Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Dec 2015

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

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.

New York Jets 23 at New York Giants 20 OT

Aaron Schatz: I don't have stats in front of me to determine if this is a great strategy or not, but the Jets clearly decided they could beat the Giants with running back screens. They've thrown five or six of them in the first quarter.

Vince Verhei: On Dwayne Harris' punt return touchdown, they had a trick play called. You can see another player move behind Harris and to the right to take a cross-field lateral. The Jets' over-reacted to that, though, so Harris just kept the ball himself and ran it in for the score.

Aaron Schatz: Erek Flowers just got called for holding to cancel a beautiful, high-ALEX downfield pass by Eli Manning (and great ball-in-the-air adjustment by Myles White) on third-and-18. On the next play, the Giants throw a dumpoff and Flowers is on the ground clutching his knee. I think he was the last of the Giants' original five offensive linemen left. I'll have to check. That unit has been decimated this year.

Sterling Xie: I think Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh are active today, but your point about the Giants offensive line being hammered on the injury front stands. Bobby Hart was the right tackle today with Marshall Newhouse inactive, so no idea what the hell they do now. Maybe Pugh back out to left tackle and Dallas Reynolds in at guard? Probably a question that doesn't have a correct answer.

Aaron Schatz: Every time Orleans Darkwa gets tackled he throws a little hissy fit and pounds the turf like he never expects to be tackled ever.

Scott Kacsmar: If the Jets crawl back in this one we'll hear about Coughlin going for it on fourth-and-2 instead of kicking a field goal, but I absolutely loved the decision. Huge deal to take a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter; not so huge to turn a 10-point lead into a 13-point lead. It's just too bad that Manning threw an interception.

Andrew Healy: We spend so much time criticizing fourth-down decisions that I just wanted to say how much I loved Tom Coughlin's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Jets' 4-yard line up 20-10 early in the fourth quarter. It didn't work, he'll get hell about it if they lose, and it was absolutely the right decision.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not even sure I would criticize the specific play call. The Giants were spread, but they did have a back, which creates the threat of a draw or other shotgun handoff. The Giants' receivers just didn't get open, and Eli had to either throw to a guy who was covered or try to run it himself.

The other problem with the Giants' decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 is that they kicked a field goal earlier in the game on fourth-and-1. Like we were complaining about with Mike Tomlin last week, it would be better if there was some logical consistency behind the aggressiveness.

Andrew Healy: Logical consistency isn't Coughlin's strong suit. Maybe he finally saw the light this time, but that's highly unlikely. And given that it failed, he's probably less likely to try it again. I wrote about Mike Smith being the clearest example of a coach trying a more aggressive strategy, failing a few times (after a ton of successes, by the way), and then not doing it anymore.

Aaron Schatz: I do not understand the Giants running two draws at the end of regulation. If you are giving up and going to overtime, just take a knee. Why on earth are you risking a fumble or an injury to Shane Vereen?

Let it be known that the press in the press box at Gillette is entirely blaming the Giants' blowing a 10-point lead on Coughlin's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2. I'm having a lot of arguments about it. The counter argument seems to be "the Giants should know Eli is awful in the red zone, that's why they kicked the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 earlier" and "the Giants had to go up 14 because they should know the Jets offense would never score two touchdowns in the last few minutes."

I really don't get the latter argument. The Jets scored 10. There was no risk they could score 14? Yes, it's better to be up 13 than 10. But do you know what's even better? Being up 17!

Rob Weintraub: Count me in on thinking it was the right move to go for it. The problem of course was that they did not gain any yardage even if they didn't make it, leaving the Jets out of the shadow of their own end zone. Nevertheless, as soon as they did not make it that old familiar shadow crept across the Giants' fourth-quarter face.

You know the rest. The Jets tied it, then took the lead in overtime. The Giants missed the game-tying field goal, and yet another crushing loss for big blue.

Aaron Schatz: Hmmmm. After checking DVOA ratings, the press may have a point about the Giants in the red zone. The Giants were dead last in offensive DVOA in the red zone through Week 12. The Jets were No. 1 in defensive DVOA in the red zone. (I also checked DVOA on third-and-short: Giants offense 16th, Jets defense sixth.)

One other interesting note for the Jets-Giants debate: apparently the New York Times Fourth Down Bot said that the field goal was the proper choice. It's pretty rare for a coach to go for it when the NYT's calculations come out saying to kick it.

Andrew Healy: Wow, a fascinating sequence for Odell Beckham in overtime. First, a ball that he probably should have caught (not an easy catch, but a ball he'd usually get) that came down over his head. He kicks the ball in frustration to get a penalty that makes it fourth-and-7. Then he makes a less spectacular, but still great, catch to convert the fourth down.

But the Giants lose it on a missed 48-yard field goal. And Coughlin will get killed for not kicking the field goal in the fourth quarter to go up 23-10. The red zone numbers definitely change the situation, but it makes it likely into something where it's way better to go for it to something where's a little better. In his career, Eli Manning is 9-for-17 on fourth-and-2. And the thing most people don't think about -- although I know we all do -- is that pinning the Jets' on their own 4 has value. I'm guessing it would only need to have a 25 or 30 percent chance of converting to be the right call. I can't see the true number being any lower, but maybe this matchup with the Giants' line in the shape it's in -- so running was out of the question -- would get about as close to that as could happen.

But with the note on the Fourth Down Bot, maybe I'm wrong and it's slightly the other way this time.

Also, the "Jets' offense would never score two touchdowns in the last few minutes" idea doesn't make a ton of sense. They scored one touchdown and were one play away from another. In fact, if the Giants were up 23-10, the Jets go for it on fourth down instead of kicking the field goal and there's a decent chance they get that second touchdown.

Arizona Cardinals 27 at St Louis Rams 3

Andrew Healy: Balletic catch for J.J. Nelson down the right sideline for the first touchdown in St. Louis. Beautiful throw by Carson Palmer, too. Hard to find a skinnier pair of receivers on one team than Nelson (156 pounds on Pro-Football-Reference -- is that possible?) and John Brown.

Vince Verhei: One of my favorite tidbits from FOA 2015: Nelson is smaller than any player who caught a pass in the NFL in 2014, and not just by a pound or 2, but by a healthy 10-pound margin. Very, very fast. Very, very tiny.

Scott Kacsmar: It was a beautiful connection for the Cardinals, but someone will have to explain to me why a defense uses Cover-2 in that situation (third-and-15). You're only going to get beat if you let the receiver get behind you on a deep pass. I know Nelson is the fourth wide receiver in this offense, but I'm not letting his speed get past me in the hope that the safety can get there in time (he didn't). The most confusing part is, what are you hoping to accomplish by having the cornerback stop where he does? It's third-and-15 against a Bruce Arians offense. Of course they're looking for the score.

Atlanta Falcons 19 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

Rob Weintraub: He's usually a lockdown player, but a huge pass interference on Desmond Trufant just negated an interception for Atlanta. Tampa driving down three with four minutes to play.

Then Jameis Winston converts a third-and-19 with a scramble. He appeared to be tackled but was never actually brought to the turf.

I've taken to calling the backbreaking interceptions that Matt Ryan has been throwing lately "ice picks." See what I do there? Anyway, he just threw another one to Lavonte David and the Bucs are going to win this crucial game. Also, that officially gives the division title to the Panthers.

The best part of the Winston scramble that led to Tampa's win was Dick Stockton's hilariously misguided call. He said it was a fumble at first that was recovered by the Falcons and running the other way. Then he realized Tampa had the ball and he said that Jameis had recovered the fumble. Finally the color guy stepped in to note that Winston had had the ball the entire time. High comedy.

Further to the Falcons -- SackSeer is taking a hit thus far with Vic Beasley. Forget hitting the quarterback -- no sacks since week three. Worse, today he was credited with exactly zero tackles. He's already light -- wearing that No. 44 is making him look like Twiggy out there.

Seattle Seahawks 38 at Minnesota Vikings 7

Vince Verhei: A quick note before we get into this game to explain Seattle's recent surge: Following the trade of Max Unger to New Orleans, the Seahawks experimented with former defensive tackle Drew Nowak at center, even though he had never started an NFL game on either side of the ball. He started seven of eight games before the Week 9 bye. Patrick Lewis, who started four games in replace of Unger in 2014, has started each of the three games since the bye week. He also started in Week 6 against Carolina. In Lewis' four starts, Seattle's offensive DVOA has never been lower than 38.3%. In Nowak's seven starts, it was never higher than 20.6%. Nowak was cut this week, cleared waivers, and is now on Seattle's practice squad.

Andrew Healy: The Seattle offense is really rolling. Russell Wilson now has seven touchdowns (six passing, one rushing) in his last six quarters. He had one very sick spin-o-rama in the first quarter. That kind of spin always reminds me of Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs against the Falcons.

Sterling Xie: What a ridiculously disastrous end to the first half for the Vikings. First, Teddy Bridgewater throws a pick, which immediately turns into a Doug Baldwin touchdown catch on the next play. Then, instead of kneeling on the ball, the Vikes run five conservative plays which pick up one first down, but only 10 yards total. I know Seattle did have two timeouts and could have stopped the clock if Pete Carroll wanted, but after the first down, Minnesota probably should have kneed and gone to halftime. Then with seven seconds the Vikings get their punt blocked, but they're lucky the ball advances forward instead of getting blocked straight back for a potential touchdown or safety. Yeesh.

Vince Verhei: So Seattle is up 21-0 at halftime, and the score is an accurate description of how dominant Seattle has been. They're getting constant pressure with a four-man rush. Teddy Bridgewater is 9-of-16 for just 64 yards with two sacks, and except for a 25-yard gain when he found Mike Wallace isolated against a linebacker, none of those completions have gained more than 8 yards. He also threw a bad interception, overthrowing an open Stefon Diggs and putting the ball into the arms of Earl Thomas. That set up Seattle's last touchdown. Adrian Peterson has only 10 yards on 5 carries and has been hit for a loss twice (once by Cassius Marsh, who was called "Curtis Martin" by John Lynch).

Meanwhile, Seattle's offense has been firing on all cylinders. Russell Wilson is 14-of-18 for 166 yards and a score. He also has three carries for only 7 yards, but that includes a big third-down conversion and a touchdown. Thomas Rawls is still producing consistently, with 61 yards on ten carries (though he did lose a fumble). Missed tackles have been a huge problem for Minnesota. I counted at least five on one of Seattle's touchdown drives, including three on a tight end screen to Luke Willson. That's probably because they're best players are all sidelined. Linval Joseph is out today. Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith both started today, but left early with groin and hamstring injuries, respectively, and haven't returned. Vikings are so beat up in the secondary they briefly had to play Terence Newman at safety.

Seattle has also benefitted from three personal fouls on the Vikings. Two were legit, a helmet-to-helmet hit on a receiver by Antone Exum, and a facemask on Thomas' interception return. The third, though, was nonsense. Brian Robison sacked Wilson to set up what should have been a second-and-18 in the red zone. Wilson, inexplicably, got up to run when he was very clearly down. I guess he didn't hear a whistle? Regardless, Robison just tackled Wilson again. So they called a foul for a late hit. So he's not supposed to tackle a runner who is very clearly fighting for more yards? That was terrible.

Aaron Schatz: Adrian Peterson is at eight carries for 18 yards with 4:12 left in the third quarter. Of all this year's top contenders, I can't think of an easier one to game-plan against than the Vikings. If you bottle up Peterson, they can't seem to get anything else going.

The Vikings have some major defensive players injured. That's an excuse for losing to Seattle at home. It is not an excuse for losing to Seattle at home by 35 points.

Sterling Xie: Here in upstate New York, they've already stopped showing Seattle-Minnesota on FOX and moved to Bears-Niners, and the third quarter isn't even over yet. I have a vague recollection from my childhood of a Colts-Eagles game (I think?) getting switched over to another game in the third quarter, but other than that, this is the earliest I can remember a game getting pulled.

Tom Gower: Titans-Patriots 2009 was switched around the middle of the third quarter, I believe not long after it went to 52-0 five minutes in.

Vince Verhei: It's not going to decide who wins and loses, but the refs have decided to make a blowout even less entertaining by throwing a flag on everything. Vikings got flagged for offensive penalties on three straight snaps, including an offensive pass interference call that probably goes uncalled 90 percent of the time, and a block in the back on an offensive lineman when the defensive lineman had already left his feet and was going down. That led to a third-and-30 and a punt, with multiple fouls on Seattle on the return. On the ensuing drive, Wilson keeps the ball on a zone read that had Minnesota bewildered and goes for a 50-plus-yard touchdown run. The play is called back, though, for a VERY sketchy holding call on Luke Willson. So, no big deal. Next play, Wilson finds Doug Baldwin isolated on Exum and hits him for a 50-plus-yard touchdown instead.

Cordarrelle Patterson then does what he does and returns the ensuing kickoff for a score, so Seattle is taking the field up 35-7 in the last minute of the third quarter.

It usually seems to me that Seattle's defense is too conservative, and they make more plays when they blitz, but they're reluctant to call those plays. So of course they're blitzing like crazy in completely meaningless action, with three straight defensive back blitzes to force the Vikings into a turnover on downs.

San Francisco 49ers 26 at Chicago Bears 20

Aaron Schatz: The Chicago run defense has problems. I don't know how much of it might be the play calling. They just went with what looked like a conventional 3-4 instead of a goal-line package even though the 49ers were set up for a power running play on the goal line. There was a hole between Joe Staley and Alex Boone that you could drive a truck through. Or a Shaun Draughn through.

Rob Weintraub: Anyone see the suplex sack of Jay Cutler by Jaquiski Tartt? The announcers were screaming for a flag, and it was a violent looking move, but you have to let them play. No flag and I'm glad there wasn't. Cutler, as it happens, lands on his shoulder not his head.

Aaron Schatz: We were talking about the suplex here in the Gillette press box too. Absolutely legal. Painful, but that's football, kids.

Rob Weintraub: Amazingly, Jameis Winston's touchdown run is only third on the list of the day's great scrambles so far. Marcus Mariota's incredibly long run of course, and how about Blaine Gabbert with the long touchdown run and the juke of Adrian Amos as well!

But a huge kickoff return for the Bears has set them up for what should be the game-winning field goal.

Or not. Robbie Gould stunningly yanks a 36-yard field goal and we head to overtime. One of his worst misses ever.

Aaron Schatz: The 49ers just won when the Bears completely blew a zone coverage and left Torrey Smith wide open for an overtime touchdown. So much for the NFC North this week.

Vince Verhei: As someone who basically spent two-plus years of his career ripping Blaine Gabbert to shreds every week, I can't believe how legit happy I am about his career turnaround. It's like, if this guy can turn things around like this, there's hope for everyone. I don't think he's the answer from San Francisco, but I think he's risen his status from "worst quarterback in a quarter-century" to "pretty good backup." Which is quite a jump.

Here's a video of his game-tying 44-yard touchdown run:

I've seen some commentary that Gabbert faked a slide, which put the defender in a no-win situation, but I don't see that. Looks to me like Adrian Amos straight-up over-ran the play and Gabbert made a great move to get him off his feet.

Jacksonville Jaguars 39 at Tennessee Titans 42

Cian Fahey: Marcus Mariota converted a third-and-11 by finding Dorial Green-Beckham on a deep crossing route from the left after breaking to the outside on the other side of the field. The play went for 17 yards. On the same drive, the quarterback located Craig Stevens on a backside crossing route for a touchdown after leaving the pocket by design.

These plays stand out because of how often Mariota has made them this season. You typically don't want your quarterback to throw the ball back across the field, but Mariota's comfort throwing the ball on the move and, more importantly, his awareness to survey the whole defense has stood out all season long.

You can see why Dorial Green-Beckham was a highly-thought of prospect, but his rookie season suggests he's more likely to be the next Justin Hunter in Tennessee than any sort of A.J. Green or Julio Jones type. Green-Beckham created Mariota's second quarter interception when an accurate pass bounced off of his hands.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like this is a lot of the value of a stat projection system like Playmaker Score. Yes, sometimes a player with fantastic athletic attributes will take time to develop and not fully blossom into an accomplished receiver until he hits the pros. But much more often, college production is a good way to separate the players with the promising tools and the players who actually know how to use their tools and translate them into production.

Vince Verhei: That's why I like things like Playmaker and SackSEER. The math behind those ideas can get complicated, but the ideas themselves are so simple. Guys with good combine numbers but poor production are probably good athletes who lack football skills. Guys with good production but bad combine numbers are likely products of a good system or environment. Guys who produced and showed great athletic talent? Yeah, those are the guys most likely to be stars.

Andrew Healy: But I think DGB's athletic attributes are a little questionable, even. A great 40 time for someone of his size, but he was far from a Calvin Johnson on some of the other combine drills, and that stuff might be even more predictive than the 40 time.

Tom Gower: High-scoring first half, as the Titans lead 21-12. Marcus Mariota has for the most part played extremely well. One big difference from the previous game is that the Titans are actually converting third downs, and very well at that after they were dreadful in that area the previous game. The return of Kendall Wright has helped there, I'm sure, especially since he's caught some of those third-down throws, but Delanie Walker has been the leading receiver and the person I would identify as the most valuable. Cian has noted DGB; his four catches are second to Walker's five, but he remains as noted an extreme work in progress, showing off his potential at times and sometimes looking like a raw rookie.

A couple interesting points after the two-minute warning. Jacksonville scored a touchdown to go down 14-12 and went for two. I wasn't a big fan of this call, but it's probably a close call. William Krasker's chart has the break-even at 36 percent with 30 minutes to play; obviously that's outdated, but I don't know of a current one. Are their odds really that bad? Well, the Jaguars are an unbelievably god-awful 29 percent running in Power situations (for context, league average is 63 percent) and they have struggled in the red zone in particular. Keeping it a one-point game (and even with Jason Myers' miss after the first score, I'd still say that's probably a 90 percent likelihood) might also lead to Mike Mularkey making more conservative decisions.

Instead, Mularkey surprised me by being extremely aggressive later on. The Titans had the ball at the 1 with :05 left and no timeouts. I expected a fade, to save time for a field goal attempt. Instead, Mularkey ran the ball with Antonio Andrews. The risk paid off, thus the current nine-point Titans lead.

Cian Fahey: It's amazing how many defensive backs in the NFL try to be big hitters instead of making form tackles. Green-Beckham bounced off of a Jaguars safety for his long touchdown reception because the defensive back tried to lay a big hit instead of wrapping him up.

Andrew Healy: Marcus Mariota's 87-yard touchdown run shows an aspect of his game that has mostly been kept in the garage this year. With his three touchdown passes, this is now his third game with four total touchdowns in the same game. By way of comparison, Andrew Luck had one of those games as a rookie.

Tom Gower: So, yeah, that second half, and in particular that fourth quarter, happened. 21-19 after three, then Mariota finds DGB as a couple tacklers bounce off him. 28-19. Jacksonville touchdown (six plays, 80 yards, Allen Robinson again), but another missed extra point makes it just 28-25. Mariota fumbles, Bortles another touchdown, 32-28 Jacksonville. Mariota scrambles and keeps running, 87-yard touchdown, 35-32 Tennessee. Awful snap the second play of the next drive recovered in the end zone for Titans touchdown, 42-32. Jacksonville goes 80 yards in 4 plays, 42-39. Six touchdowns, 41 points, in 8:32. Jacksonville would get another stop, and they'd have a chance, but the Titans went cover-0 blitz in fourth-and-5 and got a stop at 2:02. Jacksonville had a chance at another chance, as the Titans went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with :23 left notwithstanding Chris Simms saying he would kick the field goal there. Pass interference, first down, kneeldown, ballgame.

The easiest thing to do is to blame this loss on Jason Myers. He has been one of the better kickoff men in the NFL (top five through last week's games by our numbers) but extra points had been an adventure (moreso than field goals, where he's 7-of-7 from 30 to 39, of course) even before his two misses today. If he's 6-of-6 like Ryan Succop was, 42-39 becomes a tie game. Is that the best explanation? In a 42-39 game, it doesn't seem likely, but it is the simplest.

So, what else? Dorial Green-Beckham's only incompletion his direction was the previously noted interception that should not have been. When he got five catches against the Saints, it took 10 targets, so that's definitely an improvement. The further I'll go with Mariota during this season is the kid really has a chance; today had a number of plays that told me just that, though he does still take too many sacks (officially four today). They called a few quarterback sweeps today off an option look, something that probably had Ken Whisenhunt digging a grave just so he could roll over in it. Blake Bortles overall had a very solid performance, in part because Allen Robinson is really good and much better than the Titans' defensive backs.

Houston Texans 21 at Buffalo Bills 30

Sterling Xie: Really like the creativity from Greg Roman so far in helping the Bills move down the field against the Texans defense today. Four Wildcat snaps and lots of misdirection have already yielded 109 yards on just 13 carries through the first 15 minutes and 7 seconds. Buffalo's interior linemen are doing a terrific job of pulling out on these perimeter sweeps, and Shady McCoy has looked like a totally different running back over the past month since getting over the hammy injury which hampered the start of his season.

Bills have two jump-ball fade touchdowns from inside the 3-yard line, and they've targeted the rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson on both of them (once to Sammy Watkins, once to Robert Woods). The Buffalo offense goes hot-and-cold all the time, sometimes within the same game (like last week vs. Kansas City), but this is incredibly impressive given how hot the Texans defense has been during Houston's five-game win streak.

The Buffalo passing game had done nothing the entire second half, but then Charles Clay got wide open on what must have been a coverage bust right down the middle of the field. But then holder Colton Schmidt caused Dan Carpenter to pull a Ray Finkle, as Carpenter doinked the extra point off the left upright with the laces in. Now Texans with a chance to win with a touchdown with under 2 minutes left.

Cincinnati Bengals 37 at Cleveland Browns 3

Scott Kacsmar: Most quarterbacks get 1 or 2 yards on the quarterback sneak, but they're an effective 1 or 2 yards. Some of the longest gains I've studied have come from Andy Dalton. I know he's had a 7-yard gain on a sneak before by going off right guard. He converted a fourth-and-inches with the sneak today, then the Bengals audibled at the goal line to take advantage of the defense and Dalton sneaked again for a 3-yard touchdown. I like that.

Vince Verhei: Dalton had a 5-yard sneak for a touchdown in Week 5 against Seattle.

Andrew Healy: The Browns are one hot mess. First, Austin Davis throws a bizarre jump ball with about 25 seconds left in the first half. Then there is no urgency on a completion with about 13 seconds left and the Browns miss a chance to run another play before a field goal attempt. After the field goal, they trail the Bengals 20-3 at the half.

Cian Fahey: The A.J. Green catch that was called a touchdown even though he was 2 yards away from the end zone may be my favorite play of the year.

Scott Kacsmar: Best part about the A.J. Green touchdown call was Matt Millen was praising the officials for getting together to call that one. It was obviously a catch, but never a score. Then once the referee said touchdown, the FOX play-by-play guy just went "What?"

Doug Farrar: Jeff Triplette: The gift that keeps on giving.

Rob Weintraub: A little harsh. Green was obviously short -- when seen from above. Along the sideline they saw A.J. appear to kick the pylon. Actually it was the defender, K'Waun Williams I believe it was, who clipped it. Both players were wearing orange cleats and brown stirrups. Not a good call but hardly the North Carolina offside call from last night.

And he was marked inside the 1 upon replay so not that far off.

On the subject of A.J. Green, he went over 1,000 yards today, for the fifth straight season. The only other wideout to start his career with five in a row is Randy Moss.

Andrew Healy: I usually wouldn't complain about the greatest channel on TV, but RedZone spent three straight minutes on this game. It's 34-3 halfway through the fourth quarter. Apparently it's the only game in the red zone, but I think I might pick watching a Tampa Bay-Atlanta punt over that.

Rob Weintraub: Even I turned over to the Falcons game during that moment.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 at Oakland Raiders 20

Tom Gower: Not watching this game outside of brief snippets on Red Zone on my iPad, but I nevertheless feel compelled to note that the last three touchdowns have failed to produce points after. 26-20 Chiefs lead, not 28-21. What Hath Goodell Wrought.

Rob Weintraub: Seabass just missed a relatively easy field goal as well that would have made it a three-point game. Not the best day for the kickers by the bay.

The Raiders get the ball back down by six but Derek Carr gets picked on a diving play by Tyvon Branch, the former Raider, who takes it back to the house for the game-clinching pick-six. Good road win for Kansas City, which certainly appears ticketed for that fifth seed.

Denver Broncos 17 at San Diego Chargers 3

Scott Kacsmar: Not a whole lot going on in this one, so really your typical 2015 game for both teams. I thought the Broncos could rush for more than 200 yards today, but San Diego has mostly done a solid job since allowing a 22-yard run to C.J. Anderson early. Demaryius Thomas finished the early drive off with a touchdown, but the Denver offense has been pretty quiet. Brock Osweiler had an interception dropped at midfield to end the half. Eric Weddle just flat-out dropped it. Have to make those because you expect the Denver defense to make some takeaways. Already have a Danny Trevathan pick-six after Philip Rivers forced one for his league-high fifth pick-six of 2015. Give Matt Schaub some time though to catch up. Then Melvin Gordon may actually be having one of his better games (12 carries for 55 yards), but he's lost a fumble. San Diego just lost another fumble actually (Malcom Floyd) as I finish typing this. Big uphill climb in a 17-3 hole against Denver. San Diego's unfortunately had a couple of players carted off too, so a season of injuries has continued.

Philadelphia Eagles 35 at New England Patriots 28

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles somehow got called for a delay of game before the first play of their second offensive drive. I don't know how you get delay of game on the first play of a drive, that's just stupid. The Eagles getting delay of game is pretty rare, too. I looked it up -- only the third offensive (i.e. not before a punt) delay of game all season. The others were way back in Week 2 and Week 3.

One of the interesting Xs and Os items in the Pats-Eagles game has to do with the use of safeties because of depth issues for both teams at cornerback. The Eagles seem to be using Malcolm Jenkins almost exclusively as a nickelback rather than a safety today -- usually he goes back and forth on third downs -- and the Patriots also look like they have Devon McCourty playing more man coverage or short zones with Duron Harmon as the deep safety instead.

Pats' score their second touchdown to go up 14-0, this one a pass to Danny Amendola in the left back corner of the end zone. He was actually covered by safety Walter Thurmond (and beat him badly) on that play. Philadelphia's biggest weakness on defense is coverage of No. 1 receivers, which is mostly Byron Maxwell but was rookie Eric Rowe against Calvin Johnson on Thanksgiving. I don't see any indication whatsoever that the Patriots are going after either of these guys today, and they usually do try to very specifically attack their opponent's biggest weakness.

Sterling Xie: Weird call in the New England-Philadelphia game. On the kickoff after the Danny Amendola touchdown, the Pats have Stephen Gostkowski flip the ball to Ryan Allen, who drop kicks it about 25 yards to try and catch the Eagles napping. Doesn't come close to working, and it had the air of Belichick trying to go for the knockout, much like he did with the surprise onside early in the Washington game. Guess he must hold a grudge against NFC East teams.

Aaron Schatz: It was actually safety (and ex-college rugby player) Nate Ebner. I didn't see it. This is what I get for looking down at my computer for 30 seconds.

Well, then... Patriots looked like they had things nicely in hand at 14-0, but the Eagles had one good offensive drive with a touchdown to Zach Ertz, and their defense is playing better... and then they get a blocked punt and return it for a touchdown with 15 seconds left. Chris Maragos came through completely unblocked to get the ball. Had to be some kind of screw-up by the punt team there. So we'll go into halftime a surprising 14-14.

Patriots have to punt on their first drive of the second half after just one first down. Tom Brady continues to be under a ton of pressure. At one point in the first half they were leaving in more blockers, then they went back to constantly spreading it out. I really think more blockers is the way to go against the Eagles' pass rush. Give Tom Brady enough time and guys will get open against the Eagles secondary. But the offensive line just can't hold up on its own.

Wow. Patriots finally get a great drive downfield, including a beautiful third-down play where James White and Danny Amendola crossed in the backfield, and White ended up wide open for a huge gain. And then Brady tries to force it into Amendola who's got two defenders right with him at the goal line, and it's tipped to Malcolm Jenkins who returns it for a 100-yard pick-six. That's a colossal change, and it's now 21-14 Eagles.

Gutsy offensive call by the Eagles going with a play-action pass instead of running the ball on third-and-2 in field goal range. Even if the run was stuffed, a field goal would have put them up 31-14. Now they're going up 35-14 instead. Hard to fault the Patriots defense, the Eagles offense hadn't done anything for a long time until that scoring drive. This game has been determined by a series of horrible plays by the Patriots on offense and special teams. The weird onside attempt, the blocked punt, then a punt return for a touchdown. Horrible day for the unit that had been the league's top special teams until this afternoon. And Brady's second pick was a terrible miscommunication with Brandon LaFell where LaFell stopped his route and Brady just launched it deep anyway.

Rob Weintraub: Everything has gone pear-shaped for the Patriots since that onside kick attempt. Actually you could go back and say it's been downhill since that fumbled punt against the Broncos. Special-teams snafus in either case.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots have somehow come back to make this thing 35-28. They marched down the field for a touchdown, then recovered an onside kick when Zach Ertz couldn't hold onto the ball, then marched down the field again. That second drive included a conversion on fourth-and-12 where Brady had enough protection to actually motion his hand to tell running back James White to turn his route upfield, then lob it to White for a 25-yard gain. White is over 100 yards receiving today and has been twisting and turning out of tackles. If the Patriots were in the lead right now, we would be talking about this game as his coming out party.

Addendum: Brady said after the game that his second interception was actually an attempt to throw the ball away, not a miscommunication with LaFell. But really, I don't know if he's being honest there.

Rob Weintraub: As hammering Henry Rollins would say, "I'm a liar. I'm a liar. And I'm going to keep on lying -- I promise."

And as Will Smith says -- "Tell the truth."

Carolina Panthers 41 at New Orleans Saints 38

Vince Verhei: Panthers came into the game a league best plus-16 in turnovers, but have now turned it over twice in their first three drives. Delvin Breaux jumped a Ted Ginn route and intercepted Cam Newton, but the Panthers dodged that bullet when Kai Forbath missed a field goal. Carolina's next drive, Jonathan Stewart plunges into the line, and suddenly Stephone Anthony comes out of the pile with the ball running into the end zone, so unexpectedly FOX's cameras didn't even follow him. There was no whistle, and they ruled it a touchdown, I think just so they had an excuse to review it. On review, it was very clearly a fumble before Stewart went down, and Anthony was never down, so it was a touchdown. Panthers down 14-0 early.

Panthers go for it on fourth-and-1 in Saints territory. Newton fakes the handoff and bootlegs to the left, and the Saints seem completely unprepared for the possibility that Newton might run. He gets wide-open field and an easy 30-plus-yard gain.

That said, New Orleans' defensive backs are just smothering Carolina's receivers. Pressing everything and tipping passes or getting good tackles for short gains or losses.

And then Newton finishes that drive with a touchdown to an uncovered Mike Tolbert. Between that and the Newton run, the Panthers looked great on that drive when they didn't have to beat anyone, and outgunned when they actually had to win a matchup. Saints still lead 14-7.

Panthers are driving for what would be a game-tying touchdown when they turn it over for the third time in the first half, this time when Greg Olsen fumbles away a completion. The play before that, Newton held the ball forever before getting sacked by Cameron Jordan. His leg got bent at a funny angle under him and he came up favoring his ankle and/or foot. Panthers have been oddly pass-wacky today, with 17 pass plays and only six runs.

Saints then got one first down on a Mark Ingram run before punting the ball right back. Newton is back on the field for Carolina.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, given the Saints' secondary, going pass-wacky isn't that wacky. Saints 48.4% defensive DVOA vs. pass this year. No other defense worse than 32% coming into this week.

Vince Verhei: Panthers get what appears to be the game-tying touchdown on a nifty triple-option play. Newton fakes the give to the fullback, runs off tackle, then pitches to a wide-open Stewart for an easy touchdown.

However! Graham Gano comes in to kick the tying extra point, but ancient veteran Kevin Williams comes up with the block, and Stephone Anthony picks it up and runs it in for his second score of the day, and the first defensive two-point conversion in NFL history. Saints still lead 16-13.

Scott Kacsmar: Just a few hours ago the Ravens thought they had the first defensive two-point score, but that was wiped out by penalty. Go figure it's the Saints who will be credited as the first. There are so many awful stats to point to with this defense that I thought about making an article on it after Rob Ryan was fired. But a fumble-six today and putting some pressure on the undefeated Panthers. Should be an interesting second half.

Vince Verhei: Panthers finally get out of their own way long enough to take the lead as Newton hits Ginn for the touchdown on third-and-goal. Most interesting play was on first-and-goal though. Newton scrambled to his right for what looked like an easy touchdown, but rather than sprint and dive, it looked like he was going about three-quarters speed. Michael Mauti, definitely going full speed, came zooming in from the back of the end zone to clobber Newton at the goal line. After the touchdown pass, Newton jogged to the locker room, and Derek Anderson started warming up.

Brandon Browner, by the way, committed two more penalties during that goal-line stand, and three on the day. Then he gave up the touchdown to Ginn, and then he and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen got into a face-to-face shouting match on the sideline. Never a dull moment for the Saints.

And yes, Newton was back on the field for the Saints' next drive. Dude is the king of selling an injury and making his comeback.

Latest touchdown in this game: Cam Newton throwing, Devin Funchess covering, Brandon Browner in coverage. That has to be, by sheer tonnage, one of the biggest passing touchdowns in the league. Like watching Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan play football.

Rob Weintraub: I believe that makes 69 penalties in 56 games since 2011 for Brandon Browner. He's got no business getting up in anybody's grill.

Vince Verhei: Saints get back in the game on a long Brandin Cooks touchdown. Looked like the Saints were in a Cover-2 and Roman Harper, the safety to that side, covered a shallow out and left the post pattern open.

Holy schneikes, Brandon Browner is having a terrible day. First, a note on his penalties this season:

Following the Cooks touchdown, Ted Ginn gets behind Browner on a 9-route for what should have been a touchdown, but Ginn being Ginn, he flat-out dropped the ball. Shortly thereafter, Corey Brown beats Browner on a post route from the slot that also should have been a touchdown, but Newton misses the pass under a heavy blitz and the Panthers are forced to punt.

At the end of the third, Saints have the ball, down 27-24.

I am having trouble keeping up with all the touchdowns in this game. Latest was Brees' third of the day, a 24-yarder to Brandon Coleman, beating Josh Norman for the score. This has not been a good game for defensive backs.

Ted Ginn beats Stephone Anthony (yes, the linebacker) for 45 yards and a score! YOU get a touchdown! YOU get a touchdown! EVERYONE gets a touchdown!

Rob Weintraub: And chalk up another one! This time it's Cam to Ginn, who dropped a sure bomb earlier. This goes for 47 yards and no Saint was anywhere near Junior. Panthers back in front. But for how long?

Vince Verhei: Hey, look! Defense! Or, more accurately, bad offense. Brees overthrows Benjamin Watson on a deep post and Kurt Coleman gets an easy interception. Panthers then get to third-and-1 at the Saints' 45 and line up in a full house backfield. They fake a quarterback sweep, but Newton drops back and has Olsen wide open on an out route, but underthrows him and it's incomplete. They punt on fourth-and-1, a shock of a call considering this quarterback, this defense, the field position, and the score (Panthers up 34-31).

I realize this is only the second-most bonkers game of this afternoon, but still. This game is bonkers. Saints go ahead on a Mark Ingram rushing touchdown. Ingram is flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for spiking the ball into a wall, I think just because it bounced off the wall and smacked a photographer's assistant in the butt.

Panthers' next drive has SO many talking points. First, Ginn gets open deep again for what should be a long touchdown again, but can't bring in the ball again. Ball was just slightly overthrown, and I probably wouldn't call it a drop, but definitely catchable. Dude just has lousy hands.

Then on fourth-and-4 at the New Orleans 46, Newton scrambles to his left (he's right-handed, remember) and kind of awkwardly flips it to Olsen. Then we get one of those "everyone in the world would call this a catch, but it's the NFL so you never know" moments as the play is reviewed during the two-minute break. Olsen caught the ball, got a knee down, rolled from his belly to his back and then over to his belly, and THEN the ball came loose a little. The completion was upheld, so sanity prevailed there.

Three plays later, Newton to Jerricho Cotchery, touchdown. That's five touchdowns for Newton, playing with one of the league's worst receiving crews. Granted, he was facing for sure the league's worst defense, but there's really no reason to think he's not the MVP at this point, considering the flotsam and jetsam the Panthers have at wideout.

Saints got the ball back with just over a minute left and needing a field goal to tie. On fourth down from midfield, they tried a deep pass to Cooks, in one-on-one coverage with Josh Norman, but the pass came down over Cooks' right shoulder and he was looking for it to the left, and by the time he reacted it was too late and incomplete. Panthers still undefeated.

Indianapolis Colts 10 at Pittsburgh Steelers 45

Scott Kacsmar: I thought about going to this game tonight, but I don't mind the view from the couch with the heat on. It is a little cool tonight (about 44 degrees), but not terrible conditions. A lot of ball security issues early. Jacoby Jones fumbled the opening kickoff, and he frankly deserves to be cut by tomorrow. He has been a terrible signing after the Steelers let go of Dri Archer. DeAngelo Williams also lost a fumble and Matt Hasselbeck just threw his second interception of the quarter on a tipped ball. Steelers are getting the takeaways this year to compensate for all the yardage they give up.

Hasselbeck is finding success with Andre Johnson and Frank Gore. Cushions and three-man rushes will help that. The 2007 Pro Bowl squad leads Pittsburgh 10-6. Steelers were so willing to abandon the run in Seattle last week, but pretty conservative on offense so far tonight. Not a single target to Martavis Bryant yet. He missed some practice time with a hip injury this week and was questionable at one point. He is playing, but you couldn't tell thus far.

Andrew Healy: 2014 cornerback charting favorite Brandon Boykin took advantage of one of his rare opportunities to play this season, getting a great diving interception of Hasselbeck coming up from his deeper spot in the zone after William Gay made the deflection.

Andre Johnson's 44 yards about halfway through the second quarter already tie for his third-biggest output of the season. One could question the wisdom of going after the 2007 Pro Bowl squad. It wasn't just about the quarterback situation in Houston. Johnson was terrible in his own right last year.

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers took some control in the second quarter, taking a 21-10 lead into halftime. Mike Tomlin did another two-point conversion in a two-point game, and the Steelers now have the single-season record with seven conversions. Markus Wheaton's play over the last two games has been as surprising as anything. It would be easy to say Heath Miller's injury early last week has necessitated his involvement in the offense, but he's making good plays and should be able to keep getting favorable matchups with the attention Brown and Bryant will draw. In the past Wheaton would never be looking back in time for that touchdown he caught late in the quarter, but it's been a sharp connection the last two weeks. I don't think the Colts stand much chance of a comeback without getting any pass pressure here.

Impressive streak for Ben Roethlisberger to tie: four straight 200-yard passing first halves, which had not been done since Dan Fouts in 1981.

And seriously, someone get Jacoby Jones on the turnpike and out of here. From execution to decision-making, he has been a terrible return specialist. Almost like he still thinks he's playing against the Steelers instead of for them.

Alert: small sample size observation, but I think the loss of Le'veon Bell actually makes Roethlisberger a better vertical passer. He gets a little too reliant on the short passes to Bell (see the Rams game), and this offense hasn't been able to play together much at all with Ben, Brown, Bell and Bryant all together. DeAngelo Williams has been as good in the lead back role as anyone could have hoped for, and he has had some positive plays in the passing game. He's not as good of a receiver as Bell, but he is capable. Yet when Bell is out, Ben's deep ball has been a huge weapon and we saw it right from the first two Bell-less games against the Patriots and 49ers.

Between the Steelers and Arizona, these are my favorite offenses to watch this year. They lead the league in games of 450-plus yards of offense, and Pittsburgh just tied the NFL record with its fourth in a row. Roethlisberger and Palmer are also right up there in defensive pass interference penalties this year. Both are great on third-and-long too. That vertical proficiency is paying off in a lot of ways.

Steelers now up 35-10 with just under 14 minutes left. Colts have had some crazy comebacks, but this one's over. Just stay healthy and rebound for a big game with the Jaguars on Sunday.

Tom Gower: I had a tough time putting together a scenario for how the Colts might pull off this upset this game, but it started with "Ben Roethlisberger is really off and the Steelers don't hit any deep balls" and continued with "Matt Hasselbeck is excellent, getting the ball out quickly and getting a lot of chain-moving throws that extend drives and finish in the end zone." Neither of those has been remotely true -- Ben has made some really fantastic throws and Hasselbeck has left too many plays on the field, thus the Steelers are up 35-10 in the fourth quarter.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 07 Dec 2015

171 comments, Last at 14 Dec 2015, 1:11pm by Hoodie_Sleeves

Comments

1
by jmaron :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 11:42am

being a Viking fan is certainly a challenge. They have played 3 games this year with National type exposure...outscored 98-23 - and the 23 includes a kick return for a TD.

Bridgewater is getting gun shy. He is extremely hesitant to throw the ball and has resorted to turning backwards and running away from pressure (his sacks lose a yard more on avg than last year). Now the offensive line is horrendous, but he's clearly part of the problem.

His throwing motion was always ugly, but it looks even worse this year to me, particularly of late. His arm was never strong, but the last few games any throw more than 10 yards down the field is floating. I'm wondering if his injuries aren't hurting his throwing at this point.

166
by DIVISION :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 9:19pm

It won't matter on Thursday night in Arizona.

After seeing what Seattle did, Arizona is going to follow the exact same game-plan to shut down Minnesota.

Arizona is great against the run, so I fully expect them to win that game going away.

Short week, cross-country. It's not looking good for Bridgewater and co.

2
by jmaron :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 11:51am

One mind boggling thing to me about Minn - is they have played the same 5 offensive lineman all year. I guess winning makes you delusional about your weaknesses.

Fusco has been so awful it's hard to comprehend, but the rookie right tackle might be even worse. I can't believe they haven't attempted to juggle things at a minimum. Fusco was a good right guard two years ago...do you not consider moving him back? I know you want to develop a young player in Clemmens, but do you want to get your young QB killed?

11
by lokiwi :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:33pm

I wouldn't disagree with moving Fusco back to right guard, but otherwise there isn't a whole lot to be done with the roster they have. There is a whopping 2 years (with 4 games played) of collective NFL experience among their 4 backup linemen. That is a front office failure, but it is hard to blame Zimmer for sending the same guys out.

3
by johonny :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:08pm

Mia/Balt Miami fired their offensive coordinator this past week and you wouldn't have notice unless you were expecting forward passing at all. I honestly didn't watch the second half of this game and I don't believe anyone on Earth actually did either. The box score says Miami won and there is likely no video evidence to dispute this claim. Although, I suspect it is a cunning plot by the Ravens to keep pace for a good draft pick. AFC east news: New England is not as good with no healthy players. Some player are expected to return by the playoffs and New England is expected to be in the playoffs so it will likely work out. The Bills and Jets seem on a collision course to decide a playoff spot although Kansas City and the Steelers might pull the carpet out from both. Miami is terrible and their salary cap situation should allow them to keep that situation intact for some time to come.

5
by RickD :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:17pm

Believe it or not, the Patriots' problems yesterday had less to do with player health and more to do with simply playing the game that was there to be played. Well, you could say the blocked FG was due to the absence on that play of Matthew Slater. But the biggest mistakes yesterday were made by Brady himself, and they were unforced errors.

In spite of the injuries, the Patriots were in good position to beat both the Broncos and the Eagles. Certainly the types of errors they made against the Eagles are unlikely to be repeated - you literally have to go back 30 years to find the last time the Patriots coughed up 3 TDs to the opponent's defense and special teams.

One could make the argument that Brady was pressing more because he felt the need to do everything himself, or that he forced a pass to Amendola because Amendola is the only WR he trusts. But that's a fixable mistake. Brady is better when he doesn't try to force passes, and he needs to remember that.

7
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:21pm

I agree. It is not honest to say the Patriots lost because they were injured. Did anyone have any concerns about the Patriots injuries before the game started? People still assumed and expected the Patriots to win.

They lost because they had a Special Teams meltdown, and Brady threw a dreadful, dangerous pass inside the 5 yard line that had the worst outcome.

It is tough to win any game when your opponent scores 3 non-offensive TD. Humorously, the 49ers beat Philadelphia last year 26-21 allowing the same three non-offensive TDs (pick-six, block punt and punt return), but the Patriots were not as good on defense yesterday as SF was that day and that's the difference.

The offense is obviously a concern, but as Edelman / Gronk get healthy they'll be fine. The only real outcome is that their no longer the favorite for the #1 seed, and are in risk of losing a bye.

12
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:34pm

I thought that injuries made it much more likely that the Eagles would win. Who is actually playing the game matters.

43
by RickD :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:19pm

I'm not saying that the players don't matter, but the mistakes that happened yesterday were not by replacements of injured players. Brady and the special teams gifted 21 points to the Eagles. And in spite of the missing players on offense, the Pats didn't have much difficulty moving the ball.

52
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:31pm

Patsfan says below that Brady has taken double digit hts the last few weeks, and if that is the case, well, there is no more reliable predictor of an old qb experiencing a performance decline than sustained hitting over time. There is also a correlation between a roster experiencing a lot of injuries and decline in special teams performance, but I don't watch the Pats closely enough to have an opinion about this particular situation.

59
by RickD :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:42pm

"well, there is no more reliable predictor of an old qb experiencing a performance decline than sustained hitting over time."

Sure. But the injured guys on the O-line are back (except for Solder, who isn't coming back.) That's the line the Pats have to live with.

I'm seeing people make arguments like "the Pats cannot be expected to play as well without Lewis, Edelman, or Gronkowski." But most of the mistakes yesterday had little to nothing to do with Lewis, Edelman, or Gronkowski. Or Hightower for that matter. Those injuries didn't keep LaFell from completing his route, and they didn't force Brady to make multiple bad interceptions. And they certainly didn't cause the missed blocking assignment on the punt (though arguably Slater's temporary absence was relevant there. Still, I don't think the special teams should need their captain to tell them which players should block which.)

62
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:52pm

"Those injuries didn't keep LaFell from completing his route"

But they had LaFell out there instead of a more consistent receiver.

"they didn't force Brady to make multiple bad interceptions"

As someone who has watched a lot of bad QB and receiver play, poor or just different receivers can absolutely effect a QB's decision making and/or placement.

64
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:55pm

Yes. Absolutely that.

87
by RickD :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:01pm

"But they had LaFell out there instead of a more consistent receiver."

LaFell started in the Super Bowl. He's a starter. He started when Edelman and Amendola were both healthy.

"As someone who has watched a lot of bad QB and receiver play, poor or just different receivers can absolutely effect a QB's decision making and/or placement."

I said "force". Of course everything "affects" Brady's play. But he made stupid decisions. Is he more likely to make a stupid decision if Gronk is injured? Perhaps. But it's still his decision to make a throw to a tightly covered receiver.

My point is that the Patriots certainly could have played better yesterday, even with the injuries. Which is why I'm reluctant to blame the injuries. Part of life in the NFL is dealing with injuries.

150
by Kaelik :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 2:55am

If your defense of your position relies on winning an argument about free will versus determinism . . . it's treading some pretty thing ice.

63
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:54pm

Except that the injuries are forcing NE to play a completely different offense than they had planned to play (and were playing early on) this season.

And the fact that Lewis, Edelman, and Gronkowski were not there is precisely [b]why[/b] NE is calling more high risk stuff.

And it is precisely why Brady is getting beaten to a pulp. The OL isn't particularly worse than it was earlier in the season. It was being made to look good by Brady getting rid of the ball in two seconds. Well, with Lewis, Edelman, and Gronkowski out, Brady has to hold it longer than two seconds and now the OL is being exposed for what it really was all along.

69
by Ryan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:01pm

I think one big aspect of Gronk's value is how he forces a defense to declare. Coverage seems to trickle down from him and that makes Brady's decision-making easier and faster. I'd think with no receivers to fear, def coordinators can mix up and disguise coverages more. These changes may not fool Brady per se but they will slow down the whole post-snap process.

91
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:20pm

The gronk loss is the only loss that feels like a bridge too far. You simply cannot scheme your way out of his game changing abilities.

105
by duh :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:55pm

Gronk feels like a bridge too far because he was the last play maker they had left.

Right now they really don't have anyone who MUST be accounted for on every play or said differently, there is no one right now who forces you to even think about doubling them.

113
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:26pm

True but we also saw what Ne's offense was like sans a healthy gronk in 2013 and early part of 2014. Edleman is a good player, but he and the rest become 10x more dangerous when Gronk is in the lineup. If i knew Gronk was going to remain injured the rest of the season, it wpuld seriously alter my postseason expectations of Ne

117
by duh :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:47pm

Oh, Absolutely. If Gronk were / is done for the season I'd think the Patriots had little chance of winning the Super Bowl. On the other hand there is a huge difference between Not very likely to win the Super Bowl and losing to a 4 and 7 (at the time) team at home.

130
by johonny :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:46pm

Last year the Pats were one penalty negating a TD from losing to the Raiders. Bad games against so so teams happen to everyone in the NFL even the Pats. They won the Super Bowl last year anyways. There is a probability every team could lose every game. The Pats had several close wins in a row. They now had two close loses in a row. They've lost a lot of personnel and possibly their DVA peaked too early this season. They're getting several key people back and should have a chance to 1) make the playoffs (nearly certain) 2) win the AFCeast (nearly certain) 3) make Superbowl 4) win Superbowl. T

67
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:59pm

The hitting is the hitting. If Brady has been hit a lot, his performance is going to decline, and it'll take some weeks of relative peace and quiet to get back to normal.

133
by MJK :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 6:30pm

Except that they did. There were 5 big, game-changing mistakes yesterday:

1) The failed surprise "on-side"
2) The blocked punt
3) The end zone pick-6
4) The punt return
5) The long INT to LaFell

Two of them were punts, and with a more competent offense out there, you're punting less. If a non-zero fraction of your punts end badly (giving the other team a TD), more punts = more opportunities for a bad outcome.

Put another way--if Lewis, Edelman, and Gronk had all been out there yesterday, there's a pretty good chance that the Patriots aren't punting 15 seconds before halftime but are kicking a FG or maybe even scoring a TD.

Regarding the INT's--one came when Brady tried to force the ball to a covered receiver, and the other happened because Brady (allegedly) decided to throw the ball away because everyone was covered. With Edelman, Gronk, and Lewis out there, there's a pretty good chance that someone is not covered and neither INT get's thrown. If your receiver corps is Gronk-Edelman-Lewis-LaFell-Amendola, you're probably not forcing the ball as much as you are if your corps is LaFell-Amendola-ABunchOfScrubsNoOneHasHeardOf.

That just leaves the mysterious onside attempt, which at the end of the day only cost the Patriots 21 yards of field position, or about the same as a moderate DPI call.

Also, even if you accept that the injuries didn't cause those mistakes to happen, the injuries made it a lot harder to recover from the mistakes. With all skill players healthy, I like Brady's chances to score a late TD in the final minute a heck of a lot more, and maybe we're just talking about the special teams miscues this mornign as an afterthought.

120
by horn :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:06pm

Vegas had Philly as 21% to win. Did you think it was 'much more likely than that?' Or much more likely than the 'zero-chance' the talking heads, hot takes, and Pats fans were saying?

126
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:24pm

I wasn't terribly surprised, which, if I to quantify it, means somewhere in the 25%-33% range. For a point of comparison, I had the Vikings with about a 20% chance to win yesterday, and I'd give them about a 5%-10% chance on Thursday night, which is where I had that game in August.

46
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:22pm

"Did anyone have any concerns about the Patriots injuries before the game started?"

I was definitely thinking "who the hell is Brady going to throw to?"

"People still assumed and expected the Patriots to win."

I was expecting them to win yes, but only because I thought the Eagles were hot mess, not because of some special injury immunity sauce Bellichick serves Brady every morning.

98
by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:41pm

I thought the refs could have thrown a flag for PI on the pick-six. Still bad decision from Brady to throw it there.

Key for Philly is to not get too excited about this win. The offense is still bad.

101
by DavidL :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:49pm

That's exactly why we're getting excited. When you have a snowball's chance of making the Super Bowl (not a snowball's chance in hell, the same chance of winning three playoff games as an actual snowball wearing a football helmet) you're free to take unreserved joy in stealing a meaningless-to-you game from a superior opponent.

121
by horn :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:09pm

Bradford has had 3 straight games with QB ratings of: 104, 118, and 99.something. No INTs. Agholor is healthier and is better than the corpse of Miles Austin. Ertz is back from injury. Jason Peters is back from injury.

And, shockingly, Chip Kelly remembered he has Darren Sproles on the team! I know, I'm amazed also! And Matthews has stopped dropping everything in sight. And the two RBs who played last night might be the best fit for this offense.

Philly is 5-4 in games Bradford has finished. Take one horrid Sanchize INT away and they'd be 6-4 in games he started.

153
by Pat :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 11:09am

Well, that's one way to look at it...

I mean, I agree that having Peters back is a big deal. But the receiving corps is still *bad*. I mean, Bradford passed for 120 yards. 120 yards! And Peters looked really, really rusty, which I'm hoping wears off quickly.

And while I really love Sproles as well... 15 rushes for him is just *asking* for him to get injured. He's 32. The last time he had greater than 15 rushes or 19 touches in a game was over 6 years ago. And the idea of losing him as a punt returner is just scary. That's one of the strongest units on the team. Happy to see them trying out Barner, though, but that fumble at the end just showed why he's probably been on the bench.

167
by DIVISION :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 9:22pm

Actually, losing the bye will put the Pats at a huge disadvantage in the AFC.

Can you seem them going on the road and winning at Cinci or Denver?

I don't.

The Patriots need the bye more than the other teams.

They're injured and their defense is surprisingly mediocre.

4
by RickD :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:12pm

Yeah, I don't think we're quite buying Brady's explanation about the 2nd INT. He knows how to throw the ball away. And you don't do that by throwing 40 yards downfield into coverage. Looks like LaFell quit on the route (again!). Brady seems to be shielding LaFell from the media, who are going to rip him to shreds this week anyway.

A lot of people today are arguing that the Patriots fell apart because of the drop-kick onside kick. To which I've been arguing: that one play didn't cost the Patriots 35 points. But facile analysis continues to have great value. (*shrug*)

57
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:41pm

I've played matches where a team can go totally flat based on one stupid coaching moment. The coach decided to experiment and it sent a message to the team that the opponents aren't worth taking seriously. Worst part is I was the coach.

So while theoretically one play shouldn't make a difference, psychologically it can. Usually though New England have the offense to be able to come back from a moment like that. They still almost did.

All of which is one reason why I've always backed Belichick with his 'running up the score' antics in the 4th because it's can be very hard to get back to your playing level once you've taken your foot off the gas.

171
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/14/2015 - 1:11pm

LaFell was in bracket coverage - if he had run the route that people think he should have it's probably still an interception - best case is he's there to knock it away from the safety.

The cut he made there is the right route - as it gets him out of the coverage.

Either Brady was throwing it away (and did a terrible job) or he was throwing into double coverage on a poorly designed play. Either way it's on Brady.

6
by jacobk :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:20pm

I believe the Seahawks set a record last week by scoring only 39 points with six touchdowns. Interesting that Jacksonville matched the "achievement" one week later.

8
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:23pm

So, after three games, Osweiler has led the Broncos offense to 17, 30 and 10 points. Honestly not much better than Manning in early season.

Yesterday showed the issues with Osweiler. You can say he can run the Kubiak offense, run a bootleg, and do all of that, but the production, against two bad defenses and an average one given injuries, is just not there.

My expectation now is tehy stick with him, but you can't expect your defense to hold the other team to 3 points every week.

19
by Ryan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:47pm

All this hand-wringing about Peyton, Brock, etc., I feel like it gets a bit lost that the Kubiak offense is just not very inspiring. It seems to have an inherent ceiling.

73
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:14pm

Kubiak was sounding pretty thrilled yesterday about the drive that started at the 2, punted, trapped the other team at the 1, and took six minutes off the clock. So I think it's safe to say that he's all too willing to put a ceiling on the offense when appropriate. Guess we won't know for sure if it's inherent until some sort of shootout is called for.

74
by Ryan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:15pm

I think his tenure as Texans coach is enough evidence.

I get the feeling Kubiak and Jeff Fisher would love to meet in a game where they just traded punts for 60 minutes until overtime, where in lieu of an overtime period they have a penalty-kick-style field-goal showdown

27
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:00pm

The Broncos are on pace to have the 14th best DVOA ever. They might actually be able to expect that.

75
by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:20pm

I was at the game and I think people were actually asleep in the second half. The most excitement the Denver fans had was walking out of the stadium and seeing that the Patriots lost. Biggest cheer of the game was when they showed the Sproles punt return on the Jumbotron. After the first drive of the series, San Diego never once fell for the play action boot. And it was like Kubiak said, "Wait now what am I supposed to do?" It's really going to make it hard to keep up with Pittsburgh's offense in a couple of weeks.

San Diego games are always interesting as far as attendance. Every time I've been to a Broncos-Chargers game, one third of the fans are Broncos fans. However, yesterday was absurd. It had to have been 70/30 in favor of Broncos fans. Just a sea of orange behind the Denver bench. I actually felt a little sorry for the Chargers players because that has to be flat discouraging to be at home and not see any of your own fans.

77
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:28pm

Reminds me of Incognito praising Bears fans for booing the team.

http://deadspin.com/5095577/richie-incognito-prefers-angry-boos-to-quiet...

88
by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:09pm

As a Colorado transplant now living in Orange County, the San Diego game is an annual event for me. This year it was actually kind of sad due to the ratio of Denver fans and the mood of the Charger fans. It's a shame they are probably moving to LA... San Diego has some great fans and along with New Orleans is probably the best place to host a SuperBowl.

As for the game... Denver's offensive game-plan was ultra-conservative. It looked like Kubiak knew he didn't have to do much offensively and basically cooled the engines after the first drive. After Denver built the lead, they looked to go into a football version of the "four corners" offense. The Kubiak offense seems to be more conservative than the Shanahan/Kubiak scheme.

For all the talk about Denver's QB situation, the deciding factor on if they make/win the SuperBowl will be their offensive line. Both Peyton and Brock have taken too many shots from free blitzers and/or guys who are poster-ized by getting plowed by a defensive lineman. Brock's ability to play Kubiak's system masks their OL woes better than Peyton's ability to run the game from the Line of Scrimmage.

128
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:44pm

I have the opposite view. SD notoriously has poor home attendance, even when they were in theory an attractive draw(offensive led team with lots of scoring and good qb play).

I've read all sorts of reasons why this is the case, but the best explanation in my mind results simply because most of san diego's citizens weren't actually raised in San Diego. So for that reason, I'm perfectly happy to see them move to LA - with the caveat that they don't build a new stadium on tax payer money to do it(which inevitably they still will).

9
by Shattenjager :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:26pm

Where I lived (Minnesota), that Patriots-Titans game never got pulled. And it was the only one on at the time, too. It was ridiculous.

10
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:31pm

It really is pointless to try to evaluate a young qb behind blocking as bad as the Vikings; it takes rare HOF-lvel quarterbacking to function well against great defensive talent, when there is no competence whatsover on the offensive line. The only chance the Vikings ever had was by not allowing Seattle more than 13 points or so, and when their best d-lineman this year, their best linebacker this year, and their best d-back are injured, the Vikings become a lot less effective defensively, especially against an offense which is starting to function well. Hey, there just might be a lot of value to having a competent center; who'da thunk it?! Russell Wilson continues to improve, from a pretty high starting point.

Actually, I think the Vikings and Patriots are both good examples of how injuries affect team quality as the season progresses. I really think the Vikings should treat the Cardinals game on Thursday as an exhibition game, and just try to get as healthy as possible for the following two games against the Bears and Giants. I don't know what the rules are anymore for activating practice squad guys, and then putting them back on the practice squad, but if I could , I'd activate the whole lot of them and rest as many starters as possible. Hell, let Tyler Heinicke run for his life for 3 hours, instead of Bridgewater. See how big the dropoff is between Kalil and his backup Shepherd. Give Peterson the night off (his value plummets when your defense can't play well, anyways). Most importantly, give as much rest to defensive starters as is possible.

49
by Xexyz :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:27pm

Aside from the o-line problems, I have to also question if Bridgewater's being put into the best position to succeed in terms of scheme. Early in the second quarter there was play in which Teddy appeared to hold onto the ball for too long then tried to scramble away from pressure before either getting sacked or throwing the ball away (can't remember which). They replayed the play from behind the QB and it appeared to be a 2-receiver set with both receivers running deep comeback routes. It's only one play, but it flabbergasted me that they'd run such a play given the problems with the line.

From what I understand of Norv's offensive scheme is that it emphasizes downfield throws and routes, which makes sense given his coaching pedigree. I really don't think those kind of routes fit Bridgewater's strengths, and I certainly don't think they're advisable given the ability of the offensive line.

I really think that for Bridgewater to become a successful NFL quarterback he needs to play in an offensive scheme that fits his strengths.

53
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:36pm

Keeping 8 blockers to take your deep shot is exactly what you'd want to do with a weak offensive line.

It's really hard to coordinate an offense with a weak line. You can't just throw 5 yards every play against NFL defenses. You have to stretch them vertically at least sometimes.

54
by jacobk :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:37pm

They also have some tension between maximizing Peterson and maximizing Bridgewater. Peterson is much more effective out of the I and Bridgewater is much better from the shotgun. Tough to square that circle.

79
by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:33pm

That's why Chris Ault invented the Pistol formation at Nevada.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

119
by jacobk :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:03pm

Or as Norv calls it, "the Devil's formation."

55
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:37pm

Every scheme looks awful when nobody gets blocked. Short of having Peyton Manning in 2010, there is nothing to be done. Yes, you can hide it better when the defense plays well and you have HOF running back, but when the Vikings are playing a good defense, and the Vikings defense isn't playing well, due to injury or any other reason, this is going to be the result. I'm about 75% serious that the Vikings should treat the game on Thursday night like a 4th exhibition game, because if they don't get healthier on defense, they may be stuck on 8 wins.

115
by mrt1212 :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:45pm

See Seattle's offense up until AZ game.

13
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:37pm

I missed the first half of Bucs-Falcons, but the Bucs were pretty solid all-around in the second half. Doug Martin had a fumble, but Doug Martin always fights for extra yards, so he's just going to fumble at times. It's just part of the deal, I guess.

Winston's scramble was patently ridiculous; he's in the pile, hops up, and just runs around to the right for 10+ yards for the first down. He's not particularly fast in any way, but seems to have a knack for knowing when to run and picking the right spot to head towards.

I don't know what's wrong with Matt Ryan, but I'd like it to continue for a few more seasons. He's really sailing the ball. The Bucs managed to get pretty regular pressure even without two defensive line starters (including McCoy) so he was presumably a bit rattled, but he just looks terrible.

The DPI on Trufant was as pass interference-y as pass interference can be. He tackled Mike Evans on a slant before the ball got there, and Atlanta got a tip-drill INT off it. That one was clearly and unquestionably DPI.

Lavonte David had a really slow start to his season (I suspect in large part because of a rookie MLB who was always out of position), but he's really turned it around the last month or two. Back to his usual form in being everywhere at once.

106
by poplar cove :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:56pm

Matt Ryan looks like he's 46 years old now

110
by Steve B :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:03pm

I gotta think part of it with Ryan is getting beat up behind bad o-lines the past few seasons

14
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:42pm

I decided about 6 weeks ago that the team, with a real chance of getting to the last game, that I would root for, was the Panthers, for a variety of reasons, and one of them was because I like watching Newton play. Having said that, he's starting to drive me nuts with the sloppy-ass throwing mechanics, which turn what should be fairly easy completions into misses, sometimes on critical downs. Really hope he works on cleaning that crap up as he gets into the 2nd half of his twenties.

17
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:46pm

I am all for celebrating success and loathe the NFL's determination at times to take fun out of the game but boy I confess Newton's TD celebrations seem excessive. And the handing the ball to a Panther fan now strikes me as Newton trying to offset the excess nature by including a fan in the process. As if working to pre-empt someone complaining?

I doubt I am making sense.

24
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:56pm

Eh, I don't care about any td celebration. I think it's kinda' dumb to celebrate a first down or a sack when trailing by 30, as you see some meatheads do, but if somebody wants to do The Whip, Nae-Nae, Macarena, Salsa, championship belt move, superman shirt rip, and finish with a back flip, with each td, it's no big deal to me. I'm likely going to the can anyways.

44
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:20pm

c. Patterson doing some fancy running movment jive thing when going in for TD when tema trailing 0-35 was dopey. dances and look at me antics are things do not like in general but when player does them while team getting pasted it even becomes more moronic and pathetic

58
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:41pm

To be honest, rj, I almost watch every game on DVR delay, so once the td signal is made, I'm zipping to the kickoff, and hardly ever really see any td celebration.

152
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 11:05am

the lunacy started before he scored. his celebration maed "C'mon man" on Monday ngith before the cowbouys-redksins game

29
by WeaponX :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:01pm

Cam started handing out footballs to kids during his rookie season.

Sometimes I even trip myself out.

15
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:43pm

Tom Brady looked just fine throwing deep yesterday. I have seen him struggle previously so was wondering if the deep pass issues only show up in cold weather or did Tom receive one of those German blood therapy routines for his shoulder?

And I guess nobody should be surprised that the EAgles won thanks to the officials completely missing (or overlooking?) an obvious quick start by the PHilly right tackle. That guy was clearly a beat quick.

25
by Pat :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:58pm

The pick 6 was a bit weird, too.

Amendola was clearly hit early by Thurmond. It isn't even particularly close. What I'm curious about is if it was OK because the officials thought Amendola was the one who initiated contact. Which I guess it could be argued he did, in which case that was a *terrible* route by Amendola - he had plenty of space in front of Thurmond, and if he cuts a little more in, that's an easy catch. Instead he gets shoved, ball bounces off of him, and into Jenkins's hands.

Looking at it I guess it's possible that Amendola just flat didn't see Thurmond at all, and just ran right into him. I'm surprised that it wasn't called pass interference, though, because it certainly looked like Thurmond basically shoved Amendola behind him after contact. Which I didn't think you could do.

28
by Ryan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:01pm

It was a bang-bang situation, but also the contact occurred just inside the goal line on goal to go from the 5, which (if I know my rules right) makes the contact legal?

49
by Led :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:27pm

That would be correct except that the contact pretty clearly came after the ball was thrown. Looked like PI to me. It was still a bad decision by Brady to throw it into double coverage.

65
by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:55pm

Looked to me that the contact happened both within the 5-yard legal contact zone and just slightly before Brady released the ball, making it legal. Screenshot here.

66
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:58pm

That also shows how tightly covered Amendola was.

70
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:02pm

If the LOS was the 5, you're 100% right, that's a legal jam.

72
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:04pm

It was. White had taken a long ball down to the 1 (if only he could have scored, damnit). Then Blount promptly lost 4 yd, and then the INT.

132
by MJK :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 6:22pm

Yes, that one yard ultimately resulted in a 14 point swing. Football really can be a game of inches sometimes, with big consequences hanging on small events.

81
by Pat :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:36pm

That's where the first contact happened, but Thurmond didn't back off - he actually pushed Amendola back (imagine Amendola trying to run into him, and Thurmond just shoves him back and down). All of this while the ball was still in the air.

Is that actually still legal? I mean, that's what surprised me - if you *start* the contact before the ball is thrown, you can't keep doing it while the ball is thrown. The only thing I can think of there is that the refs would say that Thurmond was going for the ball.

I don't agree with people who criticize Brady on that one: Amendola shouldn't've been double covered. He had a step on Jenkins, and should've cut inside Thurmond, so he should've been open. Just looks like a terrible route at the minimum by Amendola, with possible DPI depending on the actual rules.

83
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:45pm

I don't see how a db could be expected to know if the QB has thrown or not once he started jamming and certainly not able to instantly stop. I always assumed if the jam started before the ball was thrown he was allowed to keep going.

118
by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:54pm

Not saying this was PI but IMO that ("if the jam started before the ball was thrown he was allowed to keep going") seems to be a dubious assumption.

Looks like Brady should have thrown to Chandler single covered by a linebacker as well.

135
by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 7:26pm

Eh, Chandler would probably have dropped it. Still a better outcome, though.

149
by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 1:55am

http://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/2015-nfl-rulebook/#section-5-pass-in...

There doesn't seem to be anything in there allowing interference at all while the ball is in the air. But practical enforcement the way you describe makes sense as long as it's short in duration. (Which it typically would be within a few yards of the LOS.)

I think the most interesting note in the entire rule text is this :

"(d) Extending an arm across the body of an opponent, thus restricting his ability to catch a pass, and regardless of whether the player committing such act is playing the ball. "

It also mentions that the defender has the same right to play the ball that the offensive player does, so I can't for the life of me understand what they're saying is illegal there. If I'm the defender and going for the ball, it shouldn't matter that my arm gets in the way of the WR's arms, right?

154
by mbmxyz :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 12:50pm

High school rules are not NFL rules, and I played when DBs could 'use their hands' which basically meant hand-checking receivers all over the field. But as soon as the ball left the hand of the QB, hand checking became DPI. So you had to keep watch on the QB and the receiver. Not easy but necessary.

156
by Pat :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 1:04pm

See, that's what I thought as well. I mean, I agree it happened super quick but usually in those cases I thought they would tend to err on the side of throwing the flag. Especially considering the receiver ended up on his butt in the end zone, so it's clear it wasn't just minor contact.

I'm still leaning towards the idea that it was because it was receiver-initiated contact, which to me just stresses that that interception was Amendola's fault, not Brady's.

86
by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:56pm

The time from when the ball was released (7:40 on the FOX clock) to the time when the ball was tipped by Thurmond (right before the clock ticked down to 7:39) took no more than a second. The rules are unclear as to if and when continuous legal contact becomes pass interference if the ball is thrown, but I doubt Thurman's actions within such a short time frame are discrete enough to be considered such.

30
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:03pm

Officials cannot call the procedural penalties correctly on a consistent basis so any judgement calls are completely random.

I will talk about the penalties, but I am working to remain detached on the topic. NFL officials are a travesty, the league has chosen that they want this group to be a laughingstock and the discussion has landed there not to change.

34
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:09pm

Yeah, I'm to the point where if they run the clock correctly, blow the whsitle only when appropriate, and don't put anybody's eye out, they've exceeded my expectations. I still may be entirely too optimistic.

16
by MJK :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:44pm

Be interested to see the DVOA breakdown on NE-PHI. NE put together four long methodical TD drives, and a fifth one that got as far as the PHI 1. Their defense only gave up two TD drives, one of which was on a shortened field due to the failed surprise onside.

PHI's other three TDs came on a blocked punt, a punt return for a TD, and a 100 yard pick-six.

122
by horn :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:13pm

True, but DEF and ST TDs cost the offense a chance for a drive with a TD. You can't just take multiple drives away from Bradford and say 'The Offense only scored twice!'

125
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:21pm

The Philadelphia offense scored 14 points on 10 drives. That's not good. That also points to NE having 14 drives, so their 28 points wasn't as great as it sounds.

18
by Biebs :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:46pm

Note from the Jets/Giants game.

Tom Coughlin made one the most asinine challenges I've ever seen in an NFL game. Jets had 3rd and 6 at the NYG 36 yard line, and threw a screen pass to Bilal Powell for 16 yards. Powell looked to step OOB at the 22 yard line, but the refs didn't call him out until the 20. At no other point was he out of bounds, and wasn't close until the NYG 27, well past the 1st down marker.

Coughlin challenged the spot of the 20, knowing that it wasn't going to reverse a first down, and the best case scenario would be that the ball was placed at the 22 vs. 20 (This was midway through the 2nd quarter). I can't think of a more useless challenge.

31
by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:04pm

And that challenge came one drive after Coughlin didn't challenge whether Nicks crossed the goalline. Sure, that challenge was unlikely to win, but it had a higher chance of success than Andre Williams (almost certainly the worst running back in the league) scoring from the 1.

39
by Led :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:18pm

Yup. It's hard to even imagine a more useless challenge. I guess a challenge that could save one yard rather than two yards would be very slightly more useless.

90
by Duke :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:19pm

I seem to remember Lovie Smith challenging a pass being ruled incomplete due to the receiver (Martellus Bennett I think) being out of bounds when pass interference had been called on the play, at the spot of the supposed catch.

93
by Led :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:24pm

Yeah, I don't have a creative enough imagination to imagine that.

95
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:32pm

There was a play like that where Marty Booker caught a 40+ yard pass and got a DPI call but the pass was ruled incomplete.

At the time the Bears were beating the Lions pretty soundly and he challenged it to get Marty his yards.

It was clearly not intended to help the Bears win the game, just giving a player his.

97
by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:39pm
142
by Duke :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 8:29pm

Yup, that's the one. Exactly as I remembered it. Just got my Bears players named "Marty" mixed up.

146
by Dan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 9:17pm

It looks like that challenge got the ball from the 6 yard line to the 2 yard line, which actually might be worth it. Probably worth at least half a point of EPA.

127
by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:27pm

Not as inconsequential on the play itself but also entirely to give a player better stats, Pete Carroll unsuccessfully challenged earlier this year that Clausen was not down by contact but was actually strip-sacked by Avril, up 26-0 with 6 minutes left in the game.

102
by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:50pm

Mike Martz once challenged whether the Saints went out of bounds at the 38 or the 43 on a kickoff (Week 14, 2001). He lost.

Making this worse, this was before auto-review of all scores and turnovers, it was his last timeout of the half, and there were still 24 seconds left in the 1st quarter.

20
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:50pm

Can we just put Dick Stockton out to pasture now? He had the ridiculous mistake on the long Winston run ("The Falcons have it and are running the other way!:), at least one other significant misstatement in the second half, and I think he was the announcer for the Bucs game last week and made multiple obvious errors. I just don't think he's vaguely keeping track of the game these days, and that's kind of a problem for a play-by-play guy.

23
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:54pm

I remain surprised that Verne Lundquist is still calling games.

That is where I give a lot of credit Keith Jackson. Jackson never gave the impression of 'losing it' but he still stepped away from the game.

Another reason to miss that guy.

48
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:25pm

V. lundqgivuist still good although I thought he eas losing it a few eyars ago. during a Arkansas vs somebody else game, g. childs caught pass, ran for like 40 yards and then stripped of ball near end zone. Lundquicst called it incomplete pass.

60
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:43pm

Yeah, I don't think Lundquist has gotten so bad it's actually starting to negatively affect his ability to call games; the pure awesomeness of his voice overrides any problems he has so far. I have no doubt in a few years he may start to go, but he's at least competent these days.

Stockton also has one of the great, classic voices, but he's so far gone it doesn't really matter at all. If he was on a sideline, he'd be in the concussion protocol by now.

51
by Ryan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:28pm

Verne Lundquist is my hero.

MY GOODNESS!

47
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:24pm

duck Stockton has been lsoign it for logn tiem now. was solid back in day. like a starting pitcher wbo could throw 95 mph heater for strikes. not Nolan ryan level or Dr. K but pretty up there and good. now stockotn like that same pitcher who can only throw heater 86 mph now and is trying to egt by but mostly sucks but he is a name guy and nobody wants to fire him

108
by SuperGrover :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:00pm

Cue Mike Patrick Mich St.-Indiana clip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSyw0bQexyA

Favorite part of this is him talking about how good the DB back is a good 10 seconds after the TD pass and team/crowd celebrations.

21
by Pat :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:50pm

Unbelievable. Philadelphia found a way to make me feel worse about the team - winning.

I feel like an idiot for not anticipating something like this. I looked at matchups carefully last week, not feeling good about Detroit at all. But I didn't bother with New England. I figured it was pointless - Philly's defense had a glaring weakness, and Belichick would find a way to attack it and demolish it. So I didn't even think about it.

Of course, if I had glanced at the OL stats this year, I would've realized that New England might not have it so easy. Missing so much of their receiving corps, I just think Philly was a bad, bad matchup for them - no way to back the pressure off by pressing the middle of the field. (It's not like the secondary actually played well - both of the interceptions were pretty stupid.)

But now they're in a position to still win the division... which would keep Kelly around, of course. And they didn't get there by being impressive. Hell no! They scored ~23 points off of special teams/defense (counting the 20 bonus yards on the goofy drop kick as ~2 points, which might be conservative). Same problems on offense, same problems on defense, bunch of stupid luck, and they win. Unbelievable.

123
by horn :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:16pm

Malcolm Jenkins had a really terrific game even without the 99-yd pick Six. If you don't see that, you're the worst kind of Philly fan -- the Eeyore.

151
by Pat :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 10:51am

I'm really not. Jenkins's game *looked* really good, but the problem was that the Patriots offensive line couldn't do anything about the Eagles pass rush for most of the game, and the Patriots receivers would be better off starring as the Lollipop Guild. So the secondary looked great the same way it did all year - thriving on screwups by the other offense due to them being pressured.

He never really did anything particularly 'impressive'. You never really saw tight coverage against a top-flight receiver (because... there weren't any) and you never really saw him break up a play by anticipating a throw and breaking on it. Don't get me wrong - Jenkins is the best player in the Eagles secondary, but that's a really low bar.

And that 99-yard pick-6 wasn't impressive. I mean, the return was great, but you don't compliment DBs on return skills. Jenkins was actually *beaten* by Amendola on the play - but Amendola ran into Thurmond, and the ball *literally* bounced right into Jenkins's hands. If Amendola brings that route a yard or so closer to the line of scrimmage, that's a touchdown.

158
by theslothook :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 1:30pm

Disagree that he was beat on that play. That was designed bracket double coverage. He was def shading more inside since thurman had the outside. Its more fortunate that Brady misread it and threw it there

169
by bubqr :: Wed, 12/09/2015 - 10:53am

I wanted us to lose out, but I can't say I did not enjoy the crap out of that game. Now back to being kinda depressed. I guess it was just like getting drunk an evening.

22
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:52pm

That Gabbert long pass to end the game was something that was just SITTING THERE to be had by Green Bay. So good work by San Fran exploiting that obvious issue with the Chicago defense. Their safeties have no speed or range so once the receiver was handed off to Prowhatsit I knew if Gabbert got it close the receiver would have a chance at a catch. When the ball was on target it was game, set, match.

And prior to that Gabbert looked pretty nifty running around. At minimum he's mobile which has some amount of value assuming he can be adequate most of the time throwing the ball.

I know there is a lot of talk about Cutler playing better this season, but I think some of that is just better luck than 2014. Yesterday at the end a SF linebacker dropped a wounded duck and against GB there were several interceptions flat out dropped.

33
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:08pm

This was by far Cutler's worst game this year. He looked like he just didn't understand what the 49ers defense was doing.

42
by coremill :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:19pm

Not really, it looked to me like it was just a completely blown coverage. If it was such an obvious weakness, SF would have have exploited it in regulation. If you spot a weakness like that, you don't leave the trump card in your pocket for four quarters in the hope that the game goes to OT.

99
by TomC :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:42pm

Agreed. Gabbert had 125 yards on 31 passes up to that point, so either that breakdown only happened once, or Gabbert is so bad that he missed it the first N times it happened.

Oh, and Vince and I must have watched different games. Gabbert was far below replacement level for 95% of the game. He basically made two plays the entire 5 quarters, and most of the time he was missing receivers by 5 yards. Given the quality of the Bears defense, I can't imagine anyone taking this game as evidence of improvement.

103
by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:53pm

The takeaway from the Bears/49ers game, for me, was that both teams are bad. Bears can (and have) shown some spunk here or there, but the offense especially was bad yesterday. The 49ers more hung around long enough for the Bears to lose.

26
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:00pm

I was glad to see James White do well yesterday. I always thought the ex-Badger would be able to find a niche role on a NFL roster.

32
by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:07pm

As a Seahawks fan, I was cautiously optimistic they would win handily. They've improved since the early part of the season, and they were still pretty good back then (even though they were losing). The Vikings, on the other hand, are probably not very good. I think they have enough wins banked to eke into the playoffs as a wild card (I mean, who's going to catch them?), but I wouldn't be shocked if they lose out and miss the postseason altogether...

"Wilson, inexplicably, got up to run when he was very clearly down." Actually it looked to me like Wilson got up to run *after* Robison started giving him the business. I think Wilson was responding to Robison continuing the play after the whistle, not vice-versa. It is still a terrible call by the official -- there's just no reason to flag that ticky-tack stuff -- but at least it would make some sense. Or maybe it was on Wilson, and I'm just being a homer.

36
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:16pm

The Vikings are pretty good on defense when healthy, they just don't have a ton of depth. Joseph has probably been their best player on defense this year, and when he is off the field they are much easier to run on. Barr is their best athlete on defense, and Smith probaby their most important d-back. Take them off the field, and they just can't be nearly as good on defense. Their offense can only function when the defense is playing well.

When they declared Joseph out last Wednesday, and Barr and Smith questionable, an easy Seattle win became pretty obvious.

35
by Led :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:13pm

"Then Jameis Winston converts a third-and-19 with a scramble. He appeared to be tackled but was never actually brought to the turf."

Honestly, the ref has to blow the whistle there. Winston's forward progress was clearly stopped. Although there's no excuse for the Falcons defense letting up completely, there's a very good excuse for them not to hit the QB when he was stopped many yards from the first down.

I have a bit of a thing about the refs waiting so long to declare forward progress stopped these days (except in late game situations near the sideline where they suddenly enforce the forward progress rule vigorously). Even if there's a tiny chance the guy can get away, the risk of injury from giant pile ups (exacerbated when trailing OL blast the pile forward, which is legal for no good reason at all) militates in favor of a quicker whistle. I also hate when RBs get stripped well after their forward motion is stopped, often because they are understandably concerned about getting injured in the pile.

37
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:17pm

Josh Boyd of the Packers had his season ended when the refs just stood around while Seattle linemen shoved a pile for 2-3 extra seconds gaining the run maybe a yard and a half.

According to the players the refs only woke up to blow a whistle when Boyd began screaming in pain.

41
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:19pm

NOT meant as an indictment on Seattle. Those guys were only doing what everyone in the league does when officials refuse to manage the game

45
by Led :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:22pm

I'd reinstate the aiding the runner rule yesterday, if I were declared dictator. (I'm satisfactorily employed, but would serve in that position if asked.)

56
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:40pm

I don't think Winston was actually stopped there; that kind of thing happens on pretty much every run play. Had he been wrapped up by somebody they probably would have blown it, but he basically bounced into somebody, leaned forward without completely stopping, and then got up and ran around the right side. I find the situations where a back is basically stuck in the middle of a giant rugby scrum while offensive linemen dive into the back to continue pushing forward to be kind of crazy and think that should be blown much sooner, but the Winston one didn't seem to me to be anything like that.

111
by poplar cove :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:03pm

So very true especially with the fact it was a QB running with the football.

It's become so extremely difficult to tackle a quarterback these days. You can't go low, high, etc....It's smarter to a little off the hit away when he has the football and I think thats exactly what Falcons did on that play. They probably figured we stopped him short of the 1st down and not worth the risk of doing anything close to a penalty which ultimately means be less aggressive and it cost them big time.

38
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:17pm

Given how clunky the NE offense has been and that Brady's been taking double-digit hits the past few weeks, risking 20yd of field position to try for a kill shot doesn't seem a bad gamble to me. Philly still had to go 60yd and to that point weren't moving it well.

BTW, "Deep Threat" Brady has improved his career average to 29.5 yd/reception. :)

40
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:18pm

CHEIFS AND rAIDERS PLACVEKICKKERS KICKED LIKE WERE DRUNK. horrible GAME FOR rAIDERS. No problem. will receover and going to have big season 2016. Might still run table this season and finish 9-7. winning record attainable. Seeds planted for success.

61
by dmepolitic :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:50pm

So the thing that gets ignored is the Pats are a dropped Landon
Collins pick from being 1-3 in the last month. With their only solid win being
A 7 point home win over the Bills. Gronk was healthy for most of 3 of those games, so
Unless Edelman is secretly the mvp, I think this pats team is frankly playing like just
Another contender. Just in case nobody noticed Malcolm Butler was beaten on the final
Eagle td, just a week after getting torched by sanders and osweiler late in the fourth. Butler
Is a good player, but simply not elite, at least not yet.

80
by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:33pm

I've been saying that for weeks... They built up a lot of impressive wins against the AFC South and NFC East which are the two worst divisions in football.

They have a very good front seven, and beating Brady is as difficult as killing the Terminator, but even healthy, they aren't measurably better than the top 4 or 5 teams in the league.

107
by Steve B :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:00pm

I think some discounted the almost loss to the Giants because the Giants ALWAYS play them tough. All this being said, with Gronk and Hightower back I think they're still the clear favorite in the AFC. Yes, the Bengals look really good, but there's going to doubts about them until they actually do something in January. That's just the way it is. Yes, the Broncos defense looks very strong, but Osweiler (assuming they stick with him and I think they pretty much have to now) in January is a complete unknown and if Manning ends up playing again that's pretty much an unknown at this point, too. Yes, the Steelers, Chiefs and Jets could all be dangerous and make some noise but all have have their share of question marks and holes. Really, I could say NE is still the overall favorite given Carolina and Arizona's sketchy recent playoff history and that it looks likely that GB and Sea won't have more than one home playoff game between the two of them.

136
by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 7:47pm

I think it comes down to Denver or New England, and will be whoever wins home-field advantage. Sorry Cincy fans, I just don't trust them, especially if they have to play a game on the road.

Mile High is kryptonite to the Patriots. In the Bellichick/Brady era they are 2-6 in Denver with those two wins coming against Tim Tebow and a back-up who went 0-3 as a starter (Kannel). New England was only able to score on short fields and on a catch & run where a tackle was missed by TJ Ward's back-up. Denver's OL is really bad and needs all the help they can get and playing at home really helps. Of course Brady is Brady and anything can happen, and Denver will not be able to get away with spotting them 14 points on mistakes (shank punt, fluke INT) like they did last week.

New England probably has the best HFA in the conference. Denver's OL is much worse on the road (especially in pass-pro) and I can't see Denver running as well as they did in Denver. Denver's defense is really good and if they can make this an ugly game they'd have a punchers chance. Still, without a stand-out defensive performance I can't see Denver winning in Foxboro.

68
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 1:59pm

Rob Weintraub: Anyone see the suplex sack of Jay Cutler by Jaquiski Tartt? The announcers were screaming for a flag, and it was a violent looking move, but you have to let them play. No flag and I'm glad there wasn't. Cutler, as it happens, lands on his shoulder not his head.

Aaron Schatz: We were talking about the suplex here in the Gillette press box too. Absolutely legal. Painful, but that's football, kids.

I'm pretty sure style of tackle is roughing the passer, but Cutler drifted out of the pocket to his right before drifting back in, so he lost the pocket passer protections.

96
by TomC :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:35pm

I hadn't realized how much difference there is in the RTP rules between what you can do to a QB with and without the ball:

"UNNECESSARY ACTS AGAINST PASSER
(2) A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as “stuffing” a
passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the
ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided
for in (1) above. When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after
throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down and land on
top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap
up or cradle the passer with the defensive player’s arms."

So it seems that if the QB still has the ball, you can pretty much do your worst.

137
by akn :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 7:59pm

Cradle? The official rules seriously use the word "cradle" when referencing a tackle?

Ugh.

141
by TomC :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 8:22pm

Yes. It is also recommended that the defender whisper "it's gonna be ok" right before they hit the turf.

147
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 1:51am

+1

165
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 7:22pm

I thought (perhaps mistakenly) that pile-driving a guy into the ground like that was inherently illegal and not based on him being in the pocket? I could be totally wrong though.

71
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:02pm

So who here (other than maybe travis :) knew that on a kickoff the kicker could lateral the ball to another player for him to kick?

82
by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:39pm

I think it's one of those plays that will happen exactly once before the NFL bans it for being against the spirit of the rules. The rulebook already has language about stopping play if the ball falls off the tee or the tee moves; I don't think the people who wrote the rule a century ago contemplated someone actually picking the ball off the tee so someone else could dropkick.

85
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:55pm

I bet it's actually the other way around. A century ago there were probably more shenanigans like that (and probably no kicking tee, either), and then as football got more modern all that stuff stopped happening and things converged on the modern kickoff and its expectations.
So it's probably the person who wrote the 40-50 year old iteration of the rule didn't contemplate that.

84
by RickD :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:52pm

I'm guessing that the lateral would be considered to have happened before the play started.

138
by akn :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 8:02pm

Then that would be the only play in football where the ball can be touched by more than one person before the play actually starts. Every other instance would be called a false start or illegal procedure/formation.

That would have been cool--flag the Pats for false start during a kickoff.

161
by jtr :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 4:51pm

I think Rick has the right idea, that this is considered to occur before the play. Like if one of the coverage players had tossed the ball to the kicker for him to put it on the tee. The part that looks illegal to me is that the dropkicker didn't raise his hand to signal that the kickoff is coming, the way a kicker is ordinarily required to do.

162
by LyleNM :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 5:13pm

Uh, is that really required? Or is it just convention?

76
by Steve B :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:26pm

I'm reasonably sure that if Roethlisberger had been healthy all season (or maybe missed no more than a game) that he'd now be on pace to break the single season passing yardage record and Brown would be on pass to break the single season receiving yardage record. There isn't a better QB-WR combo in the league right now though, as I said in the game thread, Ben and Bryant is fast moving up the list. As far as the playoffs goes, Steelers really need at least one win the next two weeks vs. the top 2 seeds. They've had a lot of success in Cincy over the years, but winning again there this time sure won't be easy. After that, they get the Broncos at home. Broncos' defense is very tough, but I feel like the Steelers were helped somewhat for that by having just faced Seattle's D. It'll be interesting to see how Osweiler does in that situation. After that, the Steelers finish up with the corpse of the Ravens and the Browns (would be redundant to call them a corpse). Both on the road, but I imagine there'll be at least as many Steelers' fans in attendance as Ravens' and Browns' fans.

KC looks like a lock for the other WC spot. Their defense, after some early struggles, is now playing about how most expected and the remaining schedule is CAKE. I can't see them losing more than one game.

78
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 2:30pm

I agree, and I put good money on a prop paying me good odds for him to lead the league. Absent injury I assumed it'd be a sure thing. Oh well...

155
by BJR :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 1:01pm

I similarly had good money at good odds on Ben to be MVP. Too bad.

89
by Led :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:18pm

Given the strength of schedule, Pittsburgh controls its own destiny. If it goes 4-0 down the stretch, it's in. And if goes 3-1, it will very likely get the last WC spot. Assuming the Jets/Bills are both 9-6 heading into their week 17 match up (which is what "should" happen but may not), then things will get interesting. Winner of the Jets/Bills and Pitt would both be 10-6, with 7-5 records in the conf. (I'm penciling the Jets in for a loss against NE.) However, Pitt would likely win the tiebreaker on strength of schedule -- certainly if it's the Jets but also likely if it's the Bills. If Pitt goes 3-1, basically the only way they miss the playoffs is if the Jets go 4-0, which is pretty darn unlikely. Of course, Pitt is no gimme to go 3-1 (to say nothing of 4-0), especially with Ben's precarious health.

94
by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:30pm

Assuming they both go 10-6 with the Jets losing to the Patriots and the Steelers beating the Browns, the Steelers win the two-team tiebreaker on better record against common opponents (Patriots, Browns, Colts, Raiders).

92
by Duke :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:23pm

Off topic, but today I learned that you shouldn't use the internet acronym for If I Remember Correctly, because the spam filter thinks you're trying to post an Internet Relay Chat link and bans the comment

100
by TomC :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:43pm

This is especially funny given that the Chat That Shall Not Be Named no longer uses that technology.

109
by NYMike :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:01pm

The spam filter has gotten completely out of hand, and basically interferes with everything. (Including this.)

112
by Dired :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:21pm

Interesting; I've had a few posts that I thought were vanilla and completely offense, spam or link free, only for the filter to simply refuse to post them. If there are a list of arbitrary poison pills like that, and fixing the filter is too much work, a list would be certainly helpful.

144
by Duke :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 8:32pm

Yeah, I don't know what they are. I just tried to submit the comment a few times and couldn't figure out what was wrong. Then a bit later it popped into my head what might have been blocking it. I literally just removed that acronym for "I think" and it worked.

I would really like to see a move to Disqus...I haven't used it much, but every time I've used it I've enjoyed it. And you can get notifications when there are new replies to you which is nice. But who knows, when the site redesign happens maybe all prayers will be answered.

104
by TomC :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 3:55pm

Incredibly frustrating loss for the Bears, but probably just as well that any talk of the playoffs can be put to bed, and everyone can concentrate on how to improve the team. They completely dominated the game and lost on four plays (Cutler pick 6, Gabbert TD scramble, Gould short FG miss, Gabbert 71-yard pass in OT), every one of which was very low-percentage and every one of which had to happen for them to lose. But the Bears still would have won easily if they had not gone crazy-conservative in their play-calling for most of the 2nd half. First they call 6 straight running plays (and 8 of 9) on a drive that ends up in a missed FG (on 4th and 2 from the SF 22. The next drive they run on 1st and 2nd down three straight series and end up punting on 4th and 2 from the SF 42. On their last drive, they have 1st and 10 from the SF 17 with 1:16 left, and they run out the clock and set up the FG. Maybe that's ok if you're kicker is right, but he clearly wasn't, having already missed one short kick and flubbed one kickoff. Ah well.

114
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:35pm

It's crazy just how in games the Bears have been this year. In games where Cutler finishes, they haven't lost by more than one score. Now, even with Cutler they probably get blown out by the Cardinals. Still incredible results given what I expected going into this year.

Now can we just get McPhee some help out there.

116
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 4:45pm

Frustrating for SF fans, too. Chicago botching that game might have cost the 49ers a top-10 draft pick. It also probably ensured the return of Jim Tomsula, and maybe (please no) convinced the FO that Gabbert was the team's QB of the future.

124
by Dired :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:17pm

Eh, one of the major reasons cruddy teams are cruddy is they can't draft well. Unless there's a can't miss pick at #1 or something, most cruddy teams would just waste an early pick anyway because they don't understand how to draft in the first place. Tanking for picks mostly just makes you extra pathetic.

131
by jds :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 6:14pm

"But the Bears still would have won easily if they had not gone crazy-conservative in their play-calling for most of the 2nd half."

What! A John Fox team crazy-conservative with a lead in the second half! Never happened before, I bet.

134
by tuluse :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 6:31pm

In this game it's hard to really criticize the conservative playcalling. Cutler was playing an uneven game and Langford was killing it. On the otherside, yeah the defense is bad, but you're playing Blaine Gabbert.

They took a touchdown lead over a team that scored 6 offensive points all game until Blaine Gabbert became Steve Young.

Plus, Gould missed 2 FGs from 40 yards or less. A lot of people complain about coaches settling for long field goals at the end of games, but 36 yards is not even long.

139
by akn :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 8:10pm

I'm appreciative of the stability Gould has given the Bears over the past 10 years at place kicker, but his leg is just a wet noodle now. He can't even consistently get a touchback on kickoffs, and the accuracy he was prized for is long gone. Last year his accuracy was only 75% with a long of just 45 yards.

I was surprised to see that he's only 34 (which isn't very old for a place kicker).

148
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 1:54am

In slack (ne internet relay chat), fnor pointed out that Gould planted too early on both misses.

So, I'm going to chalk this down as something else Toub would have prevented.

163
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 7:16pm

Yeah, I bear him no ill will, but between the dropoff in accuracy, the lack of touchbacks, and the amount of money he's making, I would like to see a new kicker next year. Especially since having John Fox as coach means a lot of field goals will be attempted.

143
by TomC :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 8:31pm

They took a touchdown lead over a team that scored 6 offensive points all game until Blaine Gabbert became Steve Young.
Plus, Gould missed 2 FGs from 40 yards or less. A lot of people complain about coaches settling for long field goals at the end of games, but 36 yards is not even long.

Yes, but I'm arguing they wouldn't have been in a position to have the game tied on a Gabbert scramble if they'd done more with the opportunities they had early on. Part of that is execution by the offense, but part of it is (in my opinion) overly conservative play-calling.

164
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 7:20pm

We were all warned that conservative playcalling is what we'll get with Fox, and I'm starting to get nervous for what's going to happen in two or three years when this team is contending for something. Like you, I'm almost relieved not to have to wonder if the Bears can win out and make the playoffs (and probably get stomped by any of the other 5 playoff teams), so this isn't about last Sunday at all.

129
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 5:45pm

I havent watched a ton of San Diego, but its pretty remarkable that by wins they are the worst team in football. I cant remember the last time the worst team in the nfl had a qb in the top 10. Or is rivers officially in decline?

140
by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 8:15pm

I have to think he'll fall out of the top 10 after that game, even after opponent adjustments.

The 2013 Falcons didn't have the worst record (San Diego doesn't either, for that matter), but going 4-12 with all four wins by one possession is pretty close. Ryan was 4th in DYAR and 9th in DVOA that year.

157
by BJR :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 1:13pm

It's completely understandable to forget about the Browns, but they do in fact own the worst W/L record in the league.

Rivers is still good, the team has just suffered injury after injury to the offensive line the last two seasons, decimating what was already a suspect unit. His best receiver is on IR, and his old buddy Gates just can't run anymore. Drafting a RB in the first round when there were so many other needs didn't help matters.

Add in the fact that it seems certain the franchise will be moving to LA, it's sad to see the career of a great player like Rivers fizzling out in such pathetic fashion. He ought to seek a trade this off-season.

145
by techvet :: Mon, 12/07/2015 - 9:12pm

Note to Aaron Schatz: The Vikings lost by *only* 31 points. There's a really big difference between losing by 35 and losing by 31, er, wait...no, there isn't.

EDIT: Maybe you were referring to the fact that when you wrote it, they were losing 35-0, so never mind.

159
by jonsilver :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 2:11pm

Re Andrew Healy's point in the last paragraph of the Jets-Giants section, if the Jets had been down by 13, they not only would have gone for it on 4th down instead of kicking the field goal, but they very likely would have called a different play on third down, knowing they were in four down territory...
The bottom line: Coughlin correctly did not trust his defense (nobody in his right mind would)and probably had a lose-lose choice there...

Jon Silverberg

160
by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 2:42pm

Totally agree with this. Coughlin's choice was correct, the execution and result wasn't. The fact that the New York media and the Giant's fanbase (less so with the fans) are screaming bloody murder that it was a poor decision that cost the Giants the win, shows how bankrupt the traditional football media is in that town. The media complained about Bowles' decision to not kick the field goals against Buffalo, and that it cost the Jets the victory as well, and much of the Jets fanbase take it as a given that those decisions cost the Jets a victory, to the point where someone on Gang Green Nation claimed Bowles had learned his lesson, by taking the three points when down by 10. The foolishness of the traditional New York media knows no bounds.

168
by morganja :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 11:21pm

" On review, it was very clearly a fumble before Stewart went down, and Anthony was never down, so it was a touchdown."

I watch that video over and over and still don't see what Vince is talking about here. If it was a fumble, it certainly was not 'very clearly' from the video. Perhaps Vince is looking for a job as a a replay official in the NFL. They like to utilize their creative interpretive skills too.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/673623277420449793?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

170
by Lebo :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 8:40am

"Guess he must hold a grudge against NFC East teams"
Maybe Belichick figures that it's safest to experiment with trick plays when playing teams from the other conference? Since (I presume that) losing to teams from the other conference has less of an implication on tie-breakers.