Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Oct 2015

Audibles at the Line: Week 6

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to turn into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Washington Redskins 20 at New York Jets 34

Andrew Healy: Bashaud Breeland is having one incredible half. Two fumble recoveries and an interception. The first fumble recovery was one that he just tore out of the hands of Brandon Marshall. Then shortly before halftime, a great full diving interception on an attempted pick play.

Arizona Cardinals 13 at Pittsburgh Steelers 25

Scott Kacsmar: Remember how Jon Gruden asked about putting Landry Jones in for Michael Vick on Monday night? It's almost getting to that point early in this one. Vick already telegraphed one pass that should have been intercepted. He has had about five dropped interceptions in limited action this season. He's holding onto the ball too long, and he was crushed in the end zone after throwing up a 50/50 ball for Antonio Brown. Ed Hochuli said helmet-to-helmet contact for roughing the passer, but it was a totally bogus call. That hit was clean and on time.

Carson Palmer tried to squeeze one into Jermaine Gresham, but Vince Williams was all over him. The ball was tipped and Lawrence Timmons had a very athletic one-handed pick while falling down. Offense couldn't do anything with it at midfield, then we were reminded of one of the NFL's silly rules for punts. Brandon Boykin downed the ball around the 2-yard line, but technically Arizona is allowed to pick up the ball at that point with no real penalty. Even when the Arizona player botched the recovery and the Steelers appeared to have a touchdown return, that's just a dead ball and Arizona starts at the 2-yard line. I don't know why Arizona would try touching that ball, but the rules favor the receiving team.

John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald are giving the Steelers a great test in the secondary. Brown has already won a 50/50 deep ball to start the game, and even Michael Floyd pitched in a touchdown in the red zone. This reminds me: William Gay is about the only cornerback Pittsburgh has who you can even remotely trust in coverage.

Vince Verhei: Well, you answered your own question: Arizona tried to touch the ball because they had absolutely nothing to lose. Worst-case scenario, they get the ball at the 2-yard line. Best-case scenario, they get the ball anywhere else. I only learned about this rule a few years ago when the same thing happened in a Seattle game. It does seem like a silly rule.

Andrew Healy: After Michael Vick has to leave the field due to the concussion protocol (love the extra care Hochuli showed there in checking Vick out), Le'veon Bell lines up 8 yards in the backfield on third-and-1. He gets stuffed, very predictably. One of those third-and-1 plays that you know is coming and seemingly has a 25 percent chance of success.

Scott Kacsmar: It's pretty crazy the Cardinals are only up 10-3 at halftime. Palmer has thrown for 233 yards and it could have been more, but I'm not overly impressed with how he's played. A lot of 50/50 balls and misses on big downs and situations. The Steelers are making a ton of contact on the receivers today out of necessity, and getting away with a good share of it too. Pass rush hasn't been good.

Vick has 6 passing yards, and this is in an offense with Bell, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, and Heath Miller all active. That's pretty inexcusable. Bell has been held in check on the ground. A few Vick scrambles are about all this offense had in that half.

Vince Verhei: It's a 10-3 game early in the third quarter, and I know there's a monster rainstorm going on, but goodness that Pittsburgh stadium looks empty. I can't imagine they actually drew a tiny crowd -- did everyone just run for cover?

Scott Kacsmar: Martavis Bryant came through with a very impressive touchdown catch from Landry Jones, who is in for Vick (strained hamstring). I know Tomlin is all for the two-point conversion, but why would you try one with Jones in a 12-10 game? There is no way he practiced that this week, and sure enough he threw an interception. If it was some gadget play (Brown was in motion) where the quarterback isn't important, then i can see calling that, but just a stupid call to let Jones throw there. And it was pretty much a given we'd see him at some point this year given Vick's injury history.

Andrew Healy: I see that side of it, but I think it's at least debatable whether they should go for it. The Steelers are on their third kicker, they're underdogs (so increasing variance is a good thing), and they have a great back. I mostly really like their two-point conversions this year. I feel less strongly about this one because of Jones and the score (although it's still wasn't that late) like you say, but I still didn't have a problem with it.

Vince Verhei: Unless Pittsburgh's kicker got hurt, there is zero defense for going for two there. Never thought I'd see the day where an NFL coach was too aggressive in that spot.

Andrew Healy: I see that side of it, but I think it's at least debatable whether they should go for it. The Steelers are on their third kicker, they're underdogs (so increasing variance is a good thing), and they have a great back. I mostly really like their two-point conversions this year. I feel less strongly about this one because of Jones and the score (although it's still wasn't that late) like you say, but I still didn't have a problem with it.

Scott Kacsmar: Pittsburgh's new kicker Chris Boswell is making some great early impressions. Already has made a pair of 47-yard field goals, but just hit a 51-yard field goal at Heinz Field on a day without great weather. That's big stuff, given the 8-of-28 mark on 50-yard field goals at Heinz Field.

Vince Verhei: My problems with going for two have little to do with Jones and mostly to do with the score. By going for two and missing they left themselves up just two, and Arizona could have taken the lead with a field goal. Even a conversion there would potentially later put Arizona in four-down territory needing a touchdown to win. So the best-case scenario isn't great, and the worst-case scenario is quite bad.

Kansas City Chiefs 10 at Minnesota Vikings 16

Andrew Healy: The Chiefs are moving the ball on the first drive of the second half, but so far the no-Jamaal-Charles experiment has not gone well. In the first half:

Chiefs offensive yards: 51
Stefon Diggs (fifth-round rookie MIN receiver) yards: 81

Cincinnati Bengals 34 at Buffalo Bills 21

Aaron Schatz: I expected Rex Ryan to try to blitz Andy Dalton into submission, but I'm not seeing it. Dalton has had time to pass and has found seven different receivers through the first 20 minutes. Bills' run defense has been good except on Giovani Bernard's 17-yard touchdown run, but the Bengals have gotten a couple of nice receptions to their running backs.

EJ Manuel still looks like he doesn't know what to do when a play breaks down. That's the biggest difference between him and Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has all kinds of ideas when he's under pressure, figuring out what to do. Manuel looks like he's freaked out. I hate guys who go to scramble and turn a 270-degree spin to the right so they can scramble to the left. Don't turn your back on your receivers or the defenders.

Andrew Healy: Wow, Marvin Jones with a Gumby stretch for a touchdown to extend the Bengals' lead early in the third quarter. It's the Bengals' second nice effort to cross the goal line after Jeremy Hill did a great job getting in back in the first half.

Vince Verhei: Jones set up his own touchdown with a deep catch straight down the middle of the field, beating double-coverage to pull in the ball.

Aaron Schatz: Bengals are winning 24-14, but Ronald Darby has been phenomenal shutting down A.J. Green today. Green just had only his second catch of the game near the end of the third quarter.

Chicago Bears 34 at Detroit Lions 37 OT

Sterling Xie: Another week, another goal-line touchdown controversy. Golden Tate had a catch dislodged from him in the end zone and picked off. They ruled it an interception, but then reversed to a catch and a touchdown upon review. The defensive back was still engaged with Tate the whole time as he was falling, so shouldn't he have to complete that catch? How is this different from the Devonta Freeman or Tyler Eifert plays from the past couple weeks, neither of which were scores? Please stop this madness.

Andrew Healy: Maybe I'm missing something but I think Walt Anderson's overrule on the Tate play is a terrible call. It was called an interception on the field and he somehow found conclusive evidence that it was a catch. It gets called a break-the-plane play, I think. So the idea is he caught it in the field of play and then it's a touchdown as soon as he breaks the goal line. The problem is that he didn't complete that catch no matter where on the field that was caught, as far as I can tell. He pulls it on right on the goal line. His left foot comes down outside the goal line and his right foot in. A split second after the left foot touches the ground, the ball gets pulled out and goes up in the air. There is just no way that is conclusive evidence of a catch, and you could argue it is conclusive that it's not a catch. I know the rules aren't perfect, but I think this one's on Anderson.

Sterling Xie: Dean Blandino just explained on RedZone that Tate's touchdown counted because it's technically "not" the Calvin Johnson rule, since Tate wasn't going to the ground. He "became a runner" before breaking the plane, which I suppose differentiates it from the Eifert play against Baltimore. Except how was he not going to the ground? He ended up on his back! I'll defer because I don't think there's a good answer to this.

Andrew Healy: Going to the ground wouldn't apply if you caught it in the field of play, but I still think it's BS. It's darn close to simultaneous when that second foot came down in the end zone and when the ball started to come out. No matter the spot on the field, that is not conclusive evidence of a catch in the field of play.

This just in, opposition matters. Matthew Stafford and the Lions' offense look completely different than they did against the Broncos, Cardinals, and Seahawks.

Aaron Schatz: Chicago just scored a touchdown to make it 24-22 and then kicked the extra point to make it 24-23 with 12 minutes left. I'm at a loss why you don't go for two in that situation, especially now that the extra point has been moved back.

Andrew Healy: OK, now we have a two-point/extra-point decision where I really can't imagine there is any argument on the other side. John Fox kicks the extra point to go for one to make it 24-23 with 12:30 left. Robbie Gould is good, yes, but that's not enough. The Puntmaster strikes again.

Vince Verhei: I was going to say, it's John Fox, they probably had to talk him out of punting.

Andrew Healy: We have ourselves a coaching calamity continuing here. Under three minutes left, Jim Caldwell kicks a 32-yard field goal to make it 31-27 Bears. Ay de mi.

Aaron Schatz: Jim Caldwell sure does luck himself into some good things. The Lions just went up 34-31 because they kicked that field goal, even though I think that field goal was a bad move. Oh, and the Lions got down to the goal line with 1:17 and then lost yardage AND a 10-second runoff because of intentional grounding on Matthew Stafford. But the 10-second runoff ends up being a good thing because a roughing call on Pernell McPhee gave the Lions a new set of downs, and then they throw a touchdown to Calvin Johnson, giving Chicago only 25 seconds to try to come back for a game-tying field goal.

Also, another criticism for the Lions. I understand that Josh Wilson is your nickelback and he plays in the slot, but if the Bears put Alshon Jeffery in the slot, do you really want your third-best cornerback on the other team's best receiver by far? Big defensive pass interference on Wilson helps the Bears get into position for the tying field goal and Gould hits it, 34-34.

Tom Gower: Too bad for Jim Caldwell his team doesn't always play defense and lets the Bears drive almost completely unopposed, save for defensive penalties, for the game-tying field goal. Free football in a surprisingly competitive game.

Aaron Schatz: Lions get off the schneid and avoid the tie with a huge downfield pass to Calvin Johnson in the last three minutes of overtime. The whole play looked like a pile of uncalled penalties. Clear holding by Lions right tackle LaAdrian Waddle on Chicago's Willie Young, but also it may have been a push-off by Megatron, and rookie safety Harold Jones-Quartey was committing pass interference as Megatron caught the ball. Everybody swallowed their whistles.

Denver Broncos 26 at Cleveland Browns 23 OT

Vince Verhei: Karlos Dansby intercepts Peyton Manning to set Cleveland up in good field position, and then Mike Pettine gets aggressive, choosing to go for it on fourth-and-5 instead of trying a 49-yard field goal. Josh McCown tries to squeeze a pass in to a well-covered Gary Barnidge and it falls incomplete, but I like the decision there, rather than assuming the field goal was automatic. Cleveland was in the top ten for going for it on fourth down last year -- one of the ways Pettine has kept his team around .500 despite so many talent deficiencies on the roster.

Broncos take over after Cleveland's fourth-down failure, and then they also turn down a long field goal, going for it on fourth-and-4 rather than trying a 56-yard kick. Demaryius Thomas gets the conversion on a pick play, but the drive eventually stalls and the Broncos kick a field goal to go up 3-0.

That lead jumps to 10-0 when Aqib Talib jumps a quick out and takes it to the house for a 63-yard touchdown.

Late in the first half, the Broncos make the conservative decision, trying the long field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-2, and Brandon McManus misses a 51-yarder. Browns could have called timeout on that drive to give themselves more time afterwards, but given the likelihood of Denver converting a short-yardage play there, I can't blame them for not doing it. As it is, they had enough time to run three plays and a failed Hail Mary as the half ends.

So that's where we are after two quarters, one defensive score and one 58-yard field goal drive. Neither team has a quarterback capable of generating anything downfield -- the two teams have combined for 117 yards on 18 completions as they have been trading dinks and dunks all day. Broncos have been getting lots of pressure on McCown and have limited Gary Barnidge to zero receptions on four targets -- looks like David Bruton has been handling most of the coverage, though that's hard to tell on the TV broadcast.

Gary Barnidge gets his first catch on Cleveland's first play of the second half, a 14-yarder with T.J. Ward in coverage. Then he caps off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown on third-and-3, a corner route with Danny Trevathan in coverage. Ian Eagle then talks about the chemistry McCown and Barnidge built together as teammates in Carolina. Those two were both Panthers in 2008 and 2009. McCown threw six passes in those two seasons, with only one completion. How much chemistry could they have built?

More of the same in the third quarter, with Denver's defense making a big play and Denver's offense doing little to take advantage of it. Shaquil Barrett slams McCown for a sack and a forced fumble, and the Broncos recover at the Cleveland 41-yard line. And then Manning and crew can only gain 34 yards and they kick another field goal to go up 13-7. Ronnie Hillman is getting some good runs (nearing 100 yards and we're still in the third) and the Browns aren't really pressuring Manning much. The biggest problem is that the secondary is shutting down Manning and his receivers.

Broncos add yet another field goal, and then we finally get a big offensive play as Travis Benjamin outjumps Darian Stewart for a 47-yard catch. McCown then hits Barnidge for a 14-yard touchdown on third-and-6 where it looked like the Broncos were confused about who was supposed to cover him. Broncos now up 16-14.

Manning then throws a pass that's a little behind Hillman, but probably should have been caught. Instead it bounces off Hillman's shoulder and into the arms of Dansby, who returns it for a very slow go-ahead pick-six. Browns go for two and don't get it, but still lead 20-16. (They actually had two cracks at it due Talib lining up offsides -- yes, at corner -- and threw incomplete both times. Why not run behind Joe Thomas with 1 yard to go?) With eight minutes and change to go, Broncos need a touchdown to take the lead, and their offense hasn't scored a touchdown all day.

Well that didn't last long. First play from scrimmage after Cleveland takes the lead, Emmanuel Sanders gets behind Tramon Williams and Manning hits him for a 75-yard touchdown down the sideline and Denver is back up 23-20.

Aaron Schatz: Peyton Manning throws a pick to Mingo Starr on the first drive of overtime. His arm is toast, but he's also making more mental mistakes than we're used to, and sometimes he clearly isn't on the same page with his receivers. Jordan Norwood in particular. And then the Denver defense stuffs the runner on first down and sacks McCown on both second and third down because Wade Phillips and his friends don't care about your Joe Thomas Pro Bowl berth. Back to Denver's ball...

And Denver wins with a drive that takes advantage of Cleveland's defense ranking 32nd in run defense DVOA. They may still be undefeated, but eventually, better play-by-play will win out. Right now, Cincinnati and New England are just plain better than Denver, even though the Broncos have the best defense in the league.

Tom Gower: I can't think of anything that better demonstrates Denver's defense than that the Browns started at the Broncos 39-yard line after Mingo's overtime interception and lost yardage on all three plays, finishing with a punt from their own territory.

Aaron Schatz: I just saw a highlight and wanted to note something on the long touchdown pass down the right sideline to Emmanuel Sanders. That play was made in part by Cleveland safety Jordan Poyer taking a terrible angle as single-high safety help. He came over underneath the pass, so he was actually behind the cornerback Sanders beat, and both of them were on the wrong side of the pass which went over their heads. So when Sanders caught the ball, it was nothing but open space between him and the goal line.

Miami Dolphins 38 at Tennessee Titans 10

Cian Fahey: The Dolphins first drive was built around Lamar Miller running the ball. It was a touchdown. I already prefer Dan Campbell to Joe Philbin.

The Dolphins messed up with a timeout late in the first quarter, using one so they could set up to try and draw the defense offside on fourth down. They could do that with every single on of their timeouts and they'd still be better coached than they were with Philbin.

Tom Gower: The Dolphins had fourth-and-3 at the Tennessee 7-yard line with ten seconds to play in the first quarter. The Dolphins called timeout. No, it is not especially windy in Nashville today, so it seemed like a curious decision. Following the timeout, Dan Campbell sent his offense out. Ryan Tannehill spent 20 seconds trying to get the Titans to jump offside, then took a delay of game penalty. I really wish they would then missed the field goal, just as karmic punishment for that nonsense, but alas it was good. Still, that will be a very interesting explanation to hear in the postgame press conference.

Sterling Xie: That was pretty curious from Campbell. There's no wind, so the Dolphins could have let the quarter expire (there were only 11 seconds left in the first quarter), then try the dummy call on the other side of the field to start the second quarter. They ended up taking the delay of game, which made the field goal 30 yards instead of 25. But there's clearly so much more life to this team, so a cautious thumbs-up after one quarter of the Campbell era in Miami.

Andrew Healy: Marcus Mariota hurt his lower left leg, maybe his knee, on a borderline dirty hit from Olivier Vernon. It looked pretty bad at first, but Mariota stayed in the game. He has fumbled twice since then and has looked hobbled. It's possible that they should be careful with this, no matter what Mariota wants. Hard to say.

Cian Fahey: Cameron Wake's hamstring is officially healthy. He has three sacks and two forced fumbles so far. Although they may not give him credit for the first fumble.

This Dolphins team looks nothing like the one that has played to this point in the season. Relying on Miller and the running game is balancing the offense while Cameron Wake being healthy is huge for the defense.

Tom Gower: Miami up 17-3 at the half. This looks like the Dolphins offense I expected to see this season, with Lamar Miller ripping off chunks of yardage repeatedly, and Ryan Tannehill doing a reasonable job of moving the chains. He does have two interceptions, one off Jordan Cameron's hands and the other late in the first half when he and Cameron were not on the same page.

The Titans have had their moments offensively, leveraging the Dolphins run defense to the right edge in particular at times, but the offensive line is getting beat up. Cameron Wake has given the Titans problems in the past, and he has three sacks already. Rookie right tackle Jeremiah Poutasi has been benched. The Titans also lost center Brian Schwenke to a nasty leg injury, and that helped produce another sack on a tackle-tackle stunt, I think, that resulted in a free rusher up the middle (Taylor Lewan also got beat on the play, and no, it wasn't just Poutasi on the sacks he gave up). Really a team effort by the Titans' line. Mariota has put the ball on the ground twice, so if you had ball security issues with him coming out, you still have those. Dorial Green-Beckham had an early catch, but has also had a couple plays where he looked like a receiver who didn't play last year and is still adjusting to the pro game. Schwenke's injury will lead to at least one roster move on the line, where the Titans are thin, and maybe it's about time to ease the defensive line logjam to add another receiver, because DGB and Justin Hunter as your No. 3 and No. 4 receivers aren't reliable enough for me.

One other note: Marcus Mariota was shaken up on a low hit to his left knee or upper lower leg. He stayed down for a bit but returned to the game. He's clearly not moving the same way he was at the start of the game, and the Titans have gotten away from the boot and pocket movement they showed early, but I think he's still been pretty on target with his throws. If the game proceeds as it's been, then I think Ken Whisenhunt will be willing to pull him just because, but if it's competitive he'll probably stay in.

Cian Fahey: Reshad Jones' interception against Marcus Mariota came on a packaged play that the Titans have run a lot this year. This is the first time a defender has been able to read it, but it was inevitable that someone would. The play was too prominent in their offense.

Tom Gower: The Dolphins didn't move the ball much in the third quarter, with their only points coming off a pick-6. It was that packaged play look the Titans ran with great success against Tampa and have run plenty since. Eventually, a team was going to squat enough on the short routes they'd react to the fake by just jumping the route. So, that's just what Reshad Jones did to Mariota. The Titans did get it to 24-10 and started at the Dolphins 27-yard line after a good punt return and Miami penalty, but Mariota threw his second interception and the Dolphins took it 97 yards to remove whatever doubt was left.

Fun with Ken Whisenhunt: after Mariota's second interception, he threw the challenge flag, knowing he'd lose a timeout for doing so and it wouldn't instigate a challenge, just because he wanted the play looked at (it was an interception, and the interceptor was down by contact before losing the ball, so there was nothing that I saw to reverse.) He also called a timeout with :04 to play down 38-10, because the Titans were at the Dolphins' 13-yard line and he could potentially make the score look more respectable. Miami responded with a cover-0 blitz and took down Zach Mettenberger for their sixth sack of the game (first of the second half).

Carolina Panthers 27 at Seattle Seahawks 23

Vince Verhei: Seahawks lead 10-7 at halftime. This is like an old Oklahoma-Nebraska Big 8 game from the mid-'80s: Hardly any passing, lots of rushing, and plenty of chippy play and penalties. I mean, a LOT of fights and near-fights. Carolina's touchdown drive was a thing of old school beauty, a 14-play, 80-yard march that included one completed pass. They did zone reads, they did option pitches, they did end-arounds, they did jet sweeps, and Cam Newton finished it off with a power sweep with at least three blockers pulling to the outside for him. It was great to watch.

The bad news is, Newton has also tried passing, and it hasn't gone nearly as well. He threw one pick to Earl Thomas when he threw right into double coverage, and a few other balls could have been intercepted with multiple blue jerseys in the vicinity. On their last non-kneeldown drive of the first half, he ran for 9 yards to set up a second-and-1 at the Seattle 37-yard line. On second down he had Ed Dickson open in the flat for an easy dumpoff and first down, but he threw a fastball and Dickson couldn't handle it. Then a third-down Mike Tolbert run was stuffed. They went for it on fourth down, which I liked, but rather than just run the sneak for the first down, they tried a play-action pass. The design worked, and Greg Olsen was open on a corner route for what might have been a touchdown, but Newton's pass hung in the air and was underthrown, and Earl Thomas made it over from centerfield to break it up.

Seattle's offense has had similar results, but not as extreme. Jimmy Graham at least has made some completions downfield, but most of the big plays have been Russell Wilson scrambling (a game-high 48 rushing yards at the half).

Carolina opens the second half with a three-and-out. Seahawks get the ball and Jimmy Graham makes his biggest catch in weeks, a 27-yard gain on a leaping catch down the middle against a Cover-2 to convert a third-and-14. Next play, Seahawks run a flea flicker and Ricardo Lockette gets isolated in the end zone against Kurt Coleman. Wilson actually underthrew the ball and it probably should have been intercepted, but Lockette made a great leaping catch to get it before it came down in Coleman's hands. In basketball, it probably would have been an over-the-back foul. Here, it was a 40-yard touchdown pass.

And then on Carolina's next drive, Cliff Avril beats the right tackle to hit Newton's arm, and the ball floats in the air to be intercepted by Kam Chancellor.

Also, I should have mentioned Bruce Irvin earlier. He was coming up big early, with a sack, a run stuffed for a loss, then great coverage on Greg Olsen, running stride-for-stride down the sideline to force an incompletion.

Tom Gower: I've been watching Carolina-Seattle since the end of Bears-Lions, and concur with what Vince has said thus far.

Vince Verhei: Carolina pulls within six on a touchdown drive that featured some big catches by Greg Olsen. They're moving him around the field, and one catch came on a crossing route against Cary Williams, and one on Kevin Pierre-Louis (playing for K.J. Wright, who has moved to the middle for the absent Bobby Wagner).

Seattle responds with a field goal to go up 23-14, thanks to what may have been their most important play this season. Wilson was scrambling on third-and-4 from his own 22-yard line. Graham was headed towards the sideline and waving. Wilson pointed for him to turn downfield and Graham adjusted, turning his back to the quarterback and looking back over his other shoulder. Wilson hit him for a 45-yard gain. The drive didn't get much farther, but this is the first time all year where it's really looked like Wilson and Graham are on the same page, and Graham has his first 100-yard day as a Seahawk.

Tom Gower: Superb drive by Cam Newton following that Seahawks sequence to take the lead, aided by some bizarre defending from Seattle's secondary that leaves Greg Olsen wide open in the end zone. It looked like a blown zone coverage between Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas (or maybe Kam Chancellor), which left the deep outside undefended. I get overplaying the other side, since Olsen was opposite trips on the other side, but that's just not good defense.

Scott Kacsmar: Tyler Eifert had some pretty easy scores against Seattle last week. You would think against Carolina, it would be even more obvious that the tight end (Greg Olsen) is the dangerous guy on the field that you absolutely must defend in this situation. And yet, he was wide open for the game-winning touchdown. Pete Carroll said there's no common links in what is now a league-high 14th blown fourth-quarter lead since 2012, but bad pass defense, especially on passes thrown 10-plus yards down the field, seems like the common factor to me. That number could be even higher if not for the offense bailing this defense out with some game-winning touchdowns in overtime or the illegal bat penalty being missed in the Detroit game. It's just amazing to see a defense capable of leading the league in points and yards allowed haemorrhage points and yards with the game on the line as frequently as the Seahawks do.

Aaron Schatz: Greg Olsen is great, and somewhat underrated. Doesn't get the press of Gronk or Jimmy Graham or even Tyler Eifert. But even with Olsen playing so well... what Cam Newton has done with that offensive line and basically no starting-quality wide receivers is remarkable. He's really a good quarterback. No, he's not as good as Aaron Rodgers, but we have to judge the guy in the context of the offensive talent around him.

Seattle is having a crazy season right now. This team is 2-4 and would likely be 1-5 if the refs hadn't made a mistake in the Detroit game. The only other win is over a terrible Bears team that was starting Jimmy Clausen so they were extra crappy. And yet... Seattle has played well in the first three quarters of every game. I don't know what's going on with the blown fourth-quarter leads over the last couple years, but they're playing well on a play-by-play basis every week. The Seahawks were in the DVOA top ten coming into this game and they are probably going to still be in the top dozen after playing close against Carolina, another good team. I still feel like the Seahawks should pull out of this dive and end up with a winning record. Although their odds of making the playoffs took a hit today because the NFC West, East, and North really have just one wild card to battle for between them.

Vince Verhei: So, let's recap Seattle's last seven games:

  • Seattle has a 10-point lead and a first down with possession of the ball in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. They lose.
  • Seattle opens the 2015 season against St. Louis and go up 31-24 with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. They lose.
  • Seattle leads Green Bay at the start of the fourth quarter. They lose.
  • Jimmy Clausen.
  • Seattle is up 13-3 at the start of the fourth quarter against Detroit. They win, but only because Kam Chancellor makes a Superman play at the goal line and everyone on the field forgets the rules about batting.
  • Seattle is up 24-7 with possession of the ball at the start of the fourth quarter against Cincinnati. They lose.
  • Seattle has a first down on offense up 23-14 with 10:06 to go in the fourth quarter against Carolina. They lose.

I mean, I'm sure they're one of the best 2-4 teams of all time, but 2-4 is 2-4.

As for what happened in the fourth today, they tried putting Cary Williams on Greg Olsen, and Olsen came through with big catches. They tried putting Richard Sherman on him, and Olsen still made a big catch. Then they tried leaving him wide open (hey, nothing else had worked) and he had another big catch. Second time in eight days they give up a tying or go-ahead touchdown to a tight end running a simple seam route where it's not clear who was supposed to be covering him.

There are two obvious fingers of blame to be pointed here. One is at Kam Chancellor, whose holdout may have caused deeper communication breakdowns among the secondary than we realized. The other is at Kris Richard, the new defensive coordinator, whose squad is unable to protect seemingly any lead against any legitimate quarterback. There are other culprits as well (it sure would be nice if the offense could run out the clock once in a while), but something sure is going hellaciously wrong with that defense.

And yes, as bad as he played in the first half, second-half Cam Newton absolutely looked like an MVP candidate.

San Diego Chargers 20 at Green Bay Packers 27

Aaron Schatz: Far be it from me to criticize the offensive play calling in Green Bay, but I was really taken aback by the formation they put out on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. They put four wide receivers and a tight end on the field, although they did have a guy in the backfield. Randall Cobb was in the backfield, plus James Jones, Jeff Janis, and Jared Abbrederis (Ty Montgomery is hurt), and then tight end Justin Perillo who just came off the practice squad. I'm not sure why Perillo is in there instead of Richard Rodgers, but also, I was thinking of how obvious that formation is compared to what the Patriots do. Yes, they could run a draw with Randall Cobb but very likely that's a pass. Whereas the Patriots come out with the four-tight end set and one running back and they can motion guys all over the place and spread you out or run it up the gut on you, all kinds of possibilities.

Great move by Mike McCoy, who has the Chargers go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 2 seconds left in the second quarter, down 17-3. You aren't going to beat the Packers with field goals, especially on the road. The gambit works with a touchdown pass to Dontrelle Inman.

Scott Kacsmar: San Diego ends the half with a touchdown, but not before some more buffoonery. San Diego had more than 10 seconds to call one of its two timeouts to set up a fourth-down play at the 1-yard line, but instead rushed a play off with two seconds left. Philip Rivers even dropped the ball because of the panic mode the offense intentionally put itself under. He was bailed out by the late timeout. Just call timeout and set up the perfect play, not to mention allowing the replay booth to review if Keenan Allen scored on the previous play. I'm not sure I've ever written that I've been impressed by Mike McCoy, but this is a situation where Rivers should know better too.

Aaron Schatz: Green Bay spreads it out on third-and-1 from their own 29-yard line, but when Aaron Rodgers' first read isn't open, he goes deep and Richard Rodgers can't get both feet in bounds. I don't understand why teams don't just run it up the middle more often when they spread out the defense on third-and-1 like that. Doesn't even need to be a handoff. Try a quarterback draw there. The Packers needed barely a foot to keep the chains moving.

Quite a two-minute drive by San Diego in an attempt to tie the game with Green Bay. Packers defense was playing good coverage but Rivers was completing passes anyway. There were a couple to Antonio Gates over the middle with Micah Hyde in his lap. But the Packers stiffed on the final series to win the game. Melvin Gordon looks to have been benched for a pair of fumbles, so the Chargers decided to use Danny Woodhead at the goal line. He got just 1 yard on first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. On second down, Rivers threw to Gates covered in the back right corner. The broadcast brought up Woodhead uncovered right at the goal line on the right side, in front of Gates, but I also think Rivers could have hit Malcom Floyd coming across from left to right, he looked open. Third down, Datone Jones stuffed Woodhead for a loss of 1. Fourth down, Woodhead on the right side and great play by Damarious Randall to slap the ball away. Woodhead couldn't really come out of the end zone to fight for the ball -- if he had he would have probably gone down before he got back into the end zone to score. Chargers got four tries from the 3-yard line but went home with a loss.

Baltimore Ravens 20 at San Francisco 49ers 25

Scott Kacsmar: Bruce Miller has 89 receiving yards in the first quarter against Baltimore. He has three catches too, so it wasn't just one big blown coverage. I don't know these Ravens.

Aaron Schatz: So the 49ers signed Shareece Wright away from San Diego to be a starting cornerback, but he struggled so much in the preseason that he couldn't get playing time and they finally cut him. So the Ravens, hit by injury, signed him. And today he played against his old team, the 49ers. And he just got completely embarrassed by Torrey Smith on a double move. And Torrey Smith, of course, used to play for Baltimore. But for this ouroboros to truly eat itself, Baltimore has to win this game on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.

Baltimore with a touchdown that was crazy in every way. Joe Flacco threw the ball of his back foot, which was crazy, terrible decision to pass. Yet somehow he got it 60 yards downfield. And Steve Smith caught it falling backwards, which was crazy. And then he did the Pee-Wee Herman "tequila" dance as a celebration, which was extra crazy.

Oh, and Smith caught the ball while falling on his back, which is where he has the broken bones. The guy is freakin' amazing.

New England Patriots 34 at Indianapolis Colts 27

Aaron Schatz: Marcus Cannon is out with a toe injury, at least for now. That puts the Patriots down to their fourth tackle, Cameron Fleming, who was just activated from the practice squad this weekend. He's on the right now with Sebastian Vollmer on the left. Gonna test just how quick Tom Brady can get that ball out. Would not be surprised to see a lot of third tight end (and ex-tackle) Michael Williams in to help block if there are going to be runs or longer-developing pass plays. And as a Pats fan, I'm wondering if there are any veteran tackles out there as free agents.

Colts are pulling out all the stops to try to keep up with the Patriots. Playing aggressive football... the way teams should always play more often. They went for it on a fourth-and-1 at the goal line and got a touchdown on a fade to Donte Moncrief. Then after a pass bounced off Julian Edelman's broken pinky and into the arms of Mike Adams for a pick-six, Colts go for the surprise onside kick! I have no idea who had the ball at the end of that play, but the officials ruled the Patriots had it, and I don't think there was enough evidence to overturn whatever the decision on the field was. Great gamble by the Colts though. I really like their game plan tonight.

Also, even though the Colts' run defense is improved this year, I'm surprised so far at the lack of running plays by the Patriots. I would think they would want to try bringing in Williams, who is effectively a sixth lineman, and running some of those runs from the two Colts wins last year.

Sterling Xie: I think it makes sense that the Pats have stayed with more of a spread approach. On paper, Indy shouldn't really have much of an answer for the New England passing game. And it's not the offense that's the problem; 20 first-half points despite a few drops and a few penalties on that final drive before the half is nothing to sneeze at. But if the Patriots aren't going to generate any pressure on Andrew Luck, then they'll need to keep up this 40-point pace to have a shot. Would like to see more rushing opportunities for Jamie Collins as a possible change-up in the second half.

Aaron Schatz: The Colts signed the four big free agents in their 30s before this season, and holy mackerel is Frank Gore the best of the four. Andre Johnson has been mostly invisible except against Houston last week. Trent Cole has no sacks so far this year. Todd Herremans dropped out of the starting lineup. But Gore looks great tonight, and has all season. The vision is still there -- he's got exceptional vision for finding the holes and getting extra yardage.

Scott Kacsmar: Who wants to tackle that "fake punt" from the Colts? I can't even get any words out. Football just died for me.

Aaron Schatz: The Colts attempted a fake punt with a snapper, a guy under center, and nine guys way over on the right side. It did not work.

Tom Gower: Swinging gate is definitely a way to do something unconventional, but that was just a hot mess from start to finish. You can't have Colt Anderson under center behind Griff Whalen there, because it's much too easy to overload with just two players and he doesn't have the experience coming from under center to have the foot quickness to get away from anything.

The other thing is, if you want to go for it, just use your dang actual offense. Frank Gore has been running well when you haven't been flagged for holding, and your team is driven by a good, though banged-up quarterback. That was Jim Zorn-esque in its design and execution.

Oh, yeah, and EVERYBODY except Whalen lined up off the line of scrimmage, so even if it had worked, it's coming back for an illegal formation call anyway and Chuck Pagano is punting on fourth-and-8.

As my Colts fan friend Nate Dunlevy keeps mentioning on Twitter, all the attention paid to the fake punt is ignoring the real story of this game, which is that a Colts defense that looked bad against Marcus Mariota for three quarters and bad against Blake Bortles for a half and bad against Brian Hoyer for a half has been dismal most of the game. Fine, New England has a good offense. Fine, we've seen the Colts look bad before. Fine, this is expected. But if Indianapolis thought they were close to defeating New England, like the offseason moves to sign a bunch of old players indicated, I still think they're sadly mistaken.

Aaron Schatz: There's very little pass rush going on. That's the biggest problem here. The offense finally looks like the Colts offense, but the defense is still a problem with no pass rush.

Brady fails on a third-and-1 sneak with the score 34-21 in the fourth quarter. I believe Mr. Kacsmar should have some numbers for us here on how rare that is...

Scott Kacsmar: The Vikings and Broncos actually stopped the Brady sneak last year. So he's been stopped more since last year than he was from 2005-2013 combined.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots, while trying to run out the clock, had a horrible mistake where they took a delay of game penalty to make second-and-9 out of second-and-4, and then somehow ended up taking a timeout after that play too. With a losing team, we would be killing the coach for that, or Brady, or both of them. We should be killing the Patriots for it too. Just an awful sequence. Without the loss of 5 yards, it's much more likely they convert second-and-4 and then that may be the end of the game or close to it. How do you take delay of game there instead of taking a timeout?

Tom Gower: Well, the Colts didn't let the game get away from them defensively late, so that was a good job. Losing by just 7 was actually kind of an accomplishment.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 19 Oct 2015

230 comments, Last at 21 Oct 2015, 2:04pm by mbmxyz

Comments

1
by theslothook :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 10:55am

Heavy rob weintraub sigh from me...

The story of pats colts was, Luck's scattershot accuracy cost the colts a chance to win. The fake punt was lunacy, but aside from that...i thought the coaches had the right gameplan.

Other thoughts...brady really played well...but the colts had the right strategy. Mush rush and play the short routes. Aside from the coverage busts...it was the best strategy for this defense to employ against ne. Oh and that blitz that got the pats off the field late in the 4th q was great too.

If luck doesnt telegraph every damn pass high...who knows.

5
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:12am

Yeah, Luck sprayed passes in the 2nd half, and helped lose what you could concoct would have been a really close game... made worse by the fake punt.

I thought Indy played to win on offense, but obviously there was some serious errors on that play, the worst being Whalen's decision to snap the ball. I get going to some wacky formation to see if the Patriots panic with a timeout or penalty when substituting, but after neither happens, you take the delay, punt and go on your way.

It will be interesting to see if the Colts did anything different defensively in that 2nd half because their defense seemed to play a lot better.

In keeping with that, I think it is time we retire the whole 'don't anger the Patriots' stuff. With the exception of Weeks 1-10 of 2007, if the Patriots blow you out, it is because they are very good.

This is the second time everyone figured the Patriots would try to run it up as a direct result of playing the team that accused them. The first time it was the 2nd Jets game in 2007, which ended 20-10, and now this. The Patriots were actually more conservative than normal in the 2nd half trying to ice the game.

27
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:04pm

I don't think the Colts were that much better defensively in the 2nd half, it's just that New England stopped throwing passes at the end of the 3rd quarter and became very predictable. It was pure Martyball with three straight series of 3&out and then the kneeldowns at the end of game.

61
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:12pm

If anything, they were worse defensively, because the Patriots managed to get the big TEs matched up over the middle with the terrible linebackers.

(Err, I mean, because ALL-PRO ALL-WORLD due for a lucrative contract extension safety Mike Adams was out of the game, opening a gaping hole in the otherwise stout defense.)

You're right, they went full-Martyball, made worse by the delay of game and the prevent D (that allowed a second super annoying back-door pointless cover), and there is a very large part of me that thinks that that was deliberate. Another blowout and maybe the players might have been too happy or too arrogant. Now there's still plenty that can be used to slap them in the face in the film review and keep them on task.

I'll take issue with the statement that "the Patriots recovered"the onside kick. That's a dubious assertion at best, given that it appears likely that Moncrief got it before the pileup and he emerged with it from the pileup. That challenge was never going to win, of course, but it struck me as a little ridiculous that the original ruling wasn't Colts ball.

But I'll certainly buy in to the Dunlevy rational observations that other than the bad play, Pagano actually coached a really good game, but they're still vastly out-coached and out-talent-ed and have issues that will now be largely overlooked because of that one stupid play. I'm not going to cry if/when Pagano gets fired, but more and more it seems like it's going to be for the wrong reasons.

178
by Bobman :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:34pm

It's amazing how a merely above-average old vet safety can be such a key cog in the machine. Maybe the real issue is lack of depth, but his disappearance really seemed to alter their coverages and let the TEs get open for the intermediate passes.

If nothing else, however, it's clear that Adams has Brady's number.

I kill me.

2
by ChristopherS :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 10:59am

I came entirely to see what the authors would say about that punt, and I was not disappointed.

11
by Pat :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:23am

What bothered the hell out of me on the fake punt play was this:

Just pretend the remainder of the line had lined up corrrectly. Now look at the formation. If one of the 2 guys lined up behind the decoy line had turned and walked over to the 2 guys on the line, and then they had direct snapped it to *him*, and he starts sprinting along the left side... that might not be a bad trick play. The left side of the field's wide open there. (At least it would've been a *funny* trick play).

Of course, one of the Patriots probably would've turned and followed him... but that's fine. Then you have him call time out, instead of snapping the ball.

But the idea of just lining up bizarrely and hoping to confuse the other team is just stupid.

3
by Rocco :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:01am

The Steelers can give up 500 yards of offense and only 13 points on a consistent basis, right? That's totally sustainable.

8
by Denverite :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:16am

Well, the Broncos wracked up 442 yards of offense and only scored 16 offensive points in regulation.

9
by drobviousso :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:19am

Can anyone who saw the game (I listen to the Sirius) say what was going on in the secondary? From the way the homers called it, you'd think Revis, 2008-era Champ Bailey, and the ghost of Mel Blout were playing yesterday.

33
by Rocco :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:18pm

Antwon Blake can't cover anyone but will hit them hard after the catch. Ross Cockrell can cover as long as the refs let him get away with lots of contact. William Gay is alright but he doesn't get targeted much since Blake's guy is always open. If a team has one or two receivers the secondary can cope. The Cardinals have 3 receivers and a TE. The Cardinals left a lot of points on the field due to penalties or receivers not coming down in bounds in the end zone. Mike Mitchell made his first good play as a Steeler and didn't get to celebrate it because Cockrell ran into him and hurt him. (It balanced out Mitchell celebrating earlier over an incomplete pass where he did very little to impact the play.) In the second half the Cards stopped trying to run, which was both good and bad for the defense- bad because every Cards run was a gift to the defense, good because they could just blitz Palmer over and over again until it worked.

They have a lot of the same problems they did against NE- they can't cover tight ends, they can't really cover down the field, and if a QB doesn't panic under pressure he'll find people open. Luckily for them they've avoided running into an offense capable of exploiting their flaws since Week 1. They may get away with it against the Chiefs but Dalton will be able to throw for 600 yards to Eifert and Green unless his PTSD flares up.

13
by Snoth :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:27am

The patriots have been doing that the past 8 years

62
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:13pm

#3

Hey, back when Arians was the Steelers' OC they used to consistently march up and down the field and come up empty in the RZ. Related - This was Carson Palmer's eighth career 400-yard passing game. His record in those games is now 1-7.

Another Steelers' note - If Bryant stays healthy and out of trouble, he'll be All-Pro at some point

4
by Denverite :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:06am

Is it just me, or does Manning's arm not look nearly as bad as everyone is making it out to look? He threw a crapload of deep outs and go routes yesterday, and most of them looked pretty on target. Thomas dropped a wide open one, Sanders had that one ruled a no-catch at the end, but Manning looked to be on target much more often than not.

His decision-making, on the other hand, is atrocious. I think what it is is that defenses know what his pre-snap read is going to be, and they're baiting him into making a risky throw. That's my guess, at least.

6
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:15am

Honestly, his issues have seemed more mental than physical the last few weeks. As you mentioned, he threw a lot of passes that were 15+ yards, and most looked reasonably good. His statline would be nicer if Thomas didn't drop two amazingly easy catches, and if Hillman catches the pass that ended up as the pick-6.

Still, out of his picks, a lot of them are on plays where he's just not seeing players. Getting picked off once by a dropping LB is one thing. To do it twice?

I guess the hope here is that Manning likely didn't become unable to read defenses, and will figure that out. If that happens, and if his receivers don't drop easy catches, this offense may be league average.

16
by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:31am

I think the two play into each other a lot. Manning has spent the last 20ish years developing essentially an instinct about when players are open. All of the logic he's been applying (consciously and unconsciously) is based on him being able to throw a ball at a certain speed. If he's lost 10% off his arm strength (and he's certainly lost something), then it seems like that would throw off his whole calculus.

He's flying blind, honed to make split-second decisions based on a body he doesn't inhabit anymore.

Or, you know, maybe something else.

30
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:15pm

I don't know if the arm of 2006 Peyton Manning would have made the picks to the LBs successful plays. Those were just bad reads and decisions.

I think the O-Line is getting to him as well, as he's rarely allowing plays to develop, going with predetermined throws a lot.

Reminds me a lot of 2010 Manning when the Colts were at their worst.

53
by theslothook :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:53pm

There is nothing about this PM that resembles the old Pm. Its been really tough to watch this.

64
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:23pm

It's ten different factors all coming together to create one big clusterfuck. Yeah, his arm sucks, but his arm sucked before too, and it's correct to note that it's fine on some of the deep balls (and some of the short ones).

I don't think he's nearly as comfortable with the changes to the offense or with the receivers, and I think that adds a split second of extra time to his decisions. I've also noticed that after a mistake or two, he has developed some confidence issues with first and second reads downfield. So the bad line doesn't block well and there's a failed run on first down. Any number of imperfect second down plays (another imperfect run, an acceptable incompletion, a drop, a bad throw, whatever) puts them in third and difficult, and then Manning is throwing Alex Smith negative ALEX passes after looking downfield and electing not to throw.

There's no way the old Manning does that. He makes a legit try for the first down and if he misses, he misses and they punt. Now he's throwing passes without any chance of success and still punting.

And yet there are still times when his arm looks fine and he makes confident passes. Times when he throws a guy open and/or puts a ball to a spot where nobody but his guy can get it. Does Peyton Manning things. Things that even decent QBs with better arms don't do.

But then he does Jameis Winston things too and doesn't see LBs. I'll give Dansby credit on the first one, because he actually DID appear to bite on the play fake, changed course very quickly, covered a lot of ground, and made a great leaping play. But still, that's the stuff PFM should see. And have the touch to throw over. And that's not what happened on the OT pick at all.

I just don't get it. I know that the weaker arm makes them easier to defend. I know that he's making mental errors. But I also still see him doing good things that should lead to a productive offense, even if the run game needs work.

Still, it's at a point where even taking over at the 20 makes you sigh and think "wow, I really don't have all that much faith in them putting together a long drive with lots of first downs here."

And it's not like a weak armed QB can't get rid of the ball quickly to an open guy and be productive. Brady's doing it. And they're the one offense that you can sit back and be fully confident they'll go 80 yards methodically without screwing up every time unless an anomaly happens.

It's all just very weird. It was very bad timing for changing the offense. It was very bad timing for losing Julius Thomas. It was very bad timing for Demaryius Thomas to skip the OTAs. It's very bad timing for Manning to be throwing the occasional pass without any spin whatsoever. It's very bad timing to have a conservative stubborn moron head coach (oh wait, he's always had that, nevermind).

It was exceptional timing for hiring Wade Phillips, though. Man, what a savior.

95
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:59pm

I don't mean to start another Brady/Manning, but what are you saying with this line?

"And it's not like a weak armed QB can't get rid of the ball quickly to an open guy and be productive. Brady's doing it."

Are you saying their arms are even comparable at this point?

144
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:25pm

They're probably more comparable than most believe, but no, not really.

Point being, it's not as if Brady's all that much of a deep threat. (Though in his case it has always been more an accuracy thing than anything like that he can't zing it if need be.) It's not as if he's standing back there behind an impenetrable line like he has had at times in his career. He's taking a snap and moving the ball, and those guys are open and they get YAC and are supremely efficient, as we see in DVOA.

Meanwhile, the Broncos have a guy who is known for avoiding sacks due to a quick decision making process and quick release, have at least a few receivers who are talented, and yet they aren't easily open, getting YAC, or doing much of anything at all. Their offense is a total goddamn disaster from every angle.

Point was just that you can make an offense work - and not just work, but excel - without a deep threat.

(And yeah, Gronk helps, but that's not it.)

162
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 8:15pm

Agree with Dave. Patriots have always had better offensive design and it helps when a guy like Edelman always seems to fall forward for 3 more yards, but this year is just taking things to a whole different level. The YAC of the 2013 Broncos was always an outlier for a Manning-led offense, but the lack of YAC they get this season just doesn't make sense. That's why I'm looking at the lack of a third receiving option and problems at RB/TE as having a bigger impact on this passing game than the OL at this point. And the play-calling has not been good as of late.

166
by theslothook :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 9:09pm

Greg Cosell and Sam monson have both made versions of the same point. Bradys got the perfect skillset for this offense, but there is a distinction between what ne does and traditional elite qb offenses do. Their formations, personnel, splits, no huddle, speed no huddle, motions - what aaron mentioned about 4 tight ends...all get brady his first read open or a reliable second open behind it. They also nearly always field competent offensive lines that can run and pass protect. The interior especially gives brady the lanes to step up and find the crossers. Mind you...you still need bradys patience and vision to pull it off...but its a system that doesnt require top level talent to make it great.

Its an amazing offense from a scheme perspective. 31 other coaching staffs wud c a player like edleman and fail to properly use him. See jimmy graham.

Hell...31 other teams wud never get full value of tom brady.

197
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 8:25am

I agree, though I think Brady should get much of the credit for the OL. He consistently makes the group appear more capable than they would with another QB. The same group allowed double the sacks when Cassell took over in 2008. 2013 was another year that was bad even with Brady and, despite almost complete turnover at WR and virtually no help from Gronk/Ahern, NE still scored 27 ppg, good for 3rd in the league.

BTW, I have great respect for Cosell, but Monson should be ignored at all times.

212
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:36pm

Well the o line does well run blocking.

As for sam. Honestly...brady did look worse in 2013. In 2014, i saw brady v oakland Minnesota. I thought he looked muuch worse. I think pff still struggles separating qb play from scheme and talent...to say nothing of the natural variability in players.

But that said, Sam has plenty of good articles too.

217
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:59pm

Brady is the obvious one, but PFF makes so many head scratching claims - claims that appear absurd at the time and end up appearing equally wrong in retrospect - that I've come to the conclusion that they just don't understand the game. It's possible some nuggets of genuine insight exist, but it just isn't worth the effort mining for it in mountains of bullshit. :)

218
by SandyRiver :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 2:22pm

Brady thru week 4 of 2014 probably was FO-ranked among QBs about where Manning is at present. He was a bit different as they won 10 of their next 11. So was Gronk.

198
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 8:34am

Given that Manning was the architect for his offense for pretty much his entire career, and his obvious intelligence, it seems safe to assume whatever offense he was running was the one that worked best for him. Anyone claiming that Brady benefited from offensive design would essentially be saying either A) Manning would intentionally choose a less efficient offense or B) he wasn't insightful enough to realize he was running a less efficient offense.

I also wanted to follow up on our discussion from last week. I can't find video of the 4th quarter (aside from useless highlights) but I did find a couple game discussion threads and both of them reference a dropped interception in the 4th quarter. I have no way of synching up the time with the game, so I may have misremembered the specific drive, but it almost certainly happened.

207
by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 11:13am

Well not to start a long thing, but for as much as these QBs get compared, I think they run two very different offenses and have different skillsets that work best with different types of receivers. If they had to switch jobs, even in their primes, I don't think either would be able to improve on what the other guy does.

I also wanted to follow up on our discussion from last week. I can't find video of the 4th quarter (aside from useless highlights) but I did find a couple game discussion threads and both of them reference a dropped interception in the 4th quarter. I have no way of synching up the time with the game, so I may have misremembered the specific drive, but it almost certainly happened.

I only watched the last drive since we were talking about dropped INTs on scoring drives, but I think the play you may be talking about came on an earlier drive with about 5:00 left. Manning threw a high pass that Demaryius tipped with his hand and it was still getting tipped around before a second Chief nearly ran in and picked it. At this rate, I'm surprised that didn't get picked off given the season Denver's offense has had.

209
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 11:49am

I completely agree with your first statement. Even now Manning may have better accuracy than Brady down the field outside the numbers, and he certainly did in Indy. Their offenses were tailored to their strengths and somewhat around the personnel, though you could make the case that the personnel was structured to more than structured around.

What I object to - and this may have been misinterpretation on my part - is the idea that Brady's offense was *more* efficiently built around his strengths than Manning's.

211
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:30pm

I think it has been and is...but thats a sign of brady accepting being a peice in the offense rather than the written, directed, and produced approach by pm.

Bradys offense has the flexibility to adjust scheme wise to the opponent. Mannings adjustments boil down to him trusting ppl to run good enough routes and to block just well enough. His approach just never changes.

I mentioned above that 31 other coaches wud not have gotten the same out of brady. Im convinced 31 other coaches wudve deferred to Manning completely on offense.

193
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 7:39am

"Point was just that you can make an offense work - and not just work, but excel - without a deep threat."

Oh, if *that* was the point, then I totally agree. In fact, it's a case I make every time Pats fans complain about not having 2007 Moss any more. It's the insinuation about arm strength that I was confused about.

Arm strength isn't only about throwing the ball 70 yards from your knees, it is about firing a 10 yard out on a rope so the ball is there before a defender can make a play on it. Even more than the deep ball inconsistency, that is where Manning's arm issues present themselves. He has to make a full body wind up, so his quick release is gone, and the ball still takes forever to get there. In fact, I've seen at least two interceptions where the ball was so slow that the defender almost overran the play and had to reach back to make the pick.

221
by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 5:44pm

Agree. To some extent they both have to do a full body windup to get a full bit of oomph on it, but that's true of everyone. Brady wins now at having more zip on a quick release for sure. He has a chance if he's being hit as he throws, whereas Manning pretty much wouldn't at all. And lest we think I'm insulting his arm strength, I certainly recall those last two desperation Moss heaves in the 07 Super Bowl, which were from the low hash to the upper numbers and 70 yards downfield. They were like Tecmo throws. (I still think one of his best throws ever was a touchdown pass against the Steelers in the 05 AFCCG.)

I like the direction of the discussion above where Scott talks about trading the two of them even in their primes. I think it's apt. I think peak Manning would've had an easier time of it than peak Brady, but that's an opinion and neither here nor there. What is interesting to me is that for the first time in their careers, I look at the offenses (well, the design of the passing offense, anyway) and would actually want to make that trade. Maybe 2010 too, but that may just be due to the injuries that limited Indy and the protection Brady tended to get in most games, as that tight end usage wasn't THAT different from what some 2-TE Colts teams were able to do when Clark was healthy.

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by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:26pm

It comes and goes. There have been several deep misses this year where I was OK with the throw - it missed deep, it was not dangerous, it was just slight mis-timing with the receiver, etc.

(I'd actually argue that the two deeper TD throws to Sanders in the first half - the drop and the one where his jersey was held - were better throws than the one that went for 75 yards, which was shorter and inside and more at risk than the ones thrown deeper and farther outside... but that's really nitpicking and randomness.)

But there certainly have been some knucklers too.

Still, I think you're right. It's overblown because literally everything else with him and the rest of the offense is out of whack too. He has had a weak arm the whole time he has been in Denver. It's more of an issue this year because it's combined with everything else, and they're a lot easier to defend now that people have figured out that for the most part the deep pass isn't a huge concern.

81
by tunesmith :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:29pm

I wonder if one of the many factors is just that this offensive scheme doesn't give him as many options. He called this out specifically on one of his interceptions, where he just didn't want to believe he didn't have anywhere to throw, and so refused to "take his own medicine" when he should have, and instead forced the throw.

Granted, Manning was rarely looking at his 3rd or 4th option the last few years, but that was partially because the offensive line was so awful - maybe they're looking better at pass protection this year.

Broncos could really use a 3rd down possession type receiver, too. DThomas is boom/bust, and it can't always be Sanders.

89
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:51pm

Well, ever since they got rid of the fullback, he has the same number of options as before. They're just not as good.

Both in personnel and in design.

But even if you toss the stupid west coast-y route combos out the window and go to the Manning/Moore staples, the levels/dig/dag combos get a lot easier to defend when a) there's no real reason to respect the play action (which isn't as tricky anymore without being under center anyway) and b) the option route on the backside needn't be respected because that's not a deep ball he can hit as reliably and c) he doesn't have the time to hit that anyway.

I think his physical weaknesses probably make it easier to play safety against them. I think the combination of everything else makes everything else a little easier too.

Still, the whole point of a west coast offense is to have quick drops and easy throws and YAC. Somehow the Bronco offense has none of this.

But you can't totally absolve him either. As I noted in another post, there are still a lot of throws where he puts it into coverage and it's perfect and either his guy gets it or noone gets it. So if he can do that, there's no reason to be tossing things into zones where linebackers are.

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by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:47pm

When he has time to throw, his arm looks okay, but I think his limitations make him much easier to defend and he only has a few shots per game when they catch a defense in the wrong scheme. If he misses one of those throws, or there's a drop it affects Denver much more than it does a better offense. Even though the OL has improved, he still may be trying to rush some his throws and reads.

139
by mbmxyz :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:09pm

A slow release and a weak arm will make good decisions look bad given the margin between an open receiver and a covered one in the NFL. Look at video of young Manning, say 2006, and the current one and consider the loss of speed in his movement and his release. It reminds me of video of Muhammad Ali in the 60s and the late 70s. I recall Ali saying towards the end of his career that he could see the openings in his opponents defense when he was in the ring but he just could not get a punch off in time to take advantage. Not quoting Ali, because I cannot find the quote and he would have said this better, but Manning has a similar problem. He seems to me to be accommodating his loss of physical ability pretty well. The accuracy of his passes late in the KC game is pretty remarkable given how slowly everything is moving for him. They have 6 wins, but I have a hard time seeing them getting past 10 with PM at QB. There current offense will not keep up with the Packers, Colts, Patriots, Steelers (late in the season with Big Ben back) Bengals, and probably the Chargers in SD. That is enough to win their division, but PM is not winning against a strong opponent. A mid-season retirement would not be a surprise.

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by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:39pm

Ali is a good comparison (great semi-quote there), but I hadn't noticed his release being slowed so much as the ball itself, so I went back to look at some older footage on youtube.

Boy, was that depressing.

Much of it was in slow motion so I honestly couldn't even get a handle on the different releases, but wow, those throws. Those windows. The plays he made. The memories of the games where he was making chicken salad out of Moorehead and Blair White and Gijon Robinson and 7 possessions for 20 minutes of the game clock when a mediocre bend but don't break D couldn't get ever off the field ...

Give that 04-10 guy this Wade Phillips D (and shit, it's not as if he didn't have two great bookend pass rushers for that entire time) and their mentality and there's no way that's not a strong 19-0 contender every year. If they can be 6-0 with what he is now...

What a tragedy that that's gone.

What a waste.

152
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:50pm

Come on - say it with me one more time. While we still can. For old time's sake.

Goddammit. Donald.

173
by Denverite :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 10:20pm

I don't think it's a waste. He's had a first ballot run in Indy and then a glorious second act in Denver. He got his Super Bowl and went to a couple of others. No, it's not comparable to Brady or Montana, and on balance I'd probably rather have Aikman's or Bradshaw's or Elway's careers, but it was a damned fine run regardless.

170
by Denverite :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 9:54pm

I certainly don't have a "hard time" seeing the Broncos winning in Indy (3-3) or SD (2-4). That probably puts them at 12-4. I also wouldn't be flabbergasted to see them steal one at home against Green Bay, Cincinnati or New England (OK, maybe New England). That defense is like having the best goalie in a hockey game -- you never know when they're going to stand on their head and score a TD, gift the offense another couple of field goals with turnovers or pinning the other team deep, and then hold the team to 13 points aside from that. I'd be surprised to see them do it more than once playing like this, but once? Sure. And that puts them at 13-3 and probably not playing the first round of the playoffs.

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by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 8:47am

I agree with you. 11-5 at least, 12-4 probably.

Question for those who have watched the all 22 footage, what is Talib doing to bait so many throws? It seems every game someone tosses a ball in his direction that has no chance but to be intercepted. Was that really the best read? I know pass rush forces QBs to make quick decisions, but a few of the interceptions saw the QB in a clean pocket. Is it just bad QBing?

Inquiring minds want to know. :)

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by RobotBoy :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 3:03am

Speaking from memory as well, I believe the quote was from Joe Louis, and what he said was along the lines of: he used to throw punches a split second before he saw the opening, but as he got older he saw the opening but couldn't launch the shot in time. Meaning that he used to sense the opening before consciously becoming aware of it, but had lost that reactive quickness. I seem to remember the quote as being in an A.J. Liebling essay. Fast twitch muscle movement is the first thing to go.

171
by Dan_L :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 10:03pm

For me the physical limitations that I am seeing in Manning is that he used to throw a variety of passes that arched with topspin. He could throw these at many different shapes, and it was almost like watching a great tennis player. In the second half of last year, and continuing into this year he hasn't seemed to have the ability to make these topspin throws, and I think that does have something to do with arm strength, though you could argue it is more a lack of precision. Either way, it seems to be an ongoing physical issue.

To continue with the tennis metaphor, it isn't just the pace of a forehand in tennis, it is your ability to hit the forehand on varying arcs with different amounts of spin. A great player does not just hit a groundstroke, a lob, and a flat forehand. They may hit flat, flat +1, flat+2, groundstroke, groundstroke+1, groundstroke+2, etc. The player does this to allow themselves to hit precise shots around their opponent, as well as give themselves room for error (if the flat+2 rarely hits the net, and works just as good in this situation as your flat forehand, you can use it to limit your risk that you take with the harder shot). Now imagine if you took away a number of those skills, and had Rafael Nadal play where he could only hit the flat forehand, groundstroke, and lob. His ability to attack his opponents would be limited. He wouldn't be useless, and he would sometimes hit shots that look "strong", but it would still be a physical limitation, and he wouldn't be as great of a player.

And so this is what I see when I watch Peyton Manning lately. He just doesn't have the precision with all of the different arcs of passes that he used to. You still see him throw deep passes, but more often this is the full lob. And so if there is a spot where the full lob gives the defense a chance to close on the receiver, he doesn't complete them where he used to. And if there is an open receiver and the groundstroke pass can hit him (like the TD pass to Sanders), well Manning can have success. But there are alot of spots where you sense that he sees a spot that he used to be able to take advantage of, "I can throw it over Mingo and still on a path to hit my receiver in stride", only today he has to take some pace off the pass, and leads to interceptions he never used to throw. It may look like a bad choice, but it is more of the "I used to be able to do that" mental mistake.

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by Denverite :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 10:13pm

But there are alot of spots where you sense that he sees a spot that he used to be able to take advantage of, "I can throw it over Mingo and still on a path to hit my receiver in stride", only today he has to take some pace off the pass, and leads to interceptions he never used to throw. It may look like a bad choice, but it is more of the "I used to be able to do that" mental mistake.

I'll give you the Mingo pick. But most of his INTs this year are much closer to the first one from yesterday. He makes his mind up where he's going before the snap and just doesn't see that the defense knows that and are sitting on the throw. Maybe it's because he's concentrating so hard on making a clean throw because everything has to be perfect.

But I do stand for what I said above. When you factor in the Thomas drops and Sander's non-catch, Manning was probably at 65% or so accuracy (maybe higher) on deep sideline routes, which isn't indicative of an arm that can't play.

187
by Stravinsky :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 1:40am

While reading this week's Audibles of the Denver game, it occurred to me that if you replaced the words "Denver Broncos" with "Houston Texans", "Peyton Manning" with "Matt Schaub" and other Denver player names with Texans player names then this week's write-up sounded almost identical to every Texans game during the Kubiak era. Unable to sustain drives? Check. Kicking field goals instead of touchdowns? Check. Interceptions when the QB has nowhere to go with the ball? Check.

While Manning is undoubtedly experiencing some age-related decline, the Kubiak offense also has a huge part of the blame.

223
by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 5:58pm

I agree. I have always thought that Kubiak's only strength was the run game and that he would frequently cost them games with his stubbornness, like for instance with that idiotic scripted first 15 plays of the game. There was one game during that stretch where the Texans started matching up well with the Colts where he came out and it was clear from the first snap that Schaub was just way off that day while Foster could run at 7-8 yards a carry, and he kept passing, passing, passing, wasting the drives, and as usual they lost a winnable game.

I think it was this game, but I remember it being more egregious while I was watching. Like I was chuckling to myself as a Colts fan and thinking how lucky it was for them that that idiot was handing them the game. 7 yards a carry, 5 yards per pass, let's pass three times more often!

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201011010clt.htm

They were the better team at that point but went in to the half down by two touchdowns.

(Oddly, I have no memory whatsoever of the Jeremy Kapinos era in Indianapolis.)

Anyway, I liked the idea that Kubiak could just deal with the run blocking and leave the passing game alone, but it seems obvious that even though he's given up some control, he has still changed a lot of the route combinations and whatnot, which I notice at times when Peyton seems to be ten times more willing to check down (negative ALEX, plays with no chance at success even if completed) than he ever was before. I don't think that they'd still be talking about trying to get on the same page and all that lip service in the quotes about the offense if they were just running the typical Manning staples. Or even the shorter stuff they started adopting with Gase. Maybe Kube isn't being quite as stubborn as usual, but I think he's still probably forcing in a lot of stuff that isn't ideal. (Meanwhile, the run game took til the 2nd half of the 6th game to start looking competent.)

I've just never seen any evidence that Kubiak is anything other than a moron. I suppose he limited some Schaub and Flacco mistakes... but he really does appear to me to be completely inflexible and uncreative.

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by mbmxyz :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 8:40am

Yes, he can throw the deep sideline routes. George Blanda could as well when he was close to 50. Watch some PM passing highlights from say 2006 and from this year. The problem is the sllooowwww release. PM used to be like Ali. Fighters would still be reacting to the first punch when the third arrived; likewise, 10 years ago, DBs were responding to a receiver's cut while the receiver was catching Manning's pass. Denver has the worst offense (per DVOA) in the NFL after playing six games against three defenses in the bottom half of the NFL (per DVOA) and three in the bottom quarter (per DVOA). In two weeks, Aaron Rogers and the 4th ranked NFL defense (per DVOA) are the opponent. Then they go to Indianapolis, and that last year in Denver went so well. In the next month, we will learn probably all we will ever need about Elway's executive skill. With an average offense, the Broncos are a Super Bowl contender; with the worst offense and the worst QB in the league, they are not. Does Elway squander that defense in homage to PM's legacy; does he squander it to the belief that Manning has a couple of championship-quality games left; or does he show Manning the bench, if not the door? (And Manning might do the deed himself. His father has been through this.)

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by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 6:03pm

I think some of it might be a slower mental process too. Not like plodding slow, but slow relative to the instinct and full confidence he's had in an offense he has known for 15 years. Piggybacking on the above post 223, I think the newness of Kubiak's stuff is still making his brain have to take an extra tick to process, even when/if the routes and plays are well-designed.

Almost as if he's still at his peak in reading the defense, but is suddenly slightly delayed in reading his own offense.

Not saying there's not also physical slowness, of course, but I think that it's been established that he had physical slowness the last few years too.

No way to ever know, but I think that last year's Gase offense, even the one we saw late in the year as Peyton was hurt and Thomas/Welker were gone, would be close enough to mid-pack to be that average-O super bowl contender you mention (and with which I agree). I hold out hope that they can grow and get there - constant improvement into December like the Pats always dow - and still be a legit threat, but yeah, with every passing week my confidence in that happening wanes.

7
by Pat :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:15am

I said this on the Monday Morning Hangover thread, but I think it's worth mentioning here:

It gets called a break-the-plane play, I think. So the idea is he caught it in the field of play and then it's a touchdown as soon as he breaks the goal line.

I don't think the problem is the NFL's catch rule anymore. I think it's the "break the goal line and the play's over" rule that's the problem. It's not a good rule, for lots of reasons. For one, it encourages bad football: you get people sticking football's out wildly in the middle of the field, because they know all they need to do is break the plane. Dez Bryant's focused on getting the touchdown, and not completing the catch.

And I don't see why you couldn't get rid of it. Make a runner (note that once you complete the catch, you're a runner) down when his knee/body part hits the ground, when he steps out of bounds, or when his momentum is stopped in the end zone. Running backs lunging for the end zone still stay the same, because they get forward progress. Basically everything stays the same except that you get a bit more action as the defense tries to save the touchdown by stripping the ball at the end. I don't see the downside.

19
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:43am

I could get behind that. And it's not without precedent, either - the force-out rule was changed because the NFL (eventually) realized that the refs could not reliably or accurately determine when a receiver "would have" landed in bounds.

24
by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:59am

Man, that was a bad rule, wasn't it? Any rule that asks an official to determine intent (batted balls, flopping, etc) or what would have happened if the thing that actually happened hadn't happened, is a bad rule.

Watching the NLCS this weekend was refreshing: the strike zone is the strike zone, and the ump may make an error in judgment, but at least he's judging the physical position of an object and not something inscrutable.

21
by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:47am

Gameplay-wise, this sounds kind of fun to to me. It might actually produce more internal consistency in the rulebook, as now no play would be over until the runner was actually down.

Player saftey-wise, I worry that this would provide even more incentive and opportunity for safeties to blow people up in the end zone.

But we all know the real reason this will never happen: NFL rules against celebrating by going to your knees. If players have to kneel in the end zone, imagine the plague of excessive celebration penalties we'd be dealing with. I'm joking, but I think the NFL could make that argument with a straight face.

70
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:38pm

Frankly, I'd love to see a rule change like this - the particulars might be tricky, but I think the real problem (players being sloppy with the ball because of the instant end of play) would be solved.

I'd love to see the end of those plays where the QB or RB reaches the ball over a bunch of people (like the whole offensive line) and the whistle blows - it doesn't feel like a "real" touchdown - it feels like a loophole.

25
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:00pm

So, what a guy in the end zone has to kneel to give himself up?

How about just taking the rugby tact and making it so you have to touch the ball to the turf and your XP is from that angle?

28
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:07pm

Alternatively the refs could just blow the whistle to end the play if they really consider there is a safety issue.

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by Pat :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:06pm

Yeah, I thought of that problem - that's why I added "or his momentum is stopped in the end zone" to the list of things that cause you to be downed. Which means all you need to do is just stop. You could also just say "forward momentum" to avoid the dumb idea that defenders would just like, push you around the end zone in a circle until they could punch the ball out.

The problem with adding rugby bits like that is that you're making it wildly different from elsewhere on the field, which is what you're trying to avoid.

(Having players kneel to give themselves up in the end zone isn't a terribly bad idea, either. It adds a lot of consistency, and also means that defenders *damn well have to keep chasing after the guy* - otherwise he can just bleed off as much time as he wants once he hits the end zone. But it is a big change.)

40
by RickD :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:31pm

I would much rather get rid of the "complete the catch" rule.

If an offensive player has possession and the ball is in the end zone, that's a touchdown. It's a simple rule and rules need to be simple.

47
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:40pm

Could not agree more.

50
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:45pm

It can't be that simple. This is the NFL.

51
by LyleNM :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:51pm

If an offensive player has possession and the ball is in the end zone, that's a touchdown.

You're right, that's simple. All you have to do now is define "possession". Oh wait, not so simple.

58
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:59pm

Yeah, but Pat's rule change doesn't help that part.

78
by Pat :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:09pm

Yes, but saying "possession in end zone = touchdown" means that your "judgement call" has to occur at a specific time: *and* that time is totally different than any other place on the field.

Saying "downed in the end zone = touchdown" means that your judgement calls are exactly the same as the rest of the field.

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by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:08pm

So? There are plenty of judgment calls in the field of play regarding whether possession occurred. And your proposal just shifts what gets reviewed. Tate having the exact same play but having his ball hit the ground causes the exact same review with your rule.

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by Pat :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:25pm

And your proposal just shifts what gets reviewed.

That's the point - it shifts it to be exactly the same as everywhere else. In cases like Tate receiving the ball, losing it and having it be caught by someone else, it actually removes one: now *no* judgement call is needed. Either he caught the ball, lost it and someone else recovered, or he didn't catch the ball, and it was intercepted. Same deal either way.

Tate having the exact same play but having his ball hit the ground causes the exact same review with your rule.

Those happen everywhere else too: catch + fumble versus no catch at all. It's the same judgement call whether it's in the end zone or anywhere else. It's no difference for the *officials*, sure, but it's easier for *viewers* to understand.

But there are *actual* times that it removes judgement calls: if someone else catches it (which is what happened) in the end zone, that judgement call goes away (just like it does anywhere else on the field).

It's the same deal if a runner fumbles the ball as they're crossing the goal line. If you say "goal line = end of play" you have to ask "did he have control as he crossed the goal line?" Get rid of the idea that crossing the plane ends the play, and that judgement call goes away. (As would crappy ball handling near the end zone).

108
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:34pm

Yes, you're just adding catch v fumble down v fumble questions and taking away plane crossing questions. Which I think sucks, if you like them, fine.

Add end zone cameras and plane questions are much easier than down v fumble questions.

109
by tuluse :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:40pm

Catch vs fumble isn't an added question. It's a question that exists on every part of the field except the endzone. That's Pat's point. It should be treated the same.

57
by Led :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:57pm

What do you do when a receiver dives to make a catch, taps two feet down in bounds, and coughs up the ball when he hits the ground? That should be incomplete in my view. That's what the "complete the catch" rule is intended for. The problem is when the rule is extended outside that context to the classic "catch and fumble vs. incompletion" scenario. That's probably the hardest judgment call for refs to make, so it's comforting to apply an objective, ostensibly judgment-free rule. But objective does not always mean accurate. I think in those situations, a simple "did he get possession" rule is best. There will always be tough calls on which reasonable people can differ, but I think you'd have fewer calls that just offend comment sense.

106
by Pat :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:27pm

"What do you do when a receiver dives to make a catch, taps two feet down in bounds, and coughs up the ball when he hits the ground? That should be incomplete in my view."

Right... and it should stay incomplete. I agree that making the catch while off-balance means you have to maintain possession through the act of hitting the ground.

The problem with the Dez Bryant and Eifert plays were that you have to figure out *when* two judgement calls happen. Which sucks. If you get rid of the "end zone ends the play" then those plays just look like your exact example above.

It also means that Bryant and Eifert probably would not have made those plays, which is even more important to consider, in my mind.

117
by Led :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:37pm

I was responding to RickD's comment about getting rid of the "complete the catch" rule. I agree your solution would result in fewer of those types of plays because there would not be the same incentive to stretch out the ball like that. (The very fact that we're talking about altering how players handle the ball via incentives shows how silly it is to act as if Freeman/Bryant/et al. did not have possession of the ball. Of course they did.) I'm afraid your solution might cause other problems. I don't want more of a scrum around the endzone than their already is, and it might result in different types of judgment calls about whether a play is a TD or not. But it's worth thinking about. Plus, I love George Carlin's football-as-war bit, and it would certainly jive more with the overall spirit of the game to require the ball carrier to "occupy" the endzone to get the 6 points.

203
by Pat :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 9:46am

Yeah, I realized that later. I tried to change my comment to make it clear that I'm agreeing that if you're falling to the ground, you have to show control - apparently not enough.

"(The very fact that we're talking about altering how players handle the ball via incentives shows how silly it is to act as if Freeman/Bryant/et al. did not have possession of the ball. Of course they did.)"

I don't really agree here. Moving the football around in your hands doesn't establish possession - bobbling the ball looks like that and clearly it's not possession. To me, Bryant (and Eifert) didn't catch the ball - it looked like they had more control than they did because they were falling.

60
by blan :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:11pm

I'm in agreement with LyleNM. I don't think that makes things simpler because "possession" is not well defined. "Complete the catch" is a detail in the definition of "possession" that is supposed to help determine whether possession has been established.

I think the current rule is okay, but that the Tate play was incorrectly reversed. I don't see how the referee thought Tate had "become a runner" since there was a defensive player draped on him. You can't really run if another player is attempting to strip the ball from you.

I think they do need to clarify the current "becoming a runner" standard.

68
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:34pm

I agree.

All the going to the ground and completing the catch and the becoming a runner stuff makes sense given what they were trying to legislate. The problem is that then a variety of combinations of those things come into play when you also add in breaking a plane, and then for good measure you sprinkle terrible enforcement and confusion on top of it.

I've seen balls caught and secured - with more steps taken than Tate did - which were then punched out and recovered, ultimately overturned as an incomplete pass on replay. We see this all the time. If anything, they are far too generous about the amount of time and steps that are required to "become a runner." And while that's frustrating if you're a fan of the defense that didn't get a fumble recovery, it at least sort of makes sense.

And then this Tate play was the exact opposite of that. He was not fully into that process of becoming a runner. Thus, he did not have possession, thus he couldn't have possessed the ball when crossing the goal line.

Had that play been anywhere on the field, they'd have called it incomplete. (Well, no, since it didn't hit the ground, it'd have been called an interception. But you get my meaning.) Because the goal line was introduced to the equation, everything got screwed up, and the incompetent refs got overwhelmed.

Even still, it boggles my mind that they considered anything about that replay to be conclusive enough to overturn it, when if anything it should have conclusively confirmed the call. Even saying "the ruling on the field stands" would have been an egregiously incorrect wording.

I agree with everyone else that it's shameful, really, but I put the blame on the refs more than I do on the office, even though Blandino (and Pereira before him) often look like asses trying to bend words to defend their guys after the fact.

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by blan :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:15pm

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to what Blandino has to say in his weekly rules video.

Here's last week's: http://media02.nfl.info/NFL/Media/2015/Video8/Officiating_Media_Video_10...

This week's video should be up on Friday. It will be at the same url with Video8 changed to Video9 and 10-16-15 changed to 10-23-15.

71
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:39pm

That's what the rule actually is.

The problem is the definition of 'possession'

84
by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:41pm

This whole rule hinges on defining things that can't be conclusively proven. Referees are always going to have to make judgment calls, but asking them to determine when someone has transitioned from the arbitrary state of receiver to the arbitrary state of runner is asking a bit much of them.

You know, this comment was longer a second ago, but all I was really doing was suggesting ways to alter the rule that would make it just as much of an arbitrary judgment call, but with slightly different arbitrary judgments involved. When I realized that all of my proposals involved making it very clear that Tate (and Johnson in 2011) didn't actually catch the ball, I started to wonder if my pro-Bears bias was starting to get the best of me. I think I'll show myself out before I start talking about how Walter Payton always held onto the ball.

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by TomC :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:53pm

1) As a Bears fan, all I can say is if you're going to get screwed out of a division win by a bad call, it might as well be in a year where you're more likely to get the 1st pick than make the playoffs.

2) There appears to be a "display this card to get a free win from the officials" card that was passed from Seattle (Fail Mary) to Detroit (Batty Batty Batty) and is now held by the Bears. I hope they keep it in their pocket until a contending year. (John Fox, make sure to empty your pockets before you wash those game pants.)

3) That call would not be considered to have decided the game if the Lions had not gone all Super-Mega-Ultra-Lions in the second half and handed the ball to the Bears three times in a row (two muffed punts and Stafford's "I'm just having fun out here" pick).

4) Walter Payton fumbled on the first drive of Super Bowl XX. (Though he is still the greatest human being, give or take a couple, in the history of the world.)

124
by PackerPete :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:17pm

I had a chance to watch the Bears game as the Packers played the late game. After the Bears took the lead and got the ball back with 2:46 to go, Fox went into Prevent Offense mode (which Mike McCarthy does also, and it drives me nuts!) and elected to run the ball three straight times to burn Detroit's time outs. Unfortunately, Fox's decision left Detroit with about 2:24 and the two minute warning to work with. Any QB in the league can go 80 yards for a TD in this time frame, and Stafford has done it many times. And did it again. If the Bears had run their normal offense (Cutler threw for 353 yards) and moved the chains once or twice more, they win the game. Fox decided Detroit's time outs were more important than possessing the ball. BAD DECISION. I don't understand why coaches put such importance on the other team's time outs rather than play to maintain the ball, move the chains, and burn the other team's time outs by attrition. Detroit would have called a time out after an 11 yard pass, too, and Chicago would have kept the ball and won.

Detroit left Chicago some time. The Bears had no time outs, and all Detroit had to do was to force the Bear receivers inside. On one play, Detroit's CB took an inside position on the Bear's left WR. On the other side, Detroit's CB was straight up on the Bear receiver. The Bears went up the right sideline three straight plays with the receiver getting outside position on the Lions' CB every time. How the heck does Caldwell allow that? Bears tie the game to force OT. Bad coaching both sides.

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by tuluse :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:24pm

To be fair to the Lions on the final drive, their corners may not be physically able to re-route Jeffery.

On the other hand that doesn't explain why the safeties weren't there to help or why they committed DPI on the final two plays.

10
by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:20am

Everybody non-player involved in the Bears-Lions game did a pretty poor job. The Tate catch resides in a place of rulebook confusion, so there are bound to be some judgment calls that will be easy to disagree with, but overturning it was just odd. There were also a good number of no calls on big plays (Alshon Jeffery got away with what looked like a huge push off) and mysterious phantom calls.

They say that generals are always fighting the last war, but Caldwell and Fox are using strategies that would never have won at any level in any era. I remember an Outsider (maybe Barnwell?) saying that, while 4th down and point after decisions can be difficult to make under pressure, good coaches make those decisions long before the game ever starts, then apply their pre-established logic.

As a team, the Bears have looked much more prepared for games this year (true, their performance in the Seattle game had more in common with a 1950s grade schooler hiding under their desk from a nuclear blast than an actual football game, but they at least got 11 guys to cower in unison), but every Sunday Fox seems surprised and somewhat angry to find himself in charge of a football team.

17
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:36am

That whole game (coaching, officiating, fundamentals) was like the Colts 4th down trick play spread out over 70 minutes, as far as competence goes.

20
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:45am

Stafford lobbying to get a roughing penalty deserves both mention and ridicule. It'll never happen, but I think QBs should get fined by the league for that behavior. The QB rules are in place to protect the QB; taking a dive and then lobbying the officials makes a mockery of that.

75
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:05pm

Which play are you referring to? Was it in the 3rd quarter when the Lions got stopped on 3rd down after Cutler's end zone int? On that play I thought he was lobbying for defensive holding on the failed screen pass. You might be thinking of a different play, though.

114
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:19pm

I think it was the one right before the TD pass in the 4th.

0:34 3rd and 12 CHI 12 Matthew Stafford pass incomplete short left intended for Lance Moore. Penalty on Pernell McPhee: Roughing the Passer, 6 yards (no play)

192
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 5:23am

If that was a tricky tack call, I would agree with you, but that was pretty blatant roughing, and really a dumb play by McPhee. I see a half dozen quarterbacks react the same way Stafford did in a particular week, given the same circumstances. But maybe that's just my homerism talking.

37
by tuluse :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:27pm

I wish I could my team well prepared, competent, with good personnel management and intelligent decisions about when to be aggressive. It seems I can only have 3/4 though.

107
by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:32pm

If I could only pick three of those four, those might be the three I would pick. Unintelligent decisions about aggressive play are pretty annoying, but if you're missing any of the other three, the game is almost a foregone conclusion. I'll go count my blessings.

110
by tuluse :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:46pm

Perhaps ironically, Lovie was much better with these kind of decisions (I'd put him middle of the pack among NFL coaches). Trestman was of course very smart about them.

So I've gotten to see this from many angles. Personally, I so far prefer Lovie's teams. I really like Adam Gase's offense though. If Fox can fix the defense over the next year or two, could be a very enjoyable team to watch, with a dozen or so moments every year where I have a near aneurysm over the decision to punt.

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by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:01pm

Trestman was wonderfully aggressive and gave a good interview. From a fan's limited perspective, I thought he was great.

Unfortunately, he seems to have been terrible (or at least insufficient) at all the other aspects of being a head coach. Also, he looked like a crooked accountant who prepares comic book supervillains' taxes.

113
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:15pm

Also, he looked like a crooked accountant who prepares comic book supervillains' taxes.

True, but he also had flaws.

12
by Phil :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:24am

Regarding the Steelers crowd — Heinz Field almost always appears half-empty after halftime. Seemingly everyone waits until then to go to the bathroom or get something to eat, and NFL halftime is pretty short. It seems like half the stadium doesn't get back for second half kickoff. I don't know if it has anything to do with the locations of the restrooms/concessions or there being too few restrooms (not sure how it compares to other stadiums), but it's noticeable at the start of every third quarter at Heinz. The bright yellow seats also have something to do with it — maybe this is also happening at other stadiums, but it's less noticeable? I've long thought the Steelers should defer until the second half when at home because of this.

194
by Jerry :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 7:42am

In addition to Phil's general comment, which is correct, the bad first half of football and sudden downpour during halftime Sunday might have convinced some people to leave.

It was a weird game. Now I've seen a couple of spectacular Landry Jones to Martavis Bryant touchdowns, and Brandon Boykin (who can't get on the field as a corner) make a great play to down a punt at the 2, and Robert Golden look like a competent safety. Not what I expected.

And while I'm not sure what happened to the Cardinals, they looked like a pretty good team.

14
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:28am

did not rad whole audibles yet but posted this in mike tanier extra points threa d-------

Clots fake punt play designed by special temas coach who has head in need of exmainign. Was worse than swinging gate paly by J. Zorn when coaching Washington Squirrels. Reminded of 2-on-2 tackle football where one kid hikes ball to otgher kid who then tries to run to end zoen (which is area between two trees parallel to e ach other )and beat two kids on opposing team to it. main differnence here though is that it was two Cotls vs 4 or 5 Pates (would have to see again; only saw play rtwice as was more intesrted in baseball last nighet). Totally moronic play.

63
by Karma Coma :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:18pm

I think all living trees in a given area are roughly parallel.

90
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:52pm

moist are but not always. sometimes a tree bends funny and points to side but tree nearby points and grows skyward and then if had a sasqaucth or elephnant or paul bunyan walk on a tree could be in dirt

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by HPaddict :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:04pm

Never been to the arctic? The permafrost can shift quite a big in certain areas leading to trees pointing in all sorts of directions.

15
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:28am

I wouldn't normally complain about watching a high-scoring overtime game, but that Bears-Lions game was exasperatingly sloppy. It was like watching a 3-way game of chess between three mentally-challenged players (the Lions, the Bears, and the Refs). The Lions ended up being the least inept of the three, and came away with the win, but good football and human decency lost.

32
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:15pm

It's like there was so much badness available in that game, it just couldn't fit into 60 minutes. Nothing is more appropriate than the fact the game effectively ended with Stafford running around and just flinging it deep in typical Hail Calvin fashion, with the refs missing what sure looked like a blatantly obvious holding call.

The worst part? I watched most of that game, because I have an inexplicable love of terrible football games.

39
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:30pm

The refs officiated that game like they were paid off, but when the game started they forgot which side bribed them...so they just decided to make bad calls at random and hoped the right team ended up winning.

Also, Dean Blandino's explanation of that Golden Tate ruling hurt my brain.

45
by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:34pm

Yeah, I watched the whole thing, too, and even went back to watch a few plays over again, not to complain about the refs, but because I wanted to enjoy them again. No matter how bad the overall game gets, there's still a palpable joy in watching a back burst through the line. If Matt Forte ages anything like he runs, then he's approaching retirement much faster than he appears (seriously, he has the most non-chalant gait I've ever seen), and I'm afraid I'll put up with any amount of Crazy-Like-a-Fox's weirdness to watch him.

I think football's relationship with it's fans might best be described as codependency.

69
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:37pm

Games like that are the ones where I root for ties because neither team deserves the win. It was really very close to becoming reality too.

It's worth noting that six years of Peyton Manning's prime was spent with those two clowns as his head coach. He took both of them to the Super Bowl. That's pretty incredible. Now that he has devolved into what he is now, I think we should all gain some extra appreciation for that fact.

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by tuluse :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:46pm

Fox got a Superbowl without Manning. He clearly needs some schooling in the appropriate responses to 4th down and 2pt attempts, but outside of that he's a pretty good coach.

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by SandyRiver :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:39pm

Forgot about that SB. Had the Panthers taken one point early in the 4th, Viniateri would've been kicking for overtime rather than for the victory.

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by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:06pm

John Fox is very, very, clearly an above average, if decidedly imperfect, NFL head coach.

82
by TomC :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:38pm

Agree. Though the majority of my texts to friends yesterday were some variation on "call timeout, you moron!" (such as "go for two, you moron!" and "don't run up the middle three times when you are shredding their secondary, you moron!"), the level at which that deeply talent-starved team is playing football speaks to some very impressive during-the-week coaching.

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by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:56pm

I agree, but as I tend to measure everybody against Belichick and have high standards (duh), he doesn't do a whole lot for me. I consider average to be a pretty low bar.

I think that his imperfections tend to show themselves in more ways than just the 4th down and conversion ways listed above, though. Let's not forget the clock management and the times he has asked a top tier offense to just forfeit a possession when there was plenty of time to try to score.

I guess the point is that while I agree with you, being above average doesn't mean I shouldn't be allowed to be annoyed by the imperfections.

101
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:14pm

You measure everybody against the best coach in the league? So basically unless Bill Walsh shows up everyone sucks?

Are you @pftcommenter on twitter? If not you've got to give him this bit.

151
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:49pm

I wish. I have like 12 followers. And I think I'm pretty funny and insightful.

He's welcome to it.

(Otherwise, see 149 for my response. But for as long as you're sharing a conference with Belichick and have to beat him, well, yeah. Everyone else but Bill Walsh sucks. I don't think that's an unreasonable standard. Otherwise you're playing for second.)

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by tuluse :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:10pm

Fox is no Belichick, no argument there. The thing is, I'd rather watch a Fox coached team than say a Davis, Robiskie, Crennel, Mangini, Shurmur, Chudzinski, Pettine* coached team while searching for a Belichick.

*Sorry Browns fans, had to pick on someone.

154
by mbmxyz :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:55pm

Fox is 75-75 excluding the Denver/Manning years. Kubiak in Denver was 61-64 prior to the 6 wins this year. That's 52-18 for Fox/Kubiak with PM at QB. From PFR, the median winning percentage for coaches with at least 50 games coached is .519.

156
by BJR :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 7:16pm

If you are going to exclude the Manning years, it's only fair you also exclude the Jimmy Clausen starts..

157
by tuluse :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 7:19pm

While Fox went 75-75 (which includes taking over a team than went 1-15), the Browns went 52-92. There are worse things to be than John Fox.

174
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 10:24pm

Yeah, I think some forget what a mess the Panthers were when Fox took over. Going from that to SB in two years is very impressive.

100
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:11pm

Hey, it's just football in a (mostly) free country; you can be annoyed or ecstatic about whatever you're heart desires. I don't think you appreciate, however, how difficult it is to be average in the NFL, or how close, as great as he is, Belichik is to having merely an above average or worse career, due to bad luck in qb selection.

122
by mbmxyz :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:02pm

Name the great NFL coaches who did not have great QBs, or mostly great QBs. I doubt that is accidental.

125
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:19pm

Joe Gibbs? Marty Schottenheimer?

175
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 10:26pm

#125

It's a little misleading with Gibbs. None of his QBs are/will be in the HoF, but Thiesmann was arguably the best QB in the NFL for 1982-83 combined and Mark Rypien played at a HoF level in 1991. Doug Williams is the one that's a real outlier, but he did play like a HoFer in that SB.

Marty did have Brees for a while. Otherwise, you're looking at Bernie Kosar (very good for a few years, but certainly not HoF level) and late career Joe Montana, who was still good, but not at the level he'd been 4-5 years earlier. It could also be said that Brees was just entering his prime his last couple years in SD. There's also Marty's one season with Rivers (a few argue for him for the HoF, I'm not one of them) as his starting QB.

191
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 5:20am

So you don't think Gibbs being a good coach had anything to do with Rypien and Williams playing great for short stretches, when the rest of their careers elsewhere were sub-mediocre?

As for Marty, he had one year of Brees healthy and playing well (2004). The other years he was either hurt or looked like he was going to wash out of the league. He also consistently made the playoffs with elderly Steve DeBerg and washed up Dave Krieg types at quarterback.

126
by tuluse :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:21pm

Post merger: Parcells, Gibbs, Shottenheimer, Noll (post-Bradshaw, and according to some with Bradshaw). Arguably, John Harbaugh and Cowher pre-Ben.

132
by LyleNM :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:34pm

Chuck Knox, Dungy pre-Peyton, I would say Jeff Fisher but others around here disagree, ... there's plenty of examples.

176
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 10:29pm

Many feel that lack of a top level QB was the main thing that kept those 70s Rams teams from winning a SB

134
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:38pm

I would have loved to see what a younger Parcells could have done with Romo, unburdened by an idiot owner, working together for 6 years or so with Romo as the starter.

143
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:21pm

Even with a "good" owner, I don't see Parcells staying anywhere another 6 years.

185
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:59pm

Well, he made it 8 in his 1st job as head coach. If Leon Hess had lived, I think he may have lasted that long with the Jets.

202
by Travis :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 8:58am

He made it 8, but was negotiating with the Falcons to become coach-GM after the 1986 season before Pete Rozelle stepped in and shut the negotiations down. That probably wouldn't have happened with Tagliabue as commissioner (see Parcells to the Jets, Belichick to the Patriots, etc.).

153
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:53pm

There is a large part of me that thinks that the younger Parcells and his harsher old school borderline asshole style would have been a terrible fit with Romo and possibly stifled his growth if not wrecked his psyche.

That's just a guess, though. And I'm certainly receptive to the argument that Romo's current excellence is due in some part to the time that he did overlap with old Parcells and his teaching/yelling/etc.

181
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:51pm

I (edit) DO think you vastly undervalue Parcells as a teacher.
It was only 10 yeas ago that he was taking an absolute trainwreck, devoid of non-aged talent, and winning 10 games.

130
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:33pm

What is accidental is getting an upper level HOFer in the 6th round. Heck, the Packers caught a huge break when the 2nd qb drafted in 2005 didn't occur until the 24 spot. It is indescribably accidental for a qb of Brady's quality to be so unappreciated that he is available in the 6th round.

Now. don' misunderstand me. I'm not claiming that Belichiks success is accidental. The Cowboys were super lucky to get a Romo as an undrafted free agent, but the management there, after Parcells left, completely squandered it. Belichick is obviously a great, great, coach. However, if Brady isn't around in the 6th round, and whoever they pick that year or next means Bledsoe has to be retained, then who knows how things unreel. Imagine they pick a guy like Pennington who is good, but ends up being injury-riddled.

There is a lot of good fortune in most, if not all, great careers, and our perception of the rankings among very accomplished people could alter significantly, with some relatively minor shifts in luck.

135
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:56pm

The same applies to QBs, too.

If Trent Green doesn't tear his ACL, he might be the guy who waltzes into the HoF while the "Other" Curt Warner loses the "other" designation.

Jason Lisk made a great case for Vinnie Testaverde being a Hall of Famer who had the misfortune of being trapped in the Graveyard of Quarterbacks known as Tampa during the early part of his career. Doug Williams probably qualifies, too; Steve Young should count his blessings.

Had Archie Manning declared for the draft one year earlier, we'd probably be talking about how Peyton and Eli combined don't match their Dad's success.

What would Randall Cunningham's career have been like if he'd spent his formative years playing for pretty much anybody but Buddy Ryan?

164
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 9:03pm

I've long maintained that Archie was have been better than his children, especially the younger of the two qbs, and that if Bradshaw been drafted by the Saints a year later, he'd be a very minor celebrity these days, in The Big Easy alone. I think Archie would have been ridiculously good with the '70s Steelers, and quite easily the best qb of the decade.

177
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 10:40pm

I've long maintained that this argument doesn't make sense since there's no way of knowing that Manning would've made the same calls (Bradshaw called his own plays) and throws in all those games. I've also long wondered why it's always Terry Bradshaw that used as an example. What if Roger Staubach had been drafted by, say, the Eagles instead of the Cowboys? How about Tarkenton with the Giants, which DID happen? He played very well overall, but they never made the playoffs while he was there. Why is that? Keep in mind that Bradshaw was pretty much a unanimous choice as the #1 pick in 1970 and that was despite playing at La. Tech. The Steelers had a SB level defense as early as 1972. It's not a coincidence that they didn't start winning SBs until Bradshaw came into his own late in the '74 season.

179
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:44pm

Of course there is no way of "knowing", and if I implied that itvwas something that could be proven, I apologize.

Bradshaw is used as an example because he has 8 teammates in the HOF, and another, L.C. Greenwood, who probably should be in, and because Bradshaw did not have a season as an above average passer until 1975, and didn't have a second until 1977.

205
by SandyRiver :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 11:11am

Why is that? Tarkenton inherited a team that had posted one win the year before. During his Giants tenure his teammates consisted of a few good players and a lot of JAGs (or worse.) For the most part, he was trying to carry a Giants team that was mainly dead weight.

225
by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 6:47pm

Testaverde is an especially interesting case since he was also chosen by Belichick as a replacement for a very popular and reasonably successful QB...

Somewhere in this tangled thread I mentioned imagining a comparison to a hypothetical Worst-case Brady... I wonder if Testaverde might be similar to a worst-case Manning (like if he had gone to SD or something).

136
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:00pm

Perhaps the Rams take Brady instead of Bulger, but then Bulger is available. They would have had a shot at Brees the next year, there really is nobody (Josh McCown and Garrard), in 2002. If the Pats hadn't lost their 2000 picks for getting Belichick, they could have taken Pennington, and perhaps Belichick protects him better.

141
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:16pm

Pennington's game is so similar to Brady's that I can easily see history unfolding in Universe A more or less how it did in Universe 1.

145
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:28pm

Pennington's game was a lot more different from Brady's than you would expect. His long ball was accurate and a lot better than Brady's, but Brady had a stronger arm and could attack the deep out a hell of a lot better. Brady was better moving around the pocket (he's better than just about anyone ever in that regard), but both were really mentally tough. Belichick would have figured out a way to win championships with Chad instead of Tom if it came to that.

149
by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:48pm

I would say I understand all of those things better than most anyone else.

I also think that measuring by the Belichick standards isn't unreasonable; While he is without equal among his peers, he certainly has plenty of equals in other professions. He simply chose to apply his mind and leadership to the profession of football coaching, which happens to have, in my educated opinion, a much lower collective IQ than many other fields.

I do think that there's absolutely nothing preventing other teams from assembling if not a brilliant coach (as one can't simply be summoned), an Adams-esque brain trust that communicates well with each other and the coach and other front office people. I think that the number one thing that prevents that is stubbornness. I don't think it's unreasonable of me to be annoyed that the teams I support haven't done such a thing.

I know that a few have touched on some of that stuff, and maybe a team or two has it down but is unlucky due to a bad QB even. Or having had the lucky lottery ticket but in a crappy draft. Etc.

So I guess in that way I also understand the reasons why to cut unlucky/bad teams and coaches some slack so I should probably shut up. Still, I don't view my high standards for both myself and my fandom as a bad thing.

163
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 8:55pm

Why should anyone consider your understanding of this matter to be educated, or or more worthwhile, than is typical? This is not a statemement meant to be hostile, but if someone is going to say their opinion, of the varying performances in a profession, and the difficulty of the profession, which is tasked with managing a few dozen extremely elite athletes, in a hypercompetitive contest involving one of the more complex athletic games humans can contest each other in, is "better than most anyone else", it is reasonable to ask what evidence supports this somewhat remarkable claim.
I would not say anything about your fandom is "bad". I do wonder about its rationality, but, hey, that's why they call them "fans".

180
by Bobman :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:48pm

Extremely civil.

226
by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 6:50pm

Well I'd hope that my post history might help, but I'm not going to disagree with your logic. (But would any of us here NOT think highly of our own opinions?) As for the "than is typical" part, all I can say is that I have had a lot more exposure to NFL coaches, facilities, practices, etc than a typical fan. I would think that we'd assume that anyone on this site is already well ahead of a typical fan when it comes to understanding, though.

But that really shouldn't matter. You seem to be implying that I'm being irrational to make any conclusion at all about a person's intelligence or ability to compete against some of their better peers. I guess it's not hard evidence, but just as you are intelligent and can make reasonably accurate assumptions about the intelligence of others based on limited exposure (or grade a random coach against the average), I think I'm justified in saying that I've judged a few coaches to have minds equivalent to attorneys [chosen as an ode to you, but again, insert whatever high-falutin' field here] but most to be more along the lines of a typical gym teacher. (And yes I'm aware that that's a big oversimplification and probably insulting.) Ultimately I'm just saying what I think and what I'd want, of course, and thus I'm not sure why I need to be presenting any evidence anyway. (Like you said, "fan.") Not that I mind trying to, but most of the evidence is just my observations, assumptions, and opinions. I can't really respond to any kind of challenge of those.

I don't disagree that Fox is better than average, and in fact has several strengths. Clown was an inappropriate word. But I question what's remarkable about my claim that there's really only one (we can expand that to three or four if we want I guess) coach that is head and shoulders above the rest... (plays chess where others play checkers, or whatever analogy you want to use) or my thinking that, from the perspective of a competing team, it's worth striving to match that organization's intelligence and work ethic as closely as possible. If I was an owner, that's what I'd want. I would think NOT wanting that would be irrational.

And yeah, surely there's a very high chance I'd be disappointed, because the supply is so limited. Marc Trestman really excited me, but as you point out, there is a lot more to the difficult job than just the things he's good at, and there's an art to combining the talents of a brilliant mind with the talents of communicating with a room full of kids with whom you have almost nothing in common. And beyond that, an art to getting along with your GM and owner, and a huge amount of luck involved with what pick you have in what draft... and a skill/instinct in knowing how to choose someone that'll learn well from you vs one who might be physically superior but a better mental match for someone else. Etc.

Speaking of which, and I'll just say it in here because the thread is disjointed enough already, the talk of finding good matches and the comparison of Brady/Pennington/Bulger above is fascinating. Even more fascinating, to me anyway, is trying to imagine what Brady would've been if he was drafted to another team and coach, and who he might have been comparable to in that case. Obviously we can agree he has the mind, skill, work ethic, etc to be great, but might he have been in a bad schematic marriage and been merely good? Or forced to do too much too early, leading to more turnovers and less confidence? Or battered like David Carr? We'll never know, but it's interesting to think about. There's not a single name that immediately comes to mind if I'm trying to envision a worst-case Brady.

227
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 6:57pm

Well, I usually try, absent very detailed knowledge, to avoid making a detailed assessment of anyone's lack of intelligence, other than to note that everybody has been an idiot in some aspect of their life. Jerry Jones is an idiot with regard to football player and coach evaluation, but it would be a mistake to, in general, call him an idiot. Intelligence is a very ccomplex thing, and it really takes some in depth examination, in the vast majority of instances, to accurately say that someone is an idiot. If someone wanted to call John Fox an idiot with regard to some subset of game management, fine, but given game management is down the list a ways, in terms of what makes a NFL head coach successful, I don't consider that a terribly damning observation.

My major disagreement with your post was your description of Fox as a "clown". This seemed pretty irrational to me, but if you are saying now it was a poorly chosen description, fine.

The last thing I would note, however, is that I think you are also vastly overestimating our ability to make sound measurement, with regard to the quality of each coach's performance. Our tools are quite poor for this task, actually, so I think it is a lot more wise to avoid very strong statements of certainty with regard to how well, or how poorly, any coach has performed, in the majority of cases.

228
by Dave Bernreuther :: Wed, 10/21/2015 - 1:11pm

Yeah. We could have a pretty long and far-reaching discussion about that. My chiro/PT and I were talking about that recently, actually. He works on a lot of NFL guys (most of the U guys come back to Miami in the offseason) and was describing something a DB - Terrence Newman, I want to say - did by jumping up to one-hand a ball thrown from behind him... while he was on one of those balance boards. Hard to describe, but to even stand on one of those, let alone be able to jump from it, and then twist in midair to catch something from behind you with one hand that you really weren't even expecting... that coordination and athleticism takes a lot of brainpower. He called it "physical intelligence" and that has really stuck with me, especially as it relates to my own decreasing (but sometimes improving) mobility and athleticism. We can see a guy having a conversation (or needing assistance to get Ds in college classes to stay on the team) and think he's as dumb as a post, but I think that in reality that's just one area of intelligence, just as you point out. The whole antiquated wonderlic discussion touches on this. To bring it back to football coaches:

There are a lot of ways that all of Manning's coaches (and just about everyone else's) very noticeably do things that detract from their chances of success, which makes it easy for us to say "he's being held back by the coach," but that completely ignores the other six days of the week, or really all seven minus 3 hours and some podium time, where they might be doing things that put their team and players into positions to succeed and bringing out the best in them.

Dungy, for instance, was entirely too conservative for my tastes, but also seemed to be too willing to just accept that his bend/don't break strategy combined with generally weak run defenses actually helped with the opposing game plans of playing keepaway, which to me made him almost complicit in limiting his historic offense's possessions. (He did some other stuff that annoyed me, but that's the easiest to explain.)

BUT

He got people on the same page and everyone loved him. Even at his most sanctimonious, he was a guy that would shake your hand and say "nice to meet you" and you believed it. When you were a player and you screwed up, he didn't have to say anything, because the players were already feeling guilty about having let him down. That stuff matters. At the time in 2006, I remember thinking that his "all we need is a FG before the half and we'll be fine" "pep talk" against New England was defeatist nonsense, but now I'm more of the opinion that he's probably the only coach who would've been able to keep his team so sane after falling behind 21-3 in that situation to that team. (And for all the times from 02-05 that NE had beaten them, he didn't get scared into an inferiority complex or order nonsensical fakes because he didn't think he could win straight.)

And that still only barely scratches the surface of what he did well.

So I'm agreeing with you now... (But I still think it's rational to want to have a coach that's as intelligent and experienced and effective as Belichick!)

229
by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/21/2015 - 1:58pm

Oh, I agree with that.

190
by mbmxyz :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 3:07am

Hey man, we are both (somewhat) wrong. QB does not seem to be such a giant deal for great coaches. From PFR, I looked at the QBs for the top five coaches in winning percentage with 50 games coached and with 200 games coached. This is kind of lazy, but I was not up for writing the code to do a real analysis.

50+ game coaches

John Madden (Oakland): .759 - 103-32-7
daryl lamonica: 50.6% - 7.4 yards/attempt
ken stabler: 59.9% - 7.7 yards/attempt

Vince Lombardi(Green Bay, Washington): .738 - 96-34-6
bart starr (Green Bay): 57.4% - 7.8 yards/attempt
Sonny Jurgensen (Washington): 62.0% - 7.0 yards/attempt

George Allen (Los Angelos, Washington: .712 - 116-47-5
roman gabriel (LA): 51.5% - 6.7 yards/attempt
billy kilmer (Washington): 53.1% - 6.9 yards/attempt

Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco): .695 - 44-19
colin kaepernich: 60.4% - 6.9 yards/attempt

Blanton Collier (Cleveland): 691 - 76-34-2
frank ryan: 51.7% - 7.6 yards/attempt
bill nelson: 52.4% - 7.4 yards/attempt

200+ game coaches

George Halas (Chicago): .682 - 318-148-31
sid luckman (1940s): 51.3% - 8.4 yards/attempt
(Luckman put up some big numbers.)
ed brown (1950s): 48.7% - 7.8 yards/attempt
billy wade (1960s): 54.5% - 7.1 yards/attempt

Don Shula (Baltimore, Miami): .677 - 328-156-6
john unitas (Baltimore): 54.7% - 7.8 yards/attempt
bob griese (Miami): 56.2% - 7.3 yards/attempt
david woodley (Miami): 52.9% - 6.2 yards/attempt
dan marino (Miami): 59.6% - 7.3 yards/attempt

Paul Brown (Cleveland, Cincinnati): .672 - 213-104-9
otto graham (Cleveland): 55.8% - 9.0 yards/attempt
tommy o'connell (Cleveland): 51.0% - 8.6 yards/attempt
milt plum (Cleveland): 57.9% - 8.2 yards/attempt
greg cook (Cincinnati): 53.8% - 9.4 yards/attempt
virgil carter (Cincinnati): 56.4% - 6.5 yards/attempt
ken anderson (Cincinnati): 59.3% - 7.3 yards/attempt

The yards/attempt numbers for Paul Brown teams are crazy good.
The numbers for O'Connell and Plum while playing for Brown are
2 yards/attempt greater than the numbers the two guys put up
playing on any other team.

Tony Dungy (Tampa Bay, Indianapolis): .668 - 139-69
trent dilfer (Tampa Bay): 54.8% - 6.4 yards/attempt
shaun king (Tampa Bay): 56.3% - 6.2 yards/attempt
brad johnson (Tampa Bay): 60.8% - 6.1 yards/attempt
peytom manning (Indianapolis): 64.9% - 7.6 yards/attempt

Bill Belichick (Cleveland, New England): .665 - 216-109
bernie kosar (Cleveland): 58.8% - 7.0 yards/attempt
vinnie testaverde (Cleveland): 57.9% - 7.3 yards/attempt
drew bledsoe (New England): 58.7% - 6.2 yards/attempt
tom brady (New England): 64.9% - 7.5 yards/attempt

On the 50 game list, only Bart Starr and Sonny Jurgensen are in the Hall of Fame. Vince Lombardi could pick 'em, but the other guys did pretty well without a marquee QB, especially George Allen and Blanton Collier, who also did not have Jim Brown. In the 200 game list, every coach has one HOF QB except Shula who coached three. No wonder he has the most wins. Still, these guys won a lot of games with average to above-average, but no more, quarterback play. So yeah, Bill Belichick may win fewer games if Brady does not fall to the Pats in 2000, but I doubt his winning percentage falls below .600. A more through analysis wold be interesting, but this is just FO comments.

196
by Jerry :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 7:51am

Nice research. One nitpick - Jurgensen was established in Washington when Lombardi took over the team, so Vince doesn't really get credit for him.

230
by mbmxyz :: Wed, 10/21/2015 - 2:04pm

Yes. I forgot. He was Otto Graham's QB in Washington before Lombardi arrived.

102
by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:14pm

Speaking of forfeiting possessions, one thing I've liked about the Bears this season is that, on offense with time running out in the 1st or 3rd, they've at least lined up before letting the clock expire. I see so many teams head to the sideline with 20 seconds left on the clock; why not at least line up and give the defense a chance to misalign? If you don't get the look you want, great, let the clock run down, but walking off the field without even taking a look is just wasting potential.

So there's one bit of in-game strategy that Fox has gotten right.

97
by bsims :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:00pm

Unfortunately for Fox, his aptitudes seem to all be things we can't measure directly, whereas his biggest imperfections are put on display every Sunday. He seems to be a great head coach Monday through Saturday.

115
by TomC :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:25pm

Well put.

18
by johonny :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:41am

Mia/Tenn I have no idea if Dan Campbell will ever be head coach again after this season, but for one week he had the team playing harder than they have in the 3.25 years of Joe Philbin ball. I thought the hit on Mariota looked dirty. Vernon's made some bonehead plays this season. Tannehill mixed sharp passing with a few WTF passes. AFC east update: The Jets and Pats both look play off bound and are getting ready to play. It is likely to be the only entertaining AFC east match up all season unless the Jets do the unthinkable and beat the Pats. The Bills defense hasn't looked good week to week and this week was no exception. I get that they've had some hard match ups, but they need to do better at home or the wild card is going to the Jets.

31
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:15pm

Every team I've ever watched starts playing hard after a midseason change of coach. Seemingly a combination of:

- they'd stopped caring under the last guy and were just turning up because they had to
- the new guy comes in and brings a bit of enthusiasm, new ideas, gets rid of the old shit that wasn't working (carrot)
- new guys also says something like "Everybody's playing for their jobs from now on" so they're all worried about getting cut (stick)

43
by RickD :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:32pm

Yes, there's something to be said for injecting some vim and vinegar into the team, but usually that doesn't last very long.

If all you needed to coach was motivational powers, Mike Singletary would still be coaching the 49ers.

48
by johonny :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:41pm

He's the first interim coach to win his first game since 2011 so I think it is more than that. Granted most of those coaches don't coach teams with the talent of Miami. Dan Campbell might have a career of 12 games as head coach, but for one week Miami looked like their fans thought they'd look this season. That said, they seem likely to end up 7-9 in the Miami ho hum fashion that they always do.

86
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:44pm

How many interim coaches is that since 2011?

It feels like you cherry picked that year to confirm your point that Campbell is different because if I recall Romeo Crennel took over the Chiefs in 2011 and led them to victory against the 13-0 Packers. Go back to 2010 and both the Cowboys (Garrett) and Vikings (Frazier) won their first interim games I believe.

131
by johonny :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:33pm

No it was an actual goofy stat from the game feed. And yes it is totally cherry picked to prove Dan Campbell's powers of coaching.

220
by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 5:08pm

Speaking of game feed stats, one that I don't know I heard correctly is the Dolphins were the team with the fewest rushing yards through four games in fifty years? Can that be right?

Encouraging game, but like RickD says, these things normally don't last.

------
Who, me?

222
by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 5:54pm

That Vernon hit was dirty as f***. I'm not ok with that s*** at all.

On the other hand, if you're a Titans fan you've got to be very happy with that kid. Mariota looks pretty darn good for a rookie.

------
Who, me?

22
by LamKram :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:50am

Here's what I think was supposed to happen on the "fake punt":

Griff Whalen stands up and casually hands the ball Colt Anderson.
Anderson squeezes the ball with a puzzled look on his face, starts strolling toward the referee saying "I think this ball has been deflated"... then suddenly sprints to the end zone.

26
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:01pm

That would have been good.

182
by Bobman :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:52pm

I've seen that on YouTube, too, but I think once you hit about 10 years old it's not gonna fly.

But it would have been funny as hell; almost as funny as what DID happen. (Oh God, it hurts to say that.)

23
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:58am

You're all missing the point about the catch/non-catch in the Bears Lions game. It was Tate! It's always Tate, just like the Fail Mary. He uses the Super Saccharine Powers Of Maple Bars to beffudle the officials into a sugary brain fog. There is no clearer explanation.

29
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:12pm

Good that Mingo Starr got a pick, but Gaul McGartney and Bohn Gennon were inexplicably shut out.

36
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:25pm

Nicely done...

183
by Bobman :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:53pm

Couldn't you have worked up something with Fab Four in it?

Like... that was fab for an off-the-cuff remark.

34
by jtr :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:24pm

Steelers CB Antwon Blake is just brutally awful. I can't believe they traded for Brandon Boykin, just to have him waste away on the bench while Blake starts at outside corner. I can see what the coaching staff likes about Blake--he's a great tackler for a DB, and he gets to show off that skill over and over again as he allows completion after completion. Seems like Boykin starting at corner and Blake at strong safety would be the best way to make use of the limited talent in the Steelers' secondary. With starting SS Will Allen hurt, they've been playing Robert Golden (very much just-a-guy), while it would be a great spot for Blake; the Steelers' SS is usually a hitter who plays close to the line and covers underneath zones with help over the top.

52
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:52pm

Simple - Cortez Allen (who was a big disappointment last season) can't stay healthy and they have no other better current options. Boykin is a slot CB, not outside. Presumably, the plan was for Senquez Golson (the 2nd round pick last spring) to press for more playing time as the season went on, but he was placed on IR in August with a shoulder injury. If Allen can get/stay healthy, he may get another shot.

80
by jtr :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:23pm

William Gay is a slot CB too, but he's been starting on the outside because their lack of talent at the position. The Steelers don't have two guys in the prototypical "outside corner" mold, so they might as well just put their two or three corners out there each play. There's no way in hell that Boykin would play worse on the outside than Blake has been playing.

103
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:17pm

Gay's not playing outside, Cockrell is. Without seeing Boykin in practice, I can't say that there's "no way" Boykin would be worse. In addition to his aforementioned tackling ability, Blake's also limited the number of big plays against him (this has been another problem for Allen).

35
by Purds :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:25pm

Terrible fake punt play. Really tough early possession call by the refs on the onsides kick. Too many holding calls on the Colts (not too many by the refs, too many holds by the O-line).

87
by HPaddict :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:46pm

I'm pretty sure the line judge(?) signaled Pats ball before the Colts players even dove for the ball. May be a (pretty big) mistake but I think the NFL really wants those piles to go away.

104
by jtr :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:21pm

And they announced "first down Indianapolis" over the PA after the play. Really poorly handled all around.

127
by RickD :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:21pm

The ref said "First down Indianapolis - first down New England" in quick succession. It was clear he'd meant to say "New England". Somehow Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth completely missed the second part and started talking about how Indy had recovered. They were baffled when Indy challenged the call and seemed to think that the referees had changed their call as opposed to simply correcting a misstatement.

160
by Purds :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 7:54pm

Oh, I can see why the NFL wants that (pointing to the MSU-UM game with the broken thigh in the final scrum), but if the Colts were a better team, we would be dissecting that call much more closely today. The one ref jumped to a conclusion -- that when a fat guy jumps on top of the ball, he's going to secure it with his hands. The replays showed that he never did -- unless you really think Moncreif took if from him, WR vs lineman. Unfortunately for me as a Colts fan, the refs didn't let the loose ball play out as they so often do (pointing to SB when Hank Basket fell on a onsides kick but lost it in the scrum), and then the burden was on the Colts in the replay to show clear possession.

Anyway, until the Colts improve as a team, it's a point not worth discussing. They have a long way to go. As I said originally, just the offensive holding by the linemen alone can sink a team.

167
by Flounder :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 9:36pm

The MSU player was hurt while getting tackled, not in the post-play dog pile (though I'm sure that didn't help).

http://www.freep.com/story/sports/college/michigan-state/spartans/2015/1...

184
by Bobman :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 11:58pm

I can't recall seeing possession awarded to the team that did not emerge from the pile with the ball, and combined with the replay it was not 100% conclusive enough to overturn, but one of those preponderance of the evidence type deals.

Besides, WRs routinely grapple possession away from men twice their size. You know Jerry Rice's hands were so strong because his father was a brick layer (or some such BS I heard about 1,000 times on TV back in the 80s/90s). Ergo, all WRs have the hand and forearm strength and leverage knowhow to arm wrestle a lowland gorilla. And kick its hairy ass.

sigh

201
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 8:57am

I've seen it happen several times, but in this case it is pretty clear the Colts recovered the ball. Not enough to overturn the incorrect call, but enough so the right call should have been made in the first place.

208
by PatsFan :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 11:47am

I don't think it's that clear.

The refs were calling the play dead and signalling NE ball long before the ball popped out of the scrum. Presumably they saw something to get them to do that (maybe they saw the NE OL grab it and then get piled on and thus be down by contact?).

38
by theslothook :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:29pm

Im suprised this wasnt mentioned. But mccown had one of his patented off the cuff incomphrensible interceptions yesterday. It was a deer in head lights, double clutch, piroette before blindly hurling a pass right to the safety. And it was awesome!!

41
by Trogdor :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:32pm

Was that the one where he was trying to throw it out of bounds and got hit when he was following through? I would give him more of a break on that one - he was trying to do the right thing, just couldn't get enough on it. It was bad, but understandable.

42
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:32pm

See paragraph 3, sentence 2 of the preamble to the article.

46
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:35pm

Kind of in the category, did you see Stafford's Wheedenesque backhanded flip interception that almost gave the game away?

85
by TomC :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:42pm

I almost literally couldn't believe that. And it was (immediately) after the two bizarre muffed punts, so it honestly looked like Detroit was throwing the game.

91
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:53pm

And that's not even mentioning Caldwell's indefensible decision to settle for a the FG to make it a 4 point game, rather than going for the tying touchdown on 4th and 4.

On second thought, that's not throwing the game, that's just Caldwell being Caldwell.

142
by jds :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:20pm

Caldwell's decision was not indefensible (to him). Here was his thought process. I am coaching against John Fox so he will coach exactly like me. (or he thought, every coach will coach exactly like me - either way, same result here). If I go for the touchdown, it is a tie game. He will take my kickoff and hold the ball for the rest of the game and kick a game winning field goal on the last play.

BUT, if I take 3 here, I am down 4. When he gets my kickoff, he will run 3 straight times into the line to burn the clock since he is ahead. I sell out on the run, stop him, and get the ball back and get a touchdown to win.

And it almost worked out that way. That's just Caldwell being Caldwell.

186
by Bobman :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:02am

I don't think Caldwell thinks that way, but man, that was some Vizzini level logic. And for deeper thinkers, might really be accurate.

210
by ChristopherS :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:26pm

What made the FG indefensible was the fake punt on 4th at the beginning of the drive. That is a pair of intellectually incoherent decisions (given the understanding of urgency reflected in the first decision).

213
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:37pm

My understanding is that the fake punt wasn't called by Caldwell. The runner (Isa Abdul-Kuddus), has the leeway to audible to the fake if the receiving team's formation is favorable, which it obviously was.

215
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:48pm

We can only assume the special teams coordinator practices this when Caldwell isn't looking.

216
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:57pm

I'm certain that's the case. As we all know, Caldwell views 4th down aggression the same way a Southern Baptist views premarital sex.

49
by duh :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:44pm

It was, but I'm not sure it was better than Flacco's.

44
by Trogdor :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:34pm

The Browns actually managed to lose yardage on all four plays of their sole overtime "drive". Stuffed run, two sacks, and they somehow managed a delay of game on the punt, too. Because somehow the Browns punt team was caught off guard by their failure to convert a 3rd and 26 or whatever.

54
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:53pm

That's kind of awesome in a very Browns kind of way.

55
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:54pm

I dunno, if you are on your third kicker, in a venue not known to be favorable for kickers, it seems to me that you probably don't have a lot of confidence in the guy, which makes a two point attempt, in just about any context, fairly reasonable.

59
by ZDNeal :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:00pm

Also wasn't the whole point of moving the try back to make the expected points favor a 2pt attempt?

74
by LyleNM :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:56pm

But said kicker had already made two 45+ yard field goals in this game (or was it three?). Seems like it was the right time to trust the third kicker.

148
by Duke :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:46pm

After two times you're ready to trust someone completely?

Your dating life must be eventful.

214
by LyleNM :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:45pm

"Trusting completely" is not quite the same thing as "trusting to make a 33 yard kick to give your team a 3 point lead when you've already made multiple kicks longer than that on the same day". I might not have trusted him with a game winning FG attempt over 40 yards if it came down to it. But for a 3 point lead vs. a 2 point lead? Hell, yeah.

56
by theslothook :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:55pm

Continuing the theme of strange qb seasons...why does flacco look so poor? I thought he was awful most of the day against an sf team that seemed determined to let the ravens hang around.

67
by Steve B :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:32pm

I think Flacco's looked good at times this season, all things considered. Yesterday, he had, what, two or three dropped TD passes? That int was as bad as you'll see from Cutler or anybody else, though. How about some of the Ravens' players JOGGING to the LoS during the closing moments? Rich Gannon was beside himself over that.

73
by Rocco :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:50pm

They have one good receiver and he's 39 years old with a broken back. Without Torrey Smith they can't run their bread-and-butter "throw it deep and beg for a flag" play that worked so well for them over the years.

158
by BJR :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 7:36pm

His already mediocre looking receiver unit has been crippled by injury. They are currently lining up cast-offs from the Rams and Lions. It's not good.

65
by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 1:24pm

Thanks Vince for your last three thoughts on the Panthers/Seahawks game:
1. I think Kam's holdout has more impact than most people think.
2. Ditto the change in coordinator.
3. "Who other than Olsen does Cam end up throwing to? Which-ever Practice Squad Receiver is open..." He won't get it because Rodgers or Brady will, but Newton should get MVP for his Chicken Salad recipe...

79
by Ten Drink Drunk :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:10pm

The Seahawks offense is also incredibly frustrating to watch in the fourth quarter (as Vince alluded to). The play calling seems predictable (run run pass punt) and when it's not predictable, the execution is not there. Really both sides of the ball fall apart in the fourth quarter.

I know this site doesn't care much for elements of juju, mojo and 'it factor', but it is really starting to feel like the end of the Super Bowl changed the DNA of the team from clutch to choke.

93
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 2:55pm

the Clots slly punt play reminds of The movie "The hangover" when line was said, "never go full retard." cotls went full retard last bnight.

NOTE: just joke from movie. am not making fun of mentally challenged people

118
by Nahoj :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:40pm

Raiderjoe you're one of my favorite commenters, and have been for years, but how dare you take Robert Downey Jr.'s fantastic quote from Tropic Thunder and give it to the Hangover!

119
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:56pm

Oj, sorry. You. Are right. The hangover had other comments about retards

147
by Ten Drink Drunk :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:40pm

Is this really Raider Joe? I don't see any typos so 1 of 2 things has occurred:

1) Raider Joe has been kidnapped and replaced by someone that uses spell check.

or

2) They no longer sell Sierra Nevada in Raider Joe's area and he is now stone cold sober 24/7.

150
by Duke :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:48pm

There are like, at least 4 typos in that post.

155
by dbostedo :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 7:08pm

Maybe when "Ten Drink Drunk" is in fact drunk on ten drinks, he leses the ability to read typos!

159
by Ten Drink Drunk :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 7:48pm

It's possible my Raider Joe decoder ring is set to 5 Sierra Nevadas... Besides, 'Clots' seems a perfectly cromulent spelling of 'Colts' after last night's fake punt debacle.

165
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 9:04pm

The Sierra Nevada eillv be a glowing on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Going with a little southern comfort tonight. Just have a few drops left from a bottle. Might as well get rid of it

168
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 9:38pm

That's the spirit!

169
by dbostedo :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 9:50pm

*groan*

96
by PatsFan :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:00pm

I wonder (stealing this from somewhere else) if they were doing that on purpose to try to fool NE into lining up offside?

Though since neither illegal formation nor offsides kill the play, I guess that would just result in offsetting penalties.

Though perhaps if NE lined up offsides the IND players could flinch and draw a neutral zone infraction?

112
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:14pm

I think the play had these four potential outcomes:

1.) The Patriots are totally confused and call timeout
2.) The Patriots are totally confused and go offsides or get caught with 12 men
3.) The Patriots are totally confused and the Colts have a matchup advantage and then run the play
4.) The Patriots are not confused, and you take a delay of game

Since I have no idea how they ever would have gotten a matchup advantage with two men, we can discount three. It was a terrible idea, but if you run option 4... you'll be fine.

Still, what an awful design.

116
by CaffeineMan :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:37pm

I agree. The last straw appeared to be that instead of just lining up, seeing that the Pats were ready, then bailing to option 4, they tried to get the Pats offsides with a hard count. That put the poor SOB snapping the ball in a tough position by asking him to do something he hadn't really done in the heat of battle before. I felt bad for him.

161
by jtr :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 8:05pm

In case #1, you have to go full Zorn and run the play anyways even though the opposing team just talked it over and knows exactly how they want to defend it.

120
by amin purshottam :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 4:57pm

I don't think I saw it mentioned but I am surprised no one has talked about the incredible play Collins made to block the punt where he jumped over the Indy line. Darth Hoddie talked about it in the post-game that they noticed on film how the Colt's like to line up really low so they put in that play. What other coach would have done that?

121
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:00pm

Pete Carroll. :)

123
by LyleNM :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:12pm

Ron Rivera was supposedly sending notes to the league office this week reminding them that what Chancellor had done was in fact illegal. Is it now legal? Or is it only illegal in Rivera's head?

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by RickD :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:26pm

If the jumper touches anybody* he's jumping over, it's illegal. He has to clear everybody on both teams. Both Chancellor and Collins managed to pull it off without touching anybody.

*in a meaningful fashion, more than merely grazing, I would guess. The rule is against climbing over other players.

133
by LyleNM :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 5:37pm

Upon review, Rivera was trying to suggest that the DL was trying to pull the OL down so that it was easier for Chancellor to clear the line.

204
by SandyRiver :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 11:02am

Except Kam sailed about 3 times higher than Collins, who barely had to break stride to clear the crouching OL.

188
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 3:00am

It was the blocked XP at the end of the game which could have been significant if Indy had recovered the onside kick and scored a TD.

I recall Troy Polamalu doing this 2-3 years ago. Think the outcome wasn't as successful as he either mistimed or made contact.

This is a consequence of the safety rules. The league tried to protect long snappers by saying you can't have a defensive player lined up across from them. Now you just get people trying to longjump the open gap.

138
by liquidmuse3 :: Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:08pm

So McCown and Barnidge couldn't POSSIBLY have developed chemistry every day on the practice field for 2 years as second stringers?

206
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 11:11am

Being that McCown was in Tampa last year, it seems unlikely.

195
by Jerry :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 7:47am

The Andrew Healy "I see that side of it" comment appears twice in the Steeler-Cardinal section.

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by b1ff :: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 3:21pm

It seems to me that the fake punt in the Indy-NE game wasn't such a bad play call, but definitely involved bad coaching.

Trying a little trickery (unexpected on-side kick) or aggressiveness (going for it on 4th and 1) seems like a good strategy when playing a better team. If that play is executed corrected, then it has the upside of some free yards for a 1st down. The downside should only be a 5 yard penalty, which, given the punter's long kicks so far, isn't going to hurt you that much.

Of course, there were a whole bunch of execution errors in the play
1. illegal formation
2. center didn't know that a hard count had been added to the play
3. center should have had the good sense not to snap it anyways, since they were outnumbered

A better coached team wouldn't have made those execution errors and embarrassed itself on national TV.

I guess you could make an argument that it was a bad play call because:
1. Patriots are a well coached team and unlikely to screw up and give you the free yards
2. Coaches should have known that the players hadn't learned how to execute the play properly.

But mostly I see this an example not of bad play-calling, but rather bad coaching.