Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Sep 2014

Audibles at the Line: Week 4

compiled by Luke McKenna

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.

Miami Dolphins 38 at Oakland Raiders 14

Andrew Potter: Stuck with Miami "at" Oakland on this side of the Pond, as Sky Sports removes the Red Zone option during the Wembley games. Seems Ryan Tannehill will start after all. What a weird and completely preventable controversy. Does anybody really want to see a rerun of Matt Moore, Dolphins starting quarterback?

Englishman Menelik Watson leading Oakland out was a nice touch.

Wembley game's turned into a damper squib than I expected. Only a Lamar Miller goal line fumble had kept this from being a blowout by the middle of the third quarter. Alas, Derek Carr followed that up by throwing a pick which was almost returned for a touchdown by Brent Grimes, then Miller walked in to put Miami up by 24.

Carr started out very well: 4-of-5 on the opening drive for 11 yards per attempt, culminating in a touchdown pass to Brian Leonhardt, but the second Raiders drive ended in a failed fullback handoff on third-and-1 and they haven't threatened to do anything since. Carr was under pressure and struggling throughout the second quarter, and the third quarter's started much the same way. Now he's injured after his left knee was twisted under him, and Matt McGloin's about to take the field.

On the other side, Ryan Tannehill's played well, at one point completing more than a dozen consecutive passes. He's also scrambled effectively, and looks very comfortable. How much of that is due to playing Oakland's defense is open to discussion.

And just as I type this, a terrible snap flies past McGloin. Cortland Finnegan picks it up and waltzes into the end zone. It's now just a question of how many Miami will score.

Green Bay Packers 38 at Chicago Bears 17

Luke McKenna: Assuming Aaron Rodgers throws for at least 106 yards today he will reach 25,000 yards in his 98th game. Only Dan Marino (92), Peyton Manning (97) and Kurt Warner (97) achieved that landmark in fewer games. There is a chance we could see both quarterbacks go past 25,000 yards today. Jay Cutler currently has 24,687 yards through 107 games.

Aaron Schatz: It's like color commentators don't even know that teams tend to game plan for opponents. John Lynch in the GB-CHI game is totally amazed that the Chicago Bears, who have passed 70 percent coming into this game, are running the ball more than passing the ball.

Green Bay defensive DVOA through three games: 9th against the pass, 27th against the run.

It's almost as if Marc Trestman and his coaches watched film and noticed that the Packers can't stop the run!

I'm watching a lot of Green Bay-Chicago to try to figure out what might be wrong with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. Then I realized -- if there is something wrong with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense, this is certainly not the right game to be looking at to figure out what it is, because Chicago's defense sucks.

Vince Verhei: Alshon Jeffery scored my favorite touchdown in the first half of the early games. He lined up wide to the left, then motioned across and behind the formation like he was going to take an end-around. Then at the snap he spun back and retraced his steps back to the outside, and nobody for Green Bay went with him. Cutler flipped it to him for a walk-in touchdown.

Matt Waldman: Rodgers had an incredible off-balanced throw after buying time in the pocket. He launched the ball from right to left over 45 yards to Davante Adams in the end zone without having his feet on the ground and getting hit in the legs and bent like Gumby. A holding call on Corey Linsley nullifies a crazy display of athleticism and accuracy.

Cutler was having a fine game until the last two series. He throws a slant to Josh Morgan that was about as open as your local bank on President's Day. That was interception No. 1, leading to a score that widened the lead. The following series, Cutler thinks Marshall is cutting his route up the seam, but the big fella goes deep. Sam Shields picks off the ball and makes like the wide receiver he was at the University of Miami, taking it to the Bears' 10. This should be a much closer game, but that's what two mistakes of this magnitude can do to a team.

Bears appear to have limited Packers to a field goal after Cutler's second interception, but Jon Bostic gets called (questionably) for a hold and gives Green Bay a first-and-goal at the 3, leading to an easy pass to Randall Cobb for the score that extends the lead to 21.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 at Pittsburgh Steelers 24

Scott Kacsmar: I'm not one for the "trap game" theory. But if any team in the league would come off a huge win and take their opponent lightly (after they had a huge loss too) it's the Steelers. Michael Johnson didn't even get blocked on the first drive, resulting in a strip-sack. Mike Evans caught the kind of touchdown we expected to see him make in the NFL, and he almost had a second if Mike Glennon's throw was better. Antonio Brown and Heath Miller just had inexcusable drops, but Markus Wheaton made a big catch to give the Steelers a sigh of relief.

Aaron Schatz: That first Mike Evans touchdown, though, the coverage was really tight there by Cortez Allen. Hard to fault him, at least. Incredible catch by Evans.

Scott Kacsmar: There's a tendency breaker. Roethlisberger likes to hurry the offense to the line on fourth-and-1 and pretend like he's going to snap the ball. He's just trying to get the defense to jump, but it never works and he ends up calling timeout and the Steelers punt. It's a very annoying process to watch, but this time he actually snapped the ball at the end of the play clock and ran the QB sneak like he should be doing in these situations. Then Roethlisberger smacked his hand off Marcus Gilbert -- the double agent strikes again -- but has stayed in the game. Just got a touchdown to Antonio Brown, who definitely pushed Alterraun Verner in the end zone. All five of Roethlisberger's touchdowns this season have been to Brown.

Rare to see a team suffer back-to-back delay of game penalties, but these are your 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Aaron Schatz: Wait a minute, wasn't Lovie Smith supposed to bring DISCIPLINE???

I don't think Mike Tomlin listens to the guy upstairs who tells him when to challenge or not challenge plays. Assuming he even has a guy upstairs looking at replays. Right after a Mike Evans catch that replay shows is obviously, easily in bounds, he throws the challenge flag.

Scott Kacsmar: Tomlin blew one challenge, but this Brown play looks like a similar catch to the one Evans made. Steelers should get this overturned, but will be out of challenges either way.

I can't remember if we included that part in the FOA Steelers chapter where I basically said crazy things have to happen for the Steelers to get an interception. Well, this would count. On a deep ball Mike Evans pulled up with an injury and Cortez Allen looked like he had a punt return on the pick. Bad break for the Bucs.

Aaron Schatz: Mike Glennon just pulled a delay of game on second-and-13 trying to march Tampa Bay downfield for a go-ahead touchdown. DISCIPLINE.

Scott Kacsmar: Well Mike Glennon only needs 46 yards in 40 seconds. This is like Joe Flacco in 2010 all over again.

Rivers McCown: Huh, it's almost like starting Josh McCown over Mike Glennon wasn't smart.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm not even going to go over that ending that I pretty much predicted drive-by-drive from when it was 24-17, but that was some real incompetence by the FOX broadcast. With 1:35 left and the Steelers barely clinging on at 24-20, FOX showed a graphic about how often 3-1 teams make the playoffs. At the bottom, it said the Steelers are 3-1. They seriously gave them the win even though Tampa Bay clearly needed one stop to get the ball back and have a good shot at a game-winning touchdown.

Let the game play out before running a bullshit graphic like that again.

Buffalo Bills 17 at Houston Texans 23

Aaron Schatz: Ladies and gentlemen, have you wondered what it looks like when bad quarterbacks behind mediocre lines constantly run themselves into pass pressure instead of getting rid of the ball quickly? This is the game for you!

In the annals of "crappy quarterback decision-making at the end of the first half," it's really hard to beat Joe Flacco taking that sack a couple weeks ago. But EJ Manuel today... 15 seconds left, first-and-10, midfield, no timeouts left. Nobody was open, but instead of throwing it away, Manuel threw a little dumpoff pass to Robert Woods at the line of scrimmage. There are two defenders there in zone coverage. Woods is going nowhere. NOWHERE. He's not getting yardage. He's not getting out of bounds. Time comes off the clock and Buffalo had to clock the second down to try a Hail Mary on third down. And the downside of this little dumpoff in the flat, if the Texans read this right, is a pick-six. There is NO UPSIDE.

EJ Manuel, all he had to do is pop the ball over JJ Watt's head to an open receiver for a first down on third-and-2. Pick-six. Right into Watt's hands. Further words fail me.

Scott Kacsmar: So EJ Manuel has a signature play now...

Rivers McCown: We call that "getting Daltoned."

Aaron Schatz: I was going to say that this was the week that comebacks forgot, but then D.J. Swearinger left Mike Williams wide-open and Buffalo threw an 80-yard touchdown to pull within three. So, maybe not entirely.

Carolina Panthers 10 at Baltimore Ravens 38

Aaron Schatz: The Ravens leave Kelvin Benjamin open in a zone coverage and the Panthers hit him in the corner of the end zone. Kelvin Benjamin was supposed to be a project, but if this is what a project looks like early on, I can't wait to see what the project looks like when it is completed.

Vince Verhei: Benjamin's touchdown was his seventh reception on deep passes through three and a half games. That's more deep receptions than any Panther had in 2013.

Steve Smith's first touchdown was partly due to a lucky bounce, but his second was a thing of beauty. The cornerback in coverage wasn't just interfering with Smith, he was actively trying to tackle him. Smith fought him off and pulled in the catch. Physical receivers shrugging off defenders make me happy.

Tennessee Titans 17 at Indianapolis Colts 41

Vince Verhei: Last week I said that Jake Locker wasn't getting benched for Charlie Whitehurst. Well, Locker is out today with a wrist injury, and Whitehurst is pretty clearly outplaying him. He's keeping his head up and making the defense cover the entire field, and generally making quick and accurate decisions. He's better than his numbers look -- his receivers have two big drops, one that turned into an interception, one that should have been a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: The Whitehurst pass that bounced off a guy's hands into an interception wasn't necessarily a drop... it was also a really high pass the guy had to jump for. I think Whitehurst and the receiver sort of share blame.

Rivers McCown: Whitehurst has a more reliable arm (accuracy-wise) than Locker, but any pressure leads to a crumplesack and Whitehurst is as slow to recognize open targets.

Tom Gower: The best chance the Titans had today was if the Colts stayed committed to the run beyond all reason and Luck air-mailed his downfield throws. Neither was true in the first half, and the Colts scored 20 points. Pagano aided their efforts by going for the surprise onside kick up 7-0, which worked. The Titans have responded by having 10 guys within 15 yards on subsequent kickoffs, like they expected an onside kick. Of course, with Pat McAfee's normal kickoff distance, it's not like doing that has cost them anything.

Whitehurst has had a mostly entirely respectable first half. His only interception came on Yet Another Justin Hunter Drop, and he's hit some nice windows on intermediate throws. But he's only one player, and the Titans getting blown out the previous two games was a team effort. Worth noting that the only touchdown came off a short field, and the field goal came off reasonable field position. This team ain't driving 80-plus yards for a score with any regularity at all.

Tom Gower: I know the odds of getting three two-point conversions, but kicking the extra point down 34-16 late in the third tells me Ken Whisenhunt is either not thinking or does not think the Titans have a non-zero chance of winning.

Vince Verhei: There's Zach Mettenberger's first career INT. Welcome to Tennessee, Zach.

Philadelphia Eagles 21 at San Francisco 49ers 26

Scott Kacsmar: Now you can say it, Chris Berman. AND THE PUNT IS BLOCKED! Guaranteed this game will end our little three-week trend here with these teams. Either the Eagles will just kick some ass (no double-digit comeback) or the 49ers are going to have a big finish.

Cian Fahey: If I wasn't already physically ill before the start of the games today, the 49ers play-calling would make me either way.

Aaron Schatz: What nobody is really talking about with the 49ers is how much their offensive line has fallen since a couple years ago. Alex Boone does not look good since he came back from his holdout. Mike Iupati is clearly not the guy he was two years ago. Kilgore doesn't look wonderful. Kaepernick seems to always be running for his life. It doesn't matter when he does stuff like throw the ball the entire width of the field to Frank Gore, who's wide-open on the right because all the Eagles defenders are chasing Kaepernick down on the left side of the field. Except Earl Wolff, who blew the tackle.

Scott Kacsmar: A quarterback can throw across the field, as long as there's not a single defender in sight of the receiver like there was on that Frank Gore play for a touchdown.

Vince Verhei: Meanwhile, it's halftime in San Francisco, and the Eagles' running backs have combined for five rushes (for 6 total yards) in 27 total offensive plays. When did they rehire Andy Reid?

Aaron Schatz: Well, they aren't running because they aren't doing anything. Eagles have something around 10:00 of possession in the middle of the third quarter. Some of that is because they scored on three different defense/special teams plays, but also the offense looks awful. Or maybe the 49ers defense just looks great? They aren't falling for any of the Eagles run misdirection stuff, and they've got the receivers really covered well.

Rob Weintraub: Colin Kaepernick just came up to the line to pretend to go for fourth-and-short near midfield, and instead of taking the delay of game, wasted his second timeout of the half. Andy Dalton never does that...

Scott Kacsmar: It's not a play they run often, but I swear that designed QB sweep by the 49ers always goes to the left. Just converted third-and-13 with it.

Rob Weintraub: Meanwhile, Stanford continues to dominate Oregon in the trenches...

Vince Verhei: Foles also missed some wide-open receivers, especially in the first half.

Aaron Schatz: Man does Nick Foles like to throw into traffic.

Matt Waldman: Foles did this all last year. Had at least three plays last year where he threw it up for grabs and had good outcomes that deserved bad outcomes. One of them was a play against the Packers.

Scott Kacsmar: Nice goal-line stand, but SF stands to suffer a Pittsburgh fate if the offense is too conservative here. Eagles have all three timeouts left. Maybe FOX won't bump the 49ers to 2-2 just yet.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't condone San Francisco's extremely conservative four-minute offense, but if the Eagles are going to bring that kind of offense on a GWD attempt, then so be it. Horrific last drive. They really didn't even give themselves a chance with those plays.

Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at San Diego Chargers 33

Aaron Schatz: CBS announcers kept hammering on the idea that the Jaguars had not scored a rushing touchdown since November and they "wanted to get the monkey off their back." No, honestly, I doubt they even know about that streak. I think they want to get a touchdown no matter whether they run or pass. And I think most of the starting Jacksonville offense wasn't even on the team last year.

The Jaguars somehow ended up with linebacker Geno Hayes covering Eddie Royal one-on-one. I swear, he was beaten by like 10 yards. Touchdown, San Diego.

Rivers McCown: Single-high safety and Rivers got him to move his hips outside.

Aaron Schatz: Apparently, Eddie Royal is wearing some kind of reverse polarity magnets that make him impossible to cover properly. He just scored a second touchdown when Winston Guy jumped the route that Royal was not actually running and Royal just la-di-da open and then into the end zone. I really don't know what Guy thought he was doing. It's like he was jumping an out when Royal didn't even out-and-up. He kind of just upped.

Rivers McCown: He did what he's been doing all season, then.

Aaron Schatz: Brandon Flowers played terribly in the slot last year, but he just picked off Blake Bortles by jumping a route covering Cecil Shorts in the slot.

Cian Fahey: Flowers' health has been huge. He looks so much more comfortable this year than he did at any point last season.

Atlanta Falcons 28 at Minnesota Vikings 41

Cian Fahey: A reminder, in a league where teams can't find good quarterbacks, 30 of the 32 passed on Teddy Bridgewater.

Scott Kacsmar: Well, most of those 30 teams didn't need Bridgewater, but I still think Houston needed a QB more than Jadeveon Clowney. One pick away from that ultimate prize of Clowney and Bridgewater. It's probably going to haunt that franchise forever.

Rivers McCown: They weren't picking Bridgewater at 33 either way. They earnestly believed that Bridgewater was part of the middle tier of quarterbacks with Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Savage.

And so I just watched EJ Manuel and Ryan Fitzpatrick start the same football game.

Vince Verhei: I'd just like to officially be Mr. Wet Blanket and remind everyone that what's going on in Minnesota says just as much about the Falcons defense as it does about what Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings are doing.

Cian Fahey: *Motion to remove Vincent from the email chain*

Rivers McCown: Oh sure, we should caution that this is real early in Bridgewater's career and throw all the usual caveats on it.

Just, there's a big difference in what I would call rational optimism between "picking a quarterback early that draft Twitter pretty much universally has acclaimed" and, say, "having Tom Savage."

Aaron Schatz: Really lousy tackling by the Vikings today, on both the Devin Hester touchdown and the Antone Smith touchdown.

Rob Weintraub: Antone Smith takes a simple sweep right. Josh Robinson has a chance to make the tackle after 4 or so yards. Instead of squaring up to tackle he does the "fly at the ball carrier with arms folded" thing, and winds up taking out two teammates trailing in from behind who might have gotten Smith from behind. 48-yard touchdown, 28-27 Atlanta.

Rob Weintraub: Teddy B. may be looking solid but wow did he miss a wide-open bomb to Jarius Wright, who would have walked in for six. Overthrown, alas (and yes I have the Vikings in a wins pool).

Rivers McCown: Levine Toilolo in at right tackle for Atlanta. That's not optimal.

Matt Waldman: I honestly thought a team would draft Toilolo to convert him to tackle -- even if it isn't a good situation for Atlanta.

Rob Weintraub: Mike Tice may have to suit up and get in there to block for the Falcons.

Quintessential Mike Zimmer – third-and-long for the Falcs, Vikes bring the double-A gap blitz, Anthony Barr loops around to dump Ryan for the sack. But apparently Bridgewater just left on a cart, so uh-oh.

Vince Verhei: Do we still give out awards for ballsy coaches? Vikings had a fourth-and-goal at the 1, down by one point with about 11 minutes left in the game. Coach Zimmer turns down a go-ahead field goal try and gets a Matt Asiata go-ahead touchdown instead. Then he doubles down on ballsiness and goes for two, and the Vikings convert and walk away with a 7-point lead. The two-pointer probably seems like a no-brainer to a lot of people reading this, but I think a lot of coaches would have kicked there to go up 6.

Scott Kacsmar: I might have the data on that somewhere, but I think the two-point conversion was pretty much SOP even for NFL coaches in that situation.

Aaron Schatz: On the other hand, Zimmer had used all three of his timeouts and still had 10:00 left in the fourth. Right now it doesn't look like that will bite them, but who knows.

Rob Weintraub: Blair Walsh just bombed a 55-yard field goal with Christian Ponder in for Teddy B. (looked like a high ankle sprain -- paging Dr. Weintraub!) even as the announcers were calling for a pooch punt. 38-28 Vikes, and with the Falcons OL in tatters... Ryan has them right where he wants them.

Or not -- Harrison Smith with the pick of Ryan. Atlanta needs the old "Hold them to 3, score a quick TD, recover an onside kick, and score another TD, all with no timeouts" parlay.

Falcs did hold Minny to 3, so they have no timeouts left and 1:14, down 13 points.

Vince Verhei: The update on Antone Smith's crazy production: Since the start of the 2013 season, he has 15 carries for 264 yards, a 17.6-yard average. He has 11 carries of 4 yards or more, seven carries of 10 yards or more, and five carries of 38 yards or more. Keep giving this man the ball!

New Orleans Saints 17 at Dallas Cowboys 38

Aaron Schatz: Morris Claiborne just got hurt, leaving Dallas with only three cornerbacks. Let me get this straight. Dallas went into a game against NEW ORLEANS with only FOUR CORNERBACKS???

Scott Kacsmar: Cowboys might be OK as long as Jeff Heath doesn't take any defensive snaps.

Aaron Schatz: Bruce Carter is making a ton of plays in pass coverage. Contra Cris Collinsworth, this is not a surprise. Bruce Carter has always been able to play against the pass. He just can't stop the run at all.

I know that Cian delineated all of the Saints' coverage problems in Film Room a couple weeks ago, but it's still impressive to see how well this Cowboys offensive line has controlled the Saints' defensive front. Cameron Jordan is a damn good player, Akiem Hicks is pretty nice, Junior Galette, these guys are getting nothing. We can argue about whether the Cowboys used proper value in getting two interior linemen with their last two first-round picks, but there's no doubt they've built a great line.

On the other hand, I have no idea how this terrible Cowboys defense is shutting out the Saints through one half.

Saints comeback in the second half was almost to be expected... there's no way that the Cowboys were going to keep the Saints' offense quiet that long. But I'm with Cris Collinsworth on the fake punt with 6:45 left. If you need a fourth-down conversion to win the game, who do you want throwing the ball: Drew Brees or Thomas Morstead?

Posted by: Luke McKenna on 29 Sep 2014

97 comments, Last at 01 Oct 2014, 4:06pm by Steve in WI

Comments

1
by langsty :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 9:52am

Antone Smith's awesome but the line on him is that he doesn't get on the field much because he can't pass protect.

7
by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:20am

There are plenty of ways to use a RB that don't involve him being asked to pass protect. Sure, that limits him, but if he's valuable running the ball they should be able to get him on the field.

2
by Peregrine :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:02am

I'm a Falcons fan and I'm about to make a very, very, very strong statement: this might be the worst defense we've had since the 1980s. Bridgewater did fine but he faced an absurdly low degree of difficulty.

On the offensive side, I see a lot of look out blocks in Matt Ryan's future. As in, "look out Matt!"

6
by jw124164 :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:19am

Agreed, on both points. This may be the worst linebacking corp I've ever seen. And now our only shot at being competitive (winning shootouts) may be gone if our only competent center and LG are out ...

3
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:07am

There might be a lot of bad QBs, but through almost 4 weeks, the league has passed collectively for a 89.8 QB-rating, with an average 7.3 y/a, and a 64.1 completion percentage.

Passing is getting crazy right now. It might have been due to some of the league's best pass defenses being on the bye, but yesterday the good ones were crazy good (Rodgers, Romo, Rivers, Luck, even Ben)

22
by BJR :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:43am

Flacco and Eli on Thursday night should be mentioned also. There was some debate on these pages a couple weeks ago about how defences might be on top this season. I think that can now be firmly cut short. Now that offences are in rhythm after 3/4 weeks I expect to see crazy passing numbers, at least until bad weather might start influencing proceedings.

51
by David C :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:47pm

He said the good ones.

73
by BJR :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 6:30pm

Well if QBs who aren't good are putting up huge numbers then it only emphasizes the point further

5
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:18am

Deleted for Double Post

4
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:10am

The Steelers have now lost probably 15 "playing down to the competition" type
games since Tomlin took over.

enough is enough! Fire the clown!

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

21
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:37am

Of the human beings who have coached 100 NFL games, only 15 have a higher winning percentage than that clown, and no, the Steelers haven't had the best personnel over the past 7 years.

Is Tomlin perfect, or even the best coach in the league? Nope, but to call him a clown does disrespect to the difficulty of the task.

8
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:32am

Yes the Falcons' defense is as soft Rex Ryan's belly before lapband surgery, but Bridgewater was remarkably composed for a 21 year old making his first NFL start, providing more encouragement in the 1st half to Vikings fans than The Ponderous One ever has. Given that Spielman was named GM in 2012, and three straight drafts have been pretty good, I really would like to know who was the strongest advocate for taking The Ponderous One at the number 12 spot in 2011. I didn't think they would be 2-2 now, before the legal debacle, so this is a pleasant surprise, and if they had gotten qb play as good as yesterday's against the Patriots, they'd have decent chance to be 3-1, even though the score of that game indicated a blow-out. Guys were open in the 1st half, when the game could have been made competitive, and Cassell just couldn't even come close, despite plenty of time.

Watching the o-line of a team who you are rooting for just stomp the opponent is one of the great joys of being a football fan, so I enjoyed the Vikings game more than I have in a while. It's also why I'm likely going to have to suspend my dislike of Jerrel Jones. It's just too much fun watching the Cowboys o-line just knock people on their a$$. It helps that I've always been a Romo defender; it's also fun watching him work with a good offensive line. I thought the Cowboys defense was gong to be so bad that way too much pressure would be on an aging Romo, but Marinelli may have righted the ship enough that as long as the Cowboys o-line is dominating, the defense will be good enough.

9
by Peregrine :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:42am

>Watching the o-line of a team who you are rooting for just stomp the opponent is one of the great joys of being a football fan, so I enjoyed the Vikings game more than I have in a while.<

And on the other side of the coin, I'm a Falcons season ticket holder and I hate watching my team get pushed around on the line of scrimmage. Just hate it. They suck. And there's no end in sight.

12
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:51am

Oh, I can empathize. My least favorite Vikings teams aren't necessarily the ones with double digit losses, but rather the ones which could compete because they passed extremely well, but were fundamentally soft on defense. Hell, the 2000 team which made it to the conference championship game was probably my least favorite Viking team in my too many decades of watching them.

When some of the soft guys were free agents given significant cash, then it gets really awful, so I feel your pain.

11
by dank067 :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:49am

Watching the Cowboys run game last night really was a thing of beauty. I don't want to fall into the trap of saying that they've learned to "establish the run," but it does seem like they've realized that's the strength of the team and have come in this season much more intelligent game plans. Even against the 49ers they were moving the ball very effectively in the first half—they just killed those early drives with INTs.

Bridgewater was also very impressive. Packers defense could not have lucked out more if he really can't go (or is limited) on Thursday.

14
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:57am

The work Linehan did with the Vikings from 2002-2004, with an improving offensive line, and a dominant receiver, was very good. He really knows how to utilize a power running game.

Yeah I wish the game in Lambeau was on Sunday. I hate Thursday games to begin with. The Vikings are going to need their o-line to have a similar performance, it seems obvious.

30
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:17pm

It was really a lot of fun watching Bridgewater play, and I look forward to watching him play in the NFL for a long time. On the other hand, if his ankle injury forces Mr. Samantha Steele under center when the Lions visit TCF Bank Stadium in two weeks, I wouldn't shed a tear.

17
by jmaron :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:07am

this is a team one can get a little interested in because the young talent seems to be there on both sides of the ball. On the offence having a competent QB is huge, but you can see real upside in Patterson, and McKinnon as well. On the defence Smith, Rhodes, Barr and Floyd are a pretty nice set of young talent.

I think the Vikings prospects look good going forward. Right now they look like a .500 team to me, young and talented but not deep enough yet. I'm been extremely impressed with the last three drafts.

19
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:22am

What gets me interested, if Bridgewater ends up being above average, is that the head coach knows what he is doing (I can't believe he had to wait until age 57 to get a head job), with a defensive emphasis, and the o-coordinator likely is never getting an offer for a head job again. They could have a very stable coaching staff for a decade, with a good qb, and a GM who, for the past three years at least, seems to know how to extract value in his use of picks. Yes, the process is in good measure random, but that's why you can't be doing stupid things taking a Ponder at 12, despite the guy never really demonstrating anything to warrant that consideration. I really do wonder if the owner told them they had to draft a qb, in a year where that was exactly the wrong way to go.

23
by jmaron :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:47am

The Ponder pick was so ridiculous one has to wonder. But even if the owner did say draft a QB picking Ponder there was really stupid. EJ Manuel completely outplayed Ponder that year and he was 2 years younger.

I was very excited by the Bridgewater pick. I thought he was by far the best risk in this draft at QB. I was fine with them taking him at 9, adding Barr at 9 and still getting Bridgewater was amazing.

24
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:58am

I just didn't see any QB that year worthy of a 1st round pick, other than Cam Newton, and the next draft was going to be ripe with good qb prospects. Something weird happened, I'd guess, and then Spielman wins the inner-office skirmish 7 months later.

32
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:34pm

I was pretty impressed by Minnesota's game plan; at the start of the game Bridgewater was doing screens and dumpoffs, and, the longer the game went on, it seems like he got options to throw progressively further down the field. Felt like he was being worked into getting comfortable in that offense.

38
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 1:09pm

Zimmer has been extremely impressive in his handling of the chaos that ensued on the Friday afternoon before week two. If they guessed right on Bridgewater, Zimmer is going to have a nice head coaching career, even if it started late, and one reason is that Norv is likely going to be around for a good while.

10
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:46am

"In the annals of "crappy quarterback decision-making at the end of the first half," it's really hard to beat Joe Flacco taking that sack a couple weeks ago. But EJ Manuel today ..."

There was also this Cutlerism at the end of the half between the Bears and Packers.

Timeout #3 by CHI at 00:14.
1-9-GB 9 (:14) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler pass incomplete short left to 15-B.Marshall [96-M.Neal].
2-9-GB 9 (:09) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler pass short middle to 83-M.Bennett to GB 1 for 8 yards (21-H.Clinton-Dix).

You're out of time outs with 9 seconds left, a veteran QB either throws it in the end zone or tosses it out-of-bounds and gets the FG. Even as a Packers fan I couldn't believe Cutler threw that pass.

16
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:05am

I'm obviously as hard on Cutler as anyone, and I thought the 2 ints yesterday were inexcusable (if the 2nd was a result of Cutler's, rather than Marshall's misread), but I cut a little slack to Cutler for the last throw of the half. First, it missed being a td by about 1 inch, or because the pass was bobbled. 2nd, Bennett needs to run that route into the endzone.

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by justanothersteve :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:32pm

I agree on the two INTs and Bennett ran a bad route. But that throw at the end of the half was the culmination of one of the most questionable two-minute drills (actually a bit over a minute was left when the drive started) I've seen in a while. Chicago had all three timeouts and eighty yards to go, and blow almost half the time with two runs (and one timeout) that didn't even get it to the forty. The Packers hadn't stopped either the run or pass up until that point, so I was happy they were just running it and thought they were just going to settle for a FG. They shouldn't have even been in the situation where they didn't have a timeout at that point. Regardless, you don't throw it with no timeouts and just a few seconds left unless you know the receiver is in the end zone. Chicago not scoring gave the Packers defense a huge emotional boost, and Cutler turned into bad Jay in the second half.

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by Eddo :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:41pm

Again, I'll re-iterate that the coaching staff's clock management was fine. They reached the nine-yard line with 14 seconds left, which would have been enough time to take three shots to the end zone, then kick.

However, Cutler took way too long on the first play, as he spent some time side-stepping pressure. He should have thrown the ball away as soon as his first read wasn't open.

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by Steve in WI :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 11:29am

I disagree about that the clock management was acceptable. Just because the result was that they ended up at the 9 doesn't mean the decisions that led there were smart. It took two completed passes above 25 yards to get them to the 9; how often is a team going to complete two long passes in the last minute against a defense that should be guarding against exactly that?

I looked at the play-by-play again and they started off that drive with TWO runs in a row. Yes, the running game had been effective as a whole, but with a minute to go in the half a 13-yard run followed by a 5-yard run isn't going to cut it.

Besides, it sounds great in theory to say that 14 seconds with no timeouts is plenty of time to take 2-3 shots to the end zone before kicking an easy field goal, and I do blame a combination of the playcalling, Cutler, and Bennett for the failure to score...but there's always the possibility of a mistake being made.

My primary issue with the play calling is that the Bears looked very tentative about what they wanted to do at the end of the half. I suspect that if the first run had been stuffed, they'd have let the clock run out which to me is unacceptable in general, but even moreso in a game where it was obviously going to take every possible possession to pull out a victory.

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by Duke :: Wed, 10/01/2014 - 2:24pm

Do you think part of it was trying not give the ball back to Rodgers? I don't remember how many TOs the Packers had left but Id be scared of giving it back with 30 seconds left.

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by Steve in WI :: Wed, 10/01/2014 - 4:06pm

I'm sure that played a part...looking at the play-by-play, it appears that Green Bay had two of their timeouts left.

But if you're going to be ballsy enough to try an onside kick and risk giving Green Bay excellent field position (which happened), maybe you should also be aggressive about trying to score before the half even if failing means giving them the ball back.

27
by Eddo :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:08pm

That first pass, to Marshall, was into the end zone.

The second one was to his TE, Bennett, at the one yard line, moving towards the end zone. I have no idea how Bennett did not break the plane on that play. Cutler is at fault for neither.

Someone who knows better: are they marked "short" since they would have been nine-yard completions, even though the pass traveled farther?

And the announcers kept saying how the Bears mis-managed the clock on that drive right before halftime. I actually think it was pretty spot-on.

The Bears had first-and-ten at their own 33 with 56 seconds and two timeouts left. The called a running play to Forte, which was fine, as the Packers couldn't stop the run all day. It gained five yards, and rather than calling a timeout, the Bears rushed to the line. With 36 seconds left, Cutler then completed a 26-yards pass to Bennett over the middle. Then the Bears called timeout, leaving them on the Packers' 36 with 26 seconds and one timeout left.

The announcers were incensed that they didn't call a timeout after the Forte run. If they had done so, then they would have been down to one timeout, and their only real options would have been sideline routes. I think Trestman did the smart thing and waited to call timeout after a longer play, since it takes much longer (obviously) to get to the line after a long gain than a five-yard run. Also, an incomplete pass after the run stops the clock as well.

As for Cutler's two interceptions, as Will said, both were bad. The first was a terrible read, as the DB was breaking on the slant the whole time. That said, it was pretty bad luck that the ball deflected right to a Packer instead of to no one.

The second was a different sort of bad read, as Marshall broke downfield while Cutler thought he'd break outside. Given that Marshall was running free, I have to think the WR made the correct read.

However, saying that Cutler had as bad a game as Rodgers had a good one, like one of the announcers did, is really dumb. Cutler had a middling game; played well outside of two interceptions. Anyone who thinks that's the opposite of Rodgers's near-perfect game(*) is hilariously wrong.

(*) And wow, does Rodgers EVER make a bad throw? I mean, I see even Peyton Manning have throws that could easily be picked. The Bears had no chance on any of his passes.

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by justanothersteve :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:41pm

Rodgers makes some bad throws, but almost always under pressure (see the opening game against Seattle). He also gets bailed out by Cobb and Nelson making amazing catches (the best WR combo they've had since the Lofton/JJ combo). The Bears got almost no pressure yesterday, and only when Rodgers was doing his usual holding the ball too long routine.

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by Sakic :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 1:03pm

It seems to me that he just becomes so obessesed with the big play that he refuses to take the checkdown which results in the holding-the-ball-too-long sacks. I saw 2 or 3 plays yesterday where the protection broke down and the safety valve is open in the flat for a sure 5-6 yard gain at the minimum only to watch him force the ball 20 yards downfield and have Nelson or Cobb make a great catch between defenders. It's hard complaining about good results but considering the Packer's success relies mainly on him staying on the field watching him take unnecessary hits while holding the ball too long makes me wince every time especially as he gets older.

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by TomC :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 1:24pm

In the postgame presser, Trestman said that on the 2nd interception, the play was called for Marshall to hook at 18 yards, and he made no mention of an option to take the route deep.

Such an unbelievably frustrating game, given how well the offense (especially the OL) played. Yes, the defense was incredibly disappointing after showing some good signs the last two weeks. But neither team was making any honest-to-god defensive stops in yesterday's game, so it was just a question of who made the first mistake. Turns out the Bears made the first, second, third, and fourth mistakes, with the Packers not making a single one (on offense or special teams) until the game was out of reach.

(Not that anyone was asking, but I liked the onside kick decision. In a game like that, stealing a possession could be key. The kick definitely caught the Packers off guard, and it was eminently recoverable, the Bears just didn't do it.)

(Oh, and there were some terrible calls, and a lot of them went against the Bears, but that's not why they lost.)

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by Duke :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:15pm

I dunno. It became obvious to me early on that the team that got the first stop would win, because they would get up by two scores, the other team would start pressing and the whole thing would spiral out of control. And that's what happened.

In other words, the game plan came down to "Let's bet that Aaron Rodgers makes a mistake before Jay Cutler does". Which is a pretty bad plan. Not because Jay is bad, really, but because Rodgers is going to win that competition against all but maybe 3 QBs in the league. I believe now that you need a pash rush to beat the Pack, and the Bears didn't have one. You can't beat them through offense alone. Full stop.

(Oh, and I liked the onside kick too. The idea that it hurt the Bears by giving Rodgers a short field is ridiculous.)

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by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:29pm

The kick definitely caught the Packers off guard

From the looks of it, it caught several of the Bears off guard as well. It was an absolutely perfect kick, and there were about three Bears in position to field it at the 45-yard line with no Packers around, but none of them even looked for the ball.

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by TomC :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:54pm

If that's true, Joe DeCamillis needs to be fired today.

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by CoachDave :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:54am

Is it me, or does the percentage of injuries across the league seem way up for the end of week 4? Especially in the secondary/LB groups?

Looking at depth charts...20-25% of starters out for extended time seems almost "average" for teams right now. Who's going to be playing after week 8? 12?

Sure some guys will come back from injury, but the "incoming rate" rarely catches up to the "outgoing rate" for NFL injuries.

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by jefeweiss :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:41pm

I actually was going to comment on the same thing. Half of my fantasy team is out with injuries and I thought that I was really unlucky, but it seems like all the other teams in my league are in the same boat.

15
by Lance :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:57am

"On the other hand, I have no idea how this terrible Cowboys defense is shutting out the Saints through one half."

Maybe they're not quite so terrible? Granted, there are still tackling issues and perhaps the talent isn't there. But there does seem to be some discipline there.

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by Arson55 :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:25am

I've already mentally adjusted the Cowboys defense from 'terrible' to 'bad.' If they keep this up, I might have to take the step of filing them under 'mediocre.' And given what I expected of them this year, I have been very happy with their performance this year.

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by johonny :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:16am

Miami/Oakland Oakland called a time out with 2:20 left in the game and Miami happy to have Matt Moore hand off to the fourth string running back and end the mess. Oakland had already lost one QB to injury, was down 24, and didn't look like it had any chance to do anything with the time they wanted preserved but possibly get their back up QB a few more chances to get injured as well. They didn't score at all. Sometimes it is alright to run clock and go home. Tannehill looked good in the first half and then the second half evolved into a comedy of error by both teams. Philbin took a lot of media heat during the week for pressing Tannehill to play better and Tannehill responded with his first good game in forever. I'd say advantage Philbin on that one.

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by James-London :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:50pm

"Philbin took a lot of media heat during the week for pressing Tannehill to play better and Tannehill responded with his first good game in forever. I'd say advantage Philbin on that one."

Possibly, but man, the Raiders were awful. I think benching Tannehill is crazy, but I want to see him do it against an actual professional football team before I'm ready to say problem solved.
It also appears to be much easier to play QB when receivers aren't dropping 4 passes a game

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 1:22pm

You have to be able to separate abstract "the Raiders blow" statements with what actually happened on the field. The Raiders looked incompetent on some plays, mainly in the tackling department, but they weren't blowing coverages left and right and their passrush wasn't non-existent. Tannehill played an excellent game, he got the ball out quickly and accurately and made good decisions.

Actually, no one else has been able to make the Raiders defense look like a non-professional football team this year. They were 16th in DVOA before today, which is a lot better than the Chiefs.

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by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:32pm

I'm not sure what game you watched but the Raiders' performance was absolutely turgid.

Defensively they were outcoached, couldn't get off blocks and if you look through the play-by-play while the Dolphins were still trying there's hardly a stop for a loss or small gain. I guess there was the kneeldown for halftime by Tannehill.

That the Raiders didn't look bad last week probably says more about how far the Patriots offense has sunk this year. Go back a week further and Charles Woodson is on record as saying "we suck" after the defeat to Houston. If one of their own team leaders doesn't think they're any good I'm not sure what separation there is to make between onfield performance and verbal statements.

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by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:55pm

Do you mean torpid? Dr. Strangelove taught me that turgid doesn't mean what you want it to mean here.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:28pm

I saw that one and I can't recall the joke... what a shame.

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by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:41pm

Several of the characters' names are sexual references, and the jingoist, womanizing general is called Buck Turgidson. One of the meanings of turgid is "swollen or distended," which, together with his first name, is clearly a reference to his genitalia.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 8:15pm

I need to watch that again, good movie.

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by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:59pm

Is that a bad football team you're playing for, or are you just happy to see me?

59
by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:27pm

So... are you saying the Dolphins offense is better than the Patriots? Cause I'd take that.

Seriously, if you saw Tannehill the first two weeks, he was leaving a lot of plays on the field. He didn't today. That's not on the defense. What happened against KC was the defense. Yesterday he had to make the throws and his pockets didn't seem that comfy, either. He got the ball out fast and accurate.

I agree that the Raiders were outcoached, the Dolphins seemed to have a great gameplan.

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by johonny :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 4:05pm

On the Raiders being out coached- The Bills and KC ran power running at the Dolphins depleted linebacker corps. The Raiders never really tried even when the game was in reach. The Bills and KC used Dolphins over stacked line against them by isolating speed backs when Dolphins dropped linemen into coverage. Once again the Raiders did this once. The Dolphins used multiple fronts and clearly Carr was having trouble reading the Miami defense because of it. I'd say it was a good game plan by Miami taking advantage of what the Raiders couldn't handle while the Raiders failed to attack weaknesses in Miami. I never got why the media was shocked Miami was thinking of benching Tannehill if his poor play continued. You can look up his numbers on this website. He was 32/34 QBs. The two guys below him are already benched. Matt Moore while bad was better than that in 2011 according to this website. I don't think the media appreciated how truly bad Tannehill was playing and Sunday demonstrated how good Miami can look with good play from its QB. For one week I give a nod to Philbin for pushing the right buttons. Bill Parcels never shied away from using the media to motivate players, but then Bill was a winner so he was allowed to do that I guess? Now Miami has two weeks to get their MLB, safety, and center healthy then... Greenbay. As for the Raiders? Really a time out with 2:20 to play down by 24. They look lost.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 9:47am

I guess my point was when you blow someone out it takes a combination of a team doing poorly and another doing well, and just from an eyeball perspective I would give credit to the QB here. Also, after last night ( I didn't watch) maybe it doesn't sound so crazy anymore what I said about the KC defense deserving credit for shutting the Dolphins down the previous week. They seemed awfully well-coached (like the way they were expecting the QB-keeper on 4th down, a play the Dolphins rarely used before last Sunday), rushing the passer well and blanketing the receivers.

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by BJR :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:00pm

Blake Bortles played very well in the first half yesterday before the pressure of keeping up with Rivers carving apart his defence became too much. Perusing he and Bridgewater yesterday it's simply astonishing that any coach would choose to start players like Cassel and Henne instead. It's been proven several times in recent years; these highly rated guys are now coming out of college ready to play. It only took a few plays of watching these guys to realise they are so obviously the best QBs on their team.

I can only put it down to cynical, cowardly coaching: leaving a highly rated rookie QB on the bench is a hedge against things going wrong, i.e. the coach can buy himself a few more weeks by inserting the rookie when results go badly. Dennis Allen may be about to be fired by the Raiders, but at least he realised his crappy team's best chance was to start the kid instead of the washed up veteran.

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:07pm

I'm with you, but I'm somewhat conflicted. The conventional wisdom is that David Carr could have been decent if he didn't take such a savage beating behind the early 2000's Texans o-line. Maybe there was similar thinking with the Jaguars. I mean, Henne got the crap kicked out of him the first 2.5 weeks (although some may have been his fault).

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by BJR :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 7:53pm

There's a real chance that Bortles will be ruined by the terrible situation he finds himself in in Jacksonville. But there's no point in starting Chad Henne just to delay finding out. The team is unlikely to be any better in 6 weeks time or 1 years time. And he's not going to learn anything by sitting watching terrible play.

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by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:08pm

Well, the Vikings plan had some logic. The first 5 games was the most difficult stretch, so they though they'd ride on the back of HOF running back, and and a much better coached defense, and get through that stretch, and then give Bridgewater his chance with a less daunting situation. Worked well the 1st week, and then 48 hours before the 2nd game. the fecal matter struck the spinning blade. Then I don't think they wanted to give Bridgewater his 1st start in the Super Dome. I think that even if Cassell hadn't been hurt, they may have started Bridgewater yesterday.

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by Ryan :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:08pm

The Colts ran that Alshon Jeffery play year against the Broncos, on almost the same spot on the field. Darrius Heyward-Bey caught(!) it for a touchdown.

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:40pm

It's hard to overstate how much Pittsburgh tried to lose that game yesterday. A couple big drops, terrible offensive line play, and SIX 15-yard penalties in one game. They absolutely should have won that game easily, but kept finding new ways to screw things up. Dear Steelers fans; this is what being a Bucs fan usually feels like.

Very bummed Mike Evans will apparently miss 2-3 weeks with a groin injury; he has really been impressive so far this year. I was somewhat worried his college production was based on similar things as Manziel's; wait for plays to break down, use your athleticism to do cool things. Evans has looked like a "real" WR so far, running clean patterns, blocking, and doing a really nice job of snatching the ball out of the air rather than the common rookie mistake of cradling it and having it bounce off your body in some stupid way.

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by Nevic :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 1:15pm

Yes, that Aaron Rodgers pass that was negated by a (correct) holding penalty was amazing! It's too bad it didn't count.

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by jimbohead :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 1:35pm

A couple thoughts on the niners from a fanboy:
-On the first two niners punts, they had Skuta (51) serving as Lee's right-side protector. He got blown up on the first punt for a block, and nearly allowed a block on the second punt (which happened to be the one Sproles returned for a TD). On the third punt, he was replaced by Dontae Johnson (36), and the problems magically stopped.
-The niners o-line is horrible right now. The right side has been a mess, though that can be excused partially by the injury to Davis (RT) and Boone's holdout (RG). Additionally, Iupati has been bad since pre-season. One operating hypothesis is that the niners are making a bold transition to a wide-open passing game, and the o-line just isn't built to do it. And, as a result of focusing on learning to pass protect 30+ times a game, they've forgotten how to run block. Additionally, I'm sure replacing a veteran center with a younger, less skilled, player has something to do with all the issues.

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by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:34pm

Such a shame...A. Davis was having a great game until Staley--Staley!--missed a block and caused a pile to roll up the back of Davis's legs.

Seems like Kaepernick was dodging rushers on almost any pass that wasn't play-action. He looked pretty good doing it, though. He got sacked some, but he showed better pocket awareness than I remember seeing from him. (But this was the first game I was able to watch this year.)

So, yeah, the o-line looked terrible pass blocking. On the other hand, after Davis went out and then Staley for a bit, they just reshuffled so that Boone was at LT, Martin at RT, and Looney at RG. I wonder how many other teams would have such a serviceable line with both their starting tackles out? I mean the Eagle's offense is supposed to be pretty good, but with a crappy o-line they put in the worst offensive performance I've seen in a long time against a SF defense that hasn't looked so great the past few games.

And the 49ers WRs look good. Johnson particularly, and it was great to see the old man BLloyd fresh off his zombie movie making some tough grabs. Kaepernick's accuracy was occasionally amazing and often terrible--he kept throwing behind his receivers. If he'd led BLloyd instead of throwing two feet behind him that might have been a touchdown.

I wouldn't blame Skuta on the punt block. He had to block two guys by himself--he tried; threw up an arm for each one, but no way to stop that. The long-snapper or somebody screwed up his assignment there. It has been frustrating the past few seasons that when the 49ers don't devote 2 or 3 roster spots to special teams, the units start stinking. That shouldn't be happening--they have good athletes at depth. I used to think Seeley was a really good coach, but I'm starting to change my mind. If you have to have Osgood and Spillman and Ventrone and/or Costanza just to have good coverage units despite having some of the best and most athletic depth in football, how good can you be?

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by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:00pm

Seems like Kaepernick was dodging rushers on almost any pass that wasn't play-action.

It felt like a lot of that was on him. I don't know if receivers weren't getting open or if he wasn't making the right reads, but be took forever on several pass attempts, and wouldn't step up in the pocket (when there was one).

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by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:17pm

Exactly. Either the Eagles secondary is one of the best in the league or Kaepernick wasn't doing a good job, because that Eagles passrush is horrendous. Not quite as bad as they were against Washington but still pretty darn bad.

Speaking of which, what is it with these mobile QBs that they scramble all around the field and end up going out of bounds for a loss? Just throw it away, people. It's not as if they don't know where the line of scrimmage is.

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by Sakic :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 8:13am

"Speaking of which, what is it with these mobile QBs that they scramble all around the field and end up going out of bounds for a loss? Just throw it away, people. It's not as if they don't know where the line of scrimmage is."

My feeling about that is they don't want to hurt their QB rating by throwing an imcompletion. Rob Johnson playing for the Bills in the late 90s was notorious for this.

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by dbostedo :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 9:27am

Just my opinion, but I highly doubt that. I don't think QBs care about their stats nearly enough to take a negative play like that. That also just doesn't seem like the thought process of most professional athletes (i.e. they care so much about something as small as completion percentage that one or two incompletions carry any weight with them).

I think it's much, much, much more likely that trying to turn to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage risks fumbles, INTs, or strips. Or that they're simply not thinking and just trying to end the play and it's just a dumb play.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 9:41am

Wow. That had not occurred to me. I can totally buy that, since numbers equal dollars, and yet it doesn't seem like a good process. It's only a single incompletion and a run for loss makes the next down even more complicated, it hurts the team and what hurts the team hurts your numbers down the road.

It just being a dumb play also seems hard to believe, however. After all, these players have such an acute awareness of were the line of scrimmage is they must know they're losing yards. And getting rid of it is so simple, it carries no risk at all.

It's a dumb play for sure, but I guess my money is on option number one right now.

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by coremill :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 10:36am

On one of the plays where Foles took a sack rather than throw the ball away, the announcers mentioned that if he had thrown it, the Eagles could have been called for an illegal man downfield penalty. So that's something to consider.

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by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 6:54pm

Seahawks fans call that "the Seneca."

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by theslothook :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 4:38pm

I watched this game. I thought the interior pass blocking was pretty bad for most of the half. Kaep's decisions were for the most part were fine, his accuracy was just very scattershot. I counted three times Kaep threw a pass while falling away - one of them was the td pass, one other was that incredible bolden catch - but your qb should not be doing that.

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by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 5:00pm

His decisions when he did attempt a pass were okay; I'm just wondering about the passes he didn't attempt earlier in several of the plays. They're supposed to be playing in a West Coast system, but I don't remember many quick passes. Seattle's offense had the same issue in previous years, but they've made a concerted effort to get passes out quicker this year.

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by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 6:59pm

It's not a west coast, at least not a 49er style west coast, the passing game is inspired by Lindy Infante, who was a digit system guy. There very little in the offense that's pure west coast but then there isn't really a team that runs that anymore. I think Marc Trestman probably runs the closest thing to the old Bill Walsh offense.

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by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 7:27pm

So, an Air Coryell system? I remember Harbaugh employing more Bill Walsh offense concepts when he had Smith, no doubt because Smith didn't have a great arm.

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by jimbohead :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 5:11pm

Yeah, the interior was what concerned me mostly. It's hard to throw dem WCO slants and crosses on time when there's a DT in your face with his hands up. I was watching too emotionally to have a good assessment of Kap's accuracy, but the one throw that people are talking about (behind Lloyd on a deep cross) seemed to me like he was trying to prevent Lloyd from getting blown up by the safety over the top. ymmv

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by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 5:50pm

Sure looked to me like there was nothing but open field in front of Lloyd if Kap had led him a few feet instead of making him twist backwards to grab the ball.

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by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 7:01pm

Yeah, he missed that one and a couple of others but he wasn't really that bad outside of those and that awful interception.

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by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 5:49pm

Yeah, so often he would drop back, set his feet, and immediately have to dodge an interior rusher. I thought he stepped up pretty well for the most part when he could, and when he couldn't extended some plays left or right. I can't recall thinking, "Why didn't he just step up?"

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by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 7:03pm

I can remember one play where he clearly should have stepped up into a clean pocket and didn't but on the whole I agree with you.

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by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 7:13pm

I don't think Kap's ever going to become a qb with nearly perfect mechanics. He should improve his decision making and get better at things like looking of safeties but i doubt we'll see much more growth in terms of his basic footwork and throwing motion.

And he'll miss some plays as a result but he is able to put up a very good level of production, by DVOA or ANY/A, with substandard mechanics. I'll be happy if he can get his brain up to full speed, I'm less bothered about the mechanics and he has improved on the mental side, he's much quicker through his reads this year, he's sliding in the pocket better and looks to be keeping his eyes downfield more.

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by luvrhino :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 1:47pm

I'm curious about the utility of making a serious attempt to block short field goals.

At what distance and what 4th-and-yardage situations does it make sense to just avoid making a penalty?

On a 25-yard field goal attempt on 4th-and-2, I mostly want my special teams to defend fakes and not be penalized. The odds of making a penalty seem higher than the odds of blocking the kick. Now, if it's 4th-and-7, on a 30-yard attempt, I might be more willing to go for the block, since an offside or encroachment won't result in a first down, though roughing the kicker, defensive holding, hands to the face, etc. would.

40+ yard attempts, then, sure, the odds of blocking or influencing the kick would be more likely to outweigh the risk of penalties.

Obviously, there are scoreboard, timing, and other considerations that would go into this decision. You'd also want to make some effort to block, since you don't want to give the holder too much extra time to deal with a botched snap.

Is there useful historical data comparing the net expected score given up in special team penalties vs. the expected score gained in block field goals on attempts under, say, 35 yards...ideally filtering out blocks that were due almost solely due to the kicking team (e.g., botched hold, kicking directly into the long snapper)?

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by Duke :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:09pm

Scott Kacsmar: Rare to see a team suffer back-to-back delay of game penalties, but these are your 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Aaron Schatz: Wait a minute, wasn't Lovie Smith supposed to bring DISCIPLINE???

I don't know what counts as discipline. But the "1st quarter timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty" was a staple of the Bears' offense during the Lovie Smith years.

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:33pm

I believe part of the particular challenge for the Bucs at this point is putative OC Jeff Tedford has a heart condition and has not been offensive coordinating, and his replacement is Marcus Arroyo, who (A) has no NFL experience and (B) appears to be about twelve years old. There seems to be a compelling lack of experience here, and it's showing.

It's also an offense that had a lot of turnover in the offseason; off the top of my head, the only guys who started week 1 this year who started week 17 last year were RT Demar Dotson and Vincent Jackson. The incredibly-optimistic part of me which has obviously chosen to pretend week 3 never happened is just going to assume things will clear up as time goes by.

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by Duke :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 5:37pm

I could see that. I just thought it interesting that the same thing followed Lovie to Tampa.

At the least, you could say that Lovie isn't stepping in to help a bad situation by trying to help stabilize that coaching situation on offense, which jives with his reputation as guy who cares about defense and leaves the offense to its own devices.

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by David C :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:33pm

The problem with the Cowboys is they're not giving Dunbar and Randle enough carries. At this rate, Murray is going to be completely useless to them next year. And this is a contract year for him. I suspect Jerry Jones is about to throw a bunch of money at a useless player again.

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by Lance :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:11pm

I was wondering that, too. Randle seems to do pretty well, and taking the load/injury risk from Murray is definitely going to be a good thing for the future. Clearly, in Romo's career twilight, the ability to hand off the ball and know it's going to be a productive play is a good thing. And given that Romo's contract extends to like 2030, we need him to play well for a long time just because of the cap hit if he is cut.

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by LyleNM :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:52pm

Did anyone else think that on Stevie Johnson's TD catch, the ball never actually crossed the goal line? Heck of a catch but probably should have been spotted at the one.

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by dbostedo :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 7:59pm

My thought at the time was that getting two feet down in the end zone meant it didn't matter where the ball was.

Looking at the NFL rules, though, it appears that the ball does have to cross the goal line.

I wonder if the refs/replay folks missed it, or if they had a goal line shot that showed it touch the line.

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by greybeard :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 1:12am

Nevermind

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by theslothook :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:14pm

No one seems to be discussing what I find the most surprising story line of this season - "the saints Defense is absolutely terrible"

2 years ago - I thought the writing was on the wall. Their defense had aged badly and had no talent. Then last year they have a huge upswing and you might be inclined to think they would regress this year. At the time though, I thought we could explain this upsurge in terms of natural team quality. They switched to a better scheme - people like Jordan and Gallette were big time players. They drafted vacaro, added Keenan Lewis, and then topped it off with Byrd. It just seemed like this was at worst going to be an average defense. Instead they are positive dreadful.

Any thoughts? (yes, I realize byrd has been terrible thus far)

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by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:54pm

Fahey previously detailed how the safeties weren't being used correctly, but now it seems like Ryan's doing it out of necessity. If Byrd weren't playing that far back they'd probably be even worse than they are now (if that's even possible), because of the lack of pass rush, the miserable play of the linebackers and the inadequateness of the corners. The lack of pass rush is the most surprising aspect, because at least with the safeties you can excuse it with scheme issues, whereas the pass rushers only have one job on most of their plays.

On top of all that, about the only thing that did carry over from last year is their inability to generate turnovers. They only have one through four games, and even that one was after a successful 20-yard pass when Byrd stripped Julio of the ball.

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by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:58pm

My thought is simply that Rob Ryan is overrated as a Defensive Coordinator. Until last year, his reputation far outweighed his results. His defenses in Oakland, Cleveland and Dallas were rarely above mediocre.

His best defense came on a team with Nnamdi and an offense so bad that no opposing offense needed to score even 20 points to win games.

I had that opinion coming into last season and was surprisingly wrong. His defense was very good a season ago. I'm seeing all what I expected to see last year from the defense this year instead.

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by Steve in WI :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 11:57am

Okay, I've finally calmed down enough from the Bears-Packers game to give my thoughts:

I don't know what the Bears can do with this defense, but it's apparent that they are toast against a good QB and/or if the defensive line fails to get pressure. I know they were missing Allen and Ratliff on Sunday, but what about all of the other guys who are supposedly good? I thought Green Bay's offensive line was supposed to be a mess, but they handled the Bears easily.

I think it's past time to fire Mel Tucker. I'm tired of hearing the excuses (he inherited Lovie's system, he's dealing with injuries, etc). I can't ever recall seeing an NFL game where 1) the quarterback was pressured so little and 2) the receivers were as wide-open on pretty much every catch as they were Sunday. Some of that has to be scheme and coaching. The Bears came out as vanilla as could be and even after Rodgers started carving them up, they made no adjustments.

re: Matt Waldman's comment "This should be a much closer game, but that's what two mistakes of this magnitude can do to a team" (in reference to Cutler's interceptions), I have to shake my head and say that I don't see how to put this loss on Cutler. The Packers did not punt once and the only drive they failed to score on was the blocked field goal in the 4th quarter. Not only that, their longest scoring drive of the day by time was 4:03 - two of their touchdown drives were 2:22 and 2:47 (and those were starting from their own end of the field, not short fields following one of the interceptions).

I also don't want to hear any more about how smart Trestman is. He cost the Bears a timeout (admittedly, one that probably wasn't going to be of much use the way the game was going) by trying to challenge a turnover. Everyone who watches more than a few NFL games a season knows by now that turnovers are automatically reviewed, so how in the hell does an NFL coach get confused and not realize that? I felt that the clock management at the end of the first half was terrible and I suspect that the only reason the Bears continued to try to score was that Forte's first run went for a first down; otherwise I assume they'd have knelt on it.

Last but not least, even in a game as one-sided as this one I still am incensed by poor officiating. I thought the unnecessary roughness penalty on Williams that extended the Packers' second touchdown drive was a bogus penalty and that the runner hadn't been whistled down yet when he hit him. And what is perhaps most upsetting about the Bears' final drive before the half is that I believe that Bennett had the TD, but there was apparently no camera angle from which to review the play. How is it possible, in an $11 billion industry, that there is only one camera angle at the goal line (and thus if a player happens to be blocking the view of the ball from that angle, oh well, can't use instant replay)?

Now, given the view from the lone camera on the goal line, I agree with the decision to uphold the call - but I think that had it been ruled a touchdown initially, it still would have been upheld because of a lack of evidence either way. So what's the point of instant replay?

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by Perfundle :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 12:41pm

Now, given the view from the lone camera on the goal line, I agree with the decision to uphold the call - but I think that had it been ruled a touchdown initially, it still would have been upheld because of a lack of evidence either way. So what's the point of instant replay?

Well, when there is evidence, of course, which is most of the time.

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by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 4:01pm

I think another angle likely would have confirmed that Bennett bobbled the ball, and did not gain full control, until he had retracted the ball from the end zone. I do think the Bears were shafted by the zebras almost as bad as the Jets were in the previous week, the difference being the Jets played well enough on defense to make the shafting a lot more significant.

Your first point is 100% correct. When you never make the other team punt, and don't get any turnovers, all other issues fade.

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by Steve in WI :: Wed, 10/01/2014 - 11:03am

That's quite possible too; even if it hadn't changed the eventual outcome of the Bears not scoring, I would have at least been more satisfied that the correct call was definitely made.

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by Roch Bear :: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 9:48pm

Fire Tucker because the Bears D is terrible? Looked terrible this last Sunday but the DVOA after 4 games is -3.3, 14th best in league. This, with probably less cap resource than the offense has. That result, average, is what many Bear fans were calling for in the offseason as the key to a great season.

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by Steve in WI :: Wed, 10/01/2014 - 11:44am

If the Bears finish the season with a DVOA that is -3.3%/14th best, or better, I will happily take back my criticism of Tucker. I sincerely doubt that will happen.

I think DVOA overrates the Bears at this moment because San Francisco and NY beat themselves more than the Bears beat them (and as someone else mentioned on another thread, the long runs they gave up to Buffalo aren't heavily accounted for in DVOA since they're not supposed to be predictive). And as a viewer, I don't think a defense could look much worse than the Bears did against the Packers (who, let's not forget, have not looked like world beaters in their first 3 games. Maybe this is the start of a turnaround for them, but it's also possible that they're just a mediocre team in general).

I'm mad at Tucker and the coaching staff because they seemed not to make any adjustments despite being thoroughly outplayed. They couldn't bring pressure against Rodgers rushing four, and yet they largely continued to stick with the same gameplan. And the extent to which Nelson and Cobb were left wide open leads me to think the problem is more than just lack of talent...for heaven's sake, if you can't pressure Rodgers, at least double-cover his best receivers and force somebody who's less talented to catch the ball.