imbalance? You'd have equal numbers on both sides.

167
by reiniroosh :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:16pm

Also there was just a little over 2:00 min left I think and a GB first down ices the game. So you should go for the onside kick ANYWAYS probably, facing a good offense, and especially after the personal foul. That was really dumb and basically just saying "we don't want to win this game" you.play.to.win.the.game!

23
by Ryan :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:31pm

Just wanna say that I heart TY Hilton and you should too.

185
by Sisyphus :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 6:02pm

I liked that celebration also. I wonder if the NFL is going to fine him? (Using the ball as a prop.) Under the circumstances it would be a massive PR screw up but given the streak they have been on this season....

187
by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 6:12pm

Seeing that on the highlights I was surprised not to see a flag thrown.

24
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:31pm

"This was pretty clearly Seattle's best defensive game of the year...Drew Stanton...Larry Fitzgerald's absence".

I think we need a stat to adjust traditional metrics to the quality of the opponent played on a given day.

28
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:44pm

Yeah, "Surely, this was their best performance of the year and, on an unrelated note, it came against a mediocre offense missing its two most important players!"

48
by jacobk :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:09pm

The Seattle defense looked a lot like last year's squad after getting back to 10/11 of their opening day starters. I'm enjoying the immediate "the team they just beat isn't really that good" reaction, which also feels a lot like last year.

56
by Ryan :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:15pm

"My snap judgment is better than your snap judgment!"

84
by jacobk :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:50pm

Cardinals points totals in Drew Stanton starts:
25, 24, 20, 14, 3

But obviously they aren't a real NFL team and the Seahawks just got lucky. The Seattle defense could never stop an elite quarterback like Payton Manning or Aaron Rodgers.

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by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:59pm

I genuinely don't get it - are those point totals supposed to be an argument in favor of the Seahawks' excellence on Sunday or against it? Because those are not good numbers. 20 and 14? I feel like this is sarcasm. "If they weren't great, how could they have held a QB who once scored 20 points to a mere 3!? And they did it at home and while he was without his best wr, at that!" In 3 out of 5 games, Stanton has been held under 3 TD's seems to prove the opposite point that you're making.

(Also, for the record, Seattle has an excellent defense and I think still has a very good shot at making a SB run. What happened on Sunday is hardly the best proof of it.)

180
by jacobk :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 5:14pm

They held a guy to 11 points below what was previously his season low. Just to put the "But Drew Stanton" sniffing in perspective. If you want to be all NFL hipster unimpressed about that then go for it.

My impression from watching the game was that the Seahawks were showing the pass rush, coverage, and sure tackling that were hallmarks of last year. We'll see if it keeps up.

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by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 6:25pm

"NFL hipster" - hahaha, that's amazing.

143
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:06pm

In the "25" game, the Cardinals had a 71 yard punt return. In the "24" game, Carson Palmer was the quarterback. In the "20" game, the only passing TD was thrown by the backup QB not named Stanton. What was your point again? That because Drew Stanton can lead his team to double-digit points the Seahawks defense is "back"?

58
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:16pm

January games in Lambeau or Jerry World, or The Linc, would provide a lot of entertainment, and contrast with last year, when it was pretty likely the Seahawks were going to have the benefit of the home field.

Coaching aside, the Cowboys offensive personnel, assuming Romo's health, remains the match up nightmare to the Seahawks defense, it seems to me.

76
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:38pm

They are a good defense, but they beat up on an offense with a -7.8% DVOA, minus their starting QB and their best WR. I didn't say Arizona was a bad team, but they certainly aren't currently set up to win too many shoot-outs.

30
by Drunken5yearold :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:49pm

SD/StL had a pretty crazy game yesterday, and it seems like no one is talking about it. I understand that FO staff don't watch all the games, but I thought the game deserved at least some discussion:

+ Fake Punt! I don't know how the Chargers weren't ready for it, considering that the Rams have already established their penchant for trickery, and it was exactly the right situation for it.

+ Huge Fumbles! To be honest, I wasn't sure if the fumble call on Hill would hold up. It was about as close as you can get to being a pass.

+ Huge Penalties! The refs were flag happy, and unfortunately for the Rams their flags were coinciding with big plays. The punt return one was just weird. It didn't look like much from the angle shown on TV, but it was a fairly poor angle and didn't give a good sense of the ref's viewpoint. What I thought was weird though was that I could have sworn the penalty occurred at the Rams' 40, and yet the ball was spotted at San Diego's 40. The ref (eventually) explained that with off-setting penalties the ball would be spotted at the location of that penalty. Maybe i just got confused by the angle of the replay, IDK.

+ Two Interceptions in the end zone! The Rams were only in the game because they got a 99-yard pick-6. The football gods have a sense of irony though; San Diego won the game with an interception in the end zone in the last minute with the Rams having a first and goal chance to win it. I actually turned the TV off in disgust right before the interception!

+ Rivers looked much better than last week, but still not quite right. The reveal that he has a rib injury makes sense, because he has been Bad Rivers for the last half of the season (I thought it was mostly due to the incompetent O-line). Rivers was missing badly in the Oakland game on very simple throws (like checkdowns to the RB) and he cleaned that up for the Rams (went something like 29-35). Still, the Chargers won't do anything in the playoffs with such a bad line.

53
by BJR :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:12pm

You just beat me to it. A crazy game indeed.

I wouldn't worry about Rivers in the playoffs; the Chargers won't be making it. The remaining schedule is brutal (@BAL,NE,DEN,@SF,@KC). 9-7 likely won't be good enough in the AFC and winning three of those games isn't going to happen.

33
by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:52pm

I would normally relish a divisional foe getting hammered, but the Lions played on the WEst Coast last weekend against a tough team and this past Sunday went to the Northeast to play an even tougher opponent.

I don't think it's surprising that the team may have been running a bit on fumes.

And while Chicago isn't great I suspect the Bears could take advantage of the Lions travel created lethargy.

55
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:14pm

Agree with you there. Not a fan of the short week against a divisional opponent after traveling against two tough teams on both ends of the country. If the Lions can survive the battle of the most consistently disappointing franchise QB's in the NFL, they should be heavy favorites in the next two home games (Bucs and Vikings), to get them to 10 wins. Of course I was telling myself similar things last year, too, so I'm already preparing myself to disappointment.

Speaking of the NFC North, I can't remember so eagerly anticipating a matchup so much as Packers-Patriots since the early 90's 49ers/Cowboys glory days. Don't be offended that I'm rooting hard for the Patriots.

90
by dank067 :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:56pm

Looking forward to this matchup for sure, will be the first and perhaps only true meeting between Brady and Rodgers (Rodgers was injured when they played in 2010, and an in-over-his-head backup if you even count the game in 2006).

Unfortunately, after watching New England destroy everything in their path the last two weeks, especially the Detroit defense, they do seem to be coming into the game as the better team. Packers defense is still nothing special, and given the ability the Patriots have shown to shut down a team's top two receiving targets in recent weeks, the Packers are going to need big contributions from top-to-bottom on offense. One positive coming in is that their O-line has looked fantastic recently.

Lots of good football this week to enjoy during the holidays—in addition to this game, Thanksgiving alone has CHI/DET (maybe more interesting to me since I'm an NFCN fan), PHI/DAL and SEA/SF.

141
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:00pm

I'm tired of incompetent offenses making the Bears look not terrible. Megatron better go off for 200 yards receiving.

152
by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:20pm

A Bears win puts them in the playoff hunt. Which is insane.

168
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:16pm

The best case for them is that the Seattle/49/Cardinals melee results in consistent loses for the 49er's and then that either the Eagles and Cowboys go off the rails. That's not too crazy, especially if either Dallas or Philly sweeps their series against each other. Philly also has a game vs. Seattle and Dallas has one versus Indy, in which loss combined with a sweep would put them at 10-6 (at best.) If Chicago doesn't run the table though, I just don't see them even having a slim shot...

177
by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:41pm

If they run the table, the Bears would be 10-6 with tie breakers over the Cowboys, 49ers and Lions. They're pretty much in if that's the case. But that's not going to happen because the Bears aren't very good.

I actually think of all the NFC teams in the actual playoff hunt, the Eagles are in the most trouble because of tie-breakers (49ers, Cards, GB all own it over them) and remaining schedule (@NFC East, home for Seattle, Cowboys), a 10-6 Philly team probalby isn't getting in unless they win the division.

209
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 4:07pm

No, what's insane is that the 5-6 Bears would have a full game lead in the division if they were in the NFC South. (I mean, the idea of this Bears team being in the playoff hunt is insane, based on how bad they are, but in general, it's not crazy for a 6-6 team to be in the playoff hunt to some extent).

Unfortunately, I think the last two wins (ugly and unimpressive as they were) have secured the jobs of Emery and Trestman for another season at least. Maybe losing out and finishing 5-11 would put them on the chopping block, but then again, I see the Bears beating Minnesota again and probably beating Detroit once. And unfortunately, there's no way the Bears fire a coach with two years left on his contract if the team finishes 7-9.

37
by David C :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:00pm

In other brilliant Giants-Cowboys plays, did anybody else notice Tyron Smith blocking two guys on the big Cole Beasley play? He uses the first guy to slow down the second one, then shoves off the first one to the side to engage the second guy.

38
by Temo :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:00pm

The end of the Giants-Cowboys game: as someone who is convinced the Dallas defense is worse than people are saying, I have to say that was just good defense. Manning had pressure on him on all the drop backs, and he had no choice but to check down.

Jennings dropped one of the check downs, but he was going to get tackled for minimal gain anyway. The other check down was a great tackle by McClain. And Manning misfired on another pass that would have gone for a first down.

46
by BJR :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:05pm

I wouldn't have expected anybody to be taking a keen focus on the game, but I'm surprised there is no mention of the phantom holding call on Tavon Austin's punt return at the end Rams/Chargers. The officials then took over 5 minutes to spot the ball, suggesting nobody even knew where the supposed foul had occurred. Even Mike Pereira tweeted that he studied the video 10 times and couldn't spot a hold. A total mess.

It brings me back to the idea of simply getting rid of kick and punt returns. For every exciting return play there are probably ten marred by penalties or injuries, and there is so much stuff happening over such a large area of the field that the officiating is at best subjective and inconsistent, and at worst totally random.

Elsewhere, I was certain I'd seen the catch of the day by John Brown of the Cardinals until Odell Beckham showed up.

67
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:27pm

The idea of holding on punt returns is even more bizarre because for the first 20-30 yards of each gunner releasing off the line, they are getting incessantly grabbed and held. Evidently holding rules only apply once the returner catches the ball.

Personally, I'd like to see the NFL implement rule changes to make returns even more exciting. One reason is that a punt that is fair caught is one of the few boring plays in football, along with the extra point and the kickoff for touchback. Another is that, if every punt came with the chance of a long return, coaches would have an extra incentive to go for it. I'm not sure what these rules would look like - maybe additional restrictions on going downfield before the ball is kicked?

78
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:42pm

I know it wasn't a real suggestion, but I have to imagine that a rule like preventing teams from travelling downfield before contact on a punt would probably just result in punters keeping straight out of bounds, which might be less exciting than a fair catch. Of course, punt averages would probably be around 25 yards instead of 40, so maybe more coaches WOULD go for it...

81
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:45pm

I think even attempts to kick out of bounds would be more exciting than fair catches. Sometimes you would see a punter who hits it a little to the side and gets a 10-yard punt, and other times you'd see a punter pull a Matt Dodge. Either outcome is preferable to yet another 40-to-50-yard fair catch.

146
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:09pm

I think getting rid of the entire kicking game will end up being the future of American football. Might be 50 years from now, but it adds so little to the core game, makes having a field more expensive, and removes a bunch of interesting moments.

170
by RoninX :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:19pm

"Makes having a field more expensive"

Thats one I've never heard before, but I'd be interested in hearing the logic.

179
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:57pm

Its a lot easier to set up a youth football game if you don't have to have goal posts. It would also let you ditch 40% of the rulebook.

52
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:11pm

As much as I dislike the ownership of the Cowboys, I really would like to see a team that has the o-line, as the obvious foundation for its success, win a championship. However, I still think the owner/coach dynamic will screw things up somehow. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Eagles win both games via superior coaching.

70
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:32pm

If it's superior coaching, it won't be gameday coaching, where Kelly has been a mixed bag at best. His ability to settle for field goals in the redzone would make Andy Reid blush and his hard-headed commitment to "establishing the run" comes from playbook unearthed in the AFC Central circa 1998. Their DC Billy Davis also repeatedly talks about his "take away the run" mentality, which is bonkers in this day and age and has kept many teams hanging around this year because they can pass at will, especially before he makes his patented "halftime adjustments."

159
by JIPanick :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:41pm

"mixed bag at best" is an upgrade on Jason Garrett.

165
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:06pm

Sure, but I think the some of the general perception is that Kelly is a little Belichick, Jr. when he's much closer to someone like Garrett or Sean Payton who can build good offenses and then do a ton of questionable shit on Sundays...

222
by bstar :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 8:09pm

I think maybe we should reserve judgment on Chip Kelly until we have more evidence. Certainly no one was calling Bill Belichick a great coach less than two years into his head coaching career.

223
by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 8:53pm

Well, the entire problem is that he's being called a genius without having earned it thus far. And the facts of what he's accomplished on the field are somewhat in conflict with why exactly he's prematurely being called a genius. Just look at the redzone numbers in this week's quick reads...

197
by Harris :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:57am

The Eagles are 3rd in passing yards and 4th in attempts, so whatever problems Chip Kelly has, running too much is not one of them.

213
by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 6:13pm

Insisting on calling running plays when it is not working is always a problem. McCoy has more tackles for a loss than any other back in the league this year and the Eagles have been consistently left in 2-and-12 and 3-and-9 situations because of McCoy's ineffectiveness and Kelly's stated commitment to "establishing the run." I would say Nick Foles' seeming regression is very clearly linked to Kelly giving McCoy the ball way too much this year. McCoy ranks 23 out 32 qualifying backs. He should under no circumstances be seeing 20-25 carries a game. He is averaging 19.6 carries a game despite being notably, glaringly terrible this year. Go to the FO running backs page - other backs that have been as effective as him this year are seeing the ball in general about half as much. Kelly's commitment to the run has needlessly hamstrung his offense. And he's been very vocal about his feelings that he needs to run the ball no matter the outcome.

Also, even though it's beside the point, the Eagles run way more plays than just about any team in the league, so of course they are going to have a high amount of raw attempts. Citing their ranking in terms of attempts does not prove much, although I'd be curious what their run/pass ratio is.

63
by WeaponX :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:22pm

That was some nifty OPI on the OBJ catch. Still a great catch but the DB couldn't contest the actual catch because he had been swam and turf'd.
Sometimes I even trip myself out.

71
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:32pm

The only reason Beckham's arm affected Carr's momentum is that it hit Carr's arm, which was grabbing on to Beckham's jersey at the time. I think OPI is ignored far more often than it deserves to be, but this isn't one of those times.

You can see what I'm talking about in the replay angle shown at 25 seconds of this video: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000433435/article/giants-odell-beck...

147
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:10pm

Yes you are on drugs if you thought that was OPI.

77
by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:41pm

If folks want to see a clinic on OPI called as DPI a Wisconsin db was called for DPI against Iowa on Saturday where the Hawkeye receiver grabbed the WI player and yanked him into the Iowa receiver causing both of them to fall down. Flags fly and WI coach Gary Anderson was first dumbfounded and then livid when WI was called for DPI.

I tried to find it somewhere as a gif but was unsuccessful. But it was really quite something. That BOTH refs missed it I guess is unsurprising. The ESPN color guy (Chris Spielman I think) was very complimentary of the Iowa player deking the refs.

99
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:06pm

Good grief, it'd be great to have Spielman as the analyst for one of the Number 1 NFL crews. The guy is like Summerall (who started as an analyst, of course) in that he avoids the modern day penchant to make everything and everybody the bestest ever, and he obviously does a lot of film work.

117
by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:29pm

Spielman is one of the few sports announcers I don't dislike. The DVR is my friend, it skips over 90% of the useless babbling

88
by oaktoon :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:52pm

OK-- to help set up the "Super Bowl Preview" or, as I prefer to call it, the game between the team whose games shall not be seen (Packers blowout-- not interesting... Packers close road divisional game on eve of biggest NFL game of season-- not interesting. Would have thought, Lions-Pats game notwithstanding, some of the NE eyes might have been curious about the goings-on in the Twin Cities) and the team whose 3rd string down linemen inspire Tolstoyian commentary-- just having fun, boys, no malice intended.

1. Revis Island has been established vs. the #2 receivers-- was that true vs Megatron yesterday? And since Randall Cobb generally lines up in the slot, does BB scratch that and just put Revis on Nelson and Browner with help on Cobb? (NOTE: Devante Adams had a poor game-- a stupid penalty, bad communication with Rodgers on a possible back shoulder, and a drop. Packers would seem to need him to step up Sunday;

2. Do the Packers employ the Giants/Ravens "rush Brady with four-- blanket the secondary" approach? With both Peppers and Matthews rushing? (McCarthy held Matthews and his slight groin pull out of nearly all 3rd and long passing situations yesterday-- clearly saving him for NE) Do Brady and Belichick exploit that (the B+ strategy) with running plays since the Packers might have 2, 1` or even 0 down linemen? (Their NASCAR defense)

3. Who covers Gronk? And might it be Peppers or Matthews on occasion? Capers must already have seen the film of the Lions double and triple covering him, to their detriment?

4. Did McCarthy go vanilla yesterday in part to save something more exotic for this game? I suspect Zimmer going two deep safeties was a big part of it, but I thought the GB play-calling was strangely conservative when it has not been that way pretty much all season;

5. Is Lacy enough of a threat-- and is the Packer OL healthy enough (Lang and Sitton battling nagging injuries-- Lang was out for a series or two yesterday with a recurring ankle injury) to force New England to put 7 in the box and open up the field for Rodgers?

6. Surely the Pats see what happens on 1st and 2nd down with Hawk on the field and how vulnerable the Packers' middle of the field continues to be-- look for some combo of Gronk or Edelman to attack that early and often;

7. Is there any way this is not a 34-31 shootout? (Packers, until the Eagles rout, have really not fared well against quality opposition-- at Lambeau or away-- since the 19 game winning streak (that began after a Matt Flynn-led Packer team almost upset NE at Foxborough)

8. Very possible that this could be the one and only time Rodgers faces Brady (yeah, he came in for an injured Favre during a Patriot rout in 2006- that hardly counts) and the GB-Denver game next year could be only the second and last time he has faced Manning-- unless there is a SB on the horizon of course.

89
by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:54pm

oak

There is this crazy thing called video which can be stored for long periods, sometimes as long as a few months.

So I suspect that New England has plenty of this magical material and will be able to review other Packer games beyond the Minnesota match.

Yes, I am being a bit sarcastic.

100
by oaktoon :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:07pm

Of course, but human beings are human beings-- and the first thing the Pats will look at will be that Minnesota All 22..... (Unless it is the secret spying at the Lambeau practice field, that is :)

104
by Vandal :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:15pm

I agree disagree with your premise.

1) That the patriots will behave like other humans
2) That Belichick is human.

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by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:17pm

I think it's ill-advised to consider BB in terms of any standard framework.

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by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:20pm

1. I wouldn't compare either Cobb or Nelson to Megatron. I'm sure Revis will be fine regardless against whom he plays. I just hope McCarthy doesn't go all chickens*** like against Seattle and not throw to his side of the field.

2. Capers will probably play a 2-4-5 like he does most of the time, with Peppers/ Neil/ Perry rushing the passer most downs.

3. Anybody but Hawk. I'd guess it will be the nickel back, either Hyde or Hayward, mostly with CM3 occasionally. (Big TEs are the times I really miss Woodson.) Though there will be a play or two when it will be Hawk, Brady will immediately see it, and Gronk will catch the ball for a 30+ yard gain (and I will deal with the temptation to throw the remote through the TV).

4. Maybe McCarthy is finally growing up. He saw what NE did with Gray the previous week and learned you don't have to always throw it when the D won't let your future HoF QB throw.

5. Yes. Lacy is a human Pachinko ball.

6. Probably true.

7. I think so too. Which means it will end up something like 17-14.

BTW, you can stop the BBS-style goading. It's fine at SI, ESPN, and Bleacher Report. It makes it a lot harder to take you seriously here.

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by big10freak :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:28pm

Strongly agree on the last point

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:35pm

Just to answer Oak's initial question about who Revis was covering yesterday, it was mostly Golden Tate. Browner was covering Megatron with constant safety help.

Not sure what BB will do with Nelson and Cobb. Probably whatever he thinks is advantageous to him, but I would love to see Nelson and Revis going mano e mano.

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by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:33pm

Pats played Detroit the same way they did DEN, with Revis covering the smaller, but very good #2 WR (Tate, Sanders) one on one and Browner against the big #1 (Megatron, DT) with help.

It will be interesting to see how he defends Rogers, et al... Many NFC contenders will be hoping he unveils some type of formula to stopping them.

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by oaktoon :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:35pm

1. Revis Island was against Tate yesterday, per the Patriots' previous pattern. He doesn't play like Sherman-- only on one side of field. So the Seattle comparison is out the window.. And frankly right now, given what seem to be some health problems with Johnson, Nelson and Cobb are bigger threats than Megatron is;

2. Perry didn't play yesterday... Unclear if he will be healthy by Sunday And the Pats have a running game, too-- and it might be risky to go 2-4-5 all day. Mike Neal was beaten to the edge badly a couple of times by Mckinnon;

3. Casey Hayward has no chance vs. Gronk-- too small, not strong enough;

4. Agreed... Lacy was apparently badly ill-- flu-like symptons, I presume. Didn't speak to press afterwards;

As to the goading, I am cutting back-- but the willful ignorance of the best team in the NFC on the eve of "The Game" against FO's favored franchise mandated one final snarky comment.. Now I hope they will all live up to the premise of the site and really attack this game-- before, during and after.... if for no other reason that it is the first (and perhaps last) time that two of the 5 greatest QBs in NFL history will ever play against each other. And it will probably be a 20-13 dull affair-- you are right :)

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:41pm

"but the willful ignorance of the best team in the NFC on the eve of "The Game" against FO's favored franchise mandated one final snarky comment"

Wow, I never in a million years thought I would ever meet a Packers fan with a persecution complex.

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by oaktoon :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:00pm

Oh, come on.... Just asking for some consistency, that's all... If it's a blow out great.. Then cover the close game. If it's a mediocre opponent, fine-- but cover the quality opponent then.... But I find the tilt here to be a bit bizarre at times-- you have perhaps the greatest QB ever to play the position-- at a time when two of the other potential GOATs are also at work-- and it's as if he's in the CFL at times...

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by Snack Flag :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 6:05pm

There's a site called packers.com that seems to have the level of coverage that you require for your team.

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by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 7:06pm

Wait, I thought it has been established that the Eagles are our favorite franchise, or at least, the numbers' favorite franchise. Yes?

193
by intel_chris :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 12:09am

You should run a contest to create a Zlionsfan template for "you didn't cover my team in audibles". Personally, I think such a template should be distinct and different and would give extra credit to templates where the compliant postings would actually generate discussion of the teams involved.

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by contrarycomet :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:59am

Wondering if there's even enough variation for a template...might could do with a stock sentence, but here's a shot:

FO writes too much about (NOT(MYTEAM). They should write more about (MYTEAM) because (REASON). INSERT(faux-playful put-down), INSERT (emoticon).

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 1:59pm

To rehash something I've said before, there's an old saying that when you have two QBs, you have no QBs. As a Bucs fan, I need to add that when you have zero QBs, you still have no QBs. Josh McCown has not magically stopped doing bad things.

I have this nagging fear the Bucs don't wind up with Mariota, and, in order to try to get the magic back, the Bucs hire Trestman as OC in order to give McCown yet another chance to recapture the 2013 magic. Then I drink bleach.

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by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:06pm

If you're gonna kill yourself by drinking something, ya' may as well make it 50 year old scotch.

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by Lance :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:12pm

This is why Will Allen is among the most respected FO commenters out there. At least he gets it!

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:18pm

The problem is, of course, fine scotch and the Bucs seem a terrible pairing in all sorts of ways. I feel this drink should be symbolic and representative in some way, so I'm going to find a bottle of half-empty Thunderbird that's been laying in a ditch for a few weeks, and go with that. Could be cheap wine, could be urine, either is appropriate.

110
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:24pm

I always find it weird when teams hire a coach like Lovie Smith who has a long resume on which no good offense appears and then say "Hey, this Lovie Smith coached offense isn't any good!" Not that you're the one saying that, but whoever hired him didn't have any right to expect anything beyond this. If you want a good QB, history proves pretty conclusively that Lovie Smith is not the man to oversee the operation.

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by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:56pm

To me, it seems like the best way to assemble a coaching staff around a coach like Lovie would be to hire a QB coach from a top offense and give him complete autonomy on that side of the ball. Lovie can't fuck up what he can't touch. And what's Lovie going to do, turn down the opportunity to coach the Bucs for all his other head coaching offers?

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:16pm

Clearly part of the problem this year is Jeff Tedford was hired as OC and was supposed to do all sorts of innovative and exciting things, but he wound up with an apparently pretty serious heart condition and had to leave just prior to the season starting. That meant Marcus Arroyo, the QB coach, became the OC by default, and he's a guy who was a QB coach in college a couple years ago. Basically getting thrown into the OC job with no NFL experience was just not something that went all that well. Now, it's not like Tedford was going to magically lobotomize the large parts of Josh McCown's brain that apparently just repeat the words "DO SOMETHING STUPID NOW" over and over, but I do think maybe things would have gone better with some consistency and experience in the playcalling duties.

Lovie tried to build an offensive staff, it's just that the offensive staff was busy trying to not die suddenly, so they handed the job to a guy who looks like he's about 12 years old.

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by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 3:34pm

Coaching staff quality is a very underrated aspect to NFL team performance. Dungy's likely going to end up in the HOF because his former college o-coordinator, Tom Moore, was already on the staff for the Colts, so he couldn't screw up the o-coordinator hire, and just had to create an atmosphere where Peyton could be Peyton, and get whatever talent was on defense play to their potential. In the last years of the reign of McCombs, Mike Tice had no chance to have long term success (as it was he didn't do badly), because McCombs was so intent of squeezing every last dollar out before he sold the team, that he would even et Tice hire a full staff, much less pay competitive salaries.

The one thing that gives me hope about the current Vikings is that it easily is the best staff they have had since Denny Green had Dungy, Kiffin, and Billick.

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by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:10pm

I agree staff is important, but it's also possible for a coach to get subpar results from a decent staff. Marty Morenwheig, who was excellent as the Eagle's OC, is clearly hamstrung by HC and GM decisions with the Jets. It's not his call whether Vick or Smith gets the start and whether they keep in the useless wildcat packages or jettison them. Plus, they're on the record as having a mandate to throw to Harvin "as much as possible" which means he's got to design plays to get the ball to a player of suspect talent. You can undermine a good staff... (And I personally think like Rex Ryan, Lovie Smith's problems on the offensive side of the ball are too consistent and egregious for even the best staff to overcome them...)

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:35pm

Well, there are clearly some questionable personnel decisions with Lovie along the lines of "Rex Grossman is our quarterback" and "we're pretty sure a half-season of playing decent totally outweighs a dozen years of sucking for Josh McCown", but has Lovie ever had a decent offensive coordinator? Sure, when he had the Greatest Show on Turf Martz called some phenomenal games, but he was also clearly incapable of adjusting to the actual personnel he had in Chicago and calling the game any differently. That, or he just hated Cutler and wanted to get him killed.

The Bucs' acting OC is so young and inexperienced I just don't know how much to attribute the issues that team is having to Lovie or not. Bad QB play, a series of really unfortunate free agent pickups, lots of mental slip-ups, just ugly.

176
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:39pm

After watching many an offensive coordinator struggle, I am convinced how good anyone thinks one is is directly proportional to the quality of the offensive line (for a recent example see 49ers fans on Greg Roman). If your guys are blocking well then you can do all the creative stuff you want to do. If they're not, it's going to be 3 yard runs, short passes and sacks.

Ron Turner probably did the best job of any Lovie OC. I think on record when he was fired as saying that unless you think he's personally responsible for the line falling apart, things aren't going to get better.

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by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 6:24pm

Yeah, but a good coach can develop an o-line. Andy reid always had good o-lines and o-lines that were all great in the same way - undersized on the interior, perfect at running screens, assignment conscious. You can see something like Winston Justice looking god-awful when forced into the line-up too early versus his career as an above average starter once Reid got through with him. To cite your example below, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan both became what they are under Reid - no one thought Thomas was an All-Pro under Ray Rhoades and the Oilers/Titans were all too happy to let Runyan walk. Or look at the 49er's before Harbaugh got there - they went from having one of the worst in the league to one of the best without incredible turnover. All in all, I think coaches don't get enough credit for player development.

I just think that Lovie had a long and stable enough tenure in Chicago with consistently mediocre to bad results, that there's no reason to think is capable of developing an offense. I really do think the Rex Ryan comparison is apt: some guys just can only develop talent on one side of the ball...

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by tuluse :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 7:10pm

I think it's unlikely Lovie or Ryan will ever create consistently good offenses.

I still Lovie got dealt some pretty bad luck on offense with the Bears.

As to "coaching" the offensive line. Mike Tice had a pretty good record there before joining the Bears. Are you saying Lovie sapped him of his coaching acumen in some way?

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by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 7:17pm

Yes, I think a HC can undermine a positional coach. Without a doubt. Many coaches have "bad luck" but just look at the 49er's this year and how miraculous they seem to have an endless supply of good LB's or how the Seahawks seem to have a bottomless well of CB's to plug into the line-up.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:33pm

Let me ask you this, what odds would you put on Tony Dungy producing a great offense after his Tampa years?

175
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:35pm

I think you are discounting luck too much. Just a reminder the Bears spent 3 first round picks on offensive tackles in the Angelo/Smith era, and not a single one gave them even 1 season of average or better play. If Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi had been the next Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, things would probably been quite different.

Or if Rex Grossman had been as good as say Eli Manning.

173
by Mash Wilson :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:35pm

Coaches love to call the fade because it never results in a turnover.

178
by LyleNM :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:49pm

Is that a Jim Harbaugh quote?

184
by horn :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 5:48pm

Surprised to see a couple supposedly knowledgeable football Outsiders/Observers fail to realize the first pick wasn't a 'terrible Sanchez throw,' but a slant route that Riley Cooper gave up on, and let the CB step in front of for an INT.

The commentators even said this as well, it was so obvious as to be unmissable. [Gumbel and Trent Green]

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by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:38am

Yeah, that happens from time to time. A few weeks back, Aaron gave Cutler grief about throwing a ball into the turf rather than sticking with the play and searching for another option. The problem was, he missed the obvious fact that it was a screen and on those plays you can't throw it down field because none of the other WRs are looking for the ball and, more importantly, you'll almost certainly have an ineligible lineman downfield or perhaps some offensive pass interference.

I was disappointed when I saw that in the audibles. Even if you don't understand all the rules around it, that exact play will come up at least 5-10 times every week, so anyone who watches football regularly should be aware of that outcome if the defense sniffs it out.

That said, we're all human and this place is still one of the best for educated football discussion on the web. No need to harp on the negative too much.

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by dbostedo :: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 8:56pm

"...coaches love the fade route because it is unstoppable if executed properly..."

Why do I read/hear that in Mr. Miyagi's voice?