Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

compiled by Bill Barnwell

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 tune 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 Seahawks 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.

Thursday, December 9

Indianapolis Colts 30 at Tennessee Titans 28

Tom Gower: It was very easy to see what a big loss Kenny Britt was to the Titans' offense. His ability as a deep threat wasn't on display tonight, but his ability to catch imperfectly thrown balls and do something with the football on short and intermediate passes was, and has been something they've really missed.

Mike Mayock on Playbook this week highlighted Chris Johnson for not pressing the hole on runs and giving up yardage. He still looked to cutback a little more than he should, I thought, but did a better job of taking available yardage tonight than he has in recent games. He also had I believe two runs longer than any single run he had against the Colts last year, when they did a good job of limiting his big plays at the cost of letting him have consistent success, especially in the game in Indianapolis.

Peyton looked like Peyton, more or less. He hit Reggie Wayne for a couple deep passes against Cortland Finnegan. He exploited rookie Alterraun Verner in coverage, including for a couple first downs. The Colts ran the draw with success in some key situations. Titans had a couple crucial penalties, legit calls, on third-and-goal to give the Colts first downs they converted into scores.

The Titans defense as a whole lacks a consistent playmaker. They did better in the second half, limiting the Colts to three field goals instead of three touchdowns, but they don't really deserve much credit for stops -- Blair White tipped one away from Wayne and Peyton just missed Eldridge on another. If they hit those, it's 35-21 and Fisher obviously goes for it.

Bill Barnwell: Someone, please, anybody, sell me on that decision to punt on fourth-and-1 with four minutes to go.

Aaron Schatz: Nope. Can't do it. Should have gone for it.

Tom Gower: Your defense of punting: It's a six-point game, so you only need one score. There are 4 minutes to play and you have three timeouts left. Caldwell has shown a willingness to play conservatively -- see, e.g., the Super Bowl and the end of the first half of this game. If you stop them on one pass, you get the ball back with probably 3:30 to play, plenty of time to drive the ball down the field for a score.

If you go for it, you're only at your own 35-yard line if you just get the one yard. You're still 65 yards away, and your offense has had trouble consistently executing the last five or so weeks. You may have a punt/go-for-it decision again on, say, fourth-and-9 but with only 3:00 to play from your own 37. If you fail, though, the Colts if they get five yards are in field goal range, and if they get a field goal, you lose. Plus, punting gives Marc Mariani another crack at a return to give you a big play for good field position.

What was really bad, though, was the last drive. They should have tried a field goal no later than the 42-yard attempt with :55 left after Cook made it out of bounds on the sideline. The ONLY way I can think of that strategy makes sense is if your priority is covering, not winning the game.

Bill Barnwell: You can't be really concerned about the next fourth down situation; that can come up regardless of what you do. Even if you stop them and they punt, maybe Mariani breaks a big play, but the vast majority of the time, you're ending up right back where you are with two minutes off the clock.

Tom Gower: The Titans this year have been horrible in Power situations. They're converting 45% of the time, at the bottom of the league (the Bears are technically 32nd, but also at 45%). The Colts D has actually been a little above average, 59%. Maybe they pass, maybe your chance of converting is a little higher than that, but the chance you don't get it is maybe 35%. If that happens, you're guaranteed to lose. By punting, you are delaying the moment when that could happen and giving your strongest units (yes, the defense hasn't been great, but the offense is still mediocre and can't execute consistently, plus Mariani) a chance to help you out. If Hope or McCourty manages to tackle Garcon, the Colts actually may go 3-and-out and you then have 3-plus minutes when you know you're in 4-down territory the entire drive.

I'm not sure if I agree with this strategy or not, but I think this is how Fisher (or a hypothetical smart coach who decides to punt there) is thinking about the decision to punt, and as I said on twitter, it never crossed my mind Fisher would go for it there.

Bill Barnwell: The difference between converting fourth-and-1 and fourth-and-2 (and first/second-and-goal) is pretty dramatic -- just about 20 percentage points worse. And you have to consider the opponent on both the power situations and then when you're giving the ball away; it's still Peyton Manning out there.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 at Washington Redskins 16

Bill Barnwell: Finally freed from the specter of Albert Haynesworth, Donovan McNabb one-hops a pass on third down to a wide-open Chris Cooley, and then Graham Gano puts a 34-yard field goal onto an upright.

Doug Farrar: With two minutes left in the first quarter, Washington’s Ryan Torain has 118 rushing yards against a Tampa Bay team that already ranks 31st in Defensive Adjusted Line Yards. Gerald McCoy is out of the game, as well. We’ve talked about it before, but I still wonder about the people who said that McCoy would be better than Suh – what secret film were they watching?

Bill Barnwell: OK. So Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa say that the Redskins shouldn't over think it and just continue to run the ball. (Moose also went into a point about Brandon Jackson averaging 13 yards per carry before he flat-out stopped in mid-sentence; Jackson had a total of 13 yards on four carries against the 49ers last week and hasn't played the Bucs, so I have no idea what he was getting at.) So when you pass the ball effectively, you need to run the ball to create balance, but when you can run the ball effectively repeatedly, you shouldn't get over think it and get away from it?

Arrelious Benn gets behind DeAngelo Hall's defense for the second time today, ending up about six inches short of the end zone. Normally, that just means the team runs it in for a touchdown on the next play. Instead, Josh Freeman comes out of the snap with empty hands, and as he recoils in horror (and the running back dives over the mass of people going for the loose ball, hilariously enough), the Redskins recover.

The Redskins just scored on a play that might have been fifth down. The FOX graphics said fourth down, but that might have been third down. Either way, the Redskins scored on the next play, but then they promptly drop the snap on the extra point; with misses from 24 and 34 yards and a botched XP, Graham Gano may have had one of the worst games in kicking history.

Tom Gower: So apparently what happened is Fox didn't notice the Redskins got a first down on their first play from scrimmage and not a nine-yard gain that left it second-and-1.

Doug Farrar: Funny that they didn’t go to Mike Pereira that time.

Cleveland Browns 6 at Buffalo Bills 13

Bill Barnwell: The Browns run the ball on eight consecutive plays to start the game against the Bills. The last of those runs is a stuff of Peyton Hillis on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Eric Mangini is overwhelmed by the evidence from this one play and decides to kick a field goal instead of going for it.

Doug Farrar: This may be Eric Mangini's way of telling Jake Delhomme that he needs to spend 2011 in a broadcast booth somewhere. Seneca Wallace jumped off the milk carton for a snap, as well.

Bill Barnwell: I can't reconcile "Our running game is so effective we can run the ball eight straight times" with "We can't get a foot on fourth down."

Doug Farrar: The Browns get the ball back in Buffalo territory into a Ryan Fitzpatrick fumble, and immediately go back to the 1925 Providence Steam Roller playbook they used on the first drive, with yet another handoff to Peyton Hillis. Hillis tries to hurdle a defender and immediately gives the ball back.

Will Carroll: I'm guessing the Steam Rollers didn't try to leap over anyone.

Doug Farrar: Maybe Pudge Heffelfinger did. I’ll check it out.

Tim Gerheim: Yes, I think that was more of a Pottsville Maroons move.

Tom Gower: Watching Red Zone Channel, host Andrew Siciliano says we go to the Browns and Bills, where Jake Delhomme tried to throw another interception. Cue analyst Steve Beuerlein saying "That was a good decision by Jake Delhomme."

Doug Farrar: Speaking of quarterbacks digging their own graves with a backhoe, I give you Jake Delhomme’s first-quarter line: 1 of 2 for 1 yard.

Bill Barnwell: Stevie Johnson catches a pass for the Bills. Here's what Steve Beuerlein has to say. "Very good throw by Ryan Fitzpatrick, you see the ball come out of there. He's got a live arm. And this guy, Stevie Johnson on the outside...well-documented, the big drop against Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago that would've won the game for the Bills. Sheldon Brown gave a little bit too much room, but Stevie Johnson is a guy .. 61 catches coming into this game, he's really established himself as a top wide receiver in this league."

Now, this took Beuerlein a full replay and all of the play clock to say. What exactly did he impart that we don't already know about Stevie Johnson? And I mean, I'm not saying we at Football Outsiders know, or a hardcore fan knows, or a dedicated fantasy player knows. I'm saying what did Steve Beuerlein say that someone who has interest in watching the Browns and Bills play football on TV wouldn't be able to say? That Sheldon Brown gave too much cushion. Quoting a guy's reception total and saying he's a guy? That isn't insight. It isn't analysis. It's reading from a set of media notes. That we're at the point where that's expertise, where that's a skill that only ex-players have and it requires more than minimum wage ... that's embarrassing.

Later on, Don Criqui calls a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the half by Jake Delhomme a "poorly-thrown ball, a dangerous one". What on Earth? It's a HAIL MARY. It actually hit a Browns receiver in the hands in the end zone. I understand the rush to call every Jake Delhomme pass a dangerous one, but that's just absurd. It's like he's never watched a football game.

Green Bay Packers 3 at Detroit Lions 7

Will Carroll: Stanton avoided a sack, then put up a floater into the end zone for an interception. I doubt it's measured, but in a sack-avoidance scramble like that, I wonder if there's any significant difference in decision making. Even throwing it away or taking the sack would be more positive than what he just did.

Ben Muth: Greg Jennings just let a ball go through his hands and bounce off his helmet for a pick deep down the field. It's the kind of play you see made in a kids football movie before the having fun montage takes place, and the team turns it around.

Mike Tanier: The Lions tried to commit three penalties during that Jennings tip drill interception, but they couldn't get it overturned.

Aaron Schatz: What was amazing about the Jennings pick is that it didn't bounce that high, and just went straight into Amari Spievey's hands. I mean, Spievey didn't have to do anything. The ball was just there. Lions get away with it because two of those three penalties were on the return, and the third penalty was actually not a penalty, illegal contact called off because Rodgers was out of the pocket.

The announcers here seem surprised that the Packers aren't spreading it out and going to the air more against the poor Detroit defensive backs. But while it is true that the Lions have a weak secondary, they also have a very good pass rush -- a much better pass rush than they do a run defense. As a result, their run defense and pass defense are pretty much equivalent.

Doug Farrar: Drew Stanton reciprocates by throwing a deep ball RIGHT to Charlie Peprah.

Aaron Schatz: Pretty much everything sails on Stanton. Honestly, I don't see why he should even be in the league next year. The Lions can easily find a better third quarterback in the late rounds of the draft.

Ben Muth: The Packers had two holding calls on the same running play. They still lost two yards.

Aaron Schatz: The Lions ran spread read-option with Drew Stanton (!?!) and Stanton kept it for 17 yards. Seriously. They ran it again a couple plays later, with less success. Still, Drew Stanton? 17 yards?

Matt Flynn will play the final 1:10 of the first half for Green Bay. I'm wondering if Aaron Rodgers got a concussion on the last drive. He had a big scramble down the middle of the field, and got slammed by Landon Johnson. Johnson was using all shoulder, no intent to hurt Rodgers, but the same can't be said for the turf. That's the biggest problem with the concussion issue -- no amount of rules against hard hits can protect against head-to-ground hits.

Bill Barnwell: I don't think anyone's suggesting concussions are going to be eradicated by eliminating particular hard hits that are responsible for a disproportionate amount of concussions.

Aaron Schatz: It's official, they do say Rodgers got a concussion and is done for the day. This teaches two other lessons:

1) Quarterbacks really need to remember to slide on long scrambles to make hard hits like this much less likely. 2) Green Bay really should have considered playing better in the first half so that they would not be stuck going into halftime in a scoreless game they really need to win to make the playoffs.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, he looked as if he couldn't name the planets, and he may have been on a different one.

We now know what it takes for Lawrence Jackson to get a sack -- put him up against a rookie, and put Ndamukong Suh next to him. I'd mention who drafted Jackson (10 sacks in three years) in the first round, but Tim would put me in the penalty box.

Ben Muth: Considering Rodgers played football at Cal, he'd probably struggle to name the planets anyway.

Aaron Schatz: You know how I said Drew Stanton sails everything? I mean EVERYTHING. He just overthrew a wide-open fullback in the flat, the hot read on a cornerback blitz by Charles Woodson. Lofted it... about five yards behind him.

And, with 7:10 left in the third quarter, one of the teams in the Packers-Lions game finally converts a third down, when Matt Flynn scrambles for 12 on third-and-10. Of course, he dives at the end to get the first, and Mike McCarthy is freaking out on the sidelines, because the Packers have already lost one quarterback to a hit on a scramble and they have no other quarterbacks on the roster.

You know, I'm going to have to question Mike McCarthy's decision to go for the home run deep touchdown pass on fourth-and-1 with a minute left, down by four. You don't want to, you know, try to get a yard and four opportunities for that home run pass?

Mike Tanier: I hated the Matt Flynn fourth-and-1 bomb. I think the Packers called six or seven bombs up the sidelines when Flynn entered the game, completing one of them.

Oakland Raiders 31 at Jacksonville Jaguars 38

Tom Gower: On the McFadden 67-yard TD on the dumpoff, veteran NFL watchers probably won't be surprised to learn Sean Considine was involved in the play.

Tim Gerheim: Whenever they talk about the Jaguars lately, they put up a graphic showing that they have the fewest offensive 3-and-outs in the league. The next two best teams in that are Houston and Indianapolis; do we think this stat is descriptive of the offenses or does it suggest that the AFC South is full of dreadful defenses?

Doug Farrar: Terrance Knighton is probably the best defensive tackle nobody’s talking about, but he may be the only guy on that Jacksonville defense who knows how to tackle.

Bill Barnwell: Knighton can play alongside Kyle Williams up front on the "It's Not My Fault" team.

Matt Shaughnessy just ran over the Jaguars left tackle; I didn't see the number, but I'm assuming it was Eugene Monroe. He punched him and Monroe just fell on his ass, and then Shaughnessy ran over him to get a half-sack.

Tim Gerheim: The announcers in Jacksonville-Oakland commented that this game features two running quarterbacks. Garrard's a good scrambler, but Jason Campbell runs like Kerry Collins. This game features two black quarterbacks, guys; that's not the same thing.

Bill Barnwell: Solomon Wilcots just noted that it's surprising that Maurice Jones-Drew trails several backs with inferior numbers in the fan voting for the Pro Bowl. I wonder if any of us can think of a reason why that might be the case.

Tom Gower: The Raiders elected to run a direct snap play on third-and-three in the red zone. Did they direct snap it to Darren McFadden, the best college Wildcat QB of recent vintage? No, they put McFadden in the backfield but as a running back, next to wildcat QB Jacoby Ford, who kept the ball. Ford lost 2 yards on the play.

Tim Gerheim: There's a challenge going on in Jacksonville, where Mike Thomas caught a long ball over the middle, but the corner wrestled it out of his hand on the way down and Mike Mitchell (most mocked second round pick in history) caught it in the air. It was ruled a catch down by contact. As I understand it, if that ball hits the ground instead of getting "recovered," it's a Calvin Johnson incomplete pass.

The Raiders win the challenge and the ref calls it an interception, although he did say (unnecessarily in my mind) that the ball came out before Thomas was down by contact. Even if Thomas was down, if he lost control of the ball in the process of going to the ground, it would be an incomplete pass, so after being caught by Mitchell it would be an interception, not a non-fumble.

Vince Verhei: Jason Campbell may not be a prolific runner, but between folklore and scrambles he is on the move a lot today. He's got a knack for teasing a run, drawing linebackers and safeties up to tackle him, and getting receivers open in the process. Then he's throwing these ugly off- balance throws, but they're getting where they need to be.

Tim Gerheim: The Jaguars just held on an MJD run that turned out to be a loss of three. The Raiders took the penalty to make is second-and-20 instead of third-and-13. There have to be situations, short of bringing up fourth down, where you're better off declining the penalty. Is there any research out there on down vs. yards-to-go equivalency?

Of course, Garrard throws a 48-yard score to Jason Hill on 3rd down, making the down and distance issue rather moot.

Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots are persistently ignorant that a coach can't challenge three times in one game unless he wins both of the first two. Tom Cable challenged that goofy fumble/interception I talked about earlier, and he threw one away on a long Rashad Jennings run, losing the challenge. The Jaguars just hit a touchdown pass to Sims-Walker, but the toe on his second foot may well have come down on the sideline, and the announcers spent a lot of time and energy checking whether Cable should challenge. When the extra point went up, they figured that Cable didn't want to risk losing a second time out in the second half on a difficult-to-see close call. Or maybe he's out of challenges, guys. Unbelievable.

Another option sighting in the NFL: The Jags just gained about 15 on a Garrard run. All the action started to the left, then Garrard pivoted back right with, presumably, Jones-Drew, faked the pitch, ran inside the contain defender, and lumbered until he was pushed out of bounds. He probably should have gone out a yard earlier before contact though, but he probably hasn't heard about Aaron Rodgers yet.

Tom Gower: There's this bird that's been flying around EverBank Stadium for the last couple minutes. He made a cameo appearance during the kickoff the Raiders fumbled, I believe, and when the Jaguars kicked off after going up 31-24, he was sitting on the Raiders 10. He flew around a bit during the return, then when the action settled down and they made it past him landed on the 14. Not quite the pigeon in kickoff coverage, but still an unusual sight.

Tim Gerheim: Nice presnap play by Jason Campbell. The back (probably McFadden) started to motion out of the backfield, but Campbell waved him back into his spot. McFadden wound up responsible for blocking a defender coming from the offensive right, and Campbell completed a pass to his left for a first down. I don't know if it was a blitz or if that's just how the protection was designed, but it was a good catch by Campbell.

Later on the series McFadden had a fantastic run for a touchdown. First, a nice cutback to the outside to get behind a block that was pushing a linebacker to the inside. Then as he turns upfield he keeps his balance as a would-be tackler gets a shot on his legs. Then he just destroys a defensive back with a stiff-arm inside the 10 to get into the end zone and tie the game (by dint of the Raiders' kicking team not being the Redskins').

This game has turned into a big play fiesta. Immediately after that McFadden touchdown, Deji Karim returns the kickoff to the Oakland 30 and MJD scores on the first play. I foresee Jacoby Ford in our future.

Bill Barnwell: Considering the game was tied and it was inside two minutes, should MJD have kneeled at the 1-yard line?

Tim Gerheim: Oakland only had one time out, so I think they could have knelt out the game and kicked a field goal as time expired.

Cincinnati Bengals 7 at Pittsburgh Steelers 23

Doug Farrar: Seeing the attention Ben Roethlisberger is getting by wearing a visor on his helmet to protect his broken nose, Brett Favre immediately texts Ed Werder to tell him that if the Vikings had to play today, he’d probably have to break his own nose and wear a visor, too.

Vince Verhei: Carson Palmer throws into what looks like triple coverage, and Troy Polamalu flashes in to catch the ball and is in the end zone before you know it to tie the game. He dived over Palmer to get into the end zone. An amazing run and leap to score, but he comes up limping, although he did jog off the field.

Steelers kick a field goal to go up 10-7 very late in the second quarter. Roethlisberger threw near-picks on both second and third downs. On second down his pass was tipped at the line into the air, but the Bengals couldn't pull it in. On third down he tried to float a pass over a linebacker on the left side. The linebacker reached up and got both hands on the ball and probably should have intercepted it.

Aaron Schatz: Roethlisberger has ditched the visor for the second half.

Tim Gerheim: On a CBS highlight, unless my hearing fails me, James Brown just referred to LaMarr Woodley as "David." I have no idea who David Woodley is.

Bill Connelly: He seriously said David Woodley? That's the guy who started for the Dolphins between Griese and Marino, if I remember correctly. That's like calling Andrew Luck "Oliver" ... only 1000x less excusable.

Vince Verhei: Bengals are near midfield, down 16 points with three minutes and change to go, and are running play-action passes. What is the point of that? It's not like the Steelers are going to be jumping on the run there.

Rob Weintraub: In fairness to Palmer, they showed the all-22 at halftime, and it revealed that Owens stepped on a defender's foot coming out of his break, which caused him to stumble, and thus unable to get to the ball where it was thrown. Polamalu cleaned up. It wasn't as sensational a pick as it first appeared -- it seemed live like he shot in front of Owens, but it was a camera illusion. The leap for the flag was as sensational as it first appeared, however.

For what it's worth (not much), bad as the Bengals have played this season, it is mind-boggling that they are 2-11 and lost 10 straight for the first time since 1993. This team is light years better than the craptastic 90s teams, or even the 2008 putrid bunch. That team won its last 3, but they were a soft bunch. This year Cincy still has Baltimore, San Diego, and Cleveland.

Atlanta Falcons 31 at Carolina Panthers 10

Doug Farrar: On their second scoring drive, Matt Ryan tries to run it in on third-and goal and nearly gets decapitated by Panther linebacker Jon Beason. An offsides penalty gives the Falcons the play back, and the next move, which results in a touchdown, is to wisely give the ball to Michael Turner. I’d bet a few people on the Atlanta sideline went short of breath on that play.

Mike Tanier: Falcons using a ton of three tight end sets. That will happen when you start sitting on the clock in the second quarter.

Bill Barnwell: Jimmy Clausen just took a sack on fourth-and-4 where, at the time he was hit, he was facing the wrong end zone.

Seattle Seahawks 21 at San Francisco 49ers 40

Vince Verhei: 49ers score on their first drive. Vernon Davis beats Hole In Zone for a reception, and Lawyer Milloy, the deep safety on that side, fell down, giving Davis a free path to six points.

Mike Williams is out for Seattle, so that touchdown may be enough to give San Francisco the win.

Your intriguing sack of the day: on third-and-long, Seattle brings a heavy blitz, looked like six rushers. Aaron Curry, basically playing a three-technique tackle, ends up one-on-one with the right guard and destroys him taking Smith down and forcing a punt from the San Francisco end zone. Creative way to get a mismatch there.

Seahawks go with their usual third-down cuteness. Third-and-four, they start to line up in a typical formation, then everyone sprints to a different spot, with Michael Robinson in shotgun formation and Matt Hasselbeck out wide. At the snap, Hasselbeck steps backwards and does the "I'm open!" arm wave, a good seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. That was funny. Meanwhile, Robinson just runs straight ahead and picks up the first down.

49ers throw a smoke route to Josh Morgan, Marcus Trufant misses a tackle, and it's 20-7 San Francisco. It's going to take years to fix this secondary.

St. Louis Rams 13 at New Orleans Saints 31

Tom Gower: The Saints start out productive, going up 14-0 before the end of the first quarter. The Rams chip away with their normal offense -- a bunch of short gains, no downfield passes, but just enough to be productive. It's 14-6, then they get the ball at the 20 after Courtney Roby fumbles the kickoff (and gets hurt). One Jackson run, then Bradford throws deep for Gibson. But it's Cover-2, and he throws the ball too far inside, far enough Malcolm Jenkins can do his Darren Sharper impression, and a probable 14-9 or 14-13 game turns into 21-6, Saints. Poor throw by Bradford.

New England Patriots 36 at Chicago Bears 7

Bill Barnwell: Phil Simms: "You know Jim, you talk about the bad weather, I'll never forget -- I can't remember what game it was, maybe it was the Tennessee game -- [the Patriots] came out to practice and Belichick walks up..."

There's just something really funny about following "I'll never forget" immediately with "I can't remember".

Simms again: "Someone said to me this week, 'Jay Cutler, he's a game manager.'" No strawman could ever be wrangled into saying such a thing with any shred of sincerity. That's insane.

Doug Farrar: I find Simms to be fairly nonsensical most of the time.

Bill Barnwell: Then Simms mentions (based on, I believe, talking to Peppers) that playing in Chicago is a defensive lineman's dream; that the culture there is "...football! Defense!". That's really a deciding factor for players? Someone would choose Chicago over, say, San Diego because of the defensive line culture?

Vince Verhei: I'm in a bar showing most of the games, but instead of commentary they're playing blues music, Stevie Ray Vaughn and such. Much better than Phil Simms.

Bill Barnwell: It doesn't really look like the wind is affecting the throws by Cutler and Brady all that much; both of them are making accurate throws over the middle of the field, even on deeper routes. Cutler hasn't had the results that Brady's had -- a drop and fumble from Knox haven't helped -- but the issue looks to be more about footing than anything else.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots are up 24-0 with about five minutes to go before halftime. Seven of those points came on a Johnny Knox catch-and-fumble with a Gary Guyton touchdown return. The other 17 points can be fairly attributed to the fact that the Patriots offensive line is much, much better than the Bears offensive line. The difference isn't even as big on passing plays as it is on running plays. On some of these 10-yard BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs, Dan Connelly and Sebastian Vollmer are just pushing guys back four or five yards at a time.

Bill Barnwell: More Simms. Simms, On the Bears and Pats getting into some post-play shoving matches: "You know, they probably should institute a rule, you know this, if you're losing by a lot of points, you're not allowed to fight. You've just gotta play. But sometimes, if that's what it takes, getting emotional, get a little fight going, hey, you do what you gotta do to get into the game."

So in this comment, Simms appears to be suggesting:

a) There should be a rule against fighting in blowouts. (There already is, from what I understand, a rule against fighting.) b) However, sometimes, it should be OK to fight if your team isn't in it.

Tim Gerheim: When the Bears played the Giants on Sunday night a couple months ago in the sacktastrophe, Cris Collinsworth commented hilariously, "somebody needs to put a tent on this circus!". The Bears have all three rings out again, and they deserve a big top.

Denver Broncos 13 at Arizona Cardinals 43

Tim Gerheim: The Cardinals just executed the most ludicrous botched snap I have ever seen. It didn't even leave the ground, just rolled about an inch to the left. The silver lining of that is that the center was easily able to recover it.

Jay Feely has scored all 16 Arizona points, including a fake field goal rushing touchdown. This speaks to the skill of Red Skelton. The fact that they have 16 points speaks to the skill of the Denver Broncos.

Ben Muth: Jay Feely is doing his best Ernie Nevers (Stanford) impression. Also, this game is tough to watch.

Mike Tanier: Ben, one more Stanford homer reference and you will be cardinaljoe.

Miami Dolphins 10 at New York Jets 6

Bill Barnwell: Mark Sanchez nearly threw a pick to Sean Smith on the first drive of the game; on the second drive of the game, he did throw a pick that the Dolphins converted on a 47-yard field goal. Sanchez and Chad Henne have started the game 0-for-7.

Mike Tanier: The Dolphins are running a ton of Wildcat wrinkles.

Bill Barnwell: Sanchez gets started in the second quarter with a nice slant against the blitz, but on the next third down, Dustin Keller cuts off his route and Sanchez hits Sean Smith in the chest. So that's four drives with one interception, two near-interceptions to Smith, and a fumble.

Sanchez fumbles on the fifth drive, an empty hand going forward. Jets bring in Brad Smith to run the Pistol on fourth-and-two and he hands it off to Shonn Greene for no gain.

Drive six: Sanchez makes two nice throws and then air-mails a screen. Then he gets Santonio Holmes open in the end zone and Holmes does his best Stevie Johnson impression.

Seventh drive: After the Jets recover a Ronnie Brown fumble, a Sanchez pass to Cotchery gets dropped and falls into the hands of a Dolphins defender, but he's out of bounds.

I neglected my Sanchez watch, but I turned this game back on long enough to see Sanchez throw a pass as he was falling down that went through a diving Sean Smith's hands. Then the Dolphins deflected away another deep pass.

Mike Tanier: Sean Smith has touched the ball more than Michael Turner this week.

Tim Gerheim: Too bad Sean Smith isn't covering Braylon Edwards. They deserve each other. Anything at all could go on on their side of the field, Sanchez could throw as well or poorly as he wanted, and it wouldn't matter because nobody would catch a thing.

Bill Barnwell: What happened in the Jets game? Someone on the Jets sideline tripped Nolan Carroll?

Tim Gerheim: More like subtly kneed him in the thigh while he was running on a punt return play, having been blocked out of bounds. No idea who the guy was. He was the first in a line of about half a dozen guys in green track suits.

Bill Barnwell: After about 14 drops, near-picks, and fumbles, Ian Eagle sums it up: "The Jets have lost their swagger." I mean, losing the game was rough.

Aaron Schatz: If the Jets defenders want to keep their swagger, I think they deserve it. They've probably stolen extra swagger from the offense.

Bill Barnwell: The special teams can keep it, too. It takes real swag to think to yourself "I'm going to stick my knee out and show this guy what's up and I'm not going to get fired for it." And then to actually do it!

Kansas City Chiefs 0 at San Diego Chargers 31

Bill Barnwell: Really nice play by Antonio Garay early on in Chiefs-Chargers; lined up in the A-gap and shoved Casey Wiegmann aside to make a play on Thomas Jones behind the line of scrimmage.

Tim Gerheim: Mike Tolbert is channeling his inner Natrone Means. He just had a run where he cut outside, broke a tackle, and ended the run by straight up running over a DB. He actually used that last guy to help recover his balance, since he was falling forward off the arm tackle, and gained an extra three or four yards aboard him.

Aaron Schatz: OK, folks watching Chargers-Chiefs: 21-0 at halftime. How much of this is Brodie Croyle sucking, and how much is San Diego just better than Kansas City all around?

Bill Barnwell: The Chiefs have no offense, which gives the Chargers great field position, and the Chargers offense is certainly good enough to make plays, especially at home.

Chargers also recovered a Floyd fumble in the Chiefs red zone, so a little bit of luck, but it looks like Eric Berry just picked off a Philip Rivers pass on the sideline. And Gus Johnson is doing the game. So there may still be something to come.

Tim Gerheim: The Chiefs got a sack-fumble where Rivers just arrogantly stood motionless looking downfield as the pocket collapsed.

Bill Barnwell: While I'm normally extremely eager to mention great Tamba Hali plays, that was one where Rivers just held onto the ball too long and Hali came out of the ground like he was an extra on the Walking Dead to strip him of the ball. Chiefs actually converted a third down after that, but it was called back for a Barry Richardson hold and then they threw a 15-yard out on third-and-16 (that went incomplete) instead of playing it like it was four-down territory.

Chase Stuart tweets me to note that the Jets forced a fumble and didn't recover it. Literally as I re-tweet it, a snap goes over Chad Henne's head and the Jets fall on it, costing the Dolphins a red zone opportunity. Magic beans.

Philadelphia Eagles 30 at Dallas Cowboys 27

Bill Barnwell: Mike Ditka before the games today picked the Cowboys. The reason why? "The Cowboys have to outscore them, that's a fact, because as you said, their defense isn't very good."

Mike Tanier: I just assume all Eagles games will start with a bomb these days.

I liked the idea of bringing Brent Celek into the backfield on Vick's quarterback-keeper touchdown. It was less of a draw play than a power run, because Celek lead-blocked right into the gap and took out Keith Brooking.

That wasn't a late hit by Anthony Spencer on Michael Vick. Vick just has so much momentum -- and is so light -- that he flies about 15 yards into the benches when knocked out of bounds.

Aaron Schatz: I agree. It looked like Spencer hit Vick just as he was crossing the out of bounds line. If you are going to push him out, and you realize he's one second away from going out, it isn't like you can stop your inertia.

Rob Weintraub: Maybe not, but we've all seen that exact scenario called a late hit about 1,000 times.

Mike Tanier: FUMBLE!!!!! How do the Eagles not recover that fumbled punt AAARFGH!

Bill Barnwell: Eagles used up all their fumble luck against the Cowboys during the famed "Eagles Porn" game from 2008.

Mike Tanier: Cowboys are taking care of Trent Cole tonight. Mostly Doug Free, with a little bit of the tight ends.

Aaron Schatz: The Cowboys pass rush is really showing up tonight. There's another part of the team that wasn't doing anywhere near what was expected until a month ago. I was there was a better explanation for this team's terrible Week 5 to Week 9 stretch besides "Wade Phillips wasn't a good coach." I mean, your coach is supposed to motivate you, but also, don't you have to be professional and motivate yourself?

Mike Tanier: Oh, DeSean, the play was great. But the celebration at the end was asinine.

Rob Weintraub: Celebration penalty or no, that was friggin' awesome.

Aaron Schatz: Funny, they don't flag you for that when you do it in Madden.

Tom Gower: Big play offenses are great when you can hit the big play with any kind of consistency. Of course, when they can't, they can easily be borderline unwatchable and horribly ineffective, but darn if these Eagles aren't fun to watch sometimes.

Bill Barnwell: I think what's amazing is how small the margin of error is there. Jenkins is, what, a step late on that throw? And Jackson's basically gone to the races because of it. Amazing. And Jon Kitna follows it with an interception.

Rob Weintraub: Dmitri Patterson was the anti-DeSean on that pick -- barely even registered an emotion, let alone celebrated.

Mike Tanier: Patterson has been having a rough night with penalties. May be actively keeping his mouth shut.

Bill Barnwell: Well, Ben, at least we know that Cal products can count to seven on their fingers.

Comments

298 comments, Last at 15 Dec 2010, 11:05pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The Henne vs. Sanchez debate is moot: they both are not very good. The question now is which team will be smart enough to cut ties with their repsective QB first?

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Call me even crazier, but I wouldn't give up on a young QB who isn't terrible and has shown signs of improvement. You don't build winning football teams by drafting a QB on the first day every 3 years.

259 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I suspect the Jets are much more likely to push forward with Sanchez then the Dolphins will with Henne because of level of investment. I expect Sanchez to go into camp as the unquestioned starter next year - whereas I'd be surprised if Henne isn't competing for his job. Part of that though has to do with the fact the Jets are likely to make the playoffs for the second straight year despite Sanchez's play while the Dolphins are likely to miss it. Also Henne has been benched, pulled and such so Sparano has less patience for his inconsistancy.

160 Re: Cardinals C Sendlein and the 2 botched snaps

That helps explain it. I didn't see the sideline wetwork; I only turned to the Cardinals game when the two games I was actually watching were on commercial. It did look like there was blood on the ball, but I figured it was just wet, because all of the late games seemed to feature weather, and the rainy Jets-Dolphins game was on the big TV, and the audio, and my wires got crossed.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"Don Criqui calls a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the half by Jake Delhomme a "poorly-thrown ball, a dangerous one". What on Earth? It's a HAIL MARY"

I was literally laughing my ass off when I heard this while watching the Red Zone. It was one of the most unintentional funny things I've ever heard an announcer say. That guy was comedy gold all game. At one point, a Bill ran a slant route and he says "there's a crossing pattern." I'm dead serious...LOL

I actually enjoyed watching that game just because the announcing was so atrocious.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Simms again: "Someone said to me this week, 'Jay Cutler, he's a game manager.'" No strawman could ever be wrangled into saying such a thing with any shred of sincerity. That's insane.

This is real. Last week on the Dan Patrick show, Simms came on and Andrew "McLovin" Perloff claimed on air that Cutler is a game manager. Simms berated him on air. It is a strange contention to make at his best or at his worst, "game manager" is a weird title to bestow upon Jay Cutler.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"Then Simms mentions (based on, I believe, talking to Peppers) that playing in Chicago is a defensive lineman's dream; that the culture there is "...football! Defense!". That's really a deciding factor for players? Someone would choose Chicago over, say, San Diego because of the defensive line culture?"

It's not the "defensive line culture," it's the Bears' history, tradition and emphsis on defense, as well as the fact that Chicago cares greatly about the Bears. Peppers specifically mentioned these factors in his introductory news conference when he signed with the Bears as a free agent. Based on his comments, he absolutely would have picked Chicago over a place like San Diego because of these factors. His comments really were a dig at Carolina if you think about it. It's not their fault that they don't have much tradition or history, but he evidently also found the fans' passion lacking.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Didn't see a MMQB posting place, but was beside myself by this.

In his top five MVP candidates, King says that Brees has edged out Polamalu for the fifth spot this week (which Polamalu held last week) with his high level of play when his team really needs him. Then on the next page:

Polamalu catapulted himself back into the MVP race -- at least into the periphery of it -- with a brilliant 45-yard interception return for touchdown to awaken a comatose Steelers team Sunday at Heinz Field.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The Dolphins interior offensive line is horrible. There were plays when Jet defenders ran through double teams and clocked Henne. Henne, Henning and the backs are getting a lot of heat for lack of production this year, but really this line is as bad as anything south of Chicago right now. Oddly enough though their coach is suppose to be a Oline guy, the unit looks worse every year he's been on the job. You have to wonder now if the end of camp oline cutting spree was Ireland telling Parcells this is my team now hit the road. One things for sure last years starters would have made handy back ups, rather than the street free agent revolving doors they have now. You have to start to worry if the Dolphins got the right man at GM to build for the future.

222 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Yeah, both him and Jake Grove were a big part of that awesome Miami run blocking. Then they were gone. Grove is unemployed and Smiley has started 5 games for Jacksonville. Some say injuries, but I have no idea.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

That Simms comment was great. Perfect example of the crap he and Nantzy usually spew.

-------------------------
Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

IT WAS FIFTH DOWN. Or should have been.

NFL Network last night clearly showed that the Redskins got nine yards on their first down play. It wasn't even close to the marker, there is no way that was a first down. They then got four more plays, and scored on the last. There was much . . . unpleasant language at that point. Suffice to say, the ending was enjoyable, particularly in light of the bonus down.

To echo what was said above, McNabb was terrible yesterday. On the Redskins final drive, McNabb threw a quick slant left and it hit Ronde Barber in the hands, except he didn't see it. It was shades of the 2002 NFCCG (my favorite sports moment EVER). If Barber had his head up, that was six and it was over. There were probably three or four dropped picks minimum in that game, outside of Ryan Torain transforming into an amalgamation of Walter Payton, Jim Brown, and Earl Campbell in the first half, the Redskins couldn't do anything much on offense.

Also, Josh Freeman for president.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

This was the original PBP listed on NFL.com. I copied it down.

1-10-TB 12 (:49) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short right to A.Armstrong to TB 3 for 9 yards (C.Lynch).
Timeout #2 by WAS at 00:32.
2-1-TB 3 (:32) D.McNabb pass incomplete short right to R.Williams.
3-1-TB 3 (:28) R.Torain right end ran ob at TB 6 for -3 yards (T.Crowder).
4-4-TB 6 (:18) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to F.Davis.
Washington Redskins 0:04
4-4-TB 6 (:13) D.McNabb pass short middle to S.Moss for 6 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

It was changed later. So who made the mistake: the officiating crew, or the official scorer? I'm not sure, but I know you can't blame the FOX announcers, for following the official scoring.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

If you watch the replay (and I have several times), the Redskins clearly start on the 12-yard line, but the "down marker guy" (whatever his official title is) is standing on the three-yard-line, not the two. He's short a yard of where he needed to be. Because of that, from his point of view, Armstrong's catch did just reach the first down. The problem is nobody noticed he was only NINE YARDS DOWN THE FIELD.

http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2010121204/2010/REG14/buccaneers@redskins/recap/full-story?module=HP_headlines#tab:watch

It was clearly an official's mistake, and one that very well could have decided the game. The NFL front office should sent Hunter Smith flowers to thank him for dropping that snap, because if the Bucs had lost that game, there would have been a pretty huge uproar.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Found a picture that does this even better. Redskins start on the 12, first down marker is on the THREE.

http://i151.photobucket.com/albums/s149/MilkmanDanimal/FirstAndNine.jpg

What the hell? I don't recall ever seeing this sort of thing before.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It was definitely a horrible, inexcusable mistake, and the Redskins did seem to benefit from it. However, if Shanahan is calling plays based on the belief that the Redskins made the first down (as signaled), then he's likely to take a different approach from what he'd be doing if it were 2nd and 1. So even though it was a nearly inconceivable mistake that could in no way benefit the Bucs, it's hard to know exactly how much it helped the Redskins.

Also, if officiating mistakes on big plays from that game are going to be discussed, it ought to be mentioned that Brian Orakpo was corralled, Alex Barron-style, on the TD pass to Winslow that put the Bucs up for good:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2010/12/heres_brian_orakpo_being_held.html

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Everyone on the field knew what down it was. They said so after the game, and their reactions in-game say this as well: Bucs weren't celebrating after knocking away that pass on 3rd/4th down.

That hold is pretty bad, but to be fair holds can be called on nearly every play. That one's a bit more egregious than most missed holding calls, though.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

That the Redskins were awarded a first down at the 2 is absolutely indisputable from the video broadcast. During the timeout after the play, you can see the near side crew taking down the first down marker, which had initially been left in place, and at the start of the next play, the far side markers are down, as they are in goal-to-go situations.

Backup up a little bit, the initial spot for the previous play (the 3rd down completion to Moss) looks like it was about the 13 yard line. Moss went down somewhere between the 12 and 13 yard lines. When the ball was snapped, it looked like it looked close to the 12, which is also where the far side official lined up. Looking at the first down marker on the near side, it looked like it may have been a little behind the ball, but its base is not visible on the screen (at least on Game Rewind). McNabb then completes the first down pass to Armstrong, who does down between the 2 and 3. The far side first down marker is right on the 3 yard line, so the Redskins were awarded a first down.

A couple points:
1. I'm not sure whether the far or near side chains are the official one.
2. I don't place a huge amount of emphasis on the far side official being lined up at the 12, since he's lining up over the ball, not in relation to a first down marker.
3. I'd like to know where the near side chains showed the first down marker as being.
4. It's not hugely unusual for the unofficial first down marker to be a yard off from the actual first down line.
5. It's an old center's trick for a veteran to move the ball forward when the refs aren't looking. Fox is showing us a replay of McNabb in the pocket, so we can't see where the refs initially spotted the ball. A half yard would be a lot, but it wouldn't be the first time.
6. Was there a bad call? It seems like there may have been, but I don't think it was a hugely egregious one.
7. I think Fox bears a good share of the blame here. It clearly was not fifth down, and SOMEBODY-the producers, spotters, or announcers absolutely should have noticed that the Redskins were awarded a first down on the Armstrong play. If that happens, we're probably not talking about this play, and this is by far the easiest issue in the conversation.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The play-by-play guy thought it was 5th down as well, it was changed later.

Another note: the play-by-play now says the Skins were awarded a first down at the 2, as you note. If you go back and look at the game, the next play is run from the 3-yard line.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Which is the point. There are clearly a number of very odd things going on here. As for the center moving the ball forward a half-yard, I would have to assume that wouldn't move Fox's "magic blue line" that shows the line of scrimmage; before the center snaps the ball, the ball is clearly right on that line.

Yes, I'd like a clear explanation, and Fox has a lot of responsibility in getting this wrong, but, regardless of Moss' half-yard or so, the first-down marker is clearly NINE yards away from the ball on that first-down play. It's not even "nine-and-a-half"; it's pretty much exactly nine yards downfield.

Is that sideline official? Heck if I know. I do know that, in years and years of watching football nigh-obsessively, I've never seen anything like this before.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"I would have to assume that wouldn't move Fox's "magic blue line" that shows the line of scrimmage; before the center snaps the ball, the ball is clearly right on that line."

What are you talking about? It clearly isn't, from the above photo you posted. I mean, it's like, more than the full length of the football off.

"Is that sideline official?"

No. Look to the bottom of that photo: you can see the orange marker for the beginning of the 10-yard-chain at the bottom of the image. So the far side (in that photo) is the unofficial side. The chains aren't visible here.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Their line-of-scrimmage (and first down lines) were clearly wrong. Unless the center dragged the ball back two feet. It looks like they just snapped the lines to the 12 and 2 yard lines instead of putting them where they actually were, which was almost 2 feet away (well, maybe - at least half a yard).

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Down locations are made by the farthest forward point of the football. The next play was run from the 2, since the edge of the football was inside the 3, though they would've said it was the 3 if the play didn't get a first down.

On reflection, and looking at the photo, the near side chains seem to be the official ones, and we can't see where exactly they had either the initial spot or the first down marker. As Pat said upthread, and as I noted, the initial spot may be a half yard short of where the spot was, which is why I came up with my "center moved the ball" hypothesis.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"1. I'm not sure whether the far or near side chains are the official one."

The near side (the one not visible in MilkmanDanimal's photo above) chains are - you can see in that photo that there is no corresponding chain at the line of scrimmage on the far side, indicating that that's the unofficial side.

If I had to guess, most likely the far side official at the 3 was just off by a bit. He's lined up at a down marker - most likely the first down marker was between the 2 and the 3 (the ball's lined up between the 12 and the 13).

The unofficial line-of-scrimmage/first down lines are clearly on the yard markers, so that really throws off your eye. It's probably a half yard off on the line of scrimmage, a half yard off on the line to gain, resulting in an apparent 1st and 9.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

This is totally plausible, and it strikes me as incredibly weird that, in a league so completely and utterly driven by television, that the official down markers would be on the "non-TV" side of things. Now, if the guy at the top of the screen is off by that much . . . how are you off by that much? Is he a Redskins fan who's so intently into the game that he isn't looking across the field to see that he's several feet off from where he needed to be?

I'm not calling "conspiracy" or anything; I don't believe refs favor certain teams and, if they were going to, it's not like the Redskins would be that team. It's a case of "what the hell"; through all the typical visual cues from watching the game, the guy simply was not near a first down. It was so utterly confusing that the NFL's official play-by-play shared my confusion. In other words, somebody did something incredibly dumb, and I'd like to hear some kind of formal explanation of such rather than just having the NFL update the play-by-play and pretend this weirdness never happened.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"Now, if the guy at the top of the screen is off by that much . . . how are you off by that much? Is he a Redskins fan who's so intently into the game that he isn't looking across the field to see that he's several feet off from where he needed to be?"

No, I think it's just Fox's magic lines which are off by a full yard. The first-down indicator guy is a little past the three, and the base of the ball is at about the 12 and a half yard marker. If you move the far-side flag man down about a foot, then first down is at the 2.5, and the LOS is at the 12.5. Or, it's possible that the far-side flag man isn't off at all. If the center skooched the ball forward a little, that'd also be about right, so the LOS might be at the 12-and-a-third, and the first down marker at 2-and-a-third.

Again, if you look at the placement of Fox's magic lines, they're on the yard markers, so it's probably just a rounding error.

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"This is totally plausible, and it strikes me as incredibly weird that, in a league so completely and utterly driven by television, that the official down markers would be on the "non-TV" side of things."

To answer this particular comment, the official down markers are switched at half time (along with the game officials, they switch sides as well at halftime). Since the TV doesn't change sides as well, there is nothing they can really do about this.

213 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

the official down markers are switched at half time (along with the game officials, they switch sides as well at halftime). Since the TV doesn't change sides as well, there is nothing they can really do about this.

Other than NOT switch the officials/markers at halftime...

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

@1: A little first-hand experience from the danish american football league: The referee always faces the home team when he announces a call. The red triangles with the yard-line numbers on them is also placed on the home team's side.

Since FOX shows the front of the referee when he announces a call, I don't think it's unreasonable to extrapolate, that the chains on the near side, are the right ones.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It wasn't the Fox announcers - I heard the exact same thing listening to the radio. And they specifically said after the pass that it was a 9-yard pass and that the Redskins had 2nd and 1. And then the incomplete pass and after Torain lost yardage I thought the Redskins were down to 1 play. But the radio announcers were no longer talking about how the Redskins could still get a 1st down. Also, they didn't seem to be filled with a sense of urgency about it being 4th down.
Still, after the incomplete pass to Davis, I thought it was game over, but somehow the Redskins had another down, three plays after 2nd and 1, when they had gained no yardage.
I thought at the time I must have misremembered a play, but it seems in retrospect that somehow the officials mysteriously granted a 1st down on the Armstrong catch two plays after it happened.

Does anybody have the game recorded? I want to know what the chain game and the ref were up to. I can positively attest to the fact that the radio announcers said that the Redskins had 2nd and 1 at the 3. And they certainly didn't gain any yardage from either the two incompletions or the Torain run, which lost yardage!

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Now I'm really confused. The FO time stamp is an hour in the future. Is your server in Labrador or Nova Scotia or something like that? Or does it still think we're on Daylight Savings Time? (Hint for the server: it's only 8 days until the shortest day of the year. If you've missed the transition at this point just pretend you were right all along.)

191 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

All of the radio announcers are watching the TV to make calls? Even though the feed is delayed?

I was listening to Philadelphia area radio broadcasting some sort of live radio feed from the game, and they clearly announced a 9 yard gain to the 3 yard line on 2nd and 1. Then they talked about some confusion over whether it was a first down or not between the markers on the two sides of the field, with one showing first down and the other second down, and that the confusion wasn't resolved until after 3rd down.

The Original Andrew

249 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm pretty sure the booths have a monitor that shows whatever the scoreboard shows, I don't know if they also get an undelayed Fox feed or whether the in-stadium feed has the 1st down lines. In the couple of games I have been to, I do know that the PA guy and scoreboard often seem to give wrong information.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The true highlight of the bizarre EverBank bird sequence was the Jaguars' mascot's efforts to hunt the bird. Unfortunately, the hemisphere's greatest predator couldn't close the deal.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The DEN-ARI game was painful to watch and not just because I'm a Broncos fan. Orton seemed to forget how to throw. He was bouncing balls off the turf or totally missing receivers all game.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It could, but he was lousy last week, too. Defenses are either dropping everyone into coverage, which Orton can't figure out, or they're blitzing absolutely everyone, which Orton can't figure out. Orton is great against conventional defense, but defenses have figured out he can't do anything if they show him something non-standard.

265 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I've been a McDaniels fan for a while (one of a small minority, along with tunesmith). I think Denver was the wrong place for him (or, alternately, he was the wrong guy for Bowlen to pick). As we all know, his personnel acumen is...suspect, and his knowledge of defenses is only average (which kind of surprises me...I've long held the theory that offensive minds build better defenses and vice versa). But he sure does know how to coach up a QB, design an offense to succeed, and make good offensive playcalls. In other words, he's a great offensive coordinator.

If he was HC of a team with a decent and relatively respected defensive coordinator, along with a savvy personnel department, I actually think he'd still be a pretty good head coach, too. By all accounts, the players liked him and responded well to him, except for the ones angling for more money.

281 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

If he was HC of a team with a decent and relatively respected defensive coordinator, along with a savvy personnel department

You know when he started in Denver, that was the exact situation he had. Then everyone else started getting fired.

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Any insight as to why this game lasted until nearly 5:00 PST? Were the football gods simply not as anxious for this game to end as the rest of us?

All of the other games were over and this one still had 12-13 minutes left in the 4th. Made me wonder if there was a power outage or some severe injuries, but the recap mentioned nothing like that.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

So Hunter Smith drops a high snap. That means Gano missed the XP, right?

(I agree with your point, but if you're going to argue against excessively scapegoating one player, don't excessively scapegoat another! Gano had a horrendous game, but he missed two kicks.)

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You guys deliver a much better experience when you make insightful comments on the game rather than unfunny, cliche, quips about the commentators. Ironic isn't it?

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Woodley of course was the starter for the Dolphins in that amazing divisional playoff game vs the Chargers, pulled for Don Strock after a dismal 1st quarter.

One of the great coaching accomplishments of all time: Shula took the Dolphins to the Super Bowl in 82, with David Woodley as his starting QB.

They lost to the Skins of course, and that offseason they drafted Marino with their 2nd-to-last pick in the 1st round. Washington then took Darryl Green. Has there every been a better pair of players picked back-to-back to end the first round? Or any round?

Woodley committed suicide a few years ago, so my appetite for making fun of him has diminished some.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Jenkins wasn't a second late, he went for the ball when he should've gone for the tackle.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Was any poster here at Soldier Field yesterday? How windy was it? The passes didn't look like they were being moved a lot by the wind that was reported. Also, a sloppy field can give an edge to offensive linemen, in that the speed of defensive linemen, ends in particular, is negated. That said, when the offensive liemen aren't good, like the Bears', the edge remains elusive.

I was only half-way paying attention; what the hell happened to the Cowboys defensive front on the Eagles last possession? Were they taking a nap? To just get steamrollered like that, at home, with 4 minutes left in a 3 point game, is absurd.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Yeah, I couldn't believe what I was seeing at the end of the Eagles game - McCoy was just ripping through them like wet tissue paper. It's distinctly possible the Eagles could have been doing that all game long, but McCoy only had 10 carries or something like that through the first 3 quarters (in a very typical Eagles style.) But, yeah, the Cowboys were getting blown up like they accidentally only had 10 men on the field - it was weird as heck...

Also, it warmed my heart to hear the Dallas fans chanting "Eagles suck!" at one point. Good to know the hatred is mutual.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I was not at the game, but here in the burbs it was indeed very windy, and coming off the lake, which it no doubt was at Soldier Field as well. It didn't appear from the TV that it was nearly as windy on the field, though it still was a cross-wind from east to west, as expected. The very high, narrow stadium may be effective at cutting down the wind. I was amazed at how not only the QBs, but the kickers, were able to do pretty well. I did notice the first punt of the game, by the NE punter, had quite a hook to it (got an end zone view of the return on the replay), and punts usually get as high or higher than kickoffs, especially since kickers will in high winds tend to line-drive them.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

One of the Pats kicks (I think it was a FG in the 1st half, although it could have been the one in the 2nd) was kicked about 5 yards to the right of the right upright, and hooked in (and barely made it over the crossbar). I think it was only about a 30 yard kick, so I'm guessing the wind was pretty nasty on that one.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Kudos to Graham on that kick and his next one, which he started outside the *left* upright and hooked in, so he was clearly judging the wind very well.

In general, the Patriots appeared infinitely more prepared to play in the conditions than the Bears did, which is pretty galling to Chicagoans.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

In general, the Patriots appeared infinitely more prepared to play in the conditions than the Bears did, which is pretty galling to Chicagoans.

Or, the Pats are just a much better team than the Bears, regardless of weather.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Oh, that's definitely a part (the largest part) of why the game turned out as it did, and it's a tough one to swallow as well. But before the game, Bears fans were telling themselves "Yeah, New England is a better overall team, but let's see how they play in Bear weather." As it turns out, the Bears derived less than zero advantage from the weather which, to me at least, was somewhat of a surprise.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"As it turns out, the Bears derived less than zero advantage from the weather which, to me at least, was somewhat of a surprise."

This was baffling to me in the week leading up to the game. Several fans & analysts claimed that terrible weather conditions favored Chicago, as though they were playing San Diego or Miami. New England plays in... New England! In December, Chicago averages only about 7 degrees (F) cooler and .8 inches snow more than Boston, and Boston is actually the windier of the two cities. New England's recent snow games should have left no doubt that playing in snowy conditions wouldn't slow them down. Why the surprise?

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

As a native New Englander but recent resident of Chicago, let me express my skepticism that Boston is actually windier, at least near the lake. This is the windiest damn place I have ever been.

That said, I completely agree with your point.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You can express your skepticism to the National Climatic Data Center :)

I've been to Chicago and i've been to windier places that don't feel half as windy as Chicago. Growing up in Alaska, Central Maine, and the Adirondacks, i can tell you none of them *felt* as cold as when i lived in Seattle, probably because you can't just layer up against the damp. I have no idea what it is about Chicago's wind that makes it so damn windy.

190 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Jeez, I regularly run the AC on my car 12 months a year in Seattle. The humidity makes we sweat. It's not a pretty sight. After skiing last weekend my kids and wife were talking about how cold they were and I was complaining about the opposite. You just ruined my vacation plans for some cool-weather R&R in Alaska. Maybe I'll try the Rockies.

247 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Yay for Central Maine! Pats home games make great weather forecasts for Maine. Sunday afternoon in MA = Monday in ME - 15 degrees.

I don't get around much, but I have never been colder than Winter Carnival in Quebec. Mon Dieu, did I want to get oooooot of there! By comparison an ice arena would be cozy warm.

189 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Foxboro may well get more snow than Boston. The Boston metro area sits inside a very large shallow bowl (the confluence of three small river deltas...the Charles, the Mystic, and the Neponsett? I think...), and for whatever reason, the temperature in Boston usually hovers ~5-10 degrees warmer than the outlying suburbs (the dividing line is generally the 128 belt). As a result, you get a lot of storms that fall as snow everywhere 10 miles outside of Boston, but rain inside Boston.

So the weather if Foxboro might be worse than in Boston (or Chicago). Of course, it's further south, which helps, but not sure how much...

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The Patriots doing well in snow should not be a surprise. Brady is 10-0 in such games, and his best passing day ever was in a snow game last year where the Patriots beat the Titans 59-0.

It was rather surprising to see all the ink on how the bad weather would give the Bears an advantage.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Did the stadium become more passer-friendly on windy days after it was remodeled? I always remember the Giant's punter, in the 1985 NFC Championship Game, whiffing on a punt, when a gust off the lake blew the ball eight inches, after he dropped the ball to kick it. Maybe the dynamics changed, for balls that aren't high in the air, after they rebuilt the place.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

That was in the Divisional Playoffs, not the NFC Championship Game. Sean Landeta was the punter. Shaun Gayle picked up the ball and ran it back 5 yards for the TD for what I believe is the shortest punt return for a TD in NFL history.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I don't think so. I remember in 2005 a game against the 49ers where both teams couldn't throw the ball at all due to wind. Of course it was rookie Kyle Orton and Ken Dorsey, so the effect might have been exaggerated. There was also a game against he Pakers where Favre was unable to accurately get the ball to receivers. Orton actually had an OK game in that one. Would have been 2007.

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Well, the field runs pretty much parallel to the lake, and the sides of the stadium got a ton of added height, so its entirely possible that its acting as more of a barrier to the wind.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I was there, and it was extremely windy. It was weird, though - like you saw, passing wasn't really affected much. The kicking game was, however; most kickoffs were knocked down by the wind and wound up being really short. Ditto for punts. Graham had a 35-yard field goal look really good, then get knocked down; it was good, but it barely cleared the crossbar.

The wind was swirling, so I think at field level (and the level passes were thrown at), it wasn't very severe. Once you got up 30-40 feet, I'd guess, is when it got brutal. Hence, the kicking game was destroyed, but passing was fine.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

At my house on the north side it had been windy all day... until right about kickoff, when it settled down. I just assumed that it gave them a bit of a break down there too, and it looked like a lot of the flakes were just floating randomly too on TV. But perhaps I could only see them when it wasn't gusting.

I agree with the post above about the conditions obviously favoring New England. Setting aside the fact that they're always the better prepared team, play in MA, and have totally destroyed the last 3 teams they played in snowy wintry weather, extreme winds (whether they actually materialized or not) covers the only remaining weakness of that team, the pass defense. Sure, it theoretically helps the Bear D as well, but the biggest impact it would've had was to improve the Pats D. I don't know how this wasn't the obvious pre-game conclusion.