Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

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 24th

Green Bay Packers 27 at Detroit Lions 15

Brian McIntyre: On their first three possessions, the Lions have started at or inside their own 20-yard line and have driven into Packers' territory only to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties: Nate Burleson was called for holding, Jeff Backus for llegal hands to the face, and finally a chop-block by Maurice Morris. Milking 15:33 off the clock on the those three drives and keeping Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines is great, but zero points on the scoreboard against an explosive Packers' offense isn't going to cut it.

Ben Muth: I don't have a problem taking a shot deep on third-and-1 from midfield if you're going for it on fourth down. But if you're gonna punt on fourth down, the jump ball to James Jones isn't my first choice.

Well, Brian was right. the Packers came out a little sluggish, but Detroit couldn't take advantage because of a lot of penalties (including some iffy ones) and end up down seven at the half. Green Bay gets some turnovers in the second half and easily pulls away. I will say that it feels more like Thanksgiving with the Lions down three scores in the second half.

Tom Gower: From what I saw of this game, which admittedly wasn't much, Matthew Stafford made too many mistakes and left too many plays on the field. I'm not sure why the Packers struggled offensively in the first half, but once the Lions turned the ball over, then it seems like things started to click.

Rivers McCown: Agreed Tom, Stafford left a lot of yards on the field in the first half.

Vince Verhei: The Packers had opportunities in the first half, they just weren't able to make the plays. Rodgers would throw a step behind a guy on third down, or a catch along the sidelines for a first down was initially ruled complete, only to be reversed because the receiver bobbled the ball. In the second half, they made the plays they had a chance to, as usual.

The most annoying sequence came in, I think, the third quarter. Kyle Vanden Bosch was called for a terrible roughing the passer penalty. It was a form tackle, with his arms spread wide and leading with his chest, not his shoulder or helmet. He got there a fraction of a second after the ball was released, and they went to the ground, but it wasn't a particularly vicious shot or anything. Then, on the very next play, Rodgers actually was hit late and knocked to the ground, but the refs let it go. Obvious make-up call. Later, on Rodgers' fumble, as most players were scrambling for the ball, Nick Fairley turned his back to that action and shoved Rodgers down. Again, no foul. There's just no rhyme or reason to it.

Was Jim Schwartz with the Titans when Albert Haynesworth stomped on Andre Gurode's face? Ndamukong Suh's stomping penalty today wasn't nearly that vicious, but it was an obvious foul and a deserved ejection. I know some of his penalties have been undeserved, but I wonder if Schwartz isn't intentionally encouraging some of this behavior.

Aaron Schatz: I didn't get to watch this game but after we saw the tape of the Suh play, my brother-in-law (who is from Chicago) was going on and on about how Suh was abusing Jay Cutler after the whistle a couple weeks ago. And we know he almost twisted Andy Dalton's head off in the preseason. Suh's excuses for the play are ridiculous, and to be honest he sounds a little deluded. Somebody needs to hold an intervention before he ruins a Hall of Fame career. If you play in the NFL, you have to be able to control your adrenaline. I know you get hyped up during a play, but you've got to shut it off when the play is over. Suh is always trying to get one last hit in, like you used to do with your brother when you were fighting as kids and your parents came to separate you.

Robert Weintraub: After yesterday I started to call my 2-year old boy and destructive force "Suh." People think I just really love Johnny Cash...

Miami Dolphins 19 at Dallas Cowboys 20

Rivers McCown: Anyone else feel like Miami should have let Dallas score at the end of the game?

Mike Tanier: I think, when there are about two minutes left and the opponent is in obvious field goal range, you have to pull out some high-risk defensive calls. You look for the sack, the turnover, or a couple of throwaway passes, and you prepare for having to answer a touchdown.

Ben Muth: I agree with Mike. Run some crazy blitzes, and burn zones/men behind them. Hope for a sack or pick, and live with a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: My brother-in-law also suggested that Miami let Dallas score. I'll have to run some numbers on that sometime, perhaps when I'm not away on vacation. One thing I know is this: There's no reason to let Dallas score when they've got first-and-10 at the 29 with 2:00 left. But at that point, you have to hold them to a 40-something-yard field goal: one that can possibly be missed. You know they are going to run it up the middle, you can't let DeMarco Murray go 21 yards on four plays. Murray had more yards per carry in those four plays, when Miami knew the run was coming, than he did the rest of the game.

Announcers can blab about Matt Moore, but looking at this game it's clear that the big improvement in Miami between Weeks 1-8 and Weeks 9-12 is the defense, not the offense. DVOA agrees. I haven't run Week 12 yet, but since Week 9, the Dolphins' offensive DVOA has gone up 16 percentage points while their defensive DVOA has improved by 33 percentage points.

San Francisco 49ers 6 at Baltimore Ravens 16

Danny Tuccitto: NFLN pregame: "49ers at Ravens plot lines presented by The Muppets." Awesome.

Three minutes into the second quarter, Alex Smith takes a sack on third-and-long in which three of the 49ers offensive lineman blocked air. I'm wondering what the record for number of blown blocks on one sack is in our charting database.

Baltimore's pressure is making Smith revert to old habits. Receivers are running through empty zones, but he gets happy feet and doesn't pull the trigger. Right now he's selecting a 90 percent chance of being sacked over a 10 percent chance of throwing an interception.

Mike Tanier: Every time Smith makes the false start motion at the line of scrimage, I am eating another pound of stuffing.

Danny Tuccitto: I hope you have a lot of stuffing on standby. He does that every third or fourth play.

Mike Tanier: Chopping more celery now, Danny. (That's a euphemism for drinking.)

Watching Joe Flacco try to cut back on a keeper has always been a bit like watching a moving fan try to come to a stop on a steep hill.

Danny Tuccitto: On Smith's interception in the endzone at the end of the first half, Braylon Edwards proved himself a below-replacement-level cornerback.

Ben Muth: I love the 49ers going to the quick count out of the timeout on fourth-and-short at the end of the first half. I guarantee the Ravens staff told the defense to watch the offsides shift that the 49ers have run a couple of times this year. Of course, it didn't matter, because Smith (who's been rough all half) threw a pick on the next play.

Danny Tuccitto: That play was a perfect example of Smith reverting back to happy-feet-land. The play looked like it was designed for Delanie Walker to leak into the right flat, and for Smith to throw it to him on the three-step drop. The ball is snapped, Walker leaks out, and is wide open. However, the Ravens get some semblance of "overall pressure," and Smith, rather than pulling the trigger when he's supposed to, decides to scramble around for a couple of seconds before ultimately delivering the ball to Walker on the sideline. Essentially, the play worked, just five seconds later than it should have.

Quick question for the more X's-and-O's-savvy among us: The 49ers' I formation has Moran Norris (or Bruce Miller in previous games) only one step in front of Frank Gore. Is that typical?

Mike Tanier: I will have to take a longer look at the way they run the I-formation when I roll the tape.

Were Jim Harbaugh and Smith having headset issues? They spent a lot of time shouting back and forth from the sideline to the field in the first half.

On that fourth-and-3, Smith was looking downfield on his first read. Someone was running a corner route. I think Harbaugh was thinking home run on that play and wanted to take a gamble. Typically. in off-coverage, or "we aren't even lined up and the 12th guy is still running off the field" coverage, you know darn well to hit that quick flat in a short-yardage situation.

Rivers McCown: Boy, the 49ers are having a rough time dealing with the zone blitz tonight.

Danny Tuccitto: Understatement of the century: San Francisco's Adjusted Sack Rate is going to take a hit this week.

Once again, the happy feet with guys running free. On third-and-7 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Smith takes a four-second sack even though the replay shows multiple receivers are literally uncovered, especially Vernon Davis in the left flat.

Ben Muth: The 49ers offensive line hasn't helped him much, but Smith has looked awful in the pocket tonight. Completely overwhelmed.

Danny Tuccitto: Though I don't want to wave the white flag with three minutes left, I think one unhappy byproduct of this loss is that it puts on film the blueprint for rendering San Francisco's offense completely ineffective. For playoff reasons, I was kind of hoping they could go the entire regular season without that happening.

I also have to mention that, until Billy Cundiff's latest field goal to put the Ravens up 10 with seven minutes left, this game has been within a touchdown for 57 game minutes. Why Gore (or Kendall Hunter) has been entirely ignored in the offensive game plan, I have no idea. I don't think I've seen this many three-wide sets (with a flexed tight end too) from the 49ers all season. Harbuagh and Greg Roman have done a great job of helping the offensive line in pass protection this season, so it's a mystery to me why they called a five-man protection scheme for most of a game in which they never trailed by more than seven points until the very end. I have to say, in that vein, this offensive game plan reminded me a lot of the Mike Nolan era: "Oh my god, we're down three points! Iceberg ahead! Abandon ship!"

I just realized my commentary is approaching Tanier-esque favorite-team hatred.

Mike Tanier: Insidious, isn't it? In self-defense I point out that it has happened to me in a year when the Eagles painted a target on their backs and then decided to stand perfectly still in the firing range. You have a playoff team that had no expectations entering the season losing a tight game to another playoff team, Danny.

Aaron Schatz: Thank god the Patriots have a tendency to win with a target on their backs or else I would be doing the same thing.

This is the game I actually watched the most of, but I don't have much to say about it. My main thought is that it is embarrassing that the 49ers couldn't even block four Baltimore pass rushers using an eight-man max protect. Smith did look a little jittery in the pocket, but I thought the blocking was the main issue. Smith historically is better against the blitz than he is against a conventional four-man rush, but he wasn't even facing many blitzes last night. Conventional four-man rushes mostly -- sometimes Baltimore sent five. Can't wait to see what the time-in-pocket numbers are from J.J. Cooper on this one.

Sunday, November 27th

Cleveland Browns 20 at Cincinnati Bengals 23

Robert Weintraub: The Browns, who have not scored a touchdown on their opening drive all season, naturally go right down the field on Cincinnati, helped mightily by two completions to Jordan Norwood, one a bomb, the other the touchdown. Nate Clements fell down on both plays.

Vince Verhei: "Nate Clements fell down on both plays."

San Francisco fans nod their heads knowingly.

Danny Tuccitto: This San Francisco fan nods his head knowingly as well.

For Clements' next trick, he'll be fumbling the game-winning interception.

Robert Weintraub: The Bengals are dominating on the left side of the formation -- gaping chasms for Cedric Benson to run through. 7-7 after one.

Greg Little just blatantly shoved Clements to the ground in the middle of the field, as obvious an offensive pass interference call as you'll ever see. Naturally, there was no call. Fortunately, Little dropped the pass, so no controversy.

Man, Ahtyba Rubin is dominating the middle. Andy Dalton has had to roll away from pressure up the gut at least half a dozen times, while the only run success is coming on the flanks. Joe Haden is blanketing A.J. Green. Give the Browns credit for playing excellent defense today.

Steve Tasker makes a good point, one I've wondered about: The Browns have been faking reverses to Josh Cribbs, then they run one that gets one or two yards and fools no one. Why not actually run it the first time, then fake it and force the defense to honor it?

J.J. Cooper: Geno Atkins has been a stud all season. You see him more than I do Robert, but what I've seen, he's been very impressive.

Robert Weintraub: I'd say he's been Cincy's best defensive player this season, just ahead of Domata Peko.

Dalton lobs one up on third-and-long, and Green goes waaaaaaaaaay up and gets it, finally going down at the two. Rubin buried Dalton on the play, and Green made a tremendous play, as he has all year. That's why not having him out there against Baltimore and most of Pittsburgh games killed the Bengals: He changes games where others cannot.

Greg Little makes Jerome Simpson look like Fred Biletnikoff.

Houston Texans 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Vince Verhei: I see Arian Foster currently has one carry for -11 yards and a fumble, which was returned for a touchdown. Can anyone describe this play to me?

Rivers McCown: Foster ran a sweep to the right, and the fumble came courtesy of Andre Johnson inadvertently stripping the ball out. Yes, you read that right.

If I had to give Matt Leinart a nickname based on one quarter of play, it would be "floaties."

Mike Tanier: W.B. Yates is now at quarterback for the Texans.

Tom Gower: I really liked T.J. Yates as a college quarterback and as a prospect for the Texans. He actually ran some of the Texans' stuff at North Carolina. No surprise to me he's come in and played more decisively than Leinart early.

Mike Tanier: Yates is throwing the ball all over the place, and the Texans keep punting. Am I missing something? Maybe he has bad handoff technique?

Doug Farrar: The Jaguars replace Blaine Gabbert after he goes 13-of-29 and throws a pick. Not since David Carr have I seen a quarterback so flinchy when it comes to pressure that hasn’t even arrived yet, and Gabbert doesn’t have the excuse of sack-record trauma.

Rivers McCown: By the end of this game, I'm not sure I was even watching football anymore. Doug already mentioned Gabbert going out, but I think that the major storyline here is just what happens going forward with him. He wasn't accurate, he was skittish in the pocket even when it was mostly clean, and the Texans basically spent the last two quarters of the game daring him to throw the ball. He took six sacks before Luke McCown came on. He has shown virtually zero improvement. At what point do you admit that your first-round quarterback is a complete and utter bust? Do you sign someone in the offseason to give him more development time? Do you take your chances with (what looks like) a high pick on Matt Barkley or Landry Jones?

Mike Tanier: Well, you don't declare your first-round pick a bust after a shortened preseason when he had no minicamps and had to throw to a group of receivers most fans could never name. You have to admit, though, that throwing him to the wolves this season was a mistake, that he was not as prepared as some of us thought he might be, and that you gain little by running him out there when he appears to be going backward.

Tom Gower: I didn't think Gabbert should have played this year, but the Jaguars organizationally put themselves in a hole by intentionally cutting David Garrard right before the season started. After that Jets game, it's tough to justify keeping McCown in there. Gabbert, though, simply isn't ready to be an NFL quarterback. If I had a cynical mind, I'd speculate aloud on the theory that Jack Del Rio and/or GM Gene Smith played Gabbert to lower expectations and save their jobs, but fortunately I don't, so I won't.

Rivers McCown: Didn't they know that Garrard wasn't going to be playing this season with his back injury? Or am I now speculating cynically?

Buffalo Bills 24 at New York Jets 28

Mike Tanier: The Bills just ran a Ryan Fitzpatrick-C.J. Spiller option near the end zone. The NFL looks more and more like the NCAA circa 1984.

Mark Sanchez is in full tailspin mode.

Mike Kurtz: Buffalo is attacking Darrelle Revis somewhat aggressively on short routes, twice for third-down conversions and again for a touchdown. While they've been successful with it, the coverage has still been very good, and if Fitzpatrick starts thinking he's "solved" Revis and gets a bit sloppy, very bad things are going to happen for the Bills.

Brian Moorman just kicked the most beautiful punt I have ever seen, from around midfield to the 2-yard line, out of bounds. Sanchez, of course, throws an interception two plays later.

Vince Verhei: About two years ago I wrote a piece comparing Mark Sanchez to JaMarcus Russell. Jets fans were not happy, sending me e-mails insulting myself and my family and vowing to never read Football Outsiders again, because clearly we were all fools. Well, Sanchez just threw a pass from his own end zone, completely unpressured, and lobbed a duck into quadruple coverage. It was easily intercepted, and the home team roundly booed the incompetence of their passer. And yet I've yet to see one e-mail in my inbox acknowledging that I may have been on to something.

The Bills are using a surprising offensive strategy, picking on Darrelle Revis. Even more surprising: It's working. Stevie Johnson has been working Revis repeatedly, sometimes even with safety help. He hasn't made a lot of big plays, yardage-wise, but he has picked up short first downs, and just beat Revis for a touchdown to make it 14-7 Bills.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Bills hit what looked like an accidental onside kick. They almost recovered, too, which would have been the luckiest break of the day. Instead, Sanchez takes advantage of the field position by hitting Plaxico Burress for a 14-yard tying touchdown.

After Johnson's first-half touchdown, he did a strange dance and appeared to hurt himself. I didn't understand it at first. At halftime they pointed it out: He was making fun of Burress shooting himself in the thigh. Now that Chad Ochocinco is retired (he is retired, right?), Stevie Johnson is my favorite football player.

Robert Weintraub: A great moment in the NFL that, of course, gets flagged.

Mike Kurtz: The Jets are averaging like six yards per carry, yet keep putting the ball in Sanchez's hands, even on running downs. MASTERMINDERING.

Vince Verhei: Sanchez opens the second half with by far his best drive of the game, connecting with Shonn Greene for a big gain on a screen pass, and hitting Dustin Keller downfield twice, once for a touchdown. For all his struggles, Sanchez has three touchdowns on the day and the Jets are ahead.

Mike Kurtz: Antonio Cromartie actually had position on the jump-ball touchdown to Brad Smith, but didn't look up until it was too late. He got an arm up, but Smith knew it was underthrown and quasi-interfered/broke up the interception, grabbed it on the rebound, and extended for the score.

Don't let the touchdowns fool you, Sanchez has been awful. His receivers are just making good plays -- like the long Keller strike, where Keller had to jump and deflect it to himself. Sanchez currently has a sub-50 percent completion, and, by my count, three dropped interceptions. He does not look good at all.

Vince Verhei: Revis' bad day continues, but it won't show up in the stat sheet. Johnson beats him for a deep pass and catches the ball, but is ruled out of bounds. Then Ruvell Martin -- Ruvell Martin! -- beats him for what should have been a third-down conversion, but drops the ball. The Bills add a field goal to go ahead.

J.J. Cooper: This game has ended up being fascinating. Hard to decide which fanbase would be more depressed by a loss.

Doug Farrar: There is no patience whatsoever for the Jets’ offense from the locals, and this seems to be exacerbated by the news of Brian Schottenheimer’s contract extension.

J.J. Cooper: Johnson just dropped what could have been a game-winner against the Jets. Wide open, splitting what looked like a Cover-2, and he just dropped it. It's still only the second-worst drop of Johnson's career -- he had a touchdown in overtime against the Steelers last year that was an easier catch.

Mike Kurtz: Johnson also had a difficult-but-makeable catch in the end zone to win right before the end of regulation in that game, and couldn't seal the deal.

Vince Verhei: Well, Sanchez threw his fourth touchdown of the day to put the Jets ahead with a minute to go, and the Bills basically ran out of time trying to come back. Johnson had a chance to make a couple of plays, but dropped a wide-open pass inside the 20. Later he got open in the end zone, but Fitzpatrick threw the ball behind him.

The Jets have quite a Jekyll-and-Hyde offense. When they're bad, they're very bad, with tons of three-and-outs or ugly turnovers. But on the drives where they do get a first down or two, it seems inevitable they're going to put together a dozen plays and a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: I'll agree with the previous statements about Revis getting beat today. Seemed like a lot of it was on slants.

Two things about Sanchez. First, he throws a lot of balls behind his receivers. Second, he also seems to throw a lot of passes to guys who are well-covered. That latter one can't all be his fault. I mean, I know Santonio Holmes is good, so why can't he get more open against rookie Aaron Williams? One play I thought was particularly messed up was the Drayton Florence pick. Holmes is going over the middle, but instead of continuing his route, he just kind of stops and sits there. If he keeps running across, and Sanchez throws it two or three steps ahead of him, he makes a nice gain. Instead Holmes kind of sits down, Sanchez throws it to him instead of leading him, and Florence picks it off.

Oddly, despite this last complaint from me, the Jets receivers were able to get completely and totally wide open in the end zone. On a Burress touchdown, a Bills player just completely left his zone to cover someone else, and I have no idea what happened on the game-winning throw to Holmes.

Finally, I don't think that accidental onside kick was an accident. I think that was a surprise onside kick, at a terrible time. Why on earth would you run a surprise onside kick after you had to kickoff from the 20 because of a penalty? If you get the ball, you are 15 yards behind where you would be after recovering a surprise onside kick from the usual kickoff spot. If you don't get the ball, the other team is already in field-goal range.

Carolina Panthers 27 at Indianapolis Colts 19

Mike Tanier: The Colts are tied at halftime. The Panthers are making mistakes, committing dumb penalties and getting kicks blocked, and Cam Newton has run himself into some long sacks. The Colts could win despite Curtis Painter's best efforts.

Vince Verhei: Indianapolis figured out that they're playing football's worst run defense, with 14 runs and eight pass plays (including two sacks).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 at Tennessee Titans 23

Tom Gower: A "meh" first half between two very "meh" teams ends 10-10. The Titans got their touchdown on a kickoff return, when rookie Tommie Campbell (who's been a playmaker on special teams) took a handoff from Marc Mariani on a reverse and had clear sailing. The Bucs got theirs after a Javon Ringer fumble in the two-minute drill was returned inside the Titans 30. Neither team has moved the ball particularly effectively on anything like a consistent basis.

A comedy of errors started the second half, as Chris Johnson fumbles, then Mike Williams fumbles, then Chris Johnson fumbles the next play (but the Titans recover and lose yardage on a personal foul call), and finally Aqib Talib undercuts a Matt Hasselbeck pass to Nate Washington and returns it for a score. That's three actual turnovers in five plays, and we're not yet four minutes into the second half.

I wrote a post this week saying I was done with Johnson. Thus far, he has 21 carries for 164 yards. Sure, a lot of that is the Bucs front seven, particularly the linebackers, but he's finally running with vision and making cuts. The fourth gear that he had in 2009 doesn't seem to be there, and I'm not expecting to see it again, but this afternoon is a lot more like what I expected to see this year.

Well, that was an ... interesting ending. Aided by some of Johnson's better runs, the Titans drive down and manage to punch it in from the 2 on fourth-and-goal for a 20-17 lead. Josh Freeman throws an interception into coverage, and the Titans go up 23-17. The Bucs drive down the field in the two-minute drill, but end up with a nine-and-half yard gain on third-and-10, walk around confused because the initial spot makes it seem like they might have converted, and then run a terrible quarterback sneak on fourth down. This was the first Titans win all year where they allowed more than 14 points.

Danny Tuccitto: Time running down with Tampa Bay having no timeouts, and needing a touchdown to win. Freeman completes two 23-yard passes down to the Titans 34. Clocks it on first down, and throws a second-down incompletion. On third down, Freeman completes to Kregg Lumpkin in the middle of the field for what looks to be a first down given the line judge's initial spot. The ball is (somewhat mysteriously) spotted short of the line to gain, but there's no measurement, and no booth review to verify the spot. Tampa Bay is forced to run a "No timeouts, no measurement, what the hell do we do here?" quarterback sneak on "fourth"-and-"inches," but Freeman fails to convert after fumbling the snap. Game over.

Can someone please explain to me how the referees make that measurement all day long, but, on a potential first-down/fourth-down situation with less than a minute left in a one-possession game, there's no measurement? Also, how can such a crucial spot like that not get reviewed? This doesn't excuse Freeman's fumble, or suggest that the game outcome was due to the non-measurement (or non-review), but it nevertheless really seems like this there was a sin of omission here from the officials. Maybe they didn't want to grant an unfair advantage to the timeout-less Buccaneers via a clock stoppage?

And yes, that indeed was the "Danny criticizes the officials even though he says he really doesn't like criticizing officials" audible of the week.

Tom Gower: On the Bucs final series, I thought the third down completion to Lumpkin was clearly a half-yard or so short, and the initial spot by the linesman was deceptively close. The Bucs should've realized more quickly that it was fourth down and taken their time to get something right. They were under time pressure, but still had enough they could've taken 10 seconds or so to make sure they were on the same page and get it right. I didn't think it was really close enough to require a measurement.

Just for grins, here's Raheem Morris from today's post-game presser on the first-down spike: "We spike the ball after every first down you get. You pick up a first down you have to go spike it, you have no timeouts left. Every first down after that point got to be a spiked ball."

I think that kind of speaks for itself.

Mike Kurtz: If there is one strategy point I could abolish league-wide, it would be the spike.

Arizona Cardinals 23 at St. Louis Rams 20

Vince Verhei: Patrick Peterson just returned another punt for a touchdown, his fourth this year, which ties the single-season record. He is now tied for 18th on the career punt-return touchdown list. He has played 11 games.

Aaron Schatz: Hello from my last day in paradise. Somehow, the game on the main television at the bar in Turks and Caicos was St. Louis-Arizona. A Rams fan must have gotten to the bar first, I guess. (So, take that, people who get upset because Audibles doesn't cover every game!)

Here's a phrase you don't hear much: The Arizona Cardinals were blowing the other team off the line of scrimmage. Of course, the other team was St. Louis, and the Rams have now given up the two biggest single-game rushing totals of the season. But man, Beanie Wells was running through holes the size of elephants.

The FOX sideline reporter for this game seemed particularly vapid. At one point she noted that "Josh McDaniels says Steven Jackson is the best back on any team he's ever coached." No duh. Josh McDaniels teams haven't exactly been known for their legendary running backs. Jackson's biggest competition is who, Knowshon Moreno? Kevin Faulk?

Minnesota Vikings 14 at Atlanta Falcons 24

Robert Weintraub: Percy Harvin runs a pattern in about as straight a line as possible to the end zone, and Christian Ponder hits him as he stops and turns. 14 unanswered points cut the Atlanta lead to three.

Vince Verhei: Harvin's route wasn't quite a straight line. It was a very subtle, gentle arc. Really, he just ran real fast into the end zone, and Atlanta's safety (looked like a cover-2) was slow to react.

Mike Tanier: Remember all those big leads the Vikings blew early in the year? Today may represent a course correction.

Vince Verhei: If the Falcons end up making the playoffs, remember this play: Down 10 points in the fourth quarter, Harvin returns a kickoff for the Vikings all the way inside the Atlanta 5. Chris Owens runs him down from behind, saving a touchdown. The Vikings proceed to go four-and-out, putting no points on the board. It's still a two-possession game. If not for Owens' tackle, the margin would be just three.

New England Patriots 38 at Philadelphia Eagles 20

Mike Tanier: Woot! Riley Cooper!

I have some family things to take care of for a while. Someone take my place by saying something pessimistic about the Eagles every few minutes. Thanks!

Facemask penatlies are legal on a quarterback when Rob Ninkovich does it to Vince Young! Who knew?

Tom Gower: It's been legal to face mask Vince Young for most of his NFL career. See, Titans fans, it's not just a Tennessee thing.

Rivers McCown: Such is the mantle one carries when he just wins games. It must always be through tough adversity.

Mike Tanier: My first choice to cover Deion Branch on third-and-long when I employ Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel would definitely be Brandon Hughes.

Danny Tuccitto: Six minutes ago, this game was 10-0 Eagles. Now, it's 21-10 Patriots thanks to a 41-yard touchdown from Tom Brady to Wes Welker. Nate Allen, playing on the weakside, bit hard on that most enticing of forbidden fruits: a play-action fake 20 yards upfield and clear on the other side of the formation.

Mike Tanier: Yes, that was brilliant by Allen. It helped that Joselio Hanson, lined up on Welker, blitzed. I am a big fan of defenses that leave Wes Welker covered by a safety 20 yards downfield.

Danny Tuccitto: Watching this Eagles game, it's striking how most of their issues seem to be of the mental-focus variety. Lots of players drop passes, but the ones the Eagles are dropping crush the soul. Lots of players bite on play-action fakes, but Allen's was a clear instance of "eyes before brain." Lots of teams are unable to hold 10-point leads, but the speed and sonambulation with which Philadelphia blew theirs was shocking. It's often debated whether or not teams and players can't just "flick a switch." It sure seems that, when the Eagles lose, their switch stays firmly in the off position.

And just as I type that, Dion Lewis muffs a kickoff after New England goes up 24-13. On second down, Cooper drops a pass. On third down, a false start backs them up, and then Young throws to no one to force a punt.

Later tonight, I'll be going to see Pedro Almodóvar's new film, The Skin I Live In. From the reviews I've read about the movie, this Eagles game seems to be offering up a fittingly gruesome pregame show.

Dan Dierdorf: "If ever a team needed a three-and-out right now, it's the Eagles."

Eagles: "How about an eight-and-out that ends with us down 31-13 after a Welker touchdown?"

Mike Tanier: Where is Aaron hiding during this Patriots beatdown?

Danny Tuccitto: Mike, I fear that, if you were in the Turks and Caicos right now like Aaron, you'd be talking to a volleyball on some deserted island nearby.

Mike Tanier: Eagles fandom doesn't take vacations. Though, really, it should. Shouldn't it?

Vince Verhei: Branch converts a third down deep in New England territory when Allen allows a completion, then misses a tackle. The Eagles really do use some terrible defensive schemes.

Danny Tuccitto: On the surface, going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line when down 18 points near the end of the third quarter is a no-brainer. However, a non-trivial part of the decision process is that, even if you don't convert, you at least give yourself a field-position advantage for your next drive; at least in theory. The Eagles prove that theory and practice often diverge, allowing the Patriots to gain 30 yards on the ensuing drive, with a 55-yard punt by fortune-telling machine Zoltan Mesko pinning Philadelphia inside their own 15.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles are now committing penalties on punts while down 31-13. That crowd must be fun. I have been in the crowd during Patriots beatdowns, and I tend to be part of the problem, not the solution.

Aaron Schatz Mike, I was enjoying the Patriots beatdown, although my attention was somewhat split because most of the rest of the bar consisted of Chicago Bears fans plus a San Diego fan and a Denver fan who were stuck rooting for Chicago against Oakland, because, for some reason, the San Diego-Denver game was blocked on the Sunday Ticket feed.

It's possible Allen was stuck on Welker in part because for some of this game the Eagles had Nnamdi Asomugha covering Rob Gronkowski. Given his importance in the offense, that's not too ridiculous an assignment.

I thought Belichick's challenge of a kick return near the end of the first half was really strange. The return went back to the 27. Belichick challenged that the runner was actually down at the 19. Eight measly yards. Yes, Belichick was clearly right, and it was going to be overturned, but it seems like a really weird place to use a challenge. What happens if you are wrong on your second challenge and then you need another challenge later in the game, and you blew that challenge gaining eight yards on a kick return with seven minutes left in the first half?

My favorite moment of this game was Julian Edelman coming on a blitz and completely leveling Young after the pass. Julian Edelman, ladies and gentlemen.

Finally, let the record state that Danny Tuccitto was not afraid to admit that he's going out to see a Spanish art flick instead of staying home and enjoying The Tyler Palko Experience.(TM)

Chicago Bears 20 at Oakland Raiders 25

Mike Kurtz: Caleb Hanie threw an interception in the middle of the first quarter, but not all interceptions are created equal. Yes, it was his fault, undoubtedly. Hanie rolled out to the sideline to avoid pressure and tried to throw about 15 yards downfield to Matt Forte, who had drifted out. Hanie was hit, and either because of that or because he just wristed it, the throw was short and easily intercepted. That was bad.

However, Forte was behind three Raiders on that play, and had tons of green in front of him if the ball got there. It wasn't a bad decision, just a poor throw.

Hanie's second interception was both a terrible throw and a poor decision, of course.

Today is a banner day for punting. Shane Lechler just kicked off a beauty that landed at the five and bounced nearly sideways to go out at the 3-yard line. Just gorgeous.

A huge interception returned to the 6, followed by a horsecollar penalty to get them to the 3 seemed to set the Raiders up for a touchdown before halftime. However, a run and a short pass that took a long time left the Raiders with third-and-goal at the 1-yard line with five seconds left. Hue Jackson makes it looks like they're going to go for it (they had a timeout left, to boot), when the Bears call time out. The Raiders offense retakes the field, but is called back at the last minute by Jackson, and the Raiders instead kick a field goal from the 1 with 5 seconds left. The kick itself only takes 3 seconds. Being too scared of using five seconds on a one-yard play with the home clock operator is the definition of playing to not lose.

Punting update: Lechler just kicked it from his own 20 and it sailed over Devin Hester's head into the Bears end zone. 80-yard punt.

Robert Weintraub: Late in the game Lechler faced Hester in a "shame we won't be going to Canton" special teams showdown. Bears down five, no timeouts, and their only real chance is a big return. Instead, Lechler puts one out of bounds inside the five. Ballgame.

Aaron Schatz: What on earth is T.J. Houshmandzadeh doing returning punts? The Raiders don't have anyone younger and faster?

Hanie was clearly jittery, especially early. Even when he had reasonable blocking, he was very quick to leave the pocket. I think Martz called too many passes for him, especially early. What was really egregious were the funky plays. The Bears had it in the red zone near the end of the first half, and Martz calls for the "fake screen right, throw back left" play. Hanie's receiver has two Raiders sitting on top of him, but Hanie throws it anyway, and Kamerion Wimbley almost takes it back for a pick-six. (Lance Louis, seriously, Lance Louis, ran downfield and managed to take down Wimbley short of the goal line.) Now, this is Hanie's fault because he never should have thrown that pass. But it is also Martz's fault because he never should have called that pass. What happened to making life easier for inexperienced backups?

Robert Weintraub: This game ended on some incredibly inane spike shenanigans as well. Hanie completed a pass with no timeouts and the clock ticking out the final seconds. Instead of just spiking and going for one last Hail Mary, Hanie faked a pass to a wideout for some reason, then spiked the ball. This, of course, changes the play from a spike to intentional grounding. With the ten second runoff, the game was over. It doesn't really require pointing out that the receiver Hanie faked the throw to was standing at the line of scrimmage, does it? I guess Hanie was a big Dan Marino fan growing up and just wanted a fake spike sometime in his career -- except he got it all backwards under the pressure of his big day in the black hole.

Denver Broncos 16 at San Diego Chargers 13

Ben Muth: Scott Hanson just cut to the Broncos game on NFL Redzone:

"Broncos running a flea flicker, he's a got a guy open. Can he hit him? No. Overthrows him a bit."

There have been nine completed passes in the first half. That's for both teams, combined, mind you.

Tom Gower: The Broncos fumble in Charger territory late in the first half. There are four San Diego players around the loose ball. Naturally, the Broncos recover and cut the deficit to 10-7 when Tim Tebow hits Eric Decker. Maybe it's just me, but should a skinny post really work against a single high safety? The Chargers have deficiencies that go well beyond Norv Turner, and they've now frustrated me to the point that unless they have a ridiculous turnaround this year, I'm ready to blow up the team and organization.

The Broncos get the ball with 74 yards to go, 5:30 to play, down three. Prepare for the inevitable.

Mike Tanier: Maybe that is Tebow's secret. I mean, if all of us believe it is coming, doesn't that have some sort of effect? (Starting to lose mind. Or achieve higher consciousness.)

Danny Tuccitto: With the aforementioned beatdown in Philly, CBS has switched the Miami regional game to Broncos-Chargers in mid-inevitable.

Ben Muth: Why are they showing Nick Novak taking a piss on the sideline? That was weird.

Danny Tuccitto: Dear John Fox,

I've learned (the hard way) that you can't take those three timeouts into overtime.

Sincerely,

Norvell Turner

Mike Kurtz: I propose the San Diego chapter in FOA 2012 just be a long string of "NORVNORVNORVNORVNORVNORVNORVNORVNORV"

Vince Verhei: How about a portrait of Norv in ASCII art?

Rivers McCown: Only if he's facepalming.

Mike Kurtz: San Diego is known for their running game, so of course Norv wasn't playing for a long field goal to end overtime.

And then there's a block ... but there was icing. Icing so dumb.

Vince Verhei: Here's the details on Novak's sideline potty break, which is about as outside as Football Outsiders has ever been.

Mike Kurtz: A career-long field goal is, of course, missed. Denver takes over near midfield. You play to win the game.

A shame Willis McGahee gets the Broncos to comfortable field goal range. Both teams deserve to lose this game, and a tie is the closest I can get to that.

Mike Tanier: I was actually ready to compliment Norv for balancing runs with passes on that last drive. Then he ran three straight times to settle for that 53-yard field goal. I was shouting "punt!" because I honestly felt they had a better chance pinning the Broncos and seeing if they could drive 50 yards. Instead, the Broncos get the ball in position to pick up two first downs and win the game. Man, you cannot make this stuff up.

Robert Weintraub: Von Miller saved them this game too -- on third down he knifed in to drop Mike Tolbert for a four-yard loss. Miller just went right through Antonio Gates on the play. Novak's field goal missed just wide, and likely would have been good from four yards closer. Easy to blame Norv here, but give Miller credit for being a straight baller*.

*-official FO terminology

Tom Gower: The Chargers need a player who can win one-on-one when rushing the passer. Shaun Phillips used to be that guy, but he's not now. I've said this before, but the Chargers need a receiver who can separate in short areas. I think they miss Legedu Naanee more than most people realize. Right now, Antonio Gates and the backs are the only guys who have any chance at getting real separation. Vincent Jackson has not felt like a factor very often to me this year. This team should be scoring a lot more than 13 points against the Broncos defense, but they're not. Philip Rivers is not overcoming these issues, either, but they're legitimate issues and you probably won't hear about them them in the aftermath of this afternoon's ridiculousness.

Washington Redskins 23 at Seattle Seahawks 17

Vince Verhei: To counter the "great day for punters" theme, Jon Ryan, punting from roughly midfield, fails to even reach the 20-yard line.

A quick summary of Washington's first two drives: Play-action, bootleg, crossing pattern (usually to Fred Davis), first down, repeat. It got them a touchdown on their first drive and probably would have produced a field goal on the second drive, but a chop block knocked them back 15 yards.

Tom Gower: The Redskins appeared to go ahead on a Rex Grossman pass to Jabar Gaffney, but the refs ruled (correctly) that Gaffney stepped out of bounds before catching the ball. The ensuing field-goal attempt was blocked.

Seattle got their touchdown on a Marshawn Lynch screen pass after a Brandon Browner interception. And that's really all that happened in the first half. Not counting Washington taking knees at the end, each team had just four drives in the first two quarters.

Vince Verhei: I guess Jon Ryan was just late getting the memo about great punting -- he just unleashed a 60-plus-yarder that had Santana Moss making a Willie Mays over the shoulder catch. A penalty on the return pins Washington inside the 10.

The Seahawks get a field goal to go up 10-7 following a ticky-tack pass interference call on Josh Wilson.

The Redskins have gone away from the bootleg attack. I don't know why. Seattle never stopped it.

Then, the Seahawks put together their best drive of the game, going 80-some yards before Tarvaris Jackson hits Golden Tate for a touchdown pass. The big play on the drive was a 24-yard catch-and-run by Doug Baldwin when a Redskins defensive back made a big hit, but failed to wrap up. For the season, Baldwin leads the Seahawks in receiving yards without starting a game. Should I just start writing his entry in the top prospects list now? It's 17-7 Seattle.

The big hit giveth, and the big hit taketh away: Kam Chancellor drives a shoulder into Roy Helu instead of wrapping up. Helu bounces off, keeps his balance, and rambles into the end zone. That drive took maybe two minutes.

Doug Farrar: He also jumped over cornerback Roy Lewis on the way. I really liked Helu coming out of Nebraska; he's a nice hybrid back with receiving ability and more power than you'd expect.

Mike Tanier: Helu is a keeper. I see that Grossman only has eight incomplete passes, yet the Redskins only have 14 points. What is up with that? Lots of screens and dump offs?

Vince Verhei: He's got 23 completions, but only 13 first downs. They also had 32 plays on three first-half drives, but those three drives were one touchdown, one blocked field goal, and one punt from the 39.

Mike Tanier: Ah, the vaunted Redskins special teams.

Vince Verhei: Grossman hits Anthony Armstrong for a 50-yard touchdown. Browner interfered on the play, but not enough, obviously. The Seahawks go from up 17-7 to down 20-17 in less than seven minutes of game time.

However, it stays at 20-17, not 21-17, because Red Bryant blocks the ensuing extra point. He also blocked the field goal earlier, and now has four blocked kicks on the season.

DeAngelo Hall cuts in front of Tate to intercept a ball and end the game. Jim Mora, on commentary, is talking about how we shouldn't judge Jackson too harshly because he's playing with a torn pectoral muscle. And I agree. But we should be outraged at Charlie Whitehurst, and the administration that traded for him, because he is an inferior option to Jackson with a torn pec.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13 at Kansas City Chiefs 9

Mike Tanier: This game is some kind of hallucination. The Steelers are always on the 30-yard line but only have ten points. Ben Roethlisberger scrambles in slow motion and completes screen passes. They keep showing Ricky Stanzi on the sideline. Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin's beards are visibly growing. I think I am freaking out a little.

Tom Gower: Yup. Tyler Palko has a couple atrocious turnovers. The Chiefs have barely moved the ball. Roethlisberger keeps throwing dumpoffs. Max Starks looks like Max Starks, and not like the savior of the Steelers' offensive line. We spent some time in flagball, though flagball is normally a result of the actions of one or both of the teams involved.

Somehow, it's fitting that the Grey Cup is on at the same time. (BC is about to beat Winnipeg, for those of you who care.)

Vince Verhei: I've been hating Bob Costas for years. I've never hated him more than I do after this halftime diatribe. Stevie Johnson's celebration was funny, and it's the rule that's stupid, not Johnson's behavior. So here's Costas railing against self-indulgent buffoonery, when the irony is that it's exactly the term I'd use to describe Costas himself. Go away, Bob. You're old and nobody cares about you.

Robert Weintraub: Further to Vince, it's hardly a noteworthy stand by Costas to rail on a dumb moment by an excited player that wound up costing Buffalo the game only through some vagaries and circumstances that could hardly be forecast at the time. I mean, if Johnson catches that pass at the end and wins the game for the Bills, Costas is talking about the misfortune of Matt Leinart or something? I'd like to think Howard Cosell would spend his precious couple of minutes of halftime commentary blasting the league for legislating the joy out of the game, not come down like Roger Goodell's water carrier on the kid who -- heavens to Betsy!! -- mocked somebody Costas himself tut-tutted for his actions.

Mike Kurtz: For what it's worth, I thought Costas's rant was kind of dumb, but Costas himself is hardly washed up. He also does have a point that it doesn't matter how stupid the rule is, players should lobby their owners to get the rule changed, not ignore its existence. It's the self-aggrandizing in the face of complete and certain sanction that is idiotic, especially in such a competitive league. While I don't really have a side on the issue, the idea that touchdown celebrations are such an integral part of the game and anyone who limits them or supports the limitation is somehow working against football is completely absurd, especially since the entire issue is such a microscopically small part of the game.

Costas definitely could have found a better subject for his halftime segment, though.

Mike Tanier: Yes, there is nothing sadder than going into Get Off My Lawn autopilot about an end zone dance.

Rivers McCown: Boy, the Tyler Palko experience must be coming up short if we're beating sitting pinata Bob Costas -- though I do agree with Vince that he's pretty much washed up at this point. I just don't see why we need so many people running the Sunday night show. If I wanted a bland old-school opinion on something mildly controversial, I have many options.

(For the record: I'm not watching. I've seen enough Tyler Palko throws for the day between Blaine Gabbert, Luke McCown, Leinart, and T.J. Yates.)

Robert Weintraub: Probably best that the one and only Chad Ochocinco has the final word on Costas, from his Twitter feed:

"Bob Costas monologue sounded like a sermon at a funeral."

Tom Gower: I cannot imagine any possible justification for Mike Tomlin's decision to take a timeout after hut-hutting before deciding to punt on fourth-and-4 from the Chiefs' 39. None whatsoever. If you're not going to go for it, take the damn five-yard penalty.

Mike Kurtz: What makes it even more insane is that with six seconds left, KC's defense was basically just standing around, clearly not believing that there is a play coming. That's when you run a play! That's the point, isn't it?

Vince Verhei: And then Kansas City runs a fake punt with the punter going in motion. Doesn't that broadcast to the defense that you're running a fake? Maybe they thought the Steelers would stare at the punter in confusion?

Mike Kurtz: I think Dick LeBeau is going to have a long, hard think about this defense after this year. It is still designed to run around Troy Polamalu as an engine, but Polamalu is too fragile at this point, and he's sadly not the player he was (only one of the best of the league as opposed to the best of all-time). Absent Polamalu, the defense just isn't special, despite the talented linebackers. I think we're due for some schematic changes in 2012 to adjust to these realities.

Tomlin seems to think he can run the clock out with seven minutes left with no actual running game. I wish this surprised me.

That final play is a good demonstration that this defense can work without Polamalu, when LeBeau thinks it through. Really ugly win, although Kansas City's defense was lights-out for stretches of the game. Way too many drops by Pittsburgh, and Mike Wallace in particular had issues holding on to the ball. The Steelers defense should be able to put up more than 13 points on Kansas City, regardless of how their defense is playing. Not a great game.

J.J. Cooper: Even with Polamalu, this defense isn't that special. The absence of LaMarr Woodley in recent weeks has sapped the pass rush, but this is a team that has to win by outscoring opponents, not just shutting them down defensively. The Steelers gambled tonight that a Palko-led team couldn't beat them, so they played extremely conservatively on offense. I guess it worked out, but it sure seemed closer than it should have been.

Mike Kurtz: That's rather my point, J.J. -- the defense is built around Polamalu playing at an all-time level, and he's not providing that, so when he's in it's flat, and when he's out there's a hole in their scheme. I don't think there's gloom and doom in the future, since it's still a defense filled to the gills with talent, but they're operating under one huge faulty presumption and paying for it.

J.J. Cooper: Yeah, we're in agreement. If there is good news for the Steelers' defense, the one bright spot is that Pittsburgh's cornerbacks are probably better this year than they have been at any point during this current team's seven-year run. They still aren't great, but LeBeau does have significantly more options as far as what kind of coverages he wants to play. Last year, he didn't really have any choice but to play soft zones.

When you consider that Palko gave the Steelers four turnovers, the Steelers 13 points look even worse.

Mike Tanier: It is hard to gauge anything against an offense like this. This game should have been about 24-9 except for some boneheaded plays, like the fumble in the end zone.

Comments

205 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2011, 5:57pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

My favorite moment of this game was Julian Edelman coming on a blitz and completely leveling Young after the pass. Julian Edelman, ladies and gentlemen.

That was definitely cool, but I though even better was Edelman making a TD-saving tackle on a Young second-down scramble near the goalline, especially because NE then stopped the Eagles on 3rd and 4th downs. So he really did save NE seven points.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I thought that was his best play as well, although the QB hit was more fun to watch. However, it's a sad state of affairs when Edelman is your best tackling DB.

The defensive performance by the Pats in this game looked about as good as I've come to expect this year: 20 points (7 in garbage time), but give up 466 yards, including 393 yards passing.

Forget about "bend but don't break", this defense is "bleed as slowly as possible and hope you make it to the hospital on time". If the ambulance driver (Brady) makes a couple of mistakes, the Pats are screwed.

I'm curious to see what happens to their DVOA after this game.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

35 minutes of that game were garbage time.

The Eagles had 11 drives.

They punted 5 times.
They turned the ball over once.
They turned the ball over on downs once.
They scored 2 TDs, and two FGs on the remaining 4 drives.
They converted on 3rd down 30% of the time.

Two of those 4 scores came in the first 10 minutes of the game, which is bad, but past the first quarter, the defense shut down Philly.

When are people going to realize that total yards mean absolutely nothing? especially in such a lopsided game.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Well, if your comment was aimed at me specifically: that's why I said I'm curious about DVOA. Yards aren't the end-all, but they're not nothing, either, they just require context.

The problem with the Pats defense is they bleed yards all the time, including when yards are important, like in the final drive against the Giants. I'd already conceded that the Pats would have to win the game in OT, but they couldn't even get to OT. Forget about preventing a decent offense from getting a tying FG late in the game, they can't even prevent them from scoring a TD.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Eagles first drive of the second half consisted of 10 plays to gain 78 yards, to go from their own 20 to the Patriots' 2.

And then they gave up the ball on downs.

They were down 31-13 at the time, and it took 5 minutes off the clock that started with 11:27 left in the 3rd quarter. So when they were down by 3 scores, they used nearly 20% of the remaining clock time to get nothing.

I would call that a success for the defense.

I'm looking forward to another week of hearing how the Pats give up the most yards in the NFL. But at least this week some people were noticing that the Pats were in the top 10 for least points given up.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Patriot's defense doesn't give up a lot of points because of how good the offense is. They should face fewer drives because the offense holds longer and they have excellent field position. Look at the drive stats, the defense is 6th in starting field position, and 15th in points per drive.

Any way you slice it up, it's not a good defense.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

There is some truth to this, but not as much as your post indicates. During the recent 6 game stretch that the defense clearly improved (Dallas, Pitt, NYG, NYJ, KC, Philly) only once did the Patriots enter halftime with greater than a 7 point lead. Only twice did NE's offense or special teams put the game away early in the third quarter. Hell, the offense was a downright liability (3x) more often that it was a cure all.

The simple truth is, the defese is genuinely improving and is better at stopping points than people realize.

130 Pats defense is terrible.

The defense is improving but still sucks. The gave up ~500 yards to a team that
a) was missing their starting QB,
b) The backup had started one game in 13 months and is wildly inaccurate,
c) was missing their best WR,
d) Their other starting WR decided to drop/not try for at least 4 throws,
e) they decided to only run the leading NFL RB 9 times.

NWE's defense is terrible. Beating a 4-7 team that's dropped 8 of 9 at home doesn't make it any better. Add in the 2 DeSean TD drops and a conversion on 4th and 1 at the 2 [instead of a terrible passing playcall to the corner, wtf] and PHL likely wins that game.

We won't mention the obvious facemask on VY that ended an Eagle drive, or the DPI no-call INT that resulted in even more points for NWE when the game was still up for grabs.

132 Re: Pats defense is terrible.

Should I rattle off all the players NE was missing yesterday?

I'm aware of how bad Young is, but it is a simple fact that Philly had one drive of consequence after the opening two drives. Basically, the Eagles got 140 yards on their first two possessions and another 150 on two second half possessions that occured after NE had already sealed the deal.

I'll grant you the facemask should have been called (though it would have been offset by a Philly penalty), but the interception wasn't remotely DPI. The Eagle receiver falling down had nothing at all to do with the contact made.

BTW, NE didn't score after the interception, so it didn't result in any points.

Lost of yardage, decent points isn't an anamoly, BB's defenses have been that way for the past 17 years, ranking higher in points allowed than yards without exception. And, as I wrote before, not as much of that has to do with the offense as opposing fans thing.

They aren't the 10th best defense, but they aren't nearly the 32nd either. Somewhere around 17th seems fair, which is pretty much where FO has them.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

My takeaway from yesterday was that Norv Turner stamped himself as the worst in game tactician of our generation. No one plays for the 53 yard FG like Norv. He also is at the Herm Edwards level in terms of clock management. Amazing he has coached 200 NFL games.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I still fail to understand why Norv is held in such high regard...isnt he the longest tenured head coach with a losing record or something? Why would he still be keeping a job as a head coach? Can anyone explain this to me please?

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

This.

He took over a well-disciplined team from Marty Schottenheimer. Since Marty was such a hard ass, at the start the players loved Norv's relative lack of discipline. But over the years, the lack of discipline has eroded the quality of the team. So now we're left with a team with no discipline whatsoever that has been passed by the Raiders and is now in the process of being passed by the Broncos. If the Chiefs had a good QB, they would probably pass the Chargers, too.

We've seen this kind of arc before. The non-disciplinarian who takes over from the disciplinarian often has an initial burst of success, but over the long run, if he lets the players do whatever they want to, there is an eventual decay.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Like I noted last week, there were people, like Schlereth, who get paid non-trivial amounts of money to yammer about the NFL, who claimed that the Cowboys record the first year Wade Phillips was there showed he did a better job than Parcells. Ya' can't make up that level of stupidity.

When A.J. Smith fired Schottenheimer over a dispute as to who would be the next defensive coordinator, and then named Ted Cottrell as defensive coordinator, even before Norv got hired, that was all the proof that was needed to establish that Smith had allowed his ego to greatly harm his own job performance.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Yes. The two absolutely hated each other. At the time, Schottenheimer only had 2 years left on his contract. Going into the next season, he would've been a lame-duck coach with one year left and everyone knew Smith wasn't going to extend.

If Schottenheimer didn't quit, they would've made something up to fire him.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Like firing him for nepotism? Except that the Spanos kids are both working in Scouting and Marketing? And that Schottenheimer's son was the QB coach for a few years? After his son leaves and he wants to bring in his brother as secondary coach, it's suddenly a big issue? Yeah, stay classy San Diego.

Really need to stop being bitter, where's SJT when you need him?

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The thing that aggravates me most in the NFL: bad clock management.

The thing that has improved the least in the NFL over the past few years: clock management.

How hard is it to have one of your numerous assistants keep a tab on when you should be calling TOs, when you should be spiking the ball, and when you should be running a no-huddle?

And, for that matter, having a quick go-to play to run after a big play? NOTHING annoys me more than seeing an offense hit a big play, then the QB using a TO because they had to huddle 30 yards down the field and they couldn't get a play in on time. Good coaches don't allow that to happen. The defense has to run down the field too, and they don't have time to call a different coverage and/or substitute. Offenses are turning a plus-EV situation and burning a TO in the process of throwing away that opportunity. It's so damn inefficient.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think part of the problem with having a quick go-to play is all the different personnel packages teams use in the modern NFL. There's also game situation to consider, in that a go-to play may be too high (or low) risk to want run in some situations. Asking a QB to consider all of these variables might be a bit much.

Something that might help would be using plays with shorter names. It seems like every team has a different play calling method, with some teams using short names that require a lot of memorization by all of the players, while other teams use more descriptive and verbose names that require less memorization, but take longer to call in the huddle. It might be a good idea for all teams to have a few short name calls for these situations, but the coach would still have to use them in the right situations.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: Clock Management. Excellent clock and game management is one of those things that I appreciate more and more from the Patriots. In a sea of Herm Edwards-inspired game managers and second (and third)-string quarterbacks, it's nice watch that quality every week. For at least the second or third time this year, the Pats ran the two minute drill and scored (albeit a FG) before half-time and didn't need to use any timeouts. It's almost as if there are days of the week in which those kind of things are practiced! As compared to, let's say, an Andy Reid goaline situation.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Vince, youre better than to bring up an article you wrote two years ago that still has very little merit. While at times mediocre, Sanchez can never be compared to the drug abusing train wreck that is Jamarcus Russell.

Once again though, Sanchez got bailed out by his receivers when it mattered most. He threw a terrible ball to Burress on 3rd and 11 on the game winning drive that Burress had to leap a foot off the ground and have full extension to catch one handed. Maybe only 2, 3 other receivers wouldve had it.

And on another note, i believe the old-school addage that if you do the following 3 things right you are going to make the playoffs: Run the ball, stop the run, and have a competent quarterback. That's why I think the Bengals will be the 3rd wild card team over Denver and the Jets. Watching the Bengals game yesterday (on at bar next to jets), Dalton is exceedingly, for the lack of a better word, competent

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The point then, as now, is not that Sanchez = Jamarcus. It's that Sanchez is a bad QB whose deficiencies over his career have been covered up by an excellent defense and a pretty good level of offensive talent.

I maintain that given a decent QB (and a decent OC), the Jets would have been the best team in the NFL over the past few years.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

So the point of a column the lede of which is that the player most similar to Mark Sanchez is Jamarcus Russell is not "Sanchez = Jamarcus"? Give me a break. Instead of just making the perfectly legitimate point that Sanchez was not a good QB, Vince went for maximum "sizzle" by using a stupid hook which he had to shoehorn in the first place by comparing Russell's second year to Sanchez's rookie year. It was a dumb lede. That's no excuse for abusive emails and personal attacks on Vince and his family, but let's not sugar coat it.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I can't speak for what Vince's point was for the comparison of Sanchez's year with Jamarcus'. But my reaction to the piece was "wow, Sanchez was really bad last year." Not "oh, so he's going to become the next Jamarcus". I read it as:

1. Sanchez is regarded as being a young QB on the rise, largely because he "lead" his team to the AFC title game in his rookie year.

2. But look, he did no better than JaMarcus did, while having a ton more talent around him. (Yes, the comparison of JaMarcus' second year to Sanchez's first is problematic, since the position relies on in-game experience to a great degree. But not so far as to invalidate the entire piece, especially considering JaMarcus' rookie year was a wash due to a lengthy hold out.)

3. Yea, Sanchez had a pretty terrible year. Our perception of him is colored by the circumstances around him.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

a. The piece was written after the 2009 season (specifically after the Divisional game against the Chargers), not last year.

b. The headline (for which Vince is probably not responsible) read "their QB could become JaMarcus V2." I'm not sure how much more people who didn't subscribe to Insider saw.

2. By late 2009, there were enough known off-the-field reasons (the holdout, the weight, fighting with Kiffin, being benched for Bruce Gradkowski and a concussed Charlie Frye, etc.) to make comparisons of JaMarcus to any current QB toxic. Better to use someone like Matt Leinart as a leadoff comparison.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Sanchez isn't JaMarcus Russell. He's Alex Smith, except instead of being on otherwise-the-worst-team-in-football, the Jets are arguably the best team in the league if you forget that he is their quarterback. If you were entering a Quarterback Lottery, and had to pick an NFL team not knowing which QB you would get (could be Brady! Could be Gabbert!), you might well decide on the Jets.

Sanchez has a weak arm for an NFL quarterback, poor decision making, and iffy accuracy. He is hard working and determined to make a go of it despite not actually being very good. Guys, he is Alex Smith. And five years from now, he'll have a good half-season or so.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The piece was written after the 2009 season (specifically after the Divisional game against the Chargers), not last year.

I said after his rookie year, not last year. His rookie year ended six days after the column was written.

The headline (for which Vince is probably not responsible) read "their QB could become JaMarcus V2."

By late 2009, there were enough known off-the-field reasons (the holdout, the weight, fighting with Kiffin, being benched for Bruce Gradkowski and a concussed Charlie Frye, etc.) to make comparisons of JaMarcus to any current QB toxic. Better to use someone like Matt Leinart as a leadoff comparison.

All true. I still think the reaction way outweighed the context of the article. The statistical comparison served to show how underwhelming Sanchez was in a rookie year where he was praised in the media unduly, though of course there were better ways (for both Vince and his ESPN editors) to frame the discussion.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I said after his rookie year, not last year. His rookie year ended six days after the column was written.

It was a clarification for others. I knew what you meant, but you wrote that your reaction to the piece was "[Wow], Sanchez was really bad last year," and didn't mention "rookie year" until the next part.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Whatever the intent of the article two years ago, Vince seems to be doubling down on the claim in the article above, which is simply head-scratching. Right now, Sanchez is a lower-end-of-mediocre QB who had a terrible game yesterday. Why should Vince expect any validation? Just stop digging, dude.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

24 hours later, I do wish that I had not brought it back up.

To answer someone else's question: We compared 2009 to Sanchez to 2008 Russell because it was the first year as a starter for either player. That was our qualification going into the study, and that's what we stuck with. If you limit something like that to true rookies who started, you end up with a much smaller pool to find similar players.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Vince

No worries. Folks need to chill

Like you could tell Doug Farrar to hush already on the penalties. Geez, now he's on Yahoo griping. Dude needs to quit doing the Donny One Note schtick. It's hurting his brand.

And killing my eyes.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"What happens if you are wrong on your second challenge and then you need another challenge later in the game, and you blew that challenge gaining eight yards on a kick return with seven minutes left in the first half?"

With all scores being reviewed, its significantly less likely that you'll need a challenge later in the game than you did before. Its entirely possible that challenges are worth significantly less than 8 yards at this point.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

My favorite moment of this game was Julian Edelman coming on a blitz and completely leveling Young after the pass. Julian Edelman, ladies and gentlemen.

As I've mentioned here before the majority of my friends are Eagles fans. So when I lept out of my seat to cheer this moment I got some dirty looks as the game seemed pretty firmly in hand. But come on, you don't often get a chance to see a half-Jewish white QB turned WR turned DB laying the wood on a mobile QB.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"He also does have a point that it doesn't matter how stupid the rule is, players should lobby their owners to get the rule changed, not ignore its existence."

Ask Chad Johnson/Ochocinco how far that ship is gonna sail. The owners love this rule. actually set of rules at this point. It plays to the authoritarian tendencies of the people the football owners hang out with in their luxury boxes, rich white republican businessmen.

Wanna see how screwed up this gets? Wait until some zebra gets uppity and flags Tebow for excessive celebration because he holds a group prayer meeting in the endzone.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

As a counterpoint, I can't think of the last time I saw a white player do multiple choreographed celebrations in the end zone. Maybe I'm forgetting some, but it DOES seem to be predominately black players saying "Fuck the 15 yards. I'm gonna dance"

Whatever happened to putting the good of the team first, and not intentionally getting a stupid penalty?

I don't mind the crap OchoCinco used to do, because it was quick, but if its 15 seconds later and you're still celebrating, it should be flagged.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Don't forget the "trademarked" Gronkowski spike. Stupidity transcends race.

For a counter-counter point, on David Nelson's TD in BUF@NYJ, he ran straight to the ref, handed him the ball, then went right back to the bench.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Nelson only handed the ball to the official because the Jets' cheerleaders aren't hot enough.

I don't mind endzone celebrations in general, but I'm a bit surprised at the blase' reaction to Johnson mocking Plaxico Burress's self-inflicted gunshot wound (you know, the incident that landed Plax in jail for a couple years-- ha ha ha!), or especially Verhei's reaction that this was "funny". What's the next step in tastelessness if the NFL allows this kind of thing? Simulated Ben Roethlisberger sex acts? I can see where the NFL has to draw the line where the "performance" is of a personal nature directed at a specific opponent.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Actually, I would support a mime of Ben Roethlisberger drunkenly unzipping as a touchdown dance in a Pitt-Carolina game. I'm thinking Cam Newton rushing touchdown, Steve Smith pretends to be the coed...

THAT would be worth 15 yards.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Shooting oneself is an act that deserves to be mocked.

Raping and/or molesting another person is not.

Plax wasn't in jail because he shot himself. He was in jail because his gun was unregistered. If he'd only registered the gun before shooting himself in the leg, he would not have done any time.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

My understanding was that there was a handgun ban in Manhattan, which applies regardless of registration. But I am generally on an information diet and I don't care, so I could be wrong.

I thought the gun celebration was funny... but it's worth noting that the flag was for his SECOND celebration of the same score, which was him also mocking Santonio Holmes by doing the Jet wings and then "crashing" into the ground. Going to the ground, of course, is for some reason illegal, which is why the flag was thrown.

I hate Costas too, always have, and laughed at the fact that he is more guilty of rehearsed "look at me" behavior than any of the people he went after... but I kind of agreed. The focus on TD celebrations is stupid. They're not funny. And most players would be better served by using that time spent on dancing to take a few extra reps so they don't drop easy passes. That's twice now that he has drawn extra attention to himself with a stupid stunt and then dropped an easy pass that could've won a game. That's the kind of stuff that'd get you benched if I was a coach. (I would've benched Jackson last week after the taunting too, even though that rule is really stupid.)

192 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

You're allowed to go to the ground once immediately after a TD. That's why no gets flagged for kneeling in the end zone and praying. If you go running around and then go to the ground, or you go down twice, that's when you get flagged. If Johnson had just gone airplaning without falling down, he probably would have been OK>

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"Shooting oneself is an act that deserves to be mocked. Raping and/or molesting another person is not."

Good luck legislating the difference between "deserved" and "undeserved" mocking in the rulebook-- that's really my only point here. If the officials could actually decipher the message the player is trying to convey (in the spur of the moment it probably wasn't obvious in Johnson's case) and it's something personal, I regard either/both as taunting-- not a joyous celebration of self-accomplishment, but rather something directed at the opponent (which would have to be pre-meditated, would it not?). That's my preferred standard at least. And likely the league's, as I expect Johnson will also be fined.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

My solution is to get rid of all the arbitrary rules about what is and is not a celebration and instead just time them. If they go over a certain amount of time then flag it. What's great is that the NFL already has a rule to cover this, it's called delay of game. So excessive celebration can be taken out of the rule book completely.

If the average fan really doesn't want to see the celebrations then the TV networks will accommodate them by pointing their cameras elsewhere.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm on board with this suggestion for celebrations, but I still don't want to see the "taunting" penalty eliminated. I know it's somewhat subjective (and call me old-fashioned), but I don't want to see overt humiliation of the opponent become an accepted part of the game. I know some will say "if you don't want to be humiliated then don't give up the TD" but that doesn't convince me. Just celebrate with your teammates in the allotted time period without any interaction with the opponent and it's all good.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

No need to time celebrations. Just place a ball for the extra point and cut the time clock from 40 to 30 seconds after a TD (I'd actually go for a 30 second clock after all plays.) For emphasis, make the penalty for delay of game on the point try a failure of the try.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Just let the defending team take the penalty on the kickoff.

Although I do like you idea of a short playclock after a TD. No more TV timeouts between TD and PAT.

On the other hand, it could be harder for 2 point conversions, which I don't think anyone wants.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That's not very practical for several reasons. Each TD play is now subject to review. You can't spot the ball right away for the PAT and start the play clock because the play might need to be reviewed. Also, what happens if there is a penalty on the defense on the TD play? The referee may have to confer with other officials, and he definitely has to make the announcement of the penalty before the ball can be spotted for a PAT. In addition, there may be an injury on the TD play, which also would lead to a delay before the play clock can start for the PAT. I'm sure there are other reasons that could delay the PAT.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I thought the clock is supposed to stop if the refs get together to confer?

Since the gameclock will be stopped after a potential TD, it should be easy to let the refs have more leeway with stopping the playclock. So if everything goes right, it's a faster playclock, but they can stop it if they need too.

Now this does make everything more complicated which might defeat the whole purpose.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In my local paper, which takes much of its NFL coverage straight from the AP wire, somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of all the "action" photos of NFL games are of players celebrating.

Southwest Airlines has a commercial in which a guy avoids baggage fees and performs an elaborate celebration. An agent of another airlines asks for an "excessive celebration" penalty and is essential told that the guy deserves his exuberance.

I personally prefer the "act like you've been there before" approach and think almost all of the staged exultations are bush league, but I think the train has left the station on this issue and that a substantial portion of the public is on board with celebration.

Bob Costas ought to find a more significant issue--it's not like football is otherwise trouble-free.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"I personally prefer the "act like you've been there before" approach"

I do to, but I think it's a lot more meaningful when it comes naturally to a player than when it's legislated upon him. I can point to how cool Payton was for giving the ball to his linemen and letting them spike it because he choose to do it that way not because a suit told him to.

Of course these days that would get flagged because it would be a group celebration.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"I can see where the NFL has to draw the line where the 'performance' is of a personal nature directed at a specific opponent."

The funniest celebration of a personal nature that I can recall was when the receiver then known as Chad Johnson did the Riverdance against the Bears in 2005. This was directed at Brian Urlacher, as Urlacher had recently fathered a child with a woman named Tyna Robertson, who had previously made false sexual assault accusations against Riverdance star Michael Flatley. Even though I was not happy about that TD, I did chuckle when Chad did the Riverdance.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"For a counter-counter point, on David Nelson's TD in BUF@NYJ, he ran straight to the ref, handed him the ball, then went right back to the bench."

Show-off.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I remember the Lion's backup QB doing the duggy.

However, how many touchdowns are even scored by white players? Maybe if they got in the endzone more often they would have a chance to do some dancing.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Wes Welker's snow angel, 2008 in that blowout of the (Super Bowl-bound) Arizona Cardinals-- penalized and fined. So just on the Patriots alone you have that example, Gronkowski's schtick and Tom Brady's exaggerated spikes the few times he rushes into the endzone. As others have suggested, the pre-requisite for a white player (as any) celebrating obnoxiously is getting into the endzone first.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Choroeographed?

Let's keep in mind that Stevie Johnson wasn't penalized for the celebration. He was penalized because, after mocking Plax by pretending to shoot himself in the leg, and then mocked Santonio Holmes's jet plane celebration. If he hadn't crashed into the ground at the end, there would have been no penalty. He didn't use any props and nobody else on the team joined in the celebration.

Refs aren't asked to be artistic judges of the quality of various types of celebrations. So they have a few simple rules
- no direct taunting of the other team
- no props (the T.O. rule)
- no obviously pre-planned group celebrations (the Fun Bunch rule)
- no going to the ground (the Lonie Paxton snow angel rule)
- no removing the helmet (the Emmitt Smith rule)

I may have forgotten one or two other similar rules.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The fact that you have to go back to 2008 to find one kind of proves my point.

As to White players not scoring touchdowns, someone should probably tell Rob Gronkowski that before he breaks any more all-time records.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Gronkowski is a great player, but he's evidence against your supposition that "white players generally don't behave badly after scoring a touchdown". Gronkowski was just flagged and fined a couple weeks ago (is that recent enough for you?) for spiking the football in that Jets defender's face, which helped set the Jets up for a TD on the following drive. When asked about the fine, Gronkowski's response was "next time I'll spike it even harder". You stay classy, Gronk (okay, I think he was just joking around-- but so is everybody else about these celebrations).

Now, I suppose we're going to hear some very subjective assessment that spiking the football at the opponent is in no way comparable to a celebration dance, but what's the difference pertaining to the rules? There isn't any. If one act is "selfish" and "detrimental to the team", so is the other.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Gronkowski did nothing more than his usual spike (for Branch's benefit) and the defender happened to be in the area. It was never taunting, although the only person on the planet who thought so happened to be wearing a striped shirt a few yards over. It was a stupid flag and that is why Gronk responded the way he did.

I couldn't tell you why spiking is less "detrimental" but it is very different with regard to the rules. One is OK and the other isn't.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I specifically wrote "detrimental to the team" in being penalized for taunting in spiking the ball *at the opponent*-- which is not OK. But of course Gronk meant no disrespect, what with Branch teeing him up for a thunderous spike right next to the prone body of the beaten defender (who took offense by the way). Because they're New England Patriots, and would never dream of showing up an opponent and potentially hurting the team with the 15-yard penalty!

In all seriousness, this discussion only demonstrates the subjectivity involved with these calls. Any player guilty of the general crime of "getting carried away" (as Gronkowski commonly does) may find himself being penalized for such demonstrations. When it's the other team's player he's a selfish jackass for hurting his team, when it's yours it's simply unbridled enthusiasm unfairly penalized.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

If the player took offense, he is an idiot too. Gronk does that after every single TD and wasn't even aware that the defender was still there. Unless you want to make the case that every Gronk spike should be flagged it simply isn't possible to make the claim that it was taunting without involving misinformation in some way.

As for the "Patriots can do no wrong" part of your comment, you are on your own with that schtick.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

How about just any time he spikes the ball directly at a defender's feet? I saw a very similar call a few weeks back when the player dropped the ball onto the defender who was still on the ground. Both incidents were taunting and rightly flagged.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

You're right, I shouldn't have even brought the Patriots into this because that wasn't the original argument. RichC's ridiculous contention was that it always seems to be black players committing these stupid celebration penalties (never mind Gronkowski and Welker). Clearly as Gronkowski is white the penalty must not have been justifiable. The opponent was an idiot for taking offense, the referee was an idiot for flagging Gronkowski, and the league officials were idiots for reviewing the matter and fining him. Because unlike with these other players, Rob Gronkowski is constitutionally incapable of taunting an opponent, or of even putting himself in such a tenuous position. Clear the area, the Gronk must be allowed to Thunder Spike!

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

By the way, Coach Belichick (not unexpectedly) was far less forgiving about such penalties than you. Postgame:

"But I know what happened in both situations and those were penalties that we as a team and individually, we have to avoid those. What happened, happened. I understand what happened. Some I think bother you more than others. All penalties bother me. They bother us, whether it's 12 guys in the huddle or unsportsmanlike conduct or blocking in the back or whatever other ones we had. We correct those, we point them out, we work on them, we want to prevent them from reoccurring. Believe me, every penalty gets addressed. But those were, I'd say both were - there were some circumstances involved in both plays. Was it good? No. Were some circumstances involved? Yes. Can we do a better job? Yes. Hopefully we will."

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That rocked.

For people who missed it:

http://youtu.be/xYvQxXDNJRg

It was the flash mob dance from that ad that has been on roughly 3000 times the past year.

I cannot remember what product the ad was selling.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Or the fact that there's currently a national ad campaign that revolves around a white players TD dance? I mean, the idea that white players don't have various and elaborate TD dances / celebrations (I just watched Jimmy Graham do the "goalpost slam dunk") is ridiculous.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"Lechler just kicked it from his own 20 and it sailed over Devin Hester's head into the Bears end zone. 80-yard punt."

ROBO-PUNTER is not impressed. ROBO-PUNTER kills ball on one-yard line.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

He kicked it from his own 10 yard line and it landed, on the fly, at the bears 10 yard line. ye gods. And yeah, it rolled from there into the ez.

when I saw it live I panicked for a minute that hester had actually managed to get a hand on it, but clearly that kick nobody was getting a hand on.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Suh made one tackle on a Grant 4-yard run between the Packers' guard and tackle hole. Suh missed a hustle tackle on a Jordy Nelson bubble screen when Nelson cut back inside. Suh was no factor in the passing game. In reviewing the game, I only saw one intentional double team on Suh in the passing game, when Suh rushed the guard's outside shoulder and Wells, the center, shifted that direction right from the snap. On many pass plays, Suh lined up on the guard's inside shoulder and rushed the center / guard gap. On those plays, the center obviously chipped along with the guard, but those "double teams" were effectively the result of Suh's rush lane. The Packers went one on one with Suh all game even with the backup guard. On no play did Suh move Rodgers off his spot. Suh was a complete non-factor until losing his cool and getting ejected.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

http://www.glassgiant.com/ascii/

Just insert the link to your favorite Norv Facepalm (e.g. http://dubsism.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/norv-turner-facepalm.jpg). I got the best results by making it wider than 80 characters

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Maybe if Stevie Johnson wasn't so focused on his end zone celebrations, he'd be more focused on, I dunno, catching the football with the game on the line.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Packers pulled a Bears on the Lions by forcing them to drive the field and having a penalty or other mistake sabotage the drive. Chicago does that to GB all the time.

Kudos to the Packer special teams as both the punt and kickoff coverage teams did well on Thursday

After all the chatter Mike Neal has returned to the field and made no impact. He gets shoved around on runs and spins his wheels on pass plays. I suspect he is holding back given his health problems. Once he gains some confidence it's hoped he will turn loose and make plays. Right now he's just taking up space.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

...only in the sense that he's as big a sanctimonious a-hole as ever.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I wonder, when was polomalu ever a truly dominant cover safety? It could just be my naivety, but for last 10 years, the steelers seemed to have run the same scheme built the same way: Stout run defense, edge zone blitz from talented linebackers, and safety polamlu known for being more of a jack of all trades than a roaming cover guy. In fact, i read somewhere from an article written by an opposing coach who said most of the deep safety cover work is being done by clark so that polomalu can continue to roam around. And just how many games has polamlu had where he's been a liability in coverage? I can name numerous such playoff games(including all three superbowls the steelers were involved in). TO me, while that certainly improves the defense, isn't the bigger issue that the team's vaunted dline is now suddenly older and really can't pass rush like it use to? With that said, i still echo what mike said, with some tweaks, theres no reason to think that this defense can't continue to remain very good for the forseable future.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Packers are keeping Charles Woodson close to the line of scrimmage so that his loss of straight line speed is less of an issue.

GB is pretty regularly in a 2-4-5 setup with only Raji and Pickett with their hands down.

As for TP, two years ago he could be at the line of scrimmage and then close on a guy 30 yards downfield to break up a pass. Those days look to be gone.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Woodson was what I thought of too; older DB losing his speed who gets to play quasi-linebacker to avoid getting caught one-one-one with a wideout. Woodson is a lot easier to block, though (and less of a liability in coverage).

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Woodson is not easy to block given his use of hands and body control.

You need to watch several games as he slithers this way and that to avoid blockers and take out a runners feet. He also throws his body around with abandon, hence his lack of practice time during the week.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Polamalu != Ed Reed. In coverage, Polamalu used to be the ideal zone blitz moving part, looking like he was in coverage/rushing from one position, and then actually rushing from/covering somewhere else by the time the QB was on his third step. His ability to do this now depends on the state of his knees and ankles.

This is a different league now, where a lot of really good QBs only need 3 steps, which has impacted the zone blitz as a whole, and Polamalu specifically.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

As was pointed out by the Pittsburgh commentators in Audibles, the PIT cornerbacks are playing well this year. And in spite of Woodley and Harrison missing games, the pass defence is holding up pretty well. However, one of the untold, under-the-radar stories of the season is the decline of Pittsburgh's run defence. True, it was unlikely that they could repeat the other-worldly performance of last season, but the decline to performing as merely a league-average unit (17th in DVOA - 25% down from last season) is very sudden and precipitous. I'm aware there has been some shifting around of personnel in the LB corps because of the injuries to the starting OLBs, but I haven't watched enough games to really work out what is going on here. Is it age-related decline on the D-Line?

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Injuries have probably ended Aaron Smith's career, who has now been knocked out for the 3rd season in a row. Even when he played early this season, he wasn't able to match his usual standard. Casey Hampton is still playing and can be effective, but while I think he's still tough to move off the ball, I think he's less disruptive than he used to be. Keisel, who like James Harrison became a starter later into his career is pretty clearly their best D-lineman at this point. Chris Hoke, formerly Hampton's primary back-up has been relegated to 3rd string in favor of 3rd year player Steve McLendon. Rookie Cam Heyward and Ziggy Hood are, I think, sharing time at the end, though there may be times where they both play to spell Keisel?

In any case, the decline is probably age-related, as it regards to Hampton and Smith. The result is that the Steelers' D line is much younger now than it has been for a long time with Keisel being the only one over 30 in most cases.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't watch closely enough to be able to verify, but Pro Football Focus have been quite scathing about Hood's performances this season (and his career so far in general) - seems like that may be where a lot of the blame lies.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

There have been games when Polamalu's assignment has basically been to cover a tight end all day - usually a Tony Gonzalez caliber guy. That doesn't play to his strengths, though. The speed and instincts that he exhibits while roaming are what make him so exceptional. And when he's hurt, like he was after week 14 last year (Achilles), he's not nearly as disruptive.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I have a question. Tebow to date has thrown very few interceptions, yet is wildly inaccurate. Do quarterbacks with 47.1 % career completion percentage normally throw so few picks, or is Tebow so inaccurate not even his opponents can catch his passes?

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Lets not go overboard here.

McNabb set the Big East record for completion percentage while he was in college (look it up), and was consistantly close to 60% as a passer in the NFL.

No, that's not as good as most elite QBs, but its a slap in the face to a guy who really was a hell of a QB in his prime. How quickly we forget.

Tebow couldn't carry McNabb's jock.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Nobody thinks Tebow could carry McNabb's jock. McNabb, in his prime, was every bit as fast and elusive as Tebow, and could throw the ball. The point was that given how good McNabb was, the statistical thing that stands out was his low completion percentage numbers. Part of this was a lack of competent receivers (compare his stats the Terrell Owens year to the year before), but it did represent something about McNabb's game; he was never as accurate as Manning or Brees, knew it, and accepted incompletions to avoid turnovers.

[I remain convinced that Minnesota had no business benching him].

Tim Tebow is simply not an NFL quarterback.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"[I remain convinced that Minnesota had no business benching him]."

Depends wholly on what they were trying to accomplish this year. It's not like they were going to make the playoffs with him so what is the point of playing a QB in his mid 30s who is trending downwards when they have a first round pick riding the bench?

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Unless you're in the business of giving playing time to guys who likely will no longer be able to help you win at least nine games when the roster is improved enough to make that a possibility, while a guy who you spent a 1st round pick on does not gain game experience, then benching McNabb makes a lot of sense.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I like McNabb, but this is correct. Ponder is getting a lot of playing time and looks like he'll develop into a good NFL QB. This has been a noticeably strong rookie class at the QB position with Ponder, Newton, and Dalton all doing well. Best class since Eli/Rivers/Roethlisberger?

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Because they weren't sure they were going to start so badly as to foreclose any talk of playoff contention. Once they got off to a bad start, however, there is no reason to play McNabb. Also, don't forget that Ponder didn't become a NFL player until about August 1st; getting a rookie ready in five weeks is problematic, and the other option was Joe Webb.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm not going overboard, I think McNabb was a very good QB (who for a time was a bit overrated, but not hugely so). He did however have a phenomenally low interception rate for his career while while sporting a below league average completion % (97+ rating on football reference).

So I'm using him as an example of how relatively low completion %'s (probably) don't have much to do with int rates.

Personally, I believe (though have not seen much statistical evidence either way) that most INTs are either mistakes in reading coverage, defensive play, or on tipped balls/other random play. I think QB accuracy is probably low on the list of factors that contribute to INT rate.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I would agree with you. Take Favre and McNabb as examples. From what I witnessed over the years Favre was a much more accurate passer but he would take way more chances with the passes he threw than did McNabb.

Tebow seems to be unbelievably cautious about where he is throwing the ball.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

From what little we've seen of him so far, it appears that Tebow is at least smart enough not to force throws he knows he can't make. The Tyler Palkos of the league should take notice...

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Tyler Palko's problem is not that he forces throws. Tyler Palko's problem is that he can't read defenses and wouldn't know whether he was forcing a throw if The Force picked him up, spun him around, and pointed him at Ike Taylor.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't know if that's Tyler Palko's problem, but Caleb Hanie's first interception was absolutely one of those. Yeah, Forte was open over the head of the defenders. No, Caleb Hanie cannot throw it 30+ yards downfield on a dead run to his right throwing somewhat across his body just before he goes OOB. It was a terrible decision, regardless of what the FO watchers thought. You have to just throw that ball away.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Serious answer: Tebow is told to play conservative and throw into the dirt (or "beach it" in Fox's words) if there's a chance of an interception. Tebow has admitted he's probably being too conservative here and that he'll loosen up and force it more over time. So it's more a matter of decision-making than physical inaccuracy.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

So I poked around a little at PFR, and produced this chart: every QB season since the merger in which a quarterback has a) started at least 8 games and b) had a 50% or lower completion percentage.

The answer appears to be like this:

These guys are not good quarterbacks, and mostly threw a ton of interceptions. The exceptions are almost all guys who didn't throw many touchdowns either (and few TDs and lots of INTs is equally common). The exception to the exceptions, such as he is, is Craig Morton's 1970 season: 49.3% completion, 15 TDs, and 7 INTs. Tebow is on pace for 15 TDs and 2 INTs in 11 games started, which sticks out wildly from that crowd.

Which almost makes it seem like Tebow's succeeding, despite his limitations, because he's actually smart with the football (and has a coaching staff willing to do anything it takes to work with his skillset).

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

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I took your list and looked specifically at QBs who were 25 and younger (since we are talking trying to project QBs that are young, rather than looking at guys like Namath at the end of his career). And there are a surprising mix of good and bad QBs there http://pfref.com/tiny/2gEWS . I was actually pretty surprised.

As a total sidenote, I had no idea Doug Williams was a first round pick? I was trying to poke around, and I only have seen one earlier instance of a Black QB going in the first round, and he was asked to play WR (Eldridge Dickey). Was Doug Williams the first Black QB to be drafted in the 1st round as a QB?

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm not sure I understand why Hanie's play became intentional grounding just because he looked at the sideline receiver. This sentence is from the rules digest on NFL.com:
"Intentional grounding will be called when a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage due to pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion."
As I understand it, the "facing an imminent loss of yardage" clause is the exception that allows clock stopping spikes. How was Hanie facing an imminent loss of yardage on that play? Seems to me that Hanie's play, while stupid looking, was still not grounding. I'm open to being shown the error of my thinking/understanding, I'm just honestly confused about the rule.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

You're not confused. You're reading the "Digest of Rules", not the real rules. The real rules say:

Rule 8 - Forward Pass, Backward Pass, Fumble
[snip]
Section 2 - Intentional Grounding
Article 1 Definition. It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that lands in the direction and the vicinity of an originally eligible receiver.
Item 1: Passer or Ball Outside Tackle Position. Intentional grounding will not be called when a passer, who is outside, or has been outside, the tackle position throws a forward pass that lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player(s) have a realistic chance to catch the ball (including when the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or endline). If a loose ball leaves the area bordered by the tackles, this area no longer exists; if the ball is recovered, all intentional grounding rules apply as if the passer is outside this area.
Item 2: Physical Contact. Intentional grounding should not be called if:
(a) the passer initiates his passing motion toward an eligible receiver and then is significantly affected by physical contact from a defensive player that causes the pass to land in an area that is not in the direction and vicinity of an eligible receiver; or
(b) the passer is out of the pocket, and his passing motion is significantly affected by physical contact from a defensive player that causes the ball to land short of the line of scrimmage.
Item 3: Stopping Clock. A player under center is permitted to stop the game clock legally to save time if, immediately upon receiving the snap, he begins a continuous throwing motion and throws the ball directly into the ground.
Item 4: Delayed Spike.A passer, after delaying his passing action for strategic purposes, is prohibited from throwing the ball to the ground in front of him, even though he is under no pressure from defensive rusher(s).
Penalty:
For intentional grounding:
(a) loss of down and 10 yards from the previous spot; or
(b) loss of down at the spot of the foul; or
(c) if the passer is in his end zone when the ball is thrown, it is a safety. See 4-7-1 for actions to conserve time inside one minute of either half.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That all is true, however you could easily make the case that by the time he did spike it, Seymour (and one other Raider) were closing in, and he was "facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense."

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Can a team decline a safety penalty?

Say team has a fourth down with the ball on their own two yard line. They could reasonably ellect to give up a safety instead of punting out of their own endzone. Could the opponent choose to decline the safety penalty?

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Why would the opponent choose to decline two points and the ball?

If the offense is going for it on 4th down from their own 2 yard line, they're likely to be losing. So taking the points would only increase the defense's lead.

Under what circumstances would it make any strategic sense to do this?

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Opponent is winning by 6 with very little time left, takes the safety so they can kickoff from farther up the field instead of punting from the end zone, reducing the chance of a touchdown when a safety and field goal's irrelevant.

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

If the opponent is winning by six, why are they passing from their own end zone?

If it's a deliberate safety, i.e. running out of the back of the end zone, then it's not a penalty and can't be declined any more than a two yard run on first and ten could be declined. If it's a running play, the odds of a penalty occurring in the backfield are so close to zero as to be discounted.

So it has to be a pass. And if you're winning by six, time is running down, and you're that close to your own goal line, you're not passing the football.

177 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It doesn't "have to be a pass". It can be a hold on a running play.

The question is "can a penalty that results in a safety be declined?" It is possible to have a circumstance in which the team might want to decline such a penalty - requiring a touchdown either way, they'd want whichever situation gives them the best field position - so can it be declined?

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

To go back to the original question, it's fairly easy to construct a case where a team would want to decline a penalty that results in a safety: holding in the end zone on a play where the QB fumbles the ball, recovered in the end zone by the defense. The result of the penalty is a safety; the result of the play is a touchdown. The defense will almost always decline the penalty to take the result of the play.

Given that, I can see no reason why in a case where the offense "deliberately fouls" in the end zone resulting in a safety, the defense would be forbidden from declining the penalty. But as tuluse points out, if the offense wants a "deliberate safety", they're not going to make it as complex as having an OL hold or the QB ground the ball in the end zone - they'll just have the QB take the snap, step back into the end zone, and take a knee. Or have the center shotgun-snap the ball into the third row.

181 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Like i said, the odds of it being a run aren't zero, but are close enough to ignore runs.

If you disagree, by all means, go over to PFR and run a search to see how many times it's actually happened. I don't care enough to bother, but I'm more than willing to adjust my opinion in the face of actual evidence.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"Somebody needs to hold an intervention before he ruins a Hall of Fame career. If you play in the NFL, you have to be able to control your adrenaline"

This is what drives me nuts about the Suh coverage. He is such a force and a potential HoF BECAUSE he is a mean aggressive SoB with a high motor and full of adrenaline. You cannot have it both ways. Someone either plays on the edge, or they don't, they cannot play on the edge but never cross it, it is an unreasonable expectation people won't meet.

So far nothing Suh has done has seemed that injurious compared to the context of a football game so he does seem to restrain himself enough to not hurt people. The suspension is fine, but pretending he can somehow still "be Suh" while never getting personal fouls or crossing the line is just living in fantasy land.

I happen to know several professional athletes personally, and frankly a lot of them are hyper-competitive A-holes with no sense of the proper importance of things. But this is what makes them able to be professional athletes. If they were more normal mellow guys they never would have pushed themselves to the highest levels of what is at heart a children's game.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

He has consistently hit people well after the whistle. He has consistently hit people in ways that are not allowed by the rules.

There are plenty of high motor, aggressive athletes who stop when the whistle blows.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

i have to agree here. Many Many pro bowl players have this type of self-control that makes them not only great on the field, but also off the field as they are locker-room leaders and film-study junkies. Playing smart and aggressively is NOT akin to playing with reckless abandon, and it is much smarter. (Clay Matthews, Hines Ward, and maybe someone like Ray Lewis would be good examples here).

When I was playing competitively I LOVED playing against guys like Suh because they were easy to manipulate into making mistakes.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

You must be joking. Hines Ward has had a reputation for years of being a dirty player, but WRs almost never get called for personal fouls. Ray Lewis is definitely considered mean. And Clay Matthews has had his share of nasty plays (twisting a runner's head by the facemask, driving a QB into the ground), but has managed to stay off the radar -- maybe because he's a white guy?