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An idiot's (two idiots'?) guide to Thanksgiving football, prepped and primed for the monsters-in-law who only watch these three games in a year.

08 Dec 2014

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers 42 at Cincinnati Bengals 21

Vince Verhei: Earlier this year I knocked the Bengals for using Andy Dalton on read option runs. A reader rightly called me out on it, pointing out that Dalton had run lots of option stuff in college. They broke it out again today, and it totally fooled the Steelers, giving Dalton an easy 20-yard scamper for a touchdown.

Scott Kacsmar: Last year Terrelle Pryor went 93 yards on a zone-read keeper against the Steelers. I'm not sure they've faced that play since, but Andy Dalton just broke one for a 20-yard touchdown that looked just as easy. The Bengals are also picking on the sideline routes with the typical cushions allowed by Dick LeBeau defenses. A.J. Green is feasting early in what has mostly been an effective dink-and-dunk attack by Cincinnati.

Dalton's a pretty solid runner. Some of the longer gains I've seen on quarterback sneaks are from him finding a hole and hitting it fast instead of the typical 1-yard gain.

Pittsburgh just quickly called a timeout with 1:33 left, because I guess they want to do the courteous thing and leave the Bengals time to answer before the half ends.

J.J. Cooper: Le'veon Bell went to the sideline after a 53-yard run with 14:30 to go in the fourth quarter. He returned to the field after a one-play rest. I can't be certain until we see the snap counts, but I believe that is the first time he has left the field for an offensive play today. The Steelers came into the game with Josh Harris and fullback Will Johnson as the only other active running backs. Harris came into the game with no NFL carries and Johnson has one carry for zero yards.

Bell should end up this season with somewhere around 315 carries, but he's also going to have 80 or so catches and he's going to be playing 95-plus percent of the offensive snaps over the final six games of the regular season unless he gets injured.

That can't be good for Bell's long-term career prognosis, but in the free agency world of the NFL, that's not all that important for the Steelers. His legs should be shot not long before or after his first contract is complete.

If Bell did suffer an injury, the Steelers would likely have to go to a five-wide setup as their base offense. They have no other running options.

Scott Kacsmar: Well, the Dalton zone read took a blow there with a fumble. Just lost the ball after the mesh point. Steelers in business down a point, but the offense gets a little stagnant in these games where Antonio Brown and Bell are literally carrying the whole offense. They're phenomenal players, but have to get more people involved.

J.J. Cooper: The Bengals are getting really creative today and it has hurt them. They ran a fake punt on their first possession that didn't work, but it was a quite defensible call considering the situation (fourth-and-short in Steelers territory).

Then on their next possession they went into something like Steve Spurrier's Emory & Henry formation on third down. It didn't work.

They did get a 20-yard touchdown run by Andy Dalton on a nice quarterback keeper, but they also ran a wildcat play with Mohamed Sanu in the third quarter that didn't work, then in the fourth quarter they ran a read-option play where Andy Dalton fumbled the ball.

Rob Weintraub: I think Mo Sanu leads the league in drops. Despite his great play this season, that's an issue.

That was basically a visit to Chinatown, aka a rerun of about a thousand losses to Pittsburgh lo these many years. The fourth quarter collapses aren't always so severe, but they tend to be all of a piece -- resistance by Cincy's lines give way, the quarterback takes a beating, and Pittsburgh's running back du jour pads his stats. Sure, that read-option fumble by Dalton will be the lightning rod play, and it is quite worrying that the team is fragile enough to be defeated by something like that. And yes, the Steelers ate Cincy's lunch with those power plays to the left with David DeCastro pulling (and here is my umpteenth reminder that Cincy took Kevin Zeitler instead of Double-D in the draft three years ago). Antonio Brown demolished Terence Newman. But as ever, the culprit when losing to the Steelers was pass rush. When Cincinnati has a good one, they tend to win. They don't, so they didn't. Not sure how that changes in time for the rematch in three weeks, in a game that undoubtedly will be for a playoff berth.

St. Louis Rams 24 at Washington Redskins 0

Aaron Schatz: Jeff Fisher gets all the awesome points for making today's Rams captains all players acquired with draft picks from the RG3 trade.

Cian Fahey: After not covering Coby Fleener at all last week, the Washington secondary left Jared Cook wide-open down the middle of the field for his touchdown in the first half. Jim Haslett's defense lacks talent, but so does Jim Haslett himself seemingly. Former defensive captain London Fletcher has eviscerated him on TV and Twitter today.

I would suggest that Haslett should be fired, but who ever knows what is going on with that franchise?

Aaron Schatz: Jim Haslett's Steelers defense was No. 2 in DVOA in 1997 and No. 11 in DVOA in 1998. He hasn't been in the top dozen since, as a defensive coordinator or a head coach. The last Haslett defense with better-than-average DVOA was 2011 Washington at No. 14 (-1.2% DVOA). Certainly based on our numbers, the results do not match the reputation.

New York Giants 36 at Tennessee Titans 7

Tom Gower: In a matchup between teams on seven- and six-game losing streaks, the Titans are showing the Giants just what losing games is all about. It started before the game, when Kendall Wright went down to make their receivers for the game Nate Washington, Kris Durham (zero snaps this season, only active once), and Derek Hagan (out of the league in 2013, though their normal WR4). It continued on the Giants' first two possessions, featuring a lot of Odell Beckham doing things against Jason McCourty, who has had a reasonable season. The makeshift Titans line, again featuring two backup tackles, is getting beat by a Giants front that has struggled to get pressure. A fumble return off a Zach Mettenberger sack made it 17-0 late in the first quarter, at which point the Titans did not have a first down. The second quarter wasn't quite as bad (Giants held to field goals two times, some Tennessee third-down conversions!), but still...

If you want Tennessee's day in a nutshell: they got called for a presnap penalty trying to take a knee to end the first half.

So, the Titans and Giants played a second half. It included a 50-yard touchdown run by Andre Williams on a third-and-1 play. Zach Mettenberger also got hurt behind Tennessee's banged-up offensive line. Jake Locker came in for him and got sacked on fourth down a couple times and threw an interception. Titans still successfully tanking.

Cian Fahey: Being a long-bodied, but thin and slow quarterback who drops his eyes often in the pocket is not a path to success in the NFL, Zach Mettenberger.

New York Jets 24 at Minnesota Vikings 30 OT

Mike Kurtz: First play of New York Football Jets-Minnesota: Geno Smith pick-6.

First Minnesota possession: Matt Kalil misses a block, Teddy Bridgewater panics and runs backward into the end zone, safety.

I really wish I could start two defenses.

Andrew Potter: Not covering Charles Johnson seems a poor way to win a defensive struggle. That second touchdown, there didn't appear to be a defender within 20 yards of him -- all alone in the middle of the field.

Mike Kurtz: Bridgewater started a late slide, got hit in the head, Jets called with a personal foul. I'm the first to say that the NFL needs to work on safety, but giving a free first down because the quarterback decided to slide half a second before getting hit is absolutely absurd. We're at the point where defenders have to somehow know that the quarterback is about to slide short of the sticks on third down. Insane.

Baltimore Ravens 28 at Miami Dolphins 13

Aaron Schatz: Ravens looked like they were stuck in molasses for the first quarter, three straight three-and-outs on offense while the defense was missing tackles and slow to find the Dolphins runners. Then the Ravens offense got its act together in the second quarter. One long drive featured the Ravens FINALLY converting on third-and-short with a Joe Flacco sneak. But then he threw an interception in the end zone. Whoops. Then the Ravens got it again on their own 3-yard line... and then they put up a drive. Marched down the field, very steady, lots of super tight throws into very tight windows by Flacco, good catches despite tight coverage by the mostly anonymous Dolphins secondary. That makes it 10-7 Miami at halftime. It feels like the Dolphins should have more points here. Mike Wallace has made a couple of very nice catches -- not just "I'm wide-open because the Ravens secondary sucks," but good diving catches, or catches over good coverage. There's also an element of "did Miami remember to watch the film?" because somehow through one half Ryan Tannehill has tried ONE deep pass: a 17-yarder to Wallace with the aforementioned diving catch. There was a second deep pass by the Dolphins which was negated by an illegal man downfield penalty on Mike Pouncey, and is mistakenly listed in the play-by-play as a short pass for some reason. Still, they need to be throwing deep more often.

We are now at the start of the fourth quarter and the Ravens have lost both Danny Gorrer and Anthony Levine to injuries. Just ridiculous. How many injuries can a team have at one position?? (The Chargers say: "Don't answer that.")

Dolphins get third-and-goal and run a single-back set with bunch right. The four WR/TE all go into patterns and the back for some reason goes to help block the defensive end on the left, so nobody is there to block C.J. Mosley blitzing untouched off the offensive right side. And it looked to me like there was no hot read. Shouldn't your big third-down play have a hot read? I wonder if the back -- I think Lamar Miller -- made a mistake and ended up as the sixth blocker on the four main pass rushers instead of either A) looking for a blitzer on the other side or B) going out on a short hot-read route.

And it all went kaput for the Dolphins in the second half. Both lines sort of imploded, especially Dallas Thomas over on the right side of the Dolphins' offensive line. The defensive line isn't bringing much pressure, and can't stop the run. Then guys got hurt, including Louis Delmas going off on a cart. And then Justin Forsett ran a 44-yarder, followed by a 23-yard almost-touchdown (reversed on review) by Bernard Pierce on his first carry of the game. That makes it 159 rushing yards for Baltimore, only 63 for Miami, and it's pretty much ballgame.

Indianapolis Colts 25 at Cleveland Browns 24

Vince Verhei: Awful start for the Colts offense: Four punts (including three three-and-outs) and a lost fumble, recovered by Cleveland for a touchdown. It's a team-wide breakdown. Andrew Luck is under lots of pressure, and it was his sack-fumble that gave Cleveland their only points. He is also missing a lot of throws, and his receivers are dropping passes too.

Granted, Cleveland isn't doing much better, but that's easier to explain: Brian Hoyer isn't very good. His goal-line interception was a particularly amazing marriage of bad decision-making and bad execution.

Oh man, did T.Y. Hilton just make Joe Haden look silly on a touchdown down the right sideline. Haden was looking back for the ball, but I guess he couldn't find it, because he kept running downfield as Hilton jumped and caught the ball. At that point, he should have at least been in position to make a tackle inside the 10-yard line, but Hilton zig-zagged past Haden and another defender into the end zone.

Colts trail 24-19 with about 7 minutes to go, with a third-and-medium at midfield. They roll Andrew Luck out to the right. Jim Leonhard (who got a tip drill interception earlier) comes blitzing off the left edge. The tackle passes Leonhard off to Trent Richardson, who barely gets a finger on him, and Leonhard runs Luck down for the sack to force a punt.

First play, Colts' next drive, Dan Herron gives up an easy sack. I'm starting to think that the Colts' biggest need going into the draft is going to be "blocking back."

Scott Kacsmar: Yesterday I predicted Andrew Luck would lead his first 4QC/GWD of the season in a 27-24 type of finish. All I needed was the two-point conversion at the end. The teams did the rest. Definitely more offensive inefficiency than expected, maybe the worst game of Reggie Wayne's career, but a big win for the Colts. That Dan Herron spin move saved the day on the bad fourth-down run that looked dead in the backfield. Definitely some major blocking issues for the Colts today.

Houston Texans 27 at Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Cian Fahey: The Jaguars defense can be pretty good, but the consistency of the front seven and the frailty of the secondary is frustrating. Arian Foster is putting up numbers very easily so far.

On the other side of the ball for the Jags, Blake Bortles' accuracy is currently killing their offensive output. It's a problem that will prove fatal for his career if it doesn't significantly improve over the coming years. To this point in the season, it hasn't improved by any notable margin.

Maybe telling about how Bortles is playing, Denard Robinson is receiving a lot of Wildcat snaps during the first half. They haven't been all that effective, but Robinson and Toby Gerhart have benefited from option looks with Bortles at quarterback on a couple of occasions.

Marqise Lee is putting on a show. The rookie has consistently played the game at speed this year, even though he hasn't been featured a huge amount because of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Cecil Shorts ahead of him. Over the long term, he has the potential to be a quality starter for the Jaguars.

Buffalo Bills 17 at Denver Broncos 24

Scott Kacsmar: Bills are playing keep-away against Peyton Manning, but only have a field goal to show for it. Kyle Orton actually evaded pressure in the backfield on a third-and-1, but instead of scrambling for the first down, he chickened out and took a feet-first dive to bring out the field goal team. Actually goes down as another cheap sack for the Denver defense a week after Alex Smith ran out of bounds on fourth down.

Broncos can never win too comfortably, easing a 24-3 lead down to a 24-17 win only clinched by the recovery of an onside kick. We'll find out next week in San Diego what impact the new offensive philosophy has. Maybe the Julius Thomas injury and Demaryius Thomas' ankle injury in practice led to this today, but 20 pass attempts (a lot of vertical shots too) doesn't sound anything like a Peyton Manning offense. I think the focus on running has taken away from the precision and rhythm in the passing game, which they'll still need to combat teams like the Chargers, Patriots, and Colts. Today they were fortunate to go up against Kyle Orton and his mountain of failed completions.

Kansas City Chiefs 14 at Arizona Cardinals 17

Tom Gower: Huge sequence in the third quarter, with Anthony Fasano getting called for offensive pass interference to negate a touchdown on third-and-10. After the penalty, Alex Smith gets flushed and throws the ball right to Alex Okafor, who returns it to around midfield. John Skelton, er, Drew Stanton has a nice throw to Jaron Brown on a seam route on third-and-18 on the ensuing possession for a touchdown to make it 17-14.

On the whole, what I've seen of this game says it's going about as you'd expect. Both teams have been struggling to sustain much offense, with Alex Smith in particular running around like his offensive line isn't great and his receivers are worse.

Aaron Schatz: I missed what was apparently a controversial fumble call on Travis Kelce. Can someone explain if you saw that?

However, what I did see was the last play of this game on Red Zone. It was fourth-and-15. The Chiefs spread things out. No tight end to help block, just Jamaal Charles. The Cardinals brought six guys, because of course they did. Charles tried to help pick off a guy to the side or something, but of course a Cardinals pass rusher came in unblocked. Do the Chiefs not own the machine that shows game film? Can they not afford a Game Rewind subscription? This isn't about stats. This is scouting. When your game is on the line, the Cardinals will big blitz you up the A-gaps. It is coming. You have to block it.

Tom Gower: Kelce fumble: Chiefs third-and-4 at the Cardinals' 41-yard line. Pass to Kelce. He's going down around the 20-yard line. Ball comes out after he's down. Call on field is down by contact. Replay finds he was losing control as he went to the ground, clear recovery by Arizona. Replays shown by CBS might have indicated some degree of loss of control before he was down, but it was a long, long way from definitive from what I saw.

Kansas City's late-game drive after Arizona's missed field goal was completely dreadful. Alex Smith kept throwing within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and they wasted so much time. I thought it was really bad even by Andy Reid standards.

Seattle Seahawks 24 at Philadelphia Eagles 14

Aaron Schatz: Hey, remember all those games where we just shake our heads because we can't believe the way the Packers/Steelers/Colts/fill in the blank can't defend against the read option? This is the game to show them how defenses can defend against the read option. With quality run defense on both sides, this game is 7-7 with about two minutes left in the first half.

I love the Eagles offense so much but I think the problem is that there's a real lack of mid-range pass routes. They've got screens galore, short crossers, and plenty of deep passes. However, it doesn't seem like there are a lot of 10-yard curls and 12-yard digs and 15-yard outs and whatnot. And so, the Eagles are running a 4-yard crosser to Riley Cooper on third-and-6 with time running out in the first half. Shouldn't they have something that is caught PAST the sticks?

Vince Verhei: This has been a completely dominant, one-sided ass-kicking at halftime, but the scoreboard says Seattle's only ahead 10-7. The Eagles have 67 yards on five drives; Seattle has a touchdown drive of 82 yards, plus 43- and 37-yard drives that ended in punts, plus another 30 or 40 yards on the field-goal drive right before halftime. It has been a terrible day for Jon Ryan, whose fumble set Philadelphia up on their 14-yard touchdown drive, and he had another punt that went out of bounds just across midfield for a gain of only 32 yards.

For Seattle, it's going pretty much like we talked about in the preview: Russell Wilson already has 43 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and I expect he'll have broken the quarterback rushing DYAR record by now. And he's had pretty good success passing ... except on blitzes, when he has been pressured for two sacks and bundles of throw-aways. Philly is doing much better than I expected against Marshawn Lynch, though.

Philly, well, not much is working for them. Would almost certainly be a shutout right now if Ryan hadn't fumbled.

Aaron Schatz: I will note that Wilson's rushing yardage has generally come on scrambles and naked bootlegs, not read-options. With one big touchdown exception. So I don't feel like a total idiot.

On a team that passed more, Doug Baldwin would be Hines Ward or Derrick Mason. Killer 1,000-yard seasons as a possession receiver who could also run some deeper routes. He's really good.

Vince Verhei: More of the same in the second half, without the lucky field position bounces to keep things close. Philadelphia got a 35-yard touchdown when Zach Ertz got isolated on K.J. Wright (DVOA says Seattle is 20th against tight ends, but subjectively it feels like they should be much worse than that), but even with that, their longest drive was only 54 yards, and that was their only drive longer than 25 yards. Seattle has now given up 20 total points in three straight must-win games against Arizona, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.

Wilson finishes with 10 carries for 48 yards and the one score. Aaron mentioned those bootleg keepers Seattle uses. I'm not sure, and maybe this is stupid, but I think some of those are actually options, where Wilson turns his back to the defense and holds out the ball, and the runner keeps his eyes upfield and makes the call whether to take the ball or let Wilson keep it. Maybe I'm nuts, but it often seems like he has eyes in the back of his head on those bootlegs.

I think the turning point of the game came in the third quarter. Ertz scored his touchdown to cut Seattle's lead to 17-14. Seattle drove to the Philadelphia 23-yard line; a field goal there would have put Seattle up six, and left Philly with a chance to take the lead. Instead, on first down, Philadelphia came with an 8-man blitz. Seattle kept in seven and the blitz never got close to Wilson, and he calmly hit Baldwin on a seam route for a 23-yard score. Philly never really threatened again. We talked about how the big blitz was probably going to be Philadelphia's best weapon, but that was as big a blitz as you'll ever see, and it led to the score that clinched the game.

New England Patriots 23 at San Diego Chargers 14

Andrew Healy I would swear the Patriots have a -1000% DVOA on Jamie Collins A-gap blitzes. Patriots get off the field on the Chargers' first drive on a Collins sack on third-and-4.

Tom Gower: I'd guess that the Chargers center being rookie undrafted free agent Chris Watt, who has missed practice time lately thanks to injury, had a little something to do with Collins coming unblocked.

Corey Liuget does down on New England's first offensive series. Bad news for a defense that's really struggling, thanks in part to an Adjusted Sack Rate of just 1.8% over the past five games.

Aaron Schatz: Chris Watt vs. J.J. Watt. That wouldn't be pretty.

Andrew Healy: Mid-second quarter, Michael Hoomanawanui whiffs on a block on first-and-goal from the 4-yard line, costing the Pats a touchdown as the line got a good push. And the Patriots end up settling for three. Two drives inside the five and six points for the Patriots, now down 14-6.

Nate Solder got completely used on the third-down play on the Patriots' first drive, with Melvin Ingram (I think) getting the sack. Here on third down again by the goal line, Dwight Freeney gets Solder spinning like a top, helping force the incompletion.

Aaron Schatz: Halfway through the second quarter, 14-6 Chargers. The best thing to happen to San Diego was a total fumble-luck-randomness play where they stripped Brandon LaFell and returned it for a touchdown. The second best thing was Melvin Ingram, who apparently decided tonight on national television he wants everyone to learn who he is. He's destroying the Patriots, whether it is Nate Solder or a tight end blocking like Michael Hoomanuwanui. After LeGarrette Blount was kicking ass and breaking tackles on their first drive, the Pats just hid him and instead ran a drive almost entirely with empty backfields. On the last two plays, near the goal line, Brady threw to receivers who were completely covered and almost was intercepted. And really should have been. Chargers are doing a very good job of coverage in the short areas like that.

Rob Weintraub: It should be noted that when at South Carolina, Ingram actually had a far more productive career than did Jadeveon Clowney, though he wasn't nearly as hyped (and in fairness was never the pro prospect Clowney was/is, though Ingram was a good one). I used to call Ingram the "Octopus" in my One Foot Inbounds days, as he had a hand in everything. Once he took a fake punt about 70 yards for a touchdown against Georgia, once of his countless highlights.

Aaron Schatz: Donald Brown blown block just got a Mike Scifres punt blocked, and Scifres is being taken away on the cart in a LOT of pain. Goddammit, Donald.

Andrew Healy: It sure seemed preordained from that snap that the pass on the Patriots' first touchdown was going to Gronkowski. Brandon Flowers lined up on him far wide. Brandon Flowers is 5-foot-9. Rob Gronkowski is 7-foot-4. Or maybe it just seems that way.

Aaron Schatz: Gronkowski is only 6-foot-6. The additional 10 inches is made up of fiesta.

Serious question. Which would be the worst to lose to an injury during the game: the placekicker, the punter, or the long snapper? Assuming you are not one of the rare teams like the Patriots where a second player has long-snapping experience.

Andrew Healy: OK, it's down to -1050% on Patriots' defensive DVOA on Jamie Collins A-gap blitzes. Wow did Collins just obliterate Chris Watt on that late second-quarter blitz.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know if the terrible interception by Tom Brady to end the first half should be considered a terrible underthrow or a ball forced into coverage because Gronk wasn't open. I'm thinking the latter, because if he floats it over Manti Te'o's head, that might be a touchdown.

Cian Fahey: The long snapper. Believe, coincidentally, James Harrison had to do it a few years ago for the Steelers against the Chargers. Ball flew over the punter's head for a safety. Kickers/punters should be able to do each other's jobs with relative effectiveness.

Scott Kacsmar: James Harrison had to do it against the 2008 Giants and it turned into a safety that led to the game-winning touchdown.

Cian Fahey: They both wear blue, I'm calling that close enough.

Vince Verhei: Chris Kluwe addressed kicking vs. punting on Twitter. A few highlights:

"Punting is a linear motion. Field goals are more sweeping. If you mix the two, you're going to hit a really crappy ball."

"Why doesn't someone train to do both? Too many reps during the season. You have to cover practice and games; leg wears out."

Also, I read one of John Madden's books from the 1980s where he talked about punting and kicking using entirely different leg muscles, and foot placements. Atlanta tried to use their punter as a field-goal kicker a few years ago full-time, and the results were disastrous.

Cian Fahey: It's always amazing to me how American Footballers (Americans in general?) break down kicking. It's really not that complicated. That's not to say it's easy, it's just weird how it's broken down.

Aaron Schatz: I realize that Ladarius Green is down on the field after the hit by Brandon Browner that knocked the ball loose for the pick-six by the Patriots, but the replay shows clearly that there was NO helmet-to-helmet contact at all. To flag that and bring the pick back is just horrendous.

Tom Gower: The contact doesn't have to be helmet-to-helmet for it to be a penalty. Shoulder to the player's head or neck area is also an infraction. I'm perfectly fine with that call, given the existence of the rule.

Andrew Healy: Really? I've been pretty uniformly in favor of anything that protects player safety, but he's bobbling that for a good second and Browner makes contact with his shoulder to the shoulder. Man, I think that's a brutal call. Full disclosure that I'm biased here, but I think that was 100 percent clean.

Cian Fahey: Biggest issue to me is how tough it is for refs to call these. Everyone screams how bad they are when they have the replays, but at actual speed it's really tough. They need replay.

Scott Kacsmar: Didn't like the Browner call, nor did I like the attempt at a make-up call for OPI on Malcom Floyd. San Diego's field position also has to be brutal tonight as Rivers starts another drive inside the 15. I believe San Diego has been held to seven points on seven drives so far.

Aaron Schatz: That's why everything should be reviewable. That's what Bill Belichick brings up at league meetings every year: make everything reviewable. It's good to have rules that protect players. It's also good not to penalize players when they make legal hits. And you have to make it reviewable because actual game speed is often too fast for the human eye.

There was no shoulder to neck on that hit either. It was a completely, totally legal hit. How else do you want these people to play?

Andrew Healy: And OPI on Floyd also should have been a no-call.

Aaron Schatz: As discombobulated as the Pats offense looks in the second half, with no third-down conversions through the third quarter, the Chargers offensive line is looking even worse. The Chargers aren't getting any running room and Rivers is constantly under pressure.

Tom Gower: "b) Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is: 1) Forcibly hitting the defenseless player's head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact is lower than the player's neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him"

Given that rule language, I'm A-OK with that penalty. Browner needed to lower the strike point, like defensive backs all around the league have done.

Mike Kurtz: You see his helmet go backward before his body did. It might not have been square-on to the head, but his head was hit first. Considering he has half the team's medical staff working on him, it's really hard to argue that his head or neck weren't involved at all.

Cian Fahey: It looks like neck through facemask to me.

Andrew Healy: Patriots' first down at the third quarter gun their first one of the quarter on their fifth drive. Kind of amazing. No. 3 offense vs. No. 28 defense.

Tom Gower: 14-13 early in the fourth quarter. I expected a lot more offense than we've gotten in the game. Kudos to the much-maligned San Diego secondary in particular. John Pagano seems to have had a particularly active game plan for Gronkowski, whom Greg Cosell noted was getting a lot of free releases on his catches.

Andrew Healy: Darrelle Revis having a very big game. Mostly single coverage on Keenan Allen (although not on his third target just now). Just two receptions for three yards so far with nine minutes left fourth quarter.

Scott Kacsmar: Seems like every time the Chargers bring Antonio Gates in motion he starts running like he's stuck in cement cleats. No speed. No separation. Not even running a real route. It just looks sloppy, as does a lot of the San Diego offense tonight.

Aaron Schatz: "Considering he has half the team's medical staff working on him, it's really hard to argue that his head or neck weren't involved at all."

Sometimes the head and neck move around without being contacted by the other player. There are a lot of physical forces involved here. And don't forget the horrible player whose hit on Kevin Kolb ended Kolb's career. I refer, of course, to "the earth."

Andrew Healy: Punting on fourth-and-5 near midfield down nine with about 6:30 left is a brutal decision and one that gets way too little attention compared to the fourth-and-shorts. The Chargers might not even get two more real possessions.

By win probability, punting gives them about a 5 percent chance of winning, going for it about 9 percent. That 4 percent doesn't sound like much, but they would have almost doubled their chances by going for it. One day this will seem ridiculous.

Tom Gower: Today is that day.

Mike Kurtz: This has to be the first time I've ever seen Tom Gower: the optimist.

Aaron Schatz: Look, there was a story this morning that a number of teams are interested in giving Mike Singletary another run as an NFL head coach. So we are still far, far, far from the end of the ridiculous.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 08 Dec 2014

239 comments, Last at 15 Dec 2014, 3:37pm by armchair journeyman quarterback

Comments

1
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:00pm

Initial thoughts on a variety of games:

STL-WAS: Someone is going to buy into this Rams team for 2015. They'll likely finish in the 7-8 win range again. In a way, this is exactly how his Titans tenure played out, going 8-8 for three straight seasons before 13-3, 13-3, 11-5 and 12-4 in a 5-year span.

BUF-DEN: I agree that the passing offense timing has been off the last two weeks, but it was definitely better this time. Manning's arm looked fine on a few deep balls (Welker, Sanders), but he did hang that first pick. 14-20 against a good defense isn't too bad, the two picks make it look way worse - that and hte Broncos deciding to run in the red zone for the first time since 2011. I don't think there's a worse prevent defense in the NFL. The amount of times they've had a 2-3 score lead and ended up winning by 7 is amazing.

KC-ARZ: I agree that the call probably should have stood. It definitely was loose before Kelce fell, but there was a whole lot of time in between that and the eventual fumble. Even the fumble wasn't recovered too quickly. Still, a big win for Arizona who is pretty assured a playoff spot, given their h2h wins over DAL/PHI/DET. It would be a real shame if they miss the playoffs at 10-6 for the 2nd straight year.

SEA-PHI: The Seahawks are terrifying right now.

NE-SD: Very good job by the SD defense, but that o-line is useless. It is amazing how they managed to do anything against Baltimore, but NE held up in coverage well. This is the defense Belichick would have wanted. Still, Brady's play was slightly off much of the day. Take away the 69-yarder (which of course is hard to do) and he was well under 10 ypc. That #1 seed is in their sights though.

9
by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:24pm

DEN-BUF: Denver has won two games in a row with Peyton playing average (or below). This could be looked at in both a positive and negative light. Positive in that up until the last few weeks they haven't been able to win in the Peyton era without him carrying them to a win. From a negative perspective, it looks like Peyton has arm issues and is throwing way too many passes that are either picks or "hospital balls" where it looks like he's going to get his WRs/TEs killed.

13
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:28pm

You say that (and I agree to some extent) but he also threw some beautiful passes, like the early deep shot to Welker or the deep post to Sanders (that was a perfect throw) or the nice back-shoulder to Welker.

I think his arm is fine, personally, and he just had a slightly off game. In the end he only missed on six throws, one of which was a pure drop.

49
by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:03pm

I agree he definitely had some nice throws, and he's still an absolutely great QB. My biggest concern is that either by design of offense, or lack of arm strength many of his throws are to a spot (and too often are slow to get there) which is exposing his receivers, especially Sanders, to huge hits.

I'm confident Manning will eventually get into a groove with the run first / play action offense, because he's too smart not to recognize it gives them a real chance to win tough playoff games in the cold (Foxboro), and could even extend his career a few years.

175
by spujr :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:09am

I know what I am going to suggest is bordering ridiculousness but in the past two Den games I've been wondering if they are intentionally "making Peyton look bad (or avg)" in order to keep their passing game unpredictable when they will really need it (playoffs). For example Seattle defense said Denver's offense was very predictable last years championship game which was one of the reasons why they dominated. In any case I think they are a more balanced football team which gives them better adaptability to their opponents.

Another crazy thought I had is Elway whispering in Peyton's ear, "remember the two super bowls I won....I relied on the running game."

176
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:32am

You're wrong about it merely bordering on ridiculousness. They might do that when the games don't matter, but not when they're fighting for a #1 seed. Had Buffalo recovered that onside kick Denver could very well have lost yesterday. Also, why can't they simply play like they normally do, then spring the unpredictable offense once in the playoffs?

As for your second point, the Miami game showed that a relying on a strong running game can coexist with Manning having a strong passing game.

178
by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:38am

i could see Elway bringing up point two (winning SBs as a run first team) every time he and Peyton talk....

185
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 10:41am

I don't think they were that bad against Buffalo, and against KC they employed a very strange 'let's take 10 deep shots' strategy.

I guess these are the things you do when you get big leads in games.

2
by Led :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:04pm

"giving a free first down because the quarterback decided to slide half a second before getting hit is absolutely absurd"

I'm biased here, but I thought that result was extremely unfair. (The call was probably technically correct -- not sure the scope of the refs' discretion not to call it if the QB is deemed to have slid too late.) The key to the unfairness is that it was third down and Bridgewater was closely approaching the first down yardage. It would be one thing if he was more than 5 yards away. Then the defender can hesitate to see whether the QB will slide and risk giving up a couple extra yards. A defender at the first down marker has no such luxury. I think a QB approaching the endzone or first down marker should have an obligation to declare his intentions sufficiently early to enjoy the protection of the rule.

10
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:26pm

It was a stupid call, and I live in MN. But generally I hate all the rules that protect the QB more than other players. By all means protect people throwing the ball or kicking the ball, and penalized cheap shots, but a scrambling QB is just like any other player with the ball.

17
by jmaron :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:37pm

not as stupid as the one Harrison Smith was called against Washington when he actually went over the top of RG3 and never actually touched him.

It's a tough call for the ref. He has to judge whether the player had time to avoid the contact.

I hate the feet first slide. The one thing Ponder did well was he dove head first, not only did he get extra yardage, but he also avoided some of the nasty hits to the head that result from feet first slides.

39
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:48pm

Just a few weeks you had posters demanding that defenders be penalized for blows to the offensive players' head even though the contact was created by the offensive player ducking his head in anticipation of contact.

The majority of penalties look to be straightforward. But the minority is what drives everyone else pretty nuts.

44
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:52pm

Yes, call agqinst d. Davi s LB nyj was crappish. Didn't pulverize beidgewater.

3
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:06pm

Calling it "helmet to helmet" is totally bogus of course. But I am ok with "defenseless".

I don't know what the rule makers meant by "neck area" but to me that was neck area. It's not like he hit on the middle of the chest. Looked to me the hit was on the collarbone hear where the neck meets the shoulder - which is "neck area" to me.

15
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:32pm

While the letter of the law is "no helmet to helmet" the real spirit of the law is no hits with the violence of that one. That is exactly what they are trying to crack down on. The helmet to helmet bit is just because they don't want the rule to say "don't hit guys too hard".

It was a very tough call given the situation, but when someone gets lit up like that in 2014 it is going to draw a flag. You don't destroy someone using your body as a weapon. Hockey has mostly gotten this, but NFL fans seem to really fail to understand that all the "helmet to helmet" this, and "defenseless" that, and what not, is really just a proxy for "please don't annihilate guys quite as hard". He is getting flagged for breaking the spirit of the law not the letter.

31
by Sakic :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:09pm

There is no rule in the NFL that frustrates me more than all of the helmet-to-helmet, defenseless reciever, etc. personal fouls. I completely understand that the NFL wants to protect players (at least in theory) but they somehow fail to understand that a lot of time their rules conflict with the laws of physics. The whole point of the personal foul penalty is to punish a player for illegal plays such as hitting a player out-of-bounds or you know, the occasional forearm shiver thrown at the head of quarterback (I'm looking at you, Suh.) But when you see cheapo penalties like the one in the Jets/Vikings game and Patriots/Chargers game there is something wrong with the system. And honestly, I'm not even blaming the officials...they have to make the call in real time and more often than not if it looks like a penalty they are going to call it even if they are wrong (in the interest of player safety, of course.)

The answer to this problem is simple...make personal foul penalties reviewable and reversable. It's already there in the college game as far as targetting is concerned...a personal foul called when a QB ducks his head to avoid a sack and a defender goes helmet-to-helmet is a huge, potentially game-changing reward for a defender making a great play. Intent needs to and should be taken into account and replay is the best way to determine that.

136
by Tim F. :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:32pm

"While the letter of the law is "no helmet to helmet" the real spirit of the law is no hits with the violence of that one."

The "letter of the law" isn't remotely "no helmet to helmet" and it hasn't been so for several years now. It is true that people use it as shorthand, but that shorthand doesn't excuse ignorance of the rule. People constantly repeating this, or Collinsworth saying, "he adjusted, tried to lower his shoulder" over and over again isn't helping anyone one. The rule is: no targeting a defenseless receiver in the head or neck area in the most general sense (i.e. does not require use of the head TO the head) and contains the specifics necessary to make a well-founded call in most instances.

The big issue with this: the entire Patriots team and many others are defending the hit today as legal "because he led with the shoulder".

"I completely understand that the NFL wants to protect players (at least in theory) but they somehow fail to understand that a lot of time their rules conflict with the laws of physics."

The rules do not conflict with the laws of physics. They simply can't. It's the players jobs to utilize what their bodies are capable of within the laws of physics and to utilize them in a winning way without violating the rules of the games (nor the laws of physics) to an extent that it prevents them from winning.

"The whole point of the personal foul penalty is to punish a player for illegal plays such as hitting a player out-of-bounds or you know..."

This is only your interpretation and seems based on a perception of the game from ages ago. It's quite clear that a strong intention of personal fouls is to prevent traumatic head injuries which lead to long-term, debilitating neurological disorders with poor quality of life issues, huge medical expenses, and expensive legal and insurance issues for the league, and that this intent has been in the rules for many years now and is not going away.

163
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:54pm

Is a receiver really "defenseless" if he bobbles the ball for 5 yards and is staring down the oncoming defender the entire time?

166
by Tim F. :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 8:40pm

That was the one area that I thought worth questioning... but we still have Aaron saying "replay shows clearly that there was NO helmet-to-helmet contact at all" — wrong on just about every level.

I myself wondered: if a player himself sustains the moment of/prior-to receiving through their own action, does that mean they are defenseless? I can see it legitimately being argued either way, but also anticipated that the answer is YES because if the rule is designed with protection in mind, in a league geared towards offense "...but, but... it's his stupid fault for not securing it within an instant... once contact has been made, anything goes" is not as good an argument when all the circumstances motivating the "true definition" of "defenseless" are still in play: unable to react to defender, unable to focus eyesight on defender, body still exposed, not providing the receiver, in completing the reception, to adopt a defensive or evasive posture/move, etc.

I see the temptation to see the circumstances as analogous to when a pass is batted and interfering with a receiver becomes permitted but don't think it holds up. With defenseless receiver, the motivation remains intact. With batted passes, the circumstances/motivations are changed after legal actions have altered the play and the need for the initial motivation is no more — in fact, I guess I'm unsure if you couldn't call a "defenseless receiver" PF when a ball is batted by another player either — that is: interfering with/impeding a receiver becomes permissible, but not to the head or neck of a defenseless player attempting to receive the ball? Again, I could see why you'd want to say YES and/or NO. I would probably say it would only be logical and consistent that you could call a defenseless receiver PF after a batted pass attempt — if "defenseless" applied, of course.

I'm not sure if the rulebook is clear on this or if the officials got it right last night and would be happy to debate it. (Unfortunately, it seems like the vast majority ignored this issue for non-issues.) I don't think the rule is illogical or bad in either case — which is odd. Think it works either way if it is actually known — which I guess it is not. I do think current NFL rules are too geared towards offense but despite that, I don't mind most of the current rules to protect from spinal/brain injury — although I think those protections are, again, too offense-centric — but such a rule, if it is so, is not troubling to me. What I find most trouble is people purporting to be authoritative or informed spreading misinformation.

172
by Lyford :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 10:50pm

"That was the one area that I thought worth questioning... but we still have Aaron saying "replay shows clearly that there was NO helmet-to-helmet contact at all" — wrong on just about every level."

This is the kind of thing that makes any discussion about anything so frustrating, when we can't even agree on the most basic of facts.

I look at that play and I see no helmet-to-helmet contact until Browner's head is past Green's, at which point the side of Green's helmet may make some contact with the back of Browner's. So, is Aaron right that there was "NO helmet-to-helmet contact at all"? No, probably not. But it seems to me to be clear that there's not direct, forceful head-on helmet-to-helmet contact - Browner hits Green's shoulder/chest with his shoulder, moving his head out of the way to avoid hitting Green's head with his head. There is no force applied to Green's helmet by Browner's, and that's not a helmet-to-helmet hit.

But if we can't even agree to what we're seeing in the video, how can we possibly have an intelligent conversation about it?

173
by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 11:18pm

Good points, but allow me to further confuse/clarify (clarifuse? conrify?) things by saying that the "helmet-to-helmet" part of it doesn't matter.

First part of the rule, the defenseless part, from the NFL rules :

"A receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner. If the receiver/runner is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player; "

Clearly, though the ball was bobbled, the receiver's focus is on the ball and he has not completed the catch, and not therefore had time to protect himself.

The next part defines what the actual penalty is :

"Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact of the defender’s helmet or facemask is lower than the passer’s neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him;"

In this case, Browner lead with his shoulder, but he lead right toward Green's neck area, very high - maybe the collarbone area. Either way, that's a penalty, whether or not there is helmet contact. I would be curious how the NFL would clarify "neck area" if you asked, but in this case the top outside edge of Browner's shoulder pad almost gets between Green's shoulder pad and his helmet. Most of the force isn't there, but it seems that is the correct call from the officials.

4
by Ryan :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:10pm

That 4th-and-5 punt with about 6 minutes left in the SD game....I was screaming at my television. What in the world was the coaching staff thinking? It sure as hell wasn't "this play will give us the best chance to win the game." I mean, really--did the SD coaching staff think "we are more likely to win this game if we punt here"?

8
by collapsing pocket :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:18pm

The old excuse for not going for it is that coaches don't want to get savaged in the press for making a bold decision that fails.

McCoy is now getting savaged in the press (and deservedly so) for punting. I'd like to think that's a step in the right direction. If coaches really do fear press backlash maybe they'll go for it more often now that more and more fans and reporters realize the value of trying to convert on 4th down.

12
by Ryan :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:26pm

I was going to say--aren't we past that by now? And if a coach is really making decisions based upon media reaction than, you know, the game...the punt was simply a giant white flag.

So many football coaches are wizards of Oz...like, in the man-behind-the-curtain sense (don't look). As if the average viewer simply doesn't understand how terrible things would be if they hadn't punted there. It just boggles the mind, the senselessness of it all.

25
by collapsing pocket :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:55pm

Maybe it never really was a legitimate reason, just something we used to try and rationalize highly paid coaches making bad decisions.

14
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:29pm

They are not thinking. That is the point. They just do what is traditional despite it being clear it is wrong because they are too established to care whether there are more efficient options. When he learned to coach you didn't evaluate decisions based on win probability.

It is just like 55 year olds in an office pushing papers around all the time instead of using email and electronic storage. It is outside their experience and skill-set.

Honestly someone there needs to lose their job or at least get a remonstrance. It was so terrible.

18
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:39pm

That was the single dumbest punt I've seen this year.

I may be forgetting something, but you are squarely in the gray area, facing a makeable 4th down, against a defense that has been shutting you down all day. You just cannot punt there. You need at least 1 TD to win the game, that is your best shot.

Honestly, I would have been upset if McCoy punts on 4th & 5 from near midfield in the 1st quarter, but to do it in that spot was one of the worst decisions I have seen in a while.

52
by RoninX :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:07pm

Chip Kelly punted from near his 30 on 4th and 6(?) with 4:15 to go in the game vs. Seattle down 10 points when his offense had been doing nothing all game. Philly never got the ball back. Kelly has a reputation as an aggressive play caller and a guy who knows the 4th down percentages.

Down two scores I don't think you can ever punt there. Succeed or fail you are counting on your defense to force a three and out and even if the Seahawks kick a field goal you are still down two scores. Now maybe he receives no crap for this because no one who watched the game thought the Eagles had any chance to score twice vs. the Seahawks in four minutes regardless of tactics - which is perfectly reasonable - but it is a head coach's responsibility to give his team every chance to win the game and in my eyes Kelly failed to do that.

59
by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:14pm

Agree. A number of puzzling decisions form Kelly yesterday. For a guy that's supposed to thinking differently from most/all coaches, he sure didn't yesterday. I felt like he wasn't coaching smart, nor putting his team in a position to win... more like he was hoping they could hold on and hope for a special teams play (or another bad turnover). Some of it probably had to do with Sanchez, but the Eagles looked pretty bad.

61
by jacobk :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:16pm

He was asked about it after the game and flat out said he didn't think they would make it. Considering their play on 3rd and mid-range to that point I don't blame him.

21
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:45pm

As others have noted, coaches are essentially taught that losing the ball on downs is the worst possible thing that can happen. So even when they are down by 9 points, need only 4 yards for a first down, are near midfield (where a punt won't give much of an advantage), have less than 7 minutes on the clock, and are reduced to using a placekicker to make punts, you still see a coach call for a punt.

I would have been screaming at the TV had I been other than a Patriots' fan. As a Pats' fan, I loudly cheered the bonehead decision.

Time to check out what that decision did to the Chargers' win probability...I bet it'll be ugly.

26
by collapsing pocket :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:57pm

According to the NYT forth down bot, it cut the probability in half, from 10% to 5%.

63
by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:18pm

The only coaches I can think of who routinely go (went) for it in that situation are Bellichick today and Shanahan in his heyday at Denver when he was still called The Mastermind. The one thing those two coaches had in common were that they both built up enough credit where they likely consider(ed) themselves (in Shanahans case at the time at least) un-fireable.

5
by collapsing pocket :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:11pm

Correction: Chris Watt is not an undrafted rookie. He was a 3rd round pick this year.

He has also never played center at any level until this year, making his first start at the position last week, which is probably not ideal.

The Chargers also have an undrafted rookie lineman on their practice squad named Craig Watt.

143
by coboney :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:57pm

So Chris Watt has a higher wattage then they are saying?

158
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:22pm

Stupid multiple obscure Watts who play vaguely similar positions, confusing football writers.

6
by theosu :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:12pm

Andrew Luck was 'roughed' by a hit to the head when Paul Kruger hit him with his arms and Luck's head snapped back and glanced against Kruger's helmet as he followed through. The third down sack extended the drive which turned into a field goal.

I wonder if we'll get to the point that plays like DPI and roughing the passer et al are reviewable.

20
by RoninX :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:40pm

I am of mixed minds about replay on those calls. I think objectively they could add a lot to the game, but subjectively sometimes contact/hits can look a lot worse or at least a lot longer when you can slow them down in the booth. This is particularly relevant for D/OPI when sometimes making contact "simultaneously" can be parsed out with super slow-mo. I'm not sure I trust the refs to do a better job of handling the subjectivity of those calls just because they have more technology... but maybe I'm just pessimistic.

23
by johonny :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:49pm

I saw that too. He hit him clearly with his hands and arms first. I hated the call. Leading with the crown of the helmet should actually lead with the crown of the helmet. Not shove QB to the ground with a glancing of the helmet after the initial force was clearly to the chest by the hands of the defensive player.

7
by DEW :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:13pm

I loved Tom Gower's joking comparison between Drew Stanton and John Skelton, because in the post-game show, Jimmy Johnson actually called Stanton "John Skelton."

11
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:26pm

Ironically for a college QB of his running ability, Denard Robinson was never a good option QB in college. Almost all of his college running plays were either zone runs or QB Isos. I wonder if this would impact his ability to be a successful Wildcat QB, unless the Wildcat action is just a cover for a designed run (or unless it's just "Wildcat" as used by announcers, in the sense that a non-QB is lined up as QB).

16
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:35pm

"Aaron Schatz: I don't know if the terrible interception by Tom Brady to end the first half should be considered a terrible underthrow or a ball forced into coverage because Gronk wasn't open. I'm thinking the latter, because if he floats it over Manti Te'o's head, that might be a touchdown."

So you mean the former, right?

Brady threw the ball from an awkward position, and didn't get enough strength on it. Had he gotten the ball five yards further, it likely would have been a touchdown.

30
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:06pm

Yeah I could not make sense of that sentence as written.

93
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:19pm

Mea culpa. My job to catch and fix that stuff.

19
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:39pm

Mike Kurtz: "Considering he has half the team's medical staff working on him, it's really hard to argue that his head or neck weren't involved at all."

It's basic physics. If the body and head are moving forward, and a force stops the body but not the head, the head will continue going forward, and then whiplash backwards. Ask any ambulance chasing lawyer. Or watch the most recent X-Men movie, in which Quicksilver uses his hand to stabilize Magneto's head before going into super-fast mode.

The head and neck are involved, but they weren't the point of impact. Thus, no penalty.

22
by johonny :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:47pm

Mia/Balt- another underwhelming performance in a big game by a Joe Philbin team. Miami looked good until the end of the second quarter then Baltimore put together the patented Joe Philbin 2 minute give up drive. After Miami's center went down the oline simply fell apart. Baltimore stopped respecting the run that the Dolphins refused to use anyways and Tannehill was toast. Baltimore was the better team. They were certainly the better coached team. Miami sure looks more and more like that 7-9 wait until next year team. Only in the AFCeast next year never comes. If you were hoping for a yeah or nay season on Joe Philbin then you didn't get it. Is this team improving or simply spinning around in the statistical noise? Do you think the NFL regrets scheduling the Pats for 3 unwatchable division train wrecks to close out the season? Did they think this thing was going down to the wire? LOL have they paid attention to the last decade+. If your planning on watching Jet-Dolphins on Dec 28 then all I have to ask you is why?

27
by James-London :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:57pm

After a great 1st quarter for Miami the rest was ugly. The second half appeared to be a throwback to last season for the O-line. Dallas Thomas in particular was horrible, and I think we have a partial answer to why Miami won't go deep. Baltimore also picked apart a depleted secondary in a way I wished Miami had been able to do to them.

Unless Miami do the wildly improbable and win in Foxborough, this season is basically done, so it's time to start scouting O-linemen (especially guards), linebackers and defensive backs.

As for Joe Philbin, someone needs to take a goofy time out so we can evaluate him...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

29
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:03pm

Division games are tough to predict (let's not forget, the Jets came the closest - other than GB obviously - to beating the Pats recently).

I have a feeling at least one of them plays NEng tough, but probably loses in the end.

46
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:54pm

Divisional games are usually tough. Of the three, I'd be worried most about the Jets, since that's a road game. And the Jets have an annoying tendency to always be super-motivated for their matchups with the Pats. The Dolphins are facing payback for their September victory, and by the time the Bills get to Foxborough, that game will be meaningless for them.

24
by Harris :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:51pm

I'm developing a morbid fascination with the Eagles' inability to defend on 3rd-and-15+. The average defense gives up a first down in that situation around 10% of the time. The Eagles allow a conversion 28.5% of the time in that situation. A normal team just plays zone, forces a short pass and makes the tackle. Billy Davis insists on blitzing and leaving his shitty CBs one-on-one as they get torched time after time. It's like no one on the coaching staff can see it AND I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS.

40
by Pen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:49pm

Part of me thinks it's the "not faced Wilson before" factor, where teams think he's a glorified game manager that beats people with his legs. Blitz him and he'll fold. If they stopped to realize this is the guy who tied Mannings rookie TD record, who has broken a great deal of historic passing records for a player in his third year (first ever to start with two 100+ seasons passing, etc.), then maybe they'd play him like they would a Peyton or a Rodgers and understand he'll burn you if you blitz him, instead of playing him like a typical 3rd year QB who folds. ALL QB's throw worse when blitzed, but history shows the great ones will make you pay for it, nonetheless.

Part of me thinks they have to have figured this out by now and they just blitzed because they're Philly, it's what they do.

83
by Harris :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:52pm

No one is dumb enough to believe Wilson is just Alex Smith with more speed at this point and this has been a problem for the Eagles ever since Davis was hired. He insists on leaving his CBs on an island in part because he wants to stop the run (it's apparently still 1985 in his mind) but he doesn't have CBs who can win those match-ups on a regular basis. It's a weekly race to see when Fletcher will get beaten over the top. And it happens every game.

91
by Southern Philly :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:10pm

"Part of me thinks it's the "not faced Wilson before" factor"

Nah. They consistently give up multiple 3rd and longs. It's incredibly frustrating.

86
by Coaldale Joe :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:06pm

It's not just you, I proactively get pissed off anytime the Eagles force the opposing offense into 3rd and long, it feels like an automatic 1st down, if the secondary doesn't blow a coverage, someone will hold and give the offense a new set of downs. I am much more comfortable on 3rd and short, when the offense might actually try to run.

167
by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 9:10pm

Up to 33.3% now on 24 attempts: http://pfref.com/tiny/OEScM. And their playing man also allowed Lynch to pick up a first down on 3rd-and-15 when Seattle was just running a give-up draw.

Interestingly, Seattle had similar difficulty defending 3rd-and-fairly-long in 2012. They were great against 3rd-and-15 or more, but allowed a league-worst 45.0% conversion rate against 3rd-and-9 to 3rd-and-14, compared to the league average of 27.5%. And as far as I can remember it was for the opposite reason Philadelphia gives them up, as they would routinely allow receivers to settle in the gaps in their soft zone, and the pass rush rarely got home.

96
by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:29pm

What you described right there means that it is not Davis, it's Kelly. The Oregon Ducks were coached on defense from about 1988 through 2013, with a brief interlude from 97-99 where this wasn't true by Nick Aliotti. Aliotti's defensive philosophy was to play 8 man fronts all day and blitz passers into mistakes. When Oregon ran a pro-style it worked only when they had GREAT DBs, but when Oregon went HUNH, 2007 I think, it just simply devastated teams.

Oregon routinely scored from anywhere on the field with big plays and the defense would either stop other teams three & out, give up a big play for a FG or TD, or force a turnover. The Ducks also started to place top 5 every year in defensive yards per play. With how efficient Oregon's offense got by 2010 the fact that Aliotti wouldn't let anyone play ball control and forced a lot of turnovers meant that even against Cam Newton Auburn, Andrew Luck Stanford, and Russell Wilson Wisconsin the Ducks were never out of the game and teams couldn't sit on big leads.

The question is, will the same philosophy work in the NFL? The Offense will never be college efficient in the NFL do to the lack of talent disparities that there were in college, but it has been very efficient over 2 years. Considering the defensive progress from year 1 Kelly to year 2 Kelly I'd say the jury is still out.

I will also say, that despite the yards racked up by the Hawks that is the best game against them that I've seen in awhile by a defense that doesn't play in the NFC West.
_______
I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

105
by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:44pm

I really enjoyed the adjustments and counter-adjustments when Seattle had the ball; it was great coaching by both sides. It felt that every time Seattle ran a successful play against them that didn't involve Wilson scrambling (bootleg, screen, read-option with wide 4-WR sets, running back leak-out, Spider 2 Y Banana), Philadelphia would immediately adjust and shut down the play the second or third time around, but Seattle kept coming up with new plays. Still, I would like to see Wilson throwing to a wide receiver one of the times they line up with wide 4-WR sets, because right now the defense knows exactly what's going to happen.

108
by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:50pm

As a Seahawks fan I would love it too. I truly didn't appreciate how much depended upon Golden Tate to make that WR corps look serviceable. They actually remind me of the Donovan McNabb Eagles. Good QB, Great D, 5 street free agents at WR. The only thing that Hawks have that those Eagles didn't is Marshawn Lynch, well and the Eagle D was never Seattle good in those years.

Though Baldwin would be a Joe Jervicius type successful slot possession guy on another team.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

110
by duh :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:56pm

This is an interesting insight. Thanks for posting it.

126
by Harris :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:08pm

I'm friends with an Eagles fan who lives in the PNW and has been a close Kelly observer over the years and that's pretty much what he said about Oregon's defense. But notice, you said the scheme didn't really take off until they got great DBs. In two years, the Eagles have drafted two CBs, Jaylen Watkins, a 4th rounder this year who can't get on the field and Jordan Poyer in the 7th round last year. He got a few ST snaps and was never heard from again. They've drafted two Safeties, Ed Reynolds, a 5th round pick this who can't escape the practice squad and Earl Wolfe in the 5th round last year. He looked good briefly but can't stay healthy and went on IR for micrfracture knee surgery last month. It's one thing to stick to your unlikely philosophies, but at least acquire players who can execute. After watching Andy Reid ignore WRs in April, then call 45 passes every week, I'd really prefer not to relive that with Chip Kelly's DBs.

138
by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:38pm

Andy Reid and WRs, I can imagine... no as a Seahawks fan and seeing the WRs we have to throw out there every week I really CAN imagine.

I think you misunderstood my timeline with Oregon. The defense worked really well with replaceable parts in the defensive secondary once they changed offensive philosophies. It was a great compliment. The defense struggled and became DB dependent with the pro style attack that Mike Biloti & Rich Brooks ran. I think the question is did that defense work because their offense was so effective and turnovers always became points, or did that defense work by preventing teams from sitting on the ball so that all drives ended quickly?

I actually suspect it is the latter, but will not be surprised if it is the former. From your tone you seem to think it is the former and will be surprised if it is the latter.

Of course they had guys like Haloti Nagata at nose tackle too... so there was some talent.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

187
by Harris :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 11:17am

I don't think that you can get away with mediocre DBs in a run-focused defense that routinely puts eight men in the box and leaves the corners with minimal help, especially if you're also blitzing a lot. It's one thing for the Seahawks to do that when they've got at least two of the best DBs in the league. They give up A LOT of big plays, but as we saw against Seattle and Green Bay, they're perfectly capable of surrendering long, grinding drives. It's almost like Kelly and Davis don't care that their defense frequently fails in practice so long as it works in theory.

195
by gomer_rs :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:53pm

It's important to remember that if a defense is having success against Kelly's offense then the offense can spend VERY little time on the field, much like the 85-45 snap differential we just witnessed. And Kelly's defense is kinda designed to get the ball back to the offense win, lose, or draw quickly.

I think it is probably too early to judge Kelly's idea of a D. Last year the entire D was terrible. This year the run D is good and the pass D is bad. Remember this is Kelly year 2, and unlike on offense he isn't trying to win defense with a radically new way to play. It's just a standard two gap 3-4 front.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

208
by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:21pm

The Seahawks defense is designed to not give up big plays with the way they employ their safeties. The tweak of the Tampa-2 defense they use is that the corners play man on the receivers a lot. The Seahawks could play in the manner of the Eagles, or a Rex Ryan defense, they just don't. The way to attack them is to pound the ball on the ground, and the Eagles weren't able to this past game.
As far as the Eagles needing better DBs, I imagine Kelly will be hoping Ekpre-Olomu falls to them in the draft.

28
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:02pm

Seattle's defense is back, obviously. The only offenses which I think could give them trouble come January and February are the Packers, Cowboys and maybe (very maybe) the Patriots, and the Cowboys have enough deficiencies in coaching/management and defense to make that matchup less worrisome for the Seahawks. I think Rodgers and co realize how valuable HFA is this year.

64
by RoninX :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:19pm

The Cowboys played Seattle when Seattle was without a healthy Chancellor or Wagner (among others). Despite that, the Cowboys were essentially beaten until Romo converted that 3rd and 20. Still, they are on the short list of teams who have successfully pushed Seattle around in the last couple of years. The Packers have only played Seattle in Seattle since the "Legion of Boom" Seahawks came into their own - and Rodgers has looked very human in those games. Seeing them play in Lambeau would be very interesting.

I honestly continue to struggle with whether Seattle's D is really "back" or they have just played Stanton, husk-of-Kaepernick, and Sanchez. I mean none of these last three games have been as close as the scores have indicated. No offense has gotten any traction at any point for 180 minutes for football now vs. Seattle but... look at those QBs!!

69
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:26pm

I think you are underrating just how good Dallas was that day. They outgained Seattle 401-206 in Seattle.

The Seahawks also scored off of a blocked punt TD and a 14-yard drive following a muffed punt.

And it was just 23-20 when Romo completed the 3rd and 20.

70
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:28pm

The Cowboys have the offensive line to put the Seahawks on their heels, and maybe the only offensive line that can do so, along with having a good enough qb and receivers to punish a loaded box. The rest of the team, however, really can't compete well enough.

The point about the quality of the qbs faced the last 3 weeks is well taken.

80
by EricL :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:48pm

And, the remaining QBs on the schedule are Husk-of-Kaepernick (in Seattle), Stanton (in Arizona), and Shaun Hill (in Seattle).

The Rams actually look like the best of those remaining three teams, but all three of those offenses are going to have trouble against the Seattle defense the way it's playing right now.

If Green Bay slips up, at all, Seattle has a very good shot at HFA throughout, again.

82
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:51pm

"Husk-of-Kaepernick" is hilarious and exactly accurate. Although then again using the word accurate in the same sentence as his name should be banned.

99
by EricL :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:33pm

I loved the phrase so much, I stole it from RoninX. All credit to him.

111
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:03pm

It's not just Kaepernick, the whole offense is a mess.

119
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:24pm

The offensive line appears to be falling apart, Justin Smith finally got old, Vernon Davis was apparently eaten by a bear or something, Stevie Johnson has had basically zero impact, and Crabtree isn't doing much. I mean, it's not like he was ever rookie Randy Moss or anything, but 10.5 yards a catch? Boldin's 12.5, Johnson 12.4, Crabtree 10.5. Did somebody replace the 49ers with delicious Folger's Kansas City Chiefs when we weren't looking?

122
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:47pm

The only thing I disagree with there is Justin Smith, he might not be the 2011 version but he's been really good this year. The defense is missing half its players. No Willis or Bowman, down two nose tackles and after Culliver got hurt yesterday they were without four out of the top five corners on the week one depth chart.

146
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:13pm

Hard to be disappointed with the defense, especially considering how wiped out they've been.

It's the offense that's mystifying. On paper they should be the best Harbaugh's had because of all the new skill-position players. Sure they're down to some nobody at center and backup at RT, but you'd think the rest of the offense would be good enough to compensate for that.

Instead Davis and Staley and Boone have all decided to drop off a cliff all at once, and the quarterback is evidently not a great one at dealing with a crappy o-line.

183
by beargoggles :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:09am

It's a team effort for sure, but it seems clear in Year 3, that Kaepernick is never going to see the field well, nor probably be accurate. Without a first class running game and adequate protection, he goes deer-in-the-headlights pretty quick, which kills his mechanics if he throws at all, resulting in even worse accuracy than before.

With Vernon Davis apparently replaced by Ossie Davis, there's no deep threat. Crabtree and Boldin are not complementary receivers, they have similar skills. So the field isn't stretched. I'm not 100% the problem isn't just that the O-line pass protection, never the strength, has just cratered not allowing deep passes to be run in the first place.

I'm at this point assuming the staff will be overhauled next year, and really have no idea what to expect stylistically. I gotta imagine a few of these folks bounce back after a longer off-season.

192
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:35pm

Kaepernick can be accurate. He does need the time, though...he's not shifty quick and agile like his counterpart in Seattle. In fact he's the opposite of shifty, built like a giraffe. It takes him a long time to change direction and he's not good at dodging people.

Given a good line, his advantages come into play. He can actually use that top-end speed from time to time.

I suspect it's a high ceiling/low floor kind of thing. Given a good line, he can do things no other quarterback can do with an equally good line. On the other hand, he's not the guy who can compensate for a bad line.

Agree about the O-line. It's gone particularly downhill since Kilgore went out. That was the straw.

114
by RoninX :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:09pm

and then they get to the playoffs (presumably). The Seahawks might only allow another 20 combined point in the next three games - but we still may not know if they are really "back".

130
by Pen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:18pm

Blaming it on the opposing QB's is overlooking what really happened out there. Philly was held to 139 yds. That's the worst a Kelley offense has ever been stymied. If it was due in large part to Sanchez, then why wasn't the offense running horribly prior to this game? Sure, they're better with Foles out there, but they were good enough to throttle teams with Sanchez out there.

It was the presence of Bobby Wagner out there being the LoB's QB on defense, not the presence of Mark Sanchez, that made the difference. That and Chancellor finally seems to be healthy.

165
by RoninX :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 8:15pm

I think you are right - but I don't know if you are.

88
by Coaldale Joe :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:08pm

The Eagles defense shredded the Cowboys o-line, are you suggesting the Eagles D is better than the Seahawks ?

98
by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:32pm

I think he's saying that 13-game sample sizes are more useful than 1-game ones. Seattle's offensive line is considerably worse at pass blocking than Dallas', but they gave Wilson decent protection quite a few times. But maybe it'll be a moot point, because Dallas could easily miss the playoffs altogether; back-to-back games against Philly and Indy will be quite challenging.

100
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:37pm

Are you suggesting that real issue in that game was not the Eagles scoring on 7 of their first 9 drives, with drive lengths of, in order, 80, 88, 67, 58, 3, 80, and 67 yards? Yes, if the Seahawks offense were to do that (and it wouldn't be entirely shocking, given the Cowboys defense), then I suspect the Cowboys offensive line would rendered rather less significant. On a day where the Cowboys defense doesn't stink the joint out, and the Cowboys management doesn't screw thing up too badly, however, yes, I think the Cowboys offensive line could give the Seahawks' defense issues. They've done already, after all, albeit when the Seahawks d front was a lot less healthy.

101
by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:38pm

That's based on match ups in philosophy. The Seahawks have a passive defensive philosophy, they will play their cover 3 shell until you force them to stop, but the Eagles play an active philosophy, they will stack the box and blitz the run. Additionally, I believe Seattle to be the most stubborn team I see on a weekly basis in adhering to their philosophy on offense and defense regardless of what they are facing, they will not change philosophy because it is not working, only because game situation dictates a change.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

74
by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:31pm

Green Bays offense is very much like Denver's, which matches up well against what Seattle does well: Get pressure with four, press the outside WRs and take away the short middle with LBs & Safety's that play zone as well as anyone. Although Lambeau is huge edge for the Packers.

The formula to beat Seattle when they are playing well defensively is exactly what Dallas did to them. Both New England and Denver are trying to play that way and it would not surprise me to see GB begin to incorporate that philosophy in the last 1/4 of the season as well.

76
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:36pm

The Green Bay offense of that first game is not the Green Bay offense now.

Cobb wasn't healthy. Cobb is now healthy and completely in synch with Rodgers. Boykin was playing at outside receiver versus Adams (rookie). Adams is now getting the majority of the snaps and doing well. The GB line continues to show improvement. Eddie Lacey has stopped stutter-stepping at the line of scrimmage mostly reflective of the line actually having options versus no options.

NOT stating that GB has any 'edge' over Seattle. Just sharing how things have changed since September.

104
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:43pm

Some more points: Bulaga was hurt in the middle of the opener against Seattle, ruining the pass protection, but is healthy now. The TEs are contributing more. The no huddle offense, which was shaky for the first few games and contributed to a rushed (and failed) 4th down play against Seattle is running much more smoothly.

On the other side of the ball there's no Harvin to worry about on jet sweeps, Guion has more than 10 days practice with the team at DT, and Matthews' part time move to ILB gives GB an intriguing option for spying Wilson in the run game.

The Packer fan in me would be happy if Seattle lost out of the playoffs before a possible meeting with GB, but the general football fan in me is very intrigued at what a rematch would look like.

184
by beargoggles :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:14am

In that Pats game, the Packers O-line looked better than it's ever looked in the Rodgers/McCarthy era, that's gotta help if not a one game fluke. That must mean they are due for a few injuries.

78
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:44pm

Getting pressure on an elderly, as great as he is, Peyton Manning, is rather unlike getting pressure on an Aaron Rodgers in his prime. The Packers defense is showing enough, I think, to keep a less than dynamic Seahawks offense from forcing Rodgers to do stuff he doesn't want to do, risk-wise.

I agree HFA would be huge.

94
by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:22pm

Until they show otherwise, I don't trust Green Bay against any above-average "exotic" offense. Kaepernick has torn them up three times already, and they were shelled against Seattle this year too. Seattle had Harvin then, but Capers has shown an amazing inability to adjust to unexpected play calls within each game. He either gets burnt on those play calls or goes overboard trying to defend them and get burnt elsewhere.

107
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:48pm

Yeah, I wouldn't like the Packers' defense's chances much in Century Link. In Lambeau, however, I think they could be good enough.

32
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:13pm

After horrible starts, both Geno and Bridgewater played fairly well (in Teddy's case, really well). Which is how a defensive struggle turns in to a 30-24 overtime win. That final play, a short wide receiver screen that goes for 80 plus yards, shows what blitzing everyone can do for a defense.

62
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:18pm

The most promising aspect of that last play was the Bridgewater audibled into it. He sees the game well enough to be a really good qb, if he gets the protection, and has the willingness to work hard enough between March and July, to develop consistently excellent mechanics, so as to compensate for very average throwing talent.

95
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:28pm

I wouldn't say he has average throwing talent, it's better than that. He's inaccurate on deep passes, at least he was in college. He definitely has enough arm strength to complete 15-20 yard out patterns. While we're getting excited about young quarterbacks, I was happy to see Geno use touch on a deep pass to Harvin. Maybe I shouldn't be too depressed about losing the Mariota sweepstakes.

102
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:40pm

I think Rex Ryan gets some unfair criticism, but he isn't the head coach I'd want to see what the ceiling of a young qb is.

106
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:46pm

It would not surprise me to see the offense turn the corner next year when he's gone. Hopefully the defense won't just stink. A lot of the blame has to go to Geno as well, but he's a better prospect than people give him credit for. Bridgewater, on the other hand, is going to be great.

The funny thing is, Smith and Bridgewater went against each other in college, and it ended up being a shoot out as well.

33
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:17pm

Regarding the Browner hit, isn't launching something that's prohibited? Because that seemed like the main issue with the play to me.

The WR is running fully upright, so all Browner has to do is turn his shoulder and hunch down a bit to deliver a solid, and legal, blow to the midsection. Instead, he launches upwards high into the receiver's chest and neck area.

In many cases it's hard for a defender to avoid head contact because the receiver will lower their shoulder to the same level as the tackler to absorb the blow. This was not one of those cases, because the receiver was occupied with trying to finish the catch.

53
by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:07pm

I know the rules are different and the goal in football much different than in hockey (ie tackle the offensive player), but that would be an illegal hit in hockey fwiw (imo). And as the NFL ever, so, s l o w l y, realizes that they can't allow some of these hits to the head area, I have no issue with the flag being thrown.

67
by RoninX :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:24pm

For the record I do think that hit was illegal (gif posted in this article seems definitive to me, but I understand the other will quibble). However, refs shouldn't and can't just throw flags because a hit is too hard or looks (or is!) dangerous. It has to actually be against the currently written rules.

90
by Coaldale Joe :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:10pm

Yes, I thought he launched himself too, he pretty clearly leaves his feet to deliver that hit, I think that was the issue.

117
by MightyMackHerron :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:14pm

Browner never "leaves his feet". One foot is still on the ground when contact is made. Also, if the receiver is able to catch the ball like he should, he doesn't need 3 steps to bat it around, and the defenseless issue never comes up. He got a free call for being ham-fisted.

112
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:04pm

Launching is fine if you don't hit the head/neck area.

34
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:21pm

Is it really true that for the coin toss Fisher sent out a bunch of the players the Rams received in the RG3 trade?

If so, that is totally awesome. And I say that as someone who despises Jeff Fisher.

35
by James-London :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:22pm

It's true. And awesome.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

38
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:48pm

One of my best friends is a Redskins fan. He said
a) that's awesome
and
b) Fisher's such a dick!

43
by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:52pm

C) all of the above. In case that was multiple choice. :)

51
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:07pm

Such an entertaining dick, though. I will pretty much like Jeff Fisher for life just for the coin flip.

58
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:11pm

If coaches would ridicule opposing owners at the beginning of each game, I'd start watching the coin flips.

57
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:10pm

Very random, but why do you despise Jeff Fisher.

Personally, I have a giant man crush on the guy. I think he's a good coach who's been saddled with mediocre to good talent in Tenessee, and has kept the Rams around .500 in the toughest division in the NFL for three years.

He's also got an incredible moustache.

72
by Ben :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:30pm

As I Colts fan, I have to admit I've admired him since the game that he called three onside kicks in the first quarter against the Colts a number of years back. I think it might have been the year that Manning broke Marino's touchdown record.

Fisher knew his team couldn't keep up with that offense, and at least attempted to tilt the game in his favor early.

It didn't work, but at least showed a coach who was willing to take criticism instead of just playing it safe.

87
by Duke :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:08pm

I don't despise Fisher, but if I were going to list things I don't like about him I'd probably start with his seeming devotion to recreate the 1999 Titans in 2014, without a Steve McNair.

Guy seems like a coach who wants to win games 9-7. That bugs me. Though it may just be PTSD from being a Bears fan in the Lovie Smith era.

113
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:07pm

His teams have a reputation for playing dirty. Cortland Finnegan. Albert Haynesworth. Etc.

131
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:19pm

Jim Schwartz and Greg Williams are also part of his coaching tree. Not sure whether to blame Fisher or the guys under him for the dirty reputation of his Titans teams. The Rams don't seem to be that dirty under him though, at least i haven't seen it.

159
by nath :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:28pm

The Rams certainly get in their fair share of fights and after-the-whistle hits.

36
by Julio :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:35pm

From the Reiss blog at espn:

" Let's unpack the play. At the top, we should note that Green qualified for defenseless player protection under NFL rules because he was "a receiver attempting to catch a pass." (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7a-2).

With the aid of slow motion, you see Browner slide his head to the left, lead with his right shoulder and initiate contact to Green's right shoulder and chest area. Browner's shoulder glanced off Green's face mask, but there was minimal helmet-to-helmet contact. It's true that defenders can be penalized even if there is no hit to the head -- Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7b prohibits them from "forcibly" hitting a defenseless player's "head or neck area" with their "helmet, face mask, forearm or shoulder" -- but it's debatable whether Browner's contact met that standard.

Regardless, it was nearly impossible for an official to decipher and break down the contact accurately in real time. So here's the guidance provided by the NFL rule book for all unnecessary roughness penalties: "When in question about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactics, the covering official(s) should always call unnecessary roughness." In other words, err on the side of a penalty."

My opinion is is that big hits are a part of the game, a game-changing
part of the game, and the rule should read:

"Only clear hits to the head should be penalized, otherwise the ref, if he
determines that the player was defenseless, should penalize the defensive
team 15 yards on the kickoff if the hit resulted in a touchdown for the
defensive team, otherwise if no score occurred, there should be no penalty."

Julio

42
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:51pm

This is what gets me...

"When in question about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactics, the covering official(s) should always call unnecessary roughness."

So the NFL is explicitly telling refs to make calls when they're unsure whether roughness has happened? That's nutty.

Seems to me that uncertainty of this nature can be dealt with via fines after the game. "Shoot first, ask questions later" is terrible advice for referees.

68
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:25pm

It is only nutty if you don't care much about reducing the violence of the game. I think that is a major current concern for the NFL.

A few bad penalties are well worth changing the culture of the game if that is your goal. Bad penalties happen regardless.

77
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:44pm

How about people that like football get to watch football, and people that want to watch flag-football go watch flag-football?

79
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:47pm

The NFL is not irrational in its fear, about dropping participation rates at lower levels, if the perception of the game being too dangerous is not countered.

81
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:49pm

You understand that you lose that fight right? The league cares way way way more about casual fans than people like yourself?

Personally I had no problem with the game as it was 10 or 20 years ago. But the game doesn't care about what I think, or what you think. It cares about what the casual fans in aggregate think, and what their legal liability is likely to look like.

85
by Anonymouse :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:57pm

Casual fans are casual fans for a reason. I don't even know that I'd call myself a football fan, but I've watched the NHL chase the 'casual fan' for the last ten to fifteen years, and it hasn't worked. The people that want to be entertained, and aren't comfortable with someone occaisionally getting hurt, aren't going to bang-out stadiums and drink their faces off on a bitterly cold January day. I agree 100% that "I'm"..."not going to win that fight", I'm OK with being on the "wrong side of history", but I firmly believe the NFL is chasing a chimera with the pursuit.

156
by Tim F. :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:05pm

There are also long-time fans (myself, I've been watching for 30 years, know much more history spanning 50 years acquired over the last 30) that see the game as no longer what it once was (when you could actually target injuring a player, be celebrated for it, be open about trying to win by eliminating or diminishing a player, perform moves more akin to wrestling and martial arts than what should ever have been allowed in the game, when being physically dangerous and/or tough could be a substitute for skills or athleticism) but that it's actually still more violent than it ever was today because of the athleticism and physicality of today's players. And that the league can be responsible and effective at trying to legislate out the most neurologically dangerous plays while preserving a violent and physical game. That even if all dangerous hits were eliminated by rule and practice of the players (which will never be possible), we would still see the violence and physicality of American Football that can't be claimed by other sports, that players would still be able to "impose their wills" and "beat up" opponents wholly within the rules. I'm not saying they are being successful or that there are many of us with this point of view. But it's certainly not as black-and-white as "pussies playing flag football" versus headhunting and kill shots. For myself, the hysterics and hyperbole of some is the greatest impediment to progressing on the issue, not bad calls or bad rules.

232
by dryheat :: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 10:30am

I think your deliciously alliterative phrase at the end is the alpha and the omega of the issue.

115
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:12pm

Punishing non-offenders "reduces the violence of the game"?

I beg to differ. By that logic, issuing speeding tickets to parked cars shows that one is serious about reducing traffic fatalities.

I mean, once you dismiss the need for a causal connection, you can rationalize anything.

There's already a mechanism in place for dealing with false negatives: after-game video review can and has been used to issue fines in plays where no flags were thrown. OTOH, false positives unnecessarily disrupt the game and may lead to unjust outcomes.

Security theater is just theater. It doesn't demonstrate seriousness in the slightest.

145
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:12pm

This is what you and Pats fans seem incapable of understanding.

From the NFL's perspective that play was absolutely an offender. That is exactly the type of hit they are trying to eliminate.

They want the safeties to bring less heat there. It is the entire point of the rules even if the rules make it seem like they are about some certain types of hits.

128
by Mo S :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:14pm

This is what gets me...
"When in question about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactics, the covering official(s) should always call unnecessary roughness."
So the NFL is explicitly telling refs to make calls when they're unsure whether roughness has happened? That's nutty.

How is this nutty? The NFL has a choice of having more Type I or Type II errors. They may decide that for most penalties, to err on the side of more Type II errors, but for roughness penalties to err on the side of more Type I errors.

151
by Tim F. :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:28pm

That's a completely silly "breakdown." Reiss paints it as if it's a cascade of 3 "blows" that chain from an initial well-targeted one and the other's as being incidental or excused; it is one blow, one motion. He completely downplays the contact to the head/neck — there's far more contact with the head and neck than the chest. Mentioning "minimal helmet to helmet contact" is non sequitur (the rule isn't a measure of the surface contacted, and exclusively head to head) but laughable when he claims he's hitting his chest. To me, trying to use slowmo to break it into several component "contacts" that get defended away is nonsense. It's one forcible motion going upward towards his head and neck and significantly impacting the player in a neurologically dangerous manner as we can clearly see from the aftermath. Guided by replay (whether at real-time or slowmo), I would say this was 100% confirmed and a good call.

152
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:52pm

Don't tar Reiss with that. It was actually a post by Kevin Seifert.

153
by Tim F. :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:00pm

Appreciate the correction, thanks. I try to be mindful of bylines but failed to on this one.

225
by anotherpatsfan :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 3:25pm

Blandino's (NFL VP officiating) after his review:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap3000000441569/Was-this-unnecessa...

"I think the first problem [was that ] we announced helmet-to-helmet and this is not a helmet-to-helmet hit. That's incorrect.

"When you watch the play, Browner actually does a good job trying to lead with the shoulder and get his head to the side. You can see his head is to the side and he does lead with the shoulder.

"The rule does protect the receiver who is trying to catch a pass; it does protect him from hits with the shoulder and the forearm to the head and neck area. When you watch this replay coming up, you can see there is some initial contact to the facemask ... That's really where the foul is.

"This is close. It's a forcible hit. Is the contact, is that force to the head, or is it to the body? It is a very close play. But it's not a helmet-to-helmet hit and I think that's what confused a lot of people."

He later suggests these plays may become ultimately become reviewable.

37
by lactoseking :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:39pm

I think the issue isn't even with this call, it's with consistency of rule application and a basic fan understanding of the rules. BB said at some point he didn't understand the idea of "emphasizing" a rule - it is a rule or it isn't, and it's called uniformly or not. Browner shouldn't be held to the "spirit" of the rule, he should be held to... the rule! How many DPI and holding calls are happening this year that an average fan would say, "what was the penalty for?" As a league, you have a problem if that happens, especially if you're talking about expanding to markets with a lower penetration of codified fans in London.

Just watching this on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS91y9WHuiM) makes me wonder how many hits were flagged - there were hits in the video (some of which must be 2013) that weren't flagged that were exactly the same as Browner's. Imagine trying to coach this! BB's right - make it all reviewable or change the rule so it's not ambiguous (ie, "all tackles must be made below the shoulders and above the knees and only using arms or shoulders to complete the tackle" instead of "defenseless" or "neck area"). I don't know about anyone else, but it's a real detriment to my viewing experience.

71
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:29pm

If they held everyone to the letter of the rules there would be about 15 penalties a play. Several holds on offense and defense alone.

It is actually not that hard to coach this. You tell your players to light up the opposing guys and accept you will get some 15 yard penalties from time to time when they are over some hard to figure out line, or you tell them to hit hard but not annihilate the players, and they get way fewer flags.

I honestly don't care much either way how violent the game is, but the NFL clearly cares. In part this is because the NFL rightly understands that no matter what the players say about not caring for their personal safety today if the NFL listens to them the players regarding the violence of hits that are acceptable the current players are going to sue their pants off when half the players blow their money and are broke at age 45.

41
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:50pm

Raiders tremendous win
Opponent crappy though but still good win. Team on clear upswing. Hood chance to finisj 5-11 now

45
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:54pm

watching that Steelers power trap play over and over and over
was a thing of beauty. What specifically about Cincy
was it that made that play so successful?

--------------------------------------
The standard is the standard!

50
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:07pm

Cincy's run defense is pretty bad. As demonstrated by Pitt running the same play repeatedly and Bell repeatedly getting the edge and getting big yards

65
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:23pm

Well, yes, but what I'm saying is

they haven't run that play often or well much this year that I recall.

so did they identify a scheme weakness, or was it specifically targeting that DdC had the speed to beat the Cincy defender(s) to that spot regardless of which personnel, they were, or what?

I also was unfortunately though watching it, not paying enough attention to remember if Cincy gradually started shading personnel up in the box or over to that side. I was just laughing too damn hard that it kept working.

--------------------------------------
The standard is the standard!

47
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 1:55pm

K.c. chiefs whiny losers., ok.,at first glance looked ljke not a fumblz be kelce. Then look at rzpkay. Guy didn't have control of ball. Was fiddling around with it while doing tumbling with Bucannon. Then when up gets ball knocked out. Good call by ref. K.c.,legit fumble. Raiders will beat chiefs again.

48
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:03pm

What in heck has happened to the 49ers? They all looked like they had the flu in Oakland.

54
by jacobk :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:08pm

Their case of Harbaugh-itis finally finished its 3.5 year incubation period and has entered the terminal stage.

154
by jtr :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:00pm

They should have sent Harbaugh home on the Raiders' bus after the game since Oakland seems to want him so badly.

55
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:09pm

Their offensive line doesn't knock the snot out of anyone any longer, and the qb can't operate an NFL offense when the offensive line isn't doing so.

66
by LyleNM :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:23pm

Also their receivers can't get open - or at least open enough for said QB to find them.

73
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:31pm

I don't know for sure, but I suspect it is the qb being unable to throw on time or with anticipation that is a larger problem.

75
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:35pm

I've thought that from the beginning with Kaepernick. I thought he really struggled when the Ravens blitzed him in the red zone in teh Super Bowl, as he wasn't able to make good reads and throws in small areas in that game.

I expected he would improve, and while he may have improved in that specific area, overall his play has really stagnated.

121
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:41pm

I really don't think it's just Kaepernick, that's the lazy explanation.

Yes, he hasn't learned to quickly process through his reads as much as niner fans would have like and he has regressed badly over the last month but he was showing improvement in that regard earlier in the year. The rest of the offense has been in a downward spiral too. Kap does look like he's lost confidence in his line to hold up, he was stepping up and away from pressure at the start of the year but has begun to panic much more in the last few games.

The receivers are only getting open sporadically, they lack both the speed to scare a defense and they don't have a game breaker on the perimeter. Vernon Davis has been downright awful, his blocking has been poor and he might have dropped more passes then he's caught this season.

The offensive line has been forced into a constant shuffle as a result of injury. The starting five have been on the field for about three quarters all year. Plus Johnathan Martin is just about good enough to lose your team the game. The line is getting little to no push in the run game, not holding up in pass protection and committing regular penalties which leave the offense in long downs.

Then there's the coaches. They run that system where they call three plays in the huddle and switch to the best play at the line. However, this is still quite a limited choice, it means they are constantly flirting with a delay of game penalty and, worst of all, there is no automatic adjustment of the pass routes to the defense after the snap. So when a defense camouflages their look or changes just before the snap the qb and the receivers can find themselves in a doomed play. I think this happens a lot. Harbaugh likes the system because it reduces the risk of the WR reading one thing and the qb seeing something else and causing a pick (see Cutler, Jay) but the best coached units can adjust on the fly without having to change between plays in a rather obvious and thoroughly worked out manner.

The passing scheme is painfully simple, it would have been becoming dated in the early 80s and it's surprising nobody. And for some reason they've ditched the read option. Plenty of teams still run it and are doing well, even Bortles used it successfully this week but even when the niners show that look it seems to be a run with a read option fake. When they do want Kaepernick to run its nearly always a designed qb run, often out of an empty backfield like that awful seven yard loss on the niners' second offensive play. Why ditch the RO when you have the league's most dangerous running qb? Same with the jet sweep.

The offense is so disjointed, it's four or five discrete approaches that don't bleed into each other which means the defense can easily key into what we're doing. The niners were very effective in 2011 and 2012 with a series of trap plays that had defenses reeling but that's been found out.

I just don't see how anyone can think that all of that can be Kaepernick's fault.

It's a complete mess. They're heading for 7-9 and frankly if keeping Harbaugh means keeping Roman then he can sod off and coach the Raiders.

123
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:50pm

I didn't mean to imply this is all on Kaepernick. Certainly I think there are structural problems with that team that extend far beyond him.

You follow the 49ers far more than most, and far far more than I and I think you laid out most of their problems brilliantly.

I just think Kaepernick's slow development (if any) has helped expedite this down-ward trend.

Another under-the-radar factor which I may be making too much of is I think Baalke has been massively overrated in his drafts. His deals to acquire more picks and stockpiles guys that are falling due to injury concerns sounds awesome on paper, but really hasn't worked at all. They didn't plan for this game between the core that made this team so good in 11-12 and a core that could, if they all get healthy, make them good in 2016.

124
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:00pm

They don't make grains of salt large enough to account for every purported draft genius. Show me one that a)Didn't get lucky with a HOF qb, and b)maintained genius status for more than a half decade. They could all meet in a phone booth, since phone booths don't exist any longer.

125
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:05pm

A) Bill Walsh.

B) There are several phone booths near my flat but that might be because I live in London and we keep them around for tourists and for drunks to urinate in.

132
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:21pm

Picking Joe Montana in the 3rd round contained a huge amount of luck.

134
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:27pm

Yes and no. Montana didn't have a strong enough arm to be drafted early, and few GMs cared about his athletic ability. Most of them wanted guys like Phil Simms, who went in the first round. Montana did fit the Niners offensive system really well.

137
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:32pm

Well, it was more a case of Walsh adjusting his system to the talent available; he ran a vertical scheme with the Bengals, when the fabulously talented thrower Greg Cook was healthy. It's hard to get around the luck involved in Joe Montana being available in the 3rd round.

139
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:44pm

Walsh changed his system after Cook was injured in the early 70s. I thought Walsh used the West Coast system for Ken Anderson in Cincinnati. By the time the Niners drafted Montana, Walsh had already refined the system. To paraphrase what Matt Waldman said on a recent podcast about Jameis Winston against Notre Dame, I doubt Walsh would have drafted Phil Simms or a quarterback like him. He might have tweaked his system to a Simms or Ken O'Brien if he had to, but he wouldn't have drafted them early.

142
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:52pm

No, Walsh didn't go horizontal in response to drafting Ken Anderson. He went horizontal in response to Virgil Carter, the starter once Cook was injured. Look. I don't care who the coach is, getting a qb who can perform at a HOF level in the 3rd round is largely lucky.

140
by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:49pm

You've got a real chicken and the egg going their. If I can throw my two cents, most times I'd say the QB came first but Walsh revolutionize offensive football at the pro level, and by reaction defensive football (hello zone blitz!), so I would actually lean to Walsh.

Really though the "great drafters" for the most part got lucky, or consistently traded for extra picks so they could get lucky with the normal odds.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

149
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:23pm

And lucky twice with Steve Young. And lucky a third time with Jeff Garcia.

Bill Walsh was a lucky guy.

157
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:15pm

There isn't anything exclusive about the sets known as, respectively, "Bill Walsh was a great coach" and "It always involves a great deal of luck to obtain HOF qb talent in the 3rd round".

194
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:50pm

My point was the guy was a pretty good evaluator of QB talent, not that he was a great coach. A 3rd-round draft pick, a reject from the worst team in football, and a QB from Canada are pretty good testament to that.

197
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:12pm

Ok, there is nothing exclusive about the sets known as, respectively, "Bill Walsh was a pretty good evaluator of qb talent", and "Obtaining HOF qb talent in the 3rd entails a great deal of luck".

219
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 11:02am

For that matter, obtaining HOF qb talent in any round entails a great deal of luck. Why restrict yourself to the 3rd? But when a guy unearths so many good quarterbacks--four if you believe his assessment of Greg Cook pre-injury--one might be led toward the conclusion that in this case the quality of evaluation was more important than the luck involved.

220
by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 11:10am

Because a lot more HOFers are selected in the 1st round, compared to the the other rounds, and with each successive round, the chance of obtaining a HOF talent drops?

Getting any HOFer after the 1st round is lucky, but that doesn't mean that every talent evaluator is equally lucky.

230
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 10:24am

I'm losing your point. You're saying that overall talent drops from round to round? This is a point worth making? Getting HOF talent is lucky no matter the round. Are you saying it isn't?

Your initial point seemed to be that all "great" evaluators of talent luck into a HOF QB and build their success off that luck--Belichick, Johnson, Shannahan, maybe two "lucky" HOFers in the case of Polian--and I think you're wrong. Walsh is one who didn't fit that mold because he kept finding good quarterbacks again and again. I'd go with another Bill, Parcells, as a more clear-cut choice, because he kept resuscitating team after team.

233
by Will Allen :: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 1:02pm

My point was that there is hardly any draft evaluator who is widely considered great, and had a track record of more than 5 years, whose reputation was not built in good measure on getting lucky with a HOF qb talent. Then Bill Walsh was given as a counterexample. Well, Bill Walsh was extremely lucky to have a HOF qb talent fall to him in the third round, very early in his tenure with the Forty Niners, so he isn't a counterexample. Polian had the good fortune of having a HOF qb on the roster, or at least the rights to one, when he arrived in Buffalo.

Parcells and Gibbs probably come closest to meeting the standard, but I'd say that their success is less dependent on great draft evaluation than it is on extraordinary teaching ability tied to good draft evaluation. That's pretty much how I see Walsh as well. To put my point in a different way, I think the curve of the population known as "NFL draft evaluators" is unlikely to be bell-shaped, in terms of actual skill based performance. I suspect the left tail is rather longer than the right tail.

235
by tuluse :: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 2:55pm

What about Jim Finks?

237
by Will Allen :: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 7:38pm

Yeah, Finks did a really nice job with 3 different franchises, and did it without any notable luck with regard to quarterbacks. He may come closest.

238
by jonnyblazin :: Fri, 12/12/2014 - 12:22am

Ozzie Newsome?

169
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 10:17pm

Garcia never won a Super Bowl with the Niners, and Walsh never drafted Young, merely traded for him once the Bucs gave up on him. I'll have to admit it's a chicken or the egg conundrum, and yes it's always lucky when you get a HOF quarterback in the third round. Hopefully the Jets pull it off before my time on this earth is done. Walsh's luck ran out in the 2000 draft, when they took the guy from Hofstra and not Tom Brady.

182
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:07am

I'll sit here waiting for Garcia to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

193
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:47pm

He has to be inducted into the hall of fame to be a great find at QB? Man, you're tough. Finding a 3-time pro-bowler who takes you to the playoffs twice out of nowhere doesn't qualify?

199
by duh :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:28pm

A couple of comments, Garcia wasn't exactly 'out of nowhere' he was a grey cup MVP and 4 time CFL all star. Walsh certainly deserves credit for giving him his shot in the NFL. As for Young, he may have been a castoff from the Bucs but he was also the #1 pick in the supplemental draft in 1985 so it wasn't like nobody thought he had talent. None of which takes away from the fact that I believe that Walsh was among the handful of the greatest coaches who ever lived.

218
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 10:53am

Walsh didn't find Garcia in Canada. He found him when he was in college at Gilroy. He talked him up to the NFL but couldn't get anyone to spend a draft pick on him or even take him as a UDFA, so he helped him got to Canada. He told him that if he (Walsh) were ever in a position again to get the guy on an NFL team, he would.

Gilroy may not be "nowhere," but a list of NFL players hailing from out of there would be awfully short.

205
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:42pm

If Walsh *only* finds 3 Jeff Garcias and no Montanas or Youngs, the 49ers win fewer Sueprbowls.

217
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 10:53am

Yeah, but he's still a great evaluator of talent, which is the point of this thread.

133
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:24pm

It helps when you run a system no one else is running, a la the Steelers with the 3-4. They used to draft guys in the second or third round, and turn them into lethal edge rushers in two years. The problem is that other teams start using your schemes, so Muhammad Wilkerson doesn't fall to you in the first round, the Jets draft him first. And guys who would have fallen to the Steelers in the third round get taken in the top ten. The same thing happened to the Niners eventually.

141
by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:51pm

And will happen to Chip Kelly, only much faster turnaround time, if the Eagles continue to be successful on offense.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

161
by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:30pm

What personnel is Chip using that punch above their talent level because of his scheme? Are you referring to the linemen?

196
by gomer_rs :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:09pm

Chip values scat back Darren Sproles type RBs more than the league does. If everyone played a Chip Style offense Darren Sproles and Justin Forsett would be the most saught after RBs in the NFL. The other player that would be big for Kelly on offense is the "tweener" rb/wr like Reggie Bush, DeAnthony Thomas, Percy Harvin, etc.

He doesn't like 300 lbs o-line, just like most other zone blocking teams, but he takes it further because they need aerobic athleticism to run the field after big plays and hurry up.

At Oregon at least, the D-line was very undersized for most 3-4 two gap schemes.

Finally if successful he may revalue the QB position. If the Seahawks did what they did because they have better talent at all 11 positions O v. D than the Eagles they probably won't consider the outcome as terribly poor reflection on Sanchez as the average fan. The philosophical advantage that Kelly brings to the running game, making it a true 11 v. 11 running game is still destroyed when the other side just has better horses. It happened twice to Kelly in college when he played at Boise St. his first season and when he played a neutral site game against that LSU team that was all Defense and Special Teams and no Offense.

The other part of revaluing the QB position is I think a Tim Tebow or Kolin Klein like 3rd/2nd string QB with a FB/TE body would actually have quite a bit of value to Kelly for a league min price.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

209
by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:40pm

Usually it takes a Super Bowl victory for other teams to start imitating, but not always. The competition for the prospects the Steelers like increased before Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl, in the early 2000s, when a number of teams went 3-4.

As far as the 11 vs 11 running game, I doubt the Eagles really have that right now with Sanchez or Foles. Sanchez is somewhat mobile not a true threat, and Foles isn't that mobile at all. They run the read option plays, they just don't make as much out of the QB keepers as Seattle does. A Tebow fullback/qb would have a little value for Kelly, but he preferred faster quarterbacks at Oregon. Drafting guys like Brad Smith would probably be even more in line with him.

210
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:27pm

It seemed that there was quite a lot of daylight for Sanchez on several read-option runs against Seattle, and he left some yards on the field.

213
by EricL :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 6:29pm

dupe

212
by EricL :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 6:28pm

He also missed open receivers. An example is the interception: a receiver was wide open down the left sideline. The Seahawks blew their coverage, and Simon was attempting to cover two receivers: Cooper, and the outside guy. Looking at where Simon was when the ball was thrown, going to the outside receiver was a likely touchdown.

236
by chemical burn :: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 7:37pm

That play was infuriating - it's a 10 point game, he has plenty of time in the pocket and Matthews is wiiiiide open 20 feet away from where he threw the pass. Sanchez is awful - that Foles won't regain his starting spot even in the event he's healed means the Eagles are irrelevant for the rest of 2014. For all the talk about how much better Sanchez under Kelly here's his DVOA rankings, including this year - can you guess which is from his amazing, breakout, career-revitalizing 2014?:

35th
28th
29th
35th
27th

These are actually in order. He's the exact same guy he was in New York. If anything his DVOA is inflated (even accounting for opponent adjustments) by only playing super-chump defenses. Put a real defense like Seattle in front of him and he looks exactly like the useless dumpster fire he's always been. Kelly's system is in no way shape or form QB-proof. It's not even absolutely clear it's viable at the NFL level.

That Kelly can't see Foles should be the starter (and that his gameplan on Sunday sucked beyond belief) makes me doubt his ability to EVER compete with the real contenders like Seattle and GB.

127
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:14pm

I think Baalke had done pretty well on the whole. Yes, 2012 was a omnishambles but that was the case for most teams (how anyone in their right mind could take Jenkins over Jeffrey is beyond my comprehension though).

Last year's class is looking really strong though that also depends on some more red shirts and I agree that the jury is still out on that strategy.

My worry about Kap isn't that he lacks the brains or the work ethic, it's that he might not be working on the right things. He spent last spring working out in Miami and while he was watching film he needs to find a consultant qb coach to grind the right technique into him. Part of the problem is that the team coaches can't work with him on that sort of stuff during the offseason because of the limits to practise time under the new CBA.

And I didn't do that God a job explaining the niners' problems; I never even touched on the special teams' precipitous decline from first to worst.

135
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:27pm

If the current CBA had been in place when Wolf acquired Favre, for Holmgren, Gruden, Reid, and Mariucci to work like a mule for a few important off-seasons, maybe Wrangler Jeans has a different spokesmodel all these years.

147
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:19pm

The problem with guys like Kap is that so much of their value is fast twitch athleticism and athleticism especially fast twitch athleticism peaks like at 20-22. It was never clear if he had the off the field stuff down, and his regression has made it pretty clear he does not. You lose that extra half gear and soon everything falls apart and you don't have the habits to compensate with increased skill.

Peyton Manning is physically what the thousandth best QB in the country?

164
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:57pm

So I assume that you think that Russell Wilson is not ever going to learn to throw down the middle of the field then, as he's another quick twitch athlete?

171
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 10:38pm

Everyone thought Kapernick was more of a top end athlete than Wilson. Wilson was always seen as a bit more of a football player. I also really wouldn't be surprised if Wilson's aging curve is much quicker than a more pocket QB. Where he starts losing effectiveness say around 26.

It is a cerebral position and you are at a big risk for disappointment if the guy you have your hopes on getting better is 90% physical 10% mental because the physical stuff mostly only goes down, and it is hard to learn to become a better player at age 25.

There is a difference between being a good football players and just being faster and quicker than everyone else.

174
by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 11:33pm

Where he starts losing effectiveness say around 26.

You mean, right now? He seems pretty effective so far.

181
by Joshua Northey :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:43am

You clearly don't understand how curves work. When someone is starting their decline they are by definition at the height of their ability.

188
by Pen :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:00pm

You clearly don't understand that Russell Wilson is a cerebral QB.

202
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:47pm

Maybe you shouldn't have picked such a ridiculously early age that has no basis in history. What athletic QB's athleticism started declining that early that didn't involve injuries?

207
by Joshua Northey :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:13pm

The research on athleticism is pretty clear. It typically peaks in the early 20s. You can make up for the decline with professional training and physique, but guys are typically not getting faster or quicker after 22 or so.

177
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:33am

I was more disagreeing with the idea that a good athlete can never improve at qb and become that ideal player. It has happened before, there was this guy called Steve Young.

180
by Joshua Northey :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:43am

I am not saying there are no exceptions, I am saying that if I had to make a bet when I saw Kapernick, I would have bet he would struggle to develop. There will always be outliers.

But guys relying on athleticism have accelerated aging curves, and generally a lack of the soft skills it takes.

189
by Pen :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:02pm

What you say is true, but you're mistaking Russell Wilson for one of those guys. Who you ought to be comparing him to is Fran Tarkenton, who had a pretty long career.

200
by SandyRiver :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:37pm

That seems an apt comparison, as both QBs are cerebral and creative. Wilson's clearly the better runner, and Tarkenton perhaps the best ever at eluding people in the backfield and extending plays. (Wilson's no slouch there. either.)

203
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:51pm

So Tarkenton was actually better than Wilson was? I wasn't around then, so I don't know. Was it a longer duration of scrambles? Higher frequency? Better success rate?

204
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:06pm

Tarkenton was incredible at extending plays; the joke among his linemen was you could blow two blocks on the same play, but still get a chance for make-up block when Tarkenton crossed the field one more time. As he became a veteran, he was exceptionally great at pre-snap recognition, to the point that HOFer Jack Youngblood swore Tarkenton could smell a blitz. Finally, he hid the ball in play-action exceptionally well, really slowing defenders down all over the field

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by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 10:26am

Tarkenton was also playing against less athletic defensive players, in general.

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by SandyRiver :: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 2:32pm

They were certainly smaller: DLs weighed what LBs do today and LBs were similar to current DBs. However, this just illustrates the problems of comparing players from different eras. Tark probably had more 15-second, even 20-second plays, than anyone else who's played the game. But using that to compare him to Wilson is kind of a non-sequitor.

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by Sixknots :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:15pm

See comment 41.

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by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:40pm

Ouch.

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by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:24pm

Over at Grantland Barnwell thinks about it more than I've seen anyone else do:

http://grantland.com/the-triangle/week-14-nfl-49ers-raiders-browns-chief...

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:09pm

Obligatory Tampa-Detroit comment--I think the most enjoyable part of the game was watching Josh McCown get the holy crap beaten out of him. Early season Josh McCown would have throw about ten panic INTs yesterday, but he's apparently learned to keep the ball while getting beaten up. Progress.

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by TomC :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:52pm

Yeah, five or six years from now, he might have enough smarts to be a decent NFL quarterback. Oh wait...

84
by Junior :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 2:55pm

OPI vs Fasano and the Kelce fumble were both bad calls, among dozens of bad calls this week, every week, this year and past years, distributed evenly and screwing all 32 teams equally and generates 75% of all game discussion.

Since NFL officiating has become such a MASSIVE part of the game, football has become unwatchable for me. The only joy I get out of the game anymore is reading FO. I love the game of football, but cannot enjoy watching it anymore.

All of this somehow hit me when SD decided to punt, down 9, with 6 minutes left.

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by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:10pm

if I were a Miami fan, I'd be upset with the sudden enforcement of the illegal lineman downfield penalties for lineman a few yards past the LOS that had not been called on them or anyone for the season.

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by James-London :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:13pm

I am. The first one in particular was a terrible call, and wiped of a 31yd gain which would have put Miami (up 10-0 at the time) in FG range. Penalty, sack, and a punt followed.
To be clear, the officiating didn't cost Miami this game; that's mostly on the o-line

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

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by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 4:16pm

The announcers suspected that John Harbaugh had something to do with that. It's kind of like how Rex Ryan got the Pats flagged for double-stacking the line on a Jets' FG attempt last season. He told the refs to watch out for something the Pats might do.

Presumably that didn't mean that they should also watch out for the same behavior by the Jets, as they ignored the Jets' transgression of the same rule.

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by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:08pm

Are you saying the penalty had not been called in the league before yesterday’s game, or in games Miami has played in or just against the Dolphins? It’s been called twice in Dolphin games before yesterday. Once against Dominic Raiola in the Lions game and against Ja'Wuan James just last week in the Jets games. It’s had been called three times in Ravens games before yesterday, once against David DeCastro in the first Steelers game, once against Eugene Monroe, and just last week against Kelechi Osemele wiping out a 31 yd reception against the Chargers. Three times in one game is unusual (twice against Pouncey). Zuttah was also called but it was declined.

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by mrh :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:15pm

I'm a Chiefs fan, so take the following rant as you will. The OPI was unbelievably bad - first, it didn't look like OPI and second, the flag did not appear until after the TD was caught, which was a lag of a few seconds, as if the ref didn't call it until the outcome of the play mattered. I don't think that's the standard and to me the optics of that flag were far worse than the fist bumping escapade.

The Kelce fumble - the ball was moving before he hit the ground; when he came up he spun the ball out of his hands. Did he regain possession or did he not when he rolled over? Was the spin an intentional celebration or an attempt to regain control? The replay did not show conclusive evidence to me so I thought the call on the field should stand. On the other hand, the ARI two-point conversion replay appeared to show the receiver down before the ball broke the plane but it was not conclusive enough to overturn the original call. So the call on the field of a successful conversion stood. IMO both plays should have stood as called or both been overturned. As it was, both calls went against KC.

There was also a bogus call on Hali for sacking Stanton below the knees when he was blocked down and to me eyes made the only play he could (which is supposed to be legal - it's only a penalty if the knees are targeted by a player who could hit the QB higher). In fairness to the incompetence of the call, there was a subsequent roughing call on a hit on Smith that I thought was equally bogus. Not that refs ever give makeup calls, but at least they were consistent in their over-protection of the QBs.

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by Duke :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:17pm

I wonder if you could do better with the hybrid P-K player if you correctly adjusted your strategy. If I remember correctly when Atlanta tried it they basically kept kicking 40 and 50 yard field goals. And it didn't work.

But what if you just said, we're not going to have a PK on the roster, we'll let our P handle it, and he won't attempt anything longer than 30 yards? That makes the area from around the opponent's 40 to their 20 4 down territory by necessity. But that's what most of us think anyway, right? And I bet you could increase your 4th down efficiency if you knew you were going for it (throwing a pass 2 yards short of the sticks on 3rd makes some sense in that case).

In my dream world of me and my two clones being coach, GM, and team president I would like to experiment with leaving a PK off the roster just to force me to go for it on 4th down more often. Crazy, I know.

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by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:42pm

If the Jets hadn't paid Folk a bunch of money, perhaps Idzik would do this just to be a jerk to Ryan. We might need a team filled with tension between the GM and the coach for this to happen.

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by cjfarls :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:19pm

This may work for the first 50min of the game, but fails in the final 10min when actual scores and end-game context become more important. All of a sudden, you're up 6 points with 7min in the game, and have the choice of 4th and 5+, or a 38 yard FG... a "normal" team boots the semi-easy FG to nearly lock up the game. Your team has a tough conversion or risky kick.

Or you get the ball down 2 with 2 minutes left and drive down to FG range as time is expiring... but don't have anyone reliable to win the game for you.

This is assuming the shorter FGs and XPs that are near automatic for the specialists remain so as well, but even dropping 5% on those easy kicks could kill you.

Regardless of the win-probability benefits of the aggressive approach used for the early parts of the game and the extra roster spot you get by not having a kicker, I'm guessing its an unteneable result. You're probably better off keeping the kicker, but just forcing your coach (via contractual fines, etc.) to adopt the more aggressive approach.

215
by Duke :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 9:14pm

First off, to get it out of the way, being up 9 points with 7 minutes left in the game is no lock. Far from it.

But more to the point...this is why this has to be a total philosophy shift. You would have to change what it is you think you could do. You say you get the ball down 2 with 2 minutes left and drive to FG range, but can't make the kick. What's that, the opponent's 30 yard line? Well, what if you got it to the opponent's 45 yard line? You're just as screwed even if you have that great K. The answer is that you don't run a drive with the idea of getting to the 30 yard line. You run it with the idea of getting to the 15 yard line. It's harder, sure. But not impossible.

For what it's worth, I think even teams nowaday should do this more often--drive further for that final field goal. Too many teams--and I'm not the first or only person to say this--get to the very edge of the kicker's range and give up. When you are putting it on your kicker to win it you should be trying to get to the 20 or so anyway.

Moreover, I think holding onto a guy just so you can maybe pull out wins in the last seconds under certain circumstances is a bad way to approach the game. You should be focusing on how you can win by 10 points, not worrying about what happens in every scenario in which you're down 2.

I mean, we don't lambast teams for not carrying fullbacks for those scenarios in which they have to power run for 1 yard. Teams don't carry the fullback, try to stay out of those scenarios, and when they are forced into them, they do the best they can. I think this idea is in the same vein.

The flip side to this is that I don't know what benefit there is to having an extra roster spot available. Surely there's some benefit, but I don't know that having another DL to rotate in or more DBs or WRs is really going to boost your team's chances. I think it's helpful to force the coach to be aggressive, but in theory you'd hope that your coach could just remember to do that regardless of whether he has a kicker capable of making a 45 yard FG. So I'm not certain the benefit of leaving off the PK really helps you more than having the ability to make those long kicks. But I'd love to see someone try it.

216
by intel_chris :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 8:42am

I think DEN tried this from the missed kick in the NE game on through STL and it didn't work well for them. Now, in the process they seem to have fixed their running game, possibly broken their passing game, and gotten a new kicker. Sometimes theory runs into the hard reality of practice. I personally don't want to see PM do an Elway in Denver, where he goes to 4 losing SBs with DEN before getting his win.

97
by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 3:31pm

Error, sorry, don't see a delete option.

155
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:01pm

"On the other side of the ball for the Jags, Blake Bortles' accuracy is currently killing their offensive output. It's a problem that will prove fatal for his career if it doesn't significantly improve over the coming years. To this point in the season, it hasn't improved by any notable margin."

He really did look dreadful, didn't he?

Are there any real examples of a QB acquiring accuracy after entering the league? I've always suspected that the reason completion percentage is such a big part of the various Lewin formualae is that it's a tolerable proxy for accuracy, and that accuracy is both vital and more-or-less entirely determined before a QB goes pro.

168
by Kurt :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 10:05pm

Eli Manning spent the first four years of his career sailing throws five feet over his receivers' heads. He's not Joe Montana now, but he's certainly improved.

170
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 10:25pm

Part of the problem with the LCF is that with current college offensive trends, completing 60-70 percent is getting easier. Bubble screens and short passes are allowing completion percentage to hide a prospect's inaccuracy. Tebow, Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel all completed more than 60 percent in their college careers, but have struggled to be accurate in the pros. Matt Ryan had a lower completion percentage in college, but he has turned out much better than any of them.

I believe Eli Manning did improve his accuracy in the NFL, but he seems to be an outlier, much like Sanchez in his current run with the Eagles.

190
by nath :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:22pm

Thing is, Bortles completed nearly 68% of his passes last year-- and not in a dink-and-dunk offense, and without having a go-to stud receiver-- and led his team to a 12-1 record and a BCS bowl win. He should completely fit the profile of a guy talented/accurate enough to succeed in the NFL: Good enough to carry his college team on his back, displayed improved accuracy from sophomore to junior year, overall accuracy high enough to feel comfortable with, and of course, the size and arm that scouts love.

It seems his mechanics are still flawed, but we knew that; his decision-making has been quite a bit worse than what his profile would suggest, and that's troublesome. But then, I thought he was the third-best QB prospect in this draft, because I see reading the field and decision-making as more important than being 6'4" instead of 6'2".

The other problem with the LCF is that it's constantly being retrofitted. It's not really very useful as a predictor.

191
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:34pm

LCF also relies on NFL scouts to do their job, which is why it only works in the early rounds. So if they don't weed out the inflated completion percentage guys (the Tim Couches), it doesn't work.

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by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 6:40pm

Oh, I don't disagree that LCF is a long way from perfect. I just do think that it's not a pure case of retrofitting (especially the original version) and that the takeaways I feel pretty confident about are:

1. Accuracy is really important in a prospect.
2. Scouts do a better job when they have more tape to look at.

Eli's a good counterexample, actually, but even so, it seems to me that significant accuracy improvements from pro quarterbacks are extremely rare, unlike improvements in pocket awareness, decision-making, footwork or even arm strength.

It also strikes me as a plausible theory that college completion percentage is a less satisfactory proxy for accuracy than it used to be.

160
by nath :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:29pm

I wish someone on staff cared about the NFC South.

162
by turbohappy :: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:44pm

With regards to punter/placekickers, Pat McAfee for the Colts punts and kicks off. It's also been said that he could get an opportunity on a really long field goal (he's kicked some field goals in preseason). But with Vinatieri's year I really doubt that would happen this year at least.

186
by SFC B :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 10:48am

I would actually think a better option for "Emergency punter" would be a QB or a RB/WR. Reothlisberger being Pittsburgh's emergency punter would put teams into a position of having to respect the possibility he could throw as a fake and maybe give the coverage unit a better chance to limit a return of what will probably be a poorer punt.

179
by bubqr :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:45am

The Eagles have shown that they are a good team, but clearly not a top one. Unless Foles come back and goes all Flacco/Eli pokemon-style playoffs evolution in January, they have 0 shot at winning it all this year.

Not that it would have changed anything, but the really bogus OPI on Fletcher and missed illegal lineman downfield penalty were quite costly yesterday, at a time where the Eagles were still in the game.

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by gomer_rs :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:20pm

The DPI on Fletcher was the right call. The DB must turn towards the football AND identify the football or they will get the flag every time. That call is an every time call. The Seahawks give up a lot of those calls when their LBs, who can by the grace of god run with many NFL WRs, find themselves in deep coverage a. la. Bobby Wagner v. Randall Cobb in week 1 of the NFL season.

The lineman down field miss was terrible. The ref should have looked for it when there was a forward pass late on a blown up screen.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 1:43pm

The lineman down field miss was terrible. The ref should have looked for it when there was a forward pass late on a blown up screen.

They should've figured it out even before the pass because Philadelphia's sideline was screaming at him about the lineman, but perhaps they're conditioned to tune out that sort of thing.

206
by Harris :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:59pm

Balderdash. Baldwin initiated contact. He admitted after the game that he initiated contact to get the flag. It probably should have been a no-call and there's a reasonable argument for OPI. Fletcher is terrible and the sooner they replace him the better, but that was a lousy call.

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by gomer_rs :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 11:21am

It doesn't matter who initiates contact. If the DB is in a trail position and the WR attempts to come back through the DB for the ball that's still PI. The rule requires that the DB turn AND identify the ball. The DB must play the ball OR there must be no contact. That has always been the rule in pro-football.

The distinction you're making used to apply to NCAA but no longer does.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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by gomer_rs :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 11:22am

Double post.

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by liquidmuse3 :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:28pm

I think the Browner hit fell under "defenseless receiver", which is not a rule I'm sure I'm game with, but there we are.

As for Orton wimping out & Bortles' accuracy being a joke...that's why, laugh all you want, I still think Tebow deserves a QB slot, even if it's #32. Broncos were 4-12, 1-4 before he took over, with the 24th ranked D in his starting year. The guy had NO IDEA what he was doing, especially since his offseason was the lockout. Yet he still made it to the 2nd round of the playoffs. I thought he'd get better, I thought he completed throws when it counted, & lord knows he's not gonna slide before the 1st down marker. The fact that my fantasy team was reliant on Mark Sanchez & Kyle Orton doing something (i.e., I had McCoy, J. Matthews, Maclin, & S. Watkins) & they of course came up short shows me that coaches are obsessed with how pretty a thrown ball looks while in shorts, & they seem to forget that 80,000 people & 11 monsters coming at you full speed is a completely different reality. I'm sure Rex as a DC next year will still think Geno throws an awfully pretty ball Tuesday-Friday.

I mean, a professional football coach thought Josh McCown & Mike Glennon wouldn't lead to the 1st pick in the draft (I'm a Bucs fan). Holy cow, myopia.

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by armchair journe... :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 12:38pm

Soccer player here, routinely borrowed for kicking duties growing up. Late response to:

Cian Fahey: It's always amazing to me how American Footballers (Americans in general?) break down kicking. It's really not that complicated.

American footballers break kicking down between place-kicking and punting, where non-American footballers don't, because American-style punting doesn't exist outside of American football. If we were still doing so-called rugby-style punts (per Roethlisberger) it wouldn't be an issue, but the specialized American football punt is a fundamentally different (and unnatural) motion.

A PK or kickoff is simply a more-controlled version of a natural soccer-style kick, the punt is much more akin to a golf swing -- a trained technical maneuver.

It's not that complicated, they are two different things that happen to use the same body part.

//AJMQB

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by LyleNM :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 1:48pm

"but the specialized American football punt is a fundamentally different (and unnatural) motion."

Unnatural? Don't goalkeepers do it all the time? Whether it's a drop kick or a punt,
it's pretty much the same motion as an American football punt.

226
by SandyRiver :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 4:03pm

Good punters generally produce spirals. I'm not sure if ruggers do that, and it's irrelevant when the ball is spherical.

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by anotherpatsfan :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 4:31pm

Soccer goalies are doing something very different. Far more of a premium for higher/long hang time kicks with the football, and yes the effort to spiral requires a different approach. Soccer punts (and dropkicks which are probably more akin to placekicking) tend to be lower, more driving and with more intent at direction, and are hit differently from a form perspective. No keeper at the highest levels drops the ball on their foot directly along the line they are stepping and attempts to kick it as high and far as they can. Indeed, some drop the ball to the side and drive it with a more sidefoot (think sidearm) motion

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by LyleNM :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 5:39pm

Yes, but I was refuting the word "unnatural". Accounting for the difference in ball shape and the difference in intent (direction more important than distance), one could not say a punter's motion was any more "unnatural" than a goalkeeper's (particularly on drop kicks which are not at all akin to placekicking but are closer to football punts than are soccer punts for the reason you cite).

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by anotherpatsfan :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 6:34pm

Agree a punter's kicking motion based on the task at hand should not be considered unnatural (and soccer keepers have a broader variety of techniques than seems to be the case with football punters). Different than soccer but not unnatural.

Disagree in that I think dropkicks are much closer to placekicking than punting. Dropkicks are permissible for field goals and extra points, and it would seem the ball should be struck with the same part of the foot as a soccer dropkick. Dropkicks of footballs tend to travel end-over-end as well - the ball difference likely invalidates the comparison in any event. No NFL punter drop kicks, and the act of trying to spiral the football on punts likely leads to different contact that a keeper's dropkick of a spherical ball.

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by armchair journe... :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:37pm

No, the point is that its a totally different motion than a keeper's dropkick/punt. It is highly specific and must be trained from scratch, essentially, whereas a dropkick allows variation (and isn't much different than what you'd do on your own naturally without being trained)

When I say natural versus technical, the best analogy I can think of is a baseball swing versus a golf swing, if you follow my distinction. Even if it might look sort of similar, doing it feels completely different.

//AJMQB