Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Jan 2016

Conference Championship Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei

Most of the time we devote Quick Reads to the discussion of individual players, those who have enjoyed especially good (or bad) games or seasons. After the conference championships, though, we like to look at the two teams that will be playing in the Super Bowl -- not at their best, but at their worst. When the Broncos and Panthers were beaten this season (or, more often, nearly beaten), how did it happen? What weaknesses were exposed in those poor games, and will those vulnerabilities cost them a shot at the Lombardi Trophy? We'll go in simple alphabetical order and start with Carolina, then cover Denver in a special edition of Quick Reads next week.

Carolina's worst four games this season included their only loss of the year, a pair of narrow wins over a division rival, and a comfortable win in the season opener that comes out surprisingly low in DVOA:

  • Carolina 20, at Jacksonville 9, Week 1: Cam Newton had a very inefficient day, with only 175 yards on 31 passes and 35 yards on 14 runs (including two kneeldowns). Jonathan Stewart was a virtual non-factor, with 22 yards on one carry and 34 yards on his other 17 runs. The defense dominated Jacksonville, shutting them out in the second half and adding a 30-yard Josh Norman pick-six to the scoring.
  • New Orleans Saints 22 at Carolina Panthers 27, Week 3:
  • Even with Drew Brees out of action, the Saints gave the Panthers all they could handle out of Luke McCown, who has literally made a career out of being a backup. The communications spokesman made for a pretty good quarterback against Carolina, going 31-of-38 for 310 yards, and though he never threw a touchdown, he had only one interception and one sack against a defense that led the NFL in the first category and finished sixth in the other. The Saints took the lead on a 74-yard Marcus Murphy punt return touchdown in the third quarter, and though Carolina recovered to go back ahead, McCown led the Saints into scoring range inside the two-minute warning, only to throw away all realistic shot at victory with an interception to Norman.

  • Carolina Panthers 41 at New Orleans Saints 38, Week 13: Brees was back, and he was busy, throwing 42 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Brandin Cooks caught six passes for 104 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown. This was a wild game that saw the lead change hands four times in the fourth quarter. The last of those lead changes: a 15-yard game-winning touchdown pass from Newton to Jerricho Cotchery.
  • Carolina Panthers 13 at Atlanta Falcons 20, Week 16: Without Stewart, who missed the game with a foot injury, the Panthers used an unusually pass-heavy attack, with 30 passes (plus two sacks) and only 20 runs. Newton gained only 142 yards on those passes, and lead wideout Ted Ginn was held to one catch for 9 yards. Newton did run for 46 yards and a touchdown, but he was also sacked and fumbled on the last meaningful snap of the game. Matt Ryan and the Falcons, though, had a big day through the air. Ryan went 23-of-30 for 306 yards, and Julio Jones had nine catches for 178 yards, with a 70-yard touchdown that might have been the catch of the year.

The fact that half of these games were played against the Saints is problematic, because any game against the Saints is going to end up with funny numbers. If you're not aware, the Saints weren't just the worst defense of 2015, they were the worst defense in our database going back to 1989. This created some overwhelming opponent adjustments that are hard to even process. In two games against the Saints, Newton completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 8.97 yards per pass, with seven touchdowns, one interception, and one sack. Those dominant numbers against the Saints work out to a DVOA of 11.5% -- which wouldn't have even ranked among the top five quarterbacks over the full course of the season.

Truthfully, though, there's not much to be learned about Carolina's passing attack in these four games. Greg Olsen was very clearly Newton's top target and Ted Ginn was very clearly the second option, but that's nothing new, and it's not the reason Carolina struggled (relatively speaking). The biggest problem for Carolina in those four games wasn't Newton, it was Jonathan Stewart and his struggles on the ground. Stewart ran 53 times for 190 yards in three of those games (he missed the Atlanta loss, remember), an average of 3.58 yards per run, with a DVOA of -31.4%. Only five of those runs went for 10 or more yards, while nine went for no gain or a loss. (Interestingly, only one of those carries was on third down, a 6-yard loss on third-and-10.) He also fumbled once, a ball that was recovered by the Saints and returned for a touchdown in Week 13.

When you're talking about Carolina's rushing offense, you must also consider what Newton can do on the ground. Between scrambles and designed runs, he averaged 41.8 rushing yards in each of Carolina's bad games, nearly identical to his 40.2-yard average in their other 12 contests. However, in those bad games, Newton's carries went up (from 6.8 to 8.5) and his average went down (from 6.0 to 4.9). However, he remained deadly in short yardage. Even in their worst games, the Panthers converted nine-of-11 power runs, including Newton picking up seven first downs in eight runs.

Between Newton and Stewart (plus occasional carries by Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whittaker, and others), the Panthers run as often as any NFL offense most people reading this have ever seen, and that is no exaggerating. Obviously, they led the league with 526 carries this season, but that's hardly a historic total; at least one team has hit that many carries in every season this century. Remember that Atlanta loss, though, when Stewart didn't play and so the Panthers chose to pass more often. The Panthers ran only 20 times in that game, but they ran at least 29 times in every other game this year. To find another team that had 29 carries in 15 games, you have to go back to the 2003 Ravens, when Jamal Lewis enjoyed a 2,000-yard season. And before that, the last team to do it was the 1986 Bears. The Panthers have also topped 29 carries in each of their two playoff games; if they do it again in the Super Bowl (which seems likely, win or lose), they'll tie the 1985 Bears for second place behind Washington in 1983, who hit 29 carries in 19 games.

Yes, this is some statistical cherry-picking. But even if we raise the threshold to a nice round 30 carries, the Panthers have done that 16 times. Only two other teams have done that since the 1980s: Washington in 1991 and 2008 Ravens. When healthy, these Panthers are one of the most run-heavy offenses of the past three decades.

All of this is moderately bad news for Denver, whose weakness on defense is against the run. That weakness is very relative though -- the Broncos were first in overall defense and pass defense this year, but "only" fourth against the run. That run defense excelled in preventing long runs, ranking first in allowing second-level yards and second allowing open field yards. The real bad news for Denver is that they rank next-to-last in short-yardage run defense. Given Carolina's proclivity for a 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust attack, the Super Bowl figures to feature a lot of short runs.

Faced with such a unique offensive scheme, the most important player on the Broncos defense in two weeks might be someone who has gone somewhat under the radar this year. Though technically a starter at inside linebacker, Danny Trevathan usually leaves the field on passing downs, and as a result he was fifth on the team (and third among Denver's linebackers) in defensive snaps played. Despite that part-time status, though, he still led the team in run tackles with 77, 18 more than second-place Brandon Marshall. Trevathan will need to have a big day if the Broncos are going to win another Super Bowl.

While the Broncos defense will focus on shutting down the running game, the Broncos offense might be best off abandoning the run entirely. Even when the Panthers were at their worst, the run defense was still excellent. In these four games, they held opposing running backs to 274 yards on 78 carries, an average of just 3.51 yards per rush. And quarterbacks didn't do much better, gaining 41 yards on seven carries, an average of 5.9 yards apiece. (Semi-random fact I learned while researching this: Carolina was the only defense in the league that never faced a wide receiver rush. Every other defense saw at least three running plays by wide receivers. When you've got Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly patrolling the second-level, end arounds and reverses just get taken out of the playbook.) C.J. Anderson (minus-3.1% DVOA) and Ronnie Hillman (minus-6.1%) were both below-average runners this year, and neither is likely to have much success against Carolina's stout defense. And Peyton Manning, obviously, is no rushing threat. Yes, he had a 12-yard scamper against New England, the longest of his Broncos career -- but that was also only the eighth time in 60 games with Denver that Manning has gained yards on a rushing play.

Against the pass, though, Carolina has had all kinds of problems. No, Blake Bortles didn't do much in Week 1, as he and his receivers hadn't yet gelled into the erratic-but-explosive force they became by season's end. But as we noted earlier, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and this guy all played well against the Panthers this year. And if anything they are more vulnerable to big plays in the air now that Robert McClain and Cortland Finnegan have been signed off the unemployment line to play for Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere. True, the Cardinals wideouts could hardly do a thing on Sunday, but a week before that the Seattle trio of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tyler Lockett combined for 22 catches, 267 yards, and three touchdowns as the Seahawks staged a furious-but-futile second-half rally. It's not clear if Denver has a wideout capable of exploiting this matchup -- six Denver wide receivers saw at least 11 targets this year, and only Cody Latimer was able to post a positive DVOA -- but it is clear that their running game looks totally overmatched. Their best bet is that either Demaryius Thomas can make a Julio-ish big catch downfield, or that Emmanuel Sanders or Jordan Norwood can consistently beat Carolina's scrap-heap cornerbacks.

And what of Manning himself? Is he, as the saying goes, peaking at the right time? Well, sort of. In his return to the field in Week 17 and two playoff games, Manning has consistently hovered right around replacement level, with 11, 16, and minus-7 DYAR passing. None of those are close to his best or worst games this season, but the three-game total of 20 DYAR is his best such stretch since he had 73 total DYAR in Weeks 2, 3, and 4.

We must mention one other player who was consistently terrible in all four of Carolina's bad games. Brad Nortman punted 14 times in these four contests, with a gross average of 42.6 yards, and a net average (thanks to that Murphy touchdown) of 32.7. The former figure would have ranked 30th among qualifying punters this season; the latter, dead last. There's not much Denver can do to specifically exploit this matchup, save for forcing a bunch of punts and hoping that Nortman has one of his worse days. But in a game that has a good chance of being a low-scoring affair, there is a good chance that Nortman will give the Broncos a critical advantage in field position.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Cam Newton CAR
19/28
335
2
1
1
165
127
38
ARI
Newton's stats mostly show that the best cornerback in 2015 went out on top of his game. Throwing to his left or up the middle, Newton went 17-of-18 for 316 yards and 10 first downs, including two touchdowns. However, when throwing to his right, where Patrick Peterson usually plays, Newton went 2-of-10 for 19 yards with as many first downs (one) as interceptions. Newton also ran eight times for 49 yards and two touchdowns, plus two other first downs. He converted all three of his third-down running plays, two of them coming on third-and-10.
2.
Tom Brady NE
27/56
310
1
2
4
12
0
12
DEN
This was the most pass attempts by any quarterback in a playoff game since Eli Manning had 58 against San Francisco after the 2011 season. Even more impressive (in a sense), Brady's 29 incomplete passes was the highest total in a playoff game since Steve Young had 33 in a loss to the Packers in the 1995 playoffs. Brady had a quite terrible day on third downs, going 3-of-10 for 32 yards with one conversion, one interception, and three sacks; he somewhat made up for this on fourth downs, going 3-of-4 for 43 yards and two conversions, including the two big completions to Rob Gronkowski in the game's final minute that very nearly tied the game. And unlike Newton, He struggled most when throwing to his left, where he went 7-of-14 for 37 yards and only one first down, with an interception.
3.
Peyton Manning DEN
17/32
176
2
0
3
0
-7
6
NE
Not counting end-of-game kneeldowns, the Broncos had 14 drives in this game. Manning had five first downs on Denver's first drive, and five more on their next 13 drives, eight of which went three plays or less and resulted in a punt or a turnover. So no, the kinks have not all been worked out of the Denver offense just yet.
4.
Carson Palmer ARI
23/40
235
1
4
3
-78
-78
0
CAR
With about 12 minutes to go in this game, the Cardinals were down by 19 points, but they had the ball at midfield and still had a bit of life. Then Palmer threw three interceptions in his next four passes, and that was it for the Cardinals' season. The Panthers did a fine job of scheming to take away Arizona's deep passing game, and the results were stellar. Palmer's 61 deep completions this year were second only to Blake Bortles' 63, and he had at least one completion that traveled more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage in every game except for Week 17, when he was pulled at halftime. He had four more deep completions against Green Bay last week. The Panthers nearly pitched a shutout against Palmer's deep ball, holding him to one completion (a 21-yard touchdown to Darren Fells) and two interceptions in eight attempts. It was only the third time all year that Palmer had negative DYAR on deep throws;


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
David Johnson ARI
15
60
1
9/9
68
0
60
22
37
CAR
Johnson's five first downs on the ground included gains of 23, 15, and 14 yards, plus a 1-yard touchdown. He was also stuffed for no gain or a loss five times. Seven of his nine receptions counted as successful plays, though he only had two first downs: a 16-yard gain on third-and-15 and an 8-yard gain on fourth-and-2.
2.
Jonathan Stewart CAR
19
83
0
2/2
5
0
22
27
-5
ARI
Stewart only had three first downs rushing, on gains of 23, 17, and 10 yards. he was hit for no gain or a loss four times. His two receptions were both short gains on first-and-10.
3.
Brandon Bolden NE
5
12
0
2/3
29
0
16
-2
18
DEN
None of Bolden's rushes gained more than 4 yards, and none were successful plays. But he did have catches of 20 and 9 yards that picked up first downs.
4.
C.J. Anderson DEN
16
72
0
3/3
18
0
-4
-4
0
NE
Anderson's rushing yardage total is skewed by his only first down, a 30-yard gain on third-and-1, plus runs of 8 and 7 yards on third downs with more than 20 yards to go for a first down. None of his receptions picked up first downs. Look, there were only two games this weekend and only six running backs qualified for our tables, and they all get mentioned somewhere, all right?
5.
Ronnie Hillman DEN
11
16
0
1/2
7
0
-28
-21
-7
NE
Hillman did not pick up a first down on the ground or in the air; his only successful play was a 7-yard run on first-and-10. None of his other runs gained more than 4 yards; five of them went for no gain or a loss. And all of this counts Denver's fumble on an incomplete lateral against Peyton Manning, not Hillman. That could be change when the NFL re-watches the tape, and if so Hillman's DYAR totals would plummet even farther.


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Jonathan Stewart CAR
19
83
0
2/2
5
0
22
27
-5
ARI
2.
David Johnson ARI
15
60
1
9/9
68
0
60
22
37
CAR
3.
Brandon Bolden NE
5
12
0
2/3
29
0
16
-2
18
DEN
4.
C.J. Anderson DEN
16
72
0
3/3
18
0
-4
-4
0
NE
5.
James White NE
5
11
0
5/16
45
0
-37
-5
-32
DEN
White's longest run was an 8-yard gain on third-and-13; his other four runs, each with at least 10 yards to go, gained 2 yards or less. He did pick up two first downs in the air, but even on one of those plays he fumbled and New England was fortunate to recover.


Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Ted Ginn CAR
2
2
52
26.0
0
60
ARI
Ginn gets 33 DYAR receving, 27 DYAR rushing for his only carry, a 22-yard touchdown. His two receptions: a 13-yard gain on second-and-9 and a 39-yard gain on second-and-8.
2.
Corey Brown CAR
4
7
113
28.2
1
33
ARI
Brown only had two first downs, but one was an 86-yard touchdown. That helps.
3.
Rob Gronkowski NE
8
15
144
18.0
1
32
DEN
Gronkowski's two monster fourth-down catches that nearly tied the game were worth 30 DYAR by themselves, so up to that point Gronk had a forgettable day. He finished with six first downs, including catches of 40, 31, and 28 yards, the Patriots' three longest plays of the day.
4.
Owen Daniels DEN
2
3
33
16.5
2
30
NE
Daniels' two receptions: a 21-yard touchdown on second-and-11, and a 12-yard touchdown on third-and-6. This was the ninth playoff game since 1960 where somebody had two touchdowns on two receptions in a playoff game; John Gilliam, a wide receiver for the Vikings in the 1970s, did it twice.
5.
Greg Olsen CAR
6
8
113
18.8
0
20
ARI
Olsen's three first downs came on gains of 54, 29, and 12 yards.


Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Demaryius Thomas DEN
2
7
12
6.0
0
-18
NE
In addition to the meager stats listed here, Thomas gained 14-yards on a DPI, his longest play of the game. His only other first down came on a 7-yard catch on second-and-1.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 26 Jan 2016

160 comments, Last at 02 Feb 2016, 8:18pm by Apbestever

Comments

1
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 2:37pm

I thought Brady played great. The quality of the throws he made in the 2nd half of the 4th quarter, after the beating he took, was stunning to me. I can't believe he didn't fumble at some point.

I'd go so far as to say it was certainly among the most impressive games I've ever seen him play.

4
by hscer :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 2:46pm

I wonder what his 1st/2nd half split was (or 4th Q vs. the first 3).

5
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 2:49pm

I wouldn't go that far, I mean this is Tom Brady we're talking about, but yeah, given how bad his offensive line was, and how good this defense is, you can't overly fault his game.

There were at least 10 plays where the Broncos rushed 3 or 4, sent 7 or 8 into coverage and the pocket still collapsed in under 3 seconds. That's a recipe for a loss.

That must be up there for the most one sided d-line vs o-line matchups I've seen. I knew the Pats O-line was bad and was gonna struggle in the game, but I didn't think it would be that bad.

6
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 2:55pm

I cannot overstate how difficult it is to have the kind of physical precision he displayed under pressure on those last drives, after the crew in orange have taken chains, blades, and baseball bats to your carcass for 3 hours.

9
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 3:19pm

I agree this was a great game, I just think he's had many that were better.

I'm really disappointed in PFF for giving Brady a -4.4 grade for the game.

You'd think the model based on game tape would be much kinder to Brady.

10
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 3:22pm

I don't put a lot of faith PFF's grades.

11
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 3:31pm

I don't either, but given how much they talk about how they look at each player in isolation, you'd think they'd account for the fact that a quarterback will play worse when he's knocked down 20 times, pressured 29 times, 20 of said pressures came with Broncos rushing 4 or less with an average time till pressure is 2.16 seconds.

I still use them for offensive line rankings since they isn't anyone else outthere producing good O-line rankings, but their QB grades frequently make me scratch my head.

12
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 3:38pm

It would be so,so, cool to see how the Directors of Pro Personnel for these 32 teams rank guys and units, after the film work they drown themselves in.

13
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 3:44pm

Unfortunately it wouldn't be possible to get honest answers out of them.

7
by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 3:01pm

Congratulations, you've discovered the limitation of statistics when used in a vaccum!

8
by Guest789 :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 3:02pm

You can't ever count out Touchdown Tom.

14
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 4:16pm

He was better in the second half, but his worst throws were in the first before the beating really got out of hand. I think Brady himself would consider this a C effort on his part... and I'd agree.

17
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:00pm

But when would a QB not give himself a failing grade in a loss?

The first interception was terrible, second one he was hit as he was throwing it.

77
by RickD :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 10:52pm

I think most athletes are a bit more savvy than the act they need to put on for the public. It's silly to say "every loss is an 'F'". That's such an over-simplistic way of grading it negates the value of assigning grades.

A few years ago, when the Patriots were trailing the 49ers by five TDs in the second half, and Brady completed five TD passes to tie the game, only to then lose when the 49ers scored again, do you think it would in any way be reasonable to say that Brady deserved an 'F'?

That game still stands out as possibly Brady's best passing game, given the caliber of the opposition and the deficit they were facing.

Yes, the first INT was terrible. He'd been hit by Miller on the previous play and that might have affected his thinking a bit, in one way or another.

86
by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 11:13pm

Brady has thrown for 5 (or more) TDs five times, none of which were against the 49ers (MIA, TEN, DAL, CHI, BUF).

I guess you're talking about this game in 2010, where the Pats came back from 28 points down to tie, but eventually lost? http://espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=321216017

If so, Brady had 1 TD pass in that game.

91
by eagle97a :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 12:29am

Minor nitpick it was 2012 regular season. TB had 1 passing TD and 1 rushing TD.

89
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 11:59pm

This is where critiquing qb play goes astray sometimes, in my view. Yes, the first int was incredibly harmful, and on the surface so avoidable, and thus terrible. Now, the context. Wade Phillips had rushed 3 exactly 14 times all season. I strongly suspect he picked up a trend in playcalling from McDaniels in that down, distance, and field position, and dialed up this playcall in response. So we have A) a defense strongly going against their own trends B)while calling the perfect play to the anticipated offensive playcall, C)a tremendous athlete on defense who is perfectly and unexpectedly situated and D) a qb who is acutely aware of the need to get the ball out fast. Yeah, it's a bad throw, but it is a supremely understandable bad throw, and we don't excoriate defensive players nearly as much when they get caught in the perfect storm of the opponent calling the perfect play to counter the defense, with the perfect offensive athlete to exploit the perfect play. We just tend to say, "hey, great call by the offense, and the great athlete won". Our pedestal placing of qbs, I think, tends to distort the way we describe the game.

Now, when I combine how I view the first int, with the incredible, incredible, quality of throws Brady made in the 2nd half of the 4th quarter, after taking a titanic beating for 3 hours, that's why I say it was one of Brady's best, and I don't care what Brady says. I also think we understate the effect of terrific violence on human performance. Show me 3 games where a guy was pummeled like that, in the last 37 years, and who was making the quality of throws Brady made at the end, and I'll reconsider. My jaw literally dropped open, and, no, I didn't need a nap after 3 beers. I thought it was incredible then, and I do so two days later.

159
by Apbestever :: Tue, 02/02/2016 - 8:16pm

He also missed a bunch of big throws that could have changed how they attacked him as well. Those int might not feel harmful to you. But it put his team behind the ball. He made some big throws in 4th. But the seam to gronk, ur gonna sit here and say missing 2 starting safeties didn't matter? Hmmm. One of the guys in the secondary who came in was sitting at home tweet wade Phillips mid season.

158
by Apbestever :: Tue, 02/02/2016 - 8:13pm

So wait, we disregard that the point he started to play much better was when the 2 starting safeties left the game? Listen Brady is great but sometimes gotta look a little deeper. It wasn't as if he magically figured it all out he attacked the weakness which he's supposed to do. But let's not make up a narrative that he just all of a sudden after all those hits figured it out.

2
by bmay :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 2:37pm

How many DYAR was the Manning backwards pass/fumble worth?

3
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 2:39pm

What was Peyton Mannings DYAR for first drive vs other 13?

Manning 8.6 NY/A on first drive, 3.1 on next 13.
60 yards yard on first drive. 85 on next 13.
Broncos 5 first downs on first drive, 7 rest of the game.

People are focusing just on Brady vs Broncos defense, but the Patriots defense, outside of that first drive, was just as dominant.

15
by t.d. :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 4:36pm

I thought New England's defense was fantastic, but I also thought Kubiak clearly sought to establish the lead and then take no chances, and it barely worked

16
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 4:58pm

though Mannning did drop back to pass 36 times (37 if you count the backwards one) compared to just 27 designed run plays.

So it's not like they were running out the clock from the get go. In the second half they were unable to move the ball in the air or on the ground.

25
by deus01 :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:33pm

The clock keeps running after incomplete passes with more than 5 minutes to go so I don't think passing really uses much less time than running in those situations.

27
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:40pm

That's not true. Incomplete passes always stop the clock.

30
by deus01 :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:53pm

I got confused with the starting the clock after the ball is respot when it the ball carrier goes out of bounds.

31
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:57pm

Only college stops the clock while the chains are moved too. In the NFL the clock starts up immediately.

34
by deus01 :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:02pm

One thing that bothers me a bit is when the clock is running near the end of the game and the offense is ready but a fat zebra is still spotting the ball/running to his position. I don't think the offense should really be limited be the slowness of the officials but I'm not sure how you could get around that unless you stop the clock until the ball is spotted (which would be an advantage for long plays that don't go OOB).

64
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 8:21pm

Agreed that it is frustrating, but the explanations I heard this past weekend were that it's the offense's fault: A late substitution on O requires the refs to allow the D to sub guys in to match. That's why they stand over the ball seemingly doing nothing but blocking the timely progress of the game.

So an O getting in a play and players in late could lead directly to a TO or DOG penalty.

That may be wrong, but it is how the announcers explained is last week.

When teams run the hurry-up, they don't sub so they can go as fast as their guys can physically manage and the refs skip out of the way (usually) fast enough.

78
by RickD :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 10:54pm

I believe on Sunday the Broncos were ready to play, the Pats were ready to play, and the Broncos snapped the ball on a play the refs then stopped because they weren't ready.

80
by deus01 :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 10:58pm

It's not always substitutions. I've seen the official accidentally kick the ball and he has to grab it and re-spot it or just otherwise be slow placing it. It's not a huge issue most of the time but it bothers me when it happens.

160
by Apbestever :: Tue, 02/02/2016 - 8:18pm

Did you by chance miss the 3 tds manning left on the field? He missed at least 2 wide open ones and the third would have been at worst at the 5 yard line. I wouldn't say pats where dominant. The stats where but if u watch the tape I think u will see a lot of plays left out there

20
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:19pm

I didn't get the chance to post in the audibles, so forgive my posting game thoughts here.

I must confess still don't think Denver was the better team in November, so it was concerning to see Logan Ryan get flagged for a (legit) DPI that aided Denver's opening TD and then Ward's carbon copy interference go uncalled on NE's very next drive. From the moment the refs overturned the incomplete to give NE the ball, though, it was a well called game... perhaps even mildly to NE's advantage. Nor did a major injury play into things, either. Gronk sat for a bit, but so did several Bronco players.

Denver did not need any luck on Sunday, they just kicked NE's asses fair and square. I said all along that if they could repeat their Green Bay performance they'd win, though I never felt it was all that likely an occurrence. The Broncos simply hadn't played near that well since that game, and hadn't before it, either. But there wasn't a single unit on the field that didn't win their battle against the Patriots' offense. It was really impressive. So much so that a part of me was hoping NE would miss the 2pter because I felt they hadn't played well enough to win.

Now I wonder what the hell I was thinking, but it was a genuine feeling all the same. :)

There has been some debate about the 4th and 1 attempt, and you can put me firmly on the "it was incredibly stupid not to take the points" category. Before they even ran the play I was fuming like a maniac, so this is not hindsight. It just didn't make any sense. You are counting on your team to convert the fourth, score the TD, covert the 2pter, stop Denver and then score again to win. Why not just kick the FG, stop Denver and score the TD to win? Sure, the latter drive may require a harder conversion than a 4th and 1, but you may also convert the fourth and then just kill time before reaching another 4th down. What then?

Denver's offense had been stymied for 50 minutes, so there was little threat of them moving the ball. And if they moved it, the odds of them getting a TD had to be less than 10%. Probably way less. Kick the FG and, at worst, you get the ball back in the same position as you are now. As well as their defense was playing, it is no surprise that NE got not one, but two chances at the end. Had they converted and ran a minute or two off the clock, they probably only get one other bite at the apple.

I find it strangely humorous that NE's biggest assets were primary contributors to the loss. Aside from giving away three free points, Bill's choice to play zone on Denver's first possession seemed poor at the time and worse in retrospect. Gostkowski's missed XP had obvious ramifications and Denver doesn't win without Brady's awful interception. The only person on NE's sideline with a claim to being the best at his respective position who had a good day was Gronk. That the Patriots even had a chance to tie at the end is a minor miracle.

Just a few other random thoughts:

* I know the team needed to do something to lessen the punishment Brady was taking, but did it really have to be draws to James White? That's the best they could come up with? Shit, I'd rather just put Cannon back there or something. Or jet sweep with Gronk. Or anything.

* Edelman clearly wasn't himself. Too bad. I like watching him play.

* If I recall correctly, the Patriots have all 22 starters under contract for next season. People sick of them better start getting emotionally ready for another Brady AFCCG now.

* I have no intention of prompting another irrational debate, but this game was a pretty good example of why I put no stock in the "luck" quotient. While there is no debate as to who was the better team, there were numerous plays I could look at if I wanted to play analytic games. Amendola, for instance, stumbled with an easy first down ahead just prior to the fateful 4th and one, and then his drop on 3rd and 6 (it was broken up, but it wouldn't have been if he hadn't bobbled it) killed the next drive. Gost's miss is another obvious example of a play with great impact that the QB had no influence over.

Please note, I am *not* saying I think the above rationale is appropriate. To the contrary, I'm pointing out that it bears too much resemblance to those earlier discussions for me to give them much credence.

Congrats, Denver fans. Your team was significantly better this past weekend.

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by Tundrapaddy :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:23pm

'If I recall correctly, the Patriots have all 22 starters under contract for next season. People sick of them better start getting emotionally ready for another Brady AFCCG now.'

So, you're saying that the same 5 starting O-linemen are all under contract heading into next year?

I can live with that.

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by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:01pm

NE's interior OL is green. It was always going to be the weak point of this postseason, but they have some genuine ability to build on.

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by BritPop :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 12:28pm

Not sure why nobody mentions that wasn't their starting O-line. Nate Solder, Ryan Wendell, and Tre Jackson were all out. Vollmer was out of position and battling ankle injuries. Even Stork doesn't look like he's 100% after missing the first half of the season.

Against an all-time great front four, the lose a nail-biter on the road. That bodes pretty well heading into next year.

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by rj1 :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 3:12pm

This is the NFL in 2016. No team will have all their starters with no injuries come playoff time.

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by BritPop :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 6:14am

Well, yeah. But as I said, against a front four like that with a shredded O-line, and essentially losing on a missed XP...that bodes well for them next year when the line is healthy (at least for camp).

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:25pm

In most cases coaches are too cautious, I hope we can agree there.

The opposite happens when trailing 7 or 8 in the 4th.

I think that largely comes from the incentive coaches have of play not to lose. A loss in OT after you tied the game (or a failure to tie the game) will be criticized less then taking the field goal only to have the other team run out the clock. Since you at least tried to tie the game.

The tie is what needs to be emphasized, a touchdown+2 PAT there doesn't win you the game, it only ties the game. You still have to get it done in OT. Assume 50% chance of converting 2-point and 50% chance of OT win, and the touchdown only wins you the game 25% of the time. (and since there was time on the clock, you have to include the possibility of the Broncos getting into field goal range and winning in regulation, so this understates it).

If it was a six point game, going for it would have been a no-brainer. But at seven or eight points, the object is to win, not to tie, and I feel that, at least for the 4th and six, the field goal put you in a better situation to win.

That said, I would have gone for it on 4th and one, and the reason is ironically comes down the argument you used against going for it.
"but you may also convert the fourth and then just kill time before reaching another 4th down. What then?"
The problem with this logic, is because your sacrificing 50+ yards of field position for the field goal, taking the field goal actually increases the number of opportunities for the defense to force you into 4th down. So the fear of another 4th down should make you want to go for it.

Simply put, you have to get a touchdown eventually, and I'd much rather that touchdown drive starts on my opponents 15 then on my own 30 (approx of where the Broncos punt would end up), and that field position (plus extra time due to opponent running down the clock) is much more valuable then the 3 points taking the field goal there gives you.

The 4th and six, because odds are 4th and six fails, it's not worth the risk. The 4th and one, because odds are you're converting, it's worth it.

The 4th and one is a close play though. Like if it was 4th and one from the 22, I'd take the field goal. But the sixteen is close enough to the endzone that it's worth completeling the drive.

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by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:01pm

It sounds like we agree on most things. I'm a bit unsure, though because you first say a FG puts you in better position to win and then reverse and say the opposite later.

"The problem with this logic, is because your sacrificing 50+ yards of field position for the field goal, taking the field goal actually increases the number of opportunities for the defense to force you into 4th down."

I know, I said the same thing. Perhaps I wasn't clear because my comment had nothing to do with 4th down, it had to do with the clock. It was a distinct possibility that NE converted the 4th and then ended up in about the same position (or worse, perhaps something like a 4th and 7 from the 10) only with less time remaining. Taking the FG does give up field position, but it also increased the possibility of two more possessions.

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:16pm

For the 4th and six, that drive is pretty much a lost cause, take the field goal. Especially given the time on the clock makes tying the game then less valuable (since you'd be giving the Broncos just over two minutes to get a game winning field goal).

For the 4th and one though, converting it puts you in the best chance to win:
If you succeed, you're then less then 15 yards from the endzone.

If you get a TD and make the 2-point, we just tied up the game. If you miss the 2-point, it's not that big of an issue, we're down 2 points, 5 minutes left on the clock. We only need a field goal to win.

And that's why I'm emphasizing the field position here. You need to put together two scoring drives to win the game:
A (you) 0 yards to get a field goal+70 yards to get a touchdown. 70 yards needed
B (me success) 15 yards to get TD+40 yards to get into field goal range. 55 yards needed
C (me fail) turnover on downs+66 yards to get TD+40 yards to get into field goal range. 106 yards needed.

Since you have more field to cover in your method, my way, on average, takes up less clock.
Since you need more first downs to get the TD in your method, my way, on average, has fewer 4th down conversions (remember Brady did need two on his actual TD drive).

The only thing that doesn't make this a painfully obvious decision is that option A first requires you to convert a 4th down.

For the 4th and six, it's not worth the risk, take the field goal and hope you force a stop.
For the 4th and one, I think since it succeeds ~70% of the time. It's worth the risk.

ALso for the 4th and one, there was six minutes left. With that much time on the clock you're pretty much guaranteed to get the ball back, especially with the way your defense played, so I think you're panicking too much over time.

Yes this is with the luxury of hindsight, but the Patriots got two full drives into the redzone after failing that 4th down.

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by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:33pm

Thanks. Now that I better understand your position I disagree on both ends. Take the points on 4th and 1 and, most likely, you'll get the ball back with plenty of time on the clock. Considering the time remaining, you may even get two cracks at it. Barring an unlikely long Denver drive, those possessions will be for the win. And even if there is a long Denver drive, you'll almost certainly still be within the same 8 point deficit.

Once the attempt failed, NE had no choice but to go for it on 4th and 6. Denver being a single first down from clinching the game is too important when you are a reasonable first down away from being in a goal to go situation. In fact, this factor is so important that NE should have gone for the first down there even if they had made the FG the first time around and another FG would cut the deficit to only two points.

That NE got two possessions after the 4th and 1 supports this line of reasoning more than the reverse, near as I can tell.

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:40pm

For the 4th and six, you still had all three time outs plus the two minute warning. 2 FDs end the game, one you'll have time for a couple of plays then a hail mary.

The field goal puts you in the position to win on your next drive. 4th and six, odds are your failing.

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by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:48pm

One small factor regarding the first 4th down decision was that followed the one decent drive Denver put together in the 2nd half, where they were a Manning missed throw awawy from giving up a TD, and they finally gave up some yardage on the ground. So while the Broncos offense reverted back to doing nothing, the last time they took the field they were able to move the ball.

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by Hummingbird Cyborg :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:07pm

Honestly, I think that the potential field goal hand wringing is simply questionable. The Patriots were going to need at least one touchdown and a fourth and one isn't the most difficult play to convert and a conversion means a decent chance at scoring a touchdown which would have to occur later even if the field goal is made.

Furthermore, following the possible touchdown, the Patriots would get the added information of whether or not the two point conversion succeeded and would likely have another chance to try to drive for a game winning field goal if we presume that the Broncos offense fails to advance the ball.

Regarding Edelman, he may not have been himself. It's hard to say, but Chris Harris has been a very good slot corner throughout his career whose strength is quickness over straight speed and Denver has been an elite short pass defense, so it isn't particularly shocking to see him have a subpar game.

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by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:36pm

A FG eliminates the need for the 2pter altogether.

Harris is good, but Edelman regularly roasts him. Coming into this game, Denver had yet to hold Edelman under 9 catches, 90 yards and a TD.

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:38pm

you'd still go for two on the touchdown, make it a 3 point game.

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by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:48pm

Of course, but missing a 2pter with a one point lead is a different animal than missing one with a two point deficit. :)

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:56pm

Unless the Broncos respond to our first score (be it your FG or my TD) with a field goal of their own.

Under our method, we're now down 3 or 5 points, an important distinction. Under yours, we're down 8, or back where we started.

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by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:04pm

I said the same thing above. If the odds were high of Denver moving the ball, I'd agree going for the TD was the right way to go. Since it wasn't, the game was most likely going to stay within a TD-to-win situation.

The fact that NE could give up a FG and still be within a single score makes the FG a more preferable option, in my view. If you go for it and come up short, a FG ends the game right then and there.

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:42pm

Though my argument for taking the FG for the 4th and six, is that 8 points is not a one score game.

To win with the 4th and six play, you have to:
1. convert a 4th and six (~35% maybe less given the defense they're facing)
2. get to the endzone (~70%)
3. get a two point conversion (46%, maybe slightly less given the defense they're facing)
4. Win in overtime (45% chance away team wins OT)

Odds are you're not getting a touchdown, and if you do, odds are you lose anyway.

Same rules but with my 4th and 1:
To win going for it:
1. Convert a 4th and one (68%)
2. get into endzone (~70%)
3. get a two point conversion (46%)
4. Win in OT (45%)

Now there are two big differences here:
1. I'm twice as likely to get the touchdown.
2. There's stil time on the clock when I do, even if I miss the 2-point, I can still kick a game winning field goal.

Yours, odds are you don't get the touchdown, and in the off case you do, there's a good chance there's not enough time on the clock to get a field goal should you miss the 2-point attempt. With ours we do, and there's 5 minutes left to get a FG should the 2-pt fail.

With our field goal philosophies, there's only one difference:
I'll only get one drive following my FG to get a TD.
If you can force a three and out twice, you'll get two opportunities.

And remember that doesn't mean you're twice as likely to get a TD, since probability follows multiplication (odds of failure*odds of failure) and not addition. And also if you do get a TD on your first opportunity, you give Denver enough time to get a game winning field goal (or force the OT should you make the 2-pt). And since Denver will be losing, at this stage they'll be the more efficient offense.

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by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 10:41am

Of course the odds of success are much lower for 4th and 6, but they were already suppressed anyway due to the limited time remaining. Your argument appears to ignore how dire the situation was for NE the second time around. If I'm supposed to be concerned that I may never get a better shot with two potential possessions remaining, I should be even more concerned when this is possibly the last time I'll see the ball.

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by Turtle :: Sat, 01/30/2016 - 9:32pm

It looked to me like Edelman and Amendola were favoring the knee/foot.

As with Dez, who had the same injury, until he could have an off season, Edelman's best game was always going to be the first game back--in Dez's first game he looked good, each game after worse and worse. Sure, the foot is 'healed' after 6 weeks, but the bone and rest of the foot will have atrophied by then. The more he goes 100% on it the more damage done and the worse it will get.

Stress fractures are a common running injury. Sure, you can start training again at 6 weeks, but it's really about 6 months before you are ready to race at 100% effort.

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by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 9:02pm

I think the decision to go for it on 4th and 1 was the right one when considering how difficult it had been to move the ball up to that point.

As for the 4th & 6, I wonder if he went for it because he went for it earlier in the game and felt he was committed to the "go for it" mentality. Given how well NEs defense was playing, having 3 time-outs, having 6 yards to go and how conservative Kubiak became in the 2nd half, I think the best choice would've been to kick the FG then.

As for the officiating, the Ward call was missed but it looked like there were several offensive holding non-calls by the Patriots, including a blatant no-call against Von Miller on the 2 point conversion attempt. As for injuries impacting the game, I disagree as there was a huge spike in Gronk's numbers when Stewart left the game and even more so when Ward was injured as well. Wade Phillips actually had to move Chris Harris to Safety, which he hadn't played since his junior year at Kansas. When Denver was without their starting Safeties, i find it curious that McDaniels didn't go to more two TE formations to exploit Denver's back-ups who with Bruton & Bolden on IR are actually 3rd stringers.

Brady proved once again he's like The Terminator in that its never over even though it looks and feels like it should be. He played incredibly given the abuse he took and in a losing effort added to his legend. Kubiak got way too conservative in the 2nd half to the point where it almost cost them the game, but Denver's in the Superbowl so I can't complain too much.

I doubt there was ever a more significant game played between two teams with worse offensive lines.

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by RickD :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 10:58pm

"it looked like there were several offensive holding non-calls by the Patriots, including a blatant no-call against Von Miller on the 2 point conversion attempt."

I wouldn't be surprised if the officials just didn't bother throwing a flag that would never have been accepted. If the Pats actually scored, the flag could come out at that point. Would have driven Pats' fans crazy, but it's a possibility.

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by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 10:43am

Gronk's numbers spiked because he was staying on the field and because of one big play. My point was really more about how Denver didn't *benefit* from injuries like I thought they might, so we're really quibbling over the same side of the coin. :)

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by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:04pm

I'm curious. What happens to his DYAR when you turn four of Brady's incompletions into intentional groundings?

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by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:06pm

Why would you do that?

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:27pm

Every one of his incompletions had a receiver in the vicinity. There was one where it looked iffy (I thought White might have been too far away), but if you think there was 4 blatant no calls, you have some anti-Pats bias.

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by deus01 :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:38pm

I thought there were maybe two instances instead of one where it was pretty iffy. I also thought Gronk may have pushed off on his touchdown but I'm okay with that not being called because it wasn't especially blatant.

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by morganja :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:12pm

I thought his first interception should have been a grounding call.

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by LyleNM :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:42pm

Why would a ref throw a flag for grounding if it didn't, you know, hit the ground? (And yes, I know it's actually happened a couple of times.)

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by Eddo :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:21pm

Seriously? The throw might have been complete if Miller wasn't there (though most likely it lands at his receiver's feet).

I was rooting hard against the Patriots, but you really do get insufferably anti-Patriots sometimes.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:46pm

I do think he broke the spirit of the rule at least once, that play where he just threw the ball wherever after a spin. At least his passes when illegal grounding without technically illegal grounding have some sort of semblance of intention to them, even if the intention is for them to hit the ground. The QB who really drives me crazy is Eli Manning, who just tosses the ball willy-nilly wherever it may go and doesn't get called for grounding as long as there is a receiver in the stadium.

To me, if the QB is clearly not trying to complete a pass, it should be IG.

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Who, me?

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by RickD :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 10:58pm

The rulebook doesn't agree with you. As we all know.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 11:26am

Of course it doesn't. That's what I'm saying, it needs to change.

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Who, me?

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by rj1 :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 3:50pm

Agree with you. Brady at least wasn't near as blatant as that ridiculous throw Wilson did in the wild card round.

Brady intentionally grounded the ball a few times to avoid a sack. That is a fact, it is not up for discussion because it was the only reason he threw the ball in those instances. He did not intend for anyone to catch the ball and advance the offense forward while he was in the grab of a defender. Yet thanks to a stupid loophole in the rules, this is fine.

If you think that's not the case, in my opinion you're arguing Tom Brady for a few times in the game alongside other quarterbacks that do it suddenly revert to having less talent throwing the ball than a bad high school quarterback. I don't think that's the case for a future Hall of Famer.

It's annoying as hell watching a game. What really set me off about it was that Wilson "pass" vs. the Vikings. Now it irks me everytime I see it.

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by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 4:36pm

What really set me off about it was that Wilson "pass" vs. the Vikings.

Again, there was a receiver right there.

Look, if you want to complain that the rule is not worded according to what your understanding of the rule is, fine, go ahead. Just be aware that your understanding is at odds with how the game has been officiated for at least 40 years. And no, it's not a loophole.

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by tuluse :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 4:53pm

I think he's arguing the spirit of the rule vs the letter of the rule. That there are many "intentional groundings" which are not counted because of how the rule is written.

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by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:06pm

Well, if that were really the spirit of the rule, they wouldn't have added in the outside-the-tackle-box-out-of-bounds-past-the-LOS clause a few years ago. The spirit of the rule has always been - in my interpretation - to be, "We know QBs will throw balls away so at least make it LOOK like there was someone to throw it to." Otherwise, then we're talking penalties for every time a QB throws a screen pass at a RB's feet because the defense blew it up. (And then you're talking about injecting a WHOLE LOT of judgment of officials into the game which we can all agree is a very bad idea.)

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by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 8:08pm

How can that be the spirit of the rule? That doesn't make any sense. The spirit of the rule is that a QB shouldn't throw the ball away just to avoid a sack without the intent of completing a pass. If that weren't it then there would be no reason to even have intentional grounding.

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Who, me?

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by LyleNM :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 12:24pm

QBs throw the ball away many times every game to avoid a sack with no intention of completing the pass. All that is required is that there is a receiver nearby so that the referees' judgment is taken out of play. QBs and referees understand the rule very well. And sometimes they get called for Intentional Grounding because there wasn't a receiver in the area. It happens.

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by Eleutheria :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 7:20pm

The idea that any time the QB rushes a throw should be called for intentional grounding is absurd.

Almost every time a Quarterback is pressured in the pocket he's going to make a throw that, given no pressure, he wouldn't make. When a quarterback has time to throw, if no receiver is open, he's going to hold onto the ball.

Every single instance of any pressure in history has resulted in either a sack, or the QB to make a hasty throw.

Keep in mind, the fact that he has to get the ball out quickly will hurry his mechanics and increase his inaccuracy.

Yes, lots of QBs throw the ball blindly in the direction of a player with the aim being avoiding a sack and not with the aim of completing a pass.

But do you know what the most obvious instance of this type of play was during the game last Sunday? Brady's second interception.

There's a difference between throwing the ball to the middle of no where to avoid a sack (intentional grounding) and throwing the ball at one of your receivers with little intention of actually getting a completion to avoid getting a sack.

This first is what the rules consider intentional grounding, the second happens 3+ times for every quarterback in every game.

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by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:45pm

Perhaps one of the top 10 silliest and trolliest things you've ever said. And that's saying something.

Where is Mollom when you need it...

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by morganja :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 9:49pm

It was a joke. Because the interception was uncontested. Because there were no receivers in the vicinity....

Is it just possible that sometimes some Patriot fans take things with a little too high a heaping of paranoia?

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by RickD :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 11:00pm

Until the Pats get an apology and the draft picks returned, paranoia is justified.

And really, you're the biggest troll who visits this site. Now that you admit that you're intentionally trolling Pats fans after a loss, your character should be clear to everybody.

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by morganja :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 12:53am

If we had to rank the top ten 'trolls' on this site, the first eight would be filled by Patriot fans. Note how quickly any negative comment on the Patriots, even in jest, is met by an immediate, personal attack.
Can you point to any post of mine in which I showed any reaction to the Patriots loss? Did I express any positive emotion whatsoever over that game? Did I say anything at all that could be construed as 'rubbing it in'?
Fans of every other team lose way more than the Patriots. Fans of every other team face up to the fact every year that their team isn't perfect. Losing by two in the conference championship is nothing to be ashamed of. It's a great year for them. There are 29 other teams that wished they had lost the conference championship by two points.

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by RickD :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 3:13pm

Calling you out as a troll isn't trolling.

"Note how quickly any negative comment on the Patriots, even in jest, is met by an immediate, personal attack."

"Can you point to any post of mine in which I showed any reaction to the Patriots loss?"

How you reconcile these two in your own mind is a mystery to me.

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by morganja :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 3:11pm

Is that supposed to be some sort of logical point? Criticizing some Patriot fans for personal attacks is the same as showing reaction to the Patriots loss?

Does that make sense in your mind?

How about this.

Why don't you lay off the personal attacks and stop taking my criticisms of the Patriot team personally? The only people that have been personally insulting anyone on this board have been certain Patriot fans.

I understand that you are a rabid Patriot's fan. But don't direct your frustration and anger at me for not being a Patriot's fan. I wasn't the one that was supposed to block Von Miller.

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by Eddo :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 10:34am

Patriots fans certainly respond irrationally at times.

But considering you quite frequently accuse the league of shilling for the Patriots, it was quite easy to take your post seriously.

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by Bobman :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 8:29pm

What's the more precise definition of in the vicinity? Is the rule 5 yards? Ten? I'm not sure, but at live speed on TV I felt there were at least four. On replay with a different angle I saw some receivers within maybe five yards, but there were at least 2-3 where I could not see a receiver. Probably the TV angle, but to home viewers, yeah, it did look like some IGs there. One I am quite sure did not cross the LOS, but was to the feet of a RB. (does it have to be BOTH near a receiver and across the LOS? I don't think so, what about screens?)

Anyway, I am super anti-Pats biased, but honest enough to say it really looked like a few uncalled IGs that were limited by my view. Have to assume that Brady is not that blatant and that the refs have a better view. Then again, I'd like to assume they know what a catch is....

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 8:41pm

It has to be either near a receiver or past the line of scrimmage (while the QB is out of the pocket).

A running back is an eligible receiver, so if it's landing near the feet of a RB, a receiver is definitely in the vicinity.

And it doesn't give an exact yardage. It's a was the quarterback at least trying to throw the ball near one of his guys, or was he just looking to throw the ball away.

That's why this penalty is rare, cause the terminology is vague and the benefit of the doubt is on the Quarterback.

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by Steve in WI :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 3:07pm

That's what I hate about it. I don't think there were any egregiously uncalled IG penalties on Sunday, based on the way the rule is applied in the league, but the "in the vicinity" thing should really be clarified.

IMHO, five yards or more is way too much leeway for "in the vicinity" when you're talking about a pass traveling <20 yards through the air. There was at least one Brady pass that very clearly did not make it back to the line of scrimmage so I'm thinking it was legal based on being in the vicinity, and it just felt so wrong (BTW, I'm semi-neutral regarding the Pats for what it's worth).

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by Eleutheria :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 10:02pm

what if it goes 2 inches over the intended receivers head and landed 20 yards away from him.

In the vicinity cannot be measured by yard total.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 01/29/2016 - 12:31pm

That would be an amazing pass! More to the point, the "vicinity" could be two yards in a 3D bubble in every direction. And if that means Geno Smith gets called for IG 10 times a game, so be it!

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by Turtle :: Sat, 01/30/2016 - 9:52pm

Under that type of definition Brady might be the only quarterback to not get 10 IG's a game.

On long passes the receiver might cover 25 yards with the ball in the air. Sanders ran a stop and go when Manning expected a go and overthrew him by 10 yards. Is that IG?

BTW, I believe it did used to be intentional grounding when the QB blatently threw the ball into the ground at the receivers feet on a screen pass. I think that was changed about 20 years ago. It was thought not in the NFL's best interest to have unblocked lineman zeroing in on the quarterback and him having no where to go with the ball.

The NFL wants the QB to be able to get rid of the ball before he is hit and will therefore be very lenient on IG.

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by Grendel13G :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 12:16am

Yeah, those were not intentional grounding. Those were great plays by an aware QB, and quite maddening as a fan of the other team. (Contrast with Manning's two uber-long sacks when he tried to channel his inner Russell Wilson with predictably catastrophic results.)

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by Pat :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 10:19am

No, I really disagree here. They weren't great plays. They were dangerous plays. Brady makes them a ton, which is really fairly specific to him, but in general, they're really, really dangerous.

Brady tries to avoid sacks like crazy. It's one of his signature traits. And in the Denver game, it directly led to an interception. So no, they're not great plays. They're risky and dangerous in general, but Brady in general makes them more than he screws up.

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by billsfan :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 4:58pm

Yeah, it seems like at least two of those sack-avoiding throws bounced off an unsuspecting defender.

129
by Eleutheria :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 8:13pm

well lets about cost benefit. Most times Brady throws the ball, it doesn't get picked off. How many sacks do you think is an interception worth?

And remember, a sack on 3rd down and an interception thrown ~35 yards downfield are essentially an identical play, as both result in more or less the same change in field position (since a sack on 3rd down will mean a punt on the next play).

Both are negative plays, and way to much emphasis by modern fans is placed on avoiding interceptions and not enough is placed on avoiding sacks.

I think being able to avoid sacks is a big part of the game as a quarterback. Tom Brady is pretty good at that (based on PFFs under pressure stats, Brady has avoided 34 sacks over the last two seasons [number of sacks is 34 lower then the average QB facing the same number of pressures]).

I should mention that he also has the second lowest career interception rate of all time, so if it's causing interceptions, it's not causing many.

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by Grendel13G :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 12:33am

I was thinking specifically of the ones in the 4th quarter, when Brady kept whipping the ball out at the last second as he was being corralled for a (near-)sack. Those were mighty impressive plays.

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by HossBender :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 9:01am

I'm going to jump into this and say that I had the same thought as the original poster in regards to Wilson's play against the Vikings. On that pass he basically dropped the ball forward into the ground, not even remotely catchable for the "nearest" receiver. I had the same thought that the rule should be more enforced. The rule is called "intentional grounding" and Wilson intentionally grounded the ball; there should be some degree here. I can't speak for the Brady plays because I haven't seen the entire game yet (only the 1st and 4th quarters, maybe it happened then and I don't remember). Not going to jump into any of the comments on trolling, and to avoid Seahawks fans getting angry I will say that Wilson with his incredible elusiveness usually gets the ball to the line of scrimmage.

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by greybeard :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:24pm

I am quite surprised that a QB turns the ball over 6 times and has only -78 DYAR. I think Hoyer was about the same badness if not better than Palmer and had -229 DYAR.

Also lost in all of the shuffle it seems to me Palmer had a great ALEX game. I mean his 4 interceptions alone were 95 positive ALEX yards. What more can you ask from your QB?

29
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:51pm

That's something DYAR takes into account. High ALEX interceptions cost you less DYAR then low ALEX ones.

Earlier in the season, Andy Dalton threw a 65 yard interception earlier in the year and the play was valued at +9 dyar (yes an interception that benefited the QBs advanced stat line, it also had a positive EPA. The logic is simply the change in field position was more valuable then the change of possession. Slightly lower ALEX interceptions, by helping field position less, are more costly)

Also Bruce Arians is one of the kings of ALEX, he loves the deep bomb more then any other coach, so I don't know why anyone would ever be surprised that Palmer, playing for Arians, would have a great ALEX game. Especially when you're trailing multiple scores, when the urgency of quickly marching down the field incentivizes more deep throws.

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by morganja :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:10pm

The Panthers loss to Atlanta came not only without Jonathon Stewart, which was significant, but three days after Cam Newton's son was born. He was off all day on his throws. I would speculate that little to no sleep over four days might have affected him.
Is there any way for Denver to duplicate that, I wonder?

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by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:43pm

Keep sending people to his hotel room? ;)

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by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:46pm

That's a long-term, deep game.

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by mathesond :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 1:15pm

Not the way Lawrence Taylor played it :)

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by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:16pm

I wonder what [Brady's] 1st/2nd half split was (or 4th Q vs. the first 3).

Q1: 11 DYAR
Q2: -97
Q3: 13
Q4: 74

How many DYAR was the Manning backwards pass/fumble worth?

Minus-28.

What was Peyton Mannings DYAR for first drive vs other 13?

First drive: 51 DYAR.
Rest of game: -57 DYAR.

(Ignoring the rushing value for simplicity's sake.)

I'm curious. What happens to his DYAR when you turn four of Brady's incompletions into intentional groundings?

I watched that whole game and don't remember one play that was even close to a grounding foul. I don't think you realize how blatant that foul has to be to draw a flag in the NFL in 2016. Matthew Stafford and Jameis Winston led the league in intentional grounding fouls this year with three each. It's patently absurd to imagine a quarterback topping that total in a single game.

But, to answer your question: His DYAR would have gone down. Precisely how much it would have gone down depends on the circumstances of each play, it is far more complex than "grounding fouls are worth X DYAR."

I am quite surprised that a QB turns the ball over 6 times and has only -78 DYAR. I think Hoyer was about the same badness if not better than Palmer and had -229 DYAR.

Hoyer and Palmer each had four interceptions, three sacks, and two fumbles. But Palmer threw six more passes than Hoyer, with eight more completions, 99 more yards, and three more first downs (including a touchdown; Hoyer had none). Opponent adjustments also played a small part in the difference (Kansas City's defense was good this year, but Carolina's was better), but all in all Palmer' bad game was plainly much better than Hoyer's bad game.

Also lost in all of the shuffle it seems to me Palmer had a great ALEX game. I mean his 4 interceptions alone were 95 positive ALEX yards. What more can you ask from your QB?

Scott's a big boy and he can stick up for himself, but since this is my column and I can use it for my soapbox, I'll say that I can't believe the negative feedback ALEX has gotten this year. It's a descriptive stat that tells us how players play, and it just so turns out that most players on one end of the stylistic spectrum are better than most players at the other end. So yes, Palmer threw a bunch of interceptions on deep balls against Carolina. But that is useful information that tells you something about the game! Why would you want to disparage that kind of data? I think we need more stats like this, stats that paint a picture of how a player plays/is used by his team, rather than just telling us how good/bad a player is (which, really, is pretty obvious most of the time).

Specific example to make a point: Ben Roethlisberger (22.2%) and Tom Brady (19.5%) were very similar in DVOA. Does that mean they were similar quarterbacks? No, of course not. Stats like ALEX (where Roethlisberger had the highest figure in the league, while Brady was right in the middle of the pack) help us point out some of the differences between the two.

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by Eddo :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:24pm

re: ALEX - I actually like the metric quite a bit, for the reasons you detail. But I do think Scott's tone contributes to the criticism; in his articles, I get the distinct impression he uses it as a much stronger value stat than you or I do, particularly to point out how good he thinks Roethlisberger is and how bad he thinks Alex Smith is, even if figures like DVOA don't agree as strongly.

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:48pm

Though I do think it's a valid criticism of Smith.

Everyone criticized Andy Reid for that 5 minute drive with six minutes left down 14 vs New England.

Well when you're quarterback is never willing to throw more then 2 yards past the line of scrimmage, you shouldn't be surprised that a drive takes ages.

When you're down two scores with five minutes left, and 18 play drive is the last thing you want.

I also think he makes the valid point about 3rd downs:
You're more likely to get a first down with a positive ALEX then a negative one.

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by Eddo :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 10:41am

That's all very true, and I do think it's a valid criticism of Smith's quality as a quarterback (in addition to his style as a passer).

That said, I get the distinct feeling when reading Scott's articles - beyond just ALEX ones - that he looks for figures that support preselected conclusions, e.g. he wants to find a stat that shows Roethlisberger is very good and Smith is very bad, because he feels that in advance, so he pushes ALEX.

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by Guest789 :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 12:10pm

I get the same feeling, one of the reasons I usually just skim the Clutch Encounters column.

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by greybeard :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 9:42pm

First of all, thanks for answering my question about Palmer. I think when it mattered he was as bad as Hoyer but do not expect the statistics to fully account for it.

WRT ALEX, I do not think Scott takes it as a descriptive of style but he routinely uses it as descriptive of quality. But fundamentally it is broken even as descriptive of style of the player or system as well. It has so many fundamentals problems such as not taking into account a lot of the factors that play into decision making that affects what plays are called. If one wants to measure aggressiveness but does not take into account the factors that affect aggressiveness (such as what the score is, how much time left to play, does the distance and your running game is such that you would rather run short distance than try a pass, etc), as well as some entirely random factors (such as some OC's like to call draw calls on 3rd and very long and some like to call screen passes, neither is aggressive but one is a huge negative ALEX and the other one is not) is not going to achieve its goal.

I totally agree that we can benefit from "stats that paint a picture of how a player plays/is used by his team, rather than just telling us how good/bad a player is (which, really, is pretty obvious most of the time)". ALEX ain't it.

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by RickD :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 11:03pm

Thanks for the details and I applaud you for smacking down the question about intentional grounding.

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:35pm

"Specific example to make a point: Ben Roethlisberger (22.2%) and Tom Brady (19.5%) were very similar in DVOA. Does that mean they were similar quarterbacks? No, of course not. Stats like ALEX (where Roethlisberger had the highest figure in the league, while Brady was right in the middle of the pack) help us point out some of the differences between the two."

I also think it's undeniable that when faced with a long yardage situation, given two quarterbacks, ceteris paribus, you want the one with the higher ALEX.

Now obviously I'd rather Tom Brady then Blake Bortles in a long yardage sitaution, despite the lower alex, but that's because he's the much better quarterback. You're not comparing two quarterbacks of closer to equal talent. I'd rather Ryan Fitzpatrick then Alex Smith in a long yardage situation.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 6:38pm

I guess people don't want to pile up too much on Manning, but the thought of Osweiler popped into my mind uncalled after all but a few dropbacks last Sunday. It seems inevitable the Broncos will try to squeak by the Panthers with great defense again, but it seems so dumb to stick with a guy who clearly just doesn't have it anymore with a championship on the line.

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51
by deus01 :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:15pm

It's not like the offense was extremely effective with Osweiler. I think the chance that Manning can manufacture something with an extra week of rest and his ability to read the offense outweighs the benefits that Osweiler brings.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:38pm

No, it wasn't, but it was like watching an NFL offense. The Broncos last Sunday felt like watching an 80-year old trying to cross a freeway. And the fact that Manning's strength at this point is considered his decision-making when he just broke a long streak of consecutive games with at least one turnover makes me wonder what the heck is going on (and by the way, I consider the backward pass at least 60% on him, as it wasn't either a good pass or a good decision).

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by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:32pm

Odds on this planet of Manning not starting the SuperBowl (absent injuring himself tripping over his service animal at practice) would seem to be about 0.1 percent at best...

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by tuluse :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:47pm

It didn't seem that bad to me. He ended with 0 DYAR which which is basically *checks qb stats* Joe Flacco level from this year. That's not good, but it's not "not NFL quality either".

I'm not convinced Osweiler is any better than Manning has been the past 2 weeks.

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 7:51pm

Given that replacement level is the estimate of what an average 2nd string quarterback can do, a 0 DYAR game is a crap game.

Flacco's DVOA is 26th in the league, saying my performance is comparable to that isn't a good thing.

Also Osweiler's DYAR for the season is higher then Flacco's...

Peyton Manning is one of the three best quarterbacks of all time, but I do think that at this stage in his career, Osweiler maximizes the Broncos odds of winning.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 8:04pm

We only have 8 games where Osweiler played significant time. So yes he produced better, but I'm still not convinced he is better than the Peyton we've seen in the playoffs.

"Flacco's DVOA is 26th in the league, saying my performance is comparable to that isn't a good thing."

That's exactly what I wrote, "it's not good". Hard to be clearer than that. It's also still NFL level.

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 8:31pm

"not "not NFL quality either"

If your quarterback is the 26th best in the league, you're probably looking for replacements.

Now Flacco isn't the 26th best QB in the league, it's just the pass offense as a whole was terrible this year.

Manning is this bad now.

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by eagle97a :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 9:11pm

Going by the numbers you may be right but PM brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that outweighs his obvious limitations right now and any physical advantage that Osweiler brings to the table. Unless the Broncos are opting for the surprise factor of Brock starting the SB which is very unlikely I think PM is the better bet to start.

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by hscer :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 9:36pm

We don't know if Osweiler isn't still hurt, too.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 11:20pm

"Manning is this bad now."

I agree, I'm saying I don't believe Osweiler is any better.

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by RickD :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 11:15pm

Given that the mean performance level from both Manning and Osweiler is too low to have any confidence level against the Panthers, the choice has to be Manning, even if his mean value is lower, simply because the probability of a winning performance is higher. Small, but existent. Osweiler's ceiling is much lower.

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by RickD :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 11:11pm

Starting Osweiler over Manning after Manning just won two playoff games would literally be the most controversial coaching decision in the history of the NFL. The only remotely comparable situation I can think of is when Don Shula had to choose between Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas. But somehow I cannot see Osweiler belonging in the foursome with those two and Manning.

Osweiler has the much stronger arm, but he's got his own drawbacks. Asking him to beat the Panthers' defense in the Super Bowl is an insane proposition. He doesn't know 1/10th as much about football as Manning does. How is he going to be able to mentally handle defenders like Kuechly and Norman?

Seems to me the Broncos' only hope is to hope that with another bye week, Manning will be rested enough to give maybe three quarters of strong play. He did so against Green Bay.

Do I think this is likely? Well, no. But at least it seems possible. Osweiler winning the Super Bowl doesn't.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 11:29am

I disagree, I don't think it's possible they can win with Manning. They were already supremely lucky to score 20 points against New England despite an epic defensive performance and Carolina, I believe, is an better team. I don't see Denver scoring more than 10 with Manning.

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100
by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 11:35am

How were they 'extremely' luck. They had one good TD drive. They had another off a takeaway, something they can easily do again. They hit two field goals, where their kicker is a strength.

They're also capable of getting defensive TDs. Whatever people say, they often score between 17-24 points. That may not be enough, but I think they'll score more than they did two years ago.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 12:58pm

It might be advisable to be more circumspect in asserting that something is impossible. When it comes to the winner and loser of athletic events, especially at the elite level, the set known as "impossible" is so small that it is barely worth mentioning. Professional people, who risk and earn real money by forecasting the outcomes of atheletic events, are risking real money as we speak, on the prospect that a Peyton Manning QBed Broncos team can win the next game. Those professionals may end up being wrong, but they aren't so wrong as to risk the money on the impossible.

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by RickD :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 3:24pm

"When it comes to the winner and loser of athletic events, especially at the elite level, the set known as "impossible" is so small that it is barely worth mentioning."

The set of impossible events is much, much larger than the set of possible events, by several orders of magnitude. For example, the Broncos winning the game with a 97-yard field goal attempt. You just have to use your imagination.

And then there are the set of events of infinitesimal likelihood which, while mathematically possible, are less likely than the earth being hit by a meteor during the Super Bowl. Like, for example, Peyton Manning drop-kicking a FG from the Panthers' 40.

The trick is knowing the actual probabilities of these things. The models say that the Broncos have roughly a 40-41% chance of winning the Super Bowl. That's much much larger than merely "possible" and yet it feels "unlikely" to a lot of people, much more unlikely than the models say it is.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 3:54pm

I wasn't referring to how the winner or loser was identified. We have two possibilities, one team wins, the other loses, or vice versa. The number of athletic contests, at the most elite level, where either of the two outcomes is impossible, approaches zero.

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by rj1 :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 4:02pm

There's no contests in combat sports. And plenty of sports have draws/ties.

/pedant

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by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 4:29pm

There's no contests in combat sports.

All right, Mr. Pedantic, what on earth does this sentence even mean?

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by duh :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 7:59pm

Fights can be ruled 'no contest' meaning no one gets a win and no one gets a loss. This can happen due to an unintentional / illegal move that renders the opponent unable to continue. I believe, though I'm not certain it can also happen if someone who won a fight fails a post fight drug test. The loser would have his record changed to a 'no contest' instead of a loss.

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by LyleNM :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 12:27pm

Ah, so the pedant should have encased "no contests" in quotes so as to indicate that it was a specific term from another sport that some of us are unfamiliar with. Because without that knowledge, the sentence reads very differently.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 4:31pm

I guess I should have specified elite playoff team sports, thus eliminating the tie.

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by ChrisS :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 2:40pm

Osweiler is a sack machine. If he plays in the Super Bowl I would put his over/under for sacks at 6.

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by Steve in WI :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 3:09pm

You're definitely in the majority based on what I've been reading, but I actually had the opposite reaction. Maybe it's just that Manning's play was so bad throughout most of the regular season that mediocre looks good by comparison, but I thought he looked decent. Of course he's not anywhere near what he used to be, but I thought he looked good enough to make any question of going with Osweiler for the Super Bowl absurd.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 01/29/2016 - 12:33pm

"Maybe it's just that Manning's play was so bad throughout most of the regular season that mediocre looks good by comparison"

Bingo! That's exactly what I think it is, only substituting "mediocre looks good" with "bad looks mediocre".

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by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 8:29pm

0 DYAR is fine, but I think he played worse than that. His receivers helped him out, he took some horrible sacks where he could have gotten rid of the ball (one where he tried so outscramble the defender, for crying out loud), and he basically fumbled on the backward pass.

Uh, this in reply to #60.

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by MC2 :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 10:41pm

Well, if you're going to give Manning's receivers credit for his "success" (that doesn't seem like the right word -- maybe "lack of crappiness"?) this past week, then you also have to assume that his numbers would have been much better last week, if it weren't for all the drops (between 6 and 9, depending on who's counting).

I also think Osweiler's numbers were inflated quite a bit by that one great game against the Bears. Remember, that was his first NFL start, and he never played close to that well in any of his other starts. I think it may have been a case of the rest of the league getting enough film on him to figure him out.

Bottom line: With either Manning or Osweiler, the QB position will be easily the weakest link for the Broncos. Given that, I would take my chances with the guy who has the huge edge in experience and poise, instead of the guy who has a smaller (though still significant) edge in playmaking ability.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 11:40am

Looking past the numbers a little bit, with Osweiler in the game I think the Broncos wouldn't have been in shut-down mode in the second half against the Patriots. Like, completely neutered. In OT they wouldn't have had a chance, barring a turnover. Frankly, despite the fact the team has been successful, I think it was a strategic mistake to bench Osweiler in Week 17 because it put you a position where you had to start Manning the rest of the way.

I'm not giving the receivers a ton of credit, though they did make a couple of plays for him. Mostly it was NED playing off the first drive and then some kind of celestial intervention helping Denver to 20 points for the day. I don't know if they can win with 20 against Carolina, but if they get anywhere close to that I'll be shocked.

Or maybe you guys are right. I'm obviously in the minority but I cringed almost every time Manning threw a pass. With Osweiler I feel they at least have a chance that's not reliant on something extraordinary happening like Manning actually completing a pass beyond three yards or running for a first down.

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by Pat :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 12:11pm

They had a first and goal, but went with three safe plays because the field goal put them up 8. They had a good drive that took them into New England territory.

They had 4 other 3-and-outs, sure: but 2 were late in the game where the playcalling was much safer. The other two were killed by delayed Jamie Collins blitzes, the first of which was helped by an uncalled illegal contact. It wasn't too bad, so it's not surprising it wasn't called. But it was exactly where Manning's read was, and the coverage everywhere else was great.

I don't get calling them 'neutered.' They were neutered. They were just 'meh.' They weren't awful - it's not like Manning was chucking it into double coverage every down.

Or maybe you guys are right. I'm obviously in the minority but I cringed almost every time Manning threw a pass.

Why? He threw one pass that was really dangerous - and it ended up being a 34-yard completion. All of the other ones were fine, just "meh." But "meh" isn't cringe-worthy. What made me cringe was every time Brady chucked a pass while being dragged down. How he continues to get away with that without accidentally fumbling or throwing a pick, I will never understand.

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by RickD :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 3:33pm

" How he continues to get away with that without accidentally fumbling or throwing a pick, I will never understand."

Well, he doesn't always get away with it. His second pick on Sunday was certainly partly due to the pressure.

He's good at avoiding fumbles except for when he gets blindsided. And there's not much to do about that.

108
by mathesond :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 1:26pm

I'm willing to wager Manning completes at least one pass for four or more yards

126
by MC2 :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 7:59pm

Or maybe you guys are right. I'm obviously in the minority but I cringed almost every time Manning threw a pass.

Earlier this season, when Manning was turning it over left and right, I definitely cringed. It was like watching Chad Pennington trying to emulate Brett Favre. He just didn't have anywhere near enough arm to make the throws he was trying to make.

But since he got benched and made his comeback, he seems to have adopted a different mindset. He seems to have recognized his limitations, and made the necessary adjustments. These last three games have been like watching a much less mobile version of Alex Smith. That's definitely a far cry from the old Manning of years past, but it's not the cringeworthy Manning from the first half of this year, either.

106
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 1:01pm

The Broncos o-line is their weakest link, no matter who plays at qb.

127
by MC2 :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 8:03pm

That may be true, but I think the line is less of a problem for Manning, since he still gets rid of the ball pretty quickly, while Osweiler tends to hold on to it.

68
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 8:36pm

Looking at losses and near-losses for the two SB teams should start with the ordinary Colts who were the first guys to beat Denver this year and took Carolina into OT in Carolina.

How is that possible? (especially the Carolina game)

Consecutive games with Luck at QB, though he didn't play well in Carolina--three picks! Carolina won by a 52 yard FG in OT--in fact, the Colts scored four consecutive times at the end of the game and in OT, but Panthers got the next two FGs in OT to tie then win it.

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by greybeard :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 9:57pm

"How is that possible? (especially the Carolina game)"

You need to be playing against both of them to begin with. Which I believe happened only to green bay and colts.

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by Eleutheria :: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 11:13pm

Well I'll start by saying Luck had a phenomenal fourth quarter against the Panthers.

It is possible to have a good game and throw three interceptions.

Now overall it was only an ok game, if Luck didn't start off slow, the Colts would have won.

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by HossBender :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 9:06am

Luck had the worst three quarters of his career at the start of the game, which was an occasional struggle for Newton also (more due to the monsoon than the Colts D; for Luck the Panthers D and monsoon hurt). But then he exploded in the 4th quarter, like the Giants, Seahawks, and Packers later in the year. The Panthers and Broncos games were potentially the highlight for Indy, or at least seemingly Luck's healthiest games.

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by Eleutheria :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 8:20pm

Given some of the other performances he's had I strong disagree with the first sentence.

But I will say that his performance vs the Broncos and Panthers does show he still has what it takes to become one of the best quarterbacks in football.

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by billsfan :: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 4:56pm

Love that accidental capitalization:

"And unlike Newton, He struggled most when throwing to his left,"

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by rj1 :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 10:33am

re 119: "Again, there was a receiver in the area."

If you honestly believe Russell Wilson was actually attempting to complete that pass to a receiver, I have good news, I am American royalty, and am willing to pay you millions of dollars so I can avoid inheritance taxes. If you accept this offer, thank you, provide me your bank account number so I know where to send the money.

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 11:48am

If you honestly believe it would improve the game to have referees making judgements (pertaining to whether a penalty should be called) about the motives of other human beings, with regard to why they were throwing a football, as opposed to simply making a judgement as to whether an empirically observed ball at some time came close enough to an eligible receiver, I have good news, you can improve your investment track record with an astrological chart, that I will sell you for a mere $500.

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by LyleNM :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 12:13pm

Of course he wasn't trying to complete the pass. But there is a distinction between Intentional Grounding (the penalty) and intentional grounding (which for clarity I will refer to as "throwing the ball away"). Every official, every commentator, every player, and a reasonably large number of fans understand the distinction. In order to have Intentional Grounding, there are certain criteria which must be met. One of those criteria is that there cannot be a receiver "in the area" (maybe Travis can provide the exact wording of the rule?) unless the out-of-tackle-box-OOB-past-LOS criteria are met.

There are many, many times in every single game where a QB is throwing the ball away, i.e., not really trying to complete the pass, but there must be the appearance of a pass to a receiver. How hard is it to understand that distinction? I was less than 10 years old when I learned it. Will Allen probably was too. Heck, Phil Simms might have been too. Mike Carey, I'm not so sure.

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by nat :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 12:55pm

From the 2015 rules:
SECTION 2 INTENTIONAL GROUNDING
ARTICLE 1. DEFINITION. It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that lands in the direction and the vicinity of an originally eligible receiver.

"A realistic chance of completion" has a specific, technical definition, and does not mean what it's plain English interpretation would be. In practice, an official will point at the receiver in the "vicinity" if there is any doubt. Also in practice, landing in the "vicinity" is interpreted broadly for over-throws. Missing a receiver by throwing over his head by a couple of yards doesn't usually result in a penalty, even if the ball travels an additional ten or twenty yards before hitting the ground.

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by MC2 :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 5:06pm

It seems odd to me that so many people have such a problem with officials making "judgment calls" on intentional grounding. What about the rule that it's not pass interference if the pass is deemed to be uncatchable? Isn't that just as much of a judgment call? I don't recall anyone around here complaining about that rule (maybe about the specific application of the rule, but not about the rule itself). Or what about the loophole allowing "incidental contact" by the defensive back? Doesn't that require the officials to judge intent? In fact, it seems that just about every pass interference call (or non-call) requires officials to judge intent.

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 5:52pm

Judging whether a db changed his normal running motion to make contact, which is how "incidental contact" is evaluated, really isn't the same as evaluating the qb's mind, as he is being pulled by another human being, and throwing a ball.

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by MC2 :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 8:30pm

Sure, it's different, but it's no less difficult. Consider two scenarios:

1) WR and DB, both likely with sub-4.5 40 speed, sprinting down the field, in very close proximity. Suddenly, there is a slight tangling of the legs and/or bumping of the upper bodies, sending one or both to the turf. The official has to decide, in a split second, whether A) the defensive player intentionally created that contact, B) the offensive player intentionally created that contact, or C) it was "incidental contact" that was not the intention of either player.

2) A QB, already in the grasp of a defender, as he is being spun to the ground, spikes the ball a yard or two in front of him. A running back, who was eligible, but had stayed in to block, happens to be engaged in blocking a "mere" 5 yards away from where the QB spiked the ball. The official has to decide whether A) the QB intentionally threw the ball where he knew no one from either team could catch it, in order to avoid the sack, or B) he expected the RB to suddenly stop blocking and make a spectacular diving catch that would put Odell Beckham's best efforts to shame.

You tell me: Which is tougher, and requires more subjective judgment?

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 11:54pm

Neither are penalties, and they aren't hard calls.

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by MC2 :: Fri, 01/29/2016 - 1:42am

If I were in charge, the first one would be a no call (I think pass interference should be blatant to warrant a flag), while the second one would be a penalty, since it should be clear to anyone with two eyes that the QB is not seriously attempting to complete the pass.

However, I would settle for the following solution (which would avoid the dreaded "judgment call" and yet, would still prevent the "spike it within five yards of a guy who's blocking" play):

If the QB is in the grasp of a defender (regardless of whether the QB is in the pocket or not) and throws an incomplete pass, it shall be ruled intentional grounding, unless one of the following conditions is met:

A) The pass is touched by an eligible receiver before it hits the ground.

B) The pass travels at least five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

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by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 01/29/2016 - 12:40pm

I don't see a problem with judgment calls in IG. Even with all games being arbitrary by definition, football is already the sport that has the most trouble creating the illusion that it's not (which is the real trick). A little more won't hurt a bit. That or adding more demanding conditions like above would be great.

------
Who, me?

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by LyleNM :: Fri, 01/29/2016 - 1:35pm

This would lead to intentional grounding becoming the most commonly called penalty in the game with the possible exception of false starts and offsides. I seriously doubt that that is what anyone wants to see.

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by MC2 :: Fri, 01/29/2016 - 6:19pm

I think the QBs would simply adjust. I still remember 12 years ago, when they changed the rules to essentially ban bump-and-run coverage. At first, there were tons of penalties, but eventually the DBs adjusted. (Well, all of them except Brandon Browner...)

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by Eleutheria :: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 8:08pm

There is a world of difference between trying to judge whether a player, had he not been obstructed, could have made a play and trying to guess what was going through the QBs mind as he threw the ball.

The first, while often subjective, can normally be at least somewhat reasonably inferred.

The expectation that the second, with exception to the blatant of instances, is comparable is absolutely laughable.