Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Oct 2015

Audibles at the Line: Week 7

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.

Buffalo Bills 31 "at" Jacksonville Jaguars (London) 34

Andrew Potter: I still don't understand Rex Ryan's fascination with random wildcat plays following successful passes. (I say Ryan's rather than the coordinator's as we have seen this throughout his Jets tenure, and now also in Buffalo.) EJ Manuel hits a 29-yard pass to Chris Gragg, bringing the Bills down to Jacksonville's 12-yard line. On the next play, Manuel lines up wide with LeSean McCoy in the shotgun. Robert Woods motions from left to right, but the ball is snapped while Woods is between the center and McCoy, bounces off Woods, and the fumble is fortunately recovered by McCoy for a loss of 1 yard. Two incomplete passes later, Dan Carpenter kicks a 31-yard field goal. The drive had been working until the wildcat tomfoolery (6-yard run, 10-yard pass, 29-yard pass) but failed completely after that. How often do those plays actually work out for Ryan's teams?

Cian Fahey: Maybe he doesn't believe in momentum.

Aaron Schatz: Not to fault Jacksonville too much up 27-13, but they just had first-and-goal from the 1-yard line and ran Toby Gerhart up the middle out of the same power running formation four times. Does Blake Bortles not know how to run a quarterback sneak?

(I'm sure he does. That's sarcasm. What the hell, Greg Not The Tight End Olsen?)

Scott Kacsmar: Bortles was 6-of-8 on quarterback sneaks as a rookie. I actually would have just kicked a field goal there to go up 17. That was a 9:30 drive.

I imagine it was wise to toss and turn in bed for a few more hours instead of getting up to watch EJ Manuel piss away this game, right? I was surprised when Aaron said the Jaguars had 27 points, but that's obviously thanks to two return touchdowns and another short field (36 yards) after another Manuel interception.

Aaron Schatz: In the end, Jacksonville snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and then gave it back.

Vince Verhei: Blake Bortles' game-winning score here was his 15th touchdown pass of the season, which means, at that exact moment in time, he was tied with Aaron Rodgers for the most in the league.

Atlanta Falcons 10 at Tennessee Titans 7

Cian Fahey: Marcus Mariota and Zach Mettenberger couldn't be any more different as quarterbacks. Mettenberger's lack of accuracy and laborious process in the pocket really hinders the whole offense, whereas Mariota elevates his teammates with his efficiency in action. The Titans are unfortunate because they've got a bad Matt Ryan display today, but they can't take the commanding lead that the Falcons are trying to give to them.

Tom Gower: I thought the Falcons would have their way with the Titans' defense, but no such luck to date with the Titans holding a 7-3 halftime lead. Devonta Freeman has looked really good at times, but he has been a bit boom-and-bust, and Matt Ryan has missed a number of throws, including an open Julio Jones in the end zone. The Falcons have also gone pass-heavy in short yardage, passing on third-and-2 twice and fourth-and-2, plus twice more on third-and-3. Ryan is 1-of-5 on those plays.

Zach Mettenberger had a good throw to Kendall Wright for a score after a Ryan screen pass was tipped and intercepted. He had a good drive in the two-minute, at least until Adrian Clayborn got his hand up in his face mask (not flagged) and he threw an interception. On the whole, though, he's been high, pretty high, and higher on his downfield throws, while Cian noted the laboriousness of his process in the pocket, to which I'd likely add laboriousness in his thinking and processing. I'll need all-22 to confirm that last, though, but it would be consistent with what we've seen of him in the past.

Cian Fahey: zzzzZZZzzz....zzzzZZZzzzz....wuh..huh..oh, sorry, just been watching the Titans-Falcons game.

Tom Gower: In nine plays on third or fourth and short (3 yards or less to go), the Atlanta Falcons threw seven passes, handed the ball off to fullback Patrick DiMarco once, and gave Devonta Freeman (currently 24-115) one carry. They converted only two of those, one pass and the handoff to Freeman.

Today's game should finish any talk in Tennessee about Zach Mettenberger, potential quality NFL starter, and should quiet down any of the trade talk nonsense that was still coming out there. I mean, he's probably worth more than Ryan Mallett is right now, but this game was absolutely there for the taking and he did squat on the overwhelming majority of his attempts. His ALEX total should be great, too, given all the checkdowns in third-and-long.

Cian Fahey: The Falcons keep on winning, but this was one of the least impressive displays of their season. If the Titans had Mariota, they would likely have won. The most concerning aspect of the game from the Titans' perspective is Matt Ryan's inaccuracy. He was unable to get into a rhythm or come close to getting the most out of his matchup advantages outside.

Scott Kacsmar: Since there are only two bland games going on, I was reading my Mettenberger article from April.

I recall Tom bringing up Mettenberger's ALEX earlier today. Mettenberger had the second lowest ALEX on third down (minus-1.5) in 2014 behind only Alex Smith (minus-2.3). Mariota was sitting at 28th after Week 6, and I have seen some evidence that Ken Whisenhunt may be protecting quarterbacks that haven't earned his trust yet. But you're not going to sustain success with that strategy and Mettenberger has been terrible on third down in his career. That was also a very poor game-ending interception today in what became a very winnable game against an Atlanta team that's having some issues on offense.

New Orleans Saints 27 at Indianapolis Colts 20

Scott Kacsmar: You pretty much have to get up with the ball and hand it to a ref to get credit for a catch these days. Sean Payton has already challenged two of these "complete the process going to the ground" plays in the first quarter and he's going to lose them both.

Andrew Healy: Unbelievable that a preseason contender is getting annihilated at home by a below-average team. It's 27-0 in the third quarter. Hard to think of many touted units that have underachieved more than the Colts offense.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like we need to put this in the Indianapolis-New Orleans section of Audibles. This is one of the most brutal takedowns of the local team I've ever read by a local columnist.

Tom Gower: I object, because Ken Whisenhunt said he was "proud as hell" of today's Titans performance.

Vince Verhei: Well, as long as we're on this tangent, here's Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune suggesting that the city of San Diego would be a better place if the Chargers left.

Aaron Schatz: Acee is totally right, by the way. The number of Raiders fans in the stands in San Diego was really noticeable on the broadcast. They were loud. I kept thinking to myself, "this does not feel like home-field advantage for the Chargers today."

Minnesota Vikings 28 at Detroit Lions 19

Vince Verhei: Lions got touchdowns on their first two drives thanks in large part to a pair of big plays, a 46-yard deep-ball catch by Calvin Johnson on the first, and a 55-yard blown-coverage gain by Eric Ebron on the second. Since then, they've gone punt, 8-yard field goal drive, punt, and their best play was a 26-yard DPI on Xavier Rhodes against Johnson that looked to me like either guy could have been flagged. Matthew Stafford is under pressure a lot, but he's also missing guys on what should be easy throws.

On defense, the Lions are just crushing the Vikings' line. It's like Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh never left. Adrian Peterson has one carry for 12 yards, and 2 yards on his other eight runs. (It was October of last year that when Peterson admitted, during a court-ordered drug test, that he had been smoking "a little weed." He was due to do something stupid again, and I think getting sick because he swallowed tobacco juice on an airplane qualifies.*) Jerick McKinnon has done a little better, six carries for 23 yards, but even there his longest gain was a 9-yarder where they faked a dive and then pitched it outside, so he went around the Lions' line, not through them.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Peterson denied this after the game.)

Aside from two fumbles, Teddy Bridgewater is having an efficient day. His biggest play was a 49-yard gain on a screen pass to Zach Line -- that's only Line's fifth touch of the year, so you can forgive the Lions for being caught off-guard there.

Lions' secondary giving up big plays. First Stefon Diggs gets free in the end zone. It looked like Bridgewater overthrew him, but Diggs made a ridiculous diving catch for the score. He was wide-open on the play, and I'm not sure how -- it was either really bad man coverage by Rashean Mathis, or Glover Quin was really late getting over in deep zone coverage. Or both.

Next drive, Peterson hits the second level, where James Ihedigbo has a chance to bottle him up. Then Peterson cuts towards the sidelines and Ihedigbo basically stands still. It results in a 75-yard run. Vikings move backwards from there and it turns into a field goal, but Minnesota still leads 25-17.

The story of this game continues to be the Lions' secondary wasting a stellar performance by the front seven. They've sacked Bridgewater four times and have stuffed Peterson for no gain or a loss about a half-dozen times, but they keep giving up plays to receivers. MyCole Pruitt breaks a bunch of tackles to pick up a first down on third-and-long, then play-action gets Adam Thielen open on a deep corner route for a 30-yard gain. And then they go backwards again and kick another field goal to go up 28-17.

Lions have done close to nothing on offense after halftime. Vikings are bringing blitzes and repeatedly sacking Stafford with unblocked rushers.

Lions lose 28-19. Including penalties, they gained 75 and 80 yards on their two first-quarter touchdown drives, and 88 yards on a fourth-quarter drive that ended in a failed fourth-down try. In between, they gained 30 total yards on seven drives, with Stafford taking all seven of his sacks on those possessions.

Scott Kacsmar: We roasted Jim Caldwell for extremely conservative decisions in the fourth quarter last week against Chicago, but I think he went too far in the other direction today. Down 28-17 at the 1-yard line with 2:00 left, I think you kick the field goal on fourth down. Keep it a one-score game. You were just stopped on consecutive runs. Keep the game going, because a failure to convert all but ends it there. Even the safety isn't very helpful when you still need to produce two more scoring drives.

What's really annoying is that Detroit was fine with the risky call there, but ran the ball on third-and-13 earlier in the quarter when the score was still 28-17. That's a bad mixture of conservative and aggressive.

Andrew Healy: Given that I roasted Caldwell for kicking the field goal against the Bears, I want to defend this call. There are a few good reasons to go for it there. First, that's likely to be your best chance to get a touchdown. Second, if you miss the two-point conversion, you now know that you still need a touchdown if you get the chance again.

I'd love it if we started to think of eight points as a one-and-a-half-score game. Getting the two-point conversion often doesn't get enough weight, as in that very-poor-man's Belichick imitation attempt that Jim Mora Jr. tried for UCLA a few weeks ago.

Vince Verhei: I'm with Andrew on this one. You're going to need a touchdown at some point, and you're more likely to get it from the 1-yard line than from who-knows-where on your next drive.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13 at Kansas City Chiefs 23

Scott Kacsmar: The Steelers are using DeAngelo Williams as a short-yardage back today and it has not worked well with two big stops, including a fourth-and-1. Williams was also the target on a third-down pass in the red zone that he dropped, bringing out the field goal unit.

Cleveland Browns 6 at St. Louis Rams 24

Vince Verhei: Every time I watch the Rams play, I have to look up the records and remind myself that yes, this team really did beat Seattle and Arizona.

Todd Gurley gets a 16-yard touchdown run to put the Rams up 24-6 with about eight minutes left in the game and it's pretty much over. Gurley also had a 48-yard run in the third quarter and the Rams have certainly had better stats in the second half. Still, Cleveland has the edge in total yards, 292 to 289, and has nearly matched St. Louis in first downs, 13 to 16. The game is a blowout because the Rams have recovered all three of Cleveland's fumbles, returning one for a touchdown. Play-in and play-out, Cleveland looked as good or better than the Rams for most of the day.

You're not supposed to cheer for injuries, but the CBS execs were clearly hoping that Josh McCown would get hurt. He had a number of bumps and knockdowns today, including one where he scrambled out of bounds and crashed right into a wall. Every time, the camera would frantically cut to Johnny Manziel... who would be standing there minding his own business, showing no indication that he was about to enter the game. Eventually McCown did leave with what looked like an arm or shoulder injury, and Manziel looked OKish on a meaningless drive down three scores in the game's final minutes.

Houston Texans 26 at Miami Dolphins 44

Cian Fahey: Joe Philbin would probably still be employed if his team simply used Lamar Miller. Dan Campbell has come in and made simple alterations that have had a huge impact on overall effectiveness.

Rivers McCown: I just put on a DVR of the NLCS.

Andrew Healy: So we can say that the Dolphins were just not trying under Philbin, right?

Ryan Tannehill's statline just flashed: 16-for-16, 248 yards. Unless I'm wrong, no quarterback since at least the merger has had no incompletions with at least 15 completions.

Rivers McCown: Bill O'Brien managed to potentially end the career of his perpetually-injured 29-year-old running back trying to come back from 41-0.

Aaron Schatz: In O'Brien's defense, it was a non-contact injury. Same thing could have happened in practice during the week.

New York Jets 23 at New England Patriots 30

Aaron Schatz: What I was most interested to watch in this game was whether Todd Bowles would resist his urge to blitz given that a) Tom Brady excels against the blitz and b) the Patriots' line is down to its third-string left tackle. After the first series, the answer is yes. Three-and-out, with a four-man line getting pressure on its own on first down (a throwaway) and third down (a sack).

Cian Fahey: The Jets have every single matchup they need to beat the Patriots today, but their quarterback is a major issue. That was highlighted on their first drive when Ryan Fitzpatrick had a bad fumble deep in his own territory.

Aaron Schatz: Also highlighted on the second drive when, after he got them downfield, he way overthrew an open Eric Decker in the right corner of the end zone.

Patriots seem to be using the same coverage style on the Jets that they used on the Colts last year. No. 1 cornerback (Darrelle Revis last year, Malcolm Butler this year, and no, they don't deserve to be in the same sentence but bear with me) is on No. 2 receiver (Decker, in this case). The other starting cornerback (Logan Ryan today) is covering the No. 1 receiver (Brandon Marshall) with Devin McCourty at safety clearly shaded over to Marshall's side.

Patriots have essentially decided they will not let the Jets run the ball on them. Stuffing linebackers up the middle on every play, doing a good job of shutting down Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy. But Chan Gailey has other tricks up his sleeve for the Jets offense, and they're moving the ball down the field on pass plays, with Eric Decker getting open a lot against Malcolm Butler, and passes to guys like Tommy Bohanon and Jeremy Kerley who we have not seen much this year. Ryan Fitzpatrick has also scrambled well and gotten lucky with a couple of dropped interceptions by the Patriots' defense.

On the other hand, the Jets defense has decided it will not let the Patriots gain YAC on those crossing patterns over the middle, and the Patriots haven't been able to find anything else to do. Pats have not had a single running play in the first 20 minutes of the game, and the only throw to Brandon LaFell on the outside was a short hitch. They need to try something else besides the inside crossing stuff.

Patriots go empty backfield on third-and-1 and the Jets send six, with Calvin Pace unblocked for an easy sack. The Patriots have abandoned all pretense of running the ball today, and I don't quite understand it. Yes, the Jets have a great front, but if you put a back in the backfield you not only could try a draw or something, but you also have a guy who can block blitzers, and it's not like he's not allowed to go out on pass routes if the Jets only rush four.

Sterling Xie: The one area where the Patriots had a huge advantage over the Jets in this game was on special teams (No. 3 vs. No. 31 in special teams DVOA). I think it's fair to say that represents the three-point difference at halftime. Steve Weatherford has been pretty bad in his Jets debut, as the Pats have started on their own 41-yard line, midfield, and the Jets 47-yard line following Weatherford's 3 punts so far. As the Cowboys and Colts did, the Jets are going out of their way to take away those in-breaking routes, and it's not helping things when Brandon LaFell drops four first-half passes in his 2015 debut. But if the Pats defense continues to stuff the Jets running game, I like their chances to win the field position battle in the second half as well. Might make the difference in this game, given how yards have been really hard to come by for the Pats' offense.

Aaron Schatz: Eric Decker is having a great game for the Jets, and is huge on a drive where they take a 17-16 lead with 4:00 left in the third quarter. The Patriots know he's causing problems and they specifically had a linebacker disrupt the start of his route as a slot receiver on third-and-7, but he gets into it anyway, angles into the middle of the field, and catches the ball for a 23-yard gain and first down. That's five catches for 82 yards for Decker so far. Two plays later, he was the pick in the pick play on the right side, taking out Rob Ninkovich as Ninkovich attempted to cover Chris Ivory, and Ivory walks right into the end zone untouched for the go-ahead touchdown.

Andrew Healy: The Jets have converted a bunch of third-and-longs today, again and again to Eric Decker. Chris Ivory looking less than 100 percent has been a pretty big problem. Are all the Patriots balls blown up to 16 psi again with drop after drop? I kid, I kid. it's largely LaFell coming back off PUP and not being fresh.

All five Decker receptions are on third down. He's converted two third-and-10s and one third-and-7.

LaFell could be looking for the NFL record in drops. His fifth third-down drop forces a Patriots punt down 17-16 late in the third quarter. In fairness, one of those balls was hard to catch since Antonio Cromartie deflected it. But the other four were legit, I think.

Fitzpatrick has been really good on third down throws today. A bullet back-shoulder to Brandon Marshall should have been a touchdown to go up seven or eight. Instead, Marshall drops it and the Jets settle for three.

Don't want to beat up on a guy too much, but Dion Bailey might again be the weak link in a really good defense. The Patriots convert a third-and-17 when Bailey gives Julian Edelman too much space on what ends up a pretty easy throw. Bailey is in because of an injury to Calvin Pryor, who had looked good in coverage earlier.

The drive ends in a touchdown to Danny Amendola, who is becoming a bigger part of the offense in the last few weeks. Great job holding on to that one as he got undercut after elevating to reel it in.

On a day when the Patriots can't stop dropping the ball, Danny Amendola is going the other way. What a sensational catch now, where he climbs the ladder to give the Patriots a first down inside Jets territory with about 3:20 left.

Sterling Xie: Really, really strange clock management by Todd Bowles at the end of the fourth quarter. The Pats completed a pass following the two-minute warning inbounds, but Bowles let it run down to 1:20 despite having three timeouts. Brady made it a moot point on the next play by connecting with Gronk to put the Pats up 10 and put the game away. But how on earth did the Jets come out of that drive with all of their timeouts? It was curious enough that he wasn't using any timeouts before the two-minute warning, but even if the Jets had come up with a stop, the offense probably wouldn't have had enough time to score the go-ahead touchdown. Can't understand that.

Aaron Schatz: Just in case the Jets' clock management in the Patriots' final drive wasn't strange enough, they also recovered an onside kick after their field goal to backdoor-cover and make it 30-23, and instead of a Hail Mary, they threw a 10-yard pass to Eric Decker in the middle of the field. Brandon Marshall was running deep and couldn't even get back to the line of scrimmage in time for the Jets to clock it for one more play.

Oakland Raiders 37 at San Diego Chargers 29

Aaron Schatz: Philip Rivers woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. The accuracy is just not there, and if Rivers isn't playing like a top quarterback, the Chargers have nothing else going.

Tom Gower: Remember back in 2012, when Norv Turner tried running seven-step drops with UDFA rookie Mike Harris at left tackle and Rivers looked awful and had a negative DVOA? With all the offensive line injuries in particular and with Antonio Gates out again today, 2015 Rivers is starting to remind me a lot of 2012 Rivers. Just looks uncomfortable, not processing things well, and just not as accurate. Too bad, really, since I enjoy watching Rivers when he's playing well.

Vince Verhei: Early on it was easy to write Oakland's outburst off as a one-man show, because it was mostly Amari Cooper doing big things, and Amari Cooper is awesome. But then third-round rookie Clive Walford caught the first touchdown of his career, and Michael Crabtree added a score on a wide receiver screen, and suddenly David Carr has thrown more touchdowns in the first 35 minutes of this game then Aaron Rodgers did in an entire contest last week against the same defense. And they're not running much, but Latavius Murray and Taiwan Jones have been effective when given the ball. It's been a long time, but we're going to have to accept that the Raiders offense is currently pretty good -- efficient, explosive, and diverse.

Aaron Schatz: Given the ages of the players, the Raiders should continue to get better. That's going to be a hot playoff pick next year. Cooper, Murray, Carr, Walford, and don't forget left guard Gabe Jackson, who is excellent and only in his second season. There's young talent on the defense, too, starting of course with Khalil Mack. The Raiders chapter this year told the story about how we can't laugh at this team anymore, and nobody is laughing today.

Dallas Cowboys 20 at New York Giants 27

Aaron Schatz: I know that Brandon Weeden had those ridiculous completion streaks early on after he became the Cowboys' starting quarterback, but still, Matt Cassel looks better than Weeden when it comes to decision-making on the short and mid-range passes. But he's not really going deep at all.

Vince Verhei: I think Cassel made more big plays in the first half today than Weeden has all year. He has also thrown some very intercept-able passes, but he is clearly the best of their terrible backup options.

Orleans Darkwa has been the Giants' best offensive player today. For name value alone, I hope that trend continues.

Cassel's intercept-able passes are actually being intercepted in the third quarter. The first resulted in a pick-six for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, though that was really on Terrance Williams for running a bad out route and letting DRC beat him to the ball. Next drive, Cowboys reach midfield, and Williams gets open on a 9-route for what should have been a touchdown, but Cassel's throw is way late and way underthrown, and Brandon Meriweather has time to get over and intercept the ball just outside the end zone.

Rueben Randle makes a big catch on third down against Brandon Carr to get the Giants out of bad field position, but the drives stalls on a sack (Greg Hardy showing up big today) and the Giants get a field goal to go up 20-13.

So I'm watching the Giants get all they can handle from Cassel and the Cowboys, and thinking about the Eagles-Panthers matchup tonight, and it's still realistic that the day will end with every team in the NFC East having a losing record. That got me thinking about the NFC playoff race as a whole. Somebody's going to win this division, but none of the other NFC East teams are sniffing the postseason. Either Atlanta or Carolina will probably win the South, with the loser probably still getting a wild card berth. Arizona and Green Bay should still win their divisions. That leaves one wild card spot available between Seattle and Minnesota, who play each other in a few weeks. Anyone else likely to get in? Anyone have faith in the Rams or Saints or someone?

Aaron Schatz: Oh, the Rams are so inconsistent that something could happen for them. We believed in them in the preseason, so hey, I might as well still believe. And honestly, the NFC East teams are better than their records, unlike the AFC South teams. One of them could rise up to get a wild card.

Giants' defense is getting gashed by the Cowboys' run game. Not sure if we should have expected this or not: Giants were No. 4 in run defense DVOA coming into this game but 22nd in ALY.

Vince Verhei: Matt Cassel's pass drilling Cole Beasley right in the earhole is about the perfect summary of the Cowboys' 2015 season.

Or not. Williams makes a toe-tapping sideline catch to convert the ensuing third-and-9. Devin Street then makes a toe-tapper in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown, and suddenly the Cowboys are up 21-20.

Aaron Schatz: Also worth noting how well the Dallas defense has played today. Having a pass rush (i.e., having Greg Hardy) helps a secondary out, but that secondary is also playing better than expected. Morris Claiborne seems to finally be a reasonable NFL cornerback, although he'll never live up to his draft position.

Vince Verhei: So I was wrong about two things:

1) Street's touchdown didn't put Dallas ahead, it tied the score at 20. Not that it matters, because Dwayne Harris returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to put the Giants up 27-20, and the Cowboys never really threatened to score again.

2) The perfect summary of the 2015 Cowboys season is Greg Hardy losing his mind and getting into physical and verbal confrontations with multiple teammates after Harris' touchdown.

Man, you've gotta feel bad for the Cowboys here. If only there had been some sort of sign that Hardy might be prone to emotional outbursts and violent behavior, then they wouldn't look so foolish now.

Cian Fahey: Considering what happened the last time the media rained down its judgment on a player in a sideline argument (a Cowboy coincidentally or not so coincidentally), I'd caution against making judgments on that kind of stuff.

Philadelphia Eagles 16 at Carolina Panthers 27

Aaron Schatz: In the first year of Chip Kelly's offense, the Eagles threw down the field for a ton of deep passes. Have they just completely given up on that? And I wonder -- did Kelly decide he didn't need a quarterback who could throw deep, or did he go out and get Sam Bradford and then discover, "Hey, it turns out Bradford's inability to throw deep in St. Louis was actually a thing that happened and might be predictive of future performance!"

Here we are about to hit halftime and the top receivers for the Eagles are Miles Austin (two for 30), Zach Ertz (two for 17), and Darren Sproles (two for 6). I know the Panthers have a good defense, but YUCK.

Tom Gower: Chip Kelly inherited a good offensive line, at least once Lane Johnson improved, that stayed healthy for all 16 games and paved the way for everything they did offensively. That line has steadily deteriorated for the past two seasons without being adequately supplemented, culminating in tonight's loss of Jason Peters. Add in a lack of explosiveness at wide receiver this season, with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin both playing elsewhere, teams getting used to what Kelly does, and the deep throws are a thing of the past.

Aaron Schatz: Bradford looking better in the second half, and they've been getting the ball a little bit more downfield... but still not any real deep pass attempts.

Tom Gower: No downfield pass attempts, but I thought at least Bradford did throw the ball past the sticks on the final fourth-and-9 attempt. I'd love to see a tally of how many more yards Bradford would have if the Eagles receivers had caught all the passes that hit them in their hands, be that Ryan Mathews' one-foot act or the fourth-down incompletion to Austin or any of the others.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 26 Oct 2015

123 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2015, 9:32am by CaffeineMan

Comments

1
by Ryan :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 10:49am

Cian Fahey: Considering what happened the last time the media rained down its judgment on a player in a sideline argument (a Cowboy coincidentally or not so coincidentally), I'd caution against making judgments on that kind of stuff.

Ummm.....uhhhh......errr.....well, uhhh.....hmmmmm.

OK, Cian.

20
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:01pm

What did happen?

Have to say having seen the clip of Greg Hardy issuing "No comment, next question" to reporters in the dressing room, he seems a really nasty piece of work. For sure, players from all sports get pissed off when they lose and don't want to talk to the media but he's another step.

91
by Duff Soviet Union :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:43pm

Actually, he should do that every week. I think we've seen that no good can ever come from him talking.

2
by Led :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 10:53am

Vince's Quick Reads comment for Brady is not hard to predict. Brady was roughly 20-37 for 200 yards, no TDs, and a bunch of missed 3rd downs before the Jets hit 20 points, and 14-17 for 150, 2 TDS, and tons of huge 3rd down conversions after that. He efficiently took advantage of the injuries to Pryor and Skrine. It was frustrating as heck to watch as a Jets fan buy you've just got to tip your cap.

18
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:42am

At some point they had to learn and stop throwing the ball to LaFell.

Sometimes McDaniels's learning curve can be frustrating. Why did LaFell get so many snaps when he clearly was not ready?

25
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:37pm

10 of those 17 were drops, including a layup TD to Edelman on the first drive of the second half. Brady certainly likes to pick on a weak link, but if the receivers held onto the ball the pre/post 20 point lines wouldn't be so disparate.

30
by Led :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:04pm

CBS can call them all "drops" if they want, but it doesn't make it true! The Edelman play on the goal line was a straight up drop, no question. And there were a few other legitimate drops. But a number of the so-called "drops" were defensed passes. A number of others were bad passes by Brady, even if they were theoretically catchable. He was definitely off. That was probably, in part, because he was trying to get the ball out so quickly and his early reads were covered, in part because he was not on the same page with LaFell, and in part because he's human (even though sometimes you wonder).

33
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:17pm

I agree some of the drops were defensed (2 or 3) and others were due to Brady being off. That doesn't quite support the idea that it took a couple guys going out for NE to have success, though, since whether it was a flat drop or a misfire, it was still an unforced error.

37
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:27pm

Pryor and Skrine were covering Gronk and Amendola respectively, and they were the guys not dropping passes. I thought Skrine finished the game though.

82
by Led :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:04pm

I never suggested that the injuries were the only reason for NE's offensive success. They're really good! Maybe they would've figured things out and won anyway. But it's probably not a coincidence that Brady was finding more guys open in the middle of the field, and there's no shame in taking advantage of opportunities the game presents.

31
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:06pm

Some of it was losing Pryor, but the earlier stats look worse because of all the drops. Brady was on, hopefully he won't be at the end of the season in New York. Also, not sure if throwing 40-50 times a game is a great plan to win a Super Bowl with a 38 year old quarterback.

41
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:42pm

Expect to see more running plays when Dion Lewis returns.

53
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:58pm

I was surprised he wasn't playing, and that benefited the Jets greatly. I could see him being huge in the rematch.

54
by Karma Coma :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:00pm

Yeah, that only works with a 37-year old quarterback.

92
by SandyRiver :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:51pm

Beat me to it. Brady tossed precisely 50 times against both the Ravens and the 'Hawks last winter, with very little Pats' rushing in either game. However, doing it all season is apt to be less successful.

94
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 4:02pm

It'll be successful until his arm falls off. Maybe it won't. They weren't this pass crazy early last year, were they?

116
by Karma Coma :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 10:45pm

I've never seen any stats correlating pass attempts over a season to diminished performance. Maybe FO ran a "Curse of 570" dropbacks that i missed?

120
by CaffeineMan :: Wed, 10/28/2015 - 12:08am

So do you think it'd be a function of sheer number of throws? Or a combo of number and distance. He's not chucking many bombs. Nor 20-yard outs.

122
by Karma Coma :: Wed, 10/28/2015 - 7:38am

This is my thinking. NE runs so many short-intermediate routes that even if high attempts were associated with shoulder/arm/neck injuries -which, again, i've never seen anyone attempt to demonstrate- Brady wouldn't be putting his body through the expected stress. I'm not really a baseball guy, and i know the mechanics are different, but it seems pro pitchers throw more, throw harder (no equivalent of a 1-yard shovel pass other than a rare intentional walk), and rest less than QBs, yet they can have 15+ year careers without their arms falling off.

123
by CaffeineMan :: Wed, 10/28/2015 - 9:32am

That's what I was kinda guessing as well. The biggest risk would be more hits, not more throws. But I'm of the opinion that the O-line is good enough to protect for the required length of time.

98
by ClavisRa :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 4:46pm

The defense was intent on stopping short crossers for no YAC, and they did a great job tackling on those. The Pats were (frustratingly) slow to adjust and push the ball downfield. Really the Jets did what the Colts did, focus on stopping the short game, since the Pats execute that so efficiently. But the Pats have an excellent 10-25 yards game, and they deployed just enough of it just in time. The Pats need to start games with more downfield routes, and not let defenses simply key off the short passes.

Brady stepping up in the pocket and firing deep middle may be my favorite thing in football.

119
by joe1961 :: Tue, 10/27/2015 - 10:26pm

Another thing, regarding the Jets poor clock management at the end of the game, how about right before halftime they ran the clock out with 3 timeouts remaining after the 2 minute warning and didn't use any, and clearly had plenty of time to get in FG position, nobody seems to have noticed!

3
by billsfan :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 10:54am

I spent most of that game just awestruck by Shahid Khan's moustaches.

4
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:00am

Well, for a weekly Tampa rant, that game was really entertaining for everybody who wasn't a Bucs fan, I would suspect, though I pretty much wanted to gouge my eyeballs out. 16 penalties accepted against Tampa and constant breakdowns in the defense in the second half; blowing a 24-point lead against Kirk Cousins should be a mortal sin in every belief system.

Here's the thing that pissed me off the most--it's 27-24, in the 4th quarter. Doug Martin has been running incredibly well, and tears off a 40-yarder down to the 6. Next play, he runs down to the 2. Second down, he gets to about the six-inch line. So, it's third down, you've been running really successfully largely behind your really athletic rookie RG Ali Marpet (who has been iffy in the passing game, but excellent in the run game). So, you score a TD here, you ice the game, pretty much.

Do you yet again run Doug Martin to the right, where you've had consistent success all game? No? How about, maybe, running a QB sneak with your really big rookie QB, who is, simply put, enough of a lard-ass where pure momentum should get him six inches? No? Would you instead put in your backup RB Charles Sims, a guy who really, really excels in space, is excellent once he turns the corner in a spread field and is pretty great on screens, and run a freaking toss to the left on the @#$!! six-inch line?

If the last option seems like a good idea to you, then I'd like to congratulate Aaron, because you are either Lovie Smith or Dirk Koetter, and, hey, Aaron, coaches are reading Audibles every week!

That was an utterly inexplicable play call. Sims lost several yards, Tampa kicked a FG to go up six, and Washington scored the game-winner on the next drive with 24 seconds left.

26
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:45pm

It was like 2nd and 2 on Dallas' first drive yesterday. I know you want to give your new-ish QB some simple early chances, but the Giants were playing on roller skates. Why get cute?

Shit, my seven year old playing Madden knows that you don't pass until the defense proves they can keep you from gaining 8 yards every rush.

89
by bsims :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:31pm

Post hoc, anecdotally driven opinion alert: Kicking to go up six late in a game never seems to work out well. Even after cousin Charles (not actually my cousin) got eaten on 3rd, I thought they should have still gone for the touchdown. If you score from 3 yards out, you win. If you don't, Washington is 97 yards from beating you and likely to settle for a field goal. Tampa kicking the field goal eliminates the possibility of overtime, but I'm not sure it increases their chances of winning.

Does anybody know of a study/analysis of being up 3 late in games vs being up 6? I know I've read other people's thoughts on this, but it's always been in the form of conjecture and opinion, not an analysis of actual numbers from actual games.

99
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 4:55pm

A good question for Brian Burke.

I remember reading about this recently. Based on how coaches behave, a 6-point lead might well be less safe than a 3-point lead late in the game. When faced with a 6 point deficit, the coach is forced to get his offense to try to score a TD. When down by only 3, many coaches will deliberately play to only get a FG, after which OT is a 50-50 proposition.

118
by BucNasty :: Tue, 10/27/2015 - 5:25pm

I didn't mind the field goal because I don't think the offense would have scored and the defense ought to be able to stop a bad quarterback from driving down the field for a touchdown. Like Milkman, however, I hated the call on the toss play at the goal line.

5
by Peregrine :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:06am

How the heck did y'all manage to have so many thoughts on Titans-Falcons? I liked only two things about that game: the Falcons won, and I have no professional obligation to watch it again.

And note to Kyle Shanahan, next time the Falcons have 3rd and goal at the 6-inch line, please try handing off to Davonta Freeman. In position to ice the game late in the 4th quarter, Shanahan instead called a FB dive on 3rd and then a play action pass on 4th (which was picked in the end zone, only really mattering in terms of field position). Boggle.

The Falcons are headed to 10 or 11 wins and a beatdown in the wild card round. I don't think we can handle the Panthers.

104
by Shylo :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 5:08pm

Tom Gower is a Titans fan would be part of it. I'm not sure about Cian Fahey, he seems to comment a lot on the Titans, but I don't think he's a fan.

6
by johonny :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:06am

Mia/Hou - This was the first ever victory for the Dolphins franchise over the Texans. Only Dan Campbell could get a franchise first like that because he's Dan Campbell. When Joe Philbin said there was no magic potion that could change things he apparently had not considered hemlock. AFC east update. The game Jets fell to the Patriots basically ending the AFC east race with only ten games to go. The Jets still appear in good position to win a wild card. The Bills have fallen apart and appear to wasting yet another season with a playoff potential roster. Miami travels to New England to lose on Thursday night. Thanks NFL for the short week road game against the division Juggernaut. The best thing about Thursday night Patriot games is you forget the NFL has Thursday night games and miss them pretty much every week already so there's no reason for a Miami fan to remember to watch this weeks game slate. No matter the outcome Dan Campbell promises to remain unbeaten on Sunday games come next week because he's Dan Campbell.

10
by James-London :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:15am

When does Chuck Norris buy a Dan Campbell T-shirt?

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

15
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:32am

We fans need to boycott the Thursday Night slopfests, since it is apparent the players aren't going to give up anything in the CBA to get rid of them.

29
by tuluse :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:52pm

I'll join you. Of course I'm not a nielsen household so not sure what good it will do.

72
by Sakic :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:47pm

I love football (as do most of the people on this site) and I hate, hate, hate Thursday night football games. Generally speaking, they are indeed horrible and the only times I ever watch them is when the Packers are playing.

The only exception, of course, is the Thursday Night season opener and the T-giving day football games (which is as much about nostalgia and tradition and turkey day just wouldn't seem right without it.)

32
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:11pm

While the Jets have a good set of 3-4 linemen who get pressure, the Dolphins actually have a pass rush. They also have a quarterback who can take advantage of the Pats secondary. You're correct that road game victories on Thursday night are rare, but I don't think the Dolphins will be an easy out for anyone the rest of the year.

35
by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:19pm

I do forget them every week. I think I'll watch this one, though. Not hoping for a win, just hoping they can make it competitive.

------
Who, me?

63
by johonny :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:16pm

The last time Miami played three straight road games was 2006. They lost all three that year. The schedule makers were not kind to Miami. Too much nonsense with 3 road games, overseas flights, playing divisional rivals coming off bye weeks, going to away games on Thursday night. I hated it when I saw it and it looks even worse now.

7
by pm :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:08am

The majority of the comments of the Saints-Colts game had to do with other games. Really?

76
by bsims :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:51pm

In my market, the majority of the Saints-Colts game actually was other games. They cut to WAS-TB pretty quick.

102
by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 5:02pm

I flipped on the TV to catch the early game scores and was watching a bit of the TB-WAS game, and then they said "We'd like to welcome those of you who have been watching the New Orleans/Indianapolis game." and I was like "wuh? They can't be finished already?" and then I looked at the score. Does that happen very often?

95
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 4:04pm

Well really, as you see there were only two comments on the game itself. Contextually, that was just the easiest place to put the ensuing conversation since we don't (yet) have a "post-game media evisceration" section.

8
by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:08am

I actually threw the remote across the room when the Bills ran that "wildcat" play. That's the third time this year one of those has nearly gone horribly wrong. They need to burn that section of the playbook.

9
by James-London :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:14am

I was at Wembley yesterday, and that was a sorry game. Endzone seats, and I was directly behind Manuel for the Sack/Fumble & Pick-6. Protection crumbled on the first, and the pick-6 was inexcusable. Even I saw Smith in coverage and baiting the throw; sadly EJ didn't. He then proved his inability to see an LB in coverage is innate, by performing the same trick a few plays later.

Terrifyingly, he might have been the best QB on the field, as Bortles was horrible (as was his pass protection). Jax desperately trying to give the game back to Buffalo made it a contest, but I still wish I'd left early, as I missed the ass-whupping Miami put on Houston...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

36
by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:23pm

It was a boring ass-whopping. It was way too easy. I enjoyed the Titans ass-whopping much more. Seriously, even for a team like the Dolphins, more than one game like today a season would be way too boring.

------
Who, me?

55
by James-London :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:00pm

That's a first-world problem I'd like to wrestle with, just once

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

61
by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:09pm

Looks like you picked the wrong sport to watch in London this weekend, then; you could've seen a great rugby match instead.

Go the All Blacks!

115
by jamie_k74 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 8:15pm

You could have even seen two great rugby matches.

Go Wallabies!

11
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:26am

Raiders on the rise as told to comemnters here all offseason. Anybody who lsuirtend to me and placed futures bets in las vegas did good thing. biggest concern now i s Broncis going 13-3 and Raiders going 11-5 or 12-4. Raiders will have to go on road to jackosnville or indianapolios in January. WEill beat them fine but annoying to have to go on road.

16
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:34am

With losses yesterday by Pittsburgh, the Jets, and the Bills, we really do now need to start taking Raiderjoe seriously when he talks about the Raiders making the playoffs. Clearly they are better than the Chiefs and Chargers right now. The AFC South isn't getting a wild card team. So the Raiders need to be considered "in the mix" along with the Steelers, Bills, and Jets.

And hey - their next two games are against the Jets and the Steelers! Win them both and they're in good shape for the #5 seed. The opportunity is there.

17
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:39am

I haven't looked into it at all, but it sure feels like there is greater than normal variance this year, with teams alternating between dreadful and impressive. There aren't that many teams that I have a definitive view of.

114
by ChristopherS :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 6:57pm

I agree entirely, and I think your second sentence explains your first. Because teams are more clustered this year, bad teams are having good games and vice versa.

34
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:18pm

I wouldn't forget the Dolphins either; they're tied with the Raiders, a half game behind the Steelers for the second wild card. The Steelers schedule looks harder than the other teams; they have three games against the Bengals and Broncos, and play at Seattle, as well as the Raiders game at home.

38
by Travis :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:27pm

But don't forget that the Dolphins have played pretty much their easiest possible schedule so far - the Bills and Jets at home (sort of), the three non-Colts AFC South teams, and the Redskins. Their November schedule is brutal.

39
by James-London :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:28pm

Fine, but Miami are already 0-2 in the division, with 2 games against the Pats to come; realistically 3-3 in divisional play is the upside, which would require a split with NE, and beating the Jets at the Meadowlands.
Miami have also lost to the Jags, which is another conference loss, and likely to be crippling as a tiebreaker (common opponents, strength of victory, etc).

Miami are a long shot for a wild card at this point as they'll likely need to go 11-5 to avoid the tiebreaks.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

43
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:42pm

Every potential wild card team but the Jets has at least 3 losses right now. 10-6 might get them in without worrying about tiebreakers. Also, the Dolphins have beat the Jets in New York the last 3 years, and 4 out of the last 5.

44
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:47pm

I rate the Dolphins behind the Jets for many reasons (but not at QB). Jets legitimately have a Top 5 defense. Dolphins have three wins against mediocre teams.

If they win at least two of their next three (@NE, @BUF, @PHI), I'll consider them a serious contender. Part of their problem is they've already lost home games to both Buffalo and the Jets. It's hard to see them winning the divisional tiebreaker they'd need to win a wild card spot. (I'm assuming the Steelers get one of the two.)

I think the Steelers with their entire offense back are a better team than Cincy and maybe better than Denver, FWIW.

50
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:55pm

I don't think the Steelers are better than Cincy this year; the Bengals have more weapons and a better offensive line. Denver may be worse than the Steelers because of their offense (the game is in Pittsburgh, so that helps the Steelers), but the Broncos defense has the ability to put a beat down on whoever they play.

Thanks for the props for the Jets, but I'm a Jets fan so I'm always looking for ways for them to fall apart.

51
by James-London :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:57pm

"but I'm a Jets fan so I'm always looking for ways for them to fall apart"

This Miami fan feels your pain-and your belief that Cincy are better than this year's Steelers

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

77
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:53pm

Biased and I don't think it's night and day, but I'm not seeing the Bengals having better overall offensive weapons than the Steelers. Green's really good and so is Eifert (They may wanna figure out a way to cover him between now and Sunday), but the Steelers have both arguably the best RB and WR in the league right now and Bryant has been a TD machine. Also, well as Dalton's played so far this season, I wouldn't think anyone ranks him ahead of Ben overall right now. There is a possibility of Ben being rusty on Sunday, though. Bengals would probably get the edge at o-line but, given the injuries they've suffered, I think the Steelers o-line has played better than a number of other units. In particular, DeCastro and Gilbert have both done very well.

83
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:05pm

The Steelers o-line has played better this year than expected after Pouncey's injury, but they are nowhere near as good as the Bengals' line, and haven't been for a while. Perhaps you're correct about the skill position guys, (I'm partially biased against the Steelers, I'll admit, and the run with Vick and Jones hasn't helped), but the Bengals' line has allowed their skill guys to be really efficient. The Bengals rank 2nd in Offensive DVOA right now because everything is humming, and they already faced the Legion of Boom. Funny thing is, the Steelers d has played better than the Bengals to this point. Should be a good game on Sunday.

42
by Raiderfan :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:42pm

Carr=elite
Raiders, baby! Playoffs here we come.

62
by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:12pm

To be fair, joe - you tell us that the Raiders are 'on the rise' every offseason.

That, and your encyclopedic knowledge of NFL hisorty and trviia, is what we aprpeicate about you.

74
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:48pm

Raiderjoe, do you think you have the coach to take you to the next level?
I think you have the perfect coach to keep you at the current level for the next 5 years.

85
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:17pm

Was hoping for t. Bowles or Quinn but Del Rio good too. Just as long as Raiders did bnot hire Rex Ryan ro doug marrone thinga would be A-Okay. Del Rio definitely can take Raiders to championship.

12
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:27am

I don't care how the numbers turn out, Bridgewater played great while under constant duress, even accounting for the fact that defenses have obviously decided to sell out completely to stop Peterson. This offensive line, especially on the road, couldn't block a defensive line starting Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, and Lamar, with Lamar still in a coma. It ain't easy scoring 28 points, even with 15 coming on field goals (Blair Walsh can't wait until having his home games under a roof again starting next year), while never actually blocking anybody, so it was an interesting game in that respect. Diggs is yet another late round draft pick who shows the value of receivers, y'know, catching the ball.

I'm officially on the Carolina Panthers bandwagon for the NFC (because I loved watching them last night), at least until it becomes a near certainty that the Patriots are going to win the AFC, at which time I'll have to evaluate which NFC team would best give them a game. Nobody looks too promising right now, but teams will often look a lot different in January than they did at the end of October.

24
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:28pm

The two fumbles and the sacks will probably leave him with single digits in DYAR, but I was very impressed with how he played. The Lions did oblige by blowing multiple coverages, but his throws were, for the most part, accurate and on time, despite being under great duress for most of the game.

Speaking of which, Stafford got off to a scorching start, going 7-7 for 128 yards and two touchdowns, but once the Vikings started stunting and blitzing, he wilted under the pressure and started missing open throws. He really needs to get a fresh start on a new team with a better offensive line. He might resurrect his career like Jake Plummer did in Denver.

27
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:52pm

Zimmer is really good on his side of the ball, and hiring Norv was a good move. They have problems, but coaching isn't among them.
''

28
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:52pm

I didn't see this game but I saw the highlight of the Bridgewater throw to Diggs for the long TD and all I have to say is that after watching a lot of Broncos games this year, Minnesota fans have NO basis for questioning Bridgewater's arm. That throw came out fast, long, accurate, and not floating at all.

67
by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:26pm

I remain optimistic on Bridgewater's future as the Vikes long-term answer at QB.

As I've said previously, though - if Minnesota doesn't spend at least 5 picks next draft on the lines (mostly O-line, but D line could use some help getting pressure), they'll be blowing it.

As for this year - still think they'll fall short of the playoffs, unless they pull an upset somewhere. After the next 2-3 games, it gets damn tough. And the game @ Oakland is certainly not a gimme.

Their next 3 opponents are 8-10. After that, 31-14. To make the playoffs, they'll have to take Seattle at home, then CHI and NYG, and even then maybe hope that the Packers have their seed locked up in Week 17, so the Vikes can beat a backup QB in Green Bay.

73
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:47pm

I hate watching a team which can't block, so the last 5 years have been frustrating, but, then again 2005-2014 were the worst 10 consecutive seasons that Vikings fans have had to watch, so there has been a lot to be frustrated about.

79
by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:54pm

Well, we did have the one-year Favretease in 2009.

But yeah - that line is going to get someone killed. Either Peterson's knees, or Bridgewater. or both.

86
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:19pm

Hey, the 2008 team, the year before Stubbleface, is one of my favorite teams ever, because they were as sound on the lines of scrimmage as any Vikings team since Grant's best rosters. But overall, 2005-2014 was pretty bad, because, in addition to the roster deficiencies, the coaching was so often very poor.

101
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 4:59pm

Being a non-Vikings fan, my favorite Vikings season was 2010, just for comical entertainment value. There was Stubbleface's swan song/faceplan, there were crazy Randy Moss press conferences, there was Joe Webb beating a playoff-bound Eagles team on the road (on a Tuesday night, no less!), there was Brad Childress generally acting like a crazy person (there were times I thought I was watching Tobias Fuenke on Arrested Development instead of Brad Childress giving a press conference), and on top of that...the stadium roof caved in! If you wrote a movie script with those events, it would be rejected for being too silly. Good times...

107
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 5:17pm

For mordant humor, the 2000 year was really good, also. They could play some offense, but were so soft on defense that it defied description. I can't even imagine what those practices were like; Randy Moss and Cris Carter being defended by guys who should have been UPS drivers. I didn't even bother to watch the Conference Championship against the Giants. What's scary is how close they came to getting HFA. Even Trent Dilfer would have lit them up, if it had come to that.

78
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:53pm

Kim is the original Potroast as she has the butt of an All-Pro nose tackle.
I think you are giving too much credit to Coma Lamar as he would clearly be a liability.
Swap Coma Lamar for post Coma Lamar and/or Caitlyn Jenner and I believe the Vikings OLine would be in trouble, especially if Khloe came to play - she's a beast.

13
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:29am

"What I was most interested to watch in this game was whether Todd Bowles would resist his urge to blitz given that a) Tom Brady excels against the blitz and b) the Patriots' line is down to its third-string left tackle."

Technically true, but Fleming played on the right side while Vollmer switched to the left side. It's worth mentioning that. At least Brady's blind side was in reasonable shape.

14
by turbohappy :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:29am

Re: Local Colts article

The article isn't even by Kravitz (who is well known for regularly posting scathing Colts articles, often even when they play pretty well). That makes it even more powerful. That game just left me confused. The offense played atrociously and they still somehow almost won. Just needed a little more of the "defender falls down" offense and they could have won it.

19
by Ryan :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 11:47am

The Gannett Mediaplex (I mean, the Indianapolis Star) hired notable H0t Taeker Gregggg Doyel earlier this year. He is pure generic sports-rage power-hackery. It seems below Aaron to even be aware of it, but there you have it. Colts could have won by 20 and Gregggg and his hideous goatee would still have some sort of taek:

"Sure, they won by 20.

Against the Saints.

Why not by 40?

[Additional one-line paragraph.]

I'm looking at you, Chuck.

Burn it down."

Etc etc etc

21
by big10freak :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:03pm

General observations

The Steelers choosing to put the offensive game plan on the arm of Landry Jones was kind of strange. Bell was able to get big runs pretty regularly but only had 17 carries. Meanwhile, Jones kept taking shots downfield hitting some but missing many others. The Steelers defense finally gave up the ghost late. This was a very winnable game in the first three quarters for Pittsburgh, and I put the loss mainly on the game plan. Did not play to the team's strengths against this opponent.

I have posted this before but certainly feel better about it now but when did folks decide Buffalo was good? I have seen this team play three times and each time not only have they been beaten the Bills were pushed around by the other team.

Boy was THAT a different Phillip Rivers. The guy last week could not miss. Every pass was right where it had to be for his guy. This week , not so much. And as was stated if SD doesn't have Great Phillip they got nothing.

59
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:06pm

Jones actually went over a quarter without throwing a pass during the first half, but they had him throwing much more after halftime. All things considered, I'd say he was okay. Problem was they needed more than that. Had to figure the MoE was going to be small with him starting and there were two plays that ended up being big in deciding the final outcome - the goal line drop by Williams and the deflected pass to Brown that he bobbled into Eric Berry's hands.

Defensively, Stephon Tuitt was sorely missed both because of how well he's played and because of how bad Cam Thomas continues to be. Other big difference - They didn't come up with any turnovers this week.

Re: Bell's numbers of touches - I think there may be a concern of him wearing down from overuse and getting injured like he did last season. There's also the fact that Williams is a much more capable #2 RB than what they had last year. Should be noted that they did convert on one of the 4th downs with him in the game.

Well, on to Cincinnati. Have to win that to keep alive any realistic divisional hopes.

22
by David C :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:15pm

I guess nobody on the FO staff cares about Tampa or Washington.

23
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:16pm

Do you blame them?

45
by TomC :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:48pm

I prefer reading Danimal on the Bucs to any paid FO writer, so this setup works for me.

52
by James-London :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:58pm

+1

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

66
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:25pm

I greatly hope that some year soon Tampa will stop explosively sucking donkey balls (or, alternatively, sucking explosive donkey balls, whatever works) and I will thereby become significantly (A) happier and (B) less entertaining.

47
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:52pm

There were eight games in the 1 p.m. EDT slot yesterday. Tam-Was was just not one of the more interesting ones. Was it even televised anywhere outside the DC and Tampa areas? I doubt it.

60
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:09pm

http://506sports.com/

actually, it was

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

64
by Travis :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:17pm

Any area outside of New Orleans and Indianapolis that originally got Colts-Saints got switched to TB-WAS once the Saints went up 27-0.

103
by David C :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 5:03pm

Washington is one of the big 10 teams so yes they did get coverage. And yeah, the second half was easily one of the more interesting games.

108
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 5:18pm

Yeah, I looked at the map and apparently they got coverage in Dallas, which makes sense. And in Albany of all places.

110
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 5:26pm

FO is open about the fact they don't watch every game, and Washington and Tampa are two terrible teams that have been abjectly terrible for years. The only notably interesting story for either team this year is really how does Winston perform as a rookie, and the shine is off that media spotlight this far into the season.

I'm guessing most FO people probably have access to Sunday Ticket in some way or another and thereby can choose what games to watch, and avoiding Bucs/Washington seems like a pretty prudent choice.

68
by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:31pm

You're probably correct. I also wonder whether you read the intro - specifically, the third paragraph of this regular column.

40
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:31pm

It may be emotional scarring from 2007 and 2011, but that damn Giant team scares the hell out of me. They seem to have their 4th year formula going perfectly: middling roster with a couple uber talented stars, start slowly, roller coaster season with moments of brilliance offset by truly terrible performances, eek out just enough of the bad performances to go 9-7 and win a weak division.... become a juggernaut in the playoffs.

Seriously, if the Giants lose to the Patriots 38-35 in a few weeks, I might just lock myself in a closet until March.

46
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:51pm

As a Jets fan whose team plays the Giants in a game that counts this year, I should be worried about them but I am not. The win yesterday was due to playing a team with a third string quarterback, and they don't have the pass rush they had in the Super Bowl years. Eli can be great, but I don't think they can take out Green Bay this time, with the Packers fielding an actually good defense. If you're going to worry about who the Pats play in the Super Bowl, I'd worry about Green Bay and maybe the Cardinals, Seahawks or Panthers. I'd suggest worrying about whoever the Pats play each week; one hit from Suh, and your season may be ruined, and they did cheapshot Mariota a couple of weeks ago.

48
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:54pm

You mean the GB team that needed a goal line stand to win a home game against the team Raiders just pummeled?

58
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:06pm

That doesn't show how weak the Packers are, it shows how potentially scary the Raiders are. I'm definitely worried about them, the Jets play there this week.

65
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:19pm

I don't know, the Vikings handled SD pretty easily.

Rodgers is Rodgers, so GB can definitely play with anyone, but they're hardly unbeatable. When Brady retires Rodgers should go play for Belichick.

69
by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:33pm

The Vikes handled SD easily, but that may be because their strengths match up better against SD.

More likely, it may be because their offensive coordinator coached SD not so long ago, and probably knows a few things about their QB and their offense.

87
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:28pm

All this can be true and it can be a bad sign that the Packers squeaked by them. Again, Rodgers is their QB so he can mask a lot of deficiencies. I'm not saying that GB isn't the NFC favorite, but they don't look unbeatable.

81
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:56pm

You are worried about a Jack Del Rio coached team?
Really?
Really?

84
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:12pm

Historically, the Jets have laid eggs playing the Raiders on the West Coast since the Heidi game, that Rex Ryan sponsored blowout notwithstanding. Too bad for the 68 Raiders that homefield depended on a divisional rotation and not record. Seriously, check out highlights of that AFL championship, it was a great game. Unless you are Raiderjoe.

Hopefully Bowles keeps them on an even keel, but Dakota Dozier will be getting his first start at center (Mangold got hurt), their secondary is a little banged up, and DID YOU SEE WHAT CARR DID ON SUNDAY? Ok, sorry for the caps, but the Raiders offense looks good enough to put up some points on the board, and Mack blitzing up the middle against a glorified rookie does not inspire confidence in me.

93
by SandyRiver :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 4:01pm

I was at Shea for that 1968 game - more passes 25+ yards beyond scrimmage than I ever hope to see again. Neither QB completed 40% of their attempts (it was quite windy) but YPC was immense, near 17-18 for the Jets and 27-28 (15 catches, 401 yd) for Oakland. After Maynard scored the eventual game winner, the Raiders drove into fairly easy FG range with 5-6 minutes left but, being down 4, chose to go for it on 4th, unsuccessfully. Jets punted, Raiders/Lamonica again drove deep into Jets territory, but now there was less than 2 minutes remaining, so they had to go for it again.

96
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 4:09pm

Was the backwards pass on a 4th down? I thought it was after a first down in Jets territory.

49
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 1:55pm

Yeah, when you put it like that it makes it obvious how much I'm acting like a spoiled brat. But can I still loathe the Giants please?

57
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:04pm

Totally. I'm sick of them already, and am hoping the Jets absolutely destroy them later. I actually like some of their players, I just hate the bias of the New York media for them and against the Jets when they lucked into their last Super Bowl. Feel free to hate the Jets too, but I don't know why you would. We keep giving your team the division.

71
by pats-fan-in-nyc :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:43pm

I'm more worried about the Giants simply because losing to another mediocre Giants team would be much more frustrating than losing to a good team. If the Pats lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl, that's a pretty good year because Green Bay is a very good team. If they lose to another crappy Giants team, not so much.

89
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:31pm

This was my take on the original poster's sentiment. And I just don't see any of the NFC teams being so good that a mediocre Giants team can't luck into another SB.

113
by Kurt :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 6:40pm

Rick is correct below. The previous Giants teams has a lot of talent and played inconsistently during the regular season. This team, apart from the QB, is bottom 5 in the league talentwise.

56
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:03pm

It's important to stay rational.

The Packers are a much more dangerous opponent than the Giants.

The Seahawks, too, and probably the Cardinals. Maybe even the Panthers and/or the Falcons.

The Giants play in a very weak division. In NJ, in a home game, they just beat a Cowboy team playing without their QB and their elite WR and the Giants only won by 7 points thanks in part to a 100-yard kickoff return.

As a Pats fan, I would salivate at the possibility of seeing the Giants in a Super Bowl. This isn't the 2007 Giants team or even the 2011 team. Their D-line isn't remotely playing at the same level.

Michael Strahan has retired. So has Osi Umenyiora. Justin Tuck is on the Raiders. JPP blew up a firecracker in his hand and lost half of his fingers as a result.

Happily, on 11/15 we'll see them play the Pats. That'll most likely be their last meaningful game until 2019.

70
by Kurt :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:38pm

I'm completely with you until that last line.

Worst-case scenario for the Giants is, they lost to the Saints, then lose to Tampa, then lose to the Pats. At that point, they'd be 4-6. Like it or not, a 4-6 team in the NFC East is still playing meaningful football (and might conceivably be in first place).

75
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:51pm

You meant the last meaningful game between the two teams until 2019, correct? I can hope that the Giants don't play a meaningful game until 2019, but asking for 3 terrible seasons in a row (with blown high draft picks) is a little much to ask.

80
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 2:56pm

Of course, it is more reasonable to ask this of certain other teams, but usually we leave the Jaguars out of polite conversation.

88
by Kurt :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 3:29pm

Right, duh. Obviously I misread it.

106
by RickD :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 5:15pm

Yeah, the "they" for "their last meaningful game" was intended to refer to both teams collectively.

Sorry for the confusion. I see I used "them" in the previous sentence to refer only to the Giants. #shiftingAntecedents

112
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 6:19pm

I hear you, Rick, but the Giants defy rationality. You're talking about a team that had a negative scoring differential and beat two 13+ win teams on the road and another in the super bowl. Plus I'm a scarred individual, I won't consider that team dead until the stake is through the heart, the head is cut off and the body is lit ablaze. :)

121
by CaffeineMan :: Wed, 10/28/2015 - 12:11am

Heh. I was similarly scarred. However, after the last Super Bowl where they survived another miracle catch with an equal and opposite miracle interception, I've relaxed.

97
by dbt :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 4:26pm

The Raiders played damn well but they also attacked a Weddell-less secondary methodically. The jump ball to Amari Cooper gets all the publicity but the touchdowns on identical WR screens to AC and Crabtree were basically coaching attacking missing personnel.

That said, the Raiders are going to keep getting better. The thing I would work on, honestly, is the running game. They struggled to ice the game in the second half, and a lot of short possessions kept their defense on the field and let SD back in the game.

-dbt

100
by ClavisRa :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 4:57pm

Cassell was better than his receivers. Much, much better. He understood the routes and how they matched up to the defense, when and where to place the ball. Beasley was completely unaware of a perfect pass, and Williams ran horrible routes to give up two picks; if he cuts hard and runs to the sideline both of those passes are shielded by his body and where only he can get them. But, a lack of crispness in execution is something of a Cowboys (Garrett?) hallmark.

105
by David C :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 5:11pm

That's been a problem for Romo too. I think Garrett's routes in the playbook are probably really confusing with lots of options some of which aren't spelled out very well, or his staff just isn't doing a good job making sure the players learn the playbook. Like the Romo-Bryant miss that led to Bryant's sideline tantrum that wasn't a tantrum was because Bryant ran the route as it was written in the playbook, but he was expected to slow down when he comes across a hole in the zone, which he didn't do.

109
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 5:21pm

The deep ball Cassel threw late that was intercepted was one of the worst passes I may have seen in years. Based on the route, the ball should have gone to the back corner of the end zone, and it dropped down like a rainbow of doom on about the 1, a couple yards in from the sideline. I don't know how Williams could have run a route where that pass was anything other than utterly abysmal.

111
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 6:09pm

To be fair, it looked awfully similar to the pick thrown by Brian Hoyer to seal their game against Indy a few weeks back. As it turns out, being able to beat Brady in a garbage can throwing competition does not a quarterback make.

117
by hector :: Tue, 10/27/2015 - 4:41pm

I was looking forward to seeing how Fahey would discredit Cousins for the game he played this week, how he would come up with some video mumbo-jumbo suggesting he really didn't play that well. Oh well. Maybe next week.