Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Audibles at the Line: Week 11
Audibles at the Line: Week 11
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Rivers McCown

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, November 17th

New York Jets 13 at Denver Broncos 17

Rivers McCown: Let the option reads begin!

Mike Tanier: Kurt Warner and Tim Tebow were going over the basic read of the zone read, where the quarterback checks to see if the defensive end collapses, as if it was a brand new strategy invented for Tebow's unique wonderfulness rather than something high school kids do. This is gonna be a "watch with the music loud and the whiskey neat" kind of game.

J.J. Cooper: When I say the Broncos offense looks like a high school offense at times, I mean that it really looks like my high school's offense, which was running the veer (although out of split backs) back in the late 80's. To be fair though, the Broncos first drive did show more variation than they showed all last week.

Tom Gower: Well, I admit through 18 minutes, the Broncos offense has been somewhat more proficient than I anticipated. I wonder how much the opening pass affected the defensive playcalling, because it seems like they've been consistently playing a single-high safety, which gives the Broncos more matchup advantages.

Also, Jets special teams proficiency apparently went away with Mike Westhoff's healthy leg?

Rivers McCown: Never a good sign when the announcer has to guess who the intended receiver is.

...Oh wait, that was about Mark Sanchez.

Mike Tanier: I have the solution to the world's problems: Ask Sanchez what should be done about any major crisis just before halftime. Then do the opposite.

Watching this Broncos offense is like watching a psychic perform a cold reading. If he misses a million times and has two hits, everyone will remember the hits. And if he doesn't have two hits, everyone will make excuses.

Aaron Schatz: Sanchez actually has an excellent completion percentage tonight, but it is all short stuff. In part because they can't trust the backup running backs to protect him from a blitz.

I enjoyed the pistol full house play.

The Broncos can't get anything tonight on a straight-ahead run. Their only good runs have been on options.

Here's a crazy idea, but if the Broncos really did want to try to win games instead of just trying to figure out what they have in Tebow ... would it make sense on must-pass downs, third-and-longs, to bring in Kyle Orton or Brady Quinn? If you know Tebow has to pass, he really can't get anything. You need to have the surprise element.

Mike Tanier: The Jets are starting every drive at or inside the 20 and cannot really sustain a drive past the first or second first down. Midway through the third quarter, the Broncos have gotten the ball four times in Jets territory. They have a field goal and the interception return.

Tom Gower: After Andre Goodman's interception, the two teams have combined to go 2-for-16 on third down, with one conversion by each team. The only actual drives on offense thus far have been after the kickoffs to start a half.

J.J. Cooper: They've actually asked Tebow to try to throw more conventional passes tonight. Last week, it really was a high school offense, where occasionally you throw deep to see if you can catch the defense napping. Not that the conventional approach is really working.

Tom Gower: The funny thing is, he's had open receivers -- much more open than I expected. He just hasn't hit them. And when he has been close, the ball hasn't always been caught because he's throwing with absolutely no touch at all.

J.J. Cooper: Yeah, every Tebow pass is thrown at absolute full speed. It doesn't matter if he's throwing it five yards downfield or 50.

Mike Tanier: Lost in all of this is that the Broncos defense is really looking good. Elvis Dumervil is in top form, Von Miller looks great, the secondary is playing pretty well. And Britton Colquitt ... in the future, all punters will be Colquitt.

J.J. Cooper: Well, this is the way to do it apparently if you're Denver: on what may be their last drive of the game, they spread out in a two-minute offense and have Tebow run it every play.

Ben Muth: As I said on Twitter, at this point I'm 100 percent convinced Tebow was put on Earth to punish people that study football too much.

Aaron Schatz: The Jets run a blitz on third-and-4 that's designed to trap the quarterback in the pocket. You can't trap Tebow in the pocket! There's nobody protecting against a scramble, and all the defensive backs are in man with their backs turned to the quarterback ... wrong playcall against this offense.

Tom Gower: Actually, I think Eric Smith was supposed to prevent Tebow from getting outside to his left ... wait, never mind, that's the same thing as nobody protecting against a scramble to that side

Ben Muth: I agree with Tom, they have Tebow dead to rights if Smith keeps contain (also known as his guaranteed assignment). Truly horrendous play by Smith to bite on a fake.

Mike Tanier: Dante Rosario more or less tackled Manny Ramirez right in front of Tebow with no call.

Aaron Schatz: If Smith has contain, man, did he do a horrible job of it. He rushed right up the middle to go after the quarterback, with absolutely no chance of getting outside to contain Tebow if Tebow broke out of the pocket.

Ben Muth: Yes, he did do a horrible job. I'm convinced he blew the play. You simply don't run that blitz without someone keeping contain on the backside. I can't wait to see if Rex hurls him under the bus, or wears it himself. But I am 99.9 percent sure Smith was 100 percent at fault.

...And he throws Smith under the bus, can't say I blame him.

Tom Gower: Really, though, the Broncos' last minute drive was similar to the Jets' touchdown drive early in the second half, when a quarterback who has struggled to find consistent success managed to string together enough plays in a row to move the ball, including two of his team's three third-down conversions for the game. The real difference in the game was Sanchez's pick-six and, if you want the comparison, the Jets starting at the Denver 35 and getting three off Willis McGahee's first-half fumble.

J.J. Cooper: Since he took over as quarterback, Tebow is averaging roughly nine rushing attempts per game. Over a 16-game season, that would be the most rushing attempts by any quarterback in the Super Bowl era. But, I don't see why Tebow can't carry the ball that much. He's really a good-sized running back playing quarterback. If Reggie Bush can handle nine carries a game, why can't Tebow?

Tim Gerheim: Wait, Bush can handle nine carries a game?

Mike Tanier: My agita cannot handle Sanchez, Tebow and Bush in one conversation. It is like Nightmare on Elm Street with Skip Bayless as Freddie.

Vince Verhei: So has the "He just wins" torch officially been passed from Sanchez to Tebow now?

Rivers McCown: How soon they forget about Vince Young.

Mike Tanier: Oh yes. Without irony. Without irony. Without irony.

Sunday, November 21st

Carolina Panthers 35 at Detroit Lions 49

Mike Tanier: Already two interceptions in this game, and I am only four sips into a beer!

With three early-game turnovers, I fear we are seeing the return of the 2007 Lions.

Brian McIntyre: Welcome back, Kevin Smith. Shaky injury history prevented the Lions from extending a qualifying offer to him as a restricted free agent in February. Re-signed earlier this month because of injuries to Mikel LeShoure and Jahvid Best (as well as the canceled trade with the Eagles for Ronnie Brown after Jerome Harrison was discovered to have a brain tumor), Smith breaks off a 43-yard run on the first play of the second quarter and follows it up with a 28-yard touchdown on a screen pass. Smith's performance was about as likely as the team ranked 32nd in special teams DVOA returning a kick 101 yards for a touchdown, which Kealoha Pilares of the Carolina Panthers does on the kickoff after Smith's touchdown.

Doug Farrar: Pretty obvious that Matthew Stafford's finger is really bothering him. Or, something else is really bothering him. He was really struggling throwing against his body against the Broncos. Six picks in five quarters after zero picks in the previous three games. In any case, we might want to see the return of the 2010 Shaun Hill for a while.

Mike Tanier: The Packers and Lions games have ended with a strange symmetry. Late comebacks by the underdogs to tie, bold touchdown drives to answer, then tip drill interceptions to ice things.

Rivers McCown: I guess Stafford's finger wasn't bothering him that much after all.

Doug Farrar: Indeed –- what a freaky turnaround.

Dallas Cowboys 27 at Washington Redskins 24

Danny Tuccitto: The running back usage question has been answered in Dallas. First series: DeMarco Murray with six touches, Felix Jones with two.

Rivers McCown: Redskins start their first drive with a pair of end-arounds to little effect, then when they throw on third-and-6, Fred Davis fumbles. Mike Shanahan challenges it with his heart and loses a timeout. This is ... not the best offensive start to a game I've ever witnessed.

On the bright side, at least Brian Orakpo has that pancake social to attend.

Mike Tanier: Rex Grossman is a neverending source of hillarity. Though I think his knee was down on that fumble.

Rivers McCown: Washington jumps into the lead right before the half with another short-field touchdown. Dallas' special teams are the Redskins' biggest contributors right now. Dallas really isn't getting much traction on offense either -- Murray hasn't been breaking many tackles, and he's as straight-line as they come.

Mike Tanier: Cowboys have gone into the shotgun and started passing at the first sign of trouble. When it was 10-0, I would have pounded Murray behind that straight-ahead line a little more instead of making it easy for the Redskins pass rush.

Vince Verhei: Jason Witten with a long touchdown catch to put Dallas up 24-17. DeAngelo Hall was giving chase and failed to make up any ground. Hall has always relied on his athleticism to cover his mistakes in technique, and has been a mediocre (at best) corner as a result. If he no longer has the speed to keep up with tight ends, even good ones like Witten, then I've got to think he's totally done.

Rivers McCown: Is it just me, or does it seem like Tony Romo has more receiver miscommunications than any other quarterback? He just had his second pass of the day directed towards Laurent Robinson that went incomplete and wasn't even close to his receiver's route.

Tom Gower: Maybe it's just me, but I'd put Matt Hasselbeck clearly on top in terms of most miscommunication with wideouts.

Rivers McCown: Every Redskins fan knew that Graham Gano was going to miss that overtime kick.

Trent Williams is down, and it does not look good.

Robert Weintraub: Big-time elude-and-throw by Romo on third-and-15 puts Dallas in position to win.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 at Baltimore Ravens 31

Robert Weintraub: The Bengals get a tremendous grab from Jerome Simpson (to make up for the two drops that are coming) and a defensive pass interference penalty to set up a short Cedric Benson touchdown. Taylor Mays may never be a starting safety, but he's been very good covering kicks for Cincinnati, and he just laid a major smack on the ensuing kickoff return.

J.J. Cooper: Early on, the Bengals are showing some success running the ball between the tackles. You could blame it on the absence of Ray Lewis, but then, Marshawn Lynch seemed to have no problem running out the clock against the Ravens last week with Lewis in the game.

Robert Weintraub: Andy Dalton misses a wide-open Andre Caldwell for what would have been a big gainer early in the second quarter. Ironically, he overthrew Bubba, so don't blame lack of arm strength.

After the Dalton overthrow, a receiver runs the wrong way and forces a punt, which goes all of 15 yards. This one is beginning to turn after Cincy controlled the first quarter.

Mike Kurtz: Ironically, the missteps that Dalton is making are doing a better job of convincing me that he is for real than doing everything right. Maybe it's just perception, but it seems to me that rookies that look good but unpolished end up doing better down the road than boy wonders.

Robert Weintraub: Right on cue, Ed Dickson makes a one-hand catch on third-and-long, then Joe Flacco finds a wide-open Anquan Boldin for the tying touchdown. Adam Jones had good coverage on Dickson, but mistimed his swipe -- he could have knocked it away, and the Bengals could be up 14-0 -- but that little hypothetical remains a fiction. The little things come back to haunt.

Mike Kurtz: What the heck was Cincy doing on that Boldin touchdown? There were three defenders in a bunch with two receivers, and none of them covered Boldin. Then, adding insult to injury, Reggie Nelson never moved up past the goal line, so even though he made contact with Boldin, he had zero chance of actually stopping him before the ball crossed the line.

Robert Weintraub: Poor angle by Nelson. The two linebackers didn't drop deep enough to prevent the pass after Boldin was handed off by Kelly Jennings. Give Baltimore credit -- they totally fooled the defense with the play-fake bootleg action.

Beautiful Flacco bomb to Torrey Smith over Nate Clements (not much he could do, nor would Leon Hall have stopped it) sets up a short Ray Rice touchdown. 14-7 Ravens. Ugh.

Why do I love Geno Atkins? For plays like the one he just made, driving the guard four yards backward on a slant and dropping Rice for a loss at the same time. Awesome job.

J.J. Cooper: Marshal Yanda is one of the better guards in the league, but Atkins destroyed him for a nice six-yard tackle for loss. Atkins drove Yanda into Ricky Williams, then shed Yanda's block to make the tackle. Atkins was really tough for the Steelers to move in the running game last week as well.

Mike Tanier: The Bengals may want to run the ball a little more to make life easier for Dalton. Every drive since the first has started with a false start, then him trying to pass in bad down/distance circumstances.

Robert Weintraub: Pacman makes his first contribution to the cause, tackling Smith by his dreadlocks just as Smith was breaking free in the middle of the field. A flag was thrown then picked up. Moments later, Clements intercepts a Flacco throw to Dickson that was rather forced. Pacmania!

Doug Farrar: Flacco was reading that one all the way, too. After watching Seattle’s safeties refuse to take his deep ball seriously last week, I’m on board with calling his regression very troublesome. Dalton responds by throwing a deflating balloon to Caldwell in the vicinity of Ed Reed and another defensive back. You can guess the result.

Robert Weintraub: Ed Reed intercepts a Bengal quarterback in the end zone. This is a recording. Poor decision by Dalton to chuck one deep to Caldwell into double coverage. A.J. Green, OK, but not Caldwell. CBS then runs a graphic noting this was Reed's fourth touchdown against Cincinnati, apparently not realizing that the pick came in Baltimore's end zone. Not even the great Ed Reed gets to count that as six points.

Mike Kurtz: To temper my praise of Dalton, I'm not sure I buy into the praise for him not trying to make plays. There have been a few snaps where he moved outside and beat the pressure, but then immediately threw it away. He's feeling a pass rush that largely isn't there. I'm still trying to figure out what he was thinking on that third-and-long from around Baltimore's 30. Baltimore brought a blitz off the right side, Dalton moved left out of the pocket and basically just chucked it into the end zone instead of looking for a run (they had a time out left) or waiting for his intermediate receivers to cut across the field and give him a throw. Of course, a lazy jump ball to the end zone was exactly what Reed was playing on that snap, and he nabbed the interception.

Robert Weintraub: To answer you Mike, Dalton has been very aggressive this season -- don't listen to the announcers. In fact, throwing more downfield and trusting his receivers (Green in particular) to go get it is what keyed the five-game win streak. Green went up to get a touchdown on almost exactly the same play last week over Troy Polamalu. What Dalton will learn is that Reed is a better ballhawk than Polamalu, and Caldwell is no Green. In general, he has run in that situation less than he did earlier this season, when the coaches encouraged him to run more. It was a mistake not to run it there, no question.

Dan Dierdorf is ridiculous. Rice rips off a long run, and double-D is over the moon praising Cam Cameron for "sticking with the running game" with the lead. The Ravens are ahead by seven! And what are they supposed to do, pass every play? Just talk less.

Doug Farrar: Thank you for saving me the time it would take to type what you just typed. That was truly goofy, especially after Rice got the ball five times last week.

Vince Verhei: In defense of Dierdorf, the Ravens have shown a tendency to go oddly pass-wacky this year. And the Ravens could be forgiven for going pass-wacky in this game -- Aside from that 59-yarder, they're averaging 1.3 yards per run.

Mike Kurtz: Dalton just figured out what happens when you don't just throw it away after evading pressure: guys get open.

Mike Tanier: Dalton just scrambled and completed a WOW to Brian Leonard, then another good pass to Jermaine Gresham here in the third quarter.

Robert Weintraub: Dalton rolled right on a large percentage of his throws at TCU, so it's a bit of muscle memory involved there, and a tough habit to break. I really don't think it's happy feet in any way -- he stands in just fine when required.

Here he is getting picked off again. Jimmy Smith fumbles, but the Ravens get an extra 15 yards by recovering it (though the officials never pointed one way or the other, probably because Ron Winter was trapped under the pile), and Baltimore runs it in on the next play. That was rookie-esque. Four picks in seven quarters against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Dalton: Not Tim Tebow. Throws away an option pitch that the Bengals recover, then throws his third pick of game, albeit on a spectacular catch by Lardarius Webb.

Mike Kurtz: I rescind all praise for Dalton. This is an ugly game. Of course, the Bengals' safeties aren't helping.

Mike Tanier: Dalton is a not-there-yet prospect who is doing OK overall. He is not ready to go into comeback mode against a good defense without his best receiver. He still impresses me more than he did out of school.

Robert Weintraub: The Ravens keep throwing from power I sets, and the Bengals haven't adjusted. Especially right there after a turnover, you had to know the play-fake and bomb was coming.

Aaron Schatz: No team runs play-action more than Baltimore. Not necessarily just on bombs, but on every kind of pass. Been that way for years.

Robert Weintraub: Clearly Dalton doesn't throw that last pick if he had different color hair...

A little vengeance for the Smith pick as Caldwell beats him for a 49-yard score. 31-21, 11 minutes left.

Michael Tanier: After the Caldwell touchdown, I think Dalton is just messing with us.

Robert Weintraub: Amazing concentration and agility by Gresham after an initial juggle to gather it in and not just stay inbounds, but also cross the plane for what should be a touchdown to make it 31-28.

(review pending)
(it's taking much too long for my comfort)
(he's gonna get screwed for not holding it on the ground?)

Needless to say, I'm pissed.

Mike Kurtz: Yeah, he's getting screwed. Instead of a great play, it's an incomplete pass. Replay is awesome.

Mike Tanier: A Harbaugh brother is playing not to lose. Guess which one.

Mike Kurtz: Guess I'll have to rely on Rob's ranting to see how the rest of the game goes. Yaaay broadcast rules.

Robert Weintraub: Terrell Suggs gets away with a horse collar on Dalton, and instead they call intentional grounding. Great bullrush by T-Sizzle.

Third-down throwaway -- second straight play Ravens rush three and destroy play anyway.

And once again the Ravens rush three and get to Dalton. Game over. Pretty bad time for the offensive line to come up empty.

Aaron Schatz: Suggs let go of the horse collar before he finished the tackle, so that's not a horse collar tackle. It's a tackle by the legs.

Mike Kurtz: Assuming Dalton was hit in the pocket, there is no penalty for horse collar in the pocket.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26 at Green Bay Packers 35

Aaron Schatz: Department of Champions Are Both Lucky and Good: The Packers begin the game with the rare six-and-out featuring the even more rare "Aaron Rodgers goes 0-for-3 on successful passes." Incomplete, holding on Green Bay, incomplete, offside on Tampa, Neutral zone infraction on Tampa, then complete pass but short of the sticks. Tim Masthay comes in to punt and the Bucs get such good pressure up the middle that the ball will surely be blocked ... so Masthay pulls it down, runs, bobbles it, but somehow manages to get a first down.

That was the lucky. Then we switch to the good. The Packers offense becomes the Packers offense again, marches down the field, touchdown Packers -- on a fullback give to B.J. Raji at the 1. Heh.

For readers who love the intricacies of DVOA, by the way, I'll point out that the Masthay play is the rare play that doesn't get count anywhere in DVOA. You don't want to penalize the Packers for an aborted punt because they don't give up the ball, but on the other hand I don't want to credit them for a fourth-down run on a play that wasn't meant to be a fake punt. So I just sort of skip it.

Elias Holman: I wonder in how many instances a single player has been credited with two fumbles on the same play and lost *neither* of them. Talk about fumble luck...

Vince Verhei: LeGarrette Blount with a Marshawn Lynch-ian 54-yard touchdown run in Green Bay. I think I counted five broken tackles for sure, and there may have been more.

On fourth-and-goal from the five, Tampa Bay settles for a field goal to pull within four points, 14-10. I was about to criticize them for playing conservatively -- you're an underdog on the road, already trailing, and you need to take a few risks. Then, following the field goal, they tried a surprise onside kick. Good for them for taking a smart risk. Green Bay recovers after a long review, though, and it leads to another Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass. 21-10 Green Bay.

Tampa Bay is down 21-10. Kellen Winslow catches a touchdown pass, but is (correctly) called for offensive pass interference -- he put both hands on the defender's chest and pushed him away. Tampa Bay kicks a field goal to make it 21-13. It was fourth-and-13 from the 14, so the field goal is the right decision there, but these failed red zone drives are going to cost Tampa Bay a game they could have otherwise won.

Green Bay punts on their next possession. Rodgers had a receiver open on third down, but underthrew him and it was tipped away. He's been very un-Rodgers like today, throwing a step behind receivers and letting defenders tip passes that should have been caught. At least one of his completions came on a pass that the Buccaneers tipped first. (I should note that this "very un-Rodgers like" performance means he's only gone 15-of-25 for 218 yards and a pair of scores.)

Tampa Bay scores a touchdown on a quick slant to Mike Williams. The two-point try is a quick slant to Winslow, and it should have been an easy completion, but he dropped it. Green Bay is still up 21-19. The drive looked easy for Tampa Bay -- Josh Freeman went 5-for-5 for 85 yards. Most of the throws were on slants and ins, which the Packers couldn't cover. One was a wide receiver screen, and on that one, the Packers couldn't tackle. Green Bay has struggled with missed tackles all day.

Tim Gerheim: If you're the Bucs, and Blount has Marshawned the Packers defense once already, why wouldn't you at least have Blount on the field for a two-point conversion try?

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, it's tough figuring out what the Bucs are doing to keep the Packers offense down. They're getting some pressure, but not a ton. They're blitzing a little bit, but that's normally not a good way to beat Rodgers -- no quarterback is better against the blitz. They're covering well, actually playing a majority man coverage. It doesn't help that the Packers are in a lot of third-and-longs because their running game is going nowhere. But mostly I think Rodgers may have just woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

Tim Gerheim: Nobody hates fantasy football more than Green Bay. B.J. Raji and John Kuhn both have touchdowns on fullback handoffs today.

Vince Verhei: Green Bay is up nine with less than six minutes to go. Rodgers throws a quick out to James Jones, and Elbert Mack steps in front for an easy interception. Rodgers was under no pressure, he just made a bad throw. Definitely going with the "bad biorhythms" theory on him today.

Aaron Schatz: Last week we had the super-controversial Mike Smith call and it has me thinking about fourth downs and when it makes sense to go for it. I think Tampa Bay just missed an opportunity. Fourth-and-3 from the Green Bay 37, down by nine, 6:00 left ... doesn't that seem like the right time to go for it? Punt and you're stuck hoping for a turnover or a three-and-out. If you fail, you hope Green Bay just runs it and kicks a field goal to keep it within two touchdowns.

Anyway, Tampa Bay punted and Green Bay got a great return from Randall Cobb, but it ended up being moot when Aaron Rodgers threw just his fourth pick of the year on the Packers' first play. Tampa Bay ended up basically getting the ball back where they were anyway.

Robert Weintraub: As for Green Bay and Rodgers, I'm going with the notion that he knows I'm doing a piece for the Times this week remembering the 1962 Thanksgiving game where Detroit ambushed an unbeaten Packers team that was a machine until then. Clearly, he wants to ruin the symmetry.

Vince Verhei: Tampa Bay scores again to make it 28-26. With about four minutes left, they try another surprise onside kick. It fails, and they were offsides anyway. Their execution on these plays has been terrible. The first one only went seven yards, and was only close because Green Bay nearly touched it first.

And then Rodgers does what Rodgers does, hitting Jordy Nelson for a long touchdown to make this entire conversation moot.

Winslow's day is now complete. Freeman's pass to him is high, but Winslow got both hands on it only to tip it up and into the hands of a Green Bay defender. Anything after this is academic.

Aaron Schatz: I think that one was Freeman's fault. Winslow had to leap just to get his fingertips on that ball.

Oakland Raiders 27 at Minnesota Vikings 21

Tom Gower: Jerome Boger's crew loses track of what down it is after a Percy Harvin touchdown that was called back on a downfield holding penalty is mistakenly shown to create second down. After a couple minutes delay, the issue is straightened out. The drive also included a widely-criticized (on Twitter, at least) Aaron Curry blow to the head that included both shoulder-to-shoulder contact and helmet-to-helmet contact. I think refs generally do a very good job at administering a very hard game to officiate, but watching Jerome Boger work always makes me feel like a near-disaster is imminent. Adrian Peterson eventually finished the incredibly annoying drive on a run up the middle where he wasn't touched, thanks to some good blocking and excellent vision.

Brian McIntyre: Three personal foul penalties on Oakland defenders on that drive alone.

Rivers McCown: An annoying drive? Don't those, by rule, have to include Wes Welker?

Tom Gower: The Raiders now seem to be control of this game at 17-7 late in the first half. Michael Bush is running well -- he's been able to run for about five yards without getting touched with some regularity. I'm still not sure Carson Palmer is much more than an average-ish starter, as he seems to be almost exclusively a single-read passer at this point, but he's proficient enough at that to make plays. The Raiders also seem to have rediscovered Kevin Boss and Darrius Heyward-Bey in the passing game after they've disappeared of late for no apparent reason (When Boss was in the lineup, that is). The Vikings, meanwhile, lost Peterson to an apparent ankle injury (he was carted to the locker room after being helped off), and now the only effective thing they do on offense seems to be Christian Ponder scrambling for big yards when the Raiders don't bother to contain or spy him.

Jacksonville Jaguars 10 at Cleveland Browns 14

J.J. Cooper: If I was running DirecTV, I would place Sunday Tickets ads in every commercial break wherever this game is aired.

Aaron Schatz: Blaine Gabbert produced one of the worst pocket presence plays I've ever seen. Third-and-7 from the 8, everybody is covered, two Cleveland guys are right on top of Gabbert as he is trying to scramble out of the pocket. So Gabbert throws it away. Except he throws it away BACKWARDS. So that's a live ball. Luckily for him it went out of bounds, but the Jaguars lost valuable yards that could have helped their fourth-down field goal try.

Officials come close to deciding the game in Cleveland. First, they call a Phil Dawson field goal as missed when it looked like it went over the upright. Then, Jacksonville drives back to try to win it, and I think the officials missed pass interference by D'Qwell Jackson on Mike Thomas in the end zone. Cleveland wins 14-10, but really they should be winning 17-10 with Jacksonville having one more play to try to tie.

Tom Gower: I'd say Gabbert throwing the ball to where the receiver had been instead of where he was going to be made the contact with Jackson look worse than it was. I'm fine with the no-call.

Mike Tanier: Hehehe. Aaron is watching the Browns.

Aaron Schatz: Nah, Aaron is just watching the Red Zone channel.

Buffalo Bills 8 at Miami Dolphins 35

Doug Farrar: Am I nuts, or are the Dolphins the best team in the AFC East over the last three weeks?

Seattle Seahawks 24 at St. Louis Rams 7

Vince Verhei: On Seattle's first two drives, Sidney Rice has completed one pass for 55 yards. Meanwhile, Tarvaris Jackson is 0-for-2 with two interceptions.

The Seahawks are playing this game without rookie linemen John Moffitt and James Carpenter, both out for the year. And yet their line is in better shape than the Rams. To wit:

  • Starting right tackle Jason Smith is missing his fourth consecutive game with a concussion.
  • Starting left tackle Rodger Saffold is on injured reserve after tearing his pec while lifting weights on Friday.
  • Left tackle Mark LeVoir, who started today in place of Saffold, hurt his shoulder and is out of the game. Your current St. Louis right tackle: Kevin Hughes, who was just signed off the practice squad a few days ago.

Not surprisingly, it is only 10-7 at halftime.

Kam Chancellor just got flagged for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on Lance Kendricks. A brutal shot to the skull. This is the second week in a row that Chancellor has been called for this, and last week he gave HIMSELF a concussion. I'm pissed off at him. This was not a ticky-tack call where a guy leaned in with shoulder. Chancellor made no attempt to play the ball or tackle the receiver, he lowered his head like, well, a ram, and tried to take the man out. It's jeopardizing his own health as much as his target's. By the way, Seattle is ahead by 16 points late in the fourth, so it's not like it would have mattered if the ball had been caught.

Tennessee Titans 17 at Atlanta Falcons 23

Tom Gower: So, yesterday I wrote that I wasn't overly concerned about Tony Gonzalez. On his first drive, he had three catches, 39 yards, and a touchdown. The first catch came with a defensive end in coverage against a zone blitz (a tactic that I think has had a terrible success rate except against the Panthers). On the second catch he had Tennessee bodying up on him in man coverage, then a spin move caused two linebackers to whiff. On the third catch, a play-fake catches rookie Akeem Ayers badly out of position.

Matt Hasselbeck's first pass of the game sailed well away from a receiver who'd cut in rather than up to kill the Titans' first drive, and the Titans' second possession ends when Lavelle Hawkins apparently runs a bad route and Dunta Robinson is able to make a diving grab of Hasselbeck's pass.

After taking criticism for his fourth down failure last week, Mike Smith has apparently decided not to take any serious risks. He kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 up 7-0, and up 13-0 late in the first half, he punted on fourth-and-3 from the Titans 35

Aaron Schatz: See, that's ridiculous. That shows how ridiculous the argument was over Mike Smith's call last week. Yes, the math suggested that Smith made the right call last week by going for it, but the math was pretty close. The math on fourth-and-goal from the 1 early in the game isn't close in the least. THIS should be the controversial call. This call was a much more obvious wrong decision than the other call was a right decision.

Mike Tanier: I am starting to think going for it on fourth down is like investing: We are all supposed to me more aggressive as investors. And we all wind up leaving a lot of money in piggie banks and cookie jars.

Tom Gower: Mike Smith aggressiveness update: goes for it on fourth-and-1 at the Titans 36, up 20-3 in third quarter. They converted, and the drive results in a field goal. Jake Locker is now in the game for Matt Hasselbeck, who apparently suffered an elbow injury on the prior Titans possession.

The Titans' delusion that Chris Johnson is "back" has continued for this game, as Javon Ringer continues to play only as a breather and in situational roles. Anybody else's delusion that CJ is "back" after last week's game should be thoroughly quashed by his statline of 12 rushes and 13 yards in the first 48 minutes of today's game. He's able to be effective when the rest of the team puts him in a situation where he can see green grass to run to and a defender on the edge of his vision that he can avoid. In any other situation, he runs tentatively and looks to go down quickly. He is now a function of the offense around him. The best comparison I can think of is he's like Reggie Bush, only not as good or versatile a receiver.

Well, well, well ... Locker's first possession started with excellent field position after a kickoff return past midfield by Marc Mariani, and he hit Nate Washington on the run for a 40-yard score after Washington made a move to shake two Falcons defenders. The Falcons drove down the field, but Michael Turner fumbled in the red zone and Locker hit Washington for a second touchdown pass to cut the lead to 23-17 with three minutes to go. The funny thing is that Locker right now is almost completely unable to function effectively inside the pocket. He seems to be struggling to read the defense and is definitely throwing very inaccurately. Get him outside the pocket, though, and he's able to make good throws and hit guys in stride.

Mike Smith aggressiveness update: on fourth-and-1 inside the Titans 15, up 23-10, he sends out Matt Ryan and the offense, and the hut-hut succeeds when the Titans jump. Personally, I would've kicked a field goal there to go up 16, and given the ensuing Turner fumble, Smith right now is probably wishing he'd taken the field goal.

Arizona Cardinals 7 at San Francisco 49ers 23

Danny Tuccitto: The 49ers have thoroughly dominated the Cardinals (as expected) so far, but only lead 6-0 with nine minutes left in the first half. Why? David Akers has missed three field goals already, two of which were blocked. Nothing else out of the ordinary going on, except for Brian Billick referring to a 49ers full house backfield formation as an "inverted bone." I thought this was family programming.

Ben Muth: The 49ers just took what appears to be an insurmountable 9-0 lead. John Skelton and company haven't come close to threatening to score.

Danny Tuccitto: Hey, whaddyaknow! Even good coaches like Jim Harbaugh are susceptible to "Oh crap, we didn't convert third-and-short in no man's land. Should we go for it? OK, I need to think about this now. Timeout." That just happened to the 49ers twice in the span of one game minute: after a failed third-and-1 at the Arizona 30-yard line, and again four plays later after a failed third-and-11 at the Arizona 20-yard line.

The six first-half drives went like this: blocked field goal, missed field goal, field goal, field goal, blocked field goal, field goal.

Mike Tanier: That means the Niners have to work a fake in there somewhere.

Vince Verhei: Arizona's first-half offense, presented without further comment: 21 plays, 52 yards, one interception, one lost fumble, five punts, two first downs.

Ben Muth: I'm shocked that the Cards gained 52 yards, watching the game it felt like about 14.

Vince Verhei: Well, the first five drives totaled 11 plays and 20 yards. They got better after that.

Ben Muth: In the Cardinals game, Alex Smith got hit as he was throwing a swing pass, and the ball went about 12 yards backwards. It was somehow ruled an incomplete pass and not a fumble.

I know the same thing happened in the Seahawks-Bengals game a couple of weeks ago, but I don't get how a backwards pass is not a fumble if the quarterback is hit as he's throwing it. Mike Pereira tried to explain it, but it gave me a headache.

Doug Farrar: The interpretation seems to be a weird version of the tuck rule in which the intent to throw forward is altered by defensive pressure, but the intent to throw forward is all that counts.

Mike Tanier: The Smith pass was an obvious incompletion, because he was trying to attempt a forward pass.

Danny Tuccitto: Pereira just had to reference the "Music City Miracle." A "forward pass" depends on the passer's arm direction, not the direction of the ball. On laterals and plays like this one, it's possible to have the arm going forward in relation to the line, but still have the ball go a different direction. I used to see a ton of this refereeing flag football, which requires you to make the forward-backward call like a hundred times per game if the teams are any good.

It's just physics. Smith's arm was going forward, but his body was going backward with a lot more force due to the hit. His body's momentum took the ball backward.

San Diego Chargers 20 at Chicago Bears 31

Aaron Schatz: The San Diego tackles can't stop Julius Peppers or Israel Idonije, but Charles Tillman can't come close to keeping up with Vincent Jackson when Chicago plays man defense (which they've been doing more lately, according to this morning's NFL Matchup).

Tim Gerheim: Ever since the Bears-Vikings game on Sunday night a few weeks ago, I have been very impressed by Jay Cutler whenever I've seen him. I've seen three killer throws in the third quarter, two long ones to Johnny Knox and one short third-down under-pressure improv dumpoff to Roy Williams, which Williams was able to turn into a first down. Both of the long ones were thrown where only Knox could catch them in double coverage, and the one to Williams was one of several get-out-of-jail plays I've seen over the last month where Cutler had no business completing a pass.

Mike Kurtz: When Cutler has time and knows he has time, he can make all the throws. It's when he starts getting real pressure (or thinks he's pressured) that things go completely haywire.

That said, this week Cutler is showing uncharacteristic poise under pressure, so he's having a very good game.

Aaron Schatz: Just so folks know, the interception that Jay Cutler threw up 31-20 that gave San Diego the ball in the red zone was not his fault. Johnny Knox slipped and fell while trying to make his cut inside, so when Cutler threw it, the receiver wasn't there, just a defender.

Mike Kurtz: Philip Rivers just had an awful end to a very nice drive, determined to get into the end zone in one throw from the Bears' 20-yard line, he first throws it away and then throws into a bajillion Bears covering Jackson rather than taking the open man underneath. Major Wright intercepts it, and the Bolts are still down two scores where they could have been down by eight.

Aaron Schatz: Chicago just ran the weirdest-timed fake punt I've ever seen, up 11 with 2:00 left. What?

Then Rivers somehow throws an interception while trying to throw the ball away. The dude is cursed this year.

Tim Gerheim: Norv Turner is such a joke. After a potential Matt Forte fumble with about three minutes left, he calls timeout. Phil Simms, of all people, is on the ball enough to immediately say that he should have just challenged if he wanted the timeout, because it was a close call that would have been big if he'd won the challenge, and if he lost he would have just lost the timeout anyway, and there's almost no chance they'll need that challenge back. During the timeout it becomes reasonably clear that the Chargers wouldn't have won the challenge, but Norv challenges anyway, and of course loses, running the Chargers out of timeouts.

This would prove costly in the two-minute drill. First the Bears punter overthrows a wide open receiver on a fake punt near midfield, then on San Diego's first play, Rivers tosses a lazy, indecisive throwaway that gets intercepted. The Chargers being out of timeouts, the Bears can just kneel out the game. Professional football, ladies and gentlemen.

Philadelphia Eagles 17 at New York Giants 10

Tom Gower: That first pass by Vince Young ... was totally Vince Young. Interesting of the Eagles to look deep the first play like they normally do; I'd have liked to see a replay to check if he missed something deep or if he was right to take the checkdown.

Mike Tanier: VY just threw a nice heaping bomb of an interception. Happy days!

Mike Kurtz: Young's underthrow may have just led to a DeSean Jackson self-concussion. When does the actual football start?

Mike Tanier: That's okay. The 5-foot-3 kid from Air Force will make everything okay.

Tom Gower: Just your friendly reminder that Young ranked fifth in the league in passing DVOA in 2010. Of course, that came throwing a lot of downfield passes to a big receiver in Kenny Britt, as part of a run-heavy gameplan. But that last part is a big secret Andy Reid would never figure out, right?

Mike Tanier: Young also had small sample size and screen passes to (the good) Chris Johnson on his side when he was making DVOA's heart flutter.

Aaron Schatz: It is absolutely ridiculous that the Jackson taunting penalty offset with a defensive penalty and cancelled the play. Ridiculous. The taunting should be a dead-ball foul, after the play. Or they should let the Eagles decline the Giants penalty so they get to keep the gain. The idea that they need to offset and cancel the play, what a ridiculous rule.

Mike Kurtz: The side judge was signaling that the play was over after the "taunting action" started, so I guess Carey decided it was during the play. It's a technicality, but all of these rules are technicalities.

Tim Gerheim: That's not a technicality; that's just wrong. He flipped the ball after he was out of bounds. How does the play not end before that?

If Jackson had a concussion, why is he back in the game taunting and running punts back for almost-touchdowns? Or did he go into the locker room for concussion testing and it came back negative? (I've had the sound off most of the second quarter.)

Mike Tanier: In the old days, a personal foul overruled every other penalty. Then, they forgot that, but the rule is still on the books. So sometimes you get a personal foul offsetting with a false start, sometimes you don't, and it doesn't seem like anyone knows the actual rule.

Punting to DeSean Jackson: a Giants punter's original sin.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles are getting very good protection against the Giants tonight. Even that last sack Young just took (8:48 in the third quarter) was really a coverage sack.

Mike Tanier: Just enough protection for a Young-to-Riley Cooper bomb that is intercepted by Aaron Ross.

Grunt of general displeasure.

I take it this is now a lonely existential vigil for me. Watching this game, contemplating emptiness, the team I devoted my life to and the team I spent a summer covering, locked in a mutual death grip of idiocy, spiraling, spiraling toward oblivion.

Tom Gower: I'm still here. I just have nothing I consider interesting to say about the game.

Aaron Schatz: Ditto to what Tom said.

Mike Kurtz: I'm still busy hating myself for watching this instead of playing Zelda.

Mike Tanier: A referee just came into my office and set a football down. That was one hell of a generous spot for Young's fourth quarter sneak.

Aaron Schatz: Something about Victor Cruz just gives the Eagles brain cramps. Missed tackles, missed coverages, missed salsa dancing...

Mike Tanier: The best was just before Jason Babin forced the fumble: it was third-and-3, the Giants were in hurry up, and the Eagles decided to make wholesale personnel changes AND blitz Joselio Hanson off the slot. So Cruz got covered by ... no one. But I guess the uncoordinator did okay, walking away with 10 points and a win.

And this win had that ersatz Dream Team feel, with Young starting, Steve Smith catching a touchdown, and Babin making the final big play. Kind of a comic echo of what Eagles fans hoped we would see.

Aaron Schatz: The biggest surprise was probably the run defense holding the Giants to just 29 rushing yards on 17 carries.

Mike Tanier: Yes. Part of that is Jacobs, but part of it is the D line figuring out this system finally. There was one third-and-short where the Eagles were still lined up with just four men on the line of scimmage and some wide interior gaps. It was not a strict wide-9, because Babin was pinched, but it was still not a traditional short yardage formation. Everyone collapsed inside and stuffed the play, which means this whole scheme is not a mystery to the players like it was in the first four weeks.


234 comments, Last at 27 Nov 2011, 5:07pm

#1 by Charles Jake (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 9:57am

Cutler's injury might be the worst case of fan whiplash I've ever had. The team's been on a roll and he's living up to the price the Bears paid to get him, now this.

Still, the Bears have the easiest schedule of the wild card contenders. If Hanie can do his best 2005 Kyle Orton impression, they might still make the playoffs.

Points: 0

#2 by Jimmy // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:03am

What scares me is that it was a thumb injury that led to Warner leaving St Louis as he couldn't throw the ball properly for a couple of years. Not a fate you would want for a QB you traded two first round picks for.

Points: 0

#59 by DenverCheeze (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:21pm

Bret Favre played with a broken thumb still leading the pack to the playoffs....didn't they used to compare Cutler to the FAVRE?

Points: 0

#66 by Will Allen // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:26pm

Favre never threw the ball as well, in bad weather, after the thumb injury. Of course, putting aside the decision of where to send the ball, nobody has ever thrown better than Favre, so Favre with a problematic thumb was still great.

Points: 0

#76 by Nathan // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:50pm

Sonny Jurgensen... (different sort of appeal, but I'd put him up there).

Points: 0

#126 by Charles Jake (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 3:00pm

Gotta disagree with you Will. Isotoner gloves>Wrangler Jeans.

Points: 0

#74 by Illmatic74 // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:45pm

I don't remember if Favre played with a torn liagment in his thumb like Cutler has right now.

Points: 0

#141 by Jerry F. (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:04pm

Where did you hear he has a torn ligament? Everything I'm reading says it's a break.

Now I'm starting to really wish the trade deadline was later so they could deal a third- or fourth-rounder for Orton.

They said they're going for a veteran. Garrard's unavailable. Bulger maybe?

Points: 0

#156 by DisplacedPackerFan // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:45pm

As I recall Favre had cracked bone from the tip to the knuckle. It was a longitudinal break, not a latitudinal break if I recall. It was weird.

I think the torn ligament is much more severe as far as impact on throwing as it's not just a pain thing, it would actually limit the amount of force he can apply with the thumb.

Points: 0

#3 by Boston Dan // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:10am

"Here's a crazy idea, but if the Broncos really did want to try to win games instead of just trying to figure out what they have in Tebow ..."

Aaron, if they were trying to figure out what they have in Tebow, Tebow would be throwing more. They're trying to win, therefore he's not. You did read about or see John Fox's interview last week right?

Points: 0

#29 by RickD // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:49am

It's a combination. They're trying to figure out if they can devise a game plan that Tebow can win with. Shuttling in Orton or Quinn isn't a viable long-term plan. So they are trying to figure out what they have in Tebow. That's why he's getting all the snaps. And they're trying to win. That's why they're running so many QB running plays.

Points: 0

#32 by Will Allen // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:53am

As long as they get a special teams or defensive touchdown each game, and the defense plays great when they are not scoring touchdowns, Tebow will be just fine.

Points: 0

#78 by Ben // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:55pm

Too bad the Colts haven't been able to figure that out playing Painter. it's so simple...

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#117 by JS // Nov 21, 2011 - 2:42pm

They continue to move the ball so much better when they spread out their formation. Tebow is getting his yards from scrambling, or designed runs out of pass formations. The option stuff is going to the RBs the vast majority of the time, and that hasn't been working for them. Thus, getting behind and then scoring at the end. Which may be just due to Tebow's inspirationalosityness, but probably is more due to NFL defenses being able to defense the option crap better than a good scrambler/runner from the QB position.

Points: 0

#4 by Phil // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:19am

That Gresham catch should be a touchdown everywhere and anywhere football is played. There was so much outrage about the 35-yard-line for kickoffs, but where's the outrage for the ridiculous "control while going to the ground" catch rule? It seems to come up every week.

Gresham got both feet in, secured the catch, and broke the plane. The play should be over there. Why does it matter if he falls down at that point? Not only that, but he lost the ball when he was falling out of bounds. Why does it matter what happens out of bounds? It's OUT OF BOUNDS. Where does it really end? I saw one WR earlier this season catch the ball in bounds, slide out of bounds and THEN lose the ball while he was fully out of bounds. This was somehow not a catch, even though the last act didn't even happen in the field of play. It's a joke.

Points: 0

#6 by CraigoMc (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:39am

I brought this up in the game thread, because as the review went on and on I had the same sinking feeling as Weintraub - they referee was going to find some reason to overturn on obvious touchdown catch.

The play should have been ruled a touchdown the moment he broke the plane, and then ruled dead the moment he stepped out of bounds.

Points: 0

#7 by Columbus 714 (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:40am

Yes. This was a horrible call. And it only happens on replay. The officials in these circumstances usually get it right on the field while it is happening and then spend all this time scrutinizing every last aspect of the play during replay and come to the wrong conclusion.

It's dumb and really really really needs to be addressed. No one watched that play and thought it wasn't a TD. Similar to the Troy Polamalu interception in the 2005 playoffs and the Calving Johnson TD last year.

It's like they are looking for reasons to not make it a catch.

Points: 0

#14 by RichC (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:06am

The Calvin Johnson call was absolutely the right one.

Points: 0

#25 by Pottsville Mar… // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:44am

I disagree, since Johnson established possession and went to the ground with the ball, and only lost the ball as he stood back up from going to the ground.

No matter what you think of that particular call, though, it's still a terrible rule.

Points: 0

#35 by Jonadan // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:59am

Bears fan? Ref?

The least negative I can be about that call is to say that by the letter of the rule the no-TD call is defensible. Not necessarily right, but (as a soccer ref I feel strongly about this) refs make mistakes and I prefer legalistic mistakes to wildly inaccurate ones.

That said, and speaking as a Lions fan here, by any kind of common sense/spirit of the law whatsoever, not calling that a touchdown was absurd.

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

Points: 0

#79 by Columbus 714 (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:55pm

Nobody should be defending either of the calls. The Calvin Johnson and the Gresham call were terrible. I don't want to hear "the ref was just following the rule". They were both catches and they were overturned on stupidity.

Points: 0

#97 by tgt2 (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:50pm

Good argument.

I don't want to hear "the statistics disagree," Tebow and Young are winners. Getting rid of either of them would be stupidity.

Hit while catching the ball -> must hold ball through ground. It's that simple.

Points: 0

#100 by akn // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:56pm

Agreed, you have to hold onto the freaking ball.

Calvin Johnson failed to catch the ball because he was too eager to celebrate rather than finish his job.

Points: 0

#114 by commissionerleaf // Nov 21, 2011 - 2:39pm

The rule is ridiculous.

In the 2010 Super Bowl, NO got a TD when their player reached out over the goal line in the process of falling down, and lost the ball just after breaking the plane. He broke the plane! TD.

Calvin Johnson's situation was different only in that he was already completely in the end zone, and made it all the way down before losing the ball.

Currently, the rules for what is and is not a catch are different based on whether you can "break the plane".

Points: 0

#122 by The Powers That Be // Nov 21, 2011 - 2:52pm

That's a complete misunderstanding of the rule. In your first example, the player had already established possession of the ball. The instant a possessed ball crosses the plane, it's a TD and the play is over - it's impossible to fumble in the opponent's end zone. In the Calvin Johnson situation, the ball was in the end zone, but it was not possessed - Johnson was ruled never to have established possession. If possession isn't established, it's not a catch and a non-catch cannot be a TD. By definition, an incomplete pass is never in possession of the receiver.

The rules are exactly the same, in the end zone or out.

Points: 0

#215 by Big Dawg (not verified) // Nov 22, 2011 - 5:36pm

The rule IS silly, for two reasons:

1) Possession of the ball by a receiver can be clearly seen as established before the receiver ever reaches the ground -- it happens on every completed pass. This is why everyone is worked up. Calvin Johnson clearly possessed the ball before he hit the ground last year, and the Cincy guy clearly possesed the ball before he hit the ground this past Sunday.

2) We still have a rule on the books that the ground cannot cause a fumble! Calvin Johnson slamming the ball on the grond and seeing it spin away was not a loss of posession. Neither was Cincy guy landing on his elbow, and the ball then dislodging out of bounds.

What we need here is a version of the Supreme Court obcenity ruling -- if you see a catch, it's a touchdown, for heaven's sake!

Points: 0

#222 by akn // Nov 22, 2011 - 9:50pm

1) By your logic any receiver going over the middle who catches the ball (with 2 feet on the ground) but is immediately separated by a big hit is automatically a fumble. Hold on after the hit, and your okay--any other way is very subjective.

2) Why do you think fumble rules have anything to do with catching rules? Fumbles apply only when possession is established. And by the way, the ground can cause a fumble if the player's knee/elbow/etc don't touch the ground (see Matt Ryan's fumble against the Bears in the first week of the season).

A Supreme Court-like rule would introduce huge amounts of subjectivity into the process, which makes things worse, not better. The only reason the legal obscenity stuff works is because you can go through a months long process to lay out the facts, determine intent, etc. Video reviews should be expedited, with clear, objective guidelines for evidence and interpretation.

Just hold on to the freaking ball. Simple.

edit: added link

Points: 0

#234 by dbostedo // Nov 27, 2011 - 5:07pm

"Possession" is not just having control of the ball. You aren't using the NFL definition of possession. As defined by the rules, it's actually a term that involves more than just grabbing the ball and maintaining control of it.

So in the two cases you gave, according to the current rules :

1) No, receivers do not establish possession without hitting the ground. They have to control the ball and land and then establish possession.

2) Since possession is not yet established, it isn't a fumble. The ground can most certainly cause you not to establish possession. Once possession is established, THEN it can't cause a fumble. But the ruling was that in these cases there was never established possession.

Points: 0

#170 by fooBarFooFoo (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 5:33pm

The play in the SB - Lance Moore on the 2pt conversion - stood because the defender _kicked_ the ball out of Moore's hands, which is ILLEGAL by the defender. Hence, a catch, and completely different from anything "establish control and maintain control while going to the ground" stuff.

You read too much of this polemic Florio?

Points: 0

#189 by RC (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 7:48pm

Calvin Johnson most certainly did not make it "all the way down".

He lost the ball going to the ground.

Points: 0

#216 by Big Dawg (not verified) // Nov 22, 2011 - 5:41pm

The ball was in Calvin's hand all the way to the ground -- he slammed it into the ground as a kind of spike, and it bounced away from his hand when it hit the ground. TOUCHDOWN!

Points: 0

#233 by BigCheese // Nov 25, 2011 - 4:13am

Thenyou need new glasses. Go rewatch the play and tell me he was spiking the ball in any way shape or form...

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

Points: 0

#143 by RickD // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:13pm

I thought Calvin Johnson put the ball down because he thought the play was over. I also thought the play was over.

Usually when players are eager to celebrate, they keep the ball.

Points: 0

#157 by akn // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:52pm

Not that I want to start another Irrational CJ Catch Thread, but the eagerness to hold onto the football depends on how they want to celebrate. It is quite common to see players dropping the ball right after getting into the endzone and celebrating with a dance or whatever rather than doing a traditional spike or dunk on the goalposts. Some have even managed to drop the ball before crossing the goal line (I'm looking at you DeSean Jackson).

CJ's momentum from the catch hadn't even stopped before he started trying to get up and lost the ball on the ground.

Points: 0

#54 by Drkdstryer (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:16pm

Right, the point is that it's a very dumb rule. According to the rules, Johnson did not have a touchdown. According to good sense and anyone with eyes and a brain, he did have a touchdown. I posit that the problem is not with everyone who thinks that it was a TD.

Points: 0

#73 by BJR // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:42pm

Even if it was called correctly it was a shocking outcome, emphasised by the fact that when they were showing the replay, they didn't even show him going to ground at first. That was just an afterthought. The announcers had given touchdown, everybody at home had given touchdown, then they wound the tape on a few frames and found that the ball bobbled slightly as it hit the ground.

I'm guessing there would have been no controversy and no mentions whatsoever of this incident had the replay been stopped after Gresham crossed goal-line with the ball clearly in his hands. Maybe it would have contravened the rules to award the TD, but this is an example where the rule is quite clearly crazy and against all common-sense.

Points: 0

#51 by mansteel (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:13pm

One thing that this common--and very reasonable--argument ignores is that calls need to be consistent in different areas of the field. Consider:

An open Jets receiver in the middle of the field stretches out to grab a somewhat-off-target Mark Sanchez pass. He catches it cleanly, stumbles forward for two steps, falls down, and loses the ball as he hits the ground. One of the converging defenders picks it up. Incomplete pass or fumble?

If you say "incomplete pass" then surely the call shouldn't be different just because the guy happens to be in the end zone, right? You could say he has possession in the end zone so the play is over but you are saying the guy in the middle of the field didn't have possession (since an incomplete pass implies no possession), so that's a contradiction.

If you say "fumble" then you have a consistent set of rules, but I'm not sure many people would want to call that a fumble.

Points: 0

#61 by Drkdstryer (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:21pm

But there already are different sets of rules for the end zone. As soon as the ball crosses the plane, the play is over and it's a touchdown. A runner could be midair and drop the ball before he touches the ground, but as long as he held the ball across the goal line, doesn't matter what happened after. Why then does a receiver need to control a catch all the way through? As soon as they gain possession, even if they are falling towards the ground, it's a TD and the play should be over.

Points: 0

#67 by The Powers That Be // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:27pm

You answered your own question: it's a TD for a receiver in the end zone "as soon as they gain possession". The rules for establishing possession are the same everywhere on the field, and they include the going to the ground rule. There are no different rules for the end zone.

Points: 0

#70 by Anonymous2 (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:36pm

While there's a little bit of a conflict between how you gain possession (two feet down) and how you complete a catch (two feet down, plus if going to the ground, maintaing possession), it looks to me like the going-to-ground-rule anticipates this exact situation ("whether in the field of play or the end zone"). Unless you want to argue that breaking the plane brings to completion the act of catching a pass, so that Gresham wasn't actually going to the ground in the act.

N.F.L. Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1: Going to the ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

Points: 0

#64 by Dan // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:24pm

It doesn't matter where on the field it happened - it makes no difference if it's in the end zone or at the 50-yard-line, at the sideline or in the middle of the field. Gresham was being tackled as he first got control of the ball in his hands, and then he lost the ball against the ground as he went down (sort of trapping it against the ground with one hand and then regaining control of it). That's not a catch.

Points: 0

#84 by Columbus 714 (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:04pm

Uh no. He caught it, scored, went out of bounds all while holding the ball. It moved very slightly as he went down. In order to rule this not a catch you have to ignore all of this.

Points: 0

#89 by akn // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:32pm

I don't know what you were watching, but that's clearly not what happened. The ball was bobbled, and during the course of the bobbling, he was hit. The question of when he gained possession is moot precisely because he ended up on the ground. Whether you are hit or not, whether you are in the endzone, out of the endzone, or in the process of entering the endzone, if you go to the ground on a catch (and bobbling is still part of catching), you have to maintain possession. The whole thing, including the jarring of the ball when it hit the ground, is part of the evaluation.

Receivers have been steadily gaining more and more advantages with rules protecting them from big hits, interference, holding, etc. The least that could be expected given all that is they hold on to the ball until they get up and can hand the thing to the ref (with the bonus that it's objectively more straightforward to evaluate). It's similar to that ridiculous force out rule that the league was smart enough to eliminate, as it was one of the most difficult judgment calls to make.

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#128 by Charles Jake (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 3:06pm

For my money, the rule should be changed so that possession equals control of the ball plus two feet (or one knee) inbounds, regardless of where you are on the field. No second act, football move, etc.

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#132 by apk3000 // Nov 21, 2011 - 3:35pm

The problem, I believe, is with the sideline toe tip catch and fall. I'm guessing they only want a single definition of a catch, rather than some sideline exception.

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#133 by akn // Nov 21, 2011 - 3:41pm

"Control of the ball" is exactly what is so difficult to judge. The objective ways to deduce control include second acts, football moves, and yes, holding on to the ball throughout the process of falling to the ground.

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#175 by jonnyblazin // Nov 21, 2011 - 6:11pm

"For my money, the rule should be changed so that possession equals control of the ball plus two feet (or one knee) inbounds, regardless of where you are on the field. No second act, football move, etc."

This would basically eliminate passing over the middle of the field. Defenses would just try to tackle receivers right after they land, any bobbles or strips would be scooped up by other defenders. You need strict rules regarding what constitutes a catch to prevent this situation.

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#135 by wyatt (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 3:48pm

While your first sentence of the second paragraph is factually accurate, it is not chronologically correct, and it is missing a major fact (as far as the rule goes at least)

He started to catch the ball, got hit, began to bobble it, his right foot left the ground, he secured it while the left foot was still in the field of play, his right foot hit the ground in the end zone, he then fell to the ground and lost control of the ball. According to the rule, the refs got it right.

He did not break the plane while the ball was in his control, and he got hit by a defender while securing the catch. As such, the 'process' was not completed.

You wanna call the rule dumb, I can get on board with that, but the zebras got it right.

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#5 by Will Allen // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:22am

One of the worst aspects of being a Vikings fan right now is that even rooting for the highest draft picks possible leaves the dilemma as to whether the top picks should be used on cornerbacks, offensive linemen, wide receivers, safetys, and given Kevin Williams is now in his 30s with chronically injured feet, even defensive tackles.

Ponder's shortcomings seem to be of the "I've only been working for an NFL team for 15 weeks" variety, as opposed to "I can't physically do my job", and by all reports he is a smart guy, with a good work ethic, so there is reason to be guardedly optimistic at qb. Of course, if the optimism about his getting better with experience doesn't prove out (and being surrounded by receivers who can't be trusted to do anything might inhibit development), then a few more years will be wasted. They could be looking at last place for a while, no matter what city they call home.

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#38 by Mr Shush // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:03pm

I would think the rational course of action would be to de-prioritise the defense until such time as Ponder has a supporting cast with which he could reasonably be expected to succeed. You have to find out whether your quarterback's any good as quickly as possible, and you don't want him acquiring bad habits in a hopeless situation.

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#47 by Will Allen // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:10pm

I tend to agree, especially if they continue to have good pass rushers on the edge, as they do now. If they had a passing game which could threaten a team from the Big East Conference, they could hide their defensive issues better. Ponder desperately needs a wide receiver (Harvin is more of a hybrid player), and a left tackle, he can trust.

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#162 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:58pm

I think you can go either direction. Build up the offense to cover your defense or build up the defense and let your franchise QB cover up the flaws in the rest of the offense.

Really, I think you just draft the best players you can find at positions where you need upgrades and don't worry too much about what side of the ball they fall on.

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#93 by jimm (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:49pm

Judging QBs on a terrible team is always difficult. Ponder has looked very much the rookie in the past two games but how much of it is the surround cast? Hell if I know.

My biggest concern about him is he doesn't seem particularly accurate and the deeper the throw the more the accuracy seems to go. As well, every ball seems thrown at the same speed, he doesn't seem to be able to put any real zip on a pass.

I'm hoping the Vikings end up with the 1st or 2nd pick in the draft and Luck and Barkley get crowned as can't miss franchise QBs...that would put the Vikings in a very good position to leverage some excellent extra picks or a franchise QB if Ponder fails to impress the rest of the way.

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#8 by Dean // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:47am

If MeSean will be this stupid when he's playing for a contract, I can only imagine how bad it will be when some team (which won't be Philadelphia) actually pays him.

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#27 by Pottsville Mar… // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:45am

Plus, if Vince Young can't throw it deep enough for him, then John Beck REALLY won't be able to throw it deep enough for him.

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#30 by RickD // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:52am

LeSean's taunting really was kind of ordinary for today's NFL WR. Let's not blame him for the mis-application of the NFL rules.

It doesn't make any sense at all that the penalty on the defense saved them 40 yards of field position. If there hadn't been a penalty on the defensive line, the reception would have stood and Jackson would have taken an ordinary 15-yard taunting penalty.

I'm looking forward to hearing Mike Pereira defend this ruling.

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#43 by Dean // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:07pm

It may be ordinary, but that doesn't make it right. He's still a jackass, and it'll only get worse once he gets paid.

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#60 by dryheat // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:21pm

Ordinary? Certainly The Sean is not the only prima donna in the NFL Wideout fraternity, but tossing a ball at the opposing Defensive Co-ordinator before spending what seemed to be more than 5 seconds jawing to the players and coaches on the sideline? I think that falls beyond the ordinary I'm-awesome-you-suck variety.

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#86 by RickD // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:17pm

More than 5 seconds? Suggest you check your watch.

And yes, it seemed ordinary to me. You see that kind of gloating 10-15 times per game. Jackson deserved the penalty for gloating directly at the Giants' bench, but I didn't think it rose to a level where we needed to be subjected to sanctimonious derison from Chris Collinsworth for five minutes.

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#91 by dryheat // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:40pm

I was admittedly tired, but I don't remember Collinsworth saying much more than it was a stupid and selfish play, which I think we would agree with, and that he was hurting his market value, which I wouldn't agree with.

Perhaps Collinsworth repeated himself one time too many, but I don't remember this getting anywhere near the Joe Buck "Won't somebody think of the children?" commentary on the Randy Moss fake mooning.

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#96 by Bots Meat Commission (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:50pm

Yeah I'm ok with having a rule against taunting -- because there SHOULD be a rule penalizing players who interfere with the flow of the game. Tossing the ball at the other team's coach falls into that category, for sure.

Jawing and arm-motioning (and Tebowing) at the other team's sidelines should be fair game, though. This is professional sports, not the CYO league. We don't need to protect Perry Fewell's tender fee-fees.

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#101 by dryheat // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:59pm

That's a dangerous slope. Is all taunting going to be allowed? Racial epithets? Mocking someone who just lost a spouse/child? If not, are the officials going to be expected to rule on what crosses the line?

I hate to come across as Dean Wormer ... I think all touchdown celebrations, for example, should be allowed as long as they don't run into delay of game territory, but I'm OK with the current taunting rules....although the offsetting of during-play and post-play infractions needs to be re-thought.

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#142 by Stats are for losers (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:11pm

He threw the ball at the face of an opposing coach. That's always going to get called, just like face-stomping, spitting, or punching. He's lucky he wasn't tossed.

Next time he runs backwards after catching a punt, he should keep going until he's Out Of Town.

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#144 by RickD // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:17pm

He threw the ball at the face of an opposing coach.

Just wondering what game you were watching.

That's always going to get called, just like face-stomping, spitting, or punching.

Yeah, I didn't see anything that looked remotely like face-stomping, spitting, or punching. You're clearly resorting to hyperbole at this point.

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#150 by Stats are for losers (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:28pm

My bad, it hit Fewell in the chest:

Back under your bridge, now.

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#168 by RickD // Nov 21, 2011 - 5:28pm

An interloper with a non-verified account is calling me a troll?

After I accurately dismantled somebody for falsely accusing DeSean Jackson of "throwing the ball at the face" of a coach?


I'd also prefer "throwing" to be replaced with the more accurate word "tossing". And then we've gone from "throwing the ball at the face" to "tossing the ball at the chest."

Words have meanings. Language isn't just something you get to redefine on the fly.

And "troll" isn't a word to describe a long-time list participant just because he says something that upsets you.

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#176 by Stats are for losers (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 6:20pm

I've been interloping here since 2003 season, but haven't logged in in a couple of years, mostly so I could make a (not verified) joke at the expense of an NFL coach. If you don't believe that, I was here for Catholic Match Girl, the comment-rating fiasco, before you could register a user name, before Barnwell, etc. I log in once a year to buy the book.

I'm glad you believe in the importance of precise usage of language. I assure you that my person remains physically intact, despite your alleged dismantlement. LoL.

Your argument consisted solely of the automatic gainsaying of what I said, rather than, say, a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition, thus resembling the rhetorical techniques most commonly used by a troll. Note also how you use excessive adverbs to emphasize the certainty that what you type on the internet is Absolute Truth. Truth don't need adverbs. I don't care if you give this website your personal information, it doesn't automatically give you credibility. If anything, it gives a bigger body of work on which to judge the quality of your thoughts, which was taken into consideration before typing "troll."

Now if I'd said something like "I can't believe DeSean Jackson shot an assistant coach during the game," then you might be on to something. I've already lost 5 minutes of my life prolonging this nonsense by justifying my anonymous internet persona, so that's more than enough. None of this changes the fact that Of The Sean is an idiot.

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#177 by Stats are for losers (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 6:22pm

P.S. you called him LeSean earlier in the thread.

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#195 by Marko // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:43pm

"Your argument consisted solely of the automatic gainsaying of what I said, rather than, say, a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition"

If you want to go on arguing, you'll have to pay for another five minutes.

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#194 by Parts Unknown (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:42pm

No, you're not so much a troll as a complete asshole, who may be the most insufferable person who posts on here, at least since that FireOmarTomlin guy was tossed overboard. Everything you write has the stench of smugness about it that is even more offputting than the usual FO masturbation-as-analysis ritual.

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#112 by Sophandros // Nov 21, 2011 - 2:31pm

What's the basis for your statement? In other words, what supporting evidence do you have that Jackson would act worse if he gets a big contract?

I bet you're also one of those people who believe that Chris Johnson's production plummeted because he signed his big contract. You know, because this is clearly a case of a guy who's not trying...

And I think I already know the answer to my questions, even though I sincerely doubt that you have the balls or the intellectual honesty to admit it.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

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#149 by TomKelso // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:28pm

No, he doesn't; Sophandros has posted regularly on these boards for nearly a decade, and is usually thoughtful, measured and accurate, even when he's stone-dead wrong.

Now go come up with an argument to refute him, and you'll come off better.

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#161 by Dean // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:57pm

I'm aware that he's been around a long time. Which is exactly why I knew not to take his bait.

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#174 by dbostedo // Nov 21, 2011 - 6:06pm

Tom - While I agree with your point about long time board participants, the tone and wording of Sophandros post seemed troll-like to me. And it sounded like he had a personal bone to pick with Dean (seemingly out of the blue to this reader), which would also qualify.

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#190 by Anon (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 7:59pm

Posting regularly doesn't make him any less of a troll.

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#200 by Mr Shush // Nov 22, 2011 - 5:57am

I think refuting what I take to be Sophandros' implication would take the discussion in a direction prohibited on these boards . . .

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#9 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:54am

J.J. Cooper: Yeah, every Tebow pass is thrown at absolute full speed. It doesn't matter if he's throwing it five yards downfield or 50.

Paging Dan Marino. Paging Dan Marino. Dan Marino to the white phone.

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#10 by rageon // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:57am

The throw to Decker was a little like Manning bouncing it off the kid's chest in the fantastic SNL skit he did.

And yes, that's the first and last time I'll ever compare Tebow to Manning.

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#11 by rotor // Nov 21, 2011 - 10:58am

Mike Tanier: In the old days, a personal foul overruled every other penalty. Then, they forgot that, but the rule is still on the books. So sometimes you get a personal foul offsetting with a false start, sometimes you don't, and it doesn't seem like anyone knows the actual rule.

Unsportsmanlike conduct is not a personal foul and the penalties therefore offset. In NCAA, Eagles would have had the option to decline the defensive penalty and enforce the UNS. 1 and 10 15 yard from where the play ended.

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#12 by dryheat // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:00am

Two question that came to mind during the last three minutes of the Thursday night game:

1) Why don't the Broncos run their offense in like manner for the rest of the game? Do they enjoy sucking for 57 minutes?

2) Why couldn't a defensive guru like Rex Ryan stop it? Here's an idea: Next time the Broncos are running that no-RB spread, don't go to a dime defense -- or even a nickel. Keep the base defense on the field. Don't cover two receivers, play the other two man to man, but don't tip your hand on which DB is covering which receiver. See if Tebow can figure out where the open man is and deliver an accurate throw before he pulls the ball down to run. I'm betting he couldn't. Never, I mean never, stop playing the run vs. this team no matter the situation.

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#75 by Jerry F. (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:47pm

It strikes me as a universal rule that bad offenses can find success at the ends of halves. I'm not sure whether it's because the defense changes or the offense does, but I dread giving the opposition time to score with just a few minutes to play because it seems like anybody can move the ball at that point.

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#108 by zenbitz // Nov 21, 2011 - 2:11pm

I was thinking about this effect earlier. I think what it comes down to is that the offense can play without fear of throwing an INT, while the defense has to play to avoid the 50-yard TD strike.

This would also explain why teams with great 4 man pass-rushes don't seem to have such a problem with "end of half" possessions.

Disclaimer: No studies were done in formulating this opinion.

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#77 by Nathan // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:53pm

The Broncos first drive was pretty sweet but I guess they used up all the misdirection on that one drive.

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#90 by akn // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:34pm

I think part of it was taking advantage of fatigue on the part of the Jets defense. If they tried that at the beginning of the game, it's likely they would be stuffed for a 3 and out several times.

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#109 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 2:19pm

This was my question as well. 57 minutes of 1 yard runs up the middle and errant passes on 3rd and 8 when it is patently obvious that spreading things out and allowing for Tebow to be a threat to run and pass was the only way to move the ball.

The only answer I was able to come up with is that the coaches don't believe Tim can stay healthy playing that all the time, so they have to pick their spots.

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#146 by Stats are for losers (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:22pm

Also, if you're going to blitz 8 on Tebow, make sure all 8 rushers actually do something. If you watch the replay of the 20-yard TD, the two middle guys gave up on the play about halfway through.

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#13 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:03am

For readers who love the intricacies of DVOA, by the way, I'll point out that the Masthay play is the rare play that doesn't get count anywhere in DVOA. You don't want to penalize the Packers for an aborted punt because they don't give up the ball, but on the other hand I don't want to credit them for a fourth-down run on a play that wasn't meant to be a fake punt. So I just sort of skip it.

Shouldn't they get a DVOA hammer for two fumbles?

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#154 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:42pm

Do you really think those are predictive fumbles? How often do the Packers run the ball with their punter?

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#182 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 21, 2011 - 6:37pm

Perhaps punters don't run more frequently because fumbles are so likely?

Point is, DVOA punishes fumbles because recovery is luck. So why not punishment on a double-fumble play?

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#185 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 21, 2011 - 7:15pm

It punishes fumbles because turnovers are bad and a fumble is a 50% chance at a turnover.

However, DVOA is built to be predictive. What about that play will predict the future?

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#204 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 22, 2011 - 9:17am

When is an individual fumble ever predictive? They are still punished within DVOA, I believe.

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#206 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 22, 2011 - 11:41am

Tiki Barber?

All kidding aside, a player who is going to be running down field with the ball more than once a seasons probably needs better ball security than a punter.

Now, the first fumble *might* have been predictive in the sense than the GB punter has trouble fielding snaps or something, but really how often is a play like the 2nd fumble going to come up?

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#214 by BenOak (not verified) // Nov 22, 2011 - 4:00pm

I don't think that DVOA is built to be predictive. It incorporates several predictive elements and several retrodictive elements. Frankly that's one of my biggest problems with DVOA, I'd rather see a predictive and a retrodictive version:

1) Doesn't count long plays fully (max successes limited to 4)
2) Count all fumbles, not just lost fumbles
3) Opponent adjustments (although they seem really strong, when I ran a linear regression between opponent strength and game performance the r^2 was just about 0)
4) Count all interceptions as the same (i.e. pick-six isn't counted extra)

1) Count interceptions at full value. Past interceptions are a poor indicator of future interceptions (There is a .08 correlation between even and odd week interception my name to see the article)
2) Overvalue red zone plays. Are they really a more powerful indicator of future play? I haven't seen any proof, but redzone success certainly correlates nicely with scoring and winning

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#217 by LionInAZ (not verified) // Nov 22, 2011 - 6:21pm

Why not count it the same as missed snap? Seems to me there ought to be some kind of punishment --- although having Masthay as the punter is probably punishment enough.

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#15 by Bots Meat Commission (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:07am

Thank you for talking about DeSean Jackson taunting penalty. I was screaming DEAD BALL FOUL DEAD BALL FOUL at my tv but Collinsworth decided to go full Joe Buck on us and started moralizing about "classlessness" or whatever instead of asking why the play was called back all the way to the two yard line.

I'm fine with having a taunting penalty -- especially when players do something with the ball after the play like Jackson did. But don't bring the play all the way back!

Also, the same officiating crew missed a blatant hold against Trent Cole on the Victor Cruz TD drive that had me screaming at my tv last night. My poor LG.

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#20 by halfjumpsuit // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:25am

The play was properly called back. Blame the rule, not the officials.

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#33 by RickD // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:55am

I'm OK for blaming Collinsworth for not mentioning that the penalty would have only cost the Eagles 15 yards if there hadn't been a penalty on the defense, too. That was the obvious thing to mention, but Collinsworth was far too intent on gloating in his moral superiority over DeSean Jackson.

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#65 by Dean // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:24pm

Some more detail on how/why it was the right call...

Per PFT…

The prevailing thought was that Eagles should have been able to decline the penalty against the Giants, and then to have the 15 yards walked off after the play, giving Philly a 35-yard gain.

But the outcome reflected the proper application of a strange donut hole in the rule book.

The process gets started at Rule 14, Section 1, Article 9: “If there has been a foul by either team during a down and there is a dead ball foul by the other team in the action immediately after the end of the down, it is a double foul, and all rules for enforcement of double fouls apply (see 14-3-1).”

Regarding double fouls, Article 14, Section 3, Rule 1 provides as follows: “If there is a double foul . . . without a change of possession, the penalties are offset and the down is replayed at the previous spot.”

In this case, a key exception almost applied, but ultimately didn’t. “If one of the fouls is of a nature that incurs a 15-yard penalty and the other foul of a double foul normally would result in a loss of 5 yards only (15 yards versus 5 yards),” the rule book states, “the major penalty yardage is to be assessed from the previous spot.” Since the penalty on the Giants entailed a five-yard penalty AND an automatic first down, the exception didn’t apply in Jackson’s case. Even if it had (for example, if the Giants had simply been offside), the Eagles would have had the 15 yards walked off (or, in this case, half the distance to the goal) from the previous spot.

Either way, the penalty on the Giants ultimately penalized the Eagles. Though the officials sorted it all out properly in real time, the rule book definitely needs to be tweaked to prevent such unfair outcomes.

The only part of this I disagree with is the idea that the penalty on the Giants hurt the Eagles. The penalty on Jackson was entirely preventable. If he isn’t a jackass, there isn’t a penalty. If it cost the team more than 15 yards, too bad, so sad. Next time, show a little class.

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#147 by CMK (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:23pm

So if you are on defense and are in the process of giving up a big play, you should commit a (non-personal) foul? Worst case scenario is a declined penalty, best case is the play is nullified by a dead-ball foul on the offense.

How is this a sensible rule? Isn't the point of penalties to, you know, penalize the offending team, not reward them?

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#164 by MJK // Nov 21, 2011 - 5:12pm

You're point is valid, but I'm having a hard time thinking of a non-personal foul that a defender could commit if you're already in the process of giving up a big play.

Committing PI seems a big mistake, since the WR could still drop the ball, but a PI call definitely makes the big play happen.

If you wait till they catch the ball...what do you do then? Defensive holding probably won't get called, since the worst you could do is hold an offensive player attempting to block another defensive player, and the opportunities to do that where it would affect the play and be noticed by an official are slim. It's too late to commit off sides, illegal contact, or PI. I guess you could taunt someone in front of an official...but then the chance of them calling offsetting penalties is small.

What you could do is wait till the offensive player taunts, and then taunt right back. I guess.

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#165 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 21, 2011 - 5:17pm

I think tackling a random offensive player would be the best course of action and hope for holding and not unnecessary roughness.

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#171 by justme_cd // Nov 21, 2011 - 5:37pm

I can't think of any situation where it SHOULD be to your advantage to commit a penalty. This is one situation where it was to the Giants' benefit to commit a penalty. They won 35 yards by committing a foul.

I hate the NBA because every NBA game has instances where a team gains an advantage by fouling. What's the point of having fouls then? If a team is losing by playing within the rules, who wants to see them stay in the game by breaking rules?

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#172 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 21, 2011 - 5:43pm

Every time you see the kicking team down the ball on a punt it's a penalty.

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#210 by SandyRiver // Nov 22, 2011 - 1:16pm

Many years ago, a coach told us that was a "violation", different from a penalty in that no yards were assessed. Once the punting team touches the ball, they can do nothing more, even if the ball then hits a receiver, unless someone from the receiving team chooses to pick it up and run. Once the receiver gains possession, I think the violation ceases and it's like any other punt return.

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#16 by halfjumpsuit // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:08am

Mike Shanahan put on a great display of terrible time management. Cowboys had used up all their timeouts when they lined up to kick a FG in OT. With 3 seconds on the play clock, Romo realized they weren't set and tried to call timeout. But the Cowboys got saved from taking a delay of game penalty because Shanahan called time out to ice the kicker. Brutal. Just wait until the clock runs down, push the Cowboys back 5 yards, then call time out.

And not that it matters, but the FG was barely good. 5 more yards and maybe the Redskins get the ball back.

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#36 by RickD // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:00pm

It was worse than that. Shanahan saved the Cowboys not from a delay of game penalty, but from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Romo, who was calling for a timeout himself, in spite of the fact that the Cowboys had none left.

This isn't the first time Shanahan has lost a game because of his fetish for icing the kicker. I've seen opposing kickers miss the initial kick but get a second chance because of his misguided belief in "icing the kicker."

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#41 by Mr Shush // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:06pm

I thought the evidence suggested that, as lame as it undoubtedly is, icing the kicker works? I mean, on average.

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#153 by The Powers That Be // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:38pm

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#196 by Earl Dittman (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:49pm

I noticed that, after you actually cited an article that was published on this very website, this idiot didn't bother to respond. Hardly a surprise.

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#198 by akn // Nov 22, 2011 - 12:26am

You give a guy less than a day to respond and call him out on it?

If you bothered to actually go to that link, you would notice that it was not an FO analysis, but a link to an external analysis. Later in the comments, a link is provided to a study with a much larger sample size that refutes the idea that icing the kicker works.

Trying to jump down the throat of a regular commentator without providing anything constructive yourself? Cheering from the lurking section? Hardly a surprise.

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#203 by Mr Shush // Nov 22, 2011 - 7:49am

I was actually thinking of a piece which I now can't find specifically focusing on the Shanahan-style timeout-to-make-them-rekick. Apologies for the lack of clarity stemming from laziness on my part. Obviously whatever sample they were using here is going to be poxy, assuming the whole thing isn't just a figment of my imagination.

But I don't think the Dr Z article conclusively refutes the one linked from the extra point: it covers a very long timespan in order to achieve its larger sample size, and it's possible that both the incidence of icing and overall field goal percentage went up over that period, masking the effect of the former.

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#223 by armchair journ… // Nov 22, 2011 - 9:51pm

eh? is "citation, please" a challenge now? i always read it as a request. perhaps i'm not down with chat conventions.. or the board hasn't been chippy enough for some..

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#42 by halfjumpsuit // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:06pm

I wasn't sure what the yardage is for Romo calling time out when there was none. The unsportsmanlike would have made it a 54 yard attempt. Inexcusable. Even giving Shanahan the benefit of the doubt that he didn't see Romo trying to call time out--in fairness he probably didn't, since Shanahan was calling time out at the same time--it's still a terrible decision.

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#186 by BJR // Nov 21, 2011 - 7:17pm

I don't think you can call it a "terrible decision" when he obviously wasn't aware that the Cowboys were struggling to line up and were risking a penalty. Terrible outcome, for sure, but at worst a pointless decision.

Having said that, I'm against coaches using time-outs to try and 'ice the kicker' because it's against the spirit of the game, and perhaps more importantly, just a waste of everyone's time.

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#88 by rageon // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:31pm

Didn't the whole "last second icing" movement start because he did it successfully, with the kicker first making it and then missing it?

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#39 by The Powers That Be // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:04pm

If they'd been knocked back 5 yards (or worse, the 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty if the official acknowledged Romo's TO call), the Cowboys might have run another offensive play to try to make up the yardage - it was 3rd down. Glad it didn't come to that decision.

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#17 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:12am

The funny thing is that Locker right now is almost completely unable to function effectively inside the pocket. He seems to be struggling to read the defense and is definitely throwing very inaccurately. Get him outside the pocket, though, and he's able to make good throws and hit guys in stride.

How is it funny that young QBs struggle in unfamiliar situations, but perform well when the plays are similar to their college experience?

In other news: Dalton does well rolling right, Locker is better outside the pocket, and Tebow can be effective in a shotgun spread where he often runs. It's as though they spent years learning and becoming comfortable with an offense like that...

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#18 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:14am

except for Brian Billick referring to a 49ers full house backfield formation as an "inverted bone." I thought this was family programming.

Were the FBs even with the HB, or positioned closer to the line?

If they were even, it was a full-house. If they were closer to the line, it's an inverted wishbone.

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#28 by Pottsville Mar… // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:48am

I think the important thing is that calling it an "inverted bone" instead of an "inverted wishbone" sounds dirtier.

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#37 by RickD // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:01pm

Yes, Beavis and Butthead have joined the mailing list.

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#19 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:19am

That was one hell of a generous spot for Young's fourth quarter sneak.
That's because you were watching the RB get blown back, not Young. If anything, the replay showed Young got an unfriendly spot.

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#21 by bigtencrazy (not verified) // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:30am

The Bears are the most complete team in the league. If anyone can endure the loss of a quality qb it is Chicago.

If Rodgers went down for GB team would be in FAR more trouble even with Flynn looking to be competent. The defense has had 10 games to get going, it has not happened so fans cannot expect it TO happen.

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#24 by Will Allen // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:39am

Mike Tice may be the most valuable non-coordinator assistant coach in the league. The guy has taken his share of ridicule as a head coach, some of it deserved, a lot of it lazy yammering, that didn't recognize what an unmanageable situation he had in Minnesota, but I can't think of a unit coach over the past two years who has done more for his employer than Tice.

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#26 by Arkaein // Nov 21, 2011 - 11:44am

I'm not sure about that. I think Cutler's improvisational skills can cover up a lot of the problems on the Bears line, though admittedly their O-line has looked a lot better as of late.

I agree that if Rodgers went down GB would be in trouble, but some of that is simply that Rodgers is a better and much more consistent QB than Cutler.

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#45 by The Powers That Be // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:07pm

What do we know about Cutler's backups? They're unfamiliar to me.

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#50 by Will Allen // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:12pm

They haven't played enough to have a firm judgement, but my guess is that they suck.

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#55 by dryheat // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:17pm

Hanie was considered subpar, but he did produce when Cutler went down if the NFCC last year, so all hope is not lost.

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#218 by LionInAZ (not verified) // Nov 22, 2011 - 6:26pm

Yeah, he produced a pick-6 to a 335-lb nose tackle...

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#227 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 23, 2011 - 8:52am

Too be fair, so has Cutler against those same Packers and I think he's a pretty good QB.

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#56 by dmstorm22 // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:18pm

The only thing we really know of Hanie was his surprisingly good spot relief job in last year's title game. He did throw two costly picks, but the offense moved well under him. He's been there a while, so he could be a Matt Cassel in NE 2008 type, where just because of his experience in that offense through practice and time, he could be decent.

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#62 by Will Allen // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:22pm

What might work to the Bears advantage is having Hanie, instead of Cutler, on the field may reign in some of Martz's more destructive impulses.

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#134 by Duke // Nov 21, 2011 - 3:46pm

Caleb Hanie has shown promise in preseason games and last year's championship game. Then again, he's the guy that Martz had so little confidence in he brought in Todd Collins last year. Part of that was because Hanie got hurt in the preseason, but still--Martz held onto Collins way past the point it was obvious he wasn't useful.

I think of Hanie as kind of a lesser Cutler. He's mobile and he's got a good arm, but he can play wild sometimes. I think he'll be okay, but the team is definitely going to have to rely on the defense, Forte, and special teams to get through this. I'm not worried--I actually think Hanie is pretty talented.

Nathan Enderle is a low-round (6th, maybe?) rookie from Idaho. He is considered a developmental project; I don't think anyone wants to see him play any significant time this season.

I hear a lot of talk about the Bears picking up a veteran, but as far as I know they're not going to IR Cutler, so if they did they'd either have to cut Enderle, which I don't think they want to do, or carry 4 QBs. That makes me think they're not going to sign a veteran unless Hanie completely implodes.

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#140 by akn // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:02pm

The Bears just cut DE Mario Addison to make room for a vet QB. I also thought that if they sign a vet QB, they could easily move Enderle to the practice squad without anyone snatching him. He was not impressive in the preseason.

I'm reserving judgment on Hanie until he plays his first complete game. I'm not confident enough in the small sample of the NFC championship game last year to make a conclusion.

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#187 by BJR // Nov 21, 2011 - 7:24pm

Has Marc Bulger retired? Wouldn't he be the default veteran ex-Mike Martz QB?

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#224 by armchair journ… // Nov 22, 2011 - 9:59pm

this made me laugh yesterday. today i reread and i think you're serious. hmm.

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#230 by Karl Cuba // Nov 23, 2011 - 6:10pm

I think Greybeard is a 49ers fan, I'd be astonished if he was serious. He will have sat through a season of that muppet.

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#231 by greybeard // Nov 24, 2011 - 3:22am

I am a 49ers fan. I was subjected to JTO for half a season. He has all the athletic attributes to be a good QB, but is an awful decision maker and is not good at reading defenses. Also was not liked by his teammates.

I did not mean to say Bears should get him. I just meant that Martz would consider him. They have gone with Josh McCown so it really does not matter if they considered him or not.

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#160 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 21, 2011 - 4:57pm

I have to disagree with you on Hanie's arm. It's not that good. You're going to see a lot of receivers taking big hits because the ball is getting there slower.

Personally, I like what I've seen from him as a player so far, but I'm not sure how much that is worth. I agree with akn, I need to see him play an entire regular season game before I make real judgement.

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#48 by Mr Shush // Nov 21, 2011 - 12:10pm

Well, the other team that has a reasonable claim to the title "most complete in the league" also just lost their starting quarterback, so I guess we'll find out . . .

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#94 by akn // Nov 21, 2011 - 1:49pm

I'm a Bears fan, but I don't think we're the most complete team in the league. I do think the Bears have one of the easiest schedules remaining (aside from another game with GB), which I believe is the most important aspect of making the playoffs.

The key games are going to be CHI/SEA and how the NYG/DAL games play out. If the Bears beat Seahawks, then they likely only end up with 4 NFC losses and several favorable tiebreakers. Most of DAL's losses are out of conference, and with no head-to-head games, DAL will likely hold the tiebreaker over CHI. NYG and DET will end up with more than 4 NFC losses, so the Bears will hold tiebreakers over them.

As much as I hate it, I have to hope DAL win the division. I hate supporting the Cowgirls.

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